Jordin Kare Passes Away

Jordin Kare (1956-2017), respected science panelist and filksinger, died July 19, having never recovered from surgery to replace his failing aortic valve.

An astrophysicist who worked on the Clementine lunar mapping mission and developed the Sailbeam propulsion concept, Kare received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1978 and Ph.D. in Astrophysics from University of California, Berkeley in 1984.

He told a Smithsonian interviewer in 2014 —

I went into astrophysics because I was interested in the large-scale functions of the universe, but I went to MIT because the hero of Robert Heinlein’s novel Have Spacesuit, Will Travel went to MIT.

He typically described his career in convention bios this way —

After working for a decade at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on big lasers and little spacecraft, Jordin became a freelance rocket scientist (really — “Will design satellites for food”). He’s won two NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts fellowships. Since 2007, he’s hung up his rocket scientist hat and works as a staff inventor at Intellectual Ventures. In his spare time he’s lead engineer for LaserMotive…

He said that as a child, he went to a science camp and learned how to build a laser. When he got his laser to turn on, he had an epiphany and was absolutely sure that he wanted to work with lasers for the rest of his life.

Kare and Thomas Nugent of LaserMotive won $900,000 at the Space Elevator Games in 2009. Theirs was one of three competing teams which built prototypes designed to climb a one-kilometer cable held aloft by a helicopter. Kare explains how LaserMotive won in this video.

As a filksinger he published two albums, Fire in the Sky (1991) and Parody Violation: Jordin Kare Straight and Twisted (2000). His song “Fire in the Sky” received a Pegasus award for Best Classic Filksong in 2010 and has been quoted on national television by astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

Kare also was an editor of The Westerfilk Collection: Songs of Fantasy and Science Fiction, an important filksong collection, and later a partner in Off Centaur Publications, the first commercial publisher specializing in filk songbooks and recordings.

Kare’s first convention was Boskone 1975. He and his future wife Mary Kay met for the first time at Denvention (1981) after she admired his writing in the Filk Foundation zine.

He was the brother of Susan Kare, designer of the fonts and icons of the original Apple Macintosh user interface.

He has been Tuckerized in several sf stories. An astrophysicist character with his name appears in two of David Weber’s Honor Harrington novels, War of Honor and Torch of Freedom. Jordin and Mary Kay were Tuckerized in Callahan’s Touch by Spider Robinson.

17 thoughts on “Jordin Kare Passes Away

  1. Way, way too soon. My condolences to all who knew him.

    Several years ago, when Jordin and MKK still lived in the Bay Area, we were invited to a party at their house. We got a tour of his legendary garage, which was like the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Along with mimeograph machines and bits of electronic gear, I spied a box on a high shelf labeled “flying things.”

    To this day I’m not sure if that box was actually sitting on the shelf.

    RIP, Jordin, may you finally get the Unified Field answer that works.

  2. Thanks for the bio. I will miss Jordin very much. I was also on that tour of his garage and it was truly amazing. My condolences to Mary Kay and all of the family. God bless you all.

  3. My condolences to Mary Kay and the rest of his family. He was a unique character and will be deeply missed.

  4. I’m very sorry to read that. He helped me out a couple of times and was a very decent fellow. Very sad news.

  5. Ah, I miss him. Great guy with so many talents.

    Condolences to Mary Kay and the rest of the loved ones.

    I shall filk in his honor tonight, and again soon at an already-scheduled party with a lot of his friends — mutual friends is how I met him.

  6. Really sad to hear. I worked with Jordin while at LLNL and remember his quirky sense of humor and his enthusiasm for lasers (and laser propulsion). He’ll be missed.

  7. Thanks to this & to all the people replying. Is there anyway I could get a hard copy of that last picture of Jordin? Where he’s seated looking up, half in light half in shadow?

    Mary Kay Kare

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