Satellite Manufactroversary

Candice eetimesRecently, Rocket Labs, a satellite launch startup successfully lifted into orbit several commercial satellites.  Along with it, they launched a geodesic sphere specifically designed to reflect sunlight to create “satellite flares”.  Such flares are common sights in the early evening or pre-dawn skies.

The first time I saw one, I didn’t know what it was.  I was at an outdoor music concert on the Stanford campus in the early ’80s when I noticed the satellite moving across the night sky.  As a child of the space-age, having been born just months before the first artificial satellite, Sputnik, was launched, I had grown up looking for them in the early evenings when the sun still shone overhead but had dropped below the horizon where I lay on the grass watching for them.  It was a rare night that I didn’t see any as more and more satellites were placed into orbit.  But that night, as I visually tracked the path of the small star-like dot moving stately but quickly across the sky, it very suddenly brightened to become the brightest object in the sky, brighter than Sirius!  My first thought was, OMG, did it explode?  No, I was later to learn, the sunlight had briefly reflected off of the flat surface of one of its solar panels to create that brilliant beam of light that traced path through and passed my seat on the grass that evening.

Such flares are common and predictable since we know the orbits of the satellites and their orientation such that we can compute their location, time, and brightness.  You may wish to observe them yourself by using a web-based calculator.  One simply enters their location and the website tells one when and where to look for the next upcoming flare at that location.

You may also look up where the brighter satellites will be visible, including the biggest and brightest of them all, the International Space Station.  Over the coming decades, we can expect that even more and larger space structures will be built, especially as we enter the age of space resource extraction and manufacturing.

Which brings me back to the silly manufactured controversy that the press is making out of the launch of a privately designed and funded satellite whose ONLY function is to create such flares.  The press contacted astronomers to find a small handful that against all reasonable logic, given that they already occur with such regularity, were peeved about this one object placed into orbit.  Quite literally, this one object joins the literally tens of thousands of other objects in orbit, none of which has hampered optical astronomy in the slightest.  Thus, the press is making ‘much ado about nothing’ and I for one celebrate this latest satellite for what it really is; a bright shining announcement of the end of the age of state controlled access to space and the beginning of the age of entrepreneurial expansion.

Additional Reading:

Very Old News…

Candice eetimesMy how time flies…

I just saw an announcement from the World Technology Network that they just announced this year’s winners and new fellows… which reminded me that I am a fellow myself, though I have not been very active.  It made me nostalgic, so I checked back.  Yep, that was the year, 2005, twelve, no thirteen years ago?  That year the list for Communications Technology was:


  • Bill St. Arnaud, CANARIE, Inc.


  • Vanu Bose, Vanu, Inc.
  • Thomas DeFanti, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Masayoshi Son, Softbank Corporation
  • Linus Torvalds, Open Source Development Labs
  • Candice H. Brown Elliott, Clairvoyante, Inc.

Other 2005 Nominees (Associates)
Jud Bowman
Christina Domecq
James Erickson
Dianah Neff
Greg Raleigh
Henning Schulzrinne
Igal Rotem
Carver Mead & Chris Diorio
Greg Phillips

Wow, really…. I was in the same list as Linus Torvalds and Vanu Bose?  And Carver Mead was nominated by didn’t become a fellow?  I was thought to be more worthy that Carver Mead?  Amazing!

Double Tap

Candice eetimesI have a bone to pick.  Today, I saw yet another meme posted dissing older people for using the double space after a full stop, stating that was only required because we learned to type on mechanical typewriters that used monospaced type setting.  Today, the computer doesn’t need that double space.


The two spaces after a full stop was NOT just because of typewriters. It is because it differentiates between a full stop at the end of a sentence and the period that denotes that an abbreviation has occured.  A single space distance tells the reader (and the text rendering algorithm) that this does not end the sentence, but a double space does.  Until we have a new character for denoting either a full stop or the abbreviation, then I will continue to use the double space.  If you examine today’s digital text rendering systems, many DO provide more space when using the double space bar entry.  The myth that one should not use the double space bar entry is based on the mistaken idea that just  because some modern computer text rendering algorithms may use micro-justification and automatic kerning that somehow the system will automatically provide additional space after the full stop that is different from that after an abbreviation.  While some do, most do NOT (e.g. facebook’s comments).  This effort to diss an older generation that understood the usage of the double space is a form of age prejudice combined with ignorance regarding text layout algorithms and the continued utility of the double space convention.

Lost In Space

Candice eetimes“We lost Zuma sir.”

“What?  Did the launch fail?”

“Ummm… no sir.  The launch worked perfectly.”

“Did it fail to separate from the booster?”

“No sir, separation was perfect.”

“Then it failed to deploy?”

“Well… sir, we can’t say for certain.”

“Why the hell not?”

“Well, it’s a stealth bird sir, it’s painted perfectly black so telescopic tracking can’t see it… it has a very small radar cross-section to begin with, and the new radar absorbing coatings handle the rest.  We can’t track it.”

“Then tell it to report back where it is.  Send it a command to transmit it’s position and status!”

“Ummm… sir… we can’t.”

“What the hell are you trying to tell me?”

“Well… you see… it’s was such a secret project, everything hush-hush and need to know… well sir… it seems that we forgot the password.”

Strange Love or I Learned to Love the Book

Candice eetimesRather than posting another boring blurb, perhaps authors should talk about our writing, what we write about and why. So, please, allow me to share about myself.
Like many readers of SF&F there was one moment when it began. Mine was 5th grade, in the first few weeks of school when the teacher was looking at my “permanent record” and said, “I see that you are a good reader so I’m putting you in the advanced reader group.” She then gave me a book to read, “Old Yeller”. I read it in my spare time in just days. Then I approached the teacher and asked when we would be discussing the book as she had said we would. She then said, “We will discuss chapter one next Monday.”
This concerned me as it implied that we would only be talking about chapter one… not the whole book, so I asked, “When will be be discussing the rest of the book?”
“We will discuss one chapter a week.”
Now I was dismayed. Seriously, only one chapter a week? We would be talking about this one book for a whole YEAR?
“But I finished the book!”
“LIAR !!!”
I was shocked, she had called me a liar? Of course I defended my honor. To this she pulled out a sheaf of notes (She has notes?) on the book and proceeded to attempt to prove that I was a liar and hadn’t read the book. Of course, I had and could answer all of her questions. She was very very angry now that she had been shown to have falsely accused me of lying… and of having grossly underestimated my reading and comprehension skills. So, she looked around at her desk at her own reading material, grabbed a book and shoved it at me…
“Read this and write a book report.”
I did… it was the “Hobbit” and I was hooked… on both reading and on writing. I devoured science fiction and fantasy books by the armload… I became a high tech entrepreneur, over a hundred US patents, etc…. and self-published my first novel, “All The Stars Are Suns” just recently. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.