The Hubble Blew My Mind

Monday, October 1 2011 opinion

Last night, around 8:30pm, I was sitting in my backyard with my 9 yr. old daughter, Maddie. We were looking at stars, trying to identify constellations, when one of them started moving...

##She Was Hit By... Space Junk

Out here in Hawaii, when there's a New Moon (like right now) - you can readily see satellites lazily scooting across the night sky. Every now and again you see a really bright one - which I think is the International Space Station. My daughters love this - probably more than knowing the names of the stars - they love to see satellites.

So last night there we are and my daughter asks if we can bring the iPad. Like a typical dad I say "no way! This is raw nature! Technology stays inside!".

But my daughter preservers: "Dad it will help us find the stars we're looking for..." and I relent. We use a really cool, location aware, augmented-reality app for the iPad

called Star Walk. It's an utterly amazing app and I've owned it for years - but mostly we use it as a glorified encyclopedia - I really don't like bringing it outside for some reason. That changed last night...

It's The Hubble

My oldest daughter is swinging the iPad around, watching the stars zoom by on its screen. I keep telling her the real stars are actually above her (which is why I don't like the thing out there) and she says "I know... I'm just trying to find some fun constellations".

And then my youngest perks up: "look daddy! It's a shooting star! I mean a satellite!" I look up, and sure enough, there's a nice bright satellite going west to east across the clear black sky.

"It's the Hubble" says my 9 yr. old.

"You're probably right" I say - "I just wish there was a way we could know for -- wait a minute! How did you know that's the HUBBLE?"

"It's right here - on the iPad" she says, pointing to a little image of the hubble right on the starfield screen.

I'm completely stunned. I don't know why I should be - we're connected to WiFi so why shouldn't the app know this?

My daughter is looking up at me as if something's wrong... "No I believe you ... it's just ... wow! Don't you think that's awesome! We're sitting here, watching a thing move up there, and it's moving on the screen down here too!"

As I say this - I realize that I'm not so amazed at the app, at the syncing, and the "knowing of it" - it's something else entirely. Something my daughter takes for granted.

"Yeah - it's pretty neat" she says. She's tickled that she figured it out - but it's precisely what she has come to expect from the iPad... apparently -

Just In Time Magic

I thought about this later on. All day as a matter of fact:

what was it about seeing the Hubble on the iPad, and in the sky, that blew me away?

And I think I have an answer - and it's two-fold:*First - it rarely rarely happens when technology kicks in a bit of information "just in time". Yes if I set the alarm on my iPhone it will ring - but that's not "Just In Time" really. This iPad answered a question that we had

*Secondly - and most importantly -

my daughter told me the answer.

  This might sound weird if you don't have kids - but for your kid to know the answer to something you genuinely don't know - that's really special for them.All of this from a little black piece of glass and metal. I know I'll be called a fan-boy for this, but

yes, that was magical.