Category Archives: Space Exploration

Matteo Borri in Mondo 2000

I have been doing a fair bit of writing again, and just wrote this piece for Mondo 2000 about my friend and collaborator, Matteo Borri.

(Matteo is on the Aaron Swartz Day Advisory Board and the Swartz-Manning VR Destination Advisory Board.)

Meet Matteo Borri & His Most Recent Inventions

Matteo Borri, 2018.

From the Mondo 2000 article:
LR: Tell me about this stuff you invented to help Puerto Rico. It is really interesting. The solar cell phone charger and the thing you call a “Vampire Charger,” that enables you to get whatever battery power is left out of any battery without the danger of blowing up your phone if the voltage doesn’t match.

MB: Yes. I named it the “Vampire Charger.” It is an inefficient but flexible device which will take any voltage that you might find in the world – from 1.5 volts to 12 volts – to even 110! (That’s when it stops, as 220 will blow it up, but 220 is not a common voltage in the U.S., so if you’re over here, it’s not a problem. I’ll have to come up with an European adapter 🙂

LR: So this is for when something bad has happened, obviously, and you need whatever power you can get, right?

MB: Yes. The idea is that you can use it with any kind of source of power that still works. You don’t know the voltage, you don’t know the current. You don’t even know which is plus and which is minus. You don’t even know if it’s AC or DC!

It has two alligator clips.You connect them to ANY two contacts of the part in question, in any way. (To be clear: the color it doesn’t even matter, in this case.) And it gives you USB power, safely!

LR: I’ve never seen anything else like these Vampire Chargers – in terms of options to keep your phone alive after a disaster. I mean there are batteries that you can keep charged up; and this. Right?

Vampire Charger – How It Works
Here’s a short video where Matteo explains how the Vampire Charger works.
Step 1: find a battery in some device, and you don’t know exactly:
-what exactly the voltage is
-what exactly the current is
Step 2: Connect the contacts to your phone:
– plus or minus/color doesn’t matter
– AC or DC

LR: Why doesn’t the plus or minus or AC/DC matter? What is going on technically?

MB: It has a Schottky rectifier. Then it has a step up. Then it has a step down. So, it’s a bit inefficient, but flexible.


Contact Conference This Fri-Sun at NASA Ames

Last year’s Contact conference was one of my favorite conferences of all time.
The focus of Contact is really hard to explain, but I’ll try: Space Exploration, Artificial Intelligence, Music, Science Fiction, Film making, Singularity stuff, Robot stuff, Artificial Life, Virtual Worlds, Virtual Reality, Space Colonization, Astrobiology, Astropsychology, Astrosociology, Biotech, Bioinformatics… — and *really* on all of it! (and I’m sure I’m forgetting something) — ALL this stuff is covered — and well!
Just go if you can. Registration is a bargain, and there’s a student rate!
Check out the speaker list.

Pete Worden at the The Next Generation Exploration Conference-2 – In Second Life

I’ve been going through my Second Life machinima from 2008, and I’ve found some real gems from last year that I never put up.
The first is NASA Ames Director, Pete Worden (wikipediatwitter), speaking at last year’s Next Generation Exploration Conference at NASA Ames last March.
Pete packed the house in real life and in Second Life, at NASA’s COLAB SL site.
MP3 of Pete’s talk.

Have A Happy July 4th – Catch The Shuttle Launch at 11:38 am PST

There’s a Discovery shuttle launch today at 11:38 am PST. (for you west coast types)
Here’s a link to the NASA TV site.
Here’s another NASA TV link.
It should be broadcast live from there. Launching at 2:37pm EST.
Here’s a
NY Times article on it
There may be better ones. I just wanted to make sure you knew about it, cause I just found out.
Have a great day guys!

A Better Understanding Of The New “Farthest Planet” Discovery

A reader sent me this lovely response to my earlier question about the significance of this latest planet being decidedly “farther out” than any other.
Thanks Joseph!

The main reason for having Hubble in space is that it is really hard to see through the atmosphere at certain wavelengths. As well, the farther away something is, the dimmer it appears to our telescopes… that’s why we build bigger and bigger telescopes… to see farther and farther away.
How far away from Earth we place our telescopes will make little difference as to how far away our discoveries are… the space between stars is huge… not so with galaxies (relatively)… for example, if you could reduce our sun to the size of a basketball, the next closest star (also about the size of a basketball) would be in Hawaii (if the “Sun” is in the East Bay like me)… if you reduce our entire galaxy to the size of a basketball, the next closest galaxy would be in the next room! (this is also why galaxies seem to collide frequently (they’re not too far apart)… but when they collide their stars don’t hit each other… it’s like two swarms of bees colliding)

More About The Debris

Officials warn public away from shuttle debris.

The trouble is twofold: Liquid nitrogen could combine with oxygen in the atmosphere to form nitrous oxide, a gas that can be fatal if inhaled. The second possibility is that either liquid oxygen or liquid nitrogen can severely burn anything or anyone it touches, Perry said.
Texas Department of Health spokesman Doug McBride said they were awaiting word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and NASA as to what hazards the debris may contain.
“We don’t know what kind of chemicals are on the spacecraft,” he said.
Much of the debris scattered across Nacogdoches, where authorities ordered people to stay 100 yards away from the debris because of contamination fears. Those who had touched the wreckage were urged to get medical attention.
“What we fly in space is operated in many cases with toxic propellant and some of the debris may be contaminated, so we need to be careful,” shuttle program manager Ron Dittemore said.
Shuttles have long used a chemical called hydrazine to run their auxiliary power units. Hydrazine, a colorless liquid with an ammonia-like odor, is a toxic chemical and can cause harm to anyone who contacts it.
A water plant was closed in the Louisiana town of Many because of fears that toxic debris fell into the Toledo Bend reservoir along the Texas-Louisiana line.
“To be safe rather than sorry we closed the water plant until further notice,” Many Mayor Ken Freeman said.

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A Sad Day For Space Travel

Oh yeah and if you’re unfortunate enough to be anywhere near the debris: Stay away from it! It will kill you. (I’m not exaggerating.)
Space Shuttle Apparently Breaks Apart
(Thanks, Xeni.)

At 9 a.m., Mission Control lost all contact with the crew. At the same time, residents in north Texas reported hearing “a big bang.”
Television footage showed a bright light over Texas followed by smoke plumes streaking diagonally through the sky. Debris appeared to break off into separate balls of light as it continued downward. NASA declared an emergency after losing contact with the crew and sent search teams to the Dallas-Fort Worth area…
On Jan. 16, shortly after Columbia lifted off, a piece of insulating foam on its external fuel tank came off and was believed to have hit the left wing of the shuttle. Leroy Cain, the lead flight director in Mission Control, assured reporters Friday that engineers had concluded that any damage to the wing was considered minor and posed no safety hazard.
The shuttle was at an altitude of about 203,000 feet over north-central Texas at 9 a.m., traveling at 12,500 mph, when Mission Control lost all contact and tracking data.

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