Credit: Pete Souza/official White House flickr photostream

Credit: Pete Souza/official White House flickr photostream

Obama officially announced former astronaut Charles Bolden as his pick for the new NASA Chief Administrator. FINALLY! I’m just glad they now have a clear idea of who’s in charge, and soon will have a clear direction as well.

In case you’re under a rock, Obama also announced Sonia Sotomayer as his pick for the vacant U.S. Supreme Court Justice seat.

Space Shuttle Atlantis landed Sunday at Edwards Air Force Base in California after 3 scrubbed attempts to land at Cape Canaveral. The orbiter will spend a week there being prepped for the piggy-back ride on top of a modified Boeing 747 to take it back to Florida.

With the scheduled Soyuz Rocket launch tomorrow at 6:34AM, the International Space Station will have a full crew of 6 personell for the first time ever. Coincidentally, this also marks the first time that representatives from all 5 agencies involved with the ISS have been aboard it at the same time. Those agencies are NASA, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA).

Ok, enough space stuff already… we’ll stick to science, though, because I found lot of good science news in my reader today, and not much else worth posting.

The National Ignition Facilily (NIF) in California is about to create a tiny man-made star with deuterium, tritium, and one big-ass laser. This has to be one of the coolest-sounding descriptions I’ve ever seen. In all honesty, though, it’s not really a star. But they will create nuclear fusion, the process that occurs at the core of stars, on a very tiny scale for a fraction of a second. This is just one small step toward the solution to all of earth’s energy problems. Not only will this device help solve energy problems, it will also help physicists study what happens when a star explodes, and also the inner-workings of any nuclear explosion. Back to the energy issue, though. If we can figure out a way to contain a sustained fusion reaction, and make it yield more energy than is required to create and contain it, then humans will have solved our energy crisis. As far as I can tell, there’s no Dr. Octavius employed at the NIF, thank goodness…

Stephen Colbert interviewed Seth Shostak on The Colbert Report. Shostak is the Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute. (SETI stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.) Watch it on Colbert Nation.

Ok I have to post something not-so-serious now- Hurley has a blog! Seriously, it’s not the most interesting thing I’ve seen but it’s still way-cool to read about his real life. Besides, who doesn’t love Hurley?

January 14, 2009

I have a theory about Microsoft’s Songsmith software. If you haven’t read this blog in a while, read the last couple of posts, which mention this new software and how awful it is. Click the links, watch the ad, hear the David Lee Roth’s Runnin’ with the Devil run through it, then come back. Ok… I think that Microsoft intentionally made the software sound so cheesy, and the ad so ridiculous and un-ironic, that people like me (and most real musicians) would want to take their dry vocal tracks and run them through it as a joke, just to see how ridiculous it would sound. Just go read the comments in the Nashville Cream post about it. See how everyone is saying, “hey run this song through it!!!” ??? You know I’m right….. Just wait. In a few months some band will re-release a whole album “Songsmith’d.” I can see it now… Metallica’s Master of Puppets… SONGSMITH’D!

USAF

Credit: USAF

Obama has asked retired USAF Maj. Gen. Scott Gration to be the new NASA administrator. As mentioned a few posts back, current administrator Michael Griffin will be stepping down on Jan. 20th, as will the rest of the Bush-appointed NASA positions. I learned this from a Space.com post today, and the info contained in that article is all I know about the guy. He’s a decorated fighter pilot, and does have some experience working with NASA, but he’s mostly an outsider. Apparently many former NASA administrators have been outsiders, though, so this is really nothing new. What NASA needs is someone with good leadership skills and who can manage an organization that large and important. He also needs to be very good at managing budgets, as NASA will likely see further budget cuts due to the economic crisis and monstrous national debt.

And finally, I’ll leave you with this awesome image of the Aurora Australis from Universe Today. Click the image to get to the hi-res version. One of my goals is to see the aurora before I die. Right now is not a good time to try to see it, either, since the Sun is at solar minimum (the low point of its 11 year cycle of sunspot activity). That means that the solar wind isn’t as packed with charged particles as it is during solar maximum, thus the aurora is confined to the extreme north and south; you’d probably have to go to northern Alaska to see it. BUT if the upcoming solar maximum (coming in 2012 to a sky near you) is as powerful as some scientists think it will be, us southerners may even get a glipse or two of the aurora from our own backyards. Unfortunately a coronal mass ejection big enough to cause auroras visible from our latitude would also cause major disruptions with communication satellites, and possibly even power outages.