Recent Entries in Sci-Tech

  The stars are right

At least if you're in the southern hemisphere. If you're up here, you get a very angry-looking upside-down face.


And Azathoth insanely smiled down on Earth and its sleeping inhabitants, blissfully unaware that they would soon be eaten.

Three brightest objects smile down from the night sky - Telegraph

Over the last week the two planets moved closer together so that they appeared no more than two degrees apart, which equates to a finger's width when held out at arm's length.

As they were joined by the moon on Monday night photographers around the world â.. from Bangkok to Kenya â.. captured the image.

"This certainly is an unusual coincidence for the crescent moon to be right there in the days when they are going to be closest together," said Alan MacRobert, senior editor of Sky and Telescope magazine.

Smart people already know about this, but maybe I'm not that smart. Maybe you aren't, either.

Giz Explains: Why OS X Shrugs Off Viruses Better Than Windows

There are a few different ways that Microsoft's mammoth market share actually hurts Windows and helps OS X. For one, writing nastiness that the vast majority of the world's personal computers are susceptible to is a more efficient use of resources than writing the same evil for a sliver of the population. In biology, a more homogeneous population is more susceptible to a genocidal plague. Same principle applies to the vast, Windows-powered ecosystem. I don't mean someone could write a virus that wipes everybody out. Just that if everybody's running Windows, the population is a much easier target.

The flipside of thisâ..which you might not have consideredâ that most malware writers obviously use Windows. They're going to whip up code for the OS they're familiar with and know best. And more to that point, most of the tools and scripts used to wreak havoc on computers are written for Windows. The same ecosystem that provides the biggest, most susceptible audience also provides the most fertile breeding ground for the nasty executables.

Hah. Totally called this one. Hawking's coming to Waterloo.

Stephen Hawking coming to Waterloo, Ont.â..s Perimeter Institute

Professor Stephen Hawking has been appointed a distinguished research chair at Waterloo, Ont.'s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

"The appointment marks a new phase in our recruitment that will see leading scientists from around the world establish a second research home at Perimeter Institute. I am delighted that Stephen has agreed to accept the first of a projected 40 such visiting chairs," Dr. Neil Turok, the institute's director, said in a statement released Thursday.

Dr. Hawking -- who is the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a position once held by Isaac Newton -- will conduct regular stays at the institute beginning in the summer of 2009.

Hubble Snaps First Photo Of Planet Circling A Star -- InformationWeek

It took about seven years, but NASA has finally found a planet that circles another star.

The Hubble Space Telescope took the first visible-light snapshot of Fomalhaut b, which orbits a southern star, called Fomalhaut, about 25 light-years away.

NASA said Thursday that the planet is estimated to be less than three times Jupiter's mass, and the star is part of the constellation Piscis Australis, or the "Southern Fish." The finding has been published in the Nov. 14 issue of Science magazine.

It'd be pretty cool to have an atomic pen; think of all the secret notes you could leave for people with electron microscopes. But I'd probably keep losing the pen ... and the notes too.

'Atomic pen' writes with individual atoms ::: Pink Tentacle

An Osaka University research team has demonstrated an â..atomic penâ. that can inscribe nano-sized text on metal by manipulating individual atoms on the surface.

According to the researchers, whose results appear in the October 17 edition of Science magazine, the atomic pen is built on a previous discovery that silicon atoms at the tip of an atomic force microscope probe will interchange with the tin atoms in the surface of a semiconductor sample when in close proximity. Using this atom-interchange phenomenon, the researchers were able to arrange individual silicon atoms one by one on a semiconductor surface to spell out the letters â..Si.â. The writing process, which took about an hour and a half to complete, was conducted at room temperature.

I welcome our computer overlords.

This new concept is supposed to prevent people from drunk emailing by asking skill testing questions.

The next phase of the operation is to ask impossible questions when the person tries to email virus warnings, prayers, or right-wing vitriol to their relatives.

Today @ PC World Google Goggles: No More Inebriated E-Mailing

Mail Goggles works with simple math. Once you set it up, it'll require you to answer a series of math problems before being able to send a message. By default, the program activates on Friday and Saturday nights, though you can customize it for any day or time you might need a watchful eye. You can also set the difficulty level to control how hard the problems will be (1 = a wine cooler with dinner; 10 = eight Jagermeister shots and an indeterminable number of rum-based chasers).

I never really considered that I might have synaesthesia.

Do we all have some synaesthetic ability? - health - 30 September 2008 - New Scientist

So, you think you're not synaesthetic. You might have to think again. New research shows that many people have traces of the condition without realising it.

Synaesthesia is a condition in which people make unusual associations across the senses.

Some people perceive letters, numbers, words and smells to have innate colours, while others can taste music or imagine time to have a fixed special form.

Found this on Cynical-C's blog. It's a good way to keep an eye on that Large Hadron Collider business.

  See-Through Skyscraper

Hey, is this really a good idea? Make a skyscraper that's invisible to low-flying planes? And then putting it at WTC7?


The See-Through Skyscraper - City Room - Metro - New York Times Blog

Once in a while, however, when the light and the angles are just right, a skyscraper can come close to vanishing.

That happened last Thursday, when the 52 floors of 7 World Trade Center faded into the cloud-flecked blue of a late summer afternoon. Its masonry neighbors (140 West Street and 90 West Street) stood out in contrast.

CERN scientists will be smashing particles this week to see if they can reproduce the circumstances of the Big Bang:

A key aim of the CERN experiment is to find the "Higgs boson," named after Scottish physicist Peter Higgs who in 1964 pointed to such a particle as the force that gave mass to matter and made the universe possible.

Once it starts up on Wednesday, scientists plan to smash particle beams together at close to the speed of light inside CERN's tightly-sealed Large Hadron Collider to create multiple mini-versions of the primeval Big Bang.

Unfortunately, all Reuters is interested in is whether this will destroy our universe:

Scientists involved in a historic "Big Bang" experiment to begin this week hope it will turn up many surprises about the universe and its origins -- but reject suggestions it will bring the end of the world.

Scientists hope for surprises in Big Bang experiment | U.S. | Reuters

  Tesla would be proud

Finally, they're able to send electricity through the air. I'm not sold on the name yet: WiTricity

Goodbye wiresâ.¦ - MIT News Office

A team from MIT's Department of Physics, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies (ISN) has experimentally demonstrated an important step toward accomplishing this vision of the future.

Realizing their recent theoretical prediction, they were able to light a 60W light bulb from a power source seven feet (more than two meters) away; there was no physical connection between the source and the appliance. The MIT team refers to its concept as "WiTricity" (as in wireless electricity). The work will be reported in the June 7 issue of Science Express, the advance online publication of the journal Science.

At least with computer animation. Now we just have to watch out for videos impersonating real people.


Video: Lifelike animation heralds new era for computer games - Times Online

Emily - the woman in the above animation - was produced using a new modelling technology that enables the most minute details of a facial expression to be captured and recreated.

She is considered to be one of the first animations to have overleapt a long-standing barrier known as 'uncanny valley' - which refers to the perception that animation looks less realistic as it approaches human likeness.

Researchers at a Californian company which makes computer-generated imagery for Hollywood films started with a video of an employee talking. They then broke down down the facial movements down into dozens of smaller movements, each of which was given a 'control system'.

  Get some extra legs

I'd like to think it's a big gag, but it seems to be coming from, so maybe it's just a poor design idea. The idea? Extra legs which fit over your arms. So you can run faster. On four legs.


Revolutionary Four-Legged Running Invention!

Locomotive Energy (G)maximiser - a hydraulic leg which fits over the arms and is controlled with a nano-sprint cushioned control unit, is set to rock the world of running, walking and everything in between, says Eric Svensson, CEO of Byxor & Strunt. "The LEG unit will join the thumb , the wheel and cheese as one of the most important breakthroughs in human capacity and creativity. Not only will the LEG break all speed records for human self transportation, it will also reduce our reliance on the motor vehicle, thus contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions."

"With two legs one can achieve speeds of up to 15 mph or, in the case of a top athelete like Michael Johnson, 23mph, using around 200 steps per minute. With four legs we can expect to almost double that speed. Of course the technique is quite complex and not yet perfected so it will take time to get up to those levels but at least popping to the shops for milk will now be relatively rapid."

Pretty interesting stuff. If you don't know, Synesthesia is a mixing of the senses. People with Synesthesia can perceive words and letters as colours, taste textures, and see colour in music. In this newly discovered form, visual movement triggers a perception of sound.

Seeing is Hearing: New Type of Synesthesia Discovered: Scientific American

In the peculiar neurological condition known as synesthesia, a personâ..s senses meld together, so that a synesthete might â..hearâ. colors or â..tasteâ. shapes. Now scientists have stumbled on a previously unknown form of synesthesia in which visual flashes or movements trigger perceptions of sound.

California Institute of Technology neuroscientists Melissa Saenz and Christof Koch confirmed the existence of hearing-motion synesthesia, as they dubbed it, by creating a task at which the synesthetes would have an advantage. The researchers presented four self-professed synesthetes and 10 nonsynesthetes with 100 pairs of Morse codeâ rhythmic sequences, each composed of either auditory beeps or flashes of white on a black background. The participants judged whether the two sequences in each pair were the same or different.

I can't backup the "bad-sounding" part, but with speakers that look this good, they have to sound terrible.


17 Cool Speakers Designs that Look Better than They Sound

Hey, this is a grand idea. Let's force everyone on a plane to wear shock bracelets.

A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

This bracelet would:

  • take the place of an airline boarding pass
  • contain personal information about the traveler
  • be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage
  • shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

I kind of like the idea. I think pilots should wear them, so we can shock them every time they make a crappy landing; or how about giving them to the flight attendants? These could be tied into the call buttons, and might really improve the service on the flights. Oh, and if this bracelet really does incapacitate you for several minutes, why not just have them going throughout the entire trip. "Wake me up when we're there, thanks."

Seriously, I wonder if they gave us the option of stripping nude or wearing a shock bracelet, which would be worse. I know I'd be going in the buff.

People in the other cubicles can hear me laughing.

Top X: Gadgets that go inside you - Boing Boing Gadgets

Swallowable Camera-in-a-pill

Rob: If a colonoscopy would be simply too much for the fragile rose of your rectum, consider swallowing a minuscule tract-exploring camera-in-a-pill. Manufactured by Micron Technology of Boise, Idaho, these tiny little buggers cost only $300 and contain a similarly small CMOS sensor, which snaps a picture every few seconds as it quests through your dark dungeons.

Originally introduced in 2001, it's won an award for the "non-invasive direct visualization of the entire small intestine." Did you know they gave out awards for that? Now you do.

Joel: I'm not sure you swallow pills exactly the same way I do.

An important New York Times article which will renew your faith in science. Yes, I see the irony in the statement.

Op-Ed Contributor - Put a Little Science in Your Life - Op-Ed -

But hereâ..s the thing. The reason science really matters runs deeper still. Science is a way of life. Science is a perspective. Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding in a manner thatâ..s precise, predictive and reliable â.. a transformation, for those lucky enough to experience it, that is empowering and emotional. To be able to think through and grasp explanations â.. for everything from why the sky is blue to how life formed on earth â.. not because they are declared dogma but rather because they reveal patterns confirmed by experiment and observation, is one of the most precious of human experiences.

Well made point from the Bad Astronomy guy. Scientists and other smart people are constantly being put down in politics, and even in popular culture. The elitist scientist is the bad guy, but the streetwise and resourceful everyman is the hero.

Except in the recent film, Iron Man. In this case, the hero is a resourceful, elitist scientist, and the bad guy is the elitist corporate fatcat. Hopefully this film won't be the exception that proves the rule. Hopefully we can get back to the golden age where scientists were like movie stars.

Bad Astronomy Blog - Why do politicians hate smart people?

Let me make this clear: people are generally experts in a field for a reason. Theyâ studied it. Theyâ experienced it. Theyâ done research, published papers, looked at the results, tried to interpret them, made predictions, done further experiments. They learn from what they experience.

Thatâ..s why theyâ experts.

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