Mixed-Up Priorities

ABC News:

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.

posted on 03 August 2007 at 12140 commentstrackback

12 Hours "Bottle to Throttle"

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?

posted on 27 July 2007 at 21100 commentstrackback

Explosives Camp

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.

posted on 05 July 2007 at 19060 commentstrackback

Another Gadget for the Christmas List

I need -- and by "need" I mean "want this like Smithers wants C. Montgomery Burns" -- a jet-powered airplane backpack.

posted on 17 April 2007 at 12050 commentstrackback

Automotive Fun with Electrons

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.

(via Autoblog)

posted on 03 March 2007 at 13590 commentstrackback

MacGyver Down Under

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.

posted on 22 February 2007 at 23140 commentstrackback

What Dad Wants for Christmas

posted on 26 December 2006 at 20050 commentstrackback

All I Want For Christmas

A ski-track kit for my mountain bike. That's wicked cool.

posted on 12 December 2006 at 15160 commentstrackback

Ten Commandments of Cell Fones

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!"

posted on 07 July 2006 at 13131 commentstrackback

The Law of Unintended Consequences Strikes Again

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.

posted on 28 May 2006 at 13070 commentstrackback

De-icing for the Future

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 wonder how long it'll be until Cirrus or Columbia incorporates this into a new aircraft...

posted on 15 April 2006 at 16320 commentstrackback

Moving to Darwin

I'm packing up and moving to Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia as soon as possible.

posted on 22 March 2006 at 15040 commentstrackback

Fun With Wood

Awesome iPod case (very expensive) and Bronzed Baby Booties of the, erm, 18th Century. I'd love 'em both.

posted on 14 March 2006 at 23120 commentstrackback

Found: A Good Bluetooth Headset

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.

posted on 10 February 2006 at 17400 commentstrackback

Geek of the Month Award

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.

(via Gizmodo)

posted on 08 February 2006 at 23400 commentstrackback

Building a Better Toaster

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.

posted on 06 February 2006 at 19320 commentstrackback

Best Summer Vacation Ever

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.

posted on 29 December 2005 at 23311 commentstrackback

Don't Stuff Beans Up Your Nose

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.

posted on 27 December 2005 at 18440 commentstrackback


Kim, you might be better than I am at Scrabble, but I'll whip pWnz0r you in 5cr488|3 any day.

posted on 30 November 2005 at 13240 commentstrackback

eBay is Retarded

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.

posted on 26 November 2005 at 14560 commentstrackback

So I Was Looking for a Bluetooth Headset

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.

posted on 11 November 2005 at 19220 commentstrackback

Chalk Up Another One for the Good Guys

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.

posted on 09 November 2005 at 18140 commentstrackback

Putting Out a Book Alert

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.

posted on 27 October 2005 at 17240 commentstrackback

Answering More Questions Nobody Asked

I present the Talking Remote Control.

Insert silly jokes about 42 and Guy Noir here.

posted on 24 October 2005 at 21040 commentstrackback

Why Uninformed Op-Ed is Worse Than None at All

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.

posted on 24 October 2005 at 08030 commentstrackback

Questions Nobody Asked

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.

posted on 12 October 2005 at 07570 commentstrackback

The Big Here

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.

Anyone else?

posted on 12 September 2005 at 22470 commentstrackback

Power-Walking, Literally

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!

posted on 09 September 2005 at 13260 commentstrackback

Intelligent Design Update

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:

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

posted on 23 August 2005 at 14080 commentstrackback

When Nature Attacks

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.

Praying mantis with hummingbird dangling from its forelimbs

(via Matt via BoingBoing)

posted on 12 August 2005 at 11370 commentstrackback

Just Another Day at the Office

Hey, Tim, let's fire up the DC-8 and go pop some water balloons in zero gravity!

(via Slashdot)

posted on 23 July 2005 at 11000 commentstrackback

El Chupacabras Strikes Again

Authorities and West Michigan residents are left wondering: what ate the calf and attacked its mother?

My vote is for El Chupacabras.

posted on 14 July 2005 at 11380 commentstrackback


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.

posted on 24 June 2005 at 16230 commentstrackback

Dumbass of the Day

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 FormanRed Forman Dumbass Rating: Kelso (Dumbass) Kelso (Dumbass) Kelso (Dumbass)

posted on 20 June 2005 at 20130 commentstrackback

Christmas Wish List Item #3

A butane-powered V-twin engine for my desk.

Best. Paperweight. EVAR.

(via Dave Barry)

posted on 13 June 2005 at 22330 commentstrackback

Dolphins Found to Use Tools

"Oh, shit!" says humanity.

(With a nod to the Onion for the great headline.)

posted on 06 June 2005 at 23370 commentstrackback

Memorial Day Grilling, Kalamazoo-Style

Maybe I need an "art" category, although this seems sufficiently technical to fit in sci/tech...

Apparently no less a celebrity than Boris the Red-Nosed Yeltsin has discovered the wonder and glory that is the Sculpture series from Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet.

The funny thing is that I had never heard of these guys before today. They oughta be advertising more locally.

(Trendir via Gizmodo)

posted on 30 May 2005 at 12040 commentstrackback

High Definition, Well, Isn't

I was talking with Eric tonight when the subject of HDTV came up.

Will someone please explain the following questions to me?

  1. Why is it that there are approximately 100 different HDTV sets under $5000, not a single one of which can actually receive HDTV signals without purchasing an add-on tuner at an additional cost of approximately $200?
  2. If I don't buy a tuner for TV sets falling into the above category, what's the point of the set being HDTV-capable?
  3. Why aren't any of the various computer monitor-cum-TV gadgets capable of receiving HDTV signals? If anything is capable of handling high resolutions, it's a computer monitor. Dammit, someone sell me a 30" Cinema Display with integrated HDTV tuner already.
posted on 28 May 2005 at 00350 commentstrackback

Human-Powered Watercraft, Take Two

In the immortal words of Captain Steven Hiller, "I have got to get me one of these!"

(via Gizmodo)

posted on 24 May 2005 at 11500 commentstrackback

Throwing Away the VCR

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.

(via Gizmodo)

posted on 17 May 2005 at 20270 commentstrackback

Intelligent, My Eye

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.

Side note: this is not the first time I've noted what crackpots the Discovery Institute folks are. "Discovery," indeed. How about you guys discover a better way to waste public resources?

posted on 15 May 2005 at 19550 commentstrackback

T-Mobile Makes Coverage Maps Public

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.

(via PhoneScoop)

posted on 22 April 2005 at 14570 commentstrackback

Rick Santorum Sells Out to Corporate Interests

Senator Rick Santorum has officially sold out to corporate interests. He has introduced a bill that would eliminate free weather information as provided by the NOAA's National Weather Service.


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.

posted on 21 April 2005 at 22572 commentstrackback

Must-Have Swiss-Army-Knife Gadget of the Year

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.

(via Gizmodo)

posted on 21 April 2005 at 12450 commentstrackback

Eat Chocolate, Kill Cancer

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.

The physiological properties of theobromine, the primary alkaloid in cocoa beans, are well-known. Hopefully we'll be able to add procyanidin to that list.

(via ScienceDaily)

posted on 18 April 2005 at 01100 commentstrackback

Thinking of My Happy Place

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.

posted on 06 April 2005 at 23420 commentstrackback

iTunes is MyTunes

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.

posted on 28 March 2005 at 11070 commentstrackback

An Oracle in a Box, Eh?

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.

posted on 26 March 2005 at 01080 commentstrackback

Attention, People With Spare Money

Give it to me so I can have six hunnert bux to buy me a P910i, which I so desperately need.

posted on 25 March 2005 at 23310 commentstrackback

Lost: Juicy Identity Theft Story

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:

  1. Go to site.
  2. Notice unique ID in URL.
  3. Increment by one.
  4. Read other people's data.

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.

posted on 12 March 2005 at 00291 commentstrackback

Descartes On the Internet

From a Slashdot user channeling Descartes:

I can be googled, therefore I am.

posted on 24 February 2005 at 17180 commentstrackback

What the Heck Was He Thinking?

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."

Ya think?

(via Lee via AIM)

posted on 23 February 2005 at 23210 commentstrackback

At Least They're Honest

The local CBS affiliate, WWMT, has, at long last, owned up to the difficulty in predicting the weather. From the latest RSS feed:

Weekend Winter Storm

- This is a tricky forecast.

WWMT 19/02/05 20:51

Good call.

posted on 19 February 2005 at 21250 commentstrackback

New Goodies

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.

posted on 16 February 2005 at 18300 commentstrackback

Google Cracks Security Through Obscurity

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.

Johns Hopkins officials have a bit of a problem on their hands after a student discovered that her J-CARD (a student debit card at Johns Hopkins) data was available to anyone who searched Google.

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]

(via Techdirt via The Raw Feed)

Red FormanRed Forman Dumbass Rating: Eric (Dumbass) Eric (Dumbass) Eric (Dumbass) Eric (Dumbass)

posted on 04 February 2005 at 21000 commentstrackback

This Year's Christmas List

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.


posted on 01 February 2005 at 02030 commentstrackback

Breaking News: Reptiles No Longer Classified as Animals

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.

posted on 27 January 2005 at 13480 commentstrackback

First Verizon, Then Sprint, Now Cingular

I think I speak for all your users when I say:


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?

posted on 26 January 2005 at 14230 commentstrackback

Rotary Cell Fone

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.

(via Slashdot)

posted on 21 January 2005 at 22030 commentstrackback

Best Advertising Illustration Ever

The top image on the product page for the Thanko Head Massager (Japanese — are you really surprised?) is absolutely hilarious.

(via Gizmodo)

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?

posted on 21 January 2005 at 11540 commentstrackback

Sticker Boosts Battery Life!

Erm, yeah, right.

Maybe if I had applied one of these to my Sonicare, it would still be working...

posted on 21 January 2005 at 11460 commentstrackback

Need a New Monitor?

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™.

(via Slashdot)

posted on 20 January 2005 at 22260 commentstrackback

Anti-Science Textbook Stickers Declared Unconstitutional

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)

posted on 14 January 2005 at 02332 commentstrackback

Sonicare's Unreplaceable Battery Lasts Only 18 Months!

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.

posted on 13 January 2005 at 02164 commentstrackback


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.

posted on 12 January 2005 at 16060 commentstrackback

Living in Cardboard Boxes No Longer Just For Homeless

A group of Australian architects has developed a house made entirely of cardboard, Velcro, wing nuts, and tape.

(From Slashdot)

posted on 04 December 2004 at 21360 commentstrackback

Got a Cold? Have a Hershey's!

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.

posted on 23 November 2004 at 21530 commentstrackback

More Fun with Bugs

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...

posted on 22 November 2004 at 21460 commentstrackback

Happy 100th Birthday

...to the vacuum tube!

posted on 16 November 2004 at 14400 commentstrackback

Odd iPod Accessory of the Day

From MacMinute comes this gem:

Apple to offer iPod Socks

Guaranteed* Not to Smell Like Feet After Repeated Use™.

*as long as they're not used as real socks.

posted on 26 October 2004 at 22350 commentstrackback

How to Write Programs

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!

posted on 20 October 2004 at 14470 commentstrackback

Google SMS Service

Google is launching an SMS search service. Too bad this guy took the words right out of my mouth. Although 13375p33k says it should be "900973" instead... ;)

posted on 07 October 2004 at 20420 commentstrackback

Mysterious Forces in Space

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.

posted on 13 September 2004 at 13070 commentstrackback

Smokers Fail Smog Checks

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.

posted on 28 August 2004 at 14120 commentstrackback

God's Own Headlamp

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.)

posted on 12 August 2004 at 02080 commentstrackback

The Sky is Falling Later This Week

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. ;)

posted on 10 August 2004 at 18280 commentstrackback

16-inch Telescope For Sale

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.

posted on 22 March 2004 at 13070 commentstrackback

UFOs on Mars

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.

posted on 19 March 2004 at 03590 commentstrackback

Prion Shaping Mechanism Unraveled

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.

posted on 17 March 2004 at 16480 commentstrackback

Great News for Furries Everywhere

You can now get a sex-ed video for pandas.

No word on whether it's available on KaZaA yet...

posted on 16 March 2004 at 23020 commentstrackback

Follow the White Rabbit...

...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.

You know, because the Man in the Moon and the Face on Mars were real, too.

Thanks, Slashdot.

posted on 10 March 2004 at 14560 commentstrackback

Have You Fed Your Guard Dragon Lately?

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.

posted on 07 March 2004 at 04020 commentstrackback

The Deadly Weight-Guessing Game

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.

posted on 27 February 2004 at 14100 commentstrackback

Ebola Vaccine Successful in Primates

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.

posted on 06 August 2003 at 15040 commentstrackback

First Human Trials of HIV Vaccine

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.

posted on 06 August 2003 at 15010 commentstrackback

Solar Surgery

Scientists in Israel have performed a successful laser-like surgery on rats using only ambient sunlight, concentrated and transmitted through a complex optical system.

posted on 30 July 2003 at 22250 commentstrackback


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.

posted on 30 July 2003 at 22030 commentstrackback

Ozone Depletion Slows

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.

posted on 30 July 2003 at 22030 commentstrackback

Say What?

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.

posted on 29 July 2003 at 10580 commentstrackback

Blow A Wad For Your Prostate!


Go beat off. Now. Here, I'll even give you some material to work with:

Persian Kitty
Tommy's Bookmarks
Green Guy

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.

posted on 16 July 2003 at 23250 commentstrackback

Group Psychology 101

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.

posted on 10 July 2003 at 23540 commentstrackback

Vroom! Vrooooooooooooooom!

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.

posted on 23 June 2003 at 23330 commentstrackback

Go Take a Nap

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.

posted on 23 June 2003 at 23320 commentstrackback

Only 330 Shopping Days Until Mother's Day

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...

posted on 20 June 2003 at 19520 commentstrackback

How Long is a Rod?

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.

posted on 17 June 2003 at 00160 commentstrackback

Free Energy

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.

posted on 16 June 2003 at 21470 commentstrackback

Putting Things in Perspective

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...


posted on 08 June 2003 at 16200 commentstrackback

Bugs to Drugs

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.

posted on 08 June 2003 at 15530 commentstrackback

Never Change Your Fone Number Again!

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.

posted on 06 June 2003 at 23550 commentstrackback

The Wonders of Globalisation

The BBC, a British news agency, is reporting on research done at the University of Michigan intended to answer questions about a childhood disease common in central Africa.

Think about that for a couple minutes in the context of what we could do 50 or 100 years ago.

posted on 14 May 2003 at 00560 commentstrackback

I Spent $302 Million And All I Got Was This Lousy Debris Pile

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.

posted on 05 May 2003 at 23420 commentstrackback

(Rube Goldberg)^n

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.

posted on 01 May 2003 at 20290 commentstrackback

Those Are Tough Worms

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.

posted on 01 May 2003 at 01400 commentstrackback

Anthrax Genome Complete

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.

posted on 30 April 2003 at 16190 commentstrackback

And The Lucky Country Is

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.

posted on 30 April 2003 at 11110 commentstrackback

Exhausted Sperm

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.

posted on 30 April 2003 at 11090 commentstrackback

Clink! Goes the Jail Door

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.

posted on 30 April 2003 at 10570 commentstrackback

Paging Ripley

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...

posted on 30 April 2003 at 10500 commentstrackback

Happy Birthday, DNA!

posted on 25 April 2003 at 10490 commentstrackback

X Prize Award Closer

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.

posted on 19 April 2003 at 16000 commentstrackback

Dick Move #273

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.

posted on 18 April 2003 at 18260 commentstrackback

Dino DNA

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.

posted on 18 April 2003 at 17310 commentstrackback

"Creation Science"

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...

posted on 14 April 2003 at 23560 commentstrackback

Mad Human Disease?

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 :)

posted on 12 April 2003 at 17310 commentstrackback

Oceanic Farts

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.

posted on 12 April 2003 at 00420 commentstrackback

Wacky Weather

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:

  • Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Municipal Airport, MI, United States
  • Download Time: 07/04/03 at 08:19
  • NOAA Time: Apr 07, 2003 - 06:53 AM
  • Wind: From the NE (050 degrees) at 20.8 km/h (11 Kt, 13 mph) gusting to 36.8 km/h (20 Kt, 23 mph)
  • Visibility: 1.6km (1 Miles)
  • Sky conditions: obscured
  • Weather: heavy snow; freezing fog [emphasis mine -cl]
  • Precipitation last hour: A trace
  • Temperature: -2.8° C (27.0° F)
  • Windchill: -9° C (15° F)
  • Dew Point: -2.7° C (27.0° F)
  • Relative Humidity: 100%
  • Pressure (altimeter): 1023 hPa (30.22 in. Hg)
  • Pressure tendency: 0.01 inches (0.5 hPa) higher than three hours ago
  • Ceiling: No Ceiling
Freezing fog? What the hell is that? Clouds of tiny ice droplets hanging in the air six feet off the ground? Snow that never quite makes it down to the ground? Either way, I know what I'm seeing outside, and I don't like the looks of it one bit. Yuck!
posted on 07 April 2003 at 08230 commentstrackback

So Much For Congo

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.

posted on 07 April 2003 at 01260 commentstrackback

Geek Appliances

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?

posted on 07 April 2003 at 01210 commentstrackback

Look, Mom, A New Pet!

I wanna see the reaction on the mother's face when her six-year-old son brings home one of these from the beach...

posted on 03 April 2003 at 21140 commentstrackback


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? :)

posted on 18 March 2003 at 18160 commentstrackback