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Paging the Association for Autonomous Astronauts
03.11.2010
12:14 pm

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The Association for Autonomous Astronauts was a group dedicated to the individual, autonomous exploration of space, and wresting control of the right to space exploration away from NASA and giving it to the masses. Started, I believe, by Temple of Psychick Youth stalwart John Eden, the group was a situationist response to the militarization of space in theory and practice. They apparently had a lot of excellent parties. Stewart Home wrote about them in his anarchist compendium “Mind Invaders” back in the day.

Now that Obama has scarpered NASA’s manned flight plans, it seems like we need the AAA more than ever. Yet according to the web, their five-year-mission ended in 2000.

Does the Association for Autonomous Astronauts still exist? If any members happen to be reading this… what’s the status update?

Here’s their Wiki data:

The Association of Autonomous Astronauts is a worldwide network of community based groups dedicated to building their own spaceships. The AAA was founded 23 April 1995. Although many of their activities were reported as serious participation in conferences or protests against the militarization of space, some were also considered art pranks, media pranks, or just an elaborate spoof. The AAA had numerous local chapters which operated independently of one another, with the AAA effectively operating as a collective pseudonym along the lines of Luther Blissett (nom de plume).

The Association’s ostensible five-year mission, a reference to Star Trek, was to “establish a planetary network to end the monopoly of corporations, governments and the military over travel in space”. Artists who became involved were often connected to the zine scene or mail art movements. The five year mission’s completion was marked at the 2000 Fortean Times conference, although some chapters have continued activities to the present day. Several AAAers have experienced zero-gravity training flights.

Writer Tom Hodgkinson described them as “a loose bunch of Marxists, futurists, and revolutionaries on the dole”, going on to explicate their mission as “reclaim[ing] the idea of space travel for the common man”. To the AAA, he said, “space travel represented an ideal of freedom”. Annick Bureaud of Leonardo/OLATS viewed their work as “space art” that “combine[d] freely space, cyberspace, raves, esoteric things, techno-music, etc.”, calling attention to “how they recycle ... key images (the MIR Space Station, the astronauts on the Moon, etc.) ... mixed with science-fiction (and specially Star Trek) buzz-words or images” and then subject these “sacred icons” to “iconoclastic treatments”

Theorist Brian Holmes commented the AAA like this : “The ideas sound fantastic, but the stakes are real: imagining a political subject within the virtual class, and therefore, within the economy of cultural production and intellectual property that had paralyzed the poetics of resistance.” in his book “Unleashing the Collective Phantoms”

(The Association for Autonomous Astronauts)

(Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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The Mars 500
03.08.2010
01:45 pm

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GOOD magazine’s latest post in their series on transportation covers the Mars 500, a Russian training exercise to prepare astronauts for hitting Mars. (European and Chinese astronauts are also included. Apparently America has dropped the ball on this one, along with the rest of our approach to the space program, until we pick it up again.)

Ever since the dawn of the space age, we’ve been preparing for a red-planet mission. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s, Europeans and Russians locked themselves into tiny capsules for hundreds of days at a time to simulate a Martian mission. Locations were selected for remoteness and desolation, whether that meant the Atacama desert in Chile or the iciest reaches of Canada.

Yet those extremes pale against Mars 500, a test that will begin in the middle of this year in Moscow, inside a warehouse on the campus of the Russian Institute for Biomedical Problems. There, a crew of seven men will lock themselves inside a series of rooms no bigger than a tiny house for 520 days—the approximate amount of time a return trip to Mars would take, with a 30-day layover on the planet. If they last, each crew member will get a bounty, possibly upwards of $100,000. What are we hoping to learn from this exercise? And, really, why would anyone want to do that?

Think of Mars 500 as something like the original Real World, minus the sexual tension and booze, with a few details changed:

“This is the true story of seven strangers (three Europeans, three Russian cosmonauts in training, and one Chinese)...

…picked to live in a house (that looks like the lovechild of a Quonset hut and the International Space Station)...

(GOOD: Mars 500)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Tectonic: Music From Earthquakes
03.05.2010
06:30 pm

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From Youtube user Kamoni:

Tectonic creates music and maps in real time by earthquakes as they occur across the globe. A system using Max/MSP, Google Earth and Ableton Live processes a stream of real-time data that is translated into and audio ’sculpture’.

When an earthquake occurs, seismic data is relayed to the system, sound is produced and Google Earth immediately flies to the coordinates of the latest earthquake giving us a visual representation of the newest developments. As multiple earthquakes occur daily, the sculpture builds, enmeshing itself in a complex soundscape of textures and tones that constantly changes and evolves.

(via Das Kraftfuttermischwerk)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Colored Lights Sculpt Nanoparticles
02.27.2010
01:39 pm

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Interesting development—New Scientist reports that two scientists at the University of Ottawa have discovered how to shape nanoparticles with colored light. Amazing indeed…

How many chemists does it take to change an LED light bulb? Two – and they’ve shown that choosing its colour selects the shape of nanoparticles growing out of a solution of silver.

Kevin Stamplecoskie and Juan Scaiano at the University of Ottawa in Ontario, Canada, can grow silver particles shaped as hexagons, rods, triangles, spheres or dodecahedrons by shining green, red, orange, violet and blue light on the liquid respectively.

Being able to select the shape of nanoparticles is important because it changes their properties. For example, silver nanoparticles are used to make bacteria-killing clothing – and truncated triangular particles are the deadliest.

(New Scientist: Colored lights sculpt nanoparticles)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Dr. James Hansen: Global warming is worse than you think
02.22.2010
09:28 pm

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Dr. James Hansen, the nation’s leading scientist on climate issues speaks out with the full truth about global warming. His new book is titled Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. One day there will be statues in honor of James Hansen. Let’s just hope they don’t end up like the Statue of Liberty did in Planet of the Apes. Dr. Hansen is an adjunct professor at Columbia University and director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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ChatRoulette created by 17-year-old high school student in Moscow
02.14.2010
08:06 am

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We can all get some sleep now! From the New York Times:

The lingering mystery, though, was who was behind the site. The question was answered on Saturday when Andrey Ternovskiy responded to the questions we sent to an e-mail address on Chatroulette. Mr. Ternovskiy said he was a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow.

“I was not sure whether I should tell the world who I am mainly because of the fact that I am under age. Now I think that it would be better to reveal myself,” Mr. Ternovskiy wrote.
I asked Mr. Ternovskiy about the origin of the idea for ChatRoulette, how he manages the technical challenges of running the site, whether he viewed it as a business, and about the way some people were using Chatroulette in, as he put it, “some not very nice ways.” Here are his e-mailed responses, slightly edited and condensed:

Read more of Chatroulette’s Creator, 17, Introduces Himself

 

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Pictures From the International Space Station
02.09.2010
12:09 pm

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Check out this MSNBC photo slideshow of pictures of Earth taken from the International Space Station. Incredible.

(MSNBC: Pictures From Space)

(Space Station (IMAX)... Narrated by… Tom Cruise!?!)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Pentagon Breeding Immortal Synthetic Organisms
02.09.2010
12:04 pm

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This report on Pentagon genetic engineering is rather, eh, eerie, wouldn’t you say? This is how Captain America was created, you know. And just about every comic book experiment-gone-wrong villain, too. Hell, the whole Weapon X program. Nothing tasteful can come of this!

The Pentagon’s mad science arm may have come up with its most radical project yet. Darpa is looking to re-write the laws of evolution to the military’s advantage, creating “synthetic organisms” that can live forever — or can be killed with the flick of a molecular switch.

As part of its budget for the next year, Darpa is investing $6 million into a project called BioDesign, with the goal of eliminating “the randomness of natural evolutionary advancement.” The plan would assemble the latest bio-tech knowledge to come up with living, breathing creatures that are genetically engineered to “produce the intended biological effect.” Darpa wants the organisms to be fortified with molecules that bolster cell resistance to death, so that the lab-monsters can “ultimately be programmed to live indefinitely.”

Of course, Darpa’s got to prevent the super-species from being swayed to do enemy work — so they’ll encode loyalty right into DNA, by developing genetically programmed locks to create “tamper proof” cells. Plus, the synthetic organism will be traceable, using some kind of DNA manipulation, “similar to a serial number on a handgun.” And if that doesn’t work, don’t worry. In case Darpa’s plan somehow goes horribly awry, they’re also tossing in a last-resort, genetically-coded kill switch.

(Danger Room: Pentagon breeding supersoldier shits)

Posted by Jason Louv | Discussion
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Doctor Removes Live Cockroach From Man’s Ear
02.08.2010
08:53 am

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(via Arbroath)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Chatroulette: The New Facebook (NSFW)

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I read about the beta-launch of something called Chatroulette this morning on a German blog I frequent called Nerdcore and something tells me this thing is gonna be HUGE. As in huge, huge. Facebook huge.

First off, it’s super easy to use—hit the “start” button, and you’re off. The people you’ll meet are from all over the world and Chatroulette works in real time (like Skype) and there’s audio, too.

What makes this thing so exciting/addicting/cringeworthy all at the same time is easy to summarize: You never know WHO you’re going to get when you click that button. My friend and I tested it out today. Our first interaction was with a male in his mid-20s. He said he was from China. Fifth go around we got the Jonas Brothers. No shit, it was the real Jonas Brothers. “Are you guys the Jonas Brothers?” They said they were in New Jersey. It looked like they were in an airport.  There was a lot of starring and smiling going on. They asked if I was a fan of theirs. I said nothing. Awkward moment. Screen went black, we lost contact.

But seriously, there is lots of WEIRD shit going on here. Lonely guys jacking off in front of their computers, couples having sex and waving at you, monster mask pole dancing, obese women masturbating, lesbian orgies, guys eating pizza watching football, folks wearing clown masks, wholesome families waving at you, people smoking joints, teenagers yelling “show me your tits!’... it’s endless.  I was truly shocked by what I was seeing, but that’s not to say we weren’t laughing so hard we were crying for several hours.  Aside from teen pop star siblings—I mean, what are the chances?—we also encountered a hillbilly mom and her son who looked at us on her screen and murmured “They must be ‘hipsters.’ I’ve heard all about them” as well as a man… and his dog, let’s just say, and leave it at that…

This isn’t going to end well. Not at all.
 
UPDATE: I was punked! Chat Roulette With The Jonas Brothers
 
If you want to know more about Chatroulette, read The Human Shuffle: Is ChatRoulette the future of the Internet or its distant past?
 
Chatroulette (NSFW)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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