Tastes Like Chicken

Wednesday, December 18, 2002
_Repairing a radiation damaged spacecraft orbitting Jupiter from Earth

After the other objectives had been achieved by the Galileo craft, flight controllers decided to push it well beyond the environmental extremes it was designed to withstand on the chance that the craft would survive the radiation assault a close swoop in to the planet would bring, letting them collect scientific data otherwise unavailable.
The spacecraft automatically shut down all of its instruments in response to the high radiation. Most were successfully reactivated 10 days later but the tape device refused to respond to commands.

Engineers traced the problem to a light-emitting diode (LED) within the electronics that control the tape player's motor drive. They suspect that protons from Jupiter's radiation belt may have disrupted the crystalline lattice of the semiconductor material from which the diode is made.

To correct the problem, the Galileo engineers repeatedly directed an electrical current though the diode for an hour at a time. This prompted the atoms to shift back to their lattice positions. This annealing treatment lasted for a total of 83 hours.
Goddamn that's cool. How fucking great do you think the guy that figured that out felt?

UPDATE: The Washington Post takes a look at back at the Galileo mission's 13 year history of achievement, problem solving and knowledge gathering, including the only pictures taken of the aftermath of comet fragments striking Jupiter in 1993.

Monday, December 16, 2002
_Music CD sales are down because the industry made fewer to sell
Research by George Zieman gives the true reason for falling CD sales: the major labels have slashed production by 25 per cent in the past two years, he argues.

After keeping the figure rather quiet for two years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) says the industry released around 27,000 titles in 2001, down from a peak of 38,900 in 1999. Since year-on-year unit sales have dropped a mere 10.3 per cent, it's clear that demand has held up extremely well: despite higher prices, consumers retain the CD buying habit.

Heavens, you'd be forgiven for thinking the labels slashed investment with the intention of seeing overall demand decline. Perhaps there's a more benign explanation, however: A&R budgets are set well in advance, and with Napster causing a mighty panic amongst industry executives a couple years ago, they decided to cut the rosters, close their eyes and wait for a bomb that never went off. But far from being besieged by CD-burning vandals, the music industry is seeing astonishingly resilient demand.
Got that? They released 25% fewer different albums, but sales only dropped 10%. Fuck the RIAA, and the MPAA they rode in on.