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The Pod Bay Doors have been opened – Godspeed Arthur and thank you

HAL Sheeding a tear for Arthur C. ClarkeThis week, the world got a lot less interesting, when the visionary, humanist, inventor and author Arthur C. Clarke died. I really considered not commenting on it, because others would be better at it, and the picture from Joy of Tech on the left sums up my feelings.

Remembering a great visionary and humanitarian

Arthur might not be the best writer, but his clear visions, belief in humanity and always good spirit was such an inspiration.

Clarke has mostly been remembered for his two most famous contributions to the collective heritage of humankind:

  1. The movie 2001
  2. The concept of Geo-synchronous communications satellites

The only thing that I feel sorry for, is that Arthur didn’t live to witness the discovery of Extraterrestial Intelligence, which I’m sure is on the verge of happening, and when we have First Contact, I hope that the politicians and scientists read the works of Arthur C. Clarke, before trying to understand E.T., I really feel that Arthur did.

First Contact

I’ll give you an example, and it’s my favourite part from one of his books, “The Fountains of Paradise”.

As is traditional with the novells by Arthur C. Clarke, the plot contains several independent sub-plots, and that is the strongest aspect of his writing, it never gets dull, and it’s filled with humour, and insights into humanity.

The main plot in the “Fountains of Paradise” is really about the construction of an elevator to the Clarke Belt, the geo-synchronous orbit, 36,000 kms from Earth.

But the by-line is a story about First Contact – e.g. the discovery of intelligent Extraterrestrials – a favourite topic of Clarke – it’s also about Artificial Intelligence – the favourite topic of Clarke.

The sub-plot is similar to “Rendezvous with Rama”: Due to universal limits of relativity, you can only travel at sub-light speeds. Another universal law is that the ordinary life-spans are too short even for ET, so ET is investigating the universe using unmanned probes.

Earth, or rather the solar system, is visited by such a a spaceship, and onboard is a computer or more correctly an AI – that is somewhat secretive – but co-operative – and we have so much to learn, like the fact that we’re an emerging level 1 Civilisation, at least in the 22nd Century, where the book is taking place.

Clarke suggested that advanced Civilisations goes through three levels:

  1. Civilisation can control energy on Planetary level
  2. Civilisation can control energy on Solar level
  3. Civilisation can control energy on Galactical level

Needless to say we’re not even a level 0 civiisation right now. When ET finally arrives, some hundred years after the probe visited, he expresses admiration for the achievements of “such a young civilisation.

Well the computer abroad the space-probe, is co-operating and teaching us lot’s of things, without violating the rules about giving away information posessed by a higher level civilisation, so we’re only given hints, like a level 1 civilisation, has mastered the conversion of matter to energy and back – e.g. has things like matter transporters and replicators, like in Star Trek.

That is until someone at a Theological Institute decides to transmit the complete religious scriptures to the computer, it painstakingly analyses it, points out the fundamental flaws of religious thinking, shuts down communication with a comment that expresses disappointment at such tribal manners from an emerging level 1 Culture, and sorry but now you have to switch to direct communications, going to cruise mode, shutting down, bye.

Mind you, ET is 50 light-years away, so everyone was upset by the actions of the religious people, but really it was also the end of religious thought, and humanity could move on the bigger projects, like building the space elevator.

The concept of the Space Elevator was lifted from a Russian scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, that Arthur credits in the closing notes of “Fountains”. Clarke also suggests that it might be possible to build it already in this century, and the concept is well thought out, and actually feasible with current technology, unfortunately the current funding of space exploration, dictates direct military benefits, and the military seems to love chemical rockets, what a shame.

Other contributions

Another important contribution by Clarke, was his 80th birthday special feature, where Discovery dedicated an entire evening to Arthur, another was his series The “Arthur C. Clarke’s Mysterious World”, where he was also dealt with myths and Urban legends, paving the way for the “Mythbusters”.

Clarke deserved the Nobel Peace Price, not least for deciding to live his final many years in war-torn Sri Lanka.

The Pod Bay doors have been opened, Godspeed Arthur

The Imperial Cinema in Copenhagen is showing “2001: A Space Odyssey” on Monday 24th of March oops April 28th at 3.45pm CEST.

Imperial has one of the best cinemas in Northern Europe, expect me to be in the audience, I can’t really think of a better way to pay tribute to Arthur, get your ticket here (link will probably expire soon ;-)).

I’m humbled by your creative vision: The Pod Bay doors have been opened, and my God it’s full of Stars. Godspeed Arthur!

The picture that accompanies this article is from the great comic strip, The Joy of Tech. I dare to claim “fair use”, and why don’t you click here to buy some merchandise, or one of the paintings – I’d love to own “HAL 9000 shedding a tear” as a painting. BTW: I’m not making any money from providing Joy of Tech with such a link, welcome to the future of advertising ;-).

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Happy birthday dear Sputnik, Space Ship One, FSF, Russian democracy and brother dearest

The famous Earthrise pictureI’m so envious my dear brother, this day October 4th – your birthday – seems to coincide with one of the most important days in modern civilisation, a day that has importance for exploration of space, as well as important steps in the history of human thought and the move towards true democracy.

Today, October 4th 2007, it’s 50 years since the first man made satellite, Sputnik 1, was launched, and the world was changed almost overnight. 12 years later man had already walked on the moon

The first stage of the race towards space, has to be one of the single most impressive feats of human kind in history, really on a par with the building of the Pyramids.

Building of Pyramids was, like the space program, put on hold – it was just not efficient, even though the monument still stand, in the form of immense launch facilities at Kennedy Space Centre, it was only really a demonstration of power, and funding had to be cut, or else it could have ruined the economy, like continued pyramid building could have done to Egypt

Flash forward 47 years, three years ago, the era of real space exploration of space was ushered in, with the successful flight of SpaceShipOne, the first commercially developed vehicle, capable of reaching space.

So happy birthday to you all, and humanity for giving us the inspiration to do the impossible, which is escaping this cosy spaceship we’re all living in, or should I say on, the spaceship called Earth.

ps. I also found out that today marks the 23rd anniversary of establishment of The Free Software Foundation (FSF) by Richard Stallman. FSF and the thoughts behind it is slowly changing the mindset of people, and is the foundation of the current explosion in true knowledge sharing. Today also marks the 14 anniversary of the failed attempt by the Soviet military to stop the move towards democracy – October 4th truly is a historic day.

pps. If I had the energy to do so, I’d love to have made a picture showing the faces of Sergei Korolev, Burt Rutan, Paul Allen, Richard Branson, Richard Stallman, Boris Yeltsin and my brother René, to accompany this article – sorry but you have to make that – mentally – yourself.

Instead I’m showing one of the most important pictures of mankind, the “Earthrise” picture taken by Apollo 8, just a little over 11 years after the Sputnik 1 launch.

“We close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you — all of you on the good Earth.”

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Jens Martin Knudsens Rosenkjær-foredrag –ær/Jens Martin Knudsen

Jens Martin KnudsenJens Martin Knudsens Rosenkjær-foredrag –ær/Jens Martin Knudsen

Jens Martin Knudsen var Danmarks bedste formidler af videnskab. Her er et foredrag han gav i forbindelse med at han modtog Rosenkjær prisen

Han døde i Februar 2005, og kort før det meldte han sig frivilligt til at rejse til Mars, mon han er nået frem?

Æret være JMKs minde.

Rækken af Rosenkjær-foredrag findes som Podcasts, du kan finde dem her.

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NASA Space Telescopes Find ‘Lego-Block’ Galaxies in Early Universe

Hubble-20070906-BrowseJPL.NASA.GOV: News Releases

NASA has just issued a press release regarding a new discovery. What the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have discovered are small, dense galaxies in the distant universe (meaning we’re looking WAY back in time), that are considered to be building blocks of the Universe, and it contributes to, and confirms, our understanding of the evolution of the Universe.

This press release caught my interest, in part, due to the mentioning of ‘Lego’ the BEST toy EVER, but behind the headline lies yet another important discovery, that, to me, really demonstrates why we need to invest in Space Telescopes, there’s so much to learn.


This is a quote from the NASA press release:

A NASA’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes have joined forces to discover nine of the smallest, faintest, most compact galaxies ever observed in the distant universe. Blazing with the brilliance of millions of stars, each of the newly discovered galaxies is 100 to 1,000 times smaller than our Milky Way galaxy.

“These are among the lowest mass galaxies ever directly observed in the early universe,” said Nor Pirzkal of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.

The conventional model for galaxy evolution predicts that small galaxies in the early universe evolved into the massive galaxies of today by coalescing. These nine Lego-like “building block” galaxies initially detected by Hubble likely contributed to the construction of the universe as we know it.

JPL is the NASA body that manages the majority of the robotic missions to the planets and the solar system, this includes the highly successful Mars Rovers, Voyager, Cassini. You can subscribe to the NASA JPL newsletter by visiting this link

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NASA JPL – The long tail of the star Mira

Long tail of the star Mira 185517Main A-516
Speeding-Bullet Star Leaves Enormous Streak Across Sky

NASA has just released this amazing picture of the star Mira, taken by NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer space telescope. Mira is a red giant, that is travelling fast through space, the surprising new discovery is that Mira has a comet like tail, that stretches for 13 light years.

From NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) press release:

NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer has spotted an amazingly long
comet-like tail behind a star streaking through space at
supersonic speeds. The star, named Mira after the Latin word for
“wonderful,” has been a favorite of astronomers for about 400 years.
It is a fast-moving, older star called a red giant that sheds massive
amounts of surface material.

From the NASA Main Website:

Mira appears as a small white dot in the bulb-shaped structure at right, and is moving from left to right in this view. The shed material can be seen in light blue. The dots in the picture are stars and distant galaxies. The large blue dot at left is a star that is closer to us than Mira.

The Galaxy Evolution Explorer discovered Mira’s strange comet-like tail during part of its routine survey of the entire sky at ultraviolet wavelengths. When astronomers first saw the picture, they were shocked because Mira has been studied for over 400 years yet nothing like this has ever been documented before.

Mira’s comet-like tail stretches a startling 13 light-years across the sky. For comparison, the nearest star to our sun, Proxima Centauri, is only about 4 light-years away. Mira’s tail also tells a tale of its history – the material making it up has been slowly blown off over time, with the oldest material at the end of the tail having been released about 30,000 years ago.

JPL is the NASA body that manages the majority of the robotic missions to the planets and the solar system, this includes the highly successful Mars Rovers, Voyager, Cassini. You can subscribe to the NASA JPL newsletter by visiting this link.

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Charles Simonyi – It’s the closest yet to a Dane in space

Soyuz Tma-10 PatchCharles Simonyi is now in space

It’s almost like a Dane is going to space, since Charles Simonyi lived and worked in Denmark before being hired by Microsoft. He frequently visits Denmark in his Yacht Skat, and it’s impressive. I’ve seen Skat – docked at The Copenhagen Royal Castle – Amalienborg, like pictured in the link above. Skat is Danish for “treasure”, but “Skat” is normally used to express affection for your significant other, and it roughly translates to “darling” – it’s also a play on words, since “Skat” also means “Tax”.

Simonyi is best known – at least by g33k5 like me – for inventing the Hungarian notation – a special style of coding, where you indicate the datatype by prefixing the variable name with a type indicator, eg. nCount and intCount to indicate that Count is a variable that is declared as a number or an integer, szTitle to indicate that the variable szTitle is a zero-terminated string.

I’ve been using Hungarian notation since 1987, I believe that the Hungarian notation actually made C a usable language, and it has saved us from many bugs.

These days I still use Hungarian notation, even though it should not be nescessary in object oriented languages, and even Microsoft, that was instrumental in the spread of Hungarian notation, now discourages it’s use.

It’s an inspiration that someone working in my field can do these things, Charles Simonyi seems to be living my dream.

Godspeed Charles.