NASA Open Notebook Science Talk April 09
On April 15, 2009 I had an opportunity to give a talk at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. I talked about Open Notebook Science and all of the Web 2.0 tools that we use to operate. There were no chemists in the audience but hopefully the overall patterns of how all the components interconnected made enough sense to be useful.
I had a full hour so this talk is a pretty comprehensive summary of our projects, including the most recent work on the Spectral and ChemTiles games and the automated backing up of Google Spreadsheet documents and semi-automated solubility calculations using web services called from within Google Spreadsheets. All of this work was only possible because of Andy Lang's rapid development efforts. Tony Williams also assisted greatly with the Spectral Game.
We had a very nice conversation over lunch with a few NASA people. I found it interesting that many apparently very different user environments (librarians, educators, molecular biologists, cosmologists, etc.) share very similar needs for Web2.0 technologies. For example delicious was lauded as a very convenient alternative to email for sharing content. The distribution of personalities seems to be similar everywhere: a few early adopters within a larger more skeptical population.
After lunch Emma Antunes gave me a tour of the facilities. Despite the annoying rain to get between buildings, it was well worth it. Here are some of the cool things that I saw:
An enormous room housing very large speakers for testing the effect of vibrations on spacecraft and equipment. Emma stands next to one of the several speakers.
A huge centrifuge for testing the robustness of instruments. Emma said that they were able to put an SUV on there to how much force was required to tip it over.
I saw one of the satellites for the Solar Dynamics Observatory under construction. The idea of this project is to use the different perspectives from satellites at different positions in orbit around the sun to calculate the direction of solar flares and other potentially detrimental activity on the sun.
Next to the largest clean room in the world, there is a display of the guts of the Hubble telescope. Apparently the astronauts had to fix some components in there that were not designed to be accessible so they had to do a lot of practice on a duplicate before attempting the task in space.