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May 29th, 2012
03:58 PM ET

Diamond Jubilee: UK puts weather before Windsors

I remember the Queen’s Golden Jubilee ten years ago. When the commemorative flypast took place, I was festering in a box room on an ex-council estate in East London. I think I was hungover.

Actually, I was 22 years old. I know I was hungover.

Three miles west of my less-than-regal living quarters, more than a million individuals had mobbed The Mall and the wider environs of Buckingham Palace. Many were armed with union flags, others just with cameras, hoping for a fleeting glimpse of the boyishly handsome Prince William. There was, by all accounts, a party atmosphere – aided I’m sure by the fact that the Great British elements had opted not to rain on this particular parade.

But more than the event itself, I recall an outpouring of surprise from the press and the public alike that the occasion had not been a washout in the wider sense. The Windsors were perceived to have a popularity problem.  Papers such as "The Guardian" decreed that they were out of touch with the populace, and the populace would be out of sight come the Jubilee.

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May 29th, 2012
03:57 PM ET

Did you feel it?

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AFP/Getty Images

When you look at the USGS website after an important earthquake has occurred, you will see a little tab at the top that says: DYFI? That means “Did You Feel It?”

The USGS uses this information to determine the “intensity” of the quake. How bad was the shaking? What did you feel? Was there any damage?

This data helps assess the quake on a real-time basis by those affected by the shaking. By responding to the questions, you in effect, are helping in the study of earthquakes. Some of that information can be used to make future “shake maps” and determine seismic hazards.

Even if you didn’t feel the quake in your area, or felt only very little, they want to know!

Here is why and how they use the info.

And here is the survey.

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Filed under: Data • General • Science
May 22nd, 2012
09:08 PM ET

Another giant leap?

What a week it has been for space geeks. And it's only Tuesday!

First we had a rare annular solar eclipse. Well, some of us did. Here in Hong Kong, the clouds refused to cooperate...

Now, SpaceX has sent its Dragon capsule on a path to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket lit up the dark Florida sky as it carried Dragon up into orbit.

AFP/Getty Images

Afterward, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted, "Falcon flew perfectly!! Dragon in orbit, comm locked and solar arrays active!! Feels like a giant weight just came off my back."

Musk also wrote, "Huge appreciation for @NASA, without whom we could not even have started, let alone reached this."

NASA has invested about $800 million toward developing space cargo transportation in the private sector. In addition to SpaceX, NASA also has a partnership with Orbital Sciences Corporation. Orbital could have its test launch to ISS late this year or early 2013.

SpaceX has now done what no other company has attempted. But big tests remain. And if all goes well, SpaceX will make history on Friday by berthing with the ISS. Success there would truly be a "giant leap" for commercial spaceflight.

What a week, indeed!

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Filed under: Space
May 17th, 2012
11:00 AM ET

Is Facebook a must-buy for journalism?

Now that Facebook is friends with Wall Street, this journalist is giving her timeline a rethink.

I rejoiced when it launched Facebook Pages, as this was a chance to build a professional presence on the network separate from my personal feed.

I was also riveted by the work of Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian Internet activist and Google executive who devised the "We are all Khalid Said" Facebook page after a businessman who died in police custody last year. The page helped spark the revolution that toppled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

And I was thrilled when Facebook hired a dedicated journalist-program manager to build ways for reporters to be more socially savvy.

But now Facebook will answer to its shareholders as a publicly traded company. To keep Wall Street happy, it will have to make more money - quarter after quarter.

Journalists have to face up to the fact that we - along with some 800 million Facebook users worldwide - are the product being sold.

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May 16th, 2012
10:05 AM ET

The forgotten social networks

Facebook may be the biggest social network, but it wasn't the first.

You might remember MySpace and Friendster. You may have had accounts on those sites. But when was the last time you visited them? Does anyone use those social networks anymore?

Turns out plenty of people do... if you know where to look.

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May 10th, 2012
04:01 PM ET

Instagram: My addiction and affliction

Nicol Nicolson's Instagram page

I made an exhibition of myself on CNN last night.

My dear friend and colleague Ramy Inocencio was proficiently analyzing Toyota’s latest earnings when, 35 seconds into his hit, a pair of arms rose up over his left shoulder. They belonged to me. And they proceeded to run the gamut of soccer-style celebrations: the fist pump, the airplane, the Saturday Night Fever 45° point…  The spectacle lasted 15 seconds but, watching it back, it’s an agonizingly long 15 seconds. And the thing is, as shamelessly scene-stealing as this episode appeared to be, it wasn’t my fault. It was Instagram’s.

While the wider world obsesses over the imminent opportunity to purchase shares in Facebook, I am instead obsessing over Facebook’s latest purchase. Don’t get me wrong. I was "gramin" long before Mark Zuckerberg got his prosperous paws on the photo-sharing site. But as with any addiction, Instagram crept up on me, posing as a harmless hobby before eventually enveloping me in its allure.

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