World's Largest Vacuum Chamber

The Space Power Facility at NASA Glenn Research Center's Plum Brook Station in Sandusky, Ohio, houses the world's largest vacuum chamber. It measures 100 feet in diameter and is a towering 122 feet tall. The facility is currently undergoing construction to support Orion crew exploration vehicle testing in 2010. Making its first flights early in the next decade, Orion is part of the Constellation Program to send human explorers back to the moon, and then onward to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

Yelp shakedown

Hey look, people are finally noticing that Yelp sells review placement.

They called us a few months back with the usual shakedown request. Apparently you get a call once you have more than N hits. If you pay them a monthly fee, you get to put your "favorite" review at the top, get better search result listings, and (I'm pretty sure they told us) get to delete "unfair" reviews about your business.

I can't stand Yelp. Mostly because it's always the top hit when I search for a restaurant instead of that restaurant's own web site, which is useless, but also because I wouldn't trust any of its reviews for a second. Not just because I know that they sell them, but also because, having read the reviews people leave of my business, I know exactly how reality-based they aren't. The reviews of DNA Lounge there fall into roughly three categories:

  • "I've never been to a club before. They wouldn't let me bring in my own beverages. Also it was loud and nobody would talk to me."
  • "I wanted asian hiphop and instead there were drag queens. This place sucks."
  • "I hate dance clubs. They charged a cover! My corner sports bar doesn't charge a cover."

My favorite review was the one that went something like, "I could have bought liquor at the grocery store and gotten drunk at home for way cheaper." Yeah, you get down with your bad self.

So I tend to assume that reviews of everything else on that site hover around that level of reliability.

Update: More: Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0: "During interviews with dozens of business owners over a span of several months, six people told this newspaper that Yelp sales representatives promised to move or remove negative reviews if their business would advertise. In another six instances, positive reviews disappeared - or negative ones appeared - after owners declined to advertise." Yelp's PR people are in a panic over this, obviously.

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