I get emotional every time I see images of Challenger exploding in the sky. The footage always feels fresh. Maybe that’s why I think I have memories of a day I was actually too young to remember.
Seven crewmembers boarded Challenger on January 28, 1986. For the first time ever, one was a civilian. Millions of people tuned in to watch the launch on live TV. But 73 seconds after lift-off, something went horribly wrong. The shuttle broke apart, killing everyone inside.
President Ronald Regan best expressed the shock and sorrow felt after their deaths. "We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for the journey and waved goodbye and 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'" FULL POST
I was going to call this post “The Strife of Supporting Scottish Sportspeople” but I appreciate there’s only so much alliteration people can stomach in one sitting.
Let me first make my shocking confession: I really do admire Andy Murray. His tennis style can be spectacularly entertaining – but his off-court antics delight me just as much. In the Age of Beige, when sports stars are typically media trained to within an inch of a coma, Murray is nothing if not unpredictable. In his post-match interviews, he is frequently grouchy. But he is just as often very funny. In fact, only Australian Open comedy queen Caroline Wozniacki has challenged him in this department of late.
I hear it in the newsroom every time Apple announces a product:
“Why are we covering this? Aren’t we just giving Apple free advertising? We wouldn’t do this for any other company.”
The sentiment isn’t wrong. We probably wouldn’t give the attention we give Apple to any other company. But Apple isn’t any other company.
Apple is unique because it’s able to project influence far beyond the marketshare it holds. It’s not just journalists and consumers hanging on to their every word: Apple can shape the direction of the entire technology industry.
Need proof? Look at the glut of tablets at CES. You’d think if any company could influence the future of computing, it’d be Microsoft. Remember, 91% of all the computers on the planet run Microsoft's Windows. But when Bill Gates tried to usher in a new age in 2002 with Windows XP Tablet Edition, nobody answered the call.
Nine years on, tablets finally arrived. The catalyst for turning Gates' prediction into reality? Apple's iPad.
Here’s more: In the quarter ending in September 2010, Apple sold 14 million phones. Over the same period, Nokia sold 110 million. But which company transformed the role of the mobile phone from communications device to pocket computer? Apple.
And I haven’t touched upon Apple’s influence in consumer electronics (the iPod), how it made the computer accessible to all (the Mac OS), or how it’s changed the music business and operates the world’s biggest music store (the iTunes Store), because it’s more than just the products themselves that make Apple stand out. It’s also about Apple’s fanatical following.
Apple doesn’t have customers, it has supporters or fans. Why? An answer might lie in the words of this cult’s leader, Steve Jobs. Look at what he said way back in 1985 when he was forced to leave Apple:
“If Apple becomes a place where computers are a commodity item, where the romance is gone, and where people forget that computers are the most incredible invention that man has ever invented, I'll feel I have lost Apple.”
Those words still ring true 25 years later, when Jobs introduced the iPad by calling it a “truly magical” product. Apple does not treat its products as commodities; it treats them as creations. That mindset is why Apple applies the extra care, detail and polish to elevate its products and itself above the rest.
All of this is what makes Apple so fascinating to watch. It’s why we hang on every word Steve Jobs says: Because he dreams about building products that change the world - and he has the ability to pull it off.
Chinese president Hu Jintao is in Washington this week, and China has prepped the ground with a star-studded U.S. media blitz.
A 60-second promotional video (as seen here - apologies for the shaky camera)
is airing on the super screens of New York City's Times Square. It will also air on U.S. television during Hu's three-day tour. The spot features a slew of Chinese celebrities including basketball star Yao Ming, director John Woo, astronaut hero Yang Liwei and a bevy of Chinese beauties including actress Zhang Ziyi and supermodel Zhang Zilin.
Interestingly, it also features a selection of China's business elite including Netease CEO Ding Lei, Alibaba CEO Jack Ma and China Mobile CEO Wang Jianzhou. A comprehensive campaign "who's who" can be found here on the Baidu Beat blog.
So why the video diplomacy?
There's also been growing concern about the rapid growth of China's military muscle.
China's "soft power" push this week has been in the works for months. According to the State Council Information Office, China began preparing the commercials last summer to promote a "prosperous, democratic, civilized and harmonious" image of China.
"We come in peace." That seems to be the message Beijing wants to get across to Americans with the video spot... complete with superstar gloss.
For the second time in two years, Apple's CEO is taking a medical leave of absence. Steve Jobs sent an email to employees... letting them know that COO Tim Cook would be taking over for an unspecified period of time.
We gathered images of Jobs through the years to use in our coverage. I admit that I would not have recognized pre-2004 pictures of the man had he had not stuck to such a strict dress code. Apple aficionados know he was battling pancreatic cancer by then.
Jobs' appearance has been scrutinized for clues about his wellbeing ever since. In 2008, investors even demanded full disclosure of his health status on the lines that the company's share price is somewhat tied to its CEO. The timing of today's announcement can be seen as no coincidence. U.S. stock markets are closed for a holiday... and Apple puts out its highly anticipated quarterly results on Tuesday (though after the closing bell).
In many minds, Jobs is Apple. But the company has done fine even during the time he was not at the helm. Jobs announced a 6-month leave of absence on January 14, 2009. If you take a look at Apple's stock you'll see it has been on an upward path ever since.
Jobs' letter to his staff ended with these words, ""I love Apple so much and hope to be back as soon as I can. In the meantime, my family and I would deeply appreciate respect for our privacy."
NASA’s Kepler mission has found the smallest planet outside our solar system. Its name, Kepler-10b, doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But you’ll definitely want to remember it. Scientists are calling Kepler-10b the “missing link” in the search for Earth’s twin.
That's because most discoveries have been large and gaseous planets... like Saturn or Jupiter in our solar system. But Kepler-10b is different. It’s rocky, like Earth, meaning we would be able to stand on it. There’s just one little problem. Kepler-10b has the right composition… but it doesn’t fall into what’s known as the “Goldilocks zone.” That would be an area that’s not too hot and not too cold.
Kepler-10b orbits 3.2 million kilometers away from its star. That's more than 20 times closer than Mercury is to our sun! Temperatures on this new planet can exceed 1,371 degrees Celsius, hot enough to melt iron. Not exactly an ideal place for life as we know it... but we're getting warmer. (Unfortunately, too warm this time!)
So how do we know all this about an object some 560 light-years away from us? Listen to Kristie’s conversation with planet hunter Natalie Batalha below.
It's the size of France and Germany combined. It's the size of Texas. It's the size of Egypt.
All impressive facts to convey the scale of the flooding affecting northeastern Australia. But comparisons like these – thrown casually into a broadcast script – are now so commonplace that (in the words of an episode of Cougar Town I watched last night) the news becomes white noise. We work in TV, so we have a duty not just to tell people how big a floodzone is; we have a duty to show them.
News Stream prides itself on the strength of its visuals. And visuals are key when telling a story like the Queensland floods.
At the moment, floodwaters in places like the city of Rockhampton have reached a peak and have – give or take a few centimeters – remained at that peak for three days. They're expected to remain there for another week. It's safe to assume life is getting worse for the hundreds of people who've been displaced. Frustration, anger and exhaustion are sure to be on the increase.
But the numbers, the comparisons and the extremities in this story are going nowhere. So it's up to us as writers, producers and newsgatherers to take our output forward in an engaging way.
Thursday's News Stream offered an example of this. We've seen countless aerial shots captured from the skies above Rockhampton, Bundaberg and elsewhere. But we hadn't yet seen the view from further up. Thanks to our friends at NASA, we were able to demonstrate what three weeks of record rainfall looks like from space.
Here's the view of the Fitzroy River Basin on December 14:
And here's the same view on January 4:
There. That probably conveys more than saying something's the same size as somewhere half the world away, doesn't it?
But if you're going to do comparisons from space, it's pertinent to show how the situation has changed from a Queenslander's perspective.
We were fortunate that CNN meteorologist Mari Ramos drew our attention to a particularly eyecatching example. The image below may look like your average estate agent web page, advertising a two-storey home in need of a spot of repair. "Roll up your sleeves," the site advises prospective buyers. "There's work to be done."
Now have a look at this shot from Getty Images, taken this week:
As we stated on News Stream, the website might want to consider changing its health warning to "Roll up your trouser legs. There's even more work to be done".
The home described as being "a stone's throw from the Fitzroy River" has now found itself in the middle of it.
A useful exercise in comparison and a sobering depiction of the human cost of the Queensland floods, rolled into one.
Tune into News Stream today at 9pm Hong Kong, to see (and hear!) where we take the story next.