Recent Entries in Sci-Tech

Scientists consistently worry that the public just doesn't know enough about science, and that this general lack of public understanding carries with it dreadful consequences, jeopardizing everything from government financing of research to social progress. Recent controversies in the U.S. and Europe over therapeutic cloning and agricultural biotechnology have brought fresh concerns from the scientific community. Many scientists assume, for example, that if the public knew more about human genetic engineering, then any moral or religious reservations about cloning-for-medical-research might be tempered. Or, if the public better understood the science behind the genetic modification of crops, then few would take seriously the hyperbolized risks associated with the technology.

  A DIY Cruise Missile

Nope. No terrorists here.

"[T]here have also been a number of people who claim I'm overstating the case and that it's not possible to build a real cruise missile without access to sophisticated gear, specialist tools and information not readily available outside the military.

"So, in order to prove my case, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and build a cruise missile in my own garage, on a budget of just US$5,000.

"I like to think of this project as the military version of 'Junkyard Wars'.

"Obviously the goal of this website is not to provide terrorists or other nefarious types with the plans for a working cruise missile but to prove the point that nations need to be prepared for this type of sophisticated attack from within their own borders."


Intel has a problem on its hands with its new chipset for wireless laptops: The Centrino chipset can freeze laptops trying to run software for creating Virtual Private Networks.

Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are widely used "tunnels" that allow a user to connect to internal computer networks at businesses, schools and governments through the Internet.,1282,59050,00.html

A U.S. court has ordered Research In Motion to pay $8.87 million in enhanced damages in its ongoing patent-infringement suit with NTP Software, according to statement from NTP and its attorneys.

The statement said the U.S. Federal District Court in Richmond, Va., also awarded privately held NTP 80 percent of its legal fees. But it said the court had not yet ruled on NTP's request for an injunction to stop RIM from selling the popular BlackBerry e-mail device.

Officials with Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM could not immediately be reached for comment.

  Einstein "R" Us

The Einstein Archives Online Website provides the first online access to Albert Einstein's scientific and non-scientific manuscripts held by the Albert Einstein Archives at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, constituting the material record of one of the most influential intellects in the modern era.

It contains an itemized database of approximately 43,000 Einstein and Einstein-related archival items: writings, professional and personal correspondence. You can also get photostatic images of many of his writings.


  Dial "P" for Spam

A bug, which appeared in an antispam rule update, began blocking and quarantining all incoming and outgoing messages containing the letter "P," depending on how customers had configured the software. The flaw affected several Trend Micro products designed to filter content, block unsolicited commercial e-mail, and report and monitor the type of information that enters or leaves a company's network.

  Anything into Oil

Technological savvy could turn 600 million tons of turkey guts and other waste into 4 billion barrels of light Texas crude each year

Unlike other solid-to-liquid-fuel processes such as cornstarch into ethanol, this one will accept almost any carbon-based feedstock. If a 175-pound man fell into one end, he would come out the other end as 38 pounds of oil, 7 pounds of gas, and 7 pounds of minerals, as well as 123 pounds of sterilized water. While no one plans to put people into a thermal depolymerization machine, an intimate human creation could become a prime feedstock. "There is no reason why we can't turn sewage, including human excrement, into a glorious oil," says engineer Terry Adams, a project consultant. So the city of Philadelphia is in discussion with Changing World Technologies to begin doing exactly that.

  Starships Dimensions

Ever wanted to compare the sizes of Star Trek ships to Babylon 5 ones? Ever wanted to figure out how big that Millenium Falcon really was?


Probably don't want to check out this site then. Besides, it's only mostly accurate, and has some glaring discrepancies, such as showing the Death Star 2 as five times as wide as the original Death Star (or 125 times the volume at 268082573.1063km3)


  UNIX Haters

The funny thing is Micro$oft's hosting it.

"I liken starting one's computing career with Unix, say as an undergraduate, to being born in East Africa. It is intolerably hot, your body is covered with lice and flies, you are malnourished and you suffer from numerous curable diseases. But, as far as young East Africans can tell, this is simply the natural condition and they live within it. By the time they find out differently, it is too late. They already think that the writing of shell scripts is a natural act."

"Modern Unix is a catastrophe. It's the "Un-Operating System": unreliable, unintuitive, unforgiving, unhelpful, and underpowered. Little is more frustrating than trying to force Unix to do something useful and nontrivial. Modern Unix impedes progress in computer science, wastes billions of dollars, and destroys the common sense of many who seriously use it. An exaggeration? You won't think so after reading this book. "


  Anyone got an old NES?

Everything you need to know for turning an old Nintendo system into a working PC.

"Well, of course before you can fit anything inside the system, you need to take out the old Nintendo. There's a series of about 1,000,000 screws, all phillips, holding the top of the case on, and holding the guts inside the NES. Be sure to save about 6 or 7 of these screws, because you'll need them later on. If your Nintendo worked before dismantling it, save the guts and build a new case for it."


Why do people experience religious visions? BBC Two's Horizon suggests that in some cases the cause may be a strange brain disorder.

Controversial new research suggests that whether we believe in a God may not just be a matter of free will. Scientists now believe there may be physical differences in the brains of ardent believers.

Deadly asteroid impacts, reincarnated killer dinosaurs, alien invasions. Just when you thought Hollywood had thrown it all at us, a fresh, new, end-of-the-world scenario opens in theaters tomorrow.this time the action is 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) below our feet in The Core.

It seems the core of the Earth has stopped spinning and is no longer generating the planet's protective magnetic field. This triggers a cascade of diabolical events for man and beast. Birds can't navigate and fly erratically into buildings. People with pacemakers unexpectedly drop dead. Massive electrical storms destroy all electronic communication, and unfettered blasts of solar radiation fry the planet.

And unless an intrepid team of "terranauts" journey to the center and start it spinning again, everyone on the planet will be dead within a year.

In The Core, radioactive particles and beams of microwave radiation literally cook the planet. In one scene a microwave beam from the sun slices the Golden Gate Bridge in half. Electrical super storms, triggered by the loss of the Earth's magnetic field, destroy Rome's Coliseum.

It has all the makings of a blockbuster.and it may not necessarily all be fantasy.

As we await the first cloned baby to appear on our TV screens with varying degrees of horror and fascination, we might do well to put this latest science fiction story into perspective. First, human suffering is an issue. If a clone is born, it will face the agonizing prospect of lifelong scrutiny. Unwanted media attention made the lives of the first Dionne Quintuplets, born in Canada decades ago, a living horror. Second, the clone will hardly have a life of her own. She will be as much a medical curiosity as Wang and Chang, the original Siamese twins who were probed, prodded and ultimately exhibited as medical curiosities. Third, the clone.s prospect for a normal existence is jeopardized by its very novelty. Every shiver and runny nose will be taken as evidence of its medical demise, brought on by hysterical, as yet unwarranted assertions, that cloned animals that make it to birth face a life fraught with medical catastrophe.

The reality is somewhat less chilling: cloned kids are likely to be no more or less freakish than were the first in vitro fertilization babies. They may experience more medical problems than do average children, as did some in vitro fertilization babies. But then, clones are not average and objecting to cloning on the basis of risk is temporizing, as it was for in vitro fertilization. Over time, the "risks" will be made acceptable, and more fundamental concerns will be lost in the heady success of the first generation of "clone kids" just as they were with the first generation of in vitro babies.

If you want to set up a real economy, you call in a real economist.

Tom Melcher knew from the start that he wanted users of There to be able to trade virtual goods and services among themselves. The urge to get and spend is too deeply ingrained in our world to leave out of a virtual world. "It was obvious," he says. "We wanted a real economy because we think of There as a real world.",1640,47159,00.html?ref=rhs

Metaverses come and, mostly, go. Those created as avatar-based watering holes have rarely lasted more than a few years, falling victim to technical limitations, the cratering ad market, and simple lack of popularity. Virtual worlds developed as videogame platforms, however, have tended to fare better. Some of the most noteworthy [are listed here].,1640,47499,00.html

More on

There Inc. invites you to sell your wares in the most realistic and commercially sophisticated virtual world ever created. Now for the hard part: Getting people to show up.

Most of the time, when Tom Melcher looks at the desktop wallpaper image on his Dell (DELL) Inspiron 8200 notebook computer, he sees just what's there: a screen-size photo of two dark-haired, smiling little girls, his 7- and 8-year-old daughters. Sometimes, though, he catches sight of another image. It's a glimpse of a not-so-far-off future, on a day when his girls, both away at college, are settling in for their weekly long-distance check-in with Dad. Unlike the "Sunday phone call from hell" that Melcher remembers from his own college years, however, this one takes place through a screen like the one he's looking at now, in a shared virtual space the whole family connects to from their computers. He sees his daughters onscreen, each represented as a walking, talking, gesturing 3-D caricature of herself (an "avatar"). They're sitting beside one another on a couch in what appears to be a well-appointed Swiss chalet. The girls in turn see their father's avatar on their screens, seated in a nearby armchair.

"And we sit there, around the fire, just talking," Melcher says. The talk floats up over their heads in chat balloons, or, bandwidth permitting, their voices ring out through computer speakers. Other sounds drift in from outside the chalet, where the skiing isn't quite what it is in the real world, but, thanks to the physics programmed into the system, it's convincing enough to challenge even the fastest-fingered videogamers. "So then we'll go out on the slopes together and do some runs," Melcher continues. "I'll try to do some tricks, and the girls will make fun of me.... And it's not that anything we say will in itself be particularly significant, but the experience will just be richer, more meaningful, than any we could have through existing telecommunications.",1640,47157,00.html

  When Software Bugs Bite

Dishwashers, automobiles and other products are increasingly driven by software. But digits don't always do a better job. Where do you turn when your appliance's software goes south?

Maurice Bailey's Miele G885 SC dishwasher cleans dishes almost as well as a human being. Its 10 separate programs control the washing and drying of fine crystal and crusty pans. Its electronic controls warn owners if the drain is blocked. It also carefully regulates both the temperature and the consumption of water, something humans often neglect to do.,3959,833424,00.asp?kc=BAZD103019TX1K0100547

  My New Cell Phone

I think I finally found the phone I'm going to marry:

The large, bright screen of the Kyocera 7135 smartphone displays over 65,000 different colors. Download and view pictures and videos, play games, color code all those spreadsheets - things are just more exciting in color. What's more, you can do it all while listening to your favorite tunes with the onboard MP3 player.

The sleek, lightweight clamshell design of the Kyocera 7135 smartphone gives you brain without all the brawn. Plus it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out how to take advantage of all its great features.


And it's lemon scented, too.

America Online has quietly secured a patent that could potentially shake up the competitive landscape for instant messaging software. The patent, filed in September this year, grants AOL instant messaging subsidiary ICQ rights as the inventor of the popular IM Internet application. The patent covers anything resembling a network that allows multiple users to see when other users are present and then to communicate with them.


BEA Systems will seek to reposition its WebLogic line as a Swiss Army knife for business software development when it launches a major upgrade to its flagship products in the first half of next year.

Code-named Gibraltar, the upcoming version of WebLogic is intended to strengthen the application integration and portal features of the company's Java application server and integrate closely with BEA's development tool, WebLogic Workshop. BEA and IBM are battling for the top spot in the market for Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE) application servers, which let companies build Web-based business software.

The key goals of the Gibraltar upgrade are to combine application development with application integration and to bind together BEA's different WebLogic modules, including its portal, application integration broker, Workshop development tool and Liquid Data data access software, said Olivier Helleboid, president of BEA's products division.

"We are trying to provide one place where the developer can work at the business process level and integrate their own things with third-party tools and applications," he said Thursday. "Our vision is to be a workshop for integration that takes a business process management approach."

A developer, Mr. Helleboid said, will be able to write code for a Web services application within WebLogic Workshop and more easily tie other software resources into the application, such as information from a content management system or an Oracle database.

BEA muscled into the market for development tools in March with the introduction of WebLogic Workshop, which is intended to simplify the creation of Web services applications.

BEA will extend the second version of the Workshop software, also due in the first half of 2003, to create applications that will work with BEA's various WebLogic modules, Mr. Helleboid said. The Workshop upgrade will also offer support for the latest Web services standards, including BPEL4WS (Business Process Execution Language for Web Services), SAML (Security Assertion Markup Language) and, if it is finalized, WS-Security (Web Services Security), he said.

Gaining the loyalty of application developers is critically important to vendors of Java application server such as BEA and IBM, as well as to other software companies like Microsoft. Once built and installed, business applications can drive further sales of operating systems and application servers as companies tend to standardize on a particular vendor's products.

"If developers don't have good tools, they're not going to commit to that platform. The switching costs are very low," said Joshua Walker, an analyst at Forrester Research. "These companies have these really high-end application servers that run like race cars, but the problem is that people aren't driving them that much."

Although BEA is well established with large companies that have complex computing needs, it still faces stiff competition in the server software arena. By introducing tools to make it easier to create applications for WebLogic, BEA hopes to expand its base of customers.

"They carved out their territory at the high end but there's a backlash against that. That's where this Swiss Army knife approach comes into play," said Mr. Walker. "Right now they need an overwhelming technology advantage to convince buyers not to go with IBM."

With the added features to its server, such as a portal and integration middleware, BEA is seeking to differentiate itself from other J2EE vendors, such as IBM and Sun Microsystems. The company is also investigating adding "change management" features to WebLogic to help system administrators deploy and manage different software versions.

BEA's efforts to introduce add-on applications to its server software mirror the industry trend toward what research firm Gartner calls "application platform suites." A recent research note from Gartner noted that Java application server vendors, including BEA, IBM, Sybase, Sun, Oracle and Iona Technologies, have bundled integration middleware and portals with their application servers.

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