« Among The Biogeeks Of San DiegoCalifornia Is Different »
02.04.2003

Apple Targets Scientists

Apple has set up a computer lab at the O'Reilly Bioinformatics conference, and all the stops are out. Cinema displays everywhere - also talks coming up about using Mac hardware for scientific computing. "Have genome, will travel". It looks like they are trying hard to capture the scientific computing market. No complaints from me.

Anil links to a very prescient 1980 article about the shuttle program. It sounds dire, but it got most everything right - a good reminder that the Shuttle was always just a huge flying kluge. You have to be inhuman not to feel wretched about the Columbia crash. But I'm uneasy about the resulting hagiography of our current manned space program - the fact is the much-vaunted scientific research done up there is only window dressing, the space station is a pointless waste of money, and the shuttle is a white elephant.

"I don't think anybody appreciates the depths of the problems," Kapryan says. The tiles are the most important system NASA has ever designed as "safe life." That means there is no back-up for them. If they fail, the shuttle burns on reentry. If enough fall off, the shuttle may become unstable during landing, and thus un-pilotable. The worry runs deep enough that NASA investigated installing a crane assembly in Columbia so the crew could inspect and repair damaged tiles in space. (Verdict: Can't be done. You can hardly do it on the ground.)

The astronauts are unbelievable people, with superhuman courage. Why do they have to keep risking their lives for such a half-assed space program? What happened to going to the Moon, or building a base at Lagrange 1? What about Mars?

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