Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mars Needs Architects!

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has found bright veins of a mineral, apparently gypsum, deposited by water. Analysis of the vein will help improve understanding of the history of wet environments on Mars.

"This tells a slam-dunk story that water flowed through underground fractures in the rock," said Steve Squyres of Cornell University, principal investigator for Opportunity. "This stuff is a fairly pure chemical deposit that formed in place right where we see it. That can't be said for other gypsum seen on Mars or for other water-related minerals Opportunity has found. It's not uncommon on Earth, but on Mars, it's the kind of thing that makes geologists jump out of their chairs."  
Gypsum. It's all around us, we see it every day, but not in its natural state. Yet it is so common that you probably don't even recognize it anymore. It is one of the main ingredients of one of the prime building blocks in the construction industry today, gypsum wallboard or drywall. It is in your walls and your ceilings of your home. With this one product finishing the walls in a house which used to take a week or more now only takes a couple of days.

And it's so easy to use nearly anyone can do it. I know that for a fact. I finished off the basement of our previous house. Okay, the results weren't exactly professional quality and it took me a lot longer than originally planned but it worked and it looked nice. As an architect I need to know how to use gypsum board correctly, I don't need to know how to "use" it.

Finding this mineral on Mars is the best indication we have that water was once prevalent on the planet, and if there was water there was a good chance there was life.

In other news from NASA they are looking for new astronaut candidates. While the Space Shuttle program is over astronauts are still needed to man the International Space Station and work towards our manned mission to Mars. Maybe I should apply. They might need an architect.

One thing is for certain, with finding gypsum on Mars when we do put that first human settlement on Mars if we ever need more room we'll at least be able to finish off the basement.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Whack-a-Mole Business Model

Today was one of those days, I mean it was one of THOSE days. Before I left work last night I made a list of everything I wanted to accomplish this morning when I arrived at work.

Ha. I should have known better.

When I arrived my email was filling rapidly, my phone was red lighted (I had messages already), and shop drawings were stacked in my inbox.

Everyone knows how to play Whack-A-Mole. When the game begins, you take your mallet in hand, and try to hit the moles as they pop up.
If the player does not strike a mole within a certain time or with enough force, it will eventually sink back into its hole with no score. Although gameplay starts out slow enough for most people to hit all of the moles that rise, it gradually increases in speed, with each mole spending less time above the hole and with more moles outside of their holes at the same time. After a designated time limit, the game ends, regardless of the skill of the player.  wikipedia
Some days are nothing more than an extended game of Whack-A-Mole. Try as you might to solve one problem, another pops up, and another. You bring the mallet down. At some point you might develop a rhythm, and if you are lucky you start knocking them as quickly as they appear until you've hit them all.

You feel pretty good now. That is until that first mole pops once again. Then two more, then maybe three.

There is a simple truth behind the game. You can hit as much as you can but after a select amount of time the game is over "regardless of the skill of the player".  You can never beat the game, you can only try to get as many moles as you can in the allotted time. There are always more moles.

And with that knowledge the rhythm returns, the moles get whacked, one by one, until time runs out.

So keep trying for that high score, do your best, and enjoy the game.

Just be careful and watch your back.