Space Geckos and Living on Mars

It’s the love boat in space!

If the Loveboat was a satellite, and the passengers were Geckos, Mushrooms and fruit flies. And if the love boat was doomed to crash in just a few short months. That’s what’s happening in our atmosphere right now, and we have Russia to thank for these space lizards.

By now, the entire planet has probably heard of the crisis between Russia and the Ukraine. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you go to or for an update. The very basic gist is this; Russia has invaded the Ukraine and the rest of the world is laying sanctions against Russia in retaliation.



Many sanctions have been laid. The most recent that Canada has laid against the warring country include:

  • Arms Industry
  • Financial Sectors
  • Energy Sectors

Perhaps the most interesting, and  overlooked effect that these sanctions are having are on Russia’s space industry.

 NASA cuts ties with Russia

In a move perhaps reminiscent of the space race of the 1960s, NASA and Russia are again at odds. Last Wednesday, NASA said it was severing all ties with Russia over the Ukraine crisis. The one exception being any joint operations with the International Space station.

Nasa and Russia’s space agency will “continue to work together to maintain safe and continuous operation” of the space station, Nasa said in a statement.

Now what does this ‘cutting of ties’ involve?

NASA employees can’t travel to Russia or host visitors until further notice. (Sorry to all you Big Bang Theory fans out there — Howard Wolowitz won’t be travelling to space with the Russians again)


It’s not just seeing each other in person that has been barred. NASA employees are also forbidden from mailing or holding teleconferences with their Russian counterparts.

It is into this environment of isolation that Russia’s space ventures are now facing disaster.

Out of Control Russian Space Craft

After NASA cut its ties with Russia, Russia invested $52 billion dollars into its own Space program.

The Geckos are among 21 other experiments that are currently aboard the Foton-M4 satellite. The satellite, which was launched July 18, was designed to see if and how animal reproduce in microgravity, and if there are changes in the survival of the eggs.


image courtsey of

On Thursday of last week Russia’s mission control said the craft will not respond to its commands.

So yeah, there is currently a satellite filled with lusty lizards circling the planet in imminent danger of crashing back to earth .

“The equipment which is working in automatic mode, and in particular the experiment with the geckos is working according to the program,” Oleg Voloshin, a spokesman of Russia’s Institute of Medico-Biological Problems.

UPDATE: It looks like power may have been restored to Foton-M4 as of this morning. Roscosmos says its 90% sure the problem has been resolved and the experiments are still viable. They are still unsure why this happened in the first place.

Why do this experiment?

Well, space is big.

If humans are ever to travel outside of our solar system we have to be prepared to be in space for long periods of time. Unless we discover light speed travel, in order to travel in space for extended periods  we might need to use generation ships.

generation ship

Other projects on the ship were designed to study development of plant seeds, microbes, as well as well as the effects of cosmic radiation on various biological objects.

The Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, is saying the six tonne satellite could continue to operate on its own “for a long time”.


On the other hand, a space expert cited by Interfax said that without communication, it could stay in space for as little as four months.

Russia hasn’t been having the best year, and it has quite a history of problems with its space program.

Earlier this year, a Proton-M rocket carrying a communications satellite to provide internet to remote parts Russia exploded minutes after take off. That is the second crash of a Proton rocket in less than a year.

In June, the maiden voyage of Russia’s first new spacecraft since the Soviet era, the Angara rocket, was aborted at the last minute on live television as Vladimir Putin looked on.

It was successfully launched on 9 July.

The last Photon-M to be launched in 2007, which was carrying newts, lizards, Mongolian gerbils, slugs, butterflies and spiders, returned successfully to Earth. But the first Photon-M launch in 2001 ended in tragedy after the satellite fell back to Earth and exploded, killing a soldier.

This satellite is expected to land in the southern Orenburg region southeast  of Moscow in two months time.

Now with Russia unable to ask for help from the west or NASA (not that it would) one can only guess how things might turn out.

What is the west doing?

Russia isn’t the only country in the world trying to accelerate the space race. Although NASA has severed its ties with Russia, it is also making strides into the future. Here are a few things that are happening on our own continent.

NASA and the 12 billion dollar rocket.

The space shuttle era is over, but that doesn’t mean that we have given up on space travel.

NASA is trying to build the Rocket to end all Rockets; a highly advanced machine that would send astronauts to asteroids and Mars. These would be much larger than the Saturn V rockets which sent men to the moon.

Or it would, if NASA had the money for it.

Federal auditors are warning that NASA doesn’t have enough money to get this rocket of the ground by the end of February 2017 as planned.

NASA’s Space Launch System is at ‘high risk of missing’ its planned December 2017 initial test flight–the Government Accountability Office 

The GAO report put the current shortfall at $400 million, but did say that solid progress has been made on the design.

NASA’s launch system officials said there is a 90 percent chance of not hitting the launch date at this time.


Want to go live on Mars?

mars one

The not-for-profit Mars One project wants to send humans on one-way trips to Mars. One of this bloggers good friends is Andrew Rader, one of the front runners in this project.


He has a pretty brilliant book out called “Leaving Earth: Why One-Way to Mars Makes Sense“. You can click HERE to check it out.

Before it sends people to the Red planet,  it first wants to send experimental packages  — potentially including the first interplanetary advertisements.

These experiments are scheduled to go to Mars in 2018. If you have the money, you can even put your company’s name on the robotic lander that’s scheduled to carry the experiments.

No word yet on whether the delay in the post shuttle rockets would have an effect on the launch day of Mars One.

“What better way for an unknown phone brand to establish worldwide brand awareness and a image of innovation than by purchasing the naming rights for the first private Mars lander?” Bas Lansdorp, co-founder and CEO of Mars One, told NBC News in an email.


The James Webb Space Telescope (sometimes called JWST) will make the Hubble Telescope look like a children’s toy.

It is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror.  The project is working to a 2018 launch date.

The Webb will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System –


Even though JWST is not in the sky yet, NASA is already planning which telescope will take its place.

The Advanced Technology Large Aperture Space Telescope (ATLAST) is a NASA strategic mission concept for the years after JWST.

It will have a primary mirror diameter in the 8m to 16m range that will enable people to see heavenly bodies like never before.

ATLAST is a long time off. Until then, we’ll just have to stick with the good old Hubble.

This photograph of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was taken on the second servicing mission to the observatory in 1997. Credit: NASA
Monkey Parking

Jerk Tech?

The world is full of Jerks.

You know who I’m talking about – that person who snatches the parking spot you’ve clearly been singling for, that man who cuts the line in the coffee shop, or that woman who steals your reservation at the restuarant. We’ve all met them. Sometimes we have probably been guilty of being them.

What happens when those behaviours and attitudes that define us ‘oh-so-fondly’ as being jerks make the jump to the digital world?

Well, then, you have Jerktech.

Jerk Tech


What is Jerk Tech?

Jerk Tech refers to Apps that essentially exploit loopholes for a fee. These loopholes are usually found in small businesses and public infrastructure that are not owned or controlled by the person who created the App.

In other words, these Apps sell something that would otherwise be free.

Josh Constine, a writer at the popular blog Tech Crunch coined the term recently.

 “Go disr*pt yourself” is what I have to say to founders of startups like ReservationHop and Parking Monkey — Josh Constine, Tech Crunch

The key point about Jerk Tech, is that take a fee for publicly available resources and and charge people for the privilege of using them.

These publicly available resources can include everything from public parking spaces to reservations at restaurants.

The the actual provider of the resource (whether it’s a city counciler who created the parking spots, or a restuarant owner who is trying to survive) don’t get any benefit at all.

Examples of Jerk Tech

A lot of Jerk Tech revolves around the concept of Peer to Peer commerce.

Dropbox is an example of Peer to Peer commerce. Two individuals use the service (and can pay for it if necessary) to share large files. Dropbox acts as a middleman of sorts, and it is completely legal.

The problem lies in that many of these peer to peer applications fall into a legal grey area. Now governments around the world are scrambling to figure out how to regulate them.

There is a growing backlash against some of these companies. Many are saying they are pushing the boundaries of what makes an acceptable or honest commercial enterprise.

Reservation Hop

Reservation Hop is one example of a Peer to Peer application that many are calling Jerk Tech.

It’s a way to get into a trendy and popular restaurant that has been booked solid for months quickly. However, there is a catch.

Reservation Hop is being called Jerk Tech because the company is trying to make money off of something that’s essentially free: making a dinner reservation

Even the companies founder wrote that he’s the most hated person in San Francisco. He continues to defend his App though.

We book up restaurant reservations in advance. We only book prime-time restaurant reservations at the hottest local establishments, and we mostly list high-demand restaurants that are booked up on other platforms — Reservation Hop

Monkey Parking

Monkey Parking single-handedly created parking rage in San Francisco.

How is it doing this? Well, by selling parking spots to the highest bidder.

Monkey Parking drew the attention and anger of San Francisco’s district attorney Dennis Herrera in June. Herrera sent a letter to the startup, saying its app — which allows people leaving a public parking space to auction it off to nearby drivers — is illegal in San Francisco.

San Francisco went as far as to ban the use of the MonkeyParking app in late June, declaring that it would not allow the creation of a “predatory private market for public parking spaces”.

City authorities sent a “cease and desist” letter to MonkeyParking and threatened fines of $2,500  per violation of the order. It gave the company until 11 July to stop operating in the city.

Initially resistant, the Monkey Parking has temporary shut down services while it clarifies how it can legally operate.

Are all Peer to Peer Commercial Apps Jerk Tech?

Ah, therein lies the rub! Monkey Parking and Reservation Hop are the far end of the spectrum – the worst of the worst of the Jerks, so to speak.

But Jerkdom isn’t black and white. Think of it like a sliding scale, with some companies just pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable, while others are jumping right over the barriers.

Where exactly those barriers are isn’t exactly clear yet.


Very few Peer-to-Peer commercial Apps are more hotly debated than Uber

Since launching in San Francisco four years ago, Uber has expanded into 149 cities in 41 countries, with an app that enables users to hail a taxi with a tap of a smartphone.

The company’s latest push has been into Asia: since launching in Seoul last August, it has entered other cities including Beijing, Singapore, Bangalore and Hong Kong.

While users have embraced the convenience offered by Uber, taxi drivers are up in arms against the threat to their livelihoods. In June, taxi drivers in Berlin, Paris, London and Madrid staged a co-ordinated strike in protest against the app and a Belgian court declared Uber illegal in April.

In spite of this, investors have shown keen interest in Uber, making it one of the most valuable start-ups of recent years. In June it raised $1.2bn in new capital on terms that valued it at $18bn.

Seoul’s government has gone as far as to launch legal efforts to ban Uber in the country

“Uber is hurting the good people of the taxi industry,” said Kim Kyung-ho, head of the Seoul city transport department.


Sick of paying expensive fees for Hotels? There’s an App for that!


There are roughly 15,000 Airbnb “hosts” in New York and, according the courts or the tabloids, they are scammers, pimps and updated versions of slumlords.

Airbnb itself admits there are bad apples in the system,  but the startup estimates that 87% of listings are in good faith. Other statistics suggest that professional landlords abusing the system are responsible for as many as 30% of all listings.

This App goes against a law that came into effect May of 2011 that says it’s illegal to rent full apartments for less than 30 days.

With AirBNB,  A studio apartment on a vacation rental site can go for $175 or so a night, bringing in much more than the monthly income from someone with a standard year-long lease. Plus, the hosts could basically operate like a hotel, but without all the pesky safety regulations, insurance requirements, permits, or zoning that real businesses have to deal with. Or good neighbors for that matter.

On the other hand, it can operate as a cheaper alternative to people who want to travel but can’t afford traditional accommodation.

Right now AirBNB is still functioning, but whether a few bad apples will push this App into the ‘Jerk Tech’ category remains to be seen.

So, whether  your are a start up or an individual, try to remember your behaviours have an impact on people around you.

Don’t be a Jerk.


Capital markets riding the cutting edge of the digital revolution

Planet4IT has been a successful IT staffing agency for 15 years.  Recently we started to notice that the ever-changing technology landscape has spawned a subset of talented individuals who don’t fit perfectly into the traditional IT world.  P4Capital is our response.

It’s a division aimed at people who specialize at the point where capital markets and wealth management intersect with technology.

Data is where all of these specialists interact, create, and work. Think of data as the meeting point of Digital and Capital.

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan coined the term global village.

The new electronic independence re-creates the world in the image of a global village.” — Marshall McLuhan

50 years later we are finally arriving at the point where it’s becoming a reality.  It is technology that is enabling this, but if you stop and ask yourself why are we pursuing all these technological advances you will inevitably come to the conclusion that commerce is the driving force behind it.

Commercial society has always been the hallmark of North America, and with the fall of communism and the rise of democracy the rest of the world is pushing commercialism to a whole new level.

There is perhaps no better example of commerce than the traders of Capital around the world.

The major stock exchanges see more volume now than ever before, and those who can find advantages in investment can turn very serious profits.

Big data has provided those who can effectively understand it an advantage that rivals the speculation of films like Limitless.


I see every scenario, I see 50 scenarios, that’s what it does Carl – it puts me 50 moves ahead of you.

With big data and good analytics come many advantages in the capital markets trading game:

  • The first is speed.  Real time databases such as Hadoop allow for information to be processed at a rate unprecedented in human history. We’re talking millions of information indices being turned into relevant and useful information in nanoseconds.
  • The second is depth.  Algorithmic programmers now have access to a huge volume of data they can sift through and collect relevant information from.   This has allowed traders to build significantly more accurate predictive models.    Now we are living in a world where data processing gives competitive advantage.
  • Thirdly and lastly for this post, is sales.  The world of commerce doesn’t exist without the private funding of people who are willing to put their money in other people’s hands.  The ability to maximize the amount entrusted is often an overlooked component of the trading game.  Sales teams and traders work side by side in banks around the world.  Big data analytics have given those sales teams ammunition to maximize their investment by building out customer profiles that predict who they should be contacting on any given day.

It’s easy to get distracted by the bright lights of the Digital world, but the reality is commerce is one of the biggest reasons these technological advances are useful to society.



Guest Blogger: Andrew

Andrew is one of the newest members of Planet4IT, so he brings with him a fresh new perspective.

With one eye on the job market and the other on the IT world, he’s the man to go to for information on how the latest advancements in Data, Digital Marketing and Social Media are effecting business.

Andrew encourages you to reach out to him through not only telephone or email, but LinkedIn and Twitter as well




Put your Best Face Forward – The Benefits of Digital Video

In our personal and professional lives, we use social media in a lot of ways to develop relationships with people. We follow people on Twitter. We connect on LinkedIn. We update our status on Facebook and hope that people will “like” it.

Whether or not we’re aware of it, a large part of why we reach out through these mediums is to achieve human contact. As people, we want to be connected to and feel a sense of connection with the other people around us. Even the name Facebook suggests that we want to see others’ faces, to connect face-to-face.


But how can you best achieve that sense of connection with your clients or a potential employer? One great way is through the power of digital video. Using video to create products like weekly video blogs, digital walkthroughs, live product demos, client testimonials, or video resumes helps to not only showcase who you really are but also to build a sense of trust and connection by putting a smiling face with your name as it appears on-screen.


For job-seekers, having a high-quality video resume could help you stand out from the crowd when employers are inundated with literally hundreds of job applicants. It also shows that you are innovative and willing to go the extra mile.


For companies, having high-quality video on your website helps to showcase your people and products, and gives potential clients a chance to feel connected to you, sometimes even before they make first contact! As well, professional, polished video shows that you are ahead of the trend when it comes to online marketing and that you are innovative in embracing new technology and new ways of connection.


Social media metrics have measured that posts with images get more views and shares than text-based posts, and posts with video tend to achieve even higher results than image-based posts. So, if you’re looking to boost follower engagement, presenting a series of short videos could help you get those desired numbers!


As digital video technology becomes cheaper to acquire and easier to use, more people than ever before are picking up cameras. This is both a good and bad thing, in that there are a lot more people who are learning to create digital video (yay!), many of whom do great work. However, there are also a large number of DIY cameramen who may not have sufficient training in related areas like audio, lighting, and editing to produce a high-quality, polished product (boo!).


Often, bad video is worse than no video. Fans of the hit sitcom “How I Met Your Mother” may remember the hilarious eyesore that was Barney’s video resume. For fun, you can see for yourself at:


Sorry, Barney, but the video isn’t as awesome as you think. (The HIMYM producers did a great job in creating such a great “bad” video!) A couple issues you might pick apart from this video are the bad overall  image quality, the obvious self-inserts, and the over-use of stock footage and explosions, just to name a few issues.


But don’t let Barney’s cautionary tale deter you from getting great video. If you prefer to take the DIY route when it comes to video production, make sure you have done sufficient research on audio, lighting, video, and editing gear that is all within your budget and will give you professional results. While devices such as an iPhone can create good video, you need to think about if it will adequately serve your needs. Investing in a digital video professional to produce video content for you is a surefire way to take all the stress of video production off of your hands and ensure you have a quality product you are proud to show off.


Whichever path you choose… lights, camera, action on video that makes YOU look AWESOME!



Emily Schooley is the CEO of Laughing Cat Creative – a creative consulting agency and media production house that specializes in bringing revolutionary awesomeness to individuals and businesses within the GTA. Check us out at to see how we can make your life more awesome.