Archive for July, 2009

Unintended Irony department

July 20, 2009

BBC NEWS | Technology | Wikipedia painting row escalates

But the Wikipedia volunteer David Gerard accuses the gallery of bureaucratic empire building.

“They honestly think the paintings belong to them rather than to us,” he wrote.

Yeah, I know the “us” is somewhat out of context. But still funny.


Ten gravities gets you moving really freaking fast

July 18, 2009

Technology Review: NASA’s New Crew Escape System

he new escape system would separate the crew module from the launch rocket in a fraction of a second with a small, controlled explosion. Almost simultaneously, a solid rocket motor would fire, providing a million pounds of thrust to accelerate the module from 0 to 600 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds, pulling the astronauts to a safe distance before the module’s parachutes deploy.

The lunar reconnaissance orbiter is so cool

July 18, 2009

NASA – LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites

The satellite reached lunar orbit June 23 and captured the Apollo sites between July 11 and 15. Though it had been expected that LRO would be able to resolve the remnants of the Apollo mission, these first images came before the spacecraft reached its final mapping orbit. Future LROC images from these sites will have two to three times greater resolution.

So that means 1-2 foot resolution over much of the surface of the moon. Wow.

Tab Dump from Hell

July 16, 2009

World’s Largest CNC Machine Fabricates Large-Scale Building Prototypes – 3D printing – Gizmodo

D-Shape’s 3-D stereolithic printer creates models entirely out of artificial sandstone using CAD-CAE modeling technologies and CAD-CAM software to control the plotter. The printing proceeds in 5-10mm layer segments and, in the end, produces a structure that has strength characteristics reminiscent of standard Portland Cement—without the need for internal reinforcement. This gives designers greater flexibility with structural shapes.

35,000-year-old Flute Is First Instrument Ever – flute – Gizmodo

Found in Ach Valley, in the south of Germany, the 8.7-inch long, one-inch diameter instrument has five holes, with two V-shaped notches carved on one side of it. This was the part in which the musician put the lips to blow, according to University of Tubingen’s professor Nicholas Conard, the lead author of the discovery. The other end is broken just on the fifth hole.

Also according to the study, it was capable of producing a note range similar to those of modern flutes.

What Is This? – SBX – Gizmodo

the Sea-Based X-Band Radar, which is part of the U.S. Defense Department Ballistic Missile Defense System. It’s a weird view, because usually—as you can see in the second image—it propels itself.

The platform—built by the Russians using a Norwegian twin-hulled oil platform design—is 380 feet long and 280 feet tall to the top of the main radar dome. Designed to work under any kind of weather, the 50,000-ton behemoth only moves a maximum of 10 degrees of its horizontal base using passive stabilization.

According to Wikipedia, the SBX “has been moved to offshore Hawaii from its Aleutian Islands base in Alaska as of June 23, 2009. The reason: A potential North Korean missile launc

BBC NEWS | Health | New cancer drug ‘shows promise’

Olaparib was given to 19 patients with inherited forms of advanced breast, ovarian and prostate cancers caused by mutations of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.

In 12 of the patients – none of whom had responded to other therapies – tumours shrank or stabilised.

Shaky home movies get a big budget feel – tech – 13 July 2009 – New Scientist

The process starts using off-the-shelf software called Voodoo Camera Tracker that can reconstruct a camera’s path through 3D space from a video sequence.

Using that as a reference, the software then tries to distort each frame to create the way things would have looked were the camera to have been on that perfect, smooth path. Rather like a fun house mirror, different regions of each frame are warped by different amounts.

That distortion can be apparent when frames are examined individually, but when run in sequence, the brain thinks it is seeing footage taken from a camera moving on a steady path through space.

Hoarding – Why and What People Hoard.

* MISCONCEPTION: The moment you throw something away, you let go of that specific part of your life, however insignificant it may be.

16-264: Computer Vision with Optical Mouse Chips

For robot guidance, having as many sources of feedback for finding and confirming position is imperative. One such strategy is using optical flow, which uses vision algorithms to pick key points in a video stream and track their motion. Unfortunately to do a good job of this, it takes good cameras and significant processing power.

The Optical Mouse:
One often overlooked application of optical flow is the optical mouse. An optical mouse actually contains a low resolution black and white camera which takes ‘photos’ of the mousing surface at 6000Hz and runs a point finding algorithm and compares these points. So rather than using an expensive high resolution camera and a fast computer, the mouse chip operates on a low resolution image and still returns good results when used as a mouse.

MAYA Design: The Wrong Cloud?

In our opinion cloud computing, as currently described, is not that far off from the sort of thinking that drove the economic downturn. In effect both situations sound the same… we allowed radical experiments to be performed by gigantic, non-redundant entities. There is a place in the world for behemoths, but that is not where the most radical experimentation should be taking place.

Until we understand a domain of endeavor very, very well, we should insist on decentralized, massively-parallel venues for dubious experiments. In the information economy, it means net equality, information liquidity and radically distributed services (and that’s pretty much the opposite of “cloud computing” as described today).

Laser Doubles Efficiency of Traditional Lightbulbs : University of Rochester News

The process could make a light as bright as a 100-watt bulb consume less electricity than a 60-watt bulb while remaining far cheaper and radiating a more pleasant light than a fluorescent bulb can.

The laser process creates a unique array of nano- and micro-scale structures on the surface of a regular tungsten filament—the tiny wire inside a light bulb—and theses structures make the tungsten become far more effective at radiating light.

Towering Edge Waves Pop Into View (Saturn Images from NASA’s Cassini Spacecraft)

Colossal vertical structures in Saturn’s rings are brought into stark relief for the first time in images made possible by Saturn’s approach to its August equinox.

In an analysis published online today in the Astronomical Journal, imaging scientists use the long shadows cast by newly revealed 3-dimensional waves on the edges of the Keeler gap in Saturn’s outer A ring to illustrate how the small moon Daphnis, embedded in the gap, can create such soaring vertical structures.


Dinosaur fossils are present in the Paleocene Ojo Alamo Sandstone and Animas Formation in the San Juan Basin, New Mexico, and Colorado. Evidence for the Paleocene age of the Ojo Alamo Sandstone includes palynologic and paleomagnetic data. Palynologic data indicate that the entire Ojo Alamo Sandstone, including the lower dinosaur-bearing part, is Paleocene in age. All of the palynomorph-productive rock samples collected from the Ojo Alamo Sandstone at multiple localities lacked Cretaceous index palynomorphs (except for rare, reworked specimens) and produced Paleocene index palynomorphs. Paleocene palynomorphs have been identified stratigraphically below dinosaur fossils at two separate localities in the Ojo Alamo Sandstone in the central and southern parts of the basin.

General Atomics unwraps new, Stealth(y) robot war-jet • The Register

Now comes the Avenger, upgraded to jet propulsion and offering some Stealth features. GA-ASI say that it is “more survivable in higher threat environments” and say that it “will have higher operational and transit speeds than current Predator-series aircraft, resulting in fast response and rapid repositioning”.

The firm promises 400-knot airspeeds and a 60,000-foot ceiling using the Pratt & Whitney PW545B turbofan (the same used in the Cessna Citation XLS biz jet). The Avenger can be flown using the same control stations as its predecessors, and “can carry the same mix of weapons as Predator B” – that is, laser-guided Hellfire missiles or Paveway/JDAM smartbombs. It will also be suitable for carrying any of the various advanced sensors – ground-sweeping radars, thermal imagers, multiplex Argus spyeyes, mobile-phone sniffers etc. – nowadays so popular for airborne surveillance. It’s a biggish brute, 41 feet long and with a 66-foot wingspan – comparable in size to an F-15 fighter plane, but wide rather than long

BBC NEWS | Business | Floating wind turbine launched

“Taking wind turbines to sea presents new opportunities,” said Ms Gjorv, of Statoil’s new energy division.

“The wind is stronger and more consistent [and] areas are large.”

Floating wind farms are set to be connected to mainland grids via cables across the seabed. The longer the cable, the more expensive it is, so the distance from land is not set to become unlimited, explained Ms Gjorv.

The Hywind, a 2.3 megawatt (MW) wind turbine built by Siemens, combines technologies from both the wind farming industry and the oil and gas sectors, and will be tested off the coast of Norway for two years.

Study: Climate change kills 300,000 a year – Climate Change-

LONDON – Climate-change disasters kill around 300,000 people a year and cause about $125 billion in economic losses, mainly from agriculture, a think-tank led by former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan reported Friday.

The Global Humanitarian Forum also estimated that 325 million people are seriously affected by climate change — a number it says will double by 2030, as more people are hit by natural disasters or suffer environmental degradation caused by climate change.

Landmark study: DRM truly does make pirates out of us all – Ars Technica

Are rightsholders willing to “deal with users” who experience problems? Some are, but Akester found that many require a legislative prod before taking any action.

The study confirms what anyone who has ever wanted to rip a DVD to their computer or iPod could have told you: DRM, coupled with anticircumvention laws, makes pirates of us all.

Akester offers some possible solutions to the problem. They are worth reading, but they are also unlikely to be implemented for years. In the meantime, copyright exceptions for the blind, libraries, teachers, and for fair use will continue to be limited by a crafty mixture of code and law.

Of course, as Bright points out, the massive lobbying, legislative, legal, and technical effort that underlies all these DRM regimes does so little to stop piracy that we’d be tempted to laugh at the folly of it all if we weren’t already weeping.

US team create carbon nanotube ultra-memory • The Register

The nano-structure was created in a single step by pyrolysis of ferrocene in argon at 1,000 degreees C. The created nanotube elements are dispersed in isopropanol ultrasonically and deposited on a substrate with electrical contacts applied to the ends of the nanotube. The researchers say these steps are compatible with common semiconductor manufacturing techniques.

By applying an electric current, the iron particle shuttle could be made to move inside the nanotube either away from or towards the current source. When the current was turned off the particle was, as it were, frozen in position. By applying the current in a timed pulse the particle could be made to move a fixed 3nm distance in steps. The speed of movement could be altered by varying the applied bias voltage.

The researchers say that placing the shuttle either side of the mid-point along the length of the nanotube can constitute a digital one or zero.

Philly’s fresh-food triumph: Nationally admired program opens supermarkets for underserved | Philadelphia Daily News | 06/18/2009

Any food retailer wanting to open or expand operations in an underserved, low- or moderate-income neighborhood could apply for help from the Fresh Food Financing Initiative.

The Reinvestment Fund evaluated proposals to ensure that retailers had a business plan and the management capacity to make a go of it with some start-up help.

Of more than 40 projects funded in Philadelphia, only two have failed so far.

Brian Lang, of the Food Trust, said that one important piece of the program has been an effort to improve the offerings at smaller stores in communities where a supermarket developer didn’t appear.

“Flexibility is important here,” Lang said. “Our goal is to get fresh foods into communities that don’t have them. We’ve heard from some corner-store operators that they want to offer their customers healthy stuff, not just chips and soda.”

About 30 neighborhood stores got funding for refrigeration units to sell fresh meats and produce.

Michael Geist – Harvard Study Finds Weaker Copyright Protection Has Benefited Society

Overall production figures for the creative industries appear to be consistent with this view that file sharing has not discouraged artists and publishers. While album sales have generally fallen since 2000, the number of albums being created has exploded. In 2000, 35,516 albums were released. Seven years later, 79,695 albums (including 25,159 digital albums) were published (Nielsen SoundScan, 2008). Even if file sharing were the reason that sales have fallen, the new technology does not appear to have exacted a toll on the quantity of music produced. Obviously, it would be nice to adjust output for differences in quality, but we are not aware of any research that has tackled this question.

Similar trends can be seen in other creative industries. For example, the worldwide number of feature films produced each year has increased from 3,807 in 2003 to 4,989 in 2007 (Screen Digest, 2004 and 2008). Countries where film piracy is rampant have typically increased production. This is true in South Korea (80 to 124), India (877 to 1164), and China (140 to 402). During this period, U.S. feature film production has increased from 459 feature films in 2003 to 590 in 2007 (MPAA, 2007).

BBC NEWS | Health | ‘Surprise’ prostate result probed

The trial was set up to see if MDX-010, a type of drug called a monoclonal antibody, would improve on hormone treatment.

The idea is that the drug will encourage a strong immune response to attack the cancer cells.

Half the men had normal therapy and half also received MDX-010.

In three cases, where the experimental drug was given, the tumours shrank dramatically, enabling surgeons to operate and remove the tumour.

ACQUINE: Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine – Instant Impersonal Assessment of Photos

Aesthetic Quality Inference Engine – Instant Impersonal Assessment of Photos

Thet’s yer problem right there

July 12, 2009

Obsidian Wings: The Ice Floes Are Crowded

Here’s an econ textbook quoted by Uwe Reinhardt:

“Prices ration scarce resources. If bread were free, a huge quantity of it would be demanded. Because the resources used to produce bread are scarce, the actual amount of bread has to be rationed among its potential users. Not everyone can have all the bread that they could possibly want. The bread must be rationed somehow; the price system accomplishes this in the following way: Everyone who is willing to pay the equilibrium price gets the good, and everyone who does not, does not.

The rest of the discussion is pretty interesting, complete with the 99-year-old grandmother who is an object lesson in why you don’t leave marginal-coverage issues to the mostly-unregulated marketplace.

But I was kinda amused by the fact that the original example Uwe Reinhardt quotes from his econ 10x textbook is completely contrary to fact. If the price of bread were zero, There’s no real evidence that people would demand much more of it than they do now. Some people might demand a little more, and people people who are too poor to eat non-free food might demand a lot more, but the solution to that part of the problem wouldn’t be some much about making bread more expensive as about making other foodstuffs more affordable for them.

Similarly, if medical care were free, some people might consume a little more — although let’s face it, it’s not generally a good that’s enjoyable to consume — and a few others, mainly those whose lives are such that they don’t have access to other means of maintaining or preserviing their health, would consume a lot more. But as any number of other countries have shown).

Why is this important? Because our current method of doing health-care rationing appears to produce costs trending toward infinity. It’s not about the demand curve at all, it’s about who gets to set prices, who sets the mix of goods and services available to be demanded, what the incentives for various people in the system are.

Like everyone else, I love this review. It exceeds its subject.

July 1, 2009

io9 – Michael Bay Finally Made An Art Movie – Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Transformers: ROTF has mostly gotten pretty hideous reviews, but that’s because people don’t understand that this isn’t a movie, in the conventional sense. It’s an assault on the senses, a barrage of crazy imagery. Imagine that you went back in time to the late 1960s and found Terry Gilliam, fresh from doing his weird low-fi collage/animations for Monty Python. You proceeded to inject Gilliam with so many steroids his penis shrank to the size of a hair follicle, and you smushed a dozen tabs of LSD under his tongue. And then you gave him the GDP of a few sub-Saharan countries. Gilliam might have made a movie not unlike this one.