Blue Origin does it again

Kudos go out to Jeff Bezos and the Blue Origin team. Yesterday their New Shepard booster made a successful landing, the second in two months. This was the SAME booster that flew last November 24, and carried the SAME capsule.

True, the booster isn’t as big as Falcon. It doesn’t need to be as it has a different purpose. Falcon is designed for orbital cargo launches, while New Shepard is designed for manned suborbital launches. It doesn’t go as high as Falcon, but it doesn’t need to do that either, for the same reasons.

What IS important is proof of concept. A booster CAN be landed, now proven 3 times, once by SpaceX and twice by Blue Origin. A booster CAN be reused as proven by Blue Origin. Blue Origin also demonstrated the re-usability of a crew capsule. The amount of refurbishment required by New Shepard and the capsule was minimal, also demonstrating the cost savings by reusing hardware.

To argue that one company is better than the other because they were first or are bigger with greater challenges is a meaningless and petty waste of time.

SpaceX and Blue Origin are BOTH great companies with great vision. They have DIFFERENT missions, but share the same objective of re-usability. They are both innovators, and as innovators we can expect to see both triumph and failure from each.  Yesterday Blue Origin experienced triumph.

Oh, Soooo close!

SpaceX Narrowly Misses Barge Landing at Sea

This is heartbreaking to watch. There came SO close! The landing was nailed, despite 15 to 20 foot seas. The engines shut down, the booster was upright… then a landing leg collapsed.

Considering the early stage of the development of booster flybacks, the 1 for 4 record (0 for 3 at sea) is actually quite impressive. All of the attempts have been dead on target, an amazing feat in itself. Blue Origin is 1 for 1 with a much smaller booster returning from a less challenging flight, but still an impressive accomplishment.

Each failure is a learning experience. I doubt, despite the naysayers, that it will not be long before both SpaceX and Blue Origin will be leaders in making space more affordable.

Why I just opted out of Amber Alerts on my cell phone

No one wants to see a child go missing. I certainly don’t. And if one does, I would like to be able to help. And I can’t help if I don’t know about it.

The system of sending out alerts via cell phone is sure going to let a lot of people know, so they are a good thing, right?

NO! They are NOT a good thing. At least not the way things work at this time. I have put up with this annoyance for as long as I can.

Annoyance? Knowing about an Amber Alert, something that can save a child’s life is an… annoyance?

Yes, it is. At least when the alert is for a child that goes missing at a location 3 to 9 HOURS drive away from my location! If I got alerts more local, say even up to two hours drive away, and particularly within a hour’s drive, I would continue to receive them. Unfortunately, of the last FIFTEEN alerts, ALL have been a MINIMUM of three hours away from me. TWO were NINE hours away in a DIFFERENT STATE!

My patience has been exhausted. Amber Alerts are the modern day equivalent of car alarms. Great idea, but so abused they are just ignored.

Either quit the notifications or do a better job of localizing their broadcast.

A matter of degrees

The first temperature scales were devised in 1701, one by English physicist Sir Issac Newton and the other by the Danish astronomer Ole Christensen Rømer. Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit, a German physicist, devised the Fahrenheit system in 1724. French scientist René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur came up with his temperature scale about 1730, followed two years later in 1732 by French astronomer Joseph-Nicolas Delisle with the Delisle scale.

Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius came up with a temperature scale in 1742. More about that in a moment. Working independently, French physicist Jean-Pierre Christin developed a similar scale in 1743. In 1744, shortly after the death of Anders Celsius, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus made a modification to the scale developed by Celsius.

To round out the development of temperature scales, we need to mention Irish born mathematical physicist and engineer William Lord Kelvin (William Thompson, 1st Baron Kelvin) proposed the first scale with 0 as the absolute lowest temperature. This was based on the then Centigrade scale, and 0 K was the same as -273.15 ℃. Scottish physicist William John Macquorn Rankine devised the Rankine scale in 1859, based on the Fahrenheit scale and, as in the case of Kelvin, 0 being the absolute low, equal to -459.67 ℉.

Each scale had some measure of popularity, but eventually only three scales came into popular use. These were the Fahrenheit, Kelvin, and Centigrade scales. The Rankine scale was a close runner up, with the others fading into obscurity.

Eventually, the Centigrade scale became more popularly know as “Celsius”. Kelvin is used primarily in the scientific world, Fahrenheit in the United States, and Celsius everywhere else.

This brings me to the point. Why is the centigrade scale called Celsius? It seems the word centigrade has meaning in the French in Spanish languages involving angular measurement, precisely, that of being 1/100th of a right angle. Since ALL the other scales were named after their creators, it seemly logical to call it Celsius and eliminate confusion.

Well, first off, calling the scale Celsius is NOT logical! The scale created by Anders Celsius had the freezing point of water set at 100 °, and the boiling point set at 0 °! It was a reverse scale! The next year, working independently, Jean-Pierre Christin devised the centigrade scale. A year later, Linnaeus revised (reversed) the scale devised by Celsius, making it essentially the same as that done by Christin.

Now supposing the term “centigrade” is too confusing for some people, although the ℃ symbol should be a dead give away that we aren’t talking about angular measurement, I will concede the centigrade scale may have needed renaming.

But why Celsius? Why not name it after its true creator, Jean-Pierre Christin? It would even fit from the occupational point of view. Fahrenheit was a physicist. So was Kelvin and Rankine. Christin, too was a physicist. Celsius was an astronomer.

Obviously, those who make the decisions about what stuff should be called don’t really think things through. I suspect that since Celsius was Swedish, and Sweden is home to the Nobel Prize, and the people most responsible for naming this kind of thing are the very ones in the running for many of these prizes, there may have been an undue economic influence at play here!

Captain Quirk here is going to continue to use the term he learned growing up, namely, Centigrade. If I HAVE to use a different name for ℃, I will call it degrees Christin.

Working beta, Sphider for WordPress

I now have a working beta version of Sphider for WordPress. You can see the beta in action by clicking on the Search tab. This isn’t a very large blog, so there isn’t much to search for, but you can get an idea.

Suggestions STILL do not work. Accessing the suggest mechanism in test mode shows it IS responding and building a proper json, but is not being passed on as in the normal implementation. Suspect it is something to do with a collision with a WordPress json?

There are probably still some rough edges, but that is what a beta is for… to find those rough edges and smooth them out. Even rough, it functions, which is something the last Sphider for WordPress no longer does!

If you want to give it a whirl, drop us a line and we’ll get the files to you. And, yes, instructions…

THE MORNING AFTER: After a couple false starts, I finally got a package assembled with everything you need. The first package was done late at night and didn’t include everything it should have. I rushed a second version with an addition. There should have been additions!!!


How do you drop us a line? Use the Contact Us form on WorldSpaceflight.com home page, found in Links to the left.

Twelve Days of Divorce

As Christmas is nearly here, I am sitting and listening to Christmas music. When “The Twelve Days of Christmas” comes around, I can’t help but laugh at an acquaintance of mine some time back. He had just gotten a divorce and came up with NEW words to the old tune.

Now I do not remember the entire thing (this was probably forty years ago), what I DO remember goes like this:

On the eight day of my divorce,
My ex-wife took from me,
Eight place settings,
Seven credit cards.
Six-cylinder Maverick,
FIVE POWER TOOLS!
Four radial tires,
Three bedroom home,
Two little children.
And my stereo and my color tv!

I wish I could remember the rest of it…

Merry Christmas

Falcon 9 landing

Congratulations to SpaceX for the absolutely amazing landing of a Falcon 9 first stage a mere six miles away from its launch point. The pinpoint landing came after the successful launch of nine Orbcomm satellites. The booster had to make a U-turn 50+ miles and a decent distance northeast of the Cape to return to a targeted spot six miles from the launch pad. They had to keep from centrifuging the remaining fuel, regain stability, and drop from hypersonic through supersonic to subsonic speeds and then a complete stop, upright, dead center on the target.

Blue Origin accomplished a landing of a much smaller suborbital booster just this last November, an accomplishment not to be scorned. But their success was on a entirely different, and smaller, scale. Up and down was an achievement to be proud of. But the mechanics involved in the SpaceX endeavor are, shall we say a bit more complex?

I’ve heard comments that this is the way rockets are SUPPOSED to land, evidenced by the sci-fi movies of the 50’s. We have finally arrived, I’ve heard. But hold on a minutes! If I remember those movies, the INSIDE of those rockets provided very spacious, apartment-sized quarters for the crews., complete with artificial gravity. Technology still has a way to go to match that.

Elon Musk and SpaceX are probably the group that is going to make the 50’s movies true!

Sphider 1.5.1 released

Sphider 1.5.0 was a major departure from older versions of Sphider in that it incorporated prepared statements, adding significantly to the security of Sphider. It performed very nicely.

But we did not like the database backup and restore procedures. Backup was quick enough, but restore was S-L-O-W!. The larger the database, the worse it got. There had to be a better way. There was, and we found it.  We grew our database to include:

    10 sites
    10 categories (5 top level, 5 sub-categories)
    10, 641 links (pages)
    70,317 keywords
    40,006 kb of cached text
    171,495 kb total size

A backup, producing a gzip file of 14,079 kb, was accomplished in 16 seconds.
A total restoration took 32 seconds. This was a definite improvement over the 6 1/2 HOURS for a smaller database.

Also, as we were no longer looking for coding errors, we began concentrating on the results (or outcomes of admin actions) looking for anything that just was not exactly what we expected to see. We found several bugs which were repaired and tested. Nothing earth-shattering, but bugs nonetheless. Sphider 1.5.1 is the result.

Since Sphider 1.5.1 seems to be the achievement of what we originally set out to do, namely, dispensing with deprecated code, improving security, fixing a few bugs in the original releases, etc., this will probably be the last release for awhile. In the event of some operational problem of immediate concern, a simple patch should be sufficient instead of a whole new release.

Now despite the hours of testing and line-by-line code reviews and results analysis, Murphy’s Law still reigns. We’ll leave it at that.

If cats were bigger…

Do you remember the study that came out about two months ago that basically said, “if your cat was bigger, it would kill you”?

That study is pure rubbish. I have witnessed close up the various personalities of a number of house cats over the last forty years or so. Cats are NOT intimidated by size. I have seen a 9 pound cat face off against a 90 pound doberman. The cat was NOT cornered. It WELCOMED the confrontation. Although it could have very easily gone the other way and ended in disaster, the doberman backed down. I have seen similar instances of cats very willingly face overwhelming odds and either emerging victorious or escaping unscathed. They live for the challenge.

If your cat really wanted you dead, either you or it would already be dead!

One other thing. Although they can be wonderfully graceful, they can also be complete klutzes. If they were bigger, their klutziness COULD possibly kill you by accident. If that were to happen, you would no longer be operating the can opener. The cat then will become hungry. You, being of no possible use dead, would most likely be eaten.

Unless you mistreat your feline, it will not purposely kill you. They are smart enough not to lose their meal ticket.

Sphider for WordPress?

Several years ago, there was a Sphider for WordPress introduced. It was based on the 1.3.4 version of Sphider. Time moved forward, Sphider for WordPress did not. You can still find it. It just most probably isn’t going to work.

A few months back we tried to update it. THAT was a lost cause! So now we have taken our newest Sphider and have started to convert it. It does work, mostly. Still having a few issues, such as suggest doesn’t work and we aren’t sure why not. Also having trouble getting the search integrated into WordPress, although there has been some progress there.

Naturally, since this is a tiny blog, there isn’t much we can thoroughly test it on. Give us a bit more time to get the integration part down and maybe we’ll put it out as a beta, even without suggest working. But maybe we’ll find the problem there, too.

That would be nice, a working version of Sphider for WordPress.


UPDATE: December 15. Integration with WordPress has been accomplished. Suggestions still are not working. Being able to spider and search from WordPress is still a significant achievement. The MAJOR components have been tested and are functional. Still need all the minor branches to be tested.


UPDATE: December 23. Suggestions STILL not working, but Sphider now does a re-index when a post is added or edited. Duplicate domains are being entered in the domains table, but that should be an easy fix. Getting closer to being generally usable.