Category Archives: Science & Math

Lumps of Clay

Do you ever think much about what clay really is?

A while ago, we were at Bald Head Island, NC and spent some time on the beach. I enjoy walking on the beach and looking for interesting shells, etc. Something unusual caught my attention this time. A moist, brown/grey lump, roughly oval, covered with sand.


I kept walking. Then I saw another, and another. Most people ignored them, or thought they were probably some kind of animal feces. I’m just too curious, and besides, I didn’t think it was fecal material (there were no flies). So, I picked one up. It had more weight to it than I thought by just looking at it. I broke it apart and saw uniform texture and what appeared to be clay inside the sandy coating. I started to gather these “clay” blobs… much to some other visitors’ stupefaction.

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NASA includes Social Media with Traditional Media for Budget Briefing

There we sat. Twitter users. No special badges saying we were “tweeps,” No special seating gallery. No instructions to just “observe” the “real” media.

The New Media Corp

NASA decided that this time, from the get-to of the FY2013 budget briefing at NASA HQ (2/13/2012), everyone in the room was media and was important. From the podium, Bob Jacobs (@bnjacobs), NASA’s deputy associate administrator for Communications and the moderator for the event, explained:

This year we’re trying something a little different, as well as traditional media representatives, for the first time we have invited members of the social media community to be a part of today’s presentation and we’ll be taking questions via Twitter using the hashtag #askNASA.

NASA's Bob Jacobs

Bob Jacobs (@bnjacobs), NASA's deputy associate administrator for Communications tweets a pic of the Media Corp at beginning of the Budget Briefing.

NASA acknowledged that social media is a valid means of media communication and should be included in briefings alongside the AP, Nature, Orlando Sentinel, and the other traditional media outlets represented. We were allowed to ask questions, to talk to Administrator Charles Bolden, Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson, and the other NASA officials just like anyone else in the room. In short: no second-class citizens in the media corp.

It was a very special time–not just for those of us in the room–but for the army of social media journalists who have waited for recognition and validation of their status as “real” media.

Lindsey Mastis recorded Bob Jacobs’ thoughts on the relationship between NASA and social media. You can read her report of the briefing here.

Ice, Rockets, and Steam

Check out this photo from Chase Clark. He’s got a series of photos from the initial 1.6 seconds of the Atlas V rocket launch (Nov 26, 2011) that is propelling the Mars Curiosity rover to Mars.

Notice the ice on the rocket. Why is there ice? Why does it break off like that? What happens after it breaks off? Be curious and find out!

Why this NASA photo of Atlas V rocket should make you Curious

I am always trying to encourage people to Stay Curious. Sure, I can give you information (and will be happy to), but often it is better for people to be curious about something and discover answers for themselves. However, many folks are out of the habit of being curious, so I will help prod you a bit. I ask you, why should this NASA photo of the Atlas V rocket which launched on Sat., 11/26, make you curious?

Curiosity Rover Lifts Off for Mars (Image Credit: NASA)

  1. What are those billowy clouds coming out from the rocket? It’s not smoke!
  2. Why are the booster rockets on the side asymetrical? There are four. Why aren’t they evenly placed around the main rocket?
  3. What are those towers around the rocket? Why are they taller than the rocket?
  4. What is that “train” track in the foreground?
  5. Do you know what is inside the rocket? Where is the payload? How does it get out?

Hints to help you:
This rocket launched off SLC 41 (that may help you get information about the launchpad configurations)
The group responsible for the rocket was the United Launch Alliance

Here’s a link to the Astronomy Picture of the Day, where the photo was highlighted on Wed, Nov 30th. Read the caption there and you will find links to several aspects of the launch and mission.

Now, go get curious. And stay that way!