Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who uses morse code anymore?

So, funny story: today I was talking with my acquaintance Beth; she works at the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU.  She asked me what my major is, and I told her I'm a computer scientist.  She then told me that at LASP, the computer scientists are basically the only ones that can communicate with any telescopes, satellites, or other orbiters that we send into space.  Apparently, one of their recent missions got up into space and the scientists on the ground were able to retrieve information from it, but there was a system failure that meant they couldn't send new commands or controls to the satellite.

Computer scientists to the rescue!  According to Beth, the information gurus translated their instructions into Morse Code to communicate with the satellite.  Probably not something they widely shared, but nonetheless, quite cool.  My reply to this story: to a computer scientist, information is information, no matter how you encode it.  Reminded me of the recently released DNA-encoded book by George Church at Harvard.  Here's Carl Zimmer's blog about it.

Anyway, it was good to hear that Morse Code is alive and well and rescuing our space missions!

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