Happy Birthday, Skylab

On this date in 1973, when we were in elementary school, NASA launched Skylab from Kennedy Space Center. As with other projects, like the Hubble Telescope, not everything was right with the first American space station at the beginning. But in-space repairs made real science in space—and living there—a reality for our generation. Apollo astronauts like Pete Conrad and Alan Bean spent time on Skylab, … Continue reading Happy Birthday, Skylab

Irish Scientists

This coming Saturday marks St. Patrick’s Day, a cultural and religious holiday and general celebration of Ireland with which we grew up. In fact, more than 34 million (some say 41 million) Americans claim Irish heritage, which is roughly nine times the population of Ireland and, somehow, reason enough itself for a party. What better way for Lofty Ambitions to celebrate this week than to … Continue reading Irish Scientists

Opportunity Knocks

On January 25, 2004, a robotic rover called Opportunity landed on the surface of Mars, our closest neighbor planet. Opportunity’s life story is a good model for thinking about our own human goals. It took more than five months and more than 34 million miles to get there, but that day marked the beginning of the rover’s real work. The next 21-plus miles has been … Continue reading Opportunity Knocks

In the Footsteps (Part 11)

We spent yesterday in Pasadena—at CalTech and Vroman’s Bookstore—because that’s how we chose to spend one of Doug’s vacation days. We had been planning to visit the CalTech archives for a while, but we chose yesterday because our colleague Tom Zoellner was reading at Vroman’s from his new book A Safeway in Arizona: What the Gabrielle Giffords Shooting Tells Us about the Grand Canyon State … Continue reading In the Footsteps (Part 11)

On This Date: Lunar Eclipse & More!

Last night, we set our alarm for 5:30a.m. so that we could take a look at the total lunar eclipse. A total eclipse had occurred earlier this year, in June, but it wasn’t visible from North America. The moon hung in our western sky, its face three-quarters in shadow. We watched the slow process, which takes several hours, for about ten minutes. Then set the … Continue reading On This Date: Lunar Eclipse & More!

Talking with an Astronaut

At 7pm TODAY at Chapman University, the astronaut who sent the first tweet from outer space joins the screening and discussion of An Article of Hope. Astronaut Michael Massimino, live via videoconference from Houston, will talk with the film’s producer, who is also our first Guest Blogger Christopher Cowen. The documentary is about Israel’s first astronaut, Ilan Ramon, a payload specialist on the ill-fated Columbia … Continue reading Talking with an Astronaut

New Shower Curtain

Our new shower curtain featuring the Periodic Table arrived from ThinkGeek. It’s a little flimsier than we’d hoped, with no magnets at the bottom and little reinforcement around the holes for the curtain rings. But the design is great, and the colors really perk up the bathroom. We’ll get a liner to extend the life of this fancy shower curtain–and so that the full periodic … Continue reading New Shower Curtain

Good Day to Be Born, if you want a Nobel Prize (or to donate blood)

German chemist Richard Willstätter was born on August 13, 1872. He studied plant’s pigment structures, including the structure of chlorophyll. For that work, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1915. Italian microbiologist Salvador Luria was born on this date in 1912. He shared the Noble Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1969 for work with bacteria and inheritance. That’s especially important in … Continue reading Good Day to Be Born, if you want a Nobel Prize (or to donate blood)

What Toys Did You Have?

Last week, a friend posted a story from Science Daily that reported that having books in the home has as great an influence on a child’s eventual level of education as does the parents’ levels of education. We’ve long felt that the books in our homes (see our earlier post on encyclopedias) helped shape who we’ve become and fueled our curiosity about the world. But … Continue reading What Toys Did You Have?

July 4: Guiding Examples

As we celebrate Independence Day, we also commemorate the lives of Thomas Jefferson and Marie Curie, who died on July 4. Jefferson, who died in 1826, collected fossils, liked gadgets, and used a scientific technique for farming, which included a seven-year plan for crop rotation. In other times, he might have become a scientist: “Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering … Continue reading July 4: Guiding Examples