More good stuff on the open frontiers — space, education, publishing- 1-20-14

New frontiers are wide open. Here is my latest list of articles on education (articles), publishing (1) and space (3 articles) that help me sort out the massive change around us:


As I turn my near-sighted, feeble gaze across history, I see education as one of several major factors that lift people groups out of the grinding dust of poverty. That is why I see the revolution in education as a wonderful thing.

1-3 – Via Meadia – Winds of Change Still Blowing Through Groves of AcademeThe first rounds of MOOCs are showing weaknesses and are getting major pushback. MOOC 2.0 will fix some of those issues. 

Radical changes are still going to happen and they will devastate the university business model.  Won’t take a complete collapse of attendance to undermine a college’s finances – just a major shift of classes to on-line models and a noticeable drop in enrollment will be enough for severe disruption. The article says it is early in the education revolution:

But just as nobody knew what printing presses and railroads would do when they first appeared, so we really don’t yet know how the information revolution is going to reshape education at all levels. MOOCs are only the first stage of the coming revolution, and even they are still at an early state of development.

The article uses a video analogy – MOOC 1.0 is closer to the ancient Pong video games than Halo. MOOC 3.0 or 4.0 will be as far beyond 1.0 as modern photo-real shoot-‘em-up games are beyond Pong.

In the end, students are going to learn more and pay less. That will be good for the human race as a whole and, for anyone who really cares about social justice and the condition of the poor, it will be a step forward.


My paraphrase of the closing paragraph:  Colleges can try to surf the waves of change or get crushed when those waves hit the beach while they are sun-bathing there.

1-9 – KPCC; Southern California Public Radio –  Los Angeles library to offer high school diplomas – Using on-line classes from the officially accredited Career Online High School, the LA library has a pilot program designed to get 150 students their diploma, not a GED. The concept is a library is a trusted space, is available in the communities where needed, and already has the staff and resources to assist people.


1-6 – CBS News – SpaceX Falcon 9 boosts commercial relay station into orbit – Second successful launch of commercial satellite into geosync orbit for SpaceX. Third successful launch of the Falcon 9. That’s the booster that lifts the Dragon capsule to the ISS.

1-12 – CBS News – Cygnus cargo ship berthed at space station – First successful docking of the Orbital Science Cygnus cargo ship at the ISS. Good for them! Delivered 1.5 tons of supplies and equipment, including lots of experiments and more than two dozen “cubesats”.

Current contracts exist with TWO private companies for resupply runs. The data, from the article:

  • Orbital Sciences – $1.9B contract – 8 flights – 40,000# cargo
  • SpaceX – $1.6B contract – $1.6B contract (presumable for the remaining flights) – 12 flights – 44,000# cargo.

Very cool.

12-31 – Popular Mechanics – The 7 ships of the New Space Age – Seven, count ‘em seven, separate designs underway for manned space flight. The group:

  • Name – company – destination – odds
  • Lynx – XCOR Aerospace – suborbital – good
  • New Shepard – Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) – suborbital – good
  • SpaceShip Two – Virgin Galactic (Richard Branson) – suborbital – very good
  • Orion – NASA – asteroids & Mars – even
  • Dragon – SpaceX (Elon Musk) – orbital – very good
  • Dream Chaser – Sierra Nevada Space Systems – orbital – good
  • Inspiration Mars – Inspiration Mars Foundation – Mars – long

Here’s hoping they ALL succeed!

I’m an accountant – I just had to reorder the list based on the author’s assessment of likelihood of success:

  • SpaceShip Two       very good    suborbital
  • Dragon –                  very good                       orbital
  • Lynx –                      good            suborbital
  • New Shepard –         good            suborbital
  • Dream Chaser –        good                               orbital
  • Orion –                     even                                            asteroids & Mars
  • Inspiration Mars –    long                                            Mars


1-8 – Wall Street Journal – Fast-Paced Best Seller: Author Russell Blake Thrives on Volumes – Front page WSJ article says Craig Osso, writing under pen name Russell Blake, has written 25 novels in 30 months. He self-publishes on Amazon, earning 70% of the sales prices. Article says he has sold about 435,000 copies at $5 or $6. Kindle copies are $4 or so with paperbacks looking like they are around $8 or $10. Let’s assume $5. That would be sales of about $2.17M with his 70% cut around $1.5M. Very cool for him!

If you could write a well-developed novel every five weeks that tells a fun story, you can make that much money too.

Two other interesting tidbits about self-publishing from the article.

On the overall success of self-publishing:

In 2013, self-published books accounted for 32% of the 100 top selling e-books on Amazon each week, on average.

A hint on his cost structure:

His first 10 books barely sold. Mr. Osso was losing money, spending $1,500 per book to pay editors, proofreaders and graphic designers who created cover images for his digital books and paperbacks. 

The cost of around $1,500 for editing, proofreading, and cover design makes sense to me. You could self-publish for a small fraction of that when you are getting started.

The publishing frontier is so appealing, so easy, and so wide open. Very, very cool. As for me, I’m having a blast.

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