Sports

STEM GOOOOAAAAALLLLLS

Cosmos was awesome, so I definitely had to get the DVD! Click on the pic to access my Cosmos posts!

Cosmos was awesome, so I definitely had to get the DVD! Click on the pic to access my Cosmos posts!

In the spirit of the World Cup, let's check out some important goals to achieving diversity within the STEM community. But first .... Germany's Alexander Gerst of the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA's Reid Wiseman and Steve Swanson are both celebrating advancing to the next stage of the World Cup.  Check out some quick soccer moves on the International Space Station (ISS).

We've made great progress in a few STEM diversity goals - let's check em out!

1) Highlighting women in science.

While we will always advocate for more women in STEM, we don't want to forget about the ones that are representing right now!  Kyla McMullen has done a great job to help us reach this goal. Her list of the Sexiest Black Female Scientists, which was inspired by a similar Business Insider list that featured no women of color, was all over the net recently. Check it out to see some gorgeous, intelligent women that are contributing to the world in a huge way.

 

2) Showing a diversity of scientists on mainstream TV

Neil deGrasse Tyson, a Black astrophysicist, conquered Westeros and Essos and consistently topped ratings in the Sunday evening time slot for Cosmos. I hosted live tweets every Sunday and had great engagement and participation from science lovers and newbies alike.  Tyson definitely helped show the world that a person of color can successfully lead a science program.

 

3) Showing a diversity of video game makers and shakers

The people behind the gaming industry tend to be white and male - not representative of the diverse set of people that enjoy games. Recently, Aisha Tyler continued her excellent hosting duties during the largest video game industry conference of the year (Ubisoft's press conference at E3 2014).  She also interviewed with NPR about diversity in the gaming space.  Finally, I've been lucky enough to be a part of several episodes of the Spawn On Me podcast, which focuses on people of color within the gaming industry.

I'll make sure to check in on these goals and others!

#CES2014: Gaming, Printing, Excercising

Last week, I was lucky enough to break out of the balmy -20 degree Milwaukee weather and take a trip to Vegas to the Consumer Electronics Show. I had a great time at last year's show, and this year did not disappoint!  

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But let's skip the technobabble. Here are three things that will potentially change the way we entertain, build, and excercise in the next few years. 3D gaming, 3D printing, and fitness.

 

3D gaming

Imagine walking down a street in a video game, and being able to look up, down, left, right.  Now imagine being able to look in back of you. That's what the Oculus Rift. promises to bring to gaming.

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Looks stupid, right? It was. And I loved it.  Reminds me of the horrible virtual reality games in the arcades of the 80s and early 90s. Remember these?

Transient

Also. Display port had an amazing 3 monitor setup. 3 FREAKING HUGE monitors. I couldn't even fit this inside of my apartment, but I want it!

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3D printing

I've blogged about 3D printing in the past, and there was a huge showing at the conference. 3D printing is pretty much what it sounds like - a printer that can print a plastic object such as an action figure, a ball, or a mask.  Tons of cool companies like Makerbot, Kevvox, and Sculpteo were printing small 3D trinkets left and right. Some great examples are below.  3D printing is still a little too expensive ($2000+, plus printing material) to bring into the mainstream, but give it a good 5 years or so and we'll be printing our own toys at a reasonable price. Secret Santa will be even more awesome.

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Fitness

I've been borrowing a Fitbit Flex from Verizon Wireless for review, and it's become my best buddy.  I leave it on my wrist (even in the shower - it's waterproof) and it automatically tracks my steps, active minutes, calories burned, etc.  

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I forget that it's on, which is exactly the point.  The only time I don't forget about it is when I have to charge it by removing a smal part and plugging it up to a computer, which is more often then I'd like (every day or two). For these things to really go mainstream, wireless charging would be a huge benefit. Imagine that I can just throw my Fitbit Flex on a wireless pad like a Powermat. Or even better, placing a wireless charger under my pilow (or make the whole pillow a wireless charger) so that going to sleep instantly charges the device. I know, big dreams, and I could fry my head ... but it would be awesome.

My favorite fitness gadget was the Infomotion 94Fifty - a basektball with a bunch of sensors in it that measure ball rotation, velocity, the arc of your shot, and tons of other variables.  As you dribble, shoot, and pass, you get instant feedback from the voice of a snarky coach.  

For example, when shooting a free throw, you shoudl shoot at an arc of 40 degrees, which is REALLY hard for the average person. All I heard most of the time was the coach saying "Get that arc up" and other remarks. If I had this as a kid, I might actually have been a good basketball player. Maybe it would have helped me grow to 6' tall to.

 

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Keep an eye out on 3D gaming, 3D printing, and fitness gagdgets in the next few years - things are gonna change!

Despite Shutdown, Astronauts Still Run Up Walls

The current government shutdown has severely impacted NASA. According to The Verge: 

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration will see over 90 percent of its civilian workforce immediately furloughed: 17,701 out of 18,250 total employees, according to the shutdown plan the agency filed last week. As President Obama put it in an emergency address last night, "NASA will shut down almost entirely, but Mission Control will remain open to support the astronauts serving on the Space Station."

The shutdown plan link in the article no longer works, since all of NASA's websites and social media accounts have beeen shut down. The good news is that the astronauts on the ISS will be supporrted.  One way they can deal with the stress is to run up a wall! 

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Creepy photo, huh? I took the above photo of the treadmill that astronauts use to stay in shape while on the International Space Station (ISS) during my trip to NASA Mission Control in Houston, TX earlier this year.  Using the port and starboard nautical terms for left and right, the treadmill is essentially on the wall.  But in a weightless environment of space, the terms up, down, left or right have no absolute meaning. 

Here's a photo of the actual treadmill, which was named after Stephen Colbert after he won a naming contest. As you can see his smiling face in the photo above, the treadmill is officially called the Combined Operational Load Bearing External Resistance Treadmill (COLBERT).

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Astronaut Karen Nyberg posted this video recently of her experience on the treadmill. She needs to be tethered so she doesn't float off, and the treadmill itself can't be fixed completely onto the wall - it needs to be able to move so that the forces put on the treadmill by the runner don't affect the flight path of the station.  Remember, this is space, and there is no drag or wind resistance to prevent movement - any little push can seriously set you off course. 

The video is set up so that it looks like the treadmill is on the "bottom" of the ISS, but if you look closely at the orientation of other objects, you can see that we are actually on the "wall". 

In addition to seeing the treadmll, I was fortunate enough to meet Karen and the other current residents of the International Space Station before they departed on their trip as Expedition 36. Of course I'm right next to Karen because she loves me.  Here's one of my favorite pics ever!

Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg, me, Luca Parmitano     

Fyodor Yurchikhin, Karen Nyberg, me, Luca Parmitano


 

Space: The Final Frontier of Laughter

Even science geeks deserve some laughs near the end of the year. Check out this gag reel from the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I picked this up while browsing Jon Wiley's stream on Google+.

One of my favorite parts comes at the 6 minute mark, where two characters Worf and Rikers just can't keep a straight face and the video crew is clearly frustrated. Makes me wonder how long it took to record an entire show.

If you can't see the video below, click here.

Nintendo TVii Impressions: Could Be Better

Do you own a Nintendo Wii U system? If so, a new app named TVii is available to you. The app promises to integrate your cable with internet streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Instant Video (Netflix is arriving in early 2013).. It's a great attempt, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. 

Ideally, the service should allow you to search and browse for shows that you like and easily watch new or old episodes regardless of where they actually reside. In practice ... it has a few kinks that need to be worked out.. The interface is SLOW when accessing content, since it actually closes TVii and launches a separate Hulu / Amazon app to watch the content. All in all, it takes a good minute of waiting, which is just too much in this era of tablets.  Many people would rather just pick up a remote and get instant gratification.

If you can't see the Hulu and Amazon video below, click here.

Nintendo does a much better job with its Sports application, which allows real time tracking of basketball and football, complete with social networking integration. 

If you can't see the Sports video below, click here