Bridge Collapse: Who's at Fault? It's Still Too Soon to Know If Anyone Is Legally Responsible for the Disaster
How about instead of trying to assign blame somewhere, you spend your time, money, and efforts figuring out how to ensure this doesn't happen again?
Sometimes, I really hate American society.
I know that a rocket doesn't have a throttle in a purely technical sense, but neither do turbine engines, so there.
It's nice to see that NASA is finally catching up to the FAA. Am I the only one who is shocked that this wasn't already a rule, at least for critical phases of flight like launch and re-entry/landing?
Man, if only they had had Explosives Camp when I was in high school. That would have been amazing.
I would gladly pay a grand now for a week of blowing stuff up, by the way. UMR has a great marketing opportunity on its hands.
I need -- and by "need" I mean "want this like Smithers wants C. Montgomery Burns" -- a jet-powered airplane backpack.
Someone with access to an electron microscope (at least, that's what appears to be the source of the photos) and car windshields has put together an absolutely stunning collection of photos of insects that met their demise at the business end of a speeding plate of glass.
A New Zealand television station couldn't afford $20,000 for a commercial parabolic dish antenna to send their signal from the studio up to the main antenna atop a nearby mountain, so they used an $80 wok instead.
This isn't the first time folks down under have done some crazy homebrew wireless antenna stuff; using standard 802.11 hardware with (fairly inexpensive, but commercial) yagi antennas, some Lucent engineers in Australia managed to get 57-km range between an island and the mainland about seven years back.
Dad wants a Morbark 30 Whole-Tree Chipper.
A ski-track kit for my mountain bike. That's wicked cool.
Dan Briody over at InfoWorld has a great op-ed piece entitled The Ten Commandments of cell phone etiquette.
This seems like a good opportunity to point out the overarching Don't be a dick rule, too. "It's not just for Wikipedia. It's for life!"
Bald eagles have made a great comeback in the last 50 years, with an estimated 100,000 now living throughout North America. Its close Asian cousin, Steller's sea eagle, has not been so lucky. Fewer than 5,000 birds survive, and the number is thought to be declining.
Both birds share a similar diet, habitat, and breeding habits. So why is the bald eagle doing so well when the Steller's sea eagle is in serious trouble?
When the little blue pill was introduced in the Asian market, it destroyed the traditional-medicine aphrodisiac trade almost overnight. Among the aphrodisiacs employed by Asian men was the dried gallbladder of the brown bear. Poachers no longer found it profitable to kill brown bears, resulting in an increase in the juvenile brown bear population. Juvenile brown bears have not yet grown too big to climb trees, where they prey on Steller's sea eagle nests, limiting the breeding success of the Steller's population.
A team of Dartmouth College researchers has come up with an incredibly cool-sounding way to remove ice from windshields, refrigeration coils, etc.: they send a rapid pulse of electricity through a thin film on the surface of the windshield (for instance), causing microscopic and instantaneous heating of the surface, which breaks the bonds that ice forms with the surface. This allows the ice to slough off, and sure as heck beats the windshield heaters or alcohol sprays currently used on most commercial aircraft. Goodrich, the aerospace supplier, is working on an application of the technology in commercial jet windshields.
I'm packing up and moving to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia as soon as possible.
After much hemming and hawing, in-depth research, and market study, the powers that be finally decided on a Bluetooth headset by going to dealnews and finding the cheapest one from a company that seemed mildly reputable.
This blog is now the proud owner of a Logitech Mobile Freedom headset. It's not the best-looking headset out there, nor the lightest, but it was only $35 shipped (on sale, before a $10 rebate) and it came with an Official Eric Schwarz Endorsement.
Will someone please explain the idea behind spending $100 (or more!) on something that's no better, features-wise, than a product costing one-fourth as much?
By the way, I heartily recommend this as a Bluetooth headset if you need one. It's pretty painless to set up and the volume seems pretty good so far, although I have yet to use it in the car.
The award for February definitely goes to the guy who built this Babbage Difference Engine out of Legos. Notice, please, that the host for that site is none other than Steve Wozniak's personal domain. For more on the difference engine concept, please visit Wikipedia's Difference engine entry, which also talks about Charles Babbage, its inventor.
In case you have a lot of company coming, this six-piece radial-design toaster should help smooth things along in the kitchen. Pretty cool idea -- each individual heating unit is removable and interchangeable. Seems like it would make for very easy repair and maintenance, which means we'll probably never see it in the marketplace.
Take one old couch, two mountain bikes, some steel tubing, and a welder, and add a bit of ingenuity and a desire to see the Maritime Provinces in Canada, and you get the couch bike, which is quite possibly the coolest way to spend a summer break I've ever seen.
Rock on, guys.
The state of Michigan has just banned alcohol vapourisers.
Of course, until I read that news story, I had no idea there even was such a thing, or that you could get drunk by inhaling alcohol vapour. Now I kinda want to try it.
On Wikipedia, that would be a huge violation of WP:BEANS. Was this really that big of a problem before they outlawed the machines? You might as well ban kegs, since we all know kegs lead to frat parties and peeing on cars. Sheesh.
Kim, you might be better than I am at Scrabble, but I'll
whip pWnz0r you in 5cr488|3 any day.
Those of you with a passing familiarity with post-World War II Germany may know that any sort of Nazi memorabilia is illegal there. This includes the viewing of such material on the Internet, apparently, and eBay, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to filter their auction items so as to avoid breaking the law in Germany.
Notwithstanding the utterly idiotic censorship policy they've put in place -- swastikas are required to be covered up in any item photos, for instance, which makes it damn difficult to present a good photograph of any Nazi memorabilia -- their means of filtering auction items is even more horribly retarded.
As an American, living in the United States, I cannot view any items that even so much as imply a relationship to the Nazis, not because such items are illegal here -- they're not -- but because eBay's servers filter on the Accept-Language header sent by the browser.
That's right. Anyone who reads German (or French, incidentally) must, therefore, be living in Germany or France.
Because no one outside Germany or France has ever read a word of German or French in their entire lives, especially on the Internets.
The really sad part is the item in question is a book written by an American ex-POW, about American POWs in Stalag Luft III. It just happens to have a swastika on the cover, and some photos of uniformed German soldiers inside.
Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.
But now I think I'm looking for a Bluetooth-enabled rear-view mirror for my car.
And still looking for a headset for when I'm not in the car, of course.
Also, I need one of these nifty programmable LED nametags to hang in my rear window for the guy who keeps tailgating me.
From the New York Times:
All eight members up for re-election to the Pennsylvania school board that had been sued for introducing the teaching of intelligent design as an alternative to evolution in biology class were swept out of office yesterday...of the 16 candidates the one with the fewest votes was Mr. Bonsell, the driving force behind the intelligent design policy.
Too bad the morons in Kansas weren't up for re-election this year. Serves those goons in Pennsylvania right, though. Keep your religion out of my science class.
Attention, readers: should any of you stumble across a copy of either of these books, I would be greatly interested.
But not at the prices some folks are charging on Amazon, thankyouverymuch. That's ridiculous.
Turner's got an interesting quote -- which, unfortunately, is not taken out of context -- about the avian flu vaccine situation.
What the WSJ op-ed piece (the source of the quote) didn't tell you was that "one pharmaceutical company" may have not only accepted that $10/dose discount, but they still made a 200% net profit on it.
I've seen how the industry works from my experience working at one of the major pharma companies and in close connection to the industry during my graduate work, and they're making money hand over fist when they can run a drug through approval. What's killing them -- and what the article touches on all too briefly and with ENTIRELY the wrong attitude -- is that, and I quote:
One problem is the Food and Drug Administration, which puts safety above developing rapid cures.
That's what their job is, dummy. Obviously if a drug isn't safe, it's not a "rapid cure." It's a flawed semi-solution at best and might be more of a problem than the disease it's intended to cure. Anyone remember the widespread prescription of thalidomide for morning sickness? More recent examples include the newly discovered "Viagra makes you go blind" effect and the enormous mess over COX-2 inhibitors (Celebrex, Vioxx, etc.).
The FDA needs a serious overhaul, but it needs a serious overhaul in the direction away from being a corporate stooge under the auspices of the Federal government, which is what it's become in the last 30 years.
Another one from the questions-nobody-ever-bothered-to-ask-because-they-were-just-too-mind-boggling deparment:
In case you were ever wondering the volume contained within the city limits of New Orleans that is below sea level, the answer is about 250 billion gallons.
All 250 billion of those pesky gallons have now been relocated to more appropriate areas, like Lake Ponchartrain and the Gulf of Mexico, at least two weeks ahead of the most optimistic estimates.
How well do you know the area you live in? Kevin Kelly wants to know, and I'm curious too. I scored a 25 (including bonus questions, where I was three out of four) on my first run through without any outside help or Googling.
Researchers at Penn have developed a prototype backpack that can generate power while the wearer is walking. Pretty cool, especially since it doesn't weigh appreciably more than a regular backpack and can put out enough current to charge "several" mobile devices at the same time. Sign me up for product testing!
Greg Howard, of Geese Aplenty fame, has a bloody great post about the conflict between the cockamamie theory of so-called "Intelligent Design" and the scientific fact of evolution. One of the comments made an allusion to what has to be the headline of the day:
Fox television producers, take note. You might want to extend an offer of employment to the young son of Richard Walkup, of West Chester, PA. He captured some very impressive photographs of a praying mantis catching and eating a hummingbird in his own backyard.
Authorities and West Michigan residents are left wondering: what ate the calf and attacked its mother?
My vote is for El Chupacabras.
Via Kevin Kelly's Cool Tools comes St. Claire, Inc.'s Industrial Sign Builder. You can choose from a variety of categories for various warning signs, then build a custom PDF with a few clicks of the mouse.
Watch for some products of this nifty program here on the blog.
UPDATE: For example, this lovely warning sign:
UPDATE 2: Here are a few more.
Today's award goes to Thomas Hesse.
I know, I know. "Who the heck is Thomas Hesse?"
He's the "president for global digital business" at Sony BMG, the recording industry giant. Instead of being remembered merely for having the world's most pretentious business cards, Hesse will now go down in infamy for this little slip, sure to raise the ire of Uncle Steve over in Cupertino:
It's just a proprietary decision by Apple to decide whether to play along or not. I don't know what more waiting we have to do. We think we need to move this forward. Time is ticking, infringement of intellectual property is happening all over, and we've got to put a stop to it I think.
OK, let me get this straight.
1) Mac users are all pirates and can't be trusted.
2) Apple -- a computer, not music company, mind -- is responsible for writing unbreakable DRM that makes CDs unplayable in computers.
If I were Steve Jobs, you know what I would do? I would call up this Hesse goon and tell him his little tantrum just cost his company any chance of ever having CD copy protection that works under Mac OS. Let fly the Wrath of Steve!
More technical details, and a much better article, at Yahoo.
Red Forman Dumbass Rating:
"Oh, shit!" says humanity.
(With a nod to the Onion for the great headline.)
Maybe I need an "art" category, although this seems sufficiently technical to fit in sci/tech...
The funny thing is that I had never heard of these guys before today. They oughta be advertising more locally.
Will someone please explain the following questions to me?
If the Sanyo DVR-H200 digital video recorder is any good and costs less than $400, I'm throwing out the VCR and never looking back. Not only does it have a 160 GB hard disk (allowing for up to eight straight days of recorded TV), but it can record to DVD-RW and DVD+R, and it can read DVD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, Audio CD, Video CD, SVCD, MP3, JPEG, and Kodak's PictureCD formats.
And it looks cool.
I hesitate to even remotely associate the concept of Creationism "intelligent design" with science, but it seems some folks in Kansas can't leave well enough alone. Choice quote from the article:
Stephen Meyer, a senior fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which supports intelligent design, said changing the schools' definition of science would avoid freezing out questions about how life arose and developed on Earth.
The current definition is "not innocuous," Meyer said. "It's not neutral. It's actually taking sides."
Yeah, Steve, that's right. It's taking sides. It's taking the side of science, which is by definition neutral, rather than the side of one narrow view of theology, which is by definition the opposite of neutral.
In a first for U.S. wireless carriers, T-Mobile has decided to release detailed street-level wireless coverage maps to the public. I've done quite a bit of traveling in the I-94/I-80 corridor, and along the I-69/I-75 corridor, and the maps jive pretty well with the coverage I've experienced. If you're on T-Mo, have a look and see where you can expect to have your calls dropped.
Because AccuWeather, a very large corporate "constituent" headquartered in Pennsylvania, Santorum's "home" state, thinks the NOAA's free information is keeping people from buying the same information from AccuWeather.
AccuWeather doesn't have anywhere near the data-gathering capacity of the NOAA. They don't have taxpayer-funded satellites or thousands of taxpayer-funded offshore bouys. They don't have ten taxpayer-funded WC-130s flying as part of the 53d Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, better known as the "Hurricane Hunters." They are a private company that, ironically enough, relies very heavily on NOAA data for their business.
Corporate welfare at its finest. This is utterly ridiculous.
Sunbeam makes toasters, right? Toasters, microwave ovens, toaster ovens, coffeemakers, that sort of thing, right?
I'm just struggling to wrap my head around how a company that was, until yesterday, best known for their toasters could birth something as ridiculous (and as ridiculously useful) as the "20-in-1 Superior Panel" (review).
If I had even the slightest inkling that I might be getting a tower computer any time soon, I would be all over this.
This is just too cool.
In addition to the psychological benefits of eating a bit of chocolate, researchers at Georgetown have now found compounds in chocolate shut down cancerous cell division.
Because if the Robo-Urinal touches my penis, I swear on all things holy that I will dismember it into a million pieces and insert every last one of them up the urethra of its designer, like a million tiny candirú.
Benjamin Cohen, owner of the disputed domain name iTunes.co.uk, is appealing the recent decision by the British registrar Nominet to hand the domain over to Apple.
Nominet seems to have made the right decision, though:
The domain name, in the hands of the respondent [Cohen], is an abusive registration on the grounds of its use in a manner taking unfair advantage of, and being unfairly detrimental to, the rights of the complainant.
Here's hoping the High Court upholds the decision. I don't care if you registered the domain name in 1992 -- if you're cyber-squatting on it, don't go whining to mommy when someone calls you on it and it gets taken away.
ScienceDaily is reporting that Duke University researchers have postulated a computer that pairs answers with questions put to it, delivering solutions to problems nearly instantaneously.
Why wait? Through the modern miracles of the Internet, PHP, and, to quote the About page of this site, "the inimitable mind currently resident in a human container known as Chris Lawson," such a computer is already available.
First, speak a question out loud.
Louder. I didn't hear you.
OK, thanks. I've determined the answer to your question. Click here for the answer.
Give it to me so I can have six hunnert bux to buy me a P910i, which I so desperately need.
I saw a news story posted somewhere in the last month (let's just say sometime in 2005 to be safe) about a guy who discovered a security vulnerability in a Web site somewhere that basically worked like this:
Anyone remember what I'm talking about or have a link to a news item? I've spent the last four hours trying everything I can on Slashdot, Google, Google News, The Register, the NYT (which is where I think I read it), etc., and I've had no luck so far.
It's not the Harvard MBA story. That only involved people seeing their own data. And I'm pretty sure it's not the Johns Hopkins J-CARD story I linked to back in early February.
Thanks a bunch if anyone finds it and posts it here.
I stuck this in sci-tech because it's, well, sort of technological. But depending on your pain tolerance, it could just as easily be in humour.
A 22-year-old Dallas artist has pierced his nose and attached his glasses to the barbell. Key quote:
Sooy said the original model, constructed without nose pads, did cause problems.
"Without those, there was really nothing keeping them still, so they would kind of rotate around," Sooy said. "If I looked down they would kind of fall out from my face and just kind of hang a little oddly. It was pretty disorienting."
(via Lee via AIM)
Weekend Winter Storm
- This is a tricky forecast.
WWMT 19/02/05 20:51
No, the 'Book isn't here yet, but I did just get a very nice (wired) handsfree for my fone: the Belkin ActiFlex Boom Universal Hands-Free. I can highly recommend this excellent product, which cost me only $15 at OfficeMax. It has a lifetime warranty, and it beats the factory handsfree by a mile.
If you want to use one of these with a fone that has a proprietary handsfree connector, you'll need an adapter. I picked up a Belkin adapter for the T616 from a link on Froogle for $8.50 shipped.
I'm rather less pleased with the Belkin case, which I'm tempted to return. It's a nice leather case, but it doesn't quite fit the fone, and as a result, the top 15-20 pixels of the screen get covered up. I'm not sure if it's this specific case, or if the problem is endemic to the design. Expect a full report if/when I return this case and/or find anything better.
When it rains, it pours. I'm getting a lot of use out of Red and his cadre of dumbasses lately. Here's another one for you.
Dennis O'Shea, Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs:
The file was in a very obscure place. You would have had to gone looking for them [sic]
Red Forman Dumbass Rating:
If anyone who happens to be doing Christmas shopping for me sees this, I'm adding the MiG-29 Instrument Panel Clock to the list.
This just in...the city of Gulfport, Mississippi, has officially declared that Reptilia are no longer a sub-classification of Animalia.
Two ordinances enacted on 07 January make it illegal
to have an animal or reptile within 150 feet of a public event unless the animal or reptile is participating. It does not apply to animals or reptiles fenced inside private property near an event or to service animals.
This entry brought to you by the Department of Redundancy Department.
I think I speak for all your users when I say:
YOU ALL SUCK!
Cingular becomes the latest cell fone provider to disable key features of a popular handset. Sprint also did it with the Treo 650, much as Cingular has, and Verizon completely crippled the Motorola V710.
Rhetorical question: What the hell is the point of offering a feature-laden fone when you disable the features users want the most?
Remember rotary fones?
Yeah, I'm just old enough. In fact, there's one in my basement that's just begging to be turned into a cell fone. It won't fit in your pocket, but it's über-cool.
The top image on the product page for the Thanko Head Massager (Japanese — are you really surprised?) is absolutely hilarious.
While we're talking about weird products/inventions, can someone confirm/deny that the Angel Light isn't just an April Fool's prank that accidentally got published over two months early?
If you do, be sure to read this excellent primer on CRTs vs. LCDs. Lots of information there, presented in a very easily digestible format. Gets the official CLN Grandmother Seal of Approval™.
In what comes as a refreshing bit of good news for anyone who is not engaging in pseudo-Christian jihad against the basic principles of science, U.S. District Court Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that stickers pushing a Creationist agenda be removed from science textbooks.
Colin Purrington has an interesting perspective:
[I]t's really too bad the Cobb County school district, the loser in the decision, now has to pay the rather large legal fees, sucking valuable assets away from school budgets. To cover the expected revenue shortfall, and to avoid tax increases in Cobb County, perhaps Marjorie Rogers (the Creationist who started the whole mess) can extract donations from the 2,300 supporters who signed her original petition that objected to evolution instruction.
He also has a new sticker to be placed over the old one:
Please read this entire textbook before the end of the year. Due to insufficient funds, you will not have a teacher for this class. If you would like to thank somebody for this situation, please contact local Creationists, who helped bankrupt the district.
The district's legal counsel is also being blamed (by a small legion of organised crackpots called the Discovery Institute, whose agenda, among other things, appears to be the promotion of intelligent design) for mounting an "incompetent defense."
(Also on Slashdot)
I got a really nice Sonicare toothbrush about 18 months ago. It worked great, even if it was a bit on the expensive side at $120.
I assumed from day one (correctly, it turns out) that it used Ni-Cd batteries, and as a result, I was very conscientious in its charging to ensure no "memory" effect developed. I took all the standard precautions for Ni-Cd batteries: don't keep it on the charger constantly, only charge it when it's fully run down, etc.
Despite my best efforts, the batteries died completely — as in, the toothbrush was rendered completely useless — after 18 months. It won't charge, it won't power up, it won't do anything. It just sits there like a nice, heavy, $120 lump of white plastic.
Sonicare's engineers, in their quest for maximum profit, designed the toothbrush in two halves, to be ultrasonically welded together. This completely removes any possibility that the batteries could be replaced without destroying the toothbrush. It would have cost at most another dollar per brush to screw the two halves together instead, making the batteries replaceable and preventing this $120 item from being a $120 disposable, toxic paperweight.
The extreme toxic effects of cadmium are widely known. Nickel, while less toxic than cadmium, also has no place in a landfill. Extensive recycling efforts are in place to prevent any more Ni-Cd batteries from ending up in landfills, yet Sonicare has chosen to shirk any responsibility and designed their toothbrushes in a manner extremely unconducive to recycling.
Boo-hiss, Sonicare. Shame on you for such a poor design, and shame on you for putting profits ahead of corporate responsibility.
Kirin, the Japanese brewer, has hypothesized the ancient Egyptian methods of brewing beer.
They also have a recipe if you'd like to try it at home. (Kiddies, not unless you're 21!)
If only I had huge sterile pots to brew this in, I'd like to try it. It sounds interesting.
A group of Australian architects has developed a house made entirely of cardboard, Velcro, wing nuts, and tape.
Researchers at Imperial College London have determined that theobromine was up to one-third more effective than cough remedies at stopping persistent coughs. Theobromine, an alkaloid found in cocoa, has been previously shown to have a mild stimulant effect, as well as an ability to improve the mood.
I was sitting on the couch tonight and a movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. Whaddaya know, a camel cricket was walking across the carpet.
Someone left the outhouse door open...
...to the vacuum tube!
From MacMinute comes this gem:
Guaranteed* Not to Smell Like Feet After Repeated Use™.
*as long as they're not used as real socks.
Or Web pages, or anything else in a non-plain-English language.
Remember, kids, those compiler/interpreter/validator errors are just there to annoy you. Ignore them, and they'll go away!
There's a cool story on Slashdot about the continued slight deceleration of Voyager 10 and 11 due to some as-yet-unexplained force that seems to be dragging the probes every so slightly toward the Sun. Wild theories floated thus far include electromagnetic effects, the Oort cloud or dust in that region of space, and, of course, the old standby: dark matter.
Every so often I feel a pang of regret that a mission like Genesis goes awry, and then I remember that we have these probes out there that were expected to be useless 15 years ago, but are still returning useful data. It makes the loss a little more bearable.
Many states in the US have annual exhaust inspections for motor vehicles, commonly called "smog checks" by residents. The BBC is reporting on a new study that says cigarette smokers put out more air pollution — by a factor of 10 — than an automobile diesel engine.
Of course, the tobacco industry is up in arms about this. As if they had a leg to stand on, a spokesman for the Tobacco Manufacturers' Association said, "The best way of addressing public concerns about environmental tobacco smoke is through the provision of designated non-smoking and smoking areas with good ventilation."
Yeah. Here, I have a plan that he'll agree to.
Designated non-smoking area: Earth. Designated smoking area: outer space.
Maybe we should make new laws about smoking in your car, too. If you're going to smoke in your car, your car has to meet pollution requirements that are ten times more strict than the standard for non-smokers. If more than one person wants to smoke in your car, the vehicle has to pass a smog check at a level 10 times stricter than normal for each smoker in the car. That sounds fair.
I just got a Princeton Tec Yukon HL headlamp for cockpit illumination when flying at night. This thing is God's Own Headlamp. The one-watt side-emitter LED casts a useful illumination of close to 50 feet, while the three 5-mm low-power auxiliary LEDs are powerful enough to be used in virtually any enclosed space smaller than an auditorium. Projected battery life is 44 hours with the one-watt LED or 120 hours on the three smaller LEDs.
Because all the lighting is a shockingly bright white (looking directly into this thing from 50 feet away will make you see spots for several minutes), I need to find a means of converting it to lower-intensity red for much of my use. Replacing the three low-power LEDs with red versions seems like the most logical solution, but the case is ultrasonically welded together. Not only would breaking the weld likely void the lifetime factory warranty, it would ruin the water resistance as well. I'm currently looking for a sheet of red cellophane or other thin, clear red plastic that I can cut to shape and insert behind the lens. Obviously, this would need to be removed for activities such as UE, where maximum illumination is (usually) more useful than maintaining the eyes' optimal dark adaptation. Ideally, a flip-up red filter (as on the Petzl TacTikka) would provide instant switching back and forth, but for now, I think the cellophane solution is going to have to do.
Alternatively, if someone at Princeton is listening, you could make me a version with three red LEDs around the perimeter. And for maximum illumination, how about a switch that allows for all four LEDs to be turned on at the same time? (More useful if, as on the current model, all four LEDs are the same colour. Pretty useless if you have three reds with a white spotlight.)
Be alert during the night hours from 11 August through the wee hours of 13 August, when the annual Perseid meteor shower will be taking place in the absence of a moon, which should yield better viewing than last year. And it doubles as a celestial birthday present for yours truly. ;)
Clyde Tombaugh, the amateur astronomer who discovered the planet Pluto in 1930, spent a good portion of the next three decades building a massive (for an amateur project) telescope in his backyard. That 16-inch monster is now for sale.
Anyone got a semi truck, a few weeks of time, and maybe a spare 20 grand or so? My backyard said it feels empty.
The Spirit rover has seen a UFO in the Martian sky. Scientists aren't sure what the object was, but there is speculation it could have been the American Viking 2 orbiter, which has been inactive since July 1978.
The BBC is reporting on a study published in Nature that proposes a mechanism by which prions, the misfolded proteins suspected of causing so-called "mad cow" disease, chronic wasting disease in deer, and the human analogue, new-variant Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, get their shapes and "reproduce."
Essentially, prions are governed by the folding "rules" that govern ordinary proteins: temperature, pH, and hydrophobicity of their environment will affect their shape. The researchers subjected yeast prions to heat, causing some of them to unfold and re-fold into a different configuration. These modified prions then served as templates in the development of identical prions when introduced into prion-free yeast, much as DNA or RNA can serve as a template for the manufacture of more RNA or DNA.
You can now get a sex-ed video for pandas.
No word on whether it's available on KaZaA yet...
...to Mars, where a bunch of people with lots of time on their hands and very overactive imaginations (or prescriptions for highly entertaining psychotropic substances) have "found," well, the white rabbit. Along with stone tools and dinosaur fossils.
A retired Air Force pilot has even "found" the letters E and G written on Martian rocks.
OK, this isn't scary. Sorry.
Well, at least not in the "shit your pants and run away" sense. It's kind of scary in the "this guy has waaaaaaay better things he should be doing with his intelligence and time" sense.
Besides, doesn't he have any CLUE what a dragon should look like?
Trogdor is un please. Now, he proceeds you burninate.
The National Transportation Safety Board is now recommending that airline passengers be weighed at least occasionally to account for potentially deadly differences between the "standard" weight of a passenger (currently 185 pounds in winter) and the actual weight of the passenger.
I have a brilliant solution or two.
Solution One (lowest-tech, easiest to implement): Put a scale at the security checkpoint. Anyone who gets pulled aside for a more personal security inspection also gets weighed automatically. If the daily mean of weights is more than, say, five pounds above "standard," all outgoing flights scheduled for the next day are notified so the weight and balance calculations can be adjusted.
Solution Two (medium-tech, somewhat tougher to implement): Put a boarding pass reader at the security checkpoint and build a scale into the platform beneath the metal detector. Build a scale into the X-ray machine as well. Passengers scan their boarding passes in order to pass through the metal detector, where they are weighed. A computer compiles weights of all passengers and carry-on baggage for that specific flight and allows the crew of that flight to make weight and balance adjustments as needed.
Solution Three (high-tech, could be tricky, but extremely accurate): Put RFID tags in boarding passes and luggage tags. These RFID tags will be encoded with flight information. When they pass a scale, they send their ID to the scale and the scale weighs the object passing over it. Like in solution two, a computer would compile this data and warn airline staff if any adjustments needed to be made. This could be combined in part with the scale-in-X-ray from solution two, or a new regulation could be implemented requiring passengers to affix RFID-containing tags to their carry-on baggage as well.
Following on the heels of the first human trials of an HIV vaccine comes the news that US Government scientists have engineered an Ebola vaccine that "completely protected" inoculated monkeys after only one month. Experts expect that if all goes well, the vaccine should be available for large-scale human use by 2006.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina are now testing the first HIV vaccine to make it to phase I clinical trials. If all goes well, there could be a vaccine against HIV within 7-10 years.
Scientists in Israel have performed a successful laser-like surgery on rats using only ambient sunlight, concentrated and transmitted through a complex optical system.
Remember when you were in elementary school and first learned that fleas could jump something ridiculous, like 150 times their body length? Looks like their crown as kings of the animal jumping world might be seized by the spittle bug. A Cambridge University scientist has used high-speed motion capture to determine that spittle bugs can jump some 70 cm straight up, or roughly the equivalent of a human jumping over a 70-story building.
The Montreal Protocol is finally having an effect. Since CFCs were banned in 1987, the ozone layer has been steadily decreasing, but recent research notes that the rate of ozone depletion has finally reversed itself and begun to slow down. Estimates are that the ozone layer should be back to "normal" by about 2040, but back to pre-1980 levels within 15-20 years.
A Japanese company called Takara has created a device that translates dog barks into human phrases. Whether or not it's worth the $120 is your call, but Walt Mossberg suspects that it isn't. Somehow, I don't think anyone's dog has ever said, "I'll be contacting my attorney" with a bark, even if dogs do know about attorneys.
ATTENTION ALL MALE READERS:
Go beat off. Now. Here, I'll even give you some material to work with:
It'll help your prostate stay clear of carcinogenic chemicals.
Google News has a host of other stories on this topic as well. Some of them are pretty darn funny.
As a participant in several online discussion groups, I found this speech on social psychology to be fascinating. I highly recommend anyone who's a member of any large social group give it a read.
Quick! Somebody put one of these in a car and enter it in a tractor pull.
I think that maybe - just maybe - five million pount-feet of torque would win.
The BBC is reporting that naps in the middle of the work day may increase productivity. Hey, I'm all for it. Gimme my hour of passing out on a couch and I'll be able to work 13 hour days in the lab far more easily.
So you might want to get in line now to get your mother one of these vacuum cleaners. Anything in my house that develops 100,000 Gs of acceleration is just wicked cool. Now, if only this thing would supplant the Eight Pound Oreck XL and Kirby vacuum cleaners in the "Gee, that's the most f*ckin annoying advertisement I've ever seen" department...
No, not that rod. Get your mind out of the gutter, you dirty bastard. A rod as in 1/40th of a furlong, which is 1/12th the distance Funny Cide failed to cover fast enough to win the Triple Crown. And that, my friends, is the only time you're likely ever to hear the word "furlong" used as a unit of measurement. It has its origins in the Old English fuhrlang, meaning "the length of a furrow," or the distance a team of oxen could plow without resting. These and many other interesting (and mostly obsolete) units of measure can be found at the Dictionary of Units of Measurement.
And you don't even have to thank — or curse — Gibbs or Helmholtz for this stuff. (Sorry - lame physics/chemistry joke.) The British are deploying the world's first offshore tidal energy turbine a mile off the Devon coast. It should be on-line by the end of August, feeding power into the national grid at the rate of some 300 kW.
If the turbine is a success, engineers estimate up to 10 gigawatts (no, not jiggawatts — gigawatts, or millions of kilowatts) of tidal energy could be harnessed with an expanded system around the British coast.
Walking from your house to school probably felt like a pretty long distance when you were a little kid, huh?
Once you got a driver's licence, driving across the state felt like a fairly big road trip.
Then you took your first interstate plane flight, and that four-hour drive started seeming really short.
Those of you lucky enough to have travelled to another continent probably think nothing of three- or four-hour flights within the US. And with good reason: those distances are absolutely insignificant when compared to the vast distances of Earth from anything else in space.
The Moon seems fairly close, right? Our sun is only eight minutes' travel at the speed of light. Close? Maybe. Think about it relative to this project. The centre of the model solar system is the Northern Maine Museum of Science, where a nearly-fifty-foot Sun is being installed. The Earth, by comparison, is a mile away and about the size of a softball. A long walk to school as a child (about five miles, uphill both ways, in driving blizzards, with worn-out shoes, no lunch money, a bite of gruel for breakfast, and newspapers stuffed into your coat sleeves to keep warm, or at least that's what my dad tells me...) would be equal to the thickness of one of the hairs on your head relative to that softball. Pluto, the smallest planet and currently furthest from the sun, is 40 miles away and a mere inch in diameter, mounted on the wall of a visitor's centre in Houlton.
For more fun with perspectives, think about this for a minute:
Avogadro's number, or 6.022•1023, is commonly known as one mole, much like the number 12 can be referred to as "one dozen." How big is a mole? Really, really, really big. Like hard-to-imagine big. If you spread out a mole of grains of sand over the entire surface of the US, it would cover the whole of the country to a depth of three inches. A mole of US dollars, evenly distributed, would be enough to give every one of the more than six billion living men, women, and children on Earth a fortune (disregarding the obviously inevitable inflation that would result from the sudden appearance of that much money) of over one trillion dollars, or more than ten times the peak net worth of Bill Gates.
If that seems unimaginably large, allow me to make your brain hurt just a little more, and then I'll stop.
Consider the googol, the number for which the search engine was named, a number equal to 10100. A googol is roughly (by which I mean "approximate to within a few tenths of an order of magnitude" - the fact that the US federal budget deficit is something like six trillion dollars give or take a few hundred billion doesn't diminish the fact that a hundred billion dollars is still an enormous number in and of itself) a mole raised to the fourth power.
That's a mole...of moles...of moles...of moles. And even that isn't quite a googol. The number of elementary atomic particles (protons, electrons, neutrons) in the known universe is estimated to be about 1085. That means that our known universe would have to be duplicated one thousand million million times to account for one googol of elementary atomic particles, which are about as small as it gets unless you want to get into serious quantum physics.
And then there's 10googol, or a googolplex...
The only reason this caught my eye is because I'm a synthetic organic chemist, and it amazes me how little we really know about making molecules compared to what nature can accomplish with a few enzymes and millions of years of evolution. A group of researchers at Berkeley have managed to engineer E. coli bacteria to produce artemisinin, a potent antimalarial drug.
Not only can they produce the precursor to artemisinin, but they can produce a wide variety of similar and related natural products with relative ease.
Sometimes I wonder why I'm using a sledgehammer to do the work of an X-Acto knife.
Sounds like a typical subject on some spam that showed up in your inbox tonight, doesn't it? Fortunately, it's not - a federal appellate court has just ruled that cell fone companies must allow customers to keep their numbers when they change providers.
Think about that for a couple minutes in the context of what we could do 50 or 100 years ago.
But oh, what a glorious pile of debris. The amazing thing to me isn't that they found 40 percent of the shuttle, but rather that they found a body of a man who had wandered away from a nursing home, a pickup truck wanted as evidence in a homicide investigation, and walked from the Earth to the Moon and back, plus another couple of laps around the Earth, in the process.
And they still haven't completed their searches of Nevada, California, New Mexico, or Utah, where more debris is thought to have come crashing to earth in the aftermath of Columbia's breakup on 01 February.
This new Honda Accord ad has to be the most incredible piece of work I've seen in quite some time.
Unfortunately it's two minutes long, so you won't be seeing it much on US television. But wow. Those guys really put together an amazing contraption. And the patience required to execute 605 takes before finally getting it to work is pretty impressive as well.
NASA just announced that some of the living experimental subjects, most notably hundreds of C. elegans specimens, have been found alive in the wreckage of Columbia. They aren't the same ones sent up in the shuttle; they have an average lifespan of 7-10 days, and thus these worms are several generations descended from the original worms, but the fact that they survived is pretty amazing.
Nature is reporting the decoding of the Bacillus anthracis Ames genome...tomorrow? Ah well. Dates are irrelevant. The important thing is that 52 people from 12 different research programs got their names on the paper as authors.
Nobody. The Italian BeppoSAX satellite, which had been deployed on an X-ray mission, splashed down harmlessly in the Pacific yesterday after nearly 40 countries around the world were on a "space debris alert" issued by Italy's space agency. The satellite was powered down last April and contact was lost immediately following deactivation, but NASA had been tracking the lifeless hulk to guard against any potential reprise of the Skylab debacle.
Ladies, does your guy have gasoline running through his veins? He might not have so much running where it counts if a recent study of Italian toll-booth attendants can be believed. Exhaust fume exposure appears to reduce sperm counts and sperm motility, making it more difficult for affected men to father a child. No word on whether the effects are reversible yet.
Virginia's governor has just signed into law a new bill that can allow the Virginia government not only to seize the assets of spammers, but sentence them to up to five years of jail time.
The good part: it applies to any spam/UCE sent through Virginia, no matter the origin or destination. The bad part: tracking down, let alone arresting and prosecuting, the foreign hosts responsible for a large part of the spam flooding the Internet is going to be next to impossible.
Hey, there's a new episode of Ripley's Believe It or Not on TV tonight, I think. Maybe they can start prepping this story about a 7-year-old boy pregnant with his own twin brother for the next one...
Today is the 50th anniversary of Watson, Crick, Franklin, and Wilkins' discovery of the structure of DNA. The journal Nature also has a nice section on the celebration.
Burt Rutan, developer of the Voyager, the first airplane to make a nonstop circumglobal flight without refuelling, has nearly finished development on a rocket plane similar to NASA's abandoned X-15 program that he hopes will take the $10m X Prize for the first privately-funded manned space flight.
It sure looks interesting, and if they can do it successfully, who knows - maybe space tourism isn't as far away as we once thought. Get it down to a few thousand per person per ride and I'd definitely start saving up.
This is funny, but only in a "I hope it never happens to anyone I know and like" sort of way.
Although I can definitely think of some people who deserve the hassle.
Jurassic Park is still a pipe dream, of course, but some Danish scientists have come a little closer by recovering some 400,000-year old DNA from the permafrost in Siberia. It isn't intact by any stretch of the imagination, but the fact that they managed to recover any at all is impressive, and leaves open the tiny possibility that some day, science might bring various Stone Age-era animals back through cloning.
Disproving the "science" of creationism has become something of a hobby of mine since taking Evolution freshman year of undergrad. So you can imagine my amusement when I saw this page.
It's too bad this thread got locked before they could see it...
A recent issue of the journal Science is reporting that primitive humans may have been cannibals based on modern genetic evidence showing some humans are protected against prion diseases such as so-called "mad cow," or new-variant Creutzfeld-Jakob, disease. The reasoning is this: if there are humans with genetic protection against such diseases, there must have been an evolutionary advantage to having such protection in the past, and such diseases can be passed through cannibalistic activities. Thus some humans evolved to be resistant to such diseases, and passed on their genes more than those who weren't resistant (and who, as a result, died before or soon after reaching the age of reproduction).
Interesting theory, anyway :)
Something about this whole "farting ocean" theory has me rather amused. I think the methane hydrates would make a wicked cool demo for chem classes, but I don't think the evidence supporting them as a cause of global warming is solid.
Michigan is famous for its strange and highly variable weather, although after going to school with folks from around the country for five years, I must say that I no longer think we hold exclusive claim to this dubious honour.
Sometimes, though, it's just too strange. I provide this morning's NOAA report (provided by Son of Weather Grok) as evidence:
If anyone ever had designs on making one of Crichton's stranger novels come true, they had better hurry up. A new report in Nature, as reported by the BBC, says gorillas and chimpanzees could be extinct within 10 years if drastic conservation measures aren't undertaken immediately.
What happens when you unleash a bunch of computer geeks on a kitchen? How about this? Don't get me wrong — I think it's wicked cool — but I think it's somewhere up there on the laziness scale with the Internet-connected washing machines and dryers in the laundry rooms at MIT.
So where can I buy one?
I wanna see the reaction on the mother's face when her six-year-old son brings home one of these from the beach...
I'm a sucker for technology, and particularly as it applies to weapons. Not because I'm some card-carrying NRA "you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers" weirdo, but because I just think means of accelerating projectiles to ridiculous velocities (and the effects thereof) are pretty cool. Take depleted uranium shells, for example. The stuff is heavy as hell, but it's also hard like you wouldn't believe. Can someone install some DU armour on my car, please? :)