Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Congratulations Discovery!

Nothing celebrates human achievement like the conquest of space. Nothing.

Nothing shows man at his productive, achieving, rational best than sending several tons of high-tech materials and seven human beings up into space by means of a controlled explosion, and bringing it and they safely back down again.

To the Discovery team and the crew who returned successfully this morning, I salute you with a passage from Tennyson's tribute to the hero Ulysses.

Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

TAGS Science, Poetry, Heroes


  1. Too true!
    I take my hat off to the men 7 women who climb aboard a guided missile jammed full of explosives and ride it into space!

  2. I disagree on this particular example. The space shuttle isn't the pinnacle, it's the low. We had better launch capabilities in the 60s then in 21st century. The ISS is a stupid waste of money.

    I suggest you read the brilliant novel "Voyage" by Stephen Baxter, the SF author occupying the 1st spot on my favorite SF authors list.

  3. What about SpaceShipOne? They did it without pointing guns at taxpayers heads.

  4. Yes, private space exploration without putting the hand in the taxpayer's pocket would be better in every way, but that doesn't invalidate the achievement: another there-and-back trip into space. That's thrilling.

  5. Visting the Space Center late last year was a thrill. Standing under a Saturn Rocket the scale of what they did/do is immense. I only wish I could have been there for a launch!

  6. I have to say that the beginning of space exploration in the 1960s and the establishment of NASA by JFK have accelerated the invention of new technologies that we take for granted these days. A lot of modern gadgets (mostly in electronics & computing, plus mechanical engineering) we use today, their origin can be traced back to research in space exploration over the last 50 years or so.

    I can mention one of those great engineering achievement that has started with NASA in the 1960s. This engineering technology is called "Kalman Filter" (KF), which is named after Professor Rudolf Kalman, a mathematical system theorist. This mathematical technique (or algorithm) called KF, have exploded into new areas of applications. NASA first used KF for Apollo program in 1969 for rocket guidance. Every missile, commercial shippings, commercial airlines of today uses KF for its guidance and satellite navigation. So, if you fly from Auckland to London, just bear in mind to thank Rudolf Kalman for developing the "Kalman Filter" which enables your plane to arrive at the right destination and not arrived at wrong destination such as the south poles.

    Today KF is still used mainly in engineering & physics for building electronic gadgets, as in DSP (digital signal processor) chipset which embeds in every computer, mobile phones, pda, dishwasher, microwave oven, washing machine, fridge, telecommunication systems, avionics, image processing, robotics, control systems design, medical instrumentations and whatever devices on earth that uses a DSP. Other fields of applications have sprung up in modelling the dynamics of economic & financial systems, which varies from forecasting interest rates, de-noising (taking out noise, error or outliers) high frequency stock price volatilities to many other things as investigating the "what-if-scenarios" when changing certain parameters of the KF. It has found applications in business decision making where MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, no not Manukau Institute of Technology, don't be confuse if you are from New Zealand), have established a group for "Business Dynamics" at their Business School. They research on how to model business decisions of managers by using feed-back control of dynamical systems of KF. KF has found applications in modelling of weather & climate, which is again used to do "what-if-scenario". The only extreme cases of KF "what-if-scenario" modelling that what alarmists, reporters & Green Peace are crying out loud that we are doomed. New applications in computational biology have emerged over recent times. Biologists have used KF dynamical systems modelling to model how chemical cell reactions are initiated in one area (cause) can propagate its effects to other areas or the same cell or other parts of the body. Thus studying of the cell feed-back dynamic processes using KF give biologists vital ideas & knowledge about the mechanism it works. Pharmaceutical companies can use such knowledge in perfecting medical treatment or perfecting the designing of drugs. I am sure that there will be many more applications to come from NASA KF originated technology.

    At the beginning of this year I have tried to pitch for some contract work at the Reserve Bank in Wellington and also the ANZ bank for developing a small module Java Kalman Filter software to be used by their analysts in modelling the interest rates. The reserve bank have never replied after emailing them twice. The ANZ head of derivatives replied back but said that their work is relied heavily on 2 researchers (PhD) from the Reserve Bank. My email was based on 2 economics peer review papers found on the internet that described how KF was used for modelling interest rates and predicting its long term trend in the UK. I assumed that no one at the Reserve Bank understands Kalman Filter which why they didn't contact me back. For Christ Sake, this is a government body that suppose to know everything and anything about economics. This means that they should subscribed to every available economics & finance peer review journals out there. That is their job, to scour different economics literatures and find information that might be vital to their research. I believe that they are still relying heavily on textbooks. Textbook is fine, but latest research in any field including economics is not going to appear in Textbook once they are being published. I am sure those researches will make it to textbook after some 6 or more years after it has appeared in peer review. On the other assumptions I had, was that I should perhaps changed my name from "Falafulu Fisi" to "John Wayne". Perhaps that whoever at the Reserve Bank who read my email message, thought, "what the fuck is this coconut, going to advice me on interest rates". I think that I am going to try again but from "John Wayne" rather than "Falafulu Fisi".

    One local company that I know of which has developed Kalman Filter into their technology is the New Zealand darling of high tech industries, "Navman" , from North shore that has already been sold by founder Peter Maire to a US investor for $100 millions. I admire Peter Maire a lot as he concentrated on what he's got and develop his successful business from there and not lobby government for legislation. He is in direct contrast to another darling (or perhaps the proper term is internet queen), Annette Presley the lobbyist. They (Navman) develop a mapping software gadget that guides a driver around the country via GPS. I know this when I downloaded a peer review paper in IEEE Transactions of digital signal processing journal on the subject of Kalman Filter after Googling and to my surprise, the authors are from AUT. An excellent paper which described the improvement of the KM model from what other researchers had previously published. Also, the authors mentioned that one of them (PhD post-doc student) have been employed at Navman to develop KM into their technology. KM has changed dramatically from the time since it was first developed in the 1960s, with constant improvement and modification to the original model, and all these are being published in different journals, from fields as far as biology, economics & finance, businesses, electronics, physics, engineering, etc. Kalman-based technology is only one of the many many NASA originated technology, I just prefer to mention it here because of its wider applications in many fields.

    So, I join PC in saluting the Discovery team, since without the innovations that started in the space exploration industries about 50 years or so, I wondered if my cell phone would still be a primitive gadget.

    Professor Rudolf Kalman:

    Mathematics of Kalman Filter:

  7. Falafulu Fisi said...

    [Kalman Filter has found applications in modelling of weather & climate, which is again used to do "what-if-scenario". The only extreme cases of KF "what-if-scenario" modelling that what alarmists, reporters & Green Peace are crying out loud that we are doomed.]

    Since I always like to back up my claim with facts about scientific peer review publications, here is the web site for Kalman Filter research application in Weather & Climate modeling. You can find a lot of papers here. I suggest any ENVIRONMENTALIST fanatics who are reading this, to read of what I have been and other scientists have said all along about the "What-if-scenarios" in mathematical modelings. In mathematical modelings , you (the modeler) can input unrealistic physical parameter to the model and then test what the output is like. Example, I can input as CO2 volume per cubic meter, and input it to the Kalman Filter to simulate. Depending on the model that the experimenter is building, the output, will pop-out say a temperature of 50 Celcius. You can put in a hypothetical volume of CO2 into the model and it will come up with a huge rise in temperature. This is the extreme (hypothetical) value that dumb reporters & lobbyists get to report where it stirs a hysteria in the public (including politicians who jumped up to draft legislation). I tell you all treehuggers, that your worries is only a mathematical construct and not potential physical realities at all. Click in any of the links to read the 'abstracts' of the papers or download the whole paper and read, then understand. Alll or most of the papers are peer reviewed in "Monthly Weather Review" journal.

    So, if any Green party supporters lurking around here or Green Peace and tree huggers dare to read the abstracts of those papers or get the full papers, then you can understand what I have been preaching all along here at "NotPC", that you are all nutters who don't understand science at all. All you do is spew shit about this and that , we (humans) are doomed because of this and that.

    There are many publications on using Kalman Filter in Economics but here is the use of Kalman Filter :

    "The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics"

    I say to the Tree Huggers and Green Party Supporters and Green Peace members, please come up with a better scientific argument and don't try to cling to outdated and fraud 'hockey-stick' model.