On October 14th, Felix Baumgartner took a two hour balloon ride to the edge of the atmosphere, reaching an altitude of 39 km, then he jumped towards Earth. As he hurtled towards the ground, Felix reached a top speed of 1342.8 km/h (Mach 1.24), breaking the sound barrier, and had a total freefall time of four minutes and 20 seconds (6 seconds longer than Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’), at times dangerously spinning out of control. It was an amazing event that was watched live by a record 8 million people on YouTube, and two anchors on CNN. I am referring to the decision made by CNN to cut away from the live feed just before Felix jumped, see video below.
I had a similar experience as Dorothy Pomerantz at Forbes Magazine, who switched from her laptop to the TV screen to be able to watch the event. Pomerantz shared her disappointment as CNN cut away in an abundance of caution, but noted that this event marks a tipping point in live-streaming events. She draws attention to the fact that the ace in the hole that broadcast television always had over streaming media, the fact that is was live, no longer holds weight. The success of the jump on YouTube reflects how audiences are increasingly watching live global events, and they are tweeting about them too.
Articles are built around how Twitter reacts to an event, and headlines are built around anonymous tweets, as seen with CNN’s article ‘Goosebumps’ as daredevil jumps from edge of space, the article reports “Goosebumps … Incredible!” one Twitter user posted shortly after the jump. While I can’t see the appeal of Twitter for getting “insightful” quotes from an anonymous person, it sure is great for comedy. And large, live, global events like Felix’s jump, bring out some very amusing tweets.
In addition to the humorous tweets, there were several that aimed to bring people back to Earth. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted,
The “Edge of Space” jump: A corresponding fall to a schoolroom globe begins 1 millimeter above its surface. I’m just saying.
His aim wasn’t to take anything away from the jump, but to put it in context of space, or rather outer space. Other people weren’t as generous in their discussions of the jump, calling it nothing more than a stunt, and wondering about the spectacle and the risk of it all and what if something had gone wrong? But for all the criticisms and discussions there were some really great things to come out of the jump. First off, The Guardian points out some important questions were answered, and The Stanford Daily points out the importance of this jump from the perspective of private companies and their role in the future of space flight and innovation. At a time when other heroes have fallen, millions of people found a new role model and hero, one who is made famous by his fall. And most importantly, we were treated to some great memes and this LEGO re-enactment,
- The Best Resources For Learning About Felix Baumgartner’s Jump From The Edge Of Space (larryferlazzo.edublogs.org)
- Felix Baumgartner: what people are saying on twitter (telegraph.co.uk)
- Felix Baumgartner’s space jump captivates Internet, Twitter (news.yahoo.com)
- Felix Baumgartner’s Jump Was The Biggest Risk Red Bull Has Ever Taken (businessinsider.com)
- Felix Baumgartner becomes first skydiver to fall faster than speed of sound (charlotte.news14.com)
- Felix Baumgartner’s skydive helps social networks fly (guardian.co.uk)
- Felix Baumgartner’s Jump From Space is The Definition of Epic! (thinksoul25.com)