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Dave@NASA
The Sponge
Planetary scientist/guitarist/homebrewer/dog lover
Recent Activity
It's a wonderful life! Most excellent that you are a professional at stopping and smelling the roses. Thanks for a very nice snapshot of your happiness to share.
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You go, dude. Enjoy the hell out of yourself.
Toggle Commented Aug 31, 2010 on My 2010 PAX Prime Schedule at WWdN: In Exile
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In addition to being a science dweeb, I've also been a guitarist for almost 40 years. I personally would not care to play Rock Band or Guitar Hero. But I am thrilled for those folks who do play and love those games, who dovnot have the opportunity (for whatever reason) to play actual musical instruments. They get to experience the joy of musical expression, and have a ton of fun. What's not to like? I played a LOT of Oblivion for a couple years, and got heavily into visual modding. I cannot draw a straight line with a ruler, yet these cyber-tools allowed me to actually experience the joy of creating something visually beautiful. It's the same concept: Rock Band and their like enable those who love music but who are not musicians to share in the fun. More power to you all who do so from a musician who is delighted on your behalf! :-)
Toggle Commented Aug 27, 2010 on a quick one while i'm away... at WWdN: In Exile
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This has to be one of the most awesome proofs I have ever read. QE fuckin D, baby!
Toggle Commented May 28, 2010 on in which a list is completed at WWdN: In Exile
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One of the best vignettes you've posted in some time, Mister Wil... I was right there in the room with you both. Masterful. (Oh, and because my nerdliness is boundless, I don't even know what song you were referring to. But it didn't matter.)
Toggle Commented May 28, 2010 on in which a list is completed at WWdN: In Exile
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At the risk of thread necromancy (sorry, I just don't have time to visit here as often as many readers), I can't let two comments go by that appeared after my earlier, long post, about the money involved. One poster said that the space program "is so very expensive", and another that "Obama has cut NASA's budget" (paraphrasing, and I didn't go back to ascribe these to their authors, sorry). Second point first: NASA's budget is GOING UP. Got that? UP. Not DOWN. We're getting MORE money. NOT less. NASA's budget is to rise by more than $6 billion in the next five years (that's $6B total over that time, not $6B per year). In this difficult economy and with wars and disasters and everything else that's happening, almost no other agencies outside Defense are seeing any increase at all. That is "putting one's money where one's mouth is." About how expensive it is: Sure, it definitely costs money. But the money spent on NASA isn't loaded into a rocket and shot into space, you know. It's spent right here at home, in the US economy, as the employees who are being paid to carry out the dreams and ambitions of space exploration in their communities across the country. It is an investment in our future, by engendering motivation for people to become qualified in math, science, and engineering to work those jobs. How much would you guess NASA gets out of every tax dollar the government collects? A penny? We would KILL for a whole penny. NASA gets less than 0.2 cents of every tax dollar. Yes, it adds up to 18+ billion per year, but it's small potatoes in the grand scheme of things (DoD spends NASA's yearly budget every six weeks or so). And the return on that investment (like, the entire technological society so many of us take for granted) is far and away the greatest ever earned by any government spending. The world we live in now is a direct consequence of the advances made in aerospace and defense research and development from the 60s on. Any business would gladly sign up for an investment that stood to return a thousandth of that value... hell, a millionth, probably. NASA spending is some of the most productive use of money the US government has ever undertaken.
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That is completely cool. Thanks for sharing! And I am certain, Wil, that you could make something MUCH cooler. That is, if it wouldn't be, you know, too much of a challenge. We wouldn't want you to have to, you know, stretch your talents or anything. It would be quite a challenge. But, that's OK... sometimes maybe we expect too much from you. (You see what I did there?)
Toggle Commented May 20, 2010 on The Empire Strikes Back (1950) at WWdN: In Exile
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First, I'm feeling very old... all you damn kids! I was halfway through gradual school in '86. Here at JSC in Houston, there is much angst over the Constellation cancellation because we will be hardest hit in terms of job losses (largely on the contractor side) and for the perception that the US is abandoning human spaceflight. But this is absolutely NOT what the plan is! It's quite maddening to me that detractors make that claim. Commercial access to low-Earth orbit (LEO) is the next logical step. As Neil deGrasse Tyson put it recently, NASA's charter mandates that it stay on the frontier, and LEO stopped being the frontier long ago. Tyson said "LEO is boldly going where hundreds have gone before." After the decision was made, in 2004 (hello, by the previous administration, not Obama-- another fallacy, people claiming "Obama killed the Shuttle program"), to retire Shuttle, there was always going to be a years-long gap in US access to space. The new plan will chop that gap in half, more than likely, such that US spacefarers will be back in space years sooner than they could possibly have been under Cx. Heavy lift development will admittedly be delayed several years, but again, if things stay reasonably on track, crewed tests of that system will take place many years earlier than would have been possible under Cx. THIS is where the frontier is: deep space, beyond LEO, accessible only with heavy lift capability. There is also serious planning underway for human missions to near-Earth asteroids. We're not talking about the asteroid belt now, beyond the orbit of Mars; thousands of asteroids are in closer, Earth-crossing orbits, and they could be reached in a journey of several weeks. The science value of sampling such objects is absolutely enormous (sample science is my stock in trade), and the inspiration value will be equally enormous, as humans share in the images sent back by the asteroid-visiting spacecraft as Earth and the Moon get smaller and smaller and smaller. Eventually, from the asteroid, they will appear about the size of a pea held at arm's length, and their distance apart will be about what the diameter of a quarter would be. In other words, one could one's thumb at arm's length and easily hide both Earth and Moon from there. In comparison, the same was true for the Apollo astronauts looking back at Earth-- they could hide it behind their thumb. I predict the impact on how we view our home of seeing it from such a vantage will be enormous, eclipsing (pardon me) the impact of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo. Change is always hard, and the old-school, Apollo-dominated mindset is difficult to change. I loved the Cx plan to return to the Moon (lunar science is a huge part of my portfolio), but it was just not going to happen given five years of way underfunding. And because the new plan was dropped on the agency from OMB with only days' notice, NASA appeared hapless and bumbling when it rolled out. Since that time, many teams have worked very hard to flesh out the plans, and there will a LOT of very exciting stuff happening before we know it. There will still be short term job-loss pain, but the long view is that the US is NOT abandoning space, and in fact we'll have more Americans in space sooner with this new plan -- if there is follow-through in subsequent budget years, of course. Just one NASA geek's view...
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Excellent life advice indeed, and not just for creative types. As a fully fledged science nerd, I can assure you that the same principle applies: one must find other things to be passionate about than just the science. Nobody gets rich doing basic research, so we're in that same camp of "we do it because we love it." But we must have other passions for the sake of our mental health. For me, it's playing guitar, brewing beer, baseball, great RPGs, film, books... no wonder I have almost no free time!!
Toggle Commented Mar 24, 2010 on the play's the thing at WWdN: In Exile
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Wil says: "It doesn't have to be a bug; it can be a feature." Words after my own heart! (sidelong glance at my avatar) When I was in grad school, we used to play "Avoidaball", which was any lame activity we devised late at night (typically kicking a big wad of paper up and down the long hallways outside our offices) with which we could occupy ourselves instead of doing what we were supposed to be doing. Think Calvinball, but spiced up with geology nerdness.
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Yes! And I was serious in my email about the moon rock lab tour... as well as other rather cool behind-the-scenes stuff at JSC. No pressure or anything. :-) Reading below about your interest in Austin, you'd simply have to do a two-fer and stretch to Houston as well. The world needs to see pics of Wil Wheaton in the lunar-lab "bunny suit".
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Wil, I really liked it when you said "I've been doing this long enough to know..." It's very cool to see your maturation as an artist and evident growing confidence that's come with experience. It's been great watching, through your writings and readings of your writings, how you have grown so much more comfortable in your own skin. I can relate in numerous ways. I also know the feeling of being aware that the final (written) product will emerge only after inevitable stages of feeling doubtful. It's a great feeling when one recognizes that the final version is attainable despite those low points. I'm really looking forward to hearing the address in due course... wish I could see it in person. Break a leg!
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Totally great. Have "Tea, Earl Grey, Hot" on one side of the little tag, and the futurelogo on the other... tremendous! Oh, and of course the Makerbot is fabulous.
Toggle Commented Feb 5, 2010 on MakerBot it so at WWdN: In Exile
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Just have to follow up here... not only did I totally do the right thing to get my wife one as well as me (I knew she'd kill me if I didn't!), but my Futuremug is now the pen & pencil holder amongst my center-of-the-conference-table odds & ends in my office at JSC here in Houston. Well over half of the many people who've met with me there recognize the quote, which is cool enough. But yesterday one of my budget folks stopped dead when she saw it, pointed at it and exclaimed "Wil Wheaton! I love his website!" Gotta love that. (Hell, she might even read this!)
Toggle Commented Jan 28, 2010 on my god, it's full of futuremugs at WWdN: In Exile
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Kevin Anderson beat me to the Star Wars reference, but that's really what came to mind for me as well. But, you could do it as I think you would want the SW situation to be: go ahead and edit it, but leave a copy of the original version, as is, also accessible so that folks can choose which one to enjoy at a particular time. Sometimes, they might prefer the original; others, the update. What a concept. :-)
Toggle Commented Jan 26, 2010 on From the Vault: Still Cool at WWdN: In Exile
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Wil, somehow I have had it in my head for years that you were in the classic "It" miniseries, playing the young Bill Denbrough. Don't ask me why. So when I came across your site here and saw the Pennywise T-shirt in glorious 8-bit in your avatar, it made perfect sense, as have your occasional references to It. Of course, I'm spectacularly wrong, as I'd have realized if I'd just stopped to think about it for two minutes. You and Richard Thomas portraying younger and older versions of the same man would be very interesting casting though, I reckon. Hope you survive the storm! I grew up in LA, and these seem to be some of the strongest storms to hit there in my lifetime. Good luck.
Toggle Commented Jan 21, 2010 on billy bad breaks at WWdN: In Exile
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Just to round out the homebrew thought... If one starts (as most do) using malt-extract rather than all-grain, the gear to get a batch to the fermenters (I quite agree that a secondary is essential) is probably about $125 or so. If one gets a couple of kegs and a CO2 bottle to drive them, that's another $50 to $100 depending on how many kegs and size of CO2 cylinder. One can typically get the ingredients for a malt-extract batch for $15 or so; thus the per-case cost (ignoring hardware costs) is under five bucks. The jump to all-grain involves probably another hundred-plus, but many brewers never do that and consistently produce excellent beer. Rest assured also that there is a vast brewing community out there on the web who are only too happy to help as you get started.
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Ahhh... but you don't have to bottle. Much easier to keg the beer. Some years back, when soda pop dispensing transitioned from those old, steel cylinders to bag-in-box syrup + carbonated water, all those kegs were homeless, and homebrewing suppliers snapped them up. There are billions of them out there, available for a few bucks, and when the beer is done it takes just half an hour or so to get it packaged into the keg. Bottling a 5-gal batch takes hours, by comparison. Fermenters take up quite little space... but, time is definitely needed on brew day-- 6 hours or so. I totally empathize with the lack of time... I haven't brewed once since moving back to Houston in June of last year. Hell, haven't even gotten ingredients yet. Sigh.
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Totally agree about those widgeted cans of Guinness being splendid. I never tire of watching that trademark Guinness cascade effect as the liquid falls, allowing those tight, nitrogen-primed bubbles to gather at the top... Wil, ever contemplated brewing your own? It's really not hard and a highly rewarding experience.
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Just ordered two of these, one for my wife, one for myself. She's gonna LOVE it... we've been listening to Futurecasts lately.
Toggle Commented Jan 19, 2010 on my god, it's full of futuremugs at WWdN: In Exile
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Jan 18, 2010