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March 31, 2002

Happy Easter!


I thought I'd wish you all a happy holiday with this graphic from a site I built just over five years ago :)

March 29, 2002

Turn Off the Ump! Turn Off the Ump!

Electronic tracking systems provide feedback for umpires. Will this endanger jobs?

NY Times article (free registration required)

Speaking of "Daisy, Daisy" :)

Are Seizure Dogs Service Dogs?

NY Times article (free registration required)

Via Boing Boing

Fun Things Online, After All

Derek Powazek has challenged the readers of his blog to refute the claim (reported here yesterday) that the Web is no fun anymore. They've suggested some good stuff (I may have to blog some of it separately ;) )

Via Boing Boing

Spam Like You've Never Heard It

spamradio is an amazing creation. Unsolicited email messages, read by a friendly electronic voice, over oddly mesmerizing music. Some are things we've all received. Some are unique and new (to me, at least). Check this for a great example.

I found this through Pamela Licalzi O'Connell's Online Diary article in today's NY Times (free registration required), which also mentions the [in]famous All Look Same? and Daypop''s very cool wishlist page.

By the way, want to become a legally ordained minister?

A New Eye in the Sky

The first pictures from Europe's one-month old Envisat are in, and they're nice.

New Scientist article, with pictures

The "Father of the Lunar Module", Thomas J. Kelly, has died

Kelly led the team that designed and built the Apollo 11 LEM (Lunar Excursion Module), where part of it still rests at Tranquility Base.

Andrew Chaikin did a nice piece on NPR's Morning Edition this morning, containing the following:

Years later, Kelly liked to gather his grandchildren by the telescope and point it at the moon. He'd tease them by saying, "Can't you see them up there? Why can't you guys see them?"

There is an obituary online at the NY Times site (free registration required)

Robot Journalist - Assignment: Afghanistan?

OK. I missed this when it came out a few weeks ago, but I couldn't keep it to myself:


A team of MIT computer engineers has created a robotic journalist, designed for use in hazardous areas such as the war-torn Middle East. Now, as the "Afghan eXplorer", they want to send it to Afhanistan, saying "nothing is too dangerous for a robot."

Wired News article

March 28, 2002

LEGO Builder! Fun!

And for my fortieth post, something intensely cool: LEGO Builder lets you play with LEGO bricks online!

This was just posted to Metafilter, and I had to share it!

Lettuce Shortage!

Expect to pay four times the usual price for your lettuce -- poor weather has made for meager crops

NY Times article (free registration required)

Thanks, Leslie!

Mathematical Beauty and Nature

Nice NY Times article (free registration required) on the quest for beauty in scientific theory.

I noticed this article yesterday, but didn't get a chane to read it. Thanks for reminding me, Mom!

Genocide or Practice? Iraq's Chemical Attacks on the Kurds

New Yorker article on the horrific chemical attacks on Iraqi Kurds carried out by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. This is alarming and disturbing stuff. The Iraqis have clearly experimented with their chemical (and possibly biological) weapons on the Kurds. In part Iraq may be working on exterminating the Kurds. But they are also honing their weaponry for wars with other nations.

Leslie showed me this article in the print edition. It has been widely linked online.

Life from Outer Space?

Independent research teams have synthesized amino acids in simulated interstellar environments, suggesting that the molecules of life could appear spontaneously in interstellar clouds.

I heard about this research on NPR this morning, but the first link I've found is this BBC News story.

Content Creators, Start Making Content! Fun Content!

Is the Web really becoming less fun? Or have we just lost our sense of wonder. This NY Times article (free registration required) has been posted a number of blogs, but it bears a look if you seek entertainment on the Web. Or if you seek to create it!

"Toynbee" Plaques - A Meta Meta Meta Discussion

OK. There are these plaques all over the place in the streets of New York and other cities. I've seen them and wondered what they were. Apparently, so have a lot of other people. There are links and an active Metafilter discussion on the matter. You can't join the Metafilter discussion unless you happen to be a member. But you can discuss it here!

Eggs in the News

Ever wonder why a spinning egg stands up on end? This Nature article tells of the scientists who've explained it.

But what about falling eggs? In eighth grade my science teacher ran a competition among his students to devise the best falling egg conveyance we could. Eggs were dropped from a third-story fire escape. The faster your egg reached the asphalt below, the better. The smaller and lighter your vessel, the better. Now some students at San Jose State University are holding their own egg drop, and their designs are pretty cool.

Found at Metafilter

Solar System Simulator

NASA and JPL have created the Solar System Simulator, which renders the views from various planets and satellites. Very cool.

Found at Metafilter

The Nastiest Coffee in the World

This $300 a pound coffee is not for the weak of stomach: Washington Times article

Found at New World Disorder

Word Fun at the Linguistic Anomalies File

Linguistic Anomalies File

I found this through Boing Boing, where contributor Derryl had quoted the "300 most common words".

Picoradio at UC Berkeley

A UC Berkeley researcher is developing small 100-microwatt transmitters for very short-range, low-bandwidth wireless networks:

Each node, in its final form, will be no bigger than a shirt button and will contain several elements: a sensor, or set of sensors, for measuring elements like temperature, pressure, motion, light or sound; a microprocessor; an interface to communicate with other nodes; and a power component, either solar cells or a piezoelectric polymer that can convert vibrations from the environment into electricity.

Tech Review article

Oxford University Press: Online for a Fee

Oxford University Press has digitized 60,000 pages so far, and is only a third of the way to its goal of making 300 of its reference titles available online. What's the catch? It can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars per year to access these materials.

Wired News article

Hurray! AdCritic is Coming Back!

Advertising Age Aquires AdCritic (how alliterative)

Found at Boing Boing

Supreme Court Denies Rights to Illegal Laborers

"Awarding back pay to illegal aliens runs counter to policies underlying" federal immigration laws, Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist wrote in the court's opinion.

Is it me, or does this give companies more incentive to employ (and exploit) illegal laborers?

NY Times article (free registration required)

March 26, 2002

"Women of Enron"

OK. You've probably already heard about this one, but it bears mentioning anyway. Playboy is putting together a pictorial of former and current Enron employees. Why? They claim they're offering them "a part time job, or what might turn into a new career."

Here's the Salon article

Science and Ultimate Reality Conference

There's an interesting piece in the NY Times on this conference, organized in honor of Dr. John Wheeler's 90th birthday. The conference covered a lot of ground, including religious perspectives on science, making it somewhat unusual among physics conferences.

NY Times article (free registration required)

Thanks, Leslie!

March 25, 2002

NASA Undertaking Antigravity Research

NASA will begin testing an alleged antigravity device. Why? "If it works, what a hoot!," says the manufacturer. Will fringe science earn its first Nobel Prize? Well, it'd be neat to see ...

LA Times story here.

Found via Wired News

"In any rogues' gallery of astronomical evildoers ..."

That got your attention, didn't it? It's from the opening sentence of this SF Gate piece on a new variation on black hole theory: the "gravastar" (no, not this.)

Found through Wired News

On The Bottle > On The Phone

In the UK, at least, mobile phone use may impair driving ability even more than alcohol use. Here's a Yahoo news story on the study.

Found via Metafilter

How the Gingrinch Stole Nanotechnology

Who knew? Newt Gingrich is a big nano backer.

Be the Cursor

From Science to Nature. A Brown University research team has developed a technique for controlling a computer via a direct brain connection. They're looking at the implications for assistive technology, which are definitely promising.

But there are other possibilities: "We can rebuild him. We have the technology" We can also rebuild her. Or him.

Here's a Brown University press release.

Found via Nanodot

Update (March 28, 2002): The New York Times has covered this story (thanks, Leslie!).

Deja Fusion

Science recently published (March 8, 2002) a paper documenting what its authors believe is evidence of tabletop [cold] nuclear fusion. Really? Well, people don't really agree on this one. Here's an SF Gate article.

Found in Metafilter

The Marriage (literally) of Software and Biology

Moving right along, from microbiology (see previous post) to molecular cell biology, we have an interesting piece from MIT's Technology Review on the emerging field of cell bioinformatics and simulation. The article begins with the work of scientists Lucy Shapiro and Harley McAdams, and goes on to describe a number of ambitious and interesting projects in molecular biological simulation. As it happens, I'm currently taking a course in this, and it's pretty fascinating stuff. It is, however, an extremely young field, and may or may not live up to its promise. Here's hoping ...

Flap those Flagella Like You Mean It

Wacky piece of comic improvisation from Scott McCloud. This dates back to last Halloween, but I just ran across it, and thought I'd share it. This particular strip can be seen in context at McCloud's Morning Improv site. McCloud, in case you're not familiar with him, is the author of the excellent book Understanding Comics.

Here's another fun morning improv series: Meadow of the Damned - Parts One, Two, and Three

Check out

Worst. Manual. Ever.

Technical Standards Inc has posted their second annual Worst Manual Contest. There's some truely horrible stuff in here. The winner has some lovely mistakes that are easily ignored at first glance, at least by a non-copy editor. Very "Hudsucker Proxy," though.

Via Metafilter

March 22, 2002

Market Research in the Shower

How do you think we get new, improved showering tech?
This is how.

Via other than linguistics

Cool Rabbit Thingee

In honor of Easter? Here's a neat little Flash animation:

In your browser window

Fullscreen (click the X in the upper right to close it when you're done.

Found at Metafilter

Bad Copy Protection Required

Oh, great. Another piece of bad legislation. This one, the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act (CBDTPA -- I think they want this to have an unmemorable name), would require that electronic devices must implement government-standardized copy protection.

Good luck creating those standards, folks. How do you propose to prevent copyright infringement while not preventing legally-allowed fair use? How can you tell whether I'm making a backup copy for myself or a copy for my friend? Tie the content to my device? What if I loan my copy to a friend (which is legal)?

I can appreciate the desire to protect copyright. But I have a really bad feeling that, like the DMCA, this could result in overly-restrictive laws that reduce the civil liberties of media consumers.

Have a look at Declan McCullagh's Wired News article

Techie Etymology

This SF Gate article, by the wonderfully named Anu Garg, explores the origins of a few choice words such as "Yahoo" and "nerd."

Smack me 'til my vision clears ...

More weirdness from the New Scientist: a band of artificial muscle could be stitched around the eyeball. It would constrict the eyeball when triggered by a tap upside your head.

I remember noticing long ago that pressure on my eyeball distorted my vision, as it might reasonably be expected to do. But as I try it now it mainly causes a somewhat seasicky swimming and blurring of the image I see. Seems to me this technology would be pretty hard to implement effectively, let alone safely. And the surgery -- yeowtch!

Also, wouldn't this whole thing also increase the pressure in the eyeball? Isn't that pretty much the whole problem in glaucoma? Come on, people!

Speech to Signs

A cool new enabling technology will be used in British post offices: an avatar named Tessa will translate postal clerks' spoken English into British Sign Language for communication with hearing-impaired patrons.

Wired News article

Do Not Taunt The Orb

A company named Ambient Devices has created a strange glowing ellipsoid that plucks trends from the ether and conveys them via shifts of color. Maybe it's just me, but this thing looks an awful lot like the orb in Woody Allen's "Sleeper". But Donald Norman likes it ...

NY Times article (free registration required)

Albert Einstein in US District Court in San Francisco

Computer game publisher Electronic Arts would dearly like to use Einstein in a new title. Trouble is, Einstein's image is controlled by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. EA doesn't want to pay; Einstein is a public figure, a historical figure. The University doesn't want to see Einstein in this particular game.

NY Times article (free registration required)

Electroconductive Concrete Foils Spies, Melts Snow

Concrete permeated with a coal refining byproduct allows electricity to flow. Under high voltage such cement can be used in snow-melting sidewalks, and in embassy walls, where they provide the handy second function of electromagnetic shielding.

NY Times article (free registration required)

Handyman gave $1 million to NYC

Joe Temeczko bequethed his $1 million savings to the City of New York. The City seems unimpressed.

NYTimes article (free registration required)

(Thanks, Leslie!)

March 21, 2002

Church of Scientology uses DMCA against Google (UPDATED)

The Church of Scientology (CoS), asserting that various web pages infringe on their copyright, has demanded that Google remove links to these pages, under the requirements of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA).

The links may or may not infringe copyright. Those I've looked at are certainly critical of CoS, but surely there is some Constitutional protection for criticism, non? Surely? CoS has a history of this sort of behavior, but I'm more concerned with the problems of the DMCA than I am with any problems of the CoS.

Therefore, since Google removed the links, I'm posting them here. Thanks to Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing for the excellent idea.

Found at Boing Boing
Originally posted at Declan McCullagh's Politech

Followup (March 22, 2:09 PM):

Google has relisted the sites.

Or have they?

Update found via Metafilter

The links follow below. clan-images.html archive/photoalbum/ clan-images.html clan-images.html

The White Mouse of the Resistance

Here's a fascinating article about Nancy Wake, who, among her many courageous acts during the Second World War, helped at least a thousand people escape occupied France. She was 28 when Germany invaded. By the time she was 31, there was a five million franc bounty on her head. A remarkable story about a remarkable person.

Booklend: A Free, Private, Mail-order Library

If you love reading, and you haven't heard of it already, you really ought to check out Mark Anderson's wonderful Booklend. Mark will loan you his books by mail, for as long as it takes you to read them, and he pays the postage both ways. He also accepts donated books.

March 20, 2002


It is a day like any other. Like thousands of other weblogs, this site is emerging, bare and maleable into the world. What will the future hold? What direction will this site take? Keep reading ...