Here’s what we’re reading/watching today:

1) America’s first space station, Skylab, was launched 40 years ago today. Many of the discoveries made aboard the space station were then incorporated into the international space station, providing information about the effects of weightlessness on the human body.

NASA commemorated the anniversary with a gathering Monday (video above). The event featured astronaut Owen Garriott (pictured below), a science pilot on the Skylab 3 mission; Gerald Carr, commander of the Skylab 4 mission; and Kevin Ford, commander of the International Space Station Expedition 34 mission. D. Marshall Porterfield, director of NASA’s Space Life and Physical Sciences Research and Applications Division, and Jason Crusan, director of the Agency’s Advanced Exploration Systems, also attended.


Astronaut Owen Garriott conducts a spacewalk around the Skylab cluster. In this photo, taken with a hand-held 70mm camera, he is seen near the Apollo Telescope Mount (ATM). (Photo credit: NASA)

Skylab fell back to Earth in a partially controlled descent on July 11, 1979. The space station was expected to break up across the Indian Ocean, but the reentry didn’t go as expected. Instead, Skylab broke up and scattered across the Indian Ocean and parts of Western Australia.


2) In a Tuesday op-ed for the New York Times, Academy Award-winning actress Angelina Jolie reveals that she has undergone a double mastectomy to reduce her risk of breast cancer. Jolie writes that when she took a screening test to determine her cancer risk, doctors discovered that she carried the BRCA1 gene, which heightens the risk of the diseases. Her doctor told her she had an 87 percent risk of developing breast cancer and 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer, which Jolie’s mother died from at age 56:

“I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people’s hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.”

The screening and resulting surgery are very expensive, Jolie acknowledges, but she  encourage other women to, if possible, get tested and learn more about their options.

3) A couple of features explore the future of what we like to watch and how we like to watch it. Michael Tchong over at ReadWriteWeb takes on “voyeurgasm” in the age of head-mounted cameras and advances in wearable technology:

Voyeurgasm, the ‘I like to watch’ ubertrend, made its debut with the Rodney King beating in 1991, arguably one of the first surreptitiously videotaped events to make headlines. What came next was a host of candid moments caught by camcorders, surveillance cameras or mobile phones – a wave that virtually guarantees that one day just about everything will be digitally captured.”

Then there’s Google, which has released a video on the possibilities for its Google Glass goggles — everything from tallying up and paying for purchases remotely, to calling an ambulance and getting CPR instructions. That’s right, the video implies that Glass could become more than a convenience or cool trend — it could also save lives. Glass has been struggling with an image problem of late, with some critics predicting that the technology could go the way of the Segway or Bluetooth headset and with others fearing that they will be surreptitiously recorded or photographed by Glass-wearing voyeurs. (Disclosure: My sibling works for Google, but not on Glass).


4) Christopher Mims over at Quartz is appealing to businesses to be more discerning about what they call “big data”. His introduction sums up the buzzword status that “big data” has achieved:

“Big data! If you don’t have it, you better get yourself some. Your competition has it, after all. Bottom line: If your data is little, your rivals are going to kick sand in your face and steal your girlfriend.”

Mims notes that even the big companies in Silicon Valley, including Facebook, Yahoo and Google, are not working with big data. Quality, not quantity, argues Mims is the right approach: “The important thing is gathering the right data, not gathering some arbitrary quantity of it.”

5) When it comes to social innovation, writes Melinda Jacobs for the Guardian, stop focusing on the definition and start thinking about impact. Jacobs, who researches social innovation and entrepreneurship in East Asia, writes:

“By repeatedly asking what social innovation is, I’ve seen that the best social innovations and the social entrepreneurs behind them all have laser-sharp focus on their end users and solving their pains, and that they prize financial sustainability so they can keep doing it. Precise definitions and tailored taxation models might be helpful, but they’re not critical to identify effectively and leverage social enterprise opportunities, and are not what will inspire the next generation of change makers.”

(The Guardian)