World Bytes: ‘Way-Out-of-this-World’ Bytes

By Terrance Malkinson

Space probes are unmanned devices containing scientific instruments and tools used to study the atmosphere and composition of space and other planets, moons, or celestial bodies. We have been sending probes into space since the 1950’s. Pioneer, Explorer, Mariner, Venera, Luna, Ranger, Voyager, Zond, Vega and Surveyor are all names familiar to many of us, [ ].  In November 1993, the International Rosetta Mission was approved by the European Space Agencies Horizons 2000 science programme, []. Scientists and engineers from Europe and the United States combined their expertise to build an orbiter and lander to explore and discover the characteristics of a comet.

In March 2004, a European Ariane 5 rocket carrying the probe lifted off from French Guiana. Following a ten-year journey travelling into deep space to its destination; a periodic comet known as 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, Rosetta will be the first spacecraft to orbit a comet’s nucleus and deploy a small lander onto its surface. One of the many complexities of the mission is distance.  For a portion of the flight (31 months) the probe was kept in a state of hibernation with the majority of its systems switched off as a strategy to limit consumption of power and fuel.  Even so the electronics must be kept warm throughout the journey to ensure their viability. 

On 20 January 2014 at 18:18 UTC, Rosetta’s pre-programmed internal �alarm clock’ woke up the spacecraft and sent a confirmation signal to mission operators at NASA’s Goldstone and Canberra ground stations indicating that the hibernation exit sequence had been completed. The next operational activities consist of preparing the spacecraft, its lander and their instruments for data-gathering. Rosetta’s first images of the comet are expected in May, with the lander being deployed in November. Scientists around the world are eagerly anticipating the important new information that will emerge from this mission.  As engineering technology develops it is likely that in the future most space exploration will be accomplished by multi-national initiatives using unmanned space probes such as Rosetta. Indeed, in this case the principle investigators, lead scientists, interdisciplinary scientists, flight and support teams emerge from many nations [ ].

Other Bytes

Here are some of the things going on in and around the community:

30 years ago in January, 1984 the Macintosh computer was released. Containing an insufficient 128K RAM of memory; eight months later Apple released an updated version, having 512K of RAM. Before the Macintosh, computers were ‘text-based’. Apple innovatively incorporated icons on the screen and the  mouse. This continues today for most computers. Macintosh is considered to be the first commercially successful computer to use the GUI. Today computer and other electronic technologies permeate every aspect of life on earth globally. A generation has grown up not knowing what life was like without these technologies.  One of the mandates of this and subsequent generations is to ensure that technology is used only for the benefit of humanity.

The cover story of the January 2014 issue of IEEE Spectrum focuses on ten emerging breakthrough technologies 2014 Tech to Watch pp. 33-62. IEEE Spectrum [ ].  This annual review provides glimpses into what we might expect in the coming months.


The New Rules of Globalization is the title of an article by Ian Bremmer in the January-February, 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review [92(1/2):103-107. ].  The globalized approach to business has now been practiced for many years. Some aspects have been beneficial; others not so beneficial. This is the case with any new business or policy approach. It takes a few years for its full impact to emerge as no forecasting technique is capable of assessing all consequences. Nations are rethinking their priorities.  The author discusses how executives must now consider their global strategy in concert with their host and home governments. 

Three articles recently (January 2014) published by McKinsey&Company [ ] are of interest. Risk and Responsibility in a Hyperconnected World: Implications for Enterprises authored by David Chinn et al. discusses in conjunction with the World Economic Forum how to get full value from technological innovation globally. They believe that we must have a robust and coordinated global approach to cybersecurity.  Strategies are discussed on how this might happen.  Pierre Gurdjian et al. discuss in their essay Why Leadership-Development Programs Fail four common mistakes that should be avoided by companies as they develop stronger and more capable leaders.  In the third article; 3-D Printing Takes Shap Daniel Cohen et al. discuss how executives should start preparing for the disruptions that will accompany this new technology.

he US State Department released an 11-volume report on January 31, 2014 concluding that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution.  [ ].  Calgary-based TransCanada has been seeking approval for the 1,800-kilometre, $7-billion project for several years. The pipeline, should it be built, would carry 830,000 barrels of oil a day from Canada to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Environmentalists said they were dismayed at some of the report’s conclusions and disputed its objectivity, oil industry executives who support the pipeline because they say it creates jobs and increases supplies from a friendly source of oil embraced the findings. The report concludes that the process used for producing the oil (extracting tar sands or oil sands from the Alberta CA forest) creates about 17% percent more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional oil. [ ]  Next steps include a State Department decision on whether the project is in America’s best interest for non-environmental reasons. Following this, a final decision will be made by the White House.

There has been a huge growth of surveillance not only by government, but increasingly by commercial enterprises and private citizens. Today, human behavior and movement surveillance monitors are employed for the purpose of influencing, managing, directing, or protecting. In Privacy and the Surveillance Explosion the president of the World Future Society, Timothy Mack provides an overview of who is watching us and why [The Futurist. Vol. 48(1). January-February 2014. ]. This well-written and balanced essay provides an excellent overview of both the good and evil of surveillance.

On a historical note it was on February 9, 1964 fifty-years ago that the Beatles made their US debut on The Ed Sullivan Show. More than 73M out of a then US population of 192M viewed the black-and-white television broadcast. The Sullivan appearance initiated the American strain of Beatlemania, a frenzy that had already spread through their native Britain. The appearance of John, Paul, George and Ringo in many ways marked the beginning of a cultural revolution that along with the Kennedy’s assassination only 10 weeks earlier were seminal moments in the history of America and the world. They were novel, innovative, good and charming. Quickly, they dominated the charts, revived rock and roll, were booked on three Sullivan shows, made many other appearances throughout America, held all five of Billboard’s top five singles, and had 14 songs in the top 100. Today their songs endure.


Guest Contributor

IEEE-USA is an organizational unit of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. (IEEE), created in 1973 to support the career and public policy interests of IEEE’s U.S. members. IEEE-USA is primarily supported by an annual assessment paid by U.S. IEEE Members.

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