Today L.A. Times Past launches a series of occasional guest posts, written by people who have a connection to a historical event relevant to Southern California. We start with Julie Webster of JPL, seen above. In 2004 she was the flight director of the Cassini mission, which was about to…
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Panoramic Tokyo, in extreme detail
The photo above is a sample of the ridiculously-detailed panoramic shot taken by photographer Jeffrey Martin. Coming in at a whopping 150-gigapixels, the full photo would be 330 feet wide if fully printed out.
It took months to assemble and stitch the nearly 16,000 photos from about 128 gigabytes of jpeg files into three sections that were then combined into the 360-degree panorama, which itself was a 200gb psb file.
Photo: Jeffrey Martin / 360gigapixels.com
Times staffer Ralph Vartabedian has a fascinating report about the development, launch and personalities behind Syncom, the first communications satellite, which was built in Los Angeles and sent into orbit in 1963.
Of all the technological breakthroughs made in Los Angeles during the Cold War — the laser, the first supersonic jet fighter, the Apollo moon ship, stealth aircraft, the space shuttle, the intercontinental ballistic missile system and much else — the creation of a communications satellite has had the largest and most enduring cultural, social and economic impact.
After the satellite entered orbit, President John F. Kennedy had a somewhat-awkward conversation with Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.
Several weeks after the Syncom launch, President Kennedy inaugurated international satellite telephone service to Nigeria, where the Navy had stationed its receivers. The symbolic phone call to Nigerian Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa lasted two minutes.
Kennedy and Balewa traded pleasantries, briefly mentioned the nuclear weapons test ban treaty signed that year, and talked about a boxing match in which Nigerian middleweight boxer Dick Tiger had retained his title against an American.
(Photo: President John F. Kennedy speaks to the prime minister of Nigeria via the Syncom 2 satellite. Credit: Handout)
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July 29, 1958: NASA is Created
On this day in 1958, the United States Congress passed legislation creating the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Since its creation, NASA has played a vital role in coordinating all of the US’ activity in space. The agency spearheads and sponsors space exhibitions and has launched numerous orbiting satellites that have produced information about the solar system and universe.
In recent years, many feel that NASA has experienced numerous setbacks. The most significant being the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
Celebrate NASA’s birthday with PBS NewsHour’s video of the agency’s newest vehicle “Curiosity.”
photo:Astronaut Edward H. White II’s Space Walk on Gemini IV ca.1965, (NASA)
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Celebrating Syncom: The pioneering communications satellite
Its name may not be as familiar as Sputnik’s, but that doesn’t mean the Syncom communications satellite deserve no celebrations on its 50th anniversary.
In fact, it was Sputnik that inspired one of Syncom’s creators, Harold Rosen, in the first place. Rosen, then a student at Caltech, watched the Soviet satellite streaking across the sky as he brainstormed:
What he imagined by 1959 was a revolution in communications: an extremely lightweight, solar-powered telephone switching station in orbit 22,000 miles above Earth. In those days, an international telephone connection required making a reservation because the existing system — copper cables and radio signals — carried few calls. Many countries could not be called at all. A satellite could change all of that.
Just think - without the successful launch of Syncom on July 26, 1963, the quick rise of international television signals, electronic credit card authorizations and countless other innovations would be completely different.
And what once was a single 78-pound satellite has turned into more than 500 descendants currently orbiting the Earth, some of which weigh more than 13,000 pounds.
Photos: Ricardo DeAratanha, Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times, Boeing
See that little dot in the distance? That’s Earth.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft took some incredible photos of our home planet Friday, which the agency finally released yesterday.
The craft is current orbiting Saturn, as seen above, and is often unable to sneak a peek at Earth due to its relative closeness to the sun. So how did we get a hold of these stunning photos?
…on Friday, Saturn moved between Cassini and the sun, casting the spacecraft in shadow and allowing it to look back toward the inner solar system without the risk of ruining the detectors on its cameras.
Thanks to this orbital geometry, Saturn’s rings were also backlit by the sun, giving Cassini the rare opportunity to snap images of the powdery dust in Saturn’s rings in hyper-sharp detail.
Read more, and maybe let your mind be boggled by the scale of the universe, over at Science Now.
Photos: NASA / AFP/Getty Images
Double Dashboard Update!
First, the new Activity page lets you graph the latest activity on your blog, view your top fans and posts, and see all of your recent notifications.
Second, a new way to see notes that’s faster (endless scrolling!) and highlights likes/reblogs/replies from people you follow!
In case you were wondering what that mysterious new button was.
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Tumblr users have always had the option of marking their account as NSFW, and since around 10% of Tumblr is porn, people were generally pretty good at labelling their blogs.
However, under Tumblr’s new content restrictions, posts from Adult-rated blogs will no longer show up on tags. Any tags. Also, Tumblr is able to flag your account as Adult without you labelling it as such—although users do have the option of appealing to the “Trust & Safety Team” if their feel their blog has been flagged unfairly.
Adult blogs are now unsearchable.
If your blog has been flagged as Adult, nothing you post will ever appear on Tumblr’s public tag searches. Your posts will only be visible to your own followers and the followers of people who reblog your content.
This means that if you want to publicize something like a Kickstarter campaign or political message, or even to signal boost a personal plea for help, that post will still not show up on Tumblr’s internal search engine. You are cut off from everyone except your own circle of followers.
Also, Many Tumblr users are finding that some tags have disappeared entirely from Tumblr’s iPhone app.
It’s unclear whether this is directly linked to the new content restrictions, but for example, iPhone users searching the #gay, #lesbian or #bisexual tags have reported seeing the result “No posts found,” although #bi, #lgbt and #queer still produce results. [READ MORE]
Continuing to reblog this story because this is 100% bad news bears.
This is an awkward situation all around. How do you think Tumblr could have handled this situation better, folks? I bet they’d love constructive feedback here. Shoot us an ask. Will share the best ideas with everyone.
Head on over to ShortFormBlog for a interesting discussion on how Tumblr should manage its complicated NSFW issue.
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As World’s Largest Solar Thermal Plant Opens, California Looks to End Solar Wars
“After controversy over a threatened species delayed several large solar projects, state officials are trying to broker an agreement between conservation groups and solar companies on a path forward for renewable energy.”
Learn more in the latest radio story from KQED Science.
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After discovering an issue which could allow passwords to be compromised, Tumblr has released what it describes as a “very important security update” for its iPhone and iPad apps and asked users to change their passwords.
Get those passwords changed everyone!
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Settling the debate over the nature of the T. rex
One question has hounded the T. rex, perhaps the most famous dinosaur of them all, for years. Were they terrifying, active predators? Overgrown vultures? Or perhaps a mix of the two?
Now for the first time, there’s direct evidence that T. rexes were hunters, with palentologists discovering a vertebrae of a hadrosaur that had healed around a T. rex tooth, suggesting the prey had been alive when it was bitten.
The tooth crown and vertebrae found in South Dakota’s Hell Creek Formation is “the piece that settles the controversy,” said University of Kansas paleontologist David Burnham, a member of the study team.
Read more over at Science Now.
Photos: Fallon E. Cohen, Robert DePalma, Rudolph Frank Pascucci
A planet where it rains glass. Sideways.
As ridiculous as that may sound, the Hubble space telescope has discovered HD 189733b, a blue planet 63 light-years away from Earth.
That blue color, and the aforementioned rain of glass, is theorized to be due to “high clouds laced with silicate particles.”
The silicates condense in the planet’s extreme heat — 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. Winds of 4,500 mph hurl the small drops of glass through the atmosphere, which “scatters” the blue light.
Read more on the crazy planet over at Science Now.
Happy Fifth Anniversary App Store! Steve Jobs didn’t want you.
As Apple fanatics mark the fifth anniversary of the wildly-successful and game changing app store that has proved so integral to the success of the iPhone, it’s worth remembering that legendary former CEO Steve Jobs wasn’t for such a marketplace from the beginning:
…when the iPhone first landed in 2007, the company was primarily concerned that it actually work and be seen as a stable device when it got into the hands of users. So Apple did not make it possible for third parties to write apps that ran on the phone, worried that glitchy apps might ding the iPhone’s reputation.
Read the full story on the App Store’s emergence, prompted in part by the persistent efforts of jailbreakers, via tech reporter Chris O’Brien here.
Photo: Evan Vucci / Associated Press
Skunk Works’ secretive 70th birthday
Palmdale quietly plays host to Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works, a tightly-guarded and highly secretive weapons development facility that has developed some of the most well-known aircraft in recent history.
Despite a culture of secrecy (90% of its workforce dedicated to classified projects, after all) it’s well-known that this year marks the site’s 70th anniversary. It’s first project all the way back in 1943? Developing a rival to German jet-powered aircraft.
Read more on Skunk Works’ history via Money & Co.
Photos: Lockheed Martin Corp.