Remember when? 18 years of Cosmic Log

Today marks the 18th anniversary of Cosmic Log’s founding as one of the first blogs in MSNBC’s lineup. Nowadays, everything on a news website is arguably a blog, but back then, it was a big deal, at least for the likes of NBC News.

Wired magazine took note of Cosmic Log and MSNBC’s four other “more-or-less daily blogs” in its September 2002 issue, under a headline that read “Big Media’s Me-Too Blogs.” The stable of bloggers was described as consisting of “marquee names Eric Alterman and Chris Matthews, plus staffers Michael Moran, Jan Herman and Alan Boyle.”

As of this year, all five of us have left MSNBC. Herman continues to post to his Straight Up blog at ArtsJournal, Moran is the CEO of Transformative Risk Assessment, Alterman is a columnist at The Nation, and Matthews has been through some interesting times.

Cosmic Log soldiers on: During the weeks ahead, I’m hoping to put the archives on an even keel ⁠— and revive some of the quantum fluctuations that added flair to the blog in years past.

In preparation for that, here’s an updated version of the Cosmic Log history quiz that’s been published periodically to mark the blog’s May 13 birthday. This time, there’s no prize for the winner — except for a free trip down memory lane:

Cosmic Log Quiz: 10 questions

1. Where did the name “Cosmic Log” come from? A space mission? A TV show? A comic book? Or did I just make it up?

2. Which “Star Trek” actor was interviewed for Cosmic Log? Nichelle Nichols? Leonard Nimoy? William Shatner? George Takei?

3. Which would-be celebrity astronaut was interviewed for Cosmic Log? Lance Bass? Mark Burnett? James Cameron? Victoria Principal?

4. Which Apollo astronaut was NOT interviewed for Cosmic Log? Buzz Aldrin? Alan Bean? Pete Conrad? Harrison Schmitt?

5. Which magician has been interviewed for Cosmic Log? The Amazing Randi? The Amazing Kreskin? David Copperfield? Penn Jillette?

6. Which medium/channel/psychic has been interviewed for Cosmic Log? Mary T. Browne? Theresa Caputo? Allison Dubois? JZ Knight?

7. Which TV show has been the subject of Cosmic Log postings? “American Idol”? “Dancing With the Stars”? “The X-Files”? All of the above?

8. What is the “CLUB Club”? A real-world hangout for Cosmic Log fans in Seattle back in the early days? A concept I proposed for an anti-theft device? A list of book recommendations? A members-only gallery of cosmic pictures?

9. What kind of celestial object got its name in part because of Cosmic Log? Asteroid? Comet? Crater? Mountain?

10. Who was the object named after? Douglas Adams? Alan Boyle? Stephen Hawking? Robert Heinlein?

⁠Cosmic Log Quiz: The answers

1. Cosmic Log’s name was inspired by a 40-year-old quote from a character in Weird Mystery Tales #1: “My name is Destiny, and it is my Fate to walk alone throughout eternity and observe the follies and mysteries of mankind, and to note them all in the cosmic log.” Among the rejected names: Quanta, Penultimate Questions and the Blog at the End of the Universe.

2. William Shatner was our guest for a Cosmic Log chat on Oct. 14, 2002.

3. Although Lance Bass was the subject of frequent Cosmic Log items in 2002, I never did talk with Lance himself. I did, however, chat with James Cameron a couple of times about his space aspirations.

4. I’ve had items in Cosmic Log about Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin, Apollo 12’s Alan Bean, Apollo 17’s Harrison Schmitt and other astronauts from NASA’s glory days. I interviewed Apollo 12 commander Pete Conrad before his death in 1999 for a story about his Universal Space Lines venture — but that was before Cosmic Log got started. So Pete Conrad is the answer to this one.

5. On June 7, 2002, The Amazing Kreskin was the focus of a Cosmic Log item about his UFO stunt in Nevada. (You’ll have to dig for that one.)

6. JZ Knight (who says she channels a 35,000-year-old warrior spirit named Ramtha) was the subject of an extended interview in 2010. I haven’t yet checked in with Theresa (“Long Island Medium”) Caputo or Allison Dubois of the “Medium” TV series, but I do stay in touch with my cousin Mary T. Browne, “the Wall Street psychic.”

7. All of the above: Who hasn’t written about “American Idol,” “Dancing With the Stars” and “The X-Files”?

8. The CLUB Club is the “Cosmic Log Used Book Club.” We started up the club to highlight books with cosmic themes that have been out long enough to become available at your local library or secondhand-book store. The club’s gone dormant in recent years, but the titles listed in the CLUB Club archive are still pretty good recommendations. Reviving the club is one of the items on my to-do list.

9 and 10. Way back on Aug. 21, 2003, I discussed the procedure for naming asteroids and solicited suggestions for folks who should have an asteroid named after them. Douglas Adams, the humorist behind the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” series, was one of the prospects mentioned — and I noticed that there was an asteroid out there that almost literally had his name on it. The space rock known provisionally as 2001 DA42 included the date of Adams’ death (2001), his initials (DA) and the answer to the ultimate question from the Hitchhiker’s Guide (42). Astronomer Brian Marsden, who headed up the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center at the time, thought it was a great suggestion and helped make it so in 2005. You can get the full story here.

About Alan Boyle

Aerospace and science editor for GeekWire, creator of Cosmic Log, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.
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