Marmots on a Plane and Other Intriguing Things

"Delta says it allows rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and marmots."
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Nothing like a rocket on a launch pad at night (NASA).

1. NASA launches the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission today

"Mars is a complicated system, just as complicated as the Earth in its own way. You can't hope, with a single spacecraft, to study all aspects and to learn everything there is to know about it. With MAVEN, we're exploring the single biggest unexplored piece of Mars so far."

 

2. IBM's call center research and optimization services

"This text-analysis tool takes information from call center agent records, identifies customer concerns, provides early warning capabilities and mines data for trends and patterns."

 

3. The strange dilemmas posed by emotional support animals for nervous airplane passengers

"Delta says it allows rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, birds and marmots."

 

4. On OutKast's southern futurism

"Rap had seen afro-futurist eccentrics before, but since hard-core hit in ’94, no one but Kool Keith had dressed so flamboyantly... Andre had reached that rarefied level of 'I don't give a fuck' that Kanye West has frantically sought since his first Givenchy kilt. His clothes weren’t a bug-out costume or artistic pose; they felt as creatively surreal as the music. No one on earth or Alpha Centauri could have convincingly pulled them off."

 

5. To understand Apple's success, think about the pace of the under-the-hood optimizations they've made in the iPad Mini.

"Just one year ago, those were the compromises Apple was forced to make. They could shrink the year old iPad 2 into the Mini form factor, or go retina and A6X with a thicker and heavier battery. This year, there are no compromises, there is no or."

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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