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Elon Musk Says Playing Video Games Helped Make Him a Billionaire – Inc.

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How did Elon Musk first get interested in programming? By playing video games. The Tesla and SpaceX founder talked about his love of video games and how they started him on his career path at a video game convention last year. 

Today, we may not think of Musk primarily as a programmer. He’s the founder of three companies taking on today’s most challenging engineering problems: Building affordable electric cars with great range, colonizing Mars, and tunneling under the worst urban traffic. This week, he also became the world’s third richest person, beating out Mark Zuckerberg after Dow Jones Indices announced that Tesla will be added to the S&P 500 index next month and the company’s share price surged. None of it would have happened if Musk hadn’t learned how to code, because he loved video games so much.

It all started when he was about 10 and his father took him on a trip from South Africa (where Musk was born) to the United States. “It was a really awesome experience because the hotels all had arcades. So my number one thing was, when we went to a new hotel, was to go to the arcades,” Musk told astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson on an episode of Tyson’s radio talk show Star Talk a few years ago. 

“I thought I could make my own.”

Video games are “incredibly engaging,” Musk said. “They made me want to learn how to program computers. I thought I could make my own games.” Musk managed to acquire an early Commodore computer which came with a manual that explained how to program in BASIC, an early computer language. He absorbed the knowledge by reading the manual, pretty much the same technique he used to teach himself how to build rockets almost 20 years later.

At age 12, having mastered BASIC, Musk sold the code for his PC game Blastar to a PC magazine for approximately $500. Eleven years later, he and his brother founded Zip2, a company that provided city guides, maps and yellow pages for the newspaper industry, and which they eventually sold to Compaq for $307 million. Musk says he did most of the coding for Zip2, mostly at night when the software wasn’t in use.

Musk used the funds from that sale to co-found X.com, which after a merger, eventually became PayPal, sold to eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion. That high-profile sale and the millions Musk earned as PayPal’s biggest shareholder gave him both the funds and the name recognition to get rocket scientists and automotive engineers to take him seriously as he set out to build spaceships and electric cars. In other words, the domino Musk pushed over when he first fell in love with video games in those hotel arcades and decided to create one himself led directly to his phenomenal success today.

This would likely come as a surprise to the millions of parents who’ve harangued their children to put down the controller and talk to their family members, go out and get some fresh air, or generally find a more constructive way to spend their time. And some research suggests that most people who abandon school or work to play video games aren’t doing themselves any favors. But if you — or your child — are the sort of person who goes from playing a game to wanting to create one, then spending hours on video games may be a much smarter way to spend time than you might think. Just ask the world’s third richest man.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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NASA: Mystery object is 54-year-old rocket, not asteroid – Vancouver Is Awesome

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A mysterious object temporarily orbiting Earth is a 54-year-old rocket, not an asteroid after all, astronomers confirmed Wednesday.

Observations by a telescope in Hawaii clinched its identity, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The object was classified as an asteroid after its discovery in September. But NASA’s top asteroid expert, Paul Chodas, quickly suspected it was the Centaur upper rocket stage from Surveyor 2, a failed 1966 moon-landing mission. Size estimates had put it in the range of the old Centaur, which was about 32 feet (10 metres) long and 10 feet (3 metres) in diameter.

Chodas was proven right after a team led by the University of Arizona’s Vishnu Reddy used an infrared telescope in Hawaii to observe not only the mystery object, but — just on Tuesday — a Centaur from 1971 still orbiting Earth. The data from the images matched.

“This conclusion was the result of a tremendous team effort,” Reddy said in a statement. “We were finally able to solve this mystery.”

The object formally known as 2020 SO entered a wide, lopsided orbit around Earth last month and, on Tuesday, made its closest approach at just over 31,000 miles (50,476 kilometres). It will depart the neighbourhood in March, shooting back into its own orbit around the sun. Its next return: 2036.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press


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China's space ambitions: Robot on Mars, a human on the moon – The Observer

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BEIJING — China’s landing of its third probe on the moon is part of an increasingly ambitious space program that has a robot rover en route to Mars, is developing a reusable space plane and is planning to put humans back on the lunar surface.

The Chang’e 5, the first effort to bring lunar rocks to Earth since the 1970s, collected samples on Wednesday, the Chinese space agency announced. The probe landed Tuesday on the Sea of Storms on the moon’s near side.

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Space exploration is a political trophy for the ruling Communist Party, which wants global influence to match China’s economic success.

China is a generation behind the United States and Russia, but its secretive, military-linked program is developing rapidly. It is creating distinctive missions that, if successful, could put Beijing on the leading edge of space flight.

The coming decade will be “quite critical” in space exploration, said Kathleen Campbell, an astrobiologist and geologist at The University of Auckland.

“This is where we’re going to transform out of near Earth orbit and back into what people will call ‘deep space,’” Campbell said.

In 2003, China became the third nation to launch an astronaut into orbit on its own, four decades after the former Soviet Union and the United States. Its first temporary orbiting laboratory was launched in 2011 and a second in 2016. Plans call for a permanent space station to be launched after 2022.

This week’s landing is “a historic step in China’s co-operation with the international community in the peaceful use of outer space,” said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying.

“China will continue to promote international co-operation and the exploration and use of outer space in the spirit of working for the benefit of all mankind,” Hua said.

After astronaut Yang Liwei’s 2003 flight, space officials expressed hope for a crewed lunar mission as early as this year. But they said that depended on budget and technology. They have pushed back that target to 2024 or later.

The space agency gave no reason for landing its latest probe on the Sea of Storms, far from where American and Soviet craft touched down. But the choice might help to shed light on possible sites being studied for a crewed mission.

Beijing’s space plane would be China’s version of the American Space Shuttle and the former Soviet Union’s short-lived Buran.

China also has launched its own Beidou network of navigation satellites so the Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, doesn’t need to rely on the U.S.-run GPS or a rival Russian system.

Last year, China graduated from “me too” missions copying Soviet and American ventures to scoring its own firsts when it became the first nation to land a probe on the moon’s little-explored far side.

That probe, the Chang’e 4, and its robot rover still are functioning, transmitting to Earth via an orbiter that passes over the moon’s far side. China’s first moon lander, the Chang’e 3, still is transmitting.

China’s earliest crewed spacecraft, the Shenzhou capsules, were based on Russian technology. Its powerful Long March rockets are, like their Soviet and American predecessors, based on ballistic missiles developed using technology seized from Nazi Germany after World War II.

China has proceeded more cautiously than the breakneck U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s, which was marked by fatalities. China’s crewed missions have gone ahead without incident. Some launches of robot vehicles have been delayed by technical problems but those appear to have been resolved.

China is in a growing space rivalry with Asian neighbours Japan and India, which it sees as strategic competitors. Both have sent their own probes to Mars.

While Chang’e 5 gathers moon rocks, Japan’s space agency just pulled off the even more challenging feat of obtaining samples from an asteroid, Ryugu. The Hayabusa2 mission is due to deliver those to Earth on Saturday.

As its confidence grows, Beijing’s space goals have multiplied.

It has joined the race to explore Mars, and its Tianwen-1 probe, launched in July carrying a robot rover to search for signs of water, is due to complete its 470-million kilometre (292-million mile) journey in February.

Plans call for a permanent crewed space station as early as 2022.

China is excluded from the International Space Station due to U.S. opposition to including Chinese military officers in a venture that otherwise is operated by civilian space agencies.

Plans also call for an international lunar research base at some point, the deputy director of the Chinese agency’s lunar exploration centre, Pei Zhaoyu, told reporters last week.

Despite its successes, the military-run Chinese program is more secretive than those of other governments.

Yang and other Chinese astronauts made only a handful of brief public appearances following their flights, in contrast to Soviet and American astronauts who were sent on global publicity tours before cheering foreign crowds.

The agency announced in September its space plane had completed a successful test flight but has yet to release details or even a photo of the craft.

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Milko reported from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Massive Puerto Rico radio telescope collapses after cables snap – Global News

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A huge, already damaged radio telescope in Puerto Rico that has played a key role in astronomical discoveries for more than half a century completely collapsed on Tuesday.

At the Arecibo Observatory, the telescope’s 900-ton receiver platform and the Gregorian dome — a structure as tall as a four-storey building that houses secondary reflectors — fell onto the northern portion of the vast reflector dish, more than 400 feet below.

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The U.S. National Science Foundation had earlier announced that it would close the radio telescope. An auxiliary cable snapped in August, causing a 100-foot gash on the 1,000-foot-wide (305-metre-wide) dish and damaged the receiver platform that hung above it. Then a main cable broke in early November.

The collapse stunned many scientists who had relied on what was until recently the largest radio telescope in the world.

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“It sounded like a rumble. I knew exactly what it was,” said Jonathan Friedman, who worked for 26 years as a senior research associate at the observatory and still lives near it. “I was screaming. Personally, I was out of control… I don’t have words to express it. It’s a very deep, terrible feeling.”


This May 31, 2007 file photo shows the radio telescope at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico before any damage.


AP Photo/Brennan Linsley, File

Friedman ran up a small hill near his home and confirmed his suspicions: A cloud of dust hung in the air where the structure once stood, demolishing hopes held by some scientists that the telescope could somehow be repaired.

The collapse at 7:56 a.m. on Tuesday wasn’t a surprise because many of the wires in the thick cables holding the structure snapped over the weekend, Ángel Vázquez, the telescope’s director of operations, told The Associated Press.

Arecibo Observatory telescope


This aerial view shows the damage at the Arecibo Observatory after one of the main cables holding the receiver broke in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, on December 1, 2020.


RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images

“It was a snowball effect,” he said. “There was no way to stop it…. It was too much for the old girl to take.”

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He said that it was extremely difficult to say whether anything could have been done to prevent the damage that occurred after the first cable snapped in August.

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“The maintenance was kept up as best as we could,” he said. “(The National Science Foundation) did the best that they could with what they have.”

However, observatory director Francisco Córdova, said that while the NSF decided it was too risky to repair the damaged cables before Tuesday’s collapse, he believes there had been options, such as relieving tension in certain cables or using helicopters to help redistribute weight.

Meanwhile, installing a new telescope would cost up to $350 million, money the NSF doesn’t have, Vázquez said, adding it would have to come from U.S. Congress.

“It’s a huge loss,” said Carmen Pantoja, an astronomer and professor at the University of Puerto Rico who used the telescope for her doctorate. “It was a chapter of my life.”

Scientists worldwide had been petitioning U.S. officials and others to reverse the NSF’s decision to close the observatory. The NSF said at the time that it intended to eventually reopen the visitor centre and restore operations at the observatory’s remaining assets, including its two LIDAR facilities used for upper atmospheric and ionospheric research, including analyzing cloud cover and precipitation data. The LIDAR facilities are still operational, along with a 12-metre telescope and a photometer used to study photons in the atmosphere, Vázquez said.

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“We are saddened by this situation but thankful that no one was hurt,” NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan said in a statement. “When engineers advised NSF that the structure was unstable and presented a danger to work teams and Arecibo staff, we took their warnings seriously.”

The telescope was built in the 1960s with money from the U.S. Defense Department amid a push to develop anti-ballistic missile defences. It had endured hurricanes, tropical humidity and a recent string of earthquakes in its 57 years of operation.

The telescope has been used to track asteroids on a path to Earth, conduct research that led to a Nobel Prize and determine if a planet is potentially habitable. It also served as a training ground for graduate students and drew about 90,000 visitors a year.

“I am one of those students who visited it when young and got inspired,” said Abel Méndez, a physics and astrobiology professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo who has used the telescope for research. “The world without the observatory loses, but Puerto Rico loses even more.”

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He last used the telescope on Aug. 6, just days before a socket holding the auxiliary cable that snapped failed in what experts believe could be a manufacturing error. The National Science Foundation, which owns the observatory that is managed by the University of Central Florida, said crews who evaluated the structure after the first incident determined that the remaining cables could handle the additional weight.

But on Nov. 6, another cable broke.

Scientists had used the telescope to study pulsars to detect gravitational waves as well as search for neutral hydrogen, which can reveal how certain cosmic structures are formed. About 250 scientists worldwide had been using the observatory when it closed in August, including Méndez, who was studying stars to detect habitable planets.

© 2020 The Canadian Press

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