Jellyfish Games YouTube Channel – Answering Your Astrobase Command Questions

The team has been busily working away, taking the rough demo code used as a proof of concept for our Kickstarter, and turning it into the production code that will power Astrobase Command once it is released to Steam Early Access. We’ve been tackling a slew of features, from developing detailed procedural generation mechanics, to setting up servers, to creating entirely new art with which to fill the inky blackness of space.

Of greatest interest to all of you, we now have a dedicated Jellyfish Games YouTube channel, where we’ve started posting a weekly development vlog.  The updates are only talk-throughs of community-generated questions for now, but as we move along, we’ll start adding WiP imagery, including stills and gameplay footage.

If you have any questions about the game that you’d like us to answer, head over to our forums, and ask away.

Cmdr Hadfield’s cell phone bill – check your facts. Not everything you read on the internet is true, kids.

I bring guitars into space, not cell phones.

Our morning alarm is set to radio. My wife likes this one particular station that goes on with a bunch of senseless banter and plays the occasional song. I think she likes it because the content is so horrible that it forces her to get out of bed. Unfortunately, it is one of the more popular stations in our region, so its reach is quite broad. They have this one bit where they share 3 elements of what the station staff consider to be current events. They are mostly acts of yet more senseless chatter. The story seems to have been picked up elsewhere in a few limited spots around the world to date.

This morning, they had a story about how Cmdr Chris Hadfield had accidentally brought up his cell phone to the International Space Station. In the process of zooming over our heads for the past 5 months, he would have accumulated a $1,37 million bill. The anchors went on at length about how this is a sign that cell phone companies are out of control and out of their minds for their payment plans. While I agree that cell companies in North America do everything they can to suck every penny out of our pockets, this is a significant case of: “um, no.”

Let’s review the situation:

1. It costs between $5,000 and $50,000 to lift a kilo into space. Assuming that Hadfield had brought up the cell phone, say an iPhone 5 (he can afford it, he’s a fancy astronaut, after all) and a charger, that would be 150-200 grams of gear. That’s somewhere around $1,000 to $10,000 to bring that up as payload. Pretty costly mistake for a veteran space farer.

2. Cell batteries don’t last 5 months in sleep mode without charging. That means that our confused astronaut would have been re-charging the cell phone during the 5 month stint. It would have given him a chance to figure out that he hadn’t activated airplane mode, no?

3. Range: In ideal conditions with a straight line of sight, a cell phone can reach about 45 miles assuming you are using CDMA (this varies in case to case, and there are plenty of factors at play, but it’s a good figure to work with.) The cell tower antennae are configured in such a way as to optimize horizontal transmission, not vertical ones. Therefore, you get much less range straight up. The ISS orbits between 205 and 240 miles up. Additionally, our erstwhile planetary orbiter was residing in a metal tube designed to partially shield him from cosmic radiation. This would normally reduce the transmission range of any system without an antenna sticking out of said tube to 0. A co-worker of mine actually tried to get a cell phone signal in a plane once to check how high the towers do reach. There was nothing until we were between 8,000 and 10,000 feet up. Any way you cut it, there is not enough range for a cell phone to reach a cell tower. Therefore, the towers have no idea that it is zipping at high speed above them to connect and impose roaming charges.

4. A quick search on the internet shows some possible sources for the story:

Starting to make more sense.

Starting to make more sense.

Hmmm…if the people bringing us the news had checked the entry below the one they possibly used, they would have seen SPOOF. Or if they dug into the other articles at Beaverton, they would have seen that pretty much everything there is some kind of parody. I didn’t know of Beaverton until this morning, but it didn’t take long to figure out that this must me something like a Canadian version of the Onion.

What’s the moral here? Check your facts. Data is king. Many years ago, I attended a presentation by a high powered exec-type who indicated that in his experience, only about 50% of what is reported is accurate. And that relates to those stories that people are actually trying to get right. When you factor in the fact that a lot of people around the internet are making things up or tweaking things to garner attention among a sea of shouting voices, the percentage can drop dramatically. It is essential that we maintain our ability for critical thought, lest we be drawn into the limitless bounds of speculation, misdirection, and invention. One also has to wonder if the media gets this so utterly wrong, what else is being fed to us without proper fact-checking in the rush to generate listener/viewer attention?

Selling articles through fear: please stop now

Gizmodo put up an article titled A Slo-Mo Mouse Eye View of a Barn Owl Swooping In For the Kill Is Terrifying . I’ve included it here below for ease of reference.

Terrifying? Really? I don’t think I heard any of the people appearing in the video once refer to the owl or the footage as anything that instills fear. How about: “beautiful”, “graceful”, “amazing”, “wonderful”, or any other positive adjective that can be found in the English language? Trying to paint the clip in terms eliciting fear is disingenuous and most likely very far from the producer’s mind when they made the video. What it does is tap into the concept of trying to catch the audience’s attention to generate views through gripping a primal, visceral aspect of human psychology.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a different article on the same site from the day before, by a different author: Get a Terrifying, First-Hand Look at What It’s Like to Ride a 15-Foot-Tall Bike. There it is again. Terrifying. I’ll let you be the judge of whether this video is terrifying:

There certainly is cause to feel a certain trepidation at first, maybe some butterflies in the stomach, but we soon see that everyone is having fun. Being so high up gives a new point of view on the world and hopefully brings a little joy to all involved. I can certainly question the biker’s wisdom by choosing not to wear a helmet, particularly with some of the hazards encountered en route (cars deciding to push around the traffic wardens and the kite string incident), but none of these qualify as sources of terror in my book.

Indeed, let us explore the definition of terror for a moment:

terror |ˈterər|
noun
1 extreme fear : people fled in terror | [in sing. ] a terror of darkness.
• the use of such fear to intimidate people, esp. for political reasons : weapons of terror.
• [in sing. ] a person or thing that causes extreme fear : his unyielding scowl became the terror of the Chicago mob.

The hostage crisis at the school in Beslan in September 2004: tragic and terrifying. A pack of zombies trying to claw my door down at midnight to munch on my brains: terrifying. Climbing 300 feet up a sheer cliff when you realize there’s an avalanche coming down the mountain at you: terrifying. Flying in a plane when someone looks out the window and asks: “excuse me, but is there supposed to be that much smoke and fire coming out of the engines?”: terrifying. Finding out someone has brought to life a T-Rex and has now accidentally set it loose through your back yard: terrifying. A global crisis where the inhabitants of a planet blindly savage its natural resources and pollute its environment in a bid to enrich the few at the cost of the health and safety of the entire world: starting to sound pretty scary. A bird swooping gracefully through the air to get some food : not so much. Some dude pullinga circus stunt in the street: Um. No.

Our society is fixated by the use of superlatives. Everything has to be more extreme, more awesome, more epic than the last. If it is not, we have been conditioned to believe that it must be worthless, and definitely not worth our time or money. I know the phenomenon of using fear to market items and ideas has been around for a long time, but when fear is used this blatantly and with such negligent frequency to qualify menial or even positive aspects of life, it loses all of its meaning. It devalues the events which do indeed qualify as terrifying by diluting them in a sea of lesser issues that are lumped in by them. We become  hypersensitized to fear, and learn to be afraid of everything, taking dramatic actions to protect ourselves from the dangers we perceive to be lurking everywhere, rather than embracing the unique and exhilarating opportunities that life holds for us.

That, or come up with new adjectives that allow us to provide much needed context and contrast to the upper tier of emotional reactions. If that’s the case, I’d like to coin the term “übspazrificating” for the media to start talking about really scary things. That should help them sort their priorities out and use the word only when it is really needed.

You heard it here first, folks.

Commander Hadfield – A source of good news and inspiration

War, death, sex, drugs, and rock & roll. It seems these days that the media, ever busy trying to rack up the most ratings possible through fear-mongering, shocking, or otherwise ‘edgy’ journalism, if it can be called that, is busily spewing out a stream of information that I cannot help but find paint a depressing view of the world. Certainly, war in Syria, Iranian and North Korean saber rattling, and nuclear ambitions, global terrorism, corruption, scandals, climate change, the dangers of sugar, salt, and everything in between warrant interest.

Indeed, ignorance of theses issues can lead us to make profoundly mistaken decisions about any number of things on the global stage or in our daily lives. However, the continuous drone and emphasis on the bad news tends to dampen its impact over time, desensitizing us to the information’s importance. It also leads the media to try to find yet another more dramatic, even more extreme story with which to catch our saturated attention. This will inevitably lead to a downwards tailspin of doom where the human mind will no longer be able to comprehend anything because we will be so desensitized to all the horror which reportedly occurs under our very noses every nanosecond. Eventually, I don’t think the news that a black hole forming on Broadway would get people to blink. It is New York after all.

This leads me to call for the media to change their tack once in a while. Take a hint from fine cuisine’s culinary playbook and use palate cleansers. They don’t need to be saccharine stories about kittens rolling balls of yarn, or inane stories of the latest winner of the local bingo tournament. Enough with worshiping people who rummage about in storage spaces, who make tons of money from fixing people’s houses, or who know nothing more than the gym, tanning, and laundry. There are plenty of people doing terrific work daily that bears mentioning. One such individual, whom I believe has done a fabulous job of connecting with the citizens of the world, is Commander Chris Hadfield on the International Space Station. The man is high up in orbit, and yet so down to Earth and personable that I think everyone would be happy to have him as a father/brother/uncle/friend. While he is busily zooming around the planet faster than a speeding bullet, he’s doing everything from cutting edge science, to making music, to giving us surfacelubbers a friendly tour of his blinged out space crib.

Cool.

For those of you who have no idea of who Chris Hadfield is or what the ISS is, here’s a recent news article that can help out: National Post: Queen, prime minister congratulate Chris Hadfield as he becomes first Canadian in command of space station

This makes me feel that the world can be a better place. This makes me feel that there must be others like him who live their lives to make a positive change on not just their own lives but those of countless others around them, many of whom they will never meet. Why don’t we spend more time getting some news about people like him? Some scientist is doing great work on the cure for cancer? Could be worth talking to her? Another one is about to crack the mystery of high temperature superconducting? Let’s go see what he has to say. Find teachers that have made a huge difference in their students’ lives, or talk to aid workers with the World Food Programme in Kyrgyzstan. You know, switch things up a little bit. That way, when you media types have something really scary to say and that we should really be paying attention to you, we won’t be hearing you cry wolf instead.

Meanwhile, I hope the likes of Commander Hadfield help inspire a new generation to take up the cause of making this little blue sphere in the sky a better place, and I hope the media makes a habit of keeping touch with him.