#Extant E3: See Things First, Hear Them Later

Me and Astronaut Doug Wheelock in front of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the day before liftoff

Me and Astronaut Doug Wheelock in front of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the day before liftoff

In last night's episode of Extant, Molly (played by Halle Berry) sees a rocket lifting off, heading into space and likely docking with the space station.  It reminded me of when I attended a shuttle launch. One of the most fascinating things was seeing the shuttle launch .... in silence.  Then, 15 seconds later ... WWWWOOOOOOOOOOSSSSSSSHHHHHH you get blasted by the full sound of the rocket launching from the Earth.  Why did it take so long?

In the above video, we start to hear sound about 15 seconds after we see it. Why is that? Well, the speed of light (186,000 miles per second) is much, much, much faster than the speed of sound (1130 ft per second). So if something is more than 1130 ft away from us, we should see it one second before we hear it.  If it's 2260 ft away, we'll see it two seconds before we hear it. For 15 seconds, the math works out to just over 3 miles, which is the actual distance from the shuttle launch pad to the Kennedy Space Center press site that I was at.

This is the exact same reason why you see lightning before you hear thunder - if the lightning is far enough away, the light reaches your eyes way before the sound reaches your ears! You can also calculate how far away the lightning is by using the same method I used to calculate how far I was from the shuttle launch pad.

If you want to check out the livetweet of the show (watch out, there are spoilers), check out the Storify below!

#NPRBlacksInTech - Continuing the Conversation

Me, at CES 2012

Me, at CES 2012

From December 2nd to December 20th, NPR's Tell Me More program hosted daily twitter chats under the hashtag #NPRBlacksInTech.  Techies from all over the world, including yours truly, shared our experiences as minorities within the tech space and discussed ways to improve our experiences. Sharing serious stories was often balanced with seeking humor in some of the situation that we could all relate to being one of the few minorities in our respective fields. 

One of the key messages was that we need to continue the conversation.  My next series of posts will be expanding on some of the tweets that I shared during this conversation.  Starting tomorrow, I'll feature one of my tweets and discuss the intricacies of it. Buckle up!

For background, check out NPR's Storify discusing the reasoning behind #NPRBlacksInTech, as well as its successful implementation.

In the Realtime Web, Old Can Be Awesome

Old News - canon rebel t2i

In this world of realtime information when things are deemend "old" after hours or even minutes, if we miss something as soon as it drops it can get lost forever. There's so many awesome science things happening on the internet that it's almost impossible to keep up with everything.  I love when I find out something that may be days, months, or even years in the past but still awesome. This is one of those times, thanks to the twitter stream from @omaflinger.

Scientists are just normal folk following their passion like anyone else, and the blog The Protein Strangler had several scientists discuss this in a blog series entitled Meet a Scientist. This resulted in two great videos . The first is 3 minute collection of tweets from the #IAmScience Twitter hashtag. On Jan 27, 2012, people tweeted about why they became scientists - check it out! 

The second, much longer video (30 minutes) is from a film "I'm a Scientist" that delves a bit deeper into why scientists do what they do. This video was uploaded to YouTube on Sept 16, 2011 - an eternity in terms of the realtime web.  But still great!

These old videos were included on a Protein Strangler post from Jan 2012. I'm sure there's other awesome things that I've missed over the years. Don't only depend on the latest news and links because you'll miss out on some jewels!

Send Your Clones to Conferences Far and Wide

Clone troops B&W

During the weekend of June 21st, two conferences occurred - Blogging While Brown in Harlem, NY and Netroots Nation in San Jose, CA. These are both conferences that cover issues that I am interested in, and I wish I could clone myself and go to both!

 I selected Blogging While Brown, but unfortunately I had to cancel due to a business obligation.  So here I was - two conferences going on and I wasn't able to go to either.  I was pretty pissed. The only solution was to use Twitter to follow the conference and essentially clone myself so that I could be in three places at the same time.

Technology to the rescue!  I used Tweetdeck  to watch both hashtags from the conference (#BWBNYC and #NN13). I also made sure to set up a separate filter for each hashtag and the word "question". This enabled me to watch for questions that people asked (so I could ask follow up questions), as well as find when questions were being thrown out to Twitter community to answer.  

I was able to interact with conference attendees so often that some people actually thought I was at the conference! My little Shareef clones attended the conferences and people actually mistook them for me! Check out the following tweets.

Good luck with cloning yourself and attending conferences from afar!

Twitter Impact: From Academia to the Everyday Citizen



Twitter has made a huge impact among the academic field as well as the everyday citizen. A recent study from UCLA and Hewlett-Packard mentioned that the most well received tweets come from the Twitter accounts of established websites (i.e. New York Times, CNN, etc) discussing popular companies or institutions. The term "social networking" tends to imply that getting news from a friend, regardless of the inclusion of a source, would resonate the same as hearing it from an established site. According to this study, that's not the case.

When I come across a friend mentioning a story, I'll reply or retweet him or her to give proper credit. In addition, I always make sure to retweet the story from a recognized source  It's not because I don't trust the person who originally mentioned the story. It's more that I don't expect my followers to know (or trust) that person. Retweeting the story as reported from a respected source helps to keep my credibility with my followers that or may not know anything about my other followers.

Beyond academia, Twitter has also affected govermnents and its citizens. Sweden has been handing its official @Sweden Twitter account to a different citizen every week. Naturally, some gaffes have occurred. But check out how they've handled it:

From the NY Times on Sunday:


“I wanted to show that I’m often kind of immature and often kind of stupid and so is this country, and I bet you are, too, and so are a lot of people around the world,” Mr. Werner, 23, said in a telephone interview. “It’s much more interesting than saying things like, ‘Look at these fabulous pictures of nature.’ ”


An update to the NY Times story on Tuesday shows that Sweden is not deleting any tweet that may be offensive. Instead, Sweden is using the opportunity as a teachable moment.  After one of the Swedish twitter users, Ms. Abrahamsson, faced backlash for posting a tweet that offended people of Jewish decent, the following exchange occured:


The immediate backlash against her comments prompted Ms. Abrahamsson less than an hour later to write that, being from rural Sweden, she did not know many Jews and she apologized “if some of you find the question offensive.”

“Thats was not my purpose,” she added, appearing to explain herself. “I just don’t get why some people hates jews so much.”


Boom! Now that's how you handle controversy - embrace it head on and try to learn from it.  This is the only way to bring technology forward because controversy is inevitable. Congratulations to Sweden for taking this project on!