It took me a few weeks to get started but I’ve been working on a few projects in swift recently and my opinions have been ranging from “this is not very different that Obj-C” to “this is a vast improvement over Obj-C” depending on the task. I’d say that’s pretty positive considering the age of the language. I’m constantly wondering what the correct pattern or syntax for swift is given the equivalent way of doing things in Objective-C so I started a little blog where I collect the examples that I find.
Adam Frank notices a critical breakdown around our expectation of flying cars: We’re masters of electromagnetism, not gravity. It’s fascinating to think about, actually. Our high tech world is based almost entirely on the electomagnetic force. The electron and photon are the basis of most technological progress in the last hundred years. Or, as Adam puts it: And the digital culture we’ve built rests directly on our ability to understand and manipulate electromagnetism’s quantum manifestations.
Yesterday evening Elon Musk presented the next generation of the SpaceX Dragon 2 module; the top part that actually makes it to the space station and back. The existing Dragon module has already delivered cargo to the ISS three times, splashing down in the ocean after reentry and descent via parachute. The new Dragon 2 module is a step beyond that. It should descend through the atmosphere, slowed only by friction until it lights reentry and landing rockets (the SuperDraco rockets namedropped in the presentation video), slowing the craft until it comes to a comfy stop on the ground.
Now that the Apple/Beats deal is definitive I thought I would recount an interesting feature of the lengthy rumor discussion that occurred on Twitter over the few weeks of speculation: some people agreed with the acquisition even though all the consequences weren’t clear while others were baffled by the whole thing. The disconnect was pretty fascinating. People that I consider business savvy immediately understood the cultural connection but didn’t understand why others were confused about it.
I’m used to seeing lots of predictions for which exoplanets might be in the habitable zone for which newly discovered solar system (less so now… Kepler has identified so many of them people don’t even bother anymore) but here’s a best-case scenario: A solar system filled to the brim with 60 habitable worlds (and a bonus 4 gas giants)! The system is really a combination of two systems in binary configuration (two suns orbiting each other at a distance of 100 AU).
A spacecraft now known as ICE (formerly ISEE-3) launched in 1978 has been inspecting comets and solar wind on-and-off since launch until 1999 when it had supposedly been sent signals to shut down. In 2008 it was “rediscovered” and found still in an active state with most of its experiments in working condition and a suitable amount of maneuvering fuel still available. Sometime before April of this year a group not affiliated with NASA realized that ICE could potentially be sent off to follow another comet and return interesting data if they could communicate with it during a close approach to Earth in mid-2014.
The next surface visitor to Mars got the green light today to begin construction for a launch and landing in 2016. InSight is a static experimental platform that will conduct tests on the geology of Mars in an attempt to learn more about the history of the planet. The platform is based on the successful 2008 Phoenix mission which means we’ll see a parachute-and-retrorocket descent with a soft landing at its final destination.
I saw this image of K2 again recently - K2 is the plan to keep the Kepler spacecraft looking for exoplanets despite the loss of two reaction wheels - and I wondered how K2 was doing. Last I heard it was still searching for a funding source for the new plan. It turns out that K2 is already collecting data for “Field 0”, a sort of trial run to see how successful stabilization via solar wind can be.
I recently got a pebble watch which I enjoy very much, though maybe not for the reasons you’d expect. Recap: Pebble is an e-paper based watch with customizable faces and some communication with your phone over BLE. You can download watch faces and apps from the community on their app store. The app store works nicely but quality apps are few and far between, perhaps because of the limitations on communicating with the phone or just the difficulty level of programmingI hear the actual programmers groaning but it’s the truth - you have to write apps in straight C!
With the big Oculus/Facebook news this week I’m finally compelled to write on the blog about a fun thing I wrote for the VR headset last month. TL;DR: this video: A little background: I got an Oculus Rift late last year after hearing some really impressive reviews for how it changes gaming. After playing a few (there are only a few) games with the headset I was a little disappointed as most developers didn’t really understand the changes required by a new medium.