Category Archives: Media+Journalism

Mass communication and journalism.

What happened to that e-journal?

What e-journal?

You know, the one that started a couple of months ago?

Oh, you mean that one. The RocketSciRick Update was a victim of a hectic schedule for late April and early May 2014, along with urgent tasks on my day job. The Silicon Valley Space Center was running the Space Entrepreneurship Series, a set of four meetings, mostly in May. (I wrote an open invitation inviting aspiring space entrepreneurs to join us.) Then there were the meetings with a couple of proposed start-up projects. And then there was the office move of my day job. My attempts to squeeze out time for the e-journal fell flat.

The e-journal depends on a regular publication cycle and an editorial process.  Because I cannot fix articles after they are sent out, I spent a lot of time on content, layout, distribution testing, etc. It is more intense than a blog.  In fact, I was writing a lot of original content in the e-journal and then posting later to this site.  Really, it should be other way around.

For now, it is on temporary hiatus. I plan to first get this site back up to date. In fact, I plan to move it from its current hosting service and consolidate it with other on-line resources I utilize. The plan now is to resume either (1) once the consolidation is under control, or perhaps (2) on at monthly basis during the consolidation.

Rick on Mars Pirate Radio (round 2)

Well, it’s finally happened.  Again.

A year after being on the inaugural episode of Mars Pirate Radio, I was invited back to do an update.  (Here‘s what I wrote about the original.)

As I get people’s reactions, I’ll post some notes next week to elaborate on what I was trying to say.  I will admit, this was a bit more stream-of-consciousness than the first interview.  The most amazing thing about the last year is how much has happened.  I’m still stunned.

What’s that e-journal thing?

Oh that. You’re referring to the RocketSciRick Update.  First, here’s what the Update says about itself:

The RocketSciRick Update is an experimental e-journal devoted to topics in aerospace sciences and engineering. It is currently produced by a one-person writing/editing staff in his not-so-spare time. Often, the recent news itself is summarized from current sources. But the back story behind the main story is also added to provide the context for what made the story what it is now. References are provided for the reader who wants to seek more information.

It is, in fact, an experimental journal distributed by e-mail.  Originally, I had no intention of doing such a journal myself.  I’ve been reasonably content to put sporadic updates on this website as the need arises.  However, a couple of the organizations that I deal with had needs related to e-mail campaigns to reach their members and other interested parties. Those needs are as yet unresolved.  Some suggestions had been made; I decided to explore one of them in more detail.  For lack of a better title, and since I believe in having a backing website for more information, the title became the RocketSciRick Update.

The needs that arose relate to aerospace-related organizations in Silicon Valley.  As a result, much of the focus of the Update is on stories of local interest.  In the current issue:

  • The B612 Foundation, which studies defense against a major asteroid impact, is located in the San Francisco Bay area.  Aside from them, there are a lot of people in the Bay area who are interested planetary defense or mining of asteroids.
  • KickSat, while started at Cornell University, has been worked on in part at NASA Ames. In fact, during his time at Ames, project lead Zac Manchester spoke about the project at a local technical meeting of the Silicon Valley Space Center and the AIAA San Francisco Section.  His funding of the project through KickStarter inspired others in the Bay area to follow suit.  As noted in the current issue, a couple of them have been launched into orbit.

The “SV Aerospace Calendar” which appears in the Update started up as a separate effort.  Some of us had discussed the desire to build a common calendar of events organized by the various local aerospace sciences and engineering groups.  In some quarters, it had actually turned into a sore point of lack of coordination.  I began another prototyping effort using Google Calendar, and host a display of it on this website.  The downside: certain security-conscious companies do not allow Google apps through their firewalls.  As a result, they can’t see the calendar.  When the Update started, it made sense to pull from that calendar and put into the Update content.

What is my impression of the process so far?

I’ve only partly explored the tools provided by the mail distributor, MailChimp.  There are things I’d like a system to do for me automatically, and I haven’t discovered them yet (e.g., TOC generation, proper paragraph tagging or styling).  They may be buried in there and simply need more time to investigate.  Given that MailChimp is a commercial mass mailing tool, it is subject to CAN-SPAM laws.  People who have opted out from their list cannot receive the Update.  This is true of competing services like Constant Contact.

Given everything else I do, I try to constrain the amount of time I spend doing writing, research, and editing for the Update; this experimental journal was not intended to be the definitive word on the subjects of interest, but a summary and pointer to additional sources.  Alas, the research and editing that I do has been fairly intense, almost as if I were assigned to the city desk of a newsroom.  It is an exhausting process… and probably not how I imagined spending my weekends.

And so far, the Update has no revenue and includes no advertising. If it is supposed to stay alive, it doesn’t have a very good business model.

For me, it serves as a learning process in understanding the state of the art of commercial tools for mass mail distribution.  For the local aerospace entrepreneurial community and friends, hopefully it informs them on developments of interest.  In essence, we are experimenting with what is the best way to keep such a diverse community informed, and in effect, how to nurture and grow it. If we can find a better way to do this through the Silicon Valley Space Center (SVSC) or the AIAA San Francisco Section (AIAA SF), then I will probably back off and let them run with it.  As those changes happen, I will announce them in the Update.  Readers of this website will undoubtedly find out about this as well.

–Rick, your resident Silicon Valley space journalist

Ground control to Major Tom…

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield is returning from the International Space Station, where he was commander for nearly five months. If you search for him on YouTube (like this), you’ll find an amazing set of videos of how life is space is different… and entertaining.

My favorite is what happens when you wring out a wet cloth in microgravity. Based on my scientific background, I formed some hypotheses of what I might see. I was totally wrong. Everyone I have shown this to was completely surprised.

While I consider myself a novice at fluid mechanics, I still anticipate a wide variety of effects.  But not that one.  In order not to spoil it, I’m not going to say any more.

Just has he was leaving the ISS, he released a music video (yes, a music video) of him performing David Bowie’s “Space Oddity”.  In this case, location is everything.

For those who grew up in the Apollo era, this brings back memories.  In spite of being a space nut, Bowie’s song was one of the strangest things I had ever heard.  Not such much so now, particular with Elton John’s “Rocket Man”.

Enjoy the show(s).  (And if you’re wondering about the title of this blog entry, just watch the first video.)