By keeping the development of new satellite technology in the CIA, Wheelon was able to guide the direction of the technology. To him, the solution seemed obvious. Television stations could beam live images of football games across the country instantly, why couldn't the CIA's satellites transmit reconnaissance images from orbit?
The image tubes that TV cameras of the day used were too fragile and low resolution to use in orbit, but he found a promising new technology in AT&T's Bell Labs. Charge-coupled devices, or CCDs showed immense potential as electronic image sensors, but at the time the technology was still in its infancy. To keep the research alive, Wheelon started directing agency funds to support the lab's work on CCDs.
Wheelon left the CIA for the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1966, but his legacy continued as the CIA continued to support Bell Labs's CCD cameras. In 1976 the KH-11 KENNEN spy satellite was launched carrying the first electronic eye into orbit. It revolutionized the way we looked at Earth which revolutionized how we look at the rest of the universe.
Which is where the Hubble Space Telescope comes in because it's almost certainly a modified version of the basic KH-11 design. Though no official photos of the KH-11 satellites have been released, it's widely believed to bear more than a passing resemblance to the Hubble, with a long tube and a big curved mirror at its base to focus incoming light onto a CCD camera. When NASA was first designing the space telescope, they had originally planned on a mirror three meters across, but opted instead for one that 2.3 meters across to take advantage of mirror building machines built for spy satellites.
A piece by Ben Thompson that makes some points some of us believe. Of course the future is too murky for this to be considered a crystal ball, but I do wonder why so many are so bullish on companies that live on advertising revenue - let alone relatively fixed and ineffective subsets?
The problem for Google is that there is no obvious reason why they should win this category. Yes, they’re an ad company, but the key to native advertising on the Internet is the capability of producing immersive content within which to place the ad, such as Facebook’s newsfeed, Twitter’s stream, a Pinterest board, or even your typical news site’s home page. Sites like Buzzfeed have taken this idea to its logical conclusion: their content is basically a marketing tool meant to show advertisers how skilled they are at going viral. Google has nothing in this regard (with the notable exception of YouTube). Moreover, all of the things that make Google great at search and search advertising – the algorithm, the auction system, and machine learning – are skills that don’t really translate to the more touchy-feely qualities that make a social service or content site compelling.
And so we have our parallel to IBM and Microsoft. IBM didn’t capitalize on PCs because their skills lay on the hardware side, not software. Microsoft didn’t capitalize on mobile because they emphasized compatibility, not the user experience. And now Google is dominant when it comes to the algorithm, but lacks the human touch needed for social or viral content. And so, when all of that brand advertising finally begins to move from TV to the Internet – and that migration is a lot closer than it was even a year ago – I suspect that Google is not going to capture nearly as much of it as many observers might expect.
This is the primary basis of my thesis that Google may very well be in a similar situation to early-eighties IBM or early-oughts Microsoft: a hugely profitable company bestride the tech industry that at the moment seems infallible, but that history will show to have peaked in dominance and relevancy.
Ben is going to get a fair amount of feedback on this one:-)
But many of Lead Belly's original recordings no longer exist. The tapes that held his last sessions were beyond saving after the oxide on the top of the record fell off rendering it unplayable. Because conservators couldn't get to them earlier, those songs are lost forever. Let's repeat that — some of these songs, among the most significant in music history, are less than 100 years old but still lost to us for all time.
All sound recordings are equally at risk of disintegrating. Before digital technology, record companies created reels for albums by recording different sections of songs, then splicing those sections together using tape. Some of those original tapes are stored in several collections at the Smithsonian Museum.
"You can only imagine what has happened to these pieces of tapes," Jeff Place, an archivist for the Smithsonian Center for Folklike and Cultural Heritage told me. "Over time, every one of those tape breaks is going to break, and it's going to take an hour to transfer three minutes of a recording into a digital format where we can store it. So there are albums that take a whole day to save."
Place's job is to save sounds by whatever means necessary, so that recordings from 50 years ago sound as clear as they did when they were made — and sometimes even better. This means preserving the original recordings in the best possible condition, and for many albums, it means transferring the sound of the original recording to a digital format that will be easily accessible in the future.
Without sound archivists, we would not only lose access to early recordings of Elvis and R&B, as albums decayed and technology changed, but we'd also lose radio broadcasts from 50 years ago and oral histories of lost neighborhoods of New York City. Without archivists, we would be losing sound rapidly; instead, we're gaining it.
Because so many unknowns could be solved only in theory prior to the operation of a complete atomic power system, it was decided early that a full-scale land-based model should be built at the National Reactor Testing station in Idaho. This prototype was named STR Mark I. The propulsion plant which followed in the Nautilus would be STR Mark II.
* * *
In the early stages of design, the problems of obtaining some small amount of power from uranium fission seemed so overwhelming that it was planned to build Mark I as a “breadboard” arrangement, with machinery and piping systems spread out over a large floor area to allow easy access for installation, test, modification, or replacement. Rickover opposed this plan. He felt that years would be lost by breadboarding, since it required an additional stage in the development—the redesign of an operating breadboard model into a submarine hull. After several bitterly argued discussions within the project, Rickover made the decision to build Mark I as a land-based submarine to all the Naval specifications later to be required of Mark II. Here was the second example of courageous leadership, which contributed directly to the Nautilus success.
And so Mark I, although located almost as far from sea water as possible in the North American continent, was a true seagoing power plant—no shore-based engineering short cuts were allowed in its construction. As the Naval Reactors Branch engineers put it, “Mark I equals Mark II.” This meant that while they were designing the world’s first nuclear power plant, they also would have to meet the special problems of seagoing submarines. Some of these were:
1. At operating depths, a submarine experiences hundreds of pounds of sea pressure on each square inch of its surface—hundreds of thousands of tons on the entire vessel. This pressure must be resisted by the hull which is in contact with sea water. Mark I and all its components could withstand very high sea pressures.
2. A submarine and its machinery must be able to continue operation after enemy depth charges have exploded just outside the hull. Mark I was built to the high mechanical shock standards which resulted from the Navy’s World War II experiences. Some of its important units were shock tested to destruction in an actual submarine submerged in Chesapeake Bay, and then redesigned to strengthen the failures.
3. The Nautilus would need to take air into hr hull while submerged to refresh the atmosphere after long cruises under water and to provide oxygen to her stand-by diesel engines if her reactor failed in enemy waters. Pressure variations due to this “snorkeling” might disturb sensitive instrumentation systems. Mark I could snorkel.
4. When a submarine is submerged, the sea surrounding it tends to reflect dangerous atomic radiation back into spaces occupied by the crew. Mark I was placed in a large tank of water to test the atomic radiation problems of a submerged sub.
In short, Mark I was built to reproduce the conditions of an actual submarine power plant in every respect save one: it could not be tested in the motion of the open sea. The ability to withstand such motion was designed into the Mark I systems and components, however, and these items were individually tested for thousands of hours ashore under the conditions of ship motion experienced at sea.
Nuclear reactors used in ships and submarines are very different from land based power generating reactors. They have to be small and fairly light. They used highly enriched uranium as a fuel and, because of this, are under military control.
When groups like the National Academy of Sciences are asked to list existential threats to humanity medium to large scale nuclear war usually leads the list. Somehow we survived the Cold War, but the threat is still very large and disarmament has mostly been a slow process - with one remarkable exception. Thomas Neff...