Tag Archives: Science
Small satellite makers have promised to do a lot of things: change the way we communicate, change the way we see our planet, change the way we predict the weather. They’re cheaper, faster to develop, and easier to update than their bigger and more sophisticated counterparts. But for all the revolution and disruption, they tend to keep their focus close, and largely cast their eyes down.
A new NASA program, called Astrophysics Science SmallSat Studies, aims to turn their gaze outward, toward the cosmos. Early this year, NASA asked scientists how they would turn smallsats into tiny (but mighty) telescopes. Answers are due by July 13.
While the space agency has other smallsat science programs, they have mostly hemmed themselves within the solar system. “The Earth is bright; the sun is bright,” says Michael Garcia, the program officer. “So small telescopes can see things very easily.” But trying to see the dim light from objects beyond our neighborhood usually demands much bigger telescopes. See: Extremely Large Telescope, Very Large Array, Large Binocular Telescope.
In space, above the blurring of the atmosphere, telescopes don’t have to be quite as huge to do the same job as an Earthbound observatory. But they are usually bigger than smallsats. That’s why, in the call for proposals, NASA emphasizes that the new smallsat program “is intended to capitalize on the creativity in the astrophysics science community.” And, indeed, it looks like that community does have some ideas for how to do more science with less instrument.
Last year, NASA sent a call out to scientists, asking if they had ideas that required more funding than a suborbital project, and less satellite than the smallest orbital missions. The agency wasn’t offering money, or collaboration, or anything. They just wanted a five-page paper about what astrophysicists would hypothetically do if, say, they hypothetically found a wallet containing between $ 10 million and $ 35 million and had to build an astro-studies smallsat with it. “We got 55 responses,” says Garcia. “We realized, ‘Wow, people really are interested in this.’”
Scientists, for instance, could use smallsats to do time-domain astronomy: watching for bursts and flares and flashes and pulses and all the other kinds of light-waves that appear and then vanish. Those phenomena work well for smallsats because, as their names connote, they’re often bright. Astronomers could also use the instruments to do surveys—to look at the whole sky in one wavelength band, for example—or to give brighter or nearby objects the attention that other telescopes may lavish on more distant and foreign bodies.
Knowing the interest was there, the agency pushed forward and put out this February request for proposals. The winners—six to 10 of them—will together get a total of $ 1 million of sweet NASA cash and six months to design a smallsat that could get astrophysical.
“We wanted to prime the pump,” says Garcia. Because next spring, soon after the six-month study of studying ends, the agency will ask tiny telescope dreamers to submit another proposal—but this time to actually build something.
That’s already three agency requests, before anyone gets started building. But this is still faster than NASA’s normal timelines. Its bigger missions can take many years in development, and have to work exactly as planned—or else. And when you know a complicated scientific instrument has to work or else, you’re going to use tried and true technology in tried and true ways.
On smallsats? Worth mere millions? With mere months of development? “You can take more risk than something that’s big and expensive,” says Garcia. For the suborbital program, which shot instruments to near-space, for instance, the agency aimed for an 85 percent success rate.
That’s not NASA’s usual goal. For more substantial observatories or human spaceflight, the agency needs to see A+s, not Bs. But the cool thing about these reckless smallsats is that they can carry aboard technology that may eventually make it into premier missions. They can test experimental new circuitry and sensors and software. And if they fail—oh well, there goes a few million. But if they work, engineers can bring them aboard fancier missions, faster, and perhaps disrupt some of our current understanding of the cosmos.
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Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
In today’s America, we tend to feel gray areas are a touch passé.
You’re either right or you’re wrong. And if you can’t see which you are, then you’re two slices short of a sandwich.
How, though, can you even begin to persuade someone who’s mistaken — or even worse, vehemently disagrees with you?
A new study makes a curious suggestion, one that won’t please everyone.
The study, conducted by Brendan Nyhan of Dartmouth College and Jason Reifler of the University of Exeter, is entitled The roles of information deficits and identity threat in the prevalence of misperceptions.
They’re very polite about the fountains of knowledge pouring into today’s humans.
“Why do so many Americans hold misperceptions?” the researchers ask.
To which I reply: “Why do many Americans now put mis in front of pleasant words, instead of calling them that they really are? Lying has become misspeaking? Oh, I don’t think it has.”
Nyhan and Reifler come to a startling, even painful conclusion: “In three experiments, we find that providing information in graphical form reduces misperceptions. A third study shows that this effect is greater than for equivalent textual information.”
Yes, if you want to persuade your half-cut, halfwitted neighbor or colleague about the parlous state of the world and the dangers of fascism/socialism/democracy/self-help books, your best bet is to show them a chart.
Worse, it seems that a chart is better than even text. Goodness, is that where I’ve been going wrong all my life?
I can, though, already see Jeff Bezos’s eyes rolling into the back of his head and emerging with a very red hue.
As the Amazon CEO explained in his latest letter to shareowners: “We don’t do PowerPoint (or any other slide-oriented) presentations at Amazon. Instead, we write narratively structured six-page memos. We silently read one at the beginning of each meeting in a kind of ‘study hall.'”
So no slides or charts and graphics for Bezos. All he wants is a short story. Could he, perhaps, misperceive the benefits of charts?
Still, charts surely can’t be so effective, otherwise everyone would have tried them.
Moreover, it’s not as if you can create a chart to describe every false belief. How, for example, do you create a chart for a CEO who simply thinks his touch and feel is always right?
Nyhan and Reifler explain that a considerable reason why people hold on to false information is purely psychological. It confirms their world view.
“On high-profile issues, many of the misinformed are likely to have already encountered and rejected correct information that was discomforting to their self-concept or worldview,” they say.
Yes, but it’s not as if that nice man on CNN with his Election Night charts has ever persuaded many people, is it?
Expect, though, the rising stars in many companies now rushing to create charts in order to show that they’re right and their brain-manacled bosses are wrong.
Expect, too, that American politics will now be revolutionized with the presentation of definitive charts of right and wrong.
You think I’m wrong about that?
Send me a chart to show me why.
Entrepreneurs who feel lucky report higher levels of motivation and wellbeing, both essential for sustaining performance during tough times. So how do you cultivate your own daily luck? Here are three things to do every day,
1. Choose A Lucky Attitude.
Luck is about flexibility of mind and a willingness to experiment and trust your gut. Take advantage of chance occurrences, break the weekly routine, and once in a while have the courage to let go. The world is full of opportunity if you’re prepared to embrace it. Steve Jobs emphasized the importance of trusting your gut when he delivered his now infamous commencement address at Stanford University: “If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something–your gut, destiny, life, and karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”
2. Be Ready.
Luck is as much about what you expect as what you do. Do you wait for success to happen, or do you get out there and make it happen? In his book The Luck Factor, Professor Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire, England, describes why lucky people tend to share traits that make them luckier than others. This includes the impact of chance opportunities, lucky breaks, and being in the right place at the right time. He says: “My research revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four basic principles. They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophesies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good.” On the flipside he says: “Those who think they’re unlucky should change their outlook and discover how to generate good fortune.”
3. Own Your Success.
At times, you might privately think you can’t go on. You must persist. Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, says it best: “I failed, many times in my life. One failure that I always remember was when 36 publishers rejected my second book. Many years later, I watched Huff Post come alive to mixed reviews, including some very negative ones, like the reviewer who called the site ‘the equivalent of Gigli, Ishtar, and Heaven’s Gate rolled into one. But my mother used to tell me, failure is not the opposite of success, it’s a stepping stone to success.”
Dear Future, I’m Ready.
Luck isn’t just chance but an alchemy of courage, focus and a willingness to experiment. It’s about declaring to the world ‘dear future, I’m ready’.
“I got boxes and boxes of notes,” Blake recalls. “They are my most important mementos from my time at Home Depot.”
Those notes brought the spirit of gratitude full circle.
During his seven-year stint as CEO, Blake set aside several hours every Sunday to hand-write notes thanking standout employees for their service. He estimates he wrote more than 25,000 notes to everyone from district managers to hourly associates.
“I’d see the notes framed at the stores,” he told me. “So I knew it mattered.”
Science confirms it mattered. Studies show that employees who feel appreciated are happier, more engaged, more productive, and more likely to contribute in positive ways.
And it’s not just the recipient who benefits. Studies show that people who express appreciation are more optimistic, as well as physically and emotionally healthier.
In other words, gratitude stays with those who give it.
So, as we head into Thanksgiving, here are four tips for using the lost art of letter writing as a way of expressing appreciation to your employees.
1. Be specific about why you’re thankful.
When Frank Blake thanked me via email and phone for writing about this particular topic, it made me smile. We all want to be appreciated for what we’re doing, and when you’re recognized for something specific, it’s even more of a motivator.
Blake says when writing his notes, he stayed away from generalities. Instead of simply thanking employees for their customer service, he told me he’d write: “I heard that you did xyz for a customer recently. Thank you for setting a great example of customer service.”
Lydia Ramsey, a business etiquette expert and author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits, suggests mentioning the specific effect on your team or organization. For example, “Thank you for coming in on your day off. You helped us finish our project on time and set a great example for everyone involved.”
2. Set up a system.
When Blake sat down every Sunday to write his notes, he had a process for identifying the recipients: Each store would collect specific examples of great customer service. The store would send those names to the districts. The districts would send their top picks to the regions. And the regions would send their top picks directly to Blake.
“I figured the advantage of this is that it created an atmosphere of people being on the lookout for recognizing great behavior,” Blake says.
Regardless of the size of the company, he advises bosses to develop a mindset that focuses on identifying employees who put in extra effort, and then a system to recognize those employees.
3. Keep note cards handy.
In this digital media age, it’s easy to skip the pen and go straight for the keyboard. But when was the last time you put a text or an email in a keepsake box? There’s just something about a handwritten note that creates a more meaningful connection.
To avoid the temptation of dashing off a digital thank you, have fun picking out some note cards that reflect your personality, and stash them in a convenient place in your desk. That way, “you don’t have to hunt them down, and you can write that note immediately, while the act is still fresh in your mind, says Ramsey.
4. Go beyond gratitude.
Making employees feel appreciated goes beyond thanking them for a job well done. It can also include recognizing and acknowledging significant events in their lives like birthdays, engagements, work anniversaries, kids’ graduations, and even family illnesses.
Regardless of the precipitating event, Ramsey calls handwritten notes “a chance to build positive relationships with employees.”
And since fewer and fewer people are putting pen to paper these days, you’ll stand out with each letter you write.
Letting people know you’re thinking of them creates a chance for meaningful connection. It also creates a keepsake they can look back on and remember that you took the time to reach out.
“There’s something so powerful about the written word,” says Blake.
Security is one of the main hesitations to using cloud computing, but most people in the industry – and patients – recognize that the majority of data …