Hidden Figures – A Movie Review

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Jun 022017

Hidden Figures Movie PosterAs the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

Director: Theodore Melfi
Writers: Allison Schroeder (screenplay), Theodore Melfi (screenplay)
Cast: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe,  Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge     Aldis Hodge

Rating: PG; Run Time: 127min; Genre:  Biography, Drama, History; Release Date: 23 December 2016 (USA)

We watched on a weekend evening a while, and both of us loved it. I hope it is something younger people see, so as to get just a taste of the discrimination and racism that existed, even a place of highly educated people, bent on keeping up a polite façade.  And besides the lessons/reminders about our past, it was just a great movie. Continue reading »

Where I Was 40 Years Ago

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Jul 202009

Everyone is writing about where they were 40 years ago today when Armstrong and Aldrin first set foot on the moon, so I thought I should also chime in. It was certainly one of those defining moments.

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, July 20, 1969

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon, July 20, 1969

For over 40 years (wow, that’s hard to believe) our family has gone on vacation every summer to White Lake, North Carolina. It’s a beautiful lake formed, coincidentally, by the impact of a small meteorite opening up a spring. I’ve planned to write more about those vacations. Anyway, that’s where I was on July 20, 1969.

We have always stayed at an area called Goldston’s Beach in a little U-shaped cluster of cottages (back then). they were of different sizes, but basically had a kitchen, a big screened in porch with bedrooms all along the porch. A bunch of extended family went along, as well as some neighbors, so we had most of the cottages in that cluster.

As I remember the moon walk was late at night (late for a 10 year old anyway). We had moved the 19 inch black and white TV with the rabbit ears outside one of the cottages, and the antennae definitely included some tin foil. I can’t remember for sure, but we might have had to bring the TV with us. It was sitting on top of one of the ice chests, and everyone crowded around in the old plastic web lawn chairs.

It was quite the community event. Of course we watched the coverage provided by Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra. They were the “color commentators” for one of the most outstanding human achievements of all time. I felt like an expert on space flight and the moon landing after having seen all the explanations with models and animation put on by Cronkite, Schirra and CBS. I think Cronkite rejoiced in that accomplishment, and so did we all. I don’t remember us hooting and hollering, but I do recall everyone applauding. I also remember looking at the moon really hard to try to see the space craft up there.

For a brief time, I entertained the notion, as did many kids of that era, of being an aerospace engineer. The planets, and even the stars, seemed a lot closer that hot evening in July. Later I found out how much math was involved, so that ended that dream. My sister got the math gene. Continue reading »

Move To The Planets

 Congress, Science, Technology  Comments Off on Move To The Planets
Jun 132006
Milky Way

In an article at MSNBC renowned Physicist Stephen Hawking says humans must learn to inhabit other planets in order for the species to survive. He believes the earth, through some catastrophe, will become uninhabitable at some point in the future.

Eve'n Star“It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species,” Hawking said. “Life on Earth is at the ever-increasing risk of being wiped out by a disaster, such as sudden global warming, nuclear war, a genetically engineered virus or other dangers we have not yet thought of.”

The British astro- physicist told a news conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years.

Of course, thanks to Congressional pork, we may never make it. Space WalkIn the past few years, congressional earmarks have ballooned. In fiscal year 1996, there were 958 earmarks; in fiscal year 2005, there were 14,000. These pork projects are affecting NASA, forcing the agency to “slash science, engineering and education programs to pay for billions of dollars in congressional pet projects, most of which have little to do with the agency’s mission to explore space.” While President Bush has expressed his commitment to NASA and space exploration, Congress has undermined both goals. Since 2001, “Congress has directed the space agency to spend more than $3 billion on special projects, most of them small endeavors sought by individual lawmakers for the benefit of their home districts.” Projects have included a “sprawling headquarters building for a non-profit research group in West Virginia” created by Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), who is under fire for ethics violations; a “website and laboratory for the Gulf of Maine Aquarium;” and construction or renovation of dozens of museums, planetariums and college science labs. As a result of these pork projects, NASA may have to cut robotic space probes, education programs, the International Space Station, and missions to the moon.

A Martian Post Card

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Sep 262005

It took NASA’s Spirit rover a year and a half to get to the top of Husband Hill in the Gusev Crater on Mars. It finally made it, and, like all mountain climbers, took a photo. Check this out

You may have seen lower-res versions in your newspapers, but the full res shows much more. Note the dust devil whirling in the distance!

There is lots more info on this amazingly long-lived mission, and more photos at http://marsrovers.jpl.nasa.gov/home/index.html