Archive for September, 2007

Welders wanted

September 17, 2007

BBC NEWS | Europe | Chernobyl to be covered in steel:

The French construction company Novarka will build a giant arch-shaped structure out of steel, 190 metres (623 feet) wide and 200m long. It will cover the existing containment structure which stands over the reactor and radioactive fuel that caused the accident in 1986.

I would love to watch the construction process and take pictures of the work that goes on once it’s done, but I’m not that crazy.


Those austrian popes don’t lose any time.

September 17, 2007

BBC NEWS | Europe | Cardinal in ‘Nazi art term’ row:

Cardinal Meisner warned that when art became estranged from worship, culture became degenerate.

The BBC’s Marianne Landzettel says this was no off-the-cuff remark by the cardinal, delivered in a sermon in Cologne Cathedral, but was precisely scripted.

She says the phrase degenerate art – “entartete Kunst” – in German has only one connotation: that of Nazi Germany and the persecution of artists, the banning of paintings and the burning of books.

Apparently art has to be representational and figurative to be good. You know, like rose windows.

A testable prediction about dark matter?

September 17, 2007

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Dark matter clues in oldest stars:

Tom Theuns, from Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, told the festival: “What we found for the first time is that the nature of the dark matter is crucial to the nature of the first stars. “In cold dark matter the particles move very slowly; in warm dark matter they move very quickly,” he explained. “We found that if the dark matter consists of these fast moving particles, then the first stars form in very long, thin filaments. “The filaments have a length about a quarter the size of the Milky Way and contain an amount of matter and gas about 10 million times the mass of the Sun, so that provides a lot of fuel for many stars.” Exotic collection Some of the stars that formed within the filaments would have had a relatively low mass, which is of interest to astronomers as they have a long lifespan and could still survive today. Simulations of dark matter behaviour in the first forming stars Simulation: With cold dark matter, structures become clumpy Dr Theuns added: “In stark contrast, what happens in (the simulation with) cold dark matter is very, very different. “Here, the first stars formed in little lumps of dark matter, and just one star per dark matter lump. And these stars are probably very massive as well: 100 solar masses.

Don’t these people know you never make testable predictions about the early universe?

Sagans on the rights of us, Sagans on the left of us

September 17, 2007

Does this mean every time I don’t download a movie by BitTorrent another subprime lender goes belly up?

Fair Use Worth More to Economy Than Copyright, CCIA Says — Copyright — InformationWeek:

Recent studies indicate that the value added to the U.S. economy by copyright industries amounts to $1.3 trillion, said Black. The value added to the U.S. economy by the fair use amounts to $2.2 trillion.

Who’s the hacker now?

September 17, 2007

Microsoft Updates Windows Without User Permission, Apologizes — Windows — InformationWeek:

Even though the updates ended up being benign and vital to the function of Windows Updates, such a breach of trust could end up harming Microsoft’s reputation.

And how do we know they’re benign and vital? Microsoft told us so.

and only a little bit related:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Hi-tech crime ‘is big business’:

The underground economy has its own auction sites and marketplaces that sell valuable data such as credit card numbers and bank accounts. They also sell toolkits for novice cyber criminals who lack technical know-how to craft their own attacks.

I want Eliza to sign to me

September 16, 2007

BBC NEWS | Technology | IBM animates sign language avatar:

SiSi will enable deaf people to have simultaneous sign language interpretations of meetings and presentations. It uses speech recognition to animate a digital character or avatar. IBM says its technology will allow for interpretation in situations where a human interpreter is not available. It could also be used to provide automatic signing for television, radio and telephone calls.

September 15, 2007

This image sequence is way cool. Gives you chills just thinking about it.

There is one sorta-kinda mistake though: the bigger stars don’t really have such well-defined surfaces. They just sorta get thinner and thinner until they stop glowing properly.

Lucky Imaging

September 12, 2007

Institute of Astronomy:

The camera works by recording the images produced by an adaptive optics front-end at high speed (20 frames per second or more). Software then checks each one to pick the sharpest ones. Many are still quite significantly smeared but a good percentage are unaffected. These are combined to produce the image that astronomers want.

This is really quite cool, although I worry a bit about artifacts (is it automatically true that the “sharpest” images are the most accurate representations?). I’m also a little awed by the advances the system takes for granted: adaptive optics, CCD sensors big and efficient enough to capture useful number of photons in 50 milliseconds…

How dare employees have lives

September 12, 2007

BBC NEWS | Technology | Facebook ‘costs businesses dear’:

According to employment law firm Peninsula, 233 million hours are lost every month as a result of employees “wasting time” on social networking

Because having a wide network of social acquaintances at other organizations has never been any help to anyone trying to get their job done ever.

Telepresence in action

September 11, 2007 – Business – Meet IvanAnywhere:

The computer screen displays a live shot of Bowman’s face from his living room in Nova Scotia. But in the three months since IvanAnywhere first went online, he has become such a normal part of the third floor at iAnywhere that co-workers barely even notice they’re talking to a machine rather than to Bowman’s human form. “We are all so used to Ivan, they don’t even give it a second thought,” says Glenn Paulley, Bowman’s boss and the originator of the IvanAnywhere idea. When Bowman has a question for a colleague, he doesn’t pick up the phone; he uses his joystick to drive his doppelganger to the team member’s office. If Paulley needs Bowman’s time on a software issue, he calls IvanAnywhere to his office, just as he would with any other employee. Bowman uses IvanAnywhere to take part in meetings, even giving presentations with the help of a projector. Every once in a while, he’ll motor to the floor’s lounge area to look out the window and chat with passersby, much as he would if he were in Waterloo.

This is really cool. It shows how people can adapt, and how little you need to make a workable avatar. If there were anywhere I wanted to be, I would want one.