the space race remembered

Once I watched a rocket launch from under a blanket…our TV set was ancient and the light was very dim, so unless the room was almost dark the image on the set was barely visible.   I’m not sure of the year, or which of the early missions it was.   My whole life back in those days, between 1957 and about 1965 , are catalogued according to babies that joined our little family.

Our oldest was just a few months old, and we were living in a trailer park outside of the base of Fort Hood, Texas.  Our tiny television set was on a high shelf, and we had to stand right next to it in order to see anything in much detail.     In the interest of accuracy, by the time the Soviets launched Sputnick in October 1957, my daughter was five months old, and we were stationed at the Oklahoma Military Academy, where facilities had been set up to accommodate army insturctors.  We lived there for a year and a half.

Our connection to the United States Army accounted for much of my interest in space travel and life on other planets, and all kinds of innovative gadgets and scenarios that actually would become History within my lifetime.    I have  always been an avid fan of Science Fiction, and was working my way through the library shelves reading everything I could dealing with outer space.  The only other book that occupied as much or more of my time during that era was Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, having literally worn out my original copy of the Baby Manual.

So with that setting, the events leading up to the great space race between the United States and the Soviet Union were high on my “interests lists.”    The Cold War was alive and well, and a source of vast panic and hysteria for young military wives, who feared the bell ringing in the night would be a call for hubby to go somewhere and do something to fight The Russians.

So it was with great interest and intrepidation that I pretty much stayed glued to the TV after the hoopla of the Russians having beaten us to the draw in launching a rocket, and then a month later…a dog named Laika,  thus becoming the first Earth Creature ever to attempt space travel.

In January of 1958 we were absolutely ecstatic when th United States Army Ballastic Missile Agency sent up the first U.S. satellite into orbit.

Here’s a Timeline borrowed from the NASA site.    For the entire timeline, please go to


  • October 4 – The Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into space.
  • November 3 – The Soviet spacecraft Sputnik 2 was launched with a dog named Laika on board. Laika did not survive the voyage.


  • January 31 – Explorer 1 was the first satellite launched by the United States when it was sent into orbit on January 31, 1958. It was designed and built by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology. The satellite was sent aloft from Cape Canaveral in Florida by the Jupiter C rocket that was designed, built, and launched by the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) under the direction of Dr. Wernher Von Braun.


  • August 19 – The Soviet craft Sputnik 5 was launched, carrying the dogs Strelka and Belka. They became the first living beings to survive a trip into space.


  • April 12 – Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space.
  • May 5 – Astronaut Alan Shepard became the first American in space.
  • May 25 – President Kennedy challenged the country to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.

[The space saga continues… .]

Science in Fiction …and vice-versa


Being a real fan of Science Fiction requires a flexible imagination, and have an open mind that is capable of accepting for consideration any concept at all.  Its OK to have compartments, or niches, or organizational charts in which these concepts reside—such as:  Possible, Improbable, Unlikely, Impossible But Intriguing, Far-Fetched, Ridiculous, and Boring.

In the first place, anything can apply to classification of Science Fiction.  The “Science” part places restrictions on the subject matter in that purists will want divisions into Real Science…topics that are accepted by almost everybody.  For instance, here is a true scientific fact:  “when we look up into the sky we see  specks of what looks like sparkly things reflecting (or generating) light.”

On the other hand Science Fiction fans might propose that there are, up in the sky, great big diamonds twinkling and shining back at us.  These are very valuable heavenly bodies…which in fact actually may BE what they appear to be…great figurative strings of white holiday lights decorating the vast wilderness of Space for our enlightenment/entertainment/delight/wonder.    The operative word here is “Fiction,” meaning “probably untrue.”

But there we are faced with the dilemma of What is True?   What is Fiction?  In the case of True Facts/Real Science, and other specific terms, the questions appear to be “What are those sparkly things in the Sky?”   The True Science people mumble  all sorts of conjecture about light waves, substance compositions, Albert Einstein, and the magnitude of stars in strength, composition, distance, reflective properties… and prevalent theory.

The Science Fiction adherent— writer, reader, believer—on the other hand, is not handicapped by any “body of theoretical evidence,” itself an oxymoron.  In a given work of fiction, novel or story, the writer comes up with a premise—not a theory, its made up of whole cloth, rather than a restrictive set of rules.

Before I back myself into a corner here, being as how I am NOT a Scientist, let me just say that if a new novel comes out entitled Real Diamonds in the Sky, and the plot of the novel revolves around the discovery that Stars really ARE diamonds…leading to a huge competition among the human race to begin harvesting them.    Which of course immediately renders the diamond/stars worthless.

To paraphrase the standard remark  kids used to say when they gave a book report in class… “if we want to read this novel…or one like it…someone is going to have to write it!”       Unless, of course, Steven Hawking publishes a NON-Fiction best seller with the same title.


UPDATED POST: who doubts that cats are smarter than a lot of politicians?


test suggests cats understand gravity, Japanese researchers say

“Our study is the first demonstration that cats seem to grasp the laws of physics,” said Kyoto University’s Saho Takagi. But an expert on domestic pets and author of a book about cats called the study “seriously flawed.”

[…for the rest of this article, please follow the direct link…]…/physics-test-suggests-cafe-cats-understand-gravity-japanese-researchers-say

[[Please Note, regular Sometimes readers— I have eliminated the original link to the entire Morning Mix column because I want to link ONLY this one article about the test about Cats.      Although other items in the column are interesting and noteworthy, some of the material is not compatible with my general view of world carryings-on….namely politics.    I do like cats, however, and believe that they should be given more cognizance, as they are clearly much further advanced that many of the rest of us. ]]

Now friends—This Washington Post article by Ben Guarino, in the paper’s Morning Mix column is fascinating.    Not that it will really surprise anyone who knows at least one cat personally, but it is some great Gee-Whiz-Science.      I wonder if it applies to ALL cats, or if it is a skill found primarily in Japanese cats.

It reminds me of Schròedingers Cat, except that his conjecture depended more on other scientists’ gullibility, and less on the Cat (if there even was one.)   Or perhaps more akin to Dr. Pavlov’s dog, who famously recognized the rattle of his food dish even when it wasn’t dinner time.

Has anyone heard whether or not Donald Trump has a cat?   Would the cat be more attractive as a candidate to run the U.S.?     Hmmm… a lot of voters have cats, that’s a given.  Remember Socks?  George W Bush’s cat?    Was it not Margaret Thatcher who had special dog-walkers on her official staff?   Did they really have little pockets of doggy treats inside their gun holsters?





S is for Schrödinger’s Cat

Today’s post was inspired by Mindlovemisery’s site.   Thanks

I’ve always wondered
about Schröedinger’s cat–
specifically the end state
of the experiment.

Imagination shows plainly
or is it hopefully?  that the cat
jumped out of the box while alive
and sauntered off in time for supper

It would be a shame if the poor feline–
what was her name?– was to meet
her demise in the negative state
and failed to emerge none-the-worse
for wear in another dimension.

Well –now I find out that
although there was a Schröedinger–
he may or may not have had a cat,
and if he did there was no box, either,
the dear fellow was simply making light
of some Quantum Theory ideas of
colleagues who believed in it all.

Impossible! said Schröedinger to his pals
because a cat was of matter too big
for such an experiment to work at all
and anyway, the whole process was silly
and way too complicated to contemplate…
and that is all supposing that the cat herself
was willing to even consider getting into a box
that was not of her personal choosing

© Sometimes, 2016

Here is a link to an amusing insight into the  whole incident of Schröedinger and the cat-in-the-box affair.



Direct Line (re-post)

The Moon, far away as it is bright
dims the brighter light of the stars
My eye sight follows the path of that light
passing the light-years between

Knowing full well the facts of the Moonlight
reflecting the light of the Sun,
it nevertheless leads me to imagine
that the Moon makes its own light from within.

Even if Galileo himself, who charted the Sun,
were to explain with patience and tact
I still would ignore him and blissfully say:
“Please don’t confuse me with facts.”

©Sometimes, 2015