Welcome to TheDaddy.org
Great AdventuresRight now I am watching a balloon ascend to 120,000 feet so that Felix Baumgartner can jump out of it and hopefully break the sound barrier during his freefall. It's an incredibly brave and dangerous feat, so much so that the 'live' video feed is delayed by 60 seconds in case of a catastrophe. Just as with the Apollo moon landings, you can be sure that the American President had two speeches ready to go - one for if he survives and one for if he doesn't.
So often we hear people say that all the great adventures have been taken, and all the great discoveries have been made. Yet we regularly see incredible feats, pushing forward our human abilities as well as our technological ones. In the past year we have seen the first commercial spacecraft docking with the International Space Station, a one-ton rover delivered to Mars via a 'sky-crane', CERN's probable discovery of the Higgs Boson and the first person ever to cycle to the South Pole. Add Felix Baumgartner's achievement today and there is no way that anyone can claim that the era of achievement is over.
The world is amazing!
Edit: He made it!!!
TabletsWhen it comes to tablet PCs my wife and I are fairly opposite in our requirements. I look for good opportunity to play about with a tablet - easy to develop apps on, good range of sensors, access to the file system, command line tools etc. My wife however is after a polished experience, little chance of a rogue app causing her problems and a high quality screen to work on.
So it will come as little surprise that with the recent releases of both the third edition iPad and the Asus Transformer Prime, both these tablets have made their way into my home.
Now what I'm about to say I'm sure will shock the people in the Apple and Android camps who are still busily battling each other on forums and blogs all over the net. They're both great!
I still get amazed at the passions people can have for their particular device and the venom that they can hold for any alternatives. They're computers. Let's try to keep some perspective here.
Apple were there first, they built a fantastic device and arguably defined what we mean by a tablet. They also again pulled off their "sellotape" move in managing to get people to use "iPad" as a catchall term for all tablet PCs, just as they did with "iPod" for all music players a few years back. However some big players are have now entered the Android camp. Remember Asus is the company that began the netbook revolution with their EeePC and as such are far from inexperienced at packing big features into small packages.
So getting down to the nuts and bolts of it, between the new iPad and the Asus Transformer Prime price is comparable, battery life is comparable and number of sensors is comparable. So in deciding between them my wife and I asked ourselves a few of questions:
Do you want full control of your device's file system?
Do you want desktop widgets?
Do you want USB and removable media support as standard?
Do you want flash?
Do you want the most polished experience possible?
Do you want all apps you use to have been tested and vetted as extensively as possible?
Do you want built-in support for 3G?
Do you want the best screen possible?
As it turned out the first four questions were most important to me whereas the second were most important to my wife. And that was the decision made! We're both very happy with our purchases, we both definitely have the right devices for our requirements, and neither of us feels the need to divorce the other for their choice!
The Future of SpaceflightWith the sad demise of the space shuttle last year we are entering a very interesting period in the era of human spaceflight. Admittedly the shuttle was much more expensive and much less safe or servicable than originally intended but nevertheless it redefined the accessibility of space for scientific and commercial purposes. Despite only launching 135 missions) over 30 years (a far cry from the original intention of twice a week!) it was the most versatile spacecraft ever built. It was responsible for the deployment and servicing of Hubble and many other satellites and orbiting scientific instruments. It built the bulk of the ISS, it assisted greatly with crew deployment to Mir and the ISS, conducted a number of classified military missions and inspired my all-time favourite James Bond movie, Moonraker!
For now the Russian Soyuz is the only craft in the world engaged in human spaceflight. This was for a long time the most reliable spacecraft ever but with two launch failures last year serious doubt has been cast upon it future. Thankfully the failures were both unmanned missions but one of them was a resupply mission for the ISS and the subsequent grounding of the rockets left the space station dangerously low on supplies and came close to necessitating its evacuation.
However future is looking bright thanks to big developments in the private sector. SpaceX has been contracted by NASA to begin ISS resupply missions this year with its new Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule leading towards manned missions beginning in 2014. Virgin Galactic is racing towards the first commercial sub-orbital flights of the first ever fully reusable spacecraft and has already signed a deal with NASA for the transport of scientific payloads.
These are far from the only craft in development - the shuttle-like Dream Chaser being developed by SpaceDev, the reusable New Shepard capsule from Blue Origin, the Cygnus and several others.
All these along with NASA's own Orion Multi Purpose Crew Vehicle, the 'phoenix rising from the ashes' of the cancelled Constellation program mean that space is going to become ever more exciting over the next few years :)