Wins and Fails This Week in Geek v 13

Who says #13 is unlucky? This week has given us a plethora of wins and fails to gleefully dissect, from mass firings at MySpace to social networking space robots to sex on Mars. Hey, at least somebody’s getting lucky with that last one. Let’s dig in.

FAIL: Job Security
Again. This seems to be a recurring theme in our weekly updates. Perhaps, given the economy and the fickle nature of the Internet, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to see 47% of MySpace’s employees sacked this week. It’s even less of a surprise since, at least to me, MySpace’s decline has been fairly evident for some time. 500 employees lost their jobs, but MySpace CEO Mike Jones was quick to assure the media the firings “were purely driven by issues related to our legacy business, and in no way reflect the performance of the new product”. Those who made the cut? Mostly developers. According to survivors, virtually every other role was axed.

This week Facebook partnered with the AMBER Alert program to allow users to sign up for AMBER Alert bulletins to be delivered directly to their news feeds. The AMBER Alert program has recovered some 525 children safely, but approximately 800,000 children go missing every year. With Facebook reporting a member base of over 500 million, it can’t hurt to have that kind of exposure.

WIN: Sex on Mars
The Journal of Cosmology‘s recent publication about a privately-funded manned mission to Mars included a chapter on sex and reproduction on the Red Planet. Sex in space is a subject that’s been given little scientific treatment hitherto, but Dr. Rhawn Joseph, author of the “Sex on Mars” chapter of the report, insists there would be many conditions, particularly social pressure, that push Mars colonists into having sex with the intention of conceiving. He also proposes infants born on Mars would be different than babies born on Earth due to environmental variables, and that it would only take a few generations for an entirely new species to develop. Which brings to mind a publicly-funded endeavour, Pioneer One, an ongoing low-budget television show about a youth born on Mars who comes to Earth under mysterious circumstances. Despite occasional moments of dubious accents and a fair bit of camera instability, the show is worth a watch, which can be done free via its web site.

FAIL: Wetting Yourself
No, this isn’t a fetish item. More a reference to intense fear, something WikiLeaks’ revelations caused a Florida trailer park resident who was so traumatized by what he read on the infamous site that he’s suing Julian Assange for a host of alleged offenses, from terrorism to treason to just plain “he scared the $%@# out of me”. I do feel badly for the Floridian in question, but I can’t help but think the depression, anxiety and hypertension he’s accusing WikiLeaks of inspiring in him might have also been created by, you know, an Ed Wood movie. Kudos to him, however, for having the balls to make very public accusations against an organization that, if it flexed the collective muscles of its staunch and equally infamous supporters, might make Rambo piss himself, too.

WIN: STS-133
NASA released a “no really, this time we mean it” statement announcing the new launch date for Discovery’s final mission, STS-133. Of course, nobody can fault NASA for pushing the launch back, and back, and back, due to pesky problems that made it not quite worth the risk. That’s why today’s announcement is a win. For those of us enthusiastic about the space program every launch day is like Christmas, and this time we get another shot at festive joy on February 24th. Bonus: the mission will carry the first ever human-like robot into space, R2 aka Robonaut, who’ll tweet from the International Space Station to @AstroRobonaut. Unfortunately STS-133 is one of the last 2 shuttle missions to be flown before the fleet is retired completely, so it will be tinged with sorrow that even a totally awesome microblogging robot cannot erase.

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