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‘The Meatball’ vs. ‘The Worm’: How NASA Brands Space

September 2, 2015 FROM NEXTGOV arrow “It’s a design nightmare,” Greg Patt, a publishing contractor for NASA, sighed. He was talking about the logo that’s been the space agency’s official one since 1992: the blue sphere meant to suggest both Earth and other planets, its interior sprinkled with stars of white and and belted with the...

The Radical Efficiency of the Pot Vending Machine

February 4, 2015 There should probably be a law—of marketing, of psychology, of thermodynamics—holding that every commercial product, given a long enough tenure on the planet, will eventually end up being sold in a vending machine.Cupcakes. Kale. Crabs. Caviar. Lobster. Beer. Pizza. French fries. Smartphones.Underwear. And now… pot. After medicinal marijuana was legalized...

The (Real) Story of the White House and the Big Block of Cheese

January 21, 2015 Wednesday, as you may have heard, is the White House's second annual Big Block of Cheese Day. Inspired by a fictional character in a fictional presidential administration, the very real staff of the West Wing are answering citizen questions, online—because, as the White House puts it, cheesily, "we thought it'd...

The Industrialization of Space

December 1, 2014 FROM NEXTGOV arrow We may talk about "space tourism" as a specialized form of space travel; even the most cutting-edge space exploration, though, is disconcertingly similar to the basic experience of Earth-bound voyaging. You pack your bags, trying your best to plan for every circumstance that might arise while you're away, and then...

A Little Ship Just Saved the International Space Station

November 7, 2014 In a week that seems to be at least partially dedicated to space movies, the International Space Station—and the six very real humans living within its confines—just had a Hollywood-worthy moment. In late October, the European Space Agency reports, the orbiting lab was threatened with a collision by space junk,...

Wait, Why Another 'Czar'?

October 20, 2014 Ron Klain may be the nation's first "Ebola czar," but he certainly won't be the first czar to take power in the United States. American democracy has, over the years, proven quite eager to appoint "czars" (or, if you prefer, "tsars"). Here is a list of America's czars, from the...

Why Presidents Are Also Celebrities

September 18, 2014 In October of 1912, as he was leaving Milwaukee’s Gilpatrick Hotel to deliver a speech at the city’s auditorium, Theodore Roosevelt was shot in the chest. He was campaigning at the time for a third party and third term in the White House; John Schrank, an unemployed saloonkeeper, blamed TR...

Brain Drain Is Threatening the Future of U.S. Robotics

June 30, 2014 ASPEN, Colo.—Should the U.S. establish a new federal agency to regulate robots? Here's one potential problem with that proposal—one that has very little to do with the law, and very much to do with technology: "The government has virtually no experts on the inside that understand autonomous robotic systems." That's...

We're Not Ready for a Federal Robotics Department

June 30, 2014 FROM NEXTGOV arrow Should the U.S. establish a new federal agency to regulate robots? Here's one potential problem with that proposal—one that has very little to do with the law, and very much to do with technology: "The government has virtually no experts on the inside that understand autonomous robotic systems." That's according...

At This School, You Can Check Out Drones Like Library Books

June 24, 2014 FROM NEXTGOV arrow The University of South Florida recently received a grant to expand its "Digital Media Commons"—part of a broader effort to remodel the school's facilities with new technologies. After a year applying that grant money, however, something crazy happened: The Tampa-based university found itself with leftover funds. So it decided to...