Saturday, April 28, 2007

Amazing Jet-Powered Birdman

Monday, April 23, 2007

Yogi Berra on Politics

But for pure political insight -- now more than ever with the wide-open presidential races in both parties -- there is no one to match Yogi Berra, Hall of Fame catcher for the New York Yankees and reigning philosopher of baseball. Here is how selected Yogi-isms can explain contemporary politics:

"I wish I had an answer to that, because I'm tired of answering that question."

Instead of claiming amnesia, Alberto Gonzales would have been shrewder to emulate this kind of candor during his hapless appearance last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The virtue of the Yogi quote book is that its wisdom is bipartisan. Hillary Clinton could also resort to this honest approach every time she is tempted to give a convoluted answer about her vote authorizing the Iraq war.

"Slump? I ain't in a slump ... I just ain't hitting."

This might as well be the slogan of the fast-deflating John McCain campaign. With disappointing fundraising numbers and drooping polls, the defrocked GOP front-runner is on his way to being benched by Republican voters.

"When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Perhaps because of his baseball background, George W. Bush (aka "the Decider") is a master at this. Regardless of the consequences make a decision, any decision. This is about leadership.

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded."

Yogi's succinct restaurant review underscores the risks for Barack Obama if the novelty of his charismatic candidacy begins to fade. At the crest of a wave in the fall of 2003, Howard Dean was collecting major endorsements (Al Gore, unions like the SEIU) on a daily basis. The result? Many prominent Democrats decided there was no room for them in the Dean movement and migrated elsewhere.

"You can't think and hit at the same time."

This is Yogi's admonition that you should be guided by instinct. In the mouth of a presidential candidate, this sentiment becomes, "I don't read the polls."

Or to quote once more from the Gospel According to Yogi: "You've got to be careful if you don't know where you are going, because you might not get there."


Saturday, April 21, 2007

Tougher than Diamonds

A super-hard material that is tough enough to scratch diamond could be made cheaply and easily, a new study suggests. The material is made from the metal rhenium and the element boron and resembles both a metal and a crystal in structure.

Diamond is the hardest naturally occurring material known, although researchers have synthesised other substances to rival its hardness. These are generally crystals made from combinations of light elements, including carbon, nitrogen and boron, and are structurally similar to diamond.

These materials are better than diamond at some tasks, such as cutting steel, since the carbon in diamond reacts with steel to form iron carbide, dulling the cutting surface.

"But all the known super-hard materials are very expensive because they [have to be] made at high pressure," says Sarah Tolbert of the University of California at Los Angeles, US. So, together with Richard Kaner and other colleagues, she took a new approach.

The team created their material - rhenium diboride – without resorting to high pressures. "We wanted to change the ease with which hard materials are made," Tolbert says.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cell Phones May be Killing Bees

It seems like the plot of a particularly far-fetched horror film. But some scientists suggest that our love of the mobile phone could cause massive food shortages, as the world's harvests fail.

They are putting forward the theory that radiation given off by mobile phones and other hi-tech gadgets is a possible answer to one of the more bizarre mysteries ever to happen in the natural world - the abrupt disappearance of the bees that pollinate crops. Late last week, some bee-keepers claimed that the phenomenon - which started in the US, then spread to continental Europe - was beginning to hit Britain as well.

The theory is that radiation from mobile phones interferes with bees' navigation systems, preventing the famously homeloving species from finding their way back to their hives. Improbable as it may seem, there is now evidence to back this up.

The alarm was first sounded last autumn, but has now hit half of all American states. The West Coast is thought to have lost 60 per cent of its commercial bee population, with 70 per cent missing on the East Coast.

CCD has since spread to Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece. And last week John Chapple, one of London's biggest bee-keepers, announced that 23 of his 40 hives have been abruptly abandoned.

The implications of the spread are alarming. Most of the world's crops depend on pollination by bees. Albert Einstein once said that if the bees disappeared, "man would have only four years of life left".

No one knows why it is happening. Theories involving mites, pesticides, global warming and GM crops have been proposed, but all have drawbacks.

German research has long shown that bees' behaviour changes near power lines.

Now a limited study at Landau University has found that bees refuse to return to their hives when mobile phones are placed nearby. Dr Jochen Kuhn, who carried it out, said this could provide a "hint" to a possible cause.


Bill Mahr recently asked on his show something along the lines of "If Americans were told that they could solve global warming by simply not using their TV remote controls, would they do it?". Would people stop using their cell phones? Have we opened pandora's box?

Males Going Obsolete?

Scientists say they have managed for the first time to create artificial sperm cells, a development that the popular press has seized upon as a sign that sterile men -- and even women -- may be able to fertilize eggs in the future.

The researchers turned adult stem cells from bone marrow into immature sperm cells. They're excited about the discovery, but say that it could take three to five years to develop a process whereby the cells develop into the more mature sperm cells found in the testes.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Micro RC R2-D2

It's smaller than it seems in pictures. I'd say its about perfect scale to the old Star Wars action figures. I would have killed for one of these back in the day. Not sure if it'll fit in the X Wing from Hasbro, but I'm guessing a yes. The Japanese import has an IR lightsaber remote which controls the action.

When operating, the lightsaber can make R2D2 move forward and back but when it moves back, he spins. That's how the little guy turns. While on the move, his dome pivots a little bit side to side, and an a red LED goes off, as if he's looking around for trouble or a terminal interface to jack into. The whistling and purring R2 does while moving is emitted from the lightsaber.


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Apple ClickWheel Keyboard

Apple has filed for a continuation patent that details accelerated scrolling via the iPod click wheel, but the description and drawings that make up that filing also point to the inclusion of an iPod scroll wheel in place of a keyboard's numeric keypad.


Tyrannosaur Chicken

For the first time, researchers have read what they say is the biological signature of a tyrannosaur — a signature that confirms the increasingly accepted view that modern birds are the descendants of dinosaurs.

The bottom line was that the T. rex's biological signature was most like a bird's, at least based on the first fragmentary data. "It looks like chicken may be the closest among all species that are present in today's databases for proteins and genomes," Asara said.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Dot Matrix Bike Guy Arrest

Graduate student Josh Kinberg tested his protest bike before the 2004 Republican National Convention with the chalk message, "I love New York."

Joshua Kinberg's internet-connected, sidewalk-printing graffiti bike got him a lot of attention ahead of the 2004 Republican National Convention; he was Boing Boinged, Slashdotted and featured on CNN and in Popular Science.

Though he didn't know it at the time, his gadget also landed him a spot in secret files being compiled by the New York Police Department's intelligence arm against protest groups across the country.

"The existence of these files show that there was a premeditated desire to prevent my project and arrest me to avoid having embarrassing messages on the streets during the convention," Kinberg said.

Kinberg's invention was a bicycle equipped with a line of spray cans pointed at the ground, and activated by individual computer-controlled solenoids. If all had gone according to plan, Kinberg would have ridden the bicycle around the streets of New York during the RNC, while users submitted messages through his Bikes Against Bush website. The messages would have been relayed to his laptop through a cell phone, then sprayed on the sidewalk behind him in a dot-matrix of water-soluble chalk.

But the New York Police Department had a different idea.

Though they'd never seen him use the bike, the police arrested Kinberg on criminal mischief charges prior to the convention start, during an interview on Broadway Avenue with MSNBC's Ron Reagan. The arrest took place on a spot where, two days earlier, Kinberg had printed out the water-soluble message, "America is a free speech zone" during an interview with MSNBC's Countdown With Keith Olbermann.

During his 24 hours in lockup, his bike was inspected and praised by bomb-squad technicians, while detectives traded Polaroids of his creation and members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force questioned whether he knew violent protesters. Kinberg's charges were later dropped, on the condition he not get arrested again for six months.

Old news, but interesting.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The First Bikini

This is a photo of nude dancer Michelini Bernardini wearing the first Bikini, designed by Louis Reard. Pretty modern, huh?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Frog Rain in Serbia

Traffic came to a halt and locals fled inside after thousands of frogs fell from the sky onto a Serbian village.

Residents in Odzaci told local daily Blic they thought the world was coming to an end.

But climatology expert Slavisa Ignjatovic said there was a simple scientific explanation for the incident.

He said: "A whirlwind has sucked up the frogs from a lake, the sea or some other body of water somewhere else and carried them along to Odzaci where they have fallen to the ground. It is a recognised scientific phenomenon."


Saturday, April 07, 2007

O'Reilly + Geraldo = Fun

Seriously, O'Reilly argues like a 5 year old. I even think his head-is-gonna-burst outrageousness seems fake.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Everything Must Go!

Laurie Raye said she had everything stripped from her home after someone placed a fake ad on the San Francisco-based Internet site, a collection of online classifieds.

"The instigator who published this ad invited the public to come in and vandalize me," Raye told Seattle television station KING.

Raye had recently evicted a tenant and cleaned out the rental.

The ad posted last weekend welcomed people to take for free anything they wanted from the home. It has since been pulled from the site, but not before the residence was stripped of light fixtures, the hot water heater and the kitchen sink.

Even the front door and a vinyl window were pilfered, Raye said.

"In the ad, it said come and take what you want. Everything is free," she said. "Please help yourself to anything on the property."


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Inappropriate Laugh

Definetly not PC, but funny.

Liquid Robots

Remember the morphing robot T-1000 from the film Terminator 2? Could something like that ever become a reality? The folks at DARPA apparently think so. Last week they issued a request for proposals on developing so-called Chemical Robots (ChemBots), which would change shape in order to squeeze through tiny gaps.

The DARPA request states that ChemBots should be "soft, flexible, mobile objects that can identify and manoeuvre through openings smaller than their static structural dimensions". It goes on to add that, "nature provides many examples of ChemBot functionality. Many soft creatures, including mice, octopi, and insects, readily traverse openings barely larger than their largest 'hard' component."

So I wonder what the best approach might be. How about using shape-memory alloys, electro-active polymers, or even rheological substances? Are there other materials that might prove useful? And what would such a thing look like?


Monday, April 02, 2007

This American Life Is Now on Video

Check it out on Showtime. Episodes (video and audio) are available on-line as well as a podcast.

They've done an excellent job of translating the audio program to a video one. Well done.

Battlestar DIY

Use live action, animation, shadow puppets -- whatever you want -- to tell a story.

Very clever. Give your fans tools to create their own fan vids, and reap the free advertisement from that. Kudos to Scifi. More.

Thanks to Barry.

Windows Vista Explained

Google TiSP (BETA) -- Free Wireless Broadband

Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) today announced the launch of Google TiSP (BETA)™, a free in-home wireless broadband service that delivers online connectivity via users' plumbing systems. The Toilet Internet Service Provider (TiSP) project is a self-installed, ad-supported online service that will be offered entirely free to any consumer with a WiFi-capable PC and a toilet connected to a local municipal sewage system.

"We've got that whole organizing-the-world's-information thing more or less under control," said Google Co-founder and President Larry Page, a longtime supporter of so-called "dark porcelain" research and development. "What's interesting, though, is how many different modalities there are for actually getting that information to you - not to mention from you."

For years, data carriers have confronted the "last hundred yards" problem for delivering data from local networks into individual homes. Now Google has successfully devised a "last hundred smelly yards" solution that takes advantage of preexisting plumbing and sewage systems and their related hydraulic data-transmission capabilities. "There's actually a thriving little underground community that's been studying this exact solution for a long time," says Page. "And today our Toilet ISP team is pleased to be leading the way through the sewers, up out of your toilet and - splat - right onto your PC."


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