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Month: July 2005

Cool Pic

I’m not a huge space shuttle freak. I think that the current NASA model of space exploration has completely lost its way from what the space program was originally designed to do – beat the crap out of the Russians. That, and EXPLORE SPACE. All the shuttle seems to be used for now is truckin’ food up to the poor sods on the ISS and fixing the Hubble. When the hell are we going back to the Moon? When are we finally getting off our duff and going to Mars?

Regardless, the space shuttle Discovery launched the other day and I’m sure you haven’t heard anything about it on the news (sarcasm) . I like this picture. It’s something you rarely see – an external fuel tank hurtling towards Earth.

Watch out, people! Hurtling fuel tank coming your way!

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So…It’s a Horse Riding Exercise Thing, Huh?

This creation, seen below, is called the Joba Horseriding Exercise Machine. It is manufactured in Japan by Matsushita Electrical Works, based in Kadoma, Osaka, in conjunction with Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan. It’s being called an “indoor fitness machine”.

It offers its user the ability to access a form of horseback-riding therapy, which allows the user to get the effect of physical exercises just by sitting on the machine without any exertion from the user.

The benefits are clear as it helps stimulate seldom used muscles in the dorsal and abdominal regions.

Um…I don’t think the woman in the picture is “exercising” in the common vernacular. Look at her face. She sure looks like she’s benefitting those seldom used muscles in the dorsal and abdominal area. Is that the face that you would make if you were riding a horse? Well, she’s riding something…hmm. Well.

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A New Planet?!

2003 EL61, as it has been currently classified, has been discovered, and it may be another one of those elusive planets that seem to creep up every once in a great while in our solar system.

A new found object in our solar system’s outskirts may be larger than any known world after Pluto, scientists said today.

It also has a moon.

Designated as 2003 EL61, the main object in the two-body system is 32 percent as massive as Pluto and is estimated to be about 70 percent of Pluto’s diameter.

Other news reports that the object could be twice as big as Pluto are false, according to two astronomers who found the object in separate studies and another expert who has analyzed the data.

If the mass is only one-third that of Pluto, then theory holds that it can’t be larger than Pluto, according to Brian Marsden of the Minor Planet Center, which serves as a clearinghouse for data on all newfound objects in the solar system.

Marsden, who was not involved in the discovery but has reviewed the data, told that the mass estimate is very firm, within 1 or 2 percent. “I don’t think it is bigger than Pluto,” he said.

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I Will Be 66 Years Old When the World Ends

There is a huge freaking asteroid 2,000 feet long out there in the cosmos called 99942 Apophis. In cosmic terms, 2,000 feet is very small. But what’s so special about this asteroid? It may hit the planet in 2036.

The concern: Within the object’s range of possible fly-by distances lie a handful of gravitational “sweet spots,” areas some 2,000 feet across that are also known as keyholes.

The physics may sound complex, but the potential ramifications are plain enough. If the asteroid passes through the most probable keyhole, its new orbit would send it slamming into Earth in 2036. It’s unclear to some experts whether ground-based observatories alone will be able to provide enough accurate information in time to mount a mission to divert the asteroid, if that becomes necessary.

Timing is everything, astronomers say. If officials attempt to divert the asteroid before 2029, they need to nudge the space rock’s position by roughly half a mile – something well within the range of existing technology. After 2029, they would need to shove the asteroid by a distance as least as large as Earth’s diameter. That feat would tax humanity’s current capabilities.


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Paging Rick Deckard…

See the man in the pic to the left? The one with the vaguely girlish hair next to the attractive girl in pink?

His name is Hiroshi Ishiguru. He is a professor at Osaka University in Japan. The woman with him is named Repliee Q1, and no, she doesn’t have some cool Dada-esque last name. She’s a FREAKING ROBOT.

She has flexible silicone for skin rather than hard plastic, and a number of sensors and motors to allow her to turn and react in a human-like manner.She can flutter her eyelids and move her hands like a human. She even appears to breathe.

Professor Hiroshi Ishiguru of Osaka University says one day robots could fool us into believing they are human.

Wonderful. Now all we need is a Voight-Kampff machine.

Fortunately, for us puny humans, we don’t yet have to bow to our robot masters.

She is designed to look human and although she can only sit at present, she has 31 actuators in her upper body, powered by a nearby air compressor, programmed to allow her to move like a human.

Great news for us. Just wait – the next thing you know Repliee Q2 will be out and telling us how to eradicated hunger and poverty from the world, cure diseases and the aging process and helping bring about complete nuclear disarmament, moments before she uses the Army’s Space Peace Platform of Death on us and starts the whole Humans vs. Terminator thing.

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Wireless Monitoring of Laundry

Back in 1990 during my freshman year of college one of my friends had gone home for the weekend with his laundry and had accidentally returned with a pair of his sister’s underwear. We naturally devised a prank on some poor guy who was doing his wash with his girlfriend. As he pulled each item out of the dryer she would fold it for him, and when he got to the girl’s underwear, he made a face and she cried out, “Oh god, Paul, no!”

We died laughing. When they figured it was a joke they did too, fortunately. He was a big mutha.

Anyway, looks like now you can get info from a web browser on how your laundry is coming along.

This is not nearly as good as the story, but it’s nice.

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The New Battlestar Galactica

I’ve written a lot about Lost (well, at least some about it.) on this site, and while I generally think the show is great, it has it’s bumps and dips in the road on its way to perfection. When it’s great, it’s really great, but when it’s mediocre, or just plain bad, it’s bad. I like the show mainly for the people, which is usually what keeps you around for a given length of interest, but sometimes the writing is just lacking.

I watched “Battlestar Galactica” when it was on in 1978. I was high on Star Wars and this was the next best thing to Star Wars that we had on TV, which made sense, since many of the ILM designers who worked on Star Wars worked on BsG also. I even watched the crappy “Galactica 1980” when I was nine or ten years old. I’d also heard for years that Richard Hatch, he of Apollo fame, was attempting to resurrect the series and have it continue from the stopping point of the first series. I thought it sounded lame and like something that a washed up actor would try to do, kind of like how Tom Arnold keeps saying that there’s going to be a True Lies 2. Then I started reading about Ron Moore’s adaptation and how it recast many of the original roles and that they’d sexified the whole thing and it sounded pathetic and lame.

But then I (belatedly) saw the miniseries on DVD. And I was hooked.

Gone was the loopiness of the first series. No more casino planets. No more Ovians. No more Dagget or lumbering Cylons with their hokey swords. The Cylons were bad muthas. The apocalypse of the 12 colonies of Kobol felt real (naturally in a post 9/11 world) and immediate. There were moments where people had to make decisions that would get the entire fleet killed or just half of the fleet. It was gut wrenching to watch as the president decides to abandon half of the fleet to die so that the rest of the fleet can live on to run from the bad guys another day.

And then the SciFi Channel greenlit a first season. And it was great. And then based on the ratings of that they greenlit a second season, something that the first series could never do. And it’s still great.

My favorite characters from the new series are Col. Tigh and Gaius Baltar, two people that I never cared about from the first series. Tigh always was the nice genteel second in command (I remember very little about him) to Adama, and I remember nothing of Baltar, except that I think he was already a turncoat to the Cylons when the series began. Michael Hogan and James Callis, who play Tigh and Baltar, respectively, are great, with Hogan being my favorite of the two. His Tigh is a lowlife drunk scumbag who Adama sees some sort of value in. He’s crass, gets in fights, and is almost universally hated by the crew, especially Starbuck. Callis, who I remembered as the gay guy from Bridget Jones’s Diary is hillarious here as the egomaniacal genius who keeps having visions of his Cylon girlfriend/handler in his head. That the man who unwittingly helped bring the apocalypse on is able to be elevated to the post of vice president of the former 12 colonies makes for great television.

I love the show. I wait weekly now to see what will happen next. I try not to read on the net what will happen the next episode. I don’t do such a good job of that sometimes. The sign of great television is that you will clamor for more and more like this show does. I want to know who else is a Cylon. I want to know what the colonists will find on Kobol. I want to know how Helo and Starbuck are going to get back to the fleet and what will happen to them on the way. I want to know when Baltar will finally turn to the Cylon side and either be forced to flee or will stay and be a Fifth Columnist for the Cylons. I want to know what is going to happen to Boomer now that she shot Adama. Will President Roslin die? Will Baltar become president at that time or will he have to campaign against Tom Zarek? When is Tigh going to attempt to clean up and get rid of his crazy wife Ellen, who consequently lusts for Tigh to have power? What will happen to Chief when he gets back and his suspicions about Boomer being a Cylon are realized?

Damn! I love this show!

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The First Quantum Computer? 2008

A company going by the moniker of D-Wave is letting it be known that they will produce the world’s first quantum computer in 2008. Quantum machines, a sci-fi staple along with nanotech, would not rely on the traditional bits that today’s computers operate with, but qubits (quantum bits), computing at the molecular level. Take a teaspoon, fill it with qubits, and you have IBM’s Deep Blue to the trillionth power. We’ll see if it happens, but if it turns out to be vaporware like Duke Nukem Forever, don’t be surprised.

Of course, these computers would have some physical drawbacks in the beginning, such as having at its heart an analogue chip which would have to be cooled with liquid helium to – 269 °C — just 4 °C shy of absolute zero. And it’s not like you’ll be playing BF2 anytime soon on one of these mofos. D-Wave expects to sell computational services, not quantum hardware, which I’m guessing in the short term would help them make back some of that R&D budget.

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Clotting Battlefield Wounds with Shrimp

Scientists have developed a bandage that can clot a bullet wound in one minute or less. The magic ingredient? Ground shrimp shells and vinegar, a concoction that has been found to clot blood instantly. The key ingredient in the shrimp shells is called chitosan.

The bandages were developed by HemCon, Inc., which develops and markets technologies to control severe bleeding for traumatic skin and organ injuries. Gregory, who co-founded HemCon, says chitosan interacts with our blood cells because its molecules carry a positive charge. “The outer membrane of a red blood cell has a negative charge,” he explains, “and opposite charges attract. The red cell is attracted to the positively-charged chitosan, and when it touches, it fuses and forms a blood clot.” When a clot forms, the bleeding stops. And unlike a regular bandage, which slips off when wet, the HemCon bandage becomes adhesive and sticks to the wet wound site, sealing and stabilizing it.“Bleeding is the single largest cause of death on the battlefield,” says Jim Hensel, President and CEO of HemCon. “The technology that exists today prior to the HemCon bandage is a compression bandage and a tourniquet, which is the same thing used in the Civil War, the Revolutionary Way, and frankly, the Trojan War.”

Neato burrito!

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The U.N. and the Internet

Smaller, less developed countries are starting to gripe to the U.N. (also known as “Your Future One World Government”) about the influence that the USA has over how the Internet is run worldwide.

Key issues range from adding new top-level domains, assigning blocks of IP addresses, and operating the root servers that direct all Internet traffic. Other responsibilities that would fall under the umbrella of this new organization would include Internet surveillance, “consumer protection,” and perhaps even the power to tax domain names to pay for “universal access.” “Universal access”, according to U.N. documents, sounds like the phone tax that you pay to provide Internet service to schools.

Some of the complaints are on their face, patently silly –

Syria: “There’s more and more spam every day. Who are the victims? Developing and least-developed countries, too. There is no serious intention to stop this spam by those who are the transporters of the spam, because they benefit…The only solution is for us to buy equipment from the countries which send this spam in order to deal with spam. However, this, we believe, is not acceptable.”

Yes, we should have to take directions from Syria, lover of terrorists, on how to combat spam. Spam doesn’t just affect developing nations. It affects everybody. Please.

Part of the Bush Administration’s response to this call for internationalization included their stating that the Root servers would remain under U.S. control no matter what was decided.

Beyond the usual levers of diplomatic pressure and public kvetching, Brazil and China could choose what amounts to the nuclear option: a fragmented root. That means a new top-level domain would not be approved by ICANN—but would be recognized and used by large portions of the rest of the world. The downside, of course, is that the nuclear option could create a Balkanized Internet where two computers find different Web sites at the same address.

“It wasn’t until now” that a fragmented root was being talked about, says Milton Mueller, a professor at Syracuse University and participant in the Internet Governance Project. “China and other countries might be pursuing responses that lead to fragmentation.”

Such an outcome remains remote, but it could happen. That possibility means an obscure debate about Internet governance has suddenly become surprisingly important.

Know this – the U.N. wants control of the Internet. They may do whatever they feel they have to do to wrest control of it from the United States.


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