Right here, right now…

Due to there being a lot of other stuff in the queue, I’m a little late off the blocks on this one. Still, I just want to take at least one post and say without reservation that the James Webb Space Telescope is absolutely amazing. I haven’t even asked how much we spent on it, but regardless of how many billions of dollars it cost, Webb would have been a bargain at twice the price.

Webb has enabled us to peer back through the evolution of the universe, now seeing so deeply into the past to find a point only 300 million years after the beginning. In a 14-billion-year-old universe, it’s a fraction that’s incredibly hard to imagine – almost impossible to fathom set against a human lifetime that may range to 80 years if one happens to be both lucky and healthy.

We’re just now at the very beginning of Webb’s discoveries. It’s this I think of any time someone declares we’re living in “the worst timeline.” The oldest evidence for man’s creation of primitive stone tools is about 2.6 million years old. Human’s first constructive use of fire happened, maybe, 2.3 million years ago. We didn’t get around to inventing shoes until 45,000 years ago. It took 20,000 years after that to domesticate the dog. Fixed settlements, towns, arrived about 11,000 years ago. Wine came 7,500 years after that – and then we were off to the races with the pace of technical and scientific invention cracking along ever faster. 

It took 6,400 years to go from the invention of the wheel to the first modern car. It took 66 years to go from the first flight at Kitty Hawk to landing men safely on the Moon. The pace of discovery and invention isn’t linear. It only seems gradual right up until the moment when it doesn’t. 

Webb has opened up a new era for exploration and discovery. It’s impossible to know what still lays unseen over the horizon, but I’m so very glad to be here for it… rather than waiting for the guy living in the next cave over to figure out how to cook a mammoth steak without burning his face off. There’s really nowhere I’d rather be than right here, right now.

Sir Richard…

The social media response to Sir Richard Branson, astronaut, is nothing if not predictable. He’s an evil billionaire trying to escape earth because he’s destroyed it. He should be taxed into the stone age so we could give everyone in the world three pencils and a timeshare goat or whatever.

It’s done nothing but reinforce my opinion that the kind of lefties who are active on social media are more about controlling what people do or don’t do, how we spend our money and live our lives, and keeping perfect credit with whoever is tracking the approved “social justice” buzzwords of the day.

Branson is the kind of guy we use to tell people they should admire. Starting his own, relatively unremarkable business at the age of 16, over the next five decades he parlayed that small initial success into a corporate juggernaut. He made himself rich beyond the dreams of avarice in the process… and then used that money to fund a project that use to be the sole province of nation states. I’d love to understand how space travel and exploration is somehow less democratic now that it’s not purely a state-sponsored endeavor. 

Yesterday, a self-made man used his own fortune to heave himself into space and open another avenue to travel and explore beyond the bounds of earth. 

I’m here for it.

If the wags on social media can’t or won’t see past their obsession and abject jealousy of who has what, I almost feel sorry for their lack of vision. Sir Richard is making history while the social media set is, at best, scoring points with those in their echo chamber. 

What Jeff Likes this Week

OrionOrion. It’s really that simple. I like Orion and the fact that for the first time since the early 1970s, the United States of America hurtled a man made object out beyond low earth orbit.

I like Orion because it represents the next in an unbroken series of exploratory and evolutionary steps that have carried humanity out of the Great Rift Valley, across and under oceans, and to the moon. It’s the only thing that makes sense after we’ve hunted and gathered our way across the surface of the entire planet – learning how to live in every inhospitable environment this world can throw at us. It’s what must be next because leaving this fragile blue planet is the last, best hope that human civilization will endure should we ever be dumb enough to destroy ourselves here on earth.

Of course leaving the planet is also the best chance that we’ll run into an aggressive space traveling civilization, microbes against which humanity has not natural defense, or give us the capability to militarize deep space and kill off civilization in entirely new and interesting ways… so it’s kind of a double edged sword.

Still, it’s worth every penny and every risk.

Note: This is the 3rd entry in a six-part series appearing on jeffreytharp.com by request.

Space Available…

When you go to the trouble of moving multiple thousands of people 150 miles down I-95 and spend a few billion dollars kitting them out with new buildings all around, one of the things I’d think you’d do is make sure to have more than two rooms available in which to hold a meeting. Now usually, I’d rail against the need for meetings at all, but given the nature of my employer, they’re simply a fact of life to be endured. Therefore, it doesn’t feel like a stretch expecting that there would at the very least be a room available somewhere (that doesn’t require a 15 minute drive, a cross-country hike, or requisitioning a boat) for those moments when you need to put more than five people in the same room. God forbid you need to do something crazy like connect to the internet or join a teleconference or video feed being piped in from another location. That’s all apparently several bridges too far.

Instead of being able to use one of two such rooms within steps of where I actually work, I got to spend the vast majority of the morning making desperate phone calls and begging other offices to free up space for us to use… out of the goodness of their hearts, rather than for actual compensation in any form. So here’s tonight’s helpful tip from your kindly Uncle Jeff: If you ever find yourself working for a big, bureaucratic organization and in the position of deciding how many fully-equipped meeting rooms you’re going to need, go ahead and take you initial estimate, multiple it by three, and then add at least two just as safety stock. That’ll get you close to the number of rooms you’re actually going to need… because God knows the fate of the free world depends largely on your ability to find an empty room on no notice for whatever wild-assed meeting someone wants to have on the spur of the moment.

And it’s only Tuesday. Sigh.


They say in America you can grow up to be anything. We all know that’s not exactly true, but believing that is something that is as much a part of our national narrative as apple pie. I, for instance, could never have grown up to be an engineer. My math skills just aren’t that strong and my level of interest in slogging through massive equations hovers just slightly above 0.00%. I just don’t have any business operating in a world that demands tolerances with hundredths and thousandths of an centimeter. It’s important to know your personal limitations.

Of course there’s a price to pay for basically ignoring math and science education. While I’ve been keeping myself busy with endless PowerPoint and unlimited supply of memoranda, the guys at the Jet Propulsion Lab were guzzling Red Bull, piling up over time and night differential, and landing a Volkswagen on Mars. You’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty damned cool resume line. It’s fair to say that a history degree and an MBA aren’t likely to get me assigned to one of those projects. Maybe if I’d have just paid a little more attention in Cosmic Concepts back in 1996 things would have been different…