4 min read

Friday, December 15, 2023

Good morning. Have I mentioned Puzzmo before? It's yet another word games website, but with an emphasis on playfulness and creative design. I'm enjoying it (especially the new Wordbind game). Join me there, if you like. Okay, let's go.

I pondered last week what the Hubble telescope is up to now that the Webb telescope is the big man on campus. Well, it turns out the Hubble telescope is... falling apart at the seams.

Three of the six gyros installed on Hubble in 2009 have failed, and three others remain operational. The three still-functioning gyros are based on a newer design for longer life, but one of these units has shown signs of wear in the last few months. This gyroscope, designated Gyro 3, has always exhibited "consistent noisy behavior," said Pat Crouse, Hubble project manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Hubble typically needs three gyros to operate normally, so ground controllers shut down Gyro 3 for roughly seven years until Hubble needed it in 2018, when another gyroscope failed, leaving only three of the devices still working.
"Back in August, we saw issues," Crouse told Ars this week. "It would sort of sporadically output some rate information that was not consistent with the observed spacecraft body rates, but it was short-lived, and we were characterizing what that performance was like and how much we could tolerate."
The gyro's performance worsened in November when it fed Hubble's control system erroneous data. The gyroscope sensed that the spacecraft was changing its orientation when it really wasn't moving. "That, then, contributed to an error in attitude that was kind of causing a little bit of drift," Crouse said.

So yeah. That's not good.

The article suggests NASA is considering a repair mission to keep Hubble functional and in orbit, but I think the writing is on the wall. Nothing gold can stay. We'll always have the Pillars of Creation.

Item 2: a list

Nights of Hanukkah, ranked:

  1. Sixth night (Hell yeah, real presents again. And it’s been a few days so everyone’s in the mood for more latkes!)
  2. Eighth night (Traditionally the best presents. Everyone’s sick of latkes and whoops, we forgot to buy more apple sauce, but this is the last night so let’s make them again. Don’t forget to clean the candle wax out of your menorah before you pack it up for next year!)
  3. Fourth night (Place-filler presents, but you finally fill up half of the menorah, so you don’t have to rush through the prayer so fast while you light the candles. Good for morale.)
  4. Seventh night (Gotta save the best presents for tomorrow night, but everyone appreciates a new book, right? We wouldn’t mind another latke, maybe, but we’re out of apple sauce and sour cream… Someone will get more at the grocery store tomorrow.)
  5. Second night (Bad presents, but you might make some latkes.)
  6. Third night (Still bad presents, nobody wants to bother with latkes anymore.)
  7. First night (Usually you kick things off with a decent present. But you realize you never bothered to clean out the candle wax from the menorah on night eight last year.)
  8. Fifth night (Just killing time until night six when the present quality ramps up a bit. We could make latkes but it’s getting late. Let’s just light the frickin’ candles and try on our new socks.)

Item 3: a media recommendation

For some reason, only 92 million people have watched this video of Mark Knopfler performing "Brothers in Arms" in Berlin in 2007.

Item 4: word of the week


You can call me hedonistic. Call me Dionysian. Call me a sybarite. I don't care. Just keep the cheddar bay biscuits coming.

Item 5: a photograph

Overtures Lounge - Birmingham, AL - designed by Joyce K. Wynn, Inc. - from the book, ‘Restaurant Design: Ninety-Five Spaces that Work’ by Susan Colgan (1987)

See ya!

This closing section is going to be wildly dissonant with the usual tone of the newsletter but you know what? I made some silly jokes about Hanukkah while Israel is carpet-bombing the Gaza Strip, and if I left it at that someone (especially someone who thinks there's no difference between Judaism and Israeli nationalism) could easily come away from this thinking I'm on board with that. Which I'm not.

So, for the record, I don't support Israel's inhumane campaign against the Palestinian people. As someone who lived through 9/11 and watched a frightened, angry, and confused America spend decades working with our allies to kill thousands of innocent people and make pretty much everything worse, I really hope Israel manages to turn back from its current path. One day's victims should do everything possible not to become the next day's oppressors - and no one should know that better than the people of Israel.

In the meantime, I hope people can find a way to recognize that it's perfectly possible (indeed, quite sensible) to be Jewish - even Jewish and Israeli - and harshly criticize the terrible decisions made by the Israeli government. (And this should also go without saying, but it's perfectly possible to harshly criticize the Israeli government without condoning, let along celebrating, acts of terror committed against Israeli citizens.)

With that sober note aside, this has been fun. See you next week when I plan to keep it dumb as usual.