The Deep Blue Good-By Cover
We are a group of MIT students seeking to share the artistic aspects of science with others. On Sept. 2, 2009, we launched a digital camera into near-space to take photographs of the earth from high up above. (see “Flight”)
Several groups have accomplished similar feats (see “Other Launches”), but as far we know, we are the first group ever to:
(1) Complete such a launch on a budget of $150 total. All of our supplies (including camera, GPS tracking, weather balloon, and helium) were purchased for less than a grand total of $150.
FIVE years ago, Londoner Ashley Revell sold his house, all his possessions and cashed in his life savings. It raised £76,840. He flew to Las Vegas, headed to the roulette table and put it all on red.
The wheel was spun. The crowd held its breath as the ball slowed, bounced four or five times, and finally settled on number seven. Red seven.
Revell's bet was a straight gamble: double or nothing. But when Edward Thorp, a mathematics student at the Massachussetts Institute of Technology, went to the same casino some 40 years previously, he knew pretty well where the ball was going to land. He walked away with a profit, took it to the racecourse, the basketball court and the stock market, and became a multimillionaire. He wasn't on a lucky streak, he was using his knowledge of mathematics to understand, and beat, the odds.
No one can predict the future, but the powers of probability can help. Armed with this knowledge, a high-school mathematics education and £50, I headed off to find out how Thorp, and others like him, have used mathematics to beat the system. Just how much money could probability make me?
When Thorp stood at the roulette wheel in the summer of 1961 there was no need for nerves - he was armed with the first "wearable" computer, one that could predict the outcome of the spin. Once the ball was in play, Thorp fed the computer information about the speed and position of the ball and the wheel using a microswitch inside his shoe. "It would make a forecast about a probable result, and I'd bet on neighbouring numbers," he says.
Thorp's device would now be illegal in a casino, and in any case getting a computer to do the work wasn't exactly what I had in mind. However, there is a simple and sure-fire way to win at the roulette table - as long as you have deep pockets and a faith in probability theory.
Labels: Con Games
Louisiana upped its production tax credit to 30% from 25% in July, buttressing its already commanding position as the country's third-largest motion picture and television production center -- after Los Angeles and New York.
Also, a Louisiana Economic Development report issued early this year gave a big thumbs-up to the incentives program based on the positive impact it has had so far on the economy. According to the study, the state attracted 135 movie and television projects worth $2 billion between 2002 and 2008. In 2008 alone, 80 projects qualified for tax incentives.
The industry helped to create 6,230 full- and part-time jobs statewide, and employment in the sector has been growing at a sizzling compound annual rate of 22% from 2001 to 2007. In 2007, $429 million in direct production spending translated into $763 million poured into the state economy.
"In terms of the goods, services and crew needed to service the film industry, New Orleans has completely recovered from any effects of Katrina," says Jennifer Day of the city's Office of Film and Video. 2008 was a record year, with 21 major productions in the city. At one point, as many as six features were shooting simultaneously.
2009 has also been busy, notes Day, despite the economic slowdown, with 15 major projects slated for New Orleans. Ten of those have wrapped, including "Jonah Hex" (see related article) and the HBO pilot "Treme."
Thunderbirds is Rescue Fiction. All kids respond to rescue scenarios. Rescue Fiction is emotionally maturing - it removes the wish for magic, religion or flying people to zoom in to save the day; it confirms that it is a far more glorious and dazzling thing to invent ways to rescue ourselves.
It is also about astronauts. Real-life astronauts have become an unremarkable bunch. We only hear about them these days when they die. Hell, by the end of the 60s, the brilliant and imaginative pilot Scott Carpenter was selling crap on local TV. But in Thunderbirds, Jeff Tracy is an eccentric billionaire, able to convert his private Caribbean island into a secret cosmodrome for exotic aircraft and a re-usable space vessel, with enough scratch left over to support a cutting-edge skunkworks lab, servants and an inexhaustible volume of vermouth. Are you a government minister despairing over the seemingly unsolvable need to get kids interested in science? Thunderbirds says that science is awesome because you get to fly in space and live on a high-tech island full of booze. Beat that for incentive.
I defined GLOBAL FREQUENCY from the start as Rescue Fiction. if not explicitly Post-9/11 Rescue Fiction. Because Thunderbirds is the anti-Superman. Now, I just woke up, so it’s okay if that doesn’t make sense. But immediately after 9/11 I found people on message boards ACTUALLY SAYING OUT LOUD that they wished Superman were real because he would have saved the WTC. And that is an anti-evolutionary wish. What you say is, I wish the dozen or so people who knew this was going to happen could have informed someone who’d actually listen and that we had had the sense/madness to engineer a mechanical response to someone attacking NYC with flying death tubes
Thunderbirds: Darwin’s Airforce
The most challenging impediment to human travel to Mars does not seem to involve the complicated launching, propulsion, guidance or landing technologies but something far more mundane: the radiation emanating from the Sun’s cosmic rays. The shielding necessary to ensure the astronauts do not get a lethal dose of solar radiation on a round trip to Mars may very well make the spacecraft so heavy that the amount of fuel needed becomes prohibitive.
There is, however, a way to surmount this problem while reducing the cost and technical requirements, but it demands that we ask this vexing question: Why are we so interested in bringing the Mars astronauts home again?
While the idea of sending astronauts aloft never to return is jarring upon first hearing, the rationale for one-way trips into space has both historical and practical roots. Colonists and pilgrims seldom set off for the New World with the expectation of a return trip, usually because the places they were leaving were pretty intolerable anyway. Give us a century or two and we may turn the whole planet into a place from which many people might be happy to depart.
Moreover, one of the reasons that is sometimes given for sending humans into space is that we need to move beyond Earth if we are to improve our species’ chances of survival should something terrible happen back home. This requires people to leave, and stay away.
Four decades have passed since the first small step on the dusty surface of our nearest neighbor in the solar system in 1969. It has been almost that long since the last man to walk on the Moon did so in late 1972. The Apollo missions were a stunning technological achievement and a significant Cold War victory for the United States. However, despite the hope of observers at the time—and despite the nostalgia and mythology that now cloud our memory—Apollo was not the first step into a grand human future in space. From the perspective of forty years, Apollo, for all its glory, can now be seen as a detour away from a sustainable human presence in space. By and large, the NASA programs that succeeded Apollo have kept us heading down that wrong path: Toward more bureaucracy. Toward higher costs. And away from innovation, from risk-taking, and from any concept of space as a useful place.