NASA and DARPA Plan ‘Hundred-Year Starship' (Contemporary Mayflower)

By Rebecca Boyle Posted 10.20.2010 at 3:47 pm 35 Comments

This Mars miner will probably never go home again. NASA

If NASA ever gets a clear directive for interplanetary exploration, a new Hundred-Year Starship could be their version of the Mayflower. And like the first pilgrims, Martian explorers might set sail with the knowledge they would never return home.

NASA and DARPA have joined forces to build something called a Hundred-Year Starship, according to the director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. Simon “Pete” Worden said NASA contributed $100,000 to the project and DARPA kicked in $1 million.

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” Worden said, according to a Singularity University blog that covered the event. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.” (Worden added that he was fired by President George W. Bush.)

Beyond that, there are no details. But the prospect of a DARPA-NASA spaceship collaboration for Star Trek-esque exploration sounds thrilling — even if by definition, a 100-year ship means leaving Earth and never coming back.

Incidentally, that’s exactly the proposal in a new paper in press in the Journal of Cosmology, a relatively new, peer-reviewed open access journal. Dirk Schulze-Makuch and Paul Davies suggest sending astronauts to Mars with the intention of staying for the rest of their lives, as trailblazers for a permanent Mars colony.

[Kurzweil AI, ScienceDaily]

Reminds me of the movie Sunshine.

A Role for Semantic Web Technologies in Patient Record Data Collection

I found out today that not only is the Linking Enterprise Book now available but it is also freely available online as well as in other avenues (Springer and pre-order on Amazon):

Linking Enterprise Data is the application of Semantic Web architecture principles to real-world information management issues faced by commercial, not-for-profit and government enterprises.This book aims to provide practical approaches to addressing common information management issues by the application of Semantic Web and Linked Data research to production environments.


I wrote a chapter ("A Role for Semantic Web Technologies in Patient Record Data Collection") discussing the debate around SOAP-based web services and Representational State Transfer (REST) that focuses on a specific, deployed use case that emphasizes the role of the Semantic Web, a simple Web application architecture that leverages the use of declarative XML processing, and the needs of a workflow system for patient record data collection.  It touches just a bit some of the use of XForms to manage patient record content as special-purpose XML dialects for RDF graphs that I mentioned in my last post but is mostly focused on how to use RDF to manage workflow state to orchestrate data collection of patient data.

Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) are a component of the stack of Web standards that comprise Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Such systems are representative of the architectural framework of modern information systems built in an enterprise intranet and are in contrast to systems built for deployment on the larger World Wide Web. The REST architectural style is an emerging style for building loosely coupled systems based purely on the native HTTP protocol. It is a coordinated set of architectural constraints with a goal to minimize latency, maxi- mize the independence and scalability of distributed components, and facilitate the use of intermediary processors. Within the development community for distributed, Web-based systems, there has been a debate regarding the merits of both approaches. In some cases, there are legitimate concerns about the differences in both architec- tural styles. In other cases, the contention seems to be based on concerns that are marginal at best. 

In this chapter, we will attempt to contribute to this debate by focusing on a specific, deployed use case that emphasizes the role of the Semantic Web, a simple Web application architecture that leverages the use of declarative XML processing, and the needs of a workflow system. The use case involves orchestrating a work process associated with the data entry of structured patient record content into a research registry at the Cleveland Clinic’s Clinical Investigation department in the Heart and Vascular Institute

Quotīdiē ❧ The Lost Hughes

The fear that cripples me,
Is how my bride will be
Upon our wedding night;
That I will have chosen
A Phaedra-monster of my own,
Who will betray me
As my father is betrayed.
Better be alone
And take what comes.'
—from "Hippolytus" by Frieda Hughes

A few months ago I came across Frieda Hughes's 2003 collection Waxworks at Trident Booksellers of Boulder.  I browsed it not expecting much, because I hadn't been overly impressed by anything I'd read from Frieda previously.  I did like several of the poems I selected at random, and bought the volume.  Just a couple of weeks ago, I started reading it properly, and that same week I came across news of a lost Ted Hughes poem.  I've certainly mused a lot about the Plath/Hughes family, and written about them, including here, and on TNB, in "Slender Mitochondrial Strand".  I've never been much for soap operas, but in the lives of poets and their companions, whether it's the fate of Vivienne Eliot née Haigh-Wood or the sexuality of Sappho, it's really the manifestation in poetry that fixes my interest.  The Plath/Hughes drama is clearly aforefront when the journalist writes:

The poem, a final coda to one of 20th-century literature's most fraught and tragic romances, was hailed as the "missing link" in Hughes' writing about his American first wife, who gassed herself at the age of 30 in February 1963. It is the first time that Hughes has directly addressed the events of Plath's death.

But the drama also carries all presage of a great poem, which is published in a special edition of the New Statesman magazine.  As the journal's Weblog crows, "Exclusive: Ted Hughes’s poem on the night Sylvia Plath died:"

In tomorrow's New Statesman, which has been guest-edited by Melvyn Bragg, we publish a previously unseen poem by Ted Hughes. "Last letter" is a poem that describes what happened during the three days leading up to the suicide of his first wife, the poet Sylvia Plath. Its first line is: "What happened that night? Your final night." -- and the poem ends with the moment Hughes is informed of his wife's death.

Hughes's best-known work is 1998's Birthday Letters, a collection of poems that detail his relationship with Plath. Though the published poems make reference to Plath's suicide, which occurred in February 1963, when she and Hughes were separated but still married, none of them addresses directly the circumstances of her death. This, then, would appear to be the "missing link" in the sequence.

The entry includes several images of various hand-written drafts of the poem, none of which are very legible to the casual eye.  In order to read the entire poem I'll have to get my hands on a copy of the current New Statesman, the subscription for which is not cheap.  I did check on WorldCat and it looks as if the University of Colorado at Boulder Library carries a subscription, so I'm planning to go look tomorrow.  I'm hoping it's not a wild goose chase like when WorldCat suggested the Denver Public Library had The collected poems of H. Phelps Putnam, and I drove over only to learn they'd lost it years ago.  If I find the poem, I'll post my thoughts on it here.

Meanwhile, for a teaser, Channel 4 UK had an actor recite an excerpt of the poem on air ("Newly discovered Ted Hughes poem"), and on their page I found a text excerpt:

What happened that night, inside your hours
Is as unknown as if it never happened.
What accumulation of your whole life,
Like effort unconscious, like birth
Pushing through the membrane of each slow second
Into the next, happened
Only as if it could not happen
As if it was not happening.

Very intriguing.  A faint whiff of Four Quartets but with Hughes's accustomed blood and guts, sharpened by the life experience itself.  I'm looking forward very much to getting my hands on a copy.

Why XML-based web forms are an excellent platform for clinical data entry into RDF

Uche and I have written a bit on XForms on copia. I've recently been motivated to better articulate why I think the use of XForms, Plain Old XML (POX), and GRDDL (or faithful renditions of RDF graphs if you will) is a more robust web architecture for managing mutable RDF content for the purpose of research data management than other thin-client approaches, for instance.

Some time ago, I asked:

Are there examples of tools or architectures that demonstrate support for the Model View Controller (MVC) paradigm for data entry directly against RDF content? It seems to be that there is an inherent impedance mismatch with that is needed for an efficient, documented-hosted, binding-oriented architecture for data entry and the amorphous nature of RDF as well as the cost of using RDF querying as a mechanism for binding data to UI elements. 

In my experience since 2006 as a software architect of web applications that use XForms to manage patient record documents as RDF graphs, I've come to appreciate that the 'CRUD problem' of RDF might have good protocol solutions being developed right now, but the question of whether there is anything more robust for forms-based data collection than declarative, auto-generated XForms that mange RDF datasets is a more difficult one, I think.

My personal opinion is that the nature of the abstract syntax of an RDF graph (as opposed to the tree underlying the XML infoset), its impact on binding RDF resources to widgets, and the ubiquitous use of warehouse relational schemas as infrastructure for RDF datasets in databases will always be an insurmountable performance impediment for alternative solutions at larger volumes that are more robust than using XForms to manage an XML collection on a filesystem as a faithful rendition of an RDF dataset.

RDF/SQL databases are normalized and optimized more for read than for write - with asymptotic consequences to write operations. An architecture that directly manages very large numbers (millions) of RDF triples will be faced with this challenge. The OLTP / OLAP divide in legacy relational architecture is analogous to the use of XML and RDF in those respective roles and is an intuitive architectural style for using knowledge representation in content management systems. GRDDL and its notion of faithful  renditions can be used to manage this divide as infrastructure for contemporary content management systems. 

For the purpose of read-only browsing, however, RDF lenses and facets are a useful alternative. However, if you need support for controlled vocabularies, heavily-dependent constraint validation, declarative and auto-generated templating, and large amounts of concurrent data entry over large amount of RDF data, the rich web architecture backplane is just very robust in my experience and in others as well. 

I had to dig into the way back machine to find the XML technologies presentation John and I were supposed to give in December of 2007 (right before my life changed forever). I need to bug him to put copies of those slides on his weblog about using XForms with schematron for real-time validation as a component of data entry.

"Bolder Barefoot" Audio

Uche's bolder bare FootI'm featured on the TNB podcast this week, reading my piece "Bolder Barefoot."  The production is by Aaron M. Snyder and Megan DiLullo, and I don't know what I did to deserve such awesomeness.  They've made me sound very nice, if I do say so myself, and they've also injected a lot of character into the proceedings.  It's also up on iTunes.  If you're not subscribed to TNB on iTunes, you should be.

Lullaby: The Tease

My dear friend Kimberly M. Wetherell, whom I delighted in meeting earlier this year, is a bright, upcoming filmmaker.  I enjoyed Ménage à Trois, and if you haven't seen the hilarious Why we Wax (link possibly NSFW) you are definitely missing out.  For the past year or so, Kimberly has been grinding hard to gain the necessary support for a far more ambitious work, Lullaby.  Based on a teaser for this feature film she put together and posted over the weekend, it could just be her masterpiece.  With the sights, sounds and emotional balance so compelling in this teensy peek upon her vision, I am eagerly looking forward to the completed work.

Quotīdiē ❧ She writes for nigeria

Nigerian female writers, it has been argued, really deserve commendation and encouragement with the value of impact they are making among their contemporaries in the Diaspora. Among over 400 leading women writers listed in Who's Who in Contemporary Women's Writing, edited by Jane Eldrodge Miller, Nigerians occupy conspicous percentage and position.

Some of these references include Flora Nwapa, a novelist, dramatist, short story writer and children's author; the late Zulu Sofola, novelist, dramatist, poet and children's literature writer; Kema Chikwe, a children writer, non fiction author and publisher; Tess Onwueme, a playwright; Mabel Segun, fiction writer, essayist and poet; Zaynab Alkali, novelist, short story writer and essayist; Buchi Emecheta, novelist and Catherine Acholonu, poet, dramatist, essayist and fiction writer. Others include Ifeoma Okoye, Adaora Lily Ulasi, Molara Ogundipe-Leslie and Ifi Amadiume. They have all proved their mettles in their various choice of genre and have won several awards in the world class record of literary circle.

—Yemi Adebisi, "Acholonu - Celebration of a Scholar," Daily Independent (Lagos)


"They've all proved their mettles..."
That definitely settles
How uncountably in fettle
Lies the pen upon that nettle.

But of course I digress.

Anyway, I've been observing for a while the current efflorescence of Nigerian women writers.  The above list does not even include Adichie, Oyeyemi, Atta, Nwaubani, and I could go on and on.  And then there is Okorafor another important example whom I've mentioned here on Copia before, and with whom I'm wrapping up a wonderful interview for The Nervous Breakdown.  Adebisi's full article is an extensive encomium of Acholonu, which is richly enough deserved, but my main interest was captured by the leading paragraphs I quoted above.  I don't know what is behind the phenomenon, but long may it continue.

Telescopes out: Earth making its closest approach to Jupiter since 1963




Jupiter as seen through an amateur telescopeBackyard astronomers, take note: Jupiter and Earth are approaching their near-yearly rendezvous, and this time the two planets will be closer together than they have been since 1963. The giant planet's proximity should make for good viewing, weather permitting—Jupiter will appear especially bright in the sky for several nights around its closest approach on September 20.

The planet should be highly visible to the naked eye; with Jupiter's apparent magnitude of –2.94, only the moon will be brighter after Venus sets relatively early in the evening. Apparent magnitude is a measure of an object's luminosity as viewed from Earth; faint objects have large positive magnitudes, whereas bright objects have large negative magnitudes. When Jupiter and Earth draw near, the nearly full moon will shine with an apparent magnitude of –11.87.

Jupiter will be visible in the direction of the constellation Pisces, appearing to the east and low in the sky at sunset, before moving toward the south as the night progresses. With a decent set of binoculars, stargazers may be able to identify Jupiter's four largest satellites, the Galilean moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. Sky & Telescope has a handy Web application that shows where to find the moons in relation to Jupiter at any given time.

Jupiter takes nearly 12 times as long to complete one orbit around the sun as our planet does, so Earth laps its much larger planetary counterpart every 399 days. Because both Earth and Jupiter follow slightly elongated elliptical orbits, the distance between the two planets varies with each rendezvous.

Jupiter is currently drawing closer to the inner solar system, including Earth, as it nears perihelion, its closest approach to the sun, in March 2011. On September 20 of this year, Jupiter and Earth will be separated by a mere 591,499,329 kilometers, about 11 million kilometers closer than in 2009, according to orbital data from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory's HORIZONS system. The last time that Jupiter was so close to Earth was October 1963, and it will not exceed the close proximity of this year's passage until September 2022.

Photo of Jupiter, with Europa visible at upper left: Joshua Bury/Flickr

Read More About: amateur astronomy, Jupiter, astronomy

I have access to a telescope.

Nkemjika Chloë Ogbuji

Lori and I have always wanted a girl, and it seems we're fourth time lucky.  Nkemjika Chloë Ogbuji was born 16 August 2010 at 2:26am weighing 7lbs 9oz, and 21in long (I'm sure all those archaic units of measure mean something).

Nkemjika is Igbo for "What I possess is greatest."  Short form "Nkem."  Chloë is of course from the Greek for "blossom," and echoes her parents in its letters.  It's a sacred epithet of Demeter, which I find especially satisfactory.  She is of course preceded by her brothers Ositadimma ("Osi"), Jideobi ("Jide") and Udoka, who have all been extraordinarily good big brothers so far.