Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for January 28, 2011

Image Credit: Computer Costume from the 80s [Make]

[Theme: Hi-Tech Living and Loving] -- Last week's theme was so much fun that I decided to expand on it for this week. We now move from the concept of Better Living through Science to how exactly are people living with the latest tech? Although you probably cannot turn around without tripping over one today, computers only started to enter everyday life in the 80s. And for every person who was excited for the new possibilities that these devices represented, there was someone equally anxious about the rise and proliferation of computers and computer control. In today's digital age of Google, Facebook, and internet advertising, privacy and security top the lists of people's big concerns. But at the onset of the computer age, folks were worried about being replaced by a machine -- or even losing their very souls. Think about Tron (1982), WarGames (1983) and Electric Dreams (1984), all of which had plots featuring computers that seemingly, or actually, came to life and challenged their human creators for control. Issues of alienation, loneliness, and loss of control, however, are as relevant today as they were in the 80s. Now, I could have gone quite dark with this theme, but I am in a good mood this week so I kept the choices fairly light. I hope you appreciate this week's collection of toe-tappers about the human spirit interfacing with cold, logical machines. 

Read and hear more after the jump.

25 Years Ago Today: The Challenger Shuttle Disaster

Tuesday, January 28, 1986: The space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds after launch, killing all seven astronauts aboard, including Christa McAuliffe, intended to be the first teacher in space. Other astronauts killed were Francis "Dick" Scobee, Michael J. Smith, Ellison S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair and Gregory B. Jarvis.
Challenger Explosion (from Wikipedia)

I remember it today as though I were looking through the wrong end of a telescope -- it's far away and tiny, but the emotional punch is still there. It was my senior year of high school. I was with other students waiting in the hallway outside the gym for the class bell. Before that bell went off, the principal spoke over the PA system, saying he had to make a special announcement. I remember thinking how odd it was for him to break in at that time of day. And then he said some words I was sure I had not heard correctly: "The Challenger exploded just after takeoff. There are no survivors."

I was stunned. I stood there blinking. And then someone next to me -- no, I don't recall who it was -- asked the question that was on my mind, "Did he just say what I think he said?"

The rest of the day passed in a sorrowful haze.

Exploration, particularly space exploration, is a dangerous and risky business. But it is necessary because it satisfies the human impulse to push boundaries, and because of the technological rewards we reap when those boundaries are pushed. Never take for granted the pioneers who make the life we live possible.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for January 21, 2011

Image from How Do You Know You're Doing Science Wrong? []

[Theme: Better Living Through Science] -- This week's theme was inspired by a fan video that I just happened to see in my Facebook newsfeed yesterday. I'm using that very same video today, so you'll have to wait until later for specific details about it [Update 1/22/2021: that fan video is no longer available, so I replaced it; womp womp]. For now, all I want to say about it is that this particular video took footage from the current incarnation of an older TV series and set it to a great song from a crazy-fun 80s movie (a movie that inspired a slightly entertaining 90s TV series, but that's a bit tangential for today). 

"Science," I said to myself, "is a perfect theme for me to use in an 80s flashback!" Why is it so perfect? Well, I spent 1982-1986 in what was called the Scientific curriculum at my high school. I then spent the remainder of the 80s pursuing a Physics degree at Penn State. Yes, I was a good little nerd during that seminal decade. So, of course, I love music that is infused with technology -- or music that at least has lyrics influenced by science and technology. It may not be the best stuff for studying how to use bracket notation or matrix computations, but it is the absolute best music for celebrating after surviving another difficult exam.

Or celebrating a long work week. Like, perhaps, this week.  

If you want to know what songs your mad scientist has in the mix today, read and hear more after the jump.

"I Ran Out Of Tiles!"

Interesting and fun, but this article does not address the most important question regarding the longest word: How the heck do you use a word with 1,913 letters in Scrabble? I mean, wouldn't you have lost the game by the time you amassed enough tiles for it? What's The Longest Word In The English Language? : Krulwich Wonders… : NPR

Friday, January 14, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for January 14, 2011

[MLK] -- Let me begin with an apology: I'm sorry this week's flashback is only getting posted during Friday's last few minutes. Unfortunately, my day job required more of my time than usual. I can't promise it won't happen again, but I will do my best to keep such occurrences to a minimum.

So, where were we? Oh, yes! This week's flashback.

Many folks are enjoying a three-day weekend because they are employed at a business that observes Martin Luther King Day, a celebration of the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. So, I figured that it would be great to kick off the weekend with 80s songs about, inspired by, or in some way reminiscent of MLK. Now, I do not want to assume that everyone visiting Prophet or Madman for the Friday 80s Flashback knows why MLK is honored with a federal holiday. However, I don't want to spend too much time explaining it either. Fortunately, with sites such as The King Center and MLK Online providing easy access to archival footage, audio clips, service information, etc., I can simply point you in their direction. So, surf on over before festivities begin on Monday. You can even look at them before you delve any further into this week's flashback. 

Go on, I'll wait. 

Oh, you can't wait to find out what songs I have selected to go with this theme? Well, then, read and hear more after the jump.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

My 80s Music Cred

In case folks are wondering about my credentials for doing the Friday 80s Flashback, here is a sampling of 45s from my youth.

And, yes, they are still in my possession.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Friday 80s Flashback for January 7, 2011

[Ring in the New] -- Welcome to 2011!  A brand new year always seems so full of potential, does it not? In honor of the potential that comes with a new year, the theme for this week's flashback is songs that in some way celebrate some aspect of ... well, the new. Those of you who have been following along for any stretch of time know that I tend to avoid the obvious choices, so don't hold your breath for U2's 1983 single, "New Years Day." And although Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" would be a great message for the new year, it has been all over pop culture the last few years (The Sopranos, Glee, Family Guy, San Francisco Giants / World Series Anthem, American Idol, etc.) so I stayed away from it as well. Even so, I think I've managed to make some rather choice selections. So, by all means, read and hear more after the jump.