Friday, January 19, 2007


SPIRIT UPDATE: Spirit Continues to Test New Computer Smarts - sol 1070-1070, January 12, 2007:

On the rover's 1,068th sol, or Martian day of exploration on Mars (Jan. 4, 2007), Spirit used its new computer smarts to autonomously acquire images of the terrain using the hazard avoidance camera, construct a three-dimensional model of the terrain, identify rock or soil exposures of interest, and generate plans for placing the Mössbauer spectrometer and microscopic imager on 10 of those targets. Spirit's twin, the Opportunity rover on the other side of Mars, completed the same exercise. The next step of the testing process for both rovers will be to actually place scientific instruments on a target of interest.

Spirit spent much of the past week studying a layered rock exposure known as "Montalva." During the study, the rover used the brush on the rock abrasion tool, the microscopic imager, the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer that collects information about elemental composition, and the Mössbauer spectrometer that identifies iron-bearing minerals.

Plans called for Spirit to observe three transits of the Martian moon Phobos as it passed between the rover and the sun on sols 1075 (Jan. 11, 2007), 1077 (Jan. 13, 2007), and 1078 (Jan. 14, 2007).

Sol-by-sol summary:

Sol 1070 (Jan. 6, 2006): Spirit unstowed the robotic arm and brushed the surface of Montalva, acquired a microscopic image of the rock, and placed the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer on it for elemental analysis. Before shutting down for the evening, Spirit measured atmospheric dust using the panoramic camera.

Sol 1071: Spirit acquired a full-color image, using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, of a boulder nicknamed "Davis." It also used the navigation camera for images of scientific targets, and used the miniature thermal emission spectrometer to measure atmospheric dust and to surveyed the sky and ground, while communicating with the Odyssey orbiter in the afternoon.
Sol 1072: Spirit scanned the foreground using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, acquired 4 hours worth of data using the alpha-particle X-ray spectrometer, monitored atmospheric dust with the panoramic camera, and took images of the sky for calibration purposes.

Sol 1073: Spirit swung the robotic arm out of view to collect full-color, 13-filter images of Montalva with the panoramic camera and acquired 4 hours of worth of data using the Mössbauer spectrometer. The rover scanned the sky and ground using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, monitored dust accumulation on the rover mast, measured atmospheric dust, and imaged the sky for calibration purposes.

Sol 1074: Spirit used the navigation camera and the miniature thermal emission spectrometer observe a nearby rock known as "Kohnen" and another target known as "Amundsen." Spirit fired up the Mössbauer spectrometer for another 3 hours worth of analysis of Montalva. The rover turned off the Mössbauer spectrometer and monitored atmospheric dust.

Sol 1075: Spirit observed the morning transit of Phobos using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, fired up the Mössbauer for an overnight observation, acquired thumbnail images of the sky using the panoramic camera, and searched for dust devils by acquiring video frames using the navigation camera.

Sol 1076: Plans called for Spirit to use the Mössbauer spectrometer for another 3 hours of study of Montalva and to take images of the sky for calibration purposes with the navigation and panoramic cameras. Spirit was also to monitor atmospheric dust and pre-position the panoramic camera to acquire images of the next day's transit of Phobos.

Sol 1077: Plans called for Spirit to acquire images of the sky for calibration purposes while communicating directly with Earth using the high-gain antenna. Plans also called for Spirit to use the Mössbauer for 12 hours of analysis of Montalva, heat up the electronics inside the panoramic camera, and acquire images of the Phobos transit with the panoramic camera.

Sol 1078 (Jan. 14, 2007): Plans called for Spirit to scan the sky for clouds using the navigation camera, study a target known as "Svarthammaren," and survey the sky and ground during the Phobos transit at 1:45 p.m. local solar time using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer. The rover was to survey targets known as "Sejong" and "Amery" and search the sky for clouds again the following morning using the navigation camera.


As of sol 1075 (Jan. 11, 2006), Spirit's total odometry was 6,895 meters (4.28 miles).

Spirit Update Archive

OPPORTUNITY UPDATE: Opportunity Finds Another Meteorite - sol 1049-1056, January 12, 2007:

After wrapping up scientific studies of a rock called "Santa Catarina" on the rim of "Victoria Crater," Opportunity determined, based on analysis of the iron content, that the rock is probably a meteorite. Nearby cobbles appear to have similar composition, based on data from the Mössbauer spectrometer, panoramic camera, and miniature thermal emission spectrometer. Opportunity's itinerary will now take the rover in a northeasterly direction toward the crater's edge for a better look at the west face of "Cape Desire," on the other side of the "Bay of Toil."

On the morning of Opportunity's 1,048th sol, or Martian day, the rover entered auto mode, meaning that, in order to protect itself from a sequencing error, the rover cancelled all scheduled activities. Rover planners re-established control of all operating sequences on sol 1049 (Jan. 5, 2007).

Also on sol 1049, Opportunity performed additional diagnostic tests of the grinding motor that operates the rock abrasion tool. All signs point to a failed encoder. Rover handlers must now invent a new strategy for using the brush and grinder that does not rely on the encoder to sense when the device comes into contact with a rock surface. Team members anticipate they will be able to use the rock abrasion tool again in a few weeks.

Sol-by-sol summary:

In addition to daily observations that included measuring atmospheric dust with the panoramic camera, searching for clouds with the navigation camera, surveying the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and imaging the sky with the panoramic camera, Opportunity completed the following activities:

Sol 1049 (Jan. 5, 2007): Opportunity conducted diagnostic tests of the rock abrasion tool, studied Santa Catarina using the Mössbauer spectrometer, acquired full-color, 13-filter panoramic images of cobbles known as "Ibirama" and "Xaxim," and studied a blue cobble known as "Igreja" using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 1050: Opportunity acquired full-color panoramic camera images of cobbles known as "Lajes" and "Pelotas," studied Lajes with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, took images of Lajes with the navigation camera, and analyzed Santa Catarina with the Mössbauer spectrometer.

Sol 1051: Opportunity acquired panoramic camera images of the area where the rover is scheduled to drive, acquired data from a cobble known as "Mafra" using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and collected additional data about Santa Catarina with the Mössbauer spectrometer.

Sol 1052: Using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera, Opportunity acquired images of Mafra and a cobble nicknamed "Peixe," scanned the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and continued to analyze Santa Catarina using the Mössbauer spectrometer.

Sol 1053: Opportunity acquired full-color images using all 13 filters of the panoramic camera of cobbles known as "Videira" and "Chapeco," scanned Videira and the background behind it using the miniature thermal emission spectrometer, and conducted analysis of Santa Catarina using the Mössbauer spectrometer.

Sol 1054: Opportunity monitored dust accumulation on the rover's mast, surveyed the sky with the sun low on the horizon using the panoramic camera, and surveyed the sky and ground with the miniature thermal emission spectrometer.

Sol 1055: Plans called for Opportunity to back up and acquire panoramic camera images of Santa Catarina along with Mössbauer spectrometer data, turn northeast and drive toward Bay of Toil, take stereo images using the navigation camera, and acquire panoramic mosaics using the panoramic camera for help in planning the next drive to the edge of Victoria Crater.

Sol 1056 (Jan. 12, 2007): Opportunity was scheduled to conduct a sky survey using the panoramic camera.


As of sol 1053 (Jan. 9, 2007), Opportunity's total odometry remained at 9,790 meters (6.1 miles).

Murray Bookchin discusses anarchism

Not chaos but an alternative political theory....Anarchism is society organized as a social network rather than a top-down state system.

Imdividualism & The Tribe

January 19, 2007

The Age Of The Individual: The Loss Of The Tribe

I've written quite a number of pieces that have been, to put it mildly, scathing when it comes to the so-called "New Age" movement. I think I've referred to it as everything from cultural appropriation to inane. But unlike other critics of the people who comment on the issue I've shied away from the whole question of spirituality.

Many people insist that the rise in interest in all things "New Age" is due to the failure of the conventional religions to fill the spiritual needs of their traditional congregations. According to proponents of that theory, mainly those involved in the selling of "New Age" products, the baggage that accompanies Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism, is what pushes people away from them.

Whatever excuse they want to use doesn't really matter all that much, the implication is that people are turning to alternatives for their spiritual comfort, and that is what's offered by the "New Age" folk. The thing is though if you walk into a "New Age" emporium you won't find anything that is specifically a "New Age" bible. You'll find books on Celtic, Native American, Tibetan, Hindu, Jewish, Ancient Egyptian, and every other kind of spirituality you can think of with Guardian Angels and Faeries thrown in for good measure.

But are the people haunting those stores really looking for spiritual enlightenment or is it something else they're searching for; maybe even something they can't identify. They have the feeling that there is something missing in their lives but aren't quite sure what the void is. They label the emptiness spiritual because it feels like their spirit is being deprived of something, but I think it's something a little more concrete

In North America we celebrate the cult of the individual; we all strive to get ahead for our own purposes and create ourselves to fulfill the goals that we have established for ourselves. Even if we join with someone and bear children together you are only creating an extension of yourself.

Not to long ago, relatively speaking in terms of the planet's history, man existed in tribal groups. We lived to together in small communities in the Mohawk Valley in New York State, the convergence of Tigress and the Euphrates, the mountains of the Himalayas, and the steppes of Russia. As a member of a tribe you belonged somewhere, and played some vital role ensuring the continual existence of your people.

As today's world gets more and more impersonal; communication done through third party instruments like portable phones or email programs, perhaps we are increasingly made aware of our lack of real community? Even if we don't articulate it as such the need for a sense of identity and the feeling of belonging somewhere provided by community appears to be growing in the face of the world's uncertainty.

A church's congregation is supposed to be a meeting place of people of like minds; people who share the same sense of purpose and belief. While it could be easy to say they once were places that tied people together through those commonalities, I wonder if the unifying factor was more circumstances then anything else.

Church, or whatever you want to label it, used to be the only social activity for the vast majority of people. If you were no longer in school, the only time you ever met up with everybody in the neighbourhood was at the church, or at a church sponsored event. I know there are some small rural communities around where I live where that is still the case.

But as alternatives to the church became available as a social focus, these communities dissolved in the face of competition, weakening their claims at being a unifying force. Perhaps some people still belong to churches but their numbers are far less then they used to be.

In the mid to late seventies when Cults were in full swing, organizations like the Moonies would seek out people who looked like they were lost and would promise them a home and a sense of belonging. Much the same motivation is now used to recruit the young men and women into terrorist organizations around the world. They become members of a tribe that works together – they belong and have a real purpose in life that nothing else has been able to offer them.

I recently had a conversation with my mother about her relationship to Judaism. She was raised in a family that were the epitome of secular Jews, in that they never set foot in synagogue except for the usual triad of Weddings, Funerals, and Bar Mitzvahs. At one point in her life she became a member of a Reform synagogue, but that only lasted for a year.

But she said what Judaism does give her is a place in history, a sense of where she's come from as part of something greater than herself and her family. Even though she doesn't participate in the religious life, or even hang out with very many Jewish people, she can still say I'm a Jew and feel like she belongs somewhere.

This wasn't something she picked up in a book from a bookstore; this was something she inherited from her parents, who in turn, well you get the picture. For my mother it's an unbroken line stretching back through more then five thousand years of tribal history that she is a continuation of. It's the place in the world where she belongs that has nothing to do with geography, politics, or religion.

Human beings need to have the sense that they belong to something bigger then themselves. Some find a kind of comfort in patriotism, while others find it in fighting for a cause, and others in religion. Still others are left searching for something external in the hopes of finding their place in the world.

But in reality, with a few exceptions, the trade off for our civilization and our lifestyle has been the loss of our connections to others and the past. We truly live in the age of the individual and we all feel just a little bit lost and lonely because of it.