Watch live as SpaceX’s first astronaut-carrying spacecraft docks with the International Space Station

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Today at around 10:30 AM EDT (7:30 AM PDT), SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule will dock with the International Space Station, with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on board. The two have been in flight on orbit since launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida yesterday at 3:22 PM EDT, a historic launch that made SpaceX the first private space company to fly people to orbit.

You can watch the livestream above to see the approach and docking maneuver, as well as the transfer process once the hatch opens and Hurley and Behnken make the short trip over from their spacecraft to the ISS. The astronauts will then serve on board the orbital lab for a shortened tour of duty, but taking part in all the activities a regular ISS rotation astronaut would do, before eventually heading home to Earth back aboard Crew Dragon in a few weeks.

This milestone mission is the first crewed flight for NASA’s Commercial Crew program, which will certify SpaceX’s Crew Dragon for regular operational missions carrying astronauts from the agency and its partners to and from the Space Station .

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

Our grimdark meathook cyberpunk now

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Ten years ago, the joke was: “It’s weird how, once everyone started carrying phones with cameras all the time, UFOs stopped visiting, and the cops started beating everyone up.” It was darkly funny, then. Now it feels something more like despairing.

Imagine pitching today as a setting for science fiction, back then:

The year is 2020. A pandemic that will kill millions ravages the planet. America is masked: some because of the new virus, others as a ward against police surveillance. A global wave of implicit & explicit xenophobia and white supremacy has carried the UK out of Europe, and a narcissistic reality TV star to the presidency, where he fans the flames of America’s rampant police violence, and spars incoherently with the billionaires who control the tech megacorps that dominate the Internet and the economy. Meanwhile, America’s techno-militarized law enforcement agencies use drones, networked cameras, AI-powered facial recognition, and other police-state innovations to aid them in their running battles against an insurgent population which increasingly no longer sees them as legitimate.

If you had pitched today only ten years ago, you would have been asked with genuine confusion whether it was intended as satire–and then, very possibly, more gently, if everything was OK at home. Yet here we are.

Six years ago I wrote a piece, “The techno-militarization of America” which concluded that “in juicing [the police] with the steroids of military technologies, rules, and attitudes, we have transformed them into a cure almost worse than the disease.” Looking back now, that ‘almost’ seems embarrassingly naïve.

I’ve seen multiple independent sources refer to the events of this week as a ‘legitimacy crisis,’ triggered by a common-knowledge collapse: a moment when everyone realizes that a belief they did not speak about, thinking it fringe and wild, is in fact also held by an enormous number of their peers. Nine years ago, when it was still possible to be optimistic about the effect Facebook would have on society, that sort of collapse is believed to have triggered the Arab Spring.

Here, the cultural collapse appears to be precipitating around the concept “all cops are bastards.” Once that catchphrase was something I only heard from my furthest of far-left punk and anticapitalist acquaintances. Let’s just say that the line of demarcation has moved in towards the mainstream a lot. As in the Arab Spring, this apparent common-knowledge collapse was catalyzed by a single awful death, then spread with remarkable speed, fueled in large part by social media.

Of course America is a huge and diverse place which includes many communities who have long–understandably–viewed the police as an illegitimate occupying army. (Often literally: “In about two-thirds of the U.S. cities with the largest police forces, the majority of police officers commute to work from another town.”)

What’s different is that this attitude seems to be accelerating nationwide. A few random examples from my own social media of late include — all white, since it matters — a battery researcher, a rocket technologist, and a middle-aged Minnesotan mother of teenagers describing the Minneapolis police as “a suburban occupying force.”

Those are anecdotes, so here’s some data: in 2007, Pew Research reported that 37% of black Americans, and a whopping 74% of white Americans, had “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in police to “treat races equally.” If you add those who indicated “just some” confidence, those numbers go up to 51% and 82%.

Twelve years later, the numbers who said that Americans of all races are generally treated fairly equally by police had fallen by more than half, to 16% and 37% respectively. In 2017, a sizable majority of all Americans agreed that “the deaths of blacks during encounters with police during recent years are signs of a broader problem”–while 72% of white police officers disagreed.

What do you think those numbers would be today? Given the scale of the disagreement, and the rapid loss of faith, is the prospect of a sudden legitimacy collapse really so surprising?

You’ll note that the Arab Spring didn’t last long, and was ultimately followed by bitter winter (except arguably in Tunisia where it began.) I’m not especially optimistic that this will be a profound national turning point in America. But I am hopeful it may shake the attitude among county and city governments that police and police unions should be treated as a local Praetorian Guard, to whom is owed unquestioning gratitude, a blind eye when a body camera happens to wink off before a suspect suffers an injury or death, and zero or toothless civilian oversight.

I’ve been to a lot of countries whose police are not perceived as legitimate; where it’s widely understood, across disparate communities, that whatever the situation, you think twice before involving the cops, because they’ll very likely just make things worse. America feels increasingly like such a country. Let’s hope the de-techno-militarization, and de-white-supremacization, of law enforcement happens before the nation spins into that kind of vicious cycle … because once there, it’s terrifyingly hard to break free. After the events of last night, you have to at least wonder whether it’s already too late.

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

Meeting spec (doing the minimum)

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Two ways of saying the same thing.

If the bridge needs to hold 20,000 pound vehicles, the client isn’t interested in paying extra for you to build it to hold 30,000 pound vehicles. The spec is clear–15,000 is unacceptable, and 30,000 isn’t worth a penny extra in steel, concrete or pilings.

But when we’re bringing our human skills to the work, the spec for a job might state that we need to sit at the customer service counter from 9 to 5, but because “be really nice to people,” is hard to quantify it can feel like an extra if we’re seeking to do as little as possible.

Why do extra? After all, the industrial system has squeezed everything it can out of front-line workers. It has taken without offering much in return, stripping people of dignity and respect and treating them like cogs.

But acting like a cog in return is hardly a useful form of revenge.

Showing up with more than the minimum might turn the job into more than a job. When we show up because we can, when we’re extending ourselves as a matter of choice, we create space. The space to own the work, to personalize it, and to turn it into more than getting by.

The current crisis is a vivid reminder of how empty a job focused on getting by really is. Because getting by is a lousy way to spend our days. Playwrights, painters and committed professionals don’t ask, “how little can I get away with?” They view the work as a chance to make a difference instead.

Doing work we’re proud of is a fine alternative to being seen as less than human. And spending our days doing as much human work as we can is far more appealing than hoping to do as little as possible.

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

How to Serve an Entire Meal of Two-Ingredient Recipes

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Cooking can be the healthier and less expensive option, but it can be time consuming. When you come home from work, the last thing you want to do is spend an hour or so making dinner. So for days when you just can’t find the strength to start the laborious task of cooking, here are some easy dishes that can whipped out.
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May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

This Is The Right Way To Hang Toilet Paper, According To Science

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How do you hang your toilet paper? The age-old question whether the “right” way to have the end going over the top of the roll or under, coming from the side closest to the wall, is as old as time. It’s a controversial topic that has torn apart families, and now we have a definitive answer to the question: The right way to hang your toilet paper is with the end going over the top.
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May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

PSA: Access Netflix’s ‘Secret’ Menus With This Site

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If you’re looking for something new to watch on Netflix, typically the streaming service’s built-in categories do a decent job of helping you sort through your options.
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May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

So Your Customers Tried a Competitor During Quarantine—What Now?

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As U.S. consumers transitioned from the panic-buying to hoarding phases of product acquisition during the coronavirus pandemic, longstanding consumer habits and brand loyalty took a backseat to availability and circumstance. In fact, a recent study from media and marketing services company Mindshare found 69% of consumers said they’re likely to buy or have bought new…

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

Comic for May 30, 2020

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Dilbert readers – Please visit Dilbert.com to read this feature. Due to changes with our feeds, we are now making this RSS feed a link to Dilbert.com.

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

Nike’s anti-racism ad draws praise and criticism, as other brands weigh in on George Floyd’s death

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Nike’s ad addressing the police-involved death of George Floyd, is drawing widespread praise online—including from some competitors—but also some scorn, with some critics accusing the sportswear giant of commercializing the tragedy.

The company—which released the 60-second spot from Wieden+Kennedy Portland on Friday evening—is among a large group of brands and marketing industry professionals weighing in on the tragedy, as protests continue nationally and in Minneapolis, where Floyd, a black man, died six days ago after a white police officer kneeled on his neck.

Nike’s ad, which was released to its social media channels, twists its long-used tagline to encourage Americans to not turn their back on racism, and “For Once, Don’t Do it.” It’s is being widely shared online, even by competitor Adidas, as well as by celebrities including Mindy Kaling and Caleb McLaughlin.

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized

SpaceX’s astronaut launch marks the dawn of the commercial human spaceflight industry

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SpaceX on Saturday launched two NASA astronauts aboard its Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the accomplishment is a tremendous one for both the company and the U.S. space agency. At a fundamental level, it means that the U.S. will have continued access to the International Space Station, without having to rely on continuing to buy tickets aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft to do so. But it also means the beginning of a new era for the commercial space industry – one in which private companies and individual buying tickets for passenger trips to space is a consistent and active reality.

With this mission, SpaceX will complete the final step required by NASA to human-rate its Falcon 9 and Crew Dragon spacecraft, which means that it can begin operationally transporting people from Earth essentially as soon as this mission concludes (Crew Dragon still has to rendezvous with the space station tomorrow, and make its way back to Earth with astronauts on board in a few weeks). Already, SpaceX has signed an agreement with Space Adventures, a private space tourism booking company that has previously worked with Roscosmos on sending private astronauts to orbit.

SpaceX wants to start sending up paying tourists on orbital flights (without any ISS stops) starting as early as next year aboard Crew Dragon. The capsule actually supports up to seven passengers per flight, though only four seats will ever be used for official NASA crew delivery missions for the space station. SpaceX hasn’t released pricing on private trips aboard the aircraft, but you can bet they’ll be expensive since a Falcon 9 launch (without a human rated capsule) costs around $60 million, and so even dividing that by seven works out to a high price of entry.

So this isn’t the beginning of the era of accessible private spaceflight, but SpaceX is the first private company to actually put people into space, despite a lot of talk and preparatory work by competitors like Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin. And just like in the private launch business, crossing the gulf between having a private company that talks about doing something, and a company that actually does it, will absolutely transform the space industry all over again.

Here’s how.

Tourism

SpaceX is gearing up to launch tourists as early as next year, as mentioned, and while those tourists will have to be deep-pocketed, as eight everything that SpaceX does, the goal is to continue to find ways to make more aspects of the launch system reusable and reduce costs of launch in order to bring prices down.

Even without driving down costs, SpaceX will have a market, however niche, and one that hasn’t yet really had any inventory to satisfy demand. Space Adventures has flown a few individuals by buying tickets on Soyuz launches, but that hasn’t really been a consistent or sustainable source of commercial human spaceflight, and SpaceX’s system will likely have active support and participation from NASA.

That’s an entirely new revenue stream for SpaceX to add to its commercial cargo launches, along with its eventual launch of commercial internet service via Starlink. It’s hard to say yet what kind of impact that will actually have on their bottom line, but it could be big enough to have an impact – especially if they can figure out creative ways to defray costs over successive years, since each cut will likely considerably expand their small addressable audience.

SpaceX’s impact on the launch business was to effectively create a market for small satellites and more affordable orbital payloads that simply didn’t make any economic sense with larger existing launch craft, most of which were bankrolled almost entirely by and for defence and NASA use. Similarly, it’s hard to predict what the space tourism market will look like in five years, now that a company is actually offering it and flying a human-rated private spacecraft that can make it happen.

Research

Private spacefarers won’t all be tourists – in fact, it could make a lot more financial sense for the majority of passengers to and from orbit to be private scientists and researchers. Basically, imagine a NASA astronaut, but working for a private company rather than a publicly-funded agency.

Astronauts are essentially multidisciplinary scientists, and the bulk of their job is conducing experiments on the ISS. NASA is very eager to expand commercial use of the ISS, and also to eventually replace the aging space station with a private one of which they’re just one of multiple customers. Already, the ISS hosts commercial experiments and cargo, but if companies and institutions can now also send their own researchers as well, that may change considerably how much interest their is in doing work on orbit, especially in areas like biotech where the advantages of low gravity can produce results not possible on Earth.

Cost is a gain a significant limiting factor here, since the price per seat will be – no pun intended – astronomical. But for big pharma and other large companies who already spend a considerable amount on R&D it might actually be within reach. Especially in industries like additive manufacturing, where orbit is an area of immense interest, private space-based labs with actual rotating staff might not be that farfetched an idea.

Marketing & Entertainment

Commercial human spaceflight might actually be a great opportunity to make actual commercials – brands trying to outdo each other by shooting the first promo in space definitely seems like a likely outcome for a Superbowl spot. It’s probably not anyone’s priority just now, given the ongoing global pandemic, but companies have already discussed the potential of marketing partnerships as a key driver of real revenue, including lunar lander startup ispace, which has signed a number of brand partners to fund the build and flight of its hardware.

Single person rides to orbit are definitely within budget for the most extreme marketing efforts out there, and especially early on, there should be plenty of return on that investment just because of how audacious and unique the move is. The novelty will likely wear off, but access to space will remain rarified enough for the forseeable future that it could still be part of more than a few marketing campaigns.

As for entertainment, we’ve already seen the first evidence of interest there – Tom Cruise is working on a project to be filmed at least in part in space, apparently on board the International Space Station. SpaceX is said to be involved in those talks, and it would make a lot of sense for the company to consider a Crew Dragon flight with film crew and actors on board for both shooting, and for transportation to ‘on location’ shoots on the ISS.

Cruise probably isn’t the only one to consider the impact of a space-based motion picture project, and you can bet at least one reality show producer somewhere is already pitching ‘The Bachelor’ in space. Again, it’s not going to be within budget for every new sci-fi project that spins up, but it’s within blockbuster budget range, and that’s another market that grew by 100% just by virtue of the fact that it didn’t exist as a possibility before today.

Novel industry

It’s hard to fully appreciate what kind of impact this will have, because SpaceX has literally taken something that previously wasn’t possible, and made it available – at costs that, while high, aren’t so high as to be absurd. As with every other such expansion, it will likely create new and innovative opportunities that haven’t even been conceived, especially once the economics and availability of flights, etc. are clarified. GPS, another great space-based innovation, formed the bedrock of an industry that changed just about every aspect of human life – private commercial spaceflight could do the same.

May 31st 2020 Uncategorized