Archive for the ‘fun science’ Category

Sharknado vs. Meth-Quake

May 3, 2014

The tornado vs. earthquake debate has always been a source of conversation between Okies and Californians —

I just don’t see how you can live where:

A)  giant vacuum cleaner storms can scoop you and your homes up into the sky, or
B)  the ground can just start shaking and collapse your whole town

Thankfully, the oil and gas fracking boom has given Oklahoma just a little taste of the California experience by increasing the size and frequency of earthquakes in the Sooner State.

When the Seismological Society of America says that fracking earthquakes are a real thing, then it’s a good bet that they are. The annual SSA meeting last Thursday featured a daylong session on “Induced Seismicity” that featured new research indicating that oil and gas fracking, and the practice of disposing wastewater underground, can alter the character of an existing fault. 

As of last month, in Oklahoma alone more than 100 3.0-and-up earthquakes have been recorded. The total between 1967 and 2000 was only 21. This recent increase jumps out from any statistical noise like a group of Westboro Baptist protesters at a military funeral.

A study by Canada’s Western University in Ontario noted that “the hazard from induced seismicity can overwhelm the hazard from pre-existing natural seismicity, increasing the risk to structures that were originally designed for regions of low to moderate seismic activity”, the term infrastructure including dams, nuclear power plants, underground pipelines and other sorts of high-impact damage multipliers.

I’m not sure if we could match “Sharknado” for it’s California charm, but I could see “Meth-Quake”  giving it a run for it’s money.

Yeah, the Feds  take down a major clandestine lab in central Oklahoma and decide to dispose of all the toxic chemical slurry in an injection well. This triggers the Big One and it spews mutant-inducing methamphetamine residue out of every crack in the ground! Try to imagine the trailer below with Charlton Heston in meth-mouth dentures, the actors with Oklahoma regional dialects and all the extras gibbering and running really fast!


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Happy Easter and Other Stuff

April 20, 2014

Look out, Leonardo, I’m adding a new nerd-crush! The obscure genius of Cornelius Drebbel: Renaissance “engeneere” or “vulgar mechanic”?

Truth is one of the first casualties of War. Russian press harangued the Kiev transitional government as being controlled by neo-nazis, then leaflets demanding that Jews register were reported in pro-Russian province.A UN report urges all parties to knock it off because people will do horrendous things when they think they are right.

In other news, Mike Huckabee compares the U.S. unfavorably to North Korea. Sharp as a knot-hole, that guy!

Afghan opium cultivation has reached a record level, with more than 200,000 hectares planted with the poppy for the first time, the United Nations says“.

Bloomberg has a nice visual presentation, “How Americans Die“, that gives pause for thought. Why is suicide taking such a huge statistical slice out of most age groups?

The (non)persecution of the Goddists: If you can get a New Jersey vanity license plate that reads “BAPTIST,” why not one that reads “8THEIST”? (The answer is ‘you can, but you have to be willing to sue’).

Research on coaxial lasers shows promise in triggering rain and lightning on demand.

If only they were furriners, dagnabbit! The cos-play convention of armed lunatics in support of Cliven Bundy’s decades-long criminal activity offers a unique opportunity for federal authorities to identify and interdict a butt-load of domestic terrorists. I’m sure the opportunity will be wasted.

 

A Quiet Sunday Post

April 13, 2014

{Much has been in transition here at Elwood Manor: a job change, obligatory after-work coursework of an unhelpful nature, various demands on my limited resources and some general readjustments. These have conspired to limit my inane stream of posts, but I’ve caught up on things (for now at least), so here’s a meager offering of tidbits I’ve found interesting of late}.

Slate’s feature on Your Inner Fish looks at why religious nutjobs Creationists hate the Tiktaalik. This Devonian example of tetrapod evolution had both lungs and gills, could probably do push-ups and had a face only a mother tiktaalik could love.  Is it because it’s a prime example of an organism transitioning between life in the water and life on land, or that it was discovered pretty much where geology and evolutionary theory predicted it would be that pisses them off so?

In other news of the backward, they’re still trying to overturn the consensus that the Earth orbits the Sun. You can’t make this stuff up… which is what makes a parody like this one so damned cutting! It only hurts because it comes out of Kansas!

Lots of sturm und drang over a scrap of ancient papyrus in which there is discussion of Jesus’ wife. My reading of the fragments makes it sound more like a hypothetical discussion, for what it’s worth, though I seem to remember Sunday School discussions indicating that Jesus wouldn’t have been called ‘rabbi’ (teacher) unless he was married. So He could walk on water, but marriage is a bridge too far for some? Given the Paulian attitude toward women (and sex in general), it’s amazing that this religion found any foothold at all.

Of course you don’t have to be a backwoods snake-handler to screw with science, as Greg Schiller can attest. He’s the science teacher at LA’s Cortines School of Visual & Performing Arts who was suspended in February because some idiot thought two of his students’ science projects looked “dangerous”. Maybe it’s only a coincidence that Greg Schiller is also the teachers union representative at the school and had been dealing with disagreements with administrators over updating the employment agreement under which the faculty works? Parents and students are rallying around Mr. Schiller. Let’s hope they can overcome the LA school system’s apparent stupidity and/or duplicity.

The Heartbleed bug in OpenSSL is one of the really big software DOH!s in recent memory. XKCD gave the best quick explanation out there. Heartbleed.com has a long-form exploration.   Bloomberg reports that the NSA had exploited the bug for years, but the NSA denies it (predictably). We all know that the NSA never lies and is always right, right?

 

As Radio Shack Lays Dying — A Love Letter

March 5, 2014

Once the go-to shop for American geekdom, Radio Shack is closing another 1000 retail outlets. Some blame Amazon, the internet, a dumbed-down consumer even, but Radio Shack really has no-one to blame but themselves.

Radio Shack, we were once friends, lovers even, so take this as friendly advice: abandon your current, worthless PR efforts (after the firing squads are done, anyway) and re-engage with your core market. Or… just die. Preferably quickly.

That sounds harsh, but that’s how things are now.

Regarding your PR: does Toys’R’Us buy ad-space in the ‘Journal of Injection Moulded Plastics’? Of course not.
So why does
 Radio Shack buy ads in magazines catering to electrical engineers? A smiting is warranted by this abject idiocy.

Also, is this lame ‘Do It Together’ campaign the best you can do, a shitty logo with nothing to back it up? How does this engage anyone that doesn’t already shop at Radio Shack? ‘We’re Doing Ourselves’ would have been a more appropriate slogan. Those behind this wasted effort should be fired, and I’m not just talking about the ad agency. All it takes is one glance to see that somebody at Radio Shack didn’t have their thinking cap on… or just quit trying. 

Your core market:  the DIY folks — the enthusiasts, tinkerers and crackpot inventors. You know, like those ne’er-do-wells named Wozniak and Jobs? The polite term is ‘Maker’ now and if you can bring yourself to become a useful resource to them, the Makers can save your feckless corporate ass. 

Drop the appliances and cellphones and all that other crap that every other retailer kicks your butt at and focus on the Makers that nobody else is serving. This market is yours to lose.

Cast your minds back to the Tandy Leather stores, the sister shops to the old Radio Shack. The joke used to be that fetishists were keeping them in business. But if you drop over to their website, take a look at their in-store class schedules.  Hmmm, that’s a tool of engagement that Radio Shack never offered. Interesting. And predictive. 

I know you’ve tried carrying a few fun products like Arduinos and Basic Stamps (hidden between the mountains of bullshit, toys and iPhone cases), but there is a big difference between putting a product on your shelf and actually engaging potential customers for that product. You already know this, right? Well, do something about it!

Everything wrong at Radio Shack can be fixed. If you need some ideas (and you really-really do, old chum!), here’s a few freebies:

  • Sponsor local school Chess Clubs and Science Fairs. This is where Makers and geeks come from!
  • Hold some kind of in-store intro classes. If they don’t know how to use it, they won’t buy it! Of course, you’ll need someone with a clue to teach these classes, so…
  • Get to know your local Makers, maybe even hire a few of them: think ‘seed crystals’! These folks network and scheme and organize. Use them!
  • Make ‘The Shack’ a meeting place for those techie losers… just like in the old days. Knowledgeable staff and espresso would help.
  • Sponsor your local hackerspace(s)! A few resistors and some soldering irons would make a big splash for little cash!
  • Quit doing everything you are doing now that doesn’t work and THINK for a change!

Regarding your stupid Super Bowl ad: Makers don’t give a fuck about your shitty store fixtures… but I’d bet they would compete to design and fabricate some very sweet custom fixtures for their local ‘Rat Shat’. Just sayin’.

Amazon and other online sellers are slaughtering small retailers. They used to say the same thing about big box stores. But guess what? You can’t stream a hands-on experience. I had a coffee seller tell me that they didn’t bother with an on-line presence because that’s not what sells coffee. Same thing with Makers and their tactile, muscle-memory, wiggle-that-wire meatspace. You cannot put that experience or that face-to-face learning down a wire, not even a coaxial one. That’s what Radio Shack has to stick to if it wants to survive.

Do you get it, old friend?
We don’t like watching you die from self-inflicted wounds.
You can fix this… and your shareholders and the Makers would be thankful if you did.

Must See Movie List for Engineers

January 29, 2014

Have you seen “Primer”? And you call yourself an engineer or a film maker? Hah! They made it for $7000 bucks, its about engineers and time-travel. There’s a long-hanging question for a while: “You know what they do with engineers when they hit 40 (30?), don’t you?”.  Spoiler alert: STOP READING HERE! It might be a reference to how all great scientific advances are made by age 25 or so, tops, but the long wind-up punch-line is “They take them out and shoot them”. The line is delivered dead-pan by a kind of lovable old engineer. Reminded me of the old grubby guys that trained me, back in the day.

Anyway, it’s a great flick, and it inspires my own “Movie Classics That Every Engineer Should See!” list:

Hardware,  just because it’s so damned weird!  While it does stress proper re-cycling techniques (1. MAKE SURE THE DAMNED THING IS REALLY DEAD FIRST!!!!… ). The weirdo breather video-calls were a fun kink, taken here to it’s highest form and a typical end for the caller-perv. The rest is just fun and weirdness and fighting a robot that looks creepy as Hell and the wingman is on acid and trying to keep to together and help out, but, well, you know. Probably Slightly Less Boring Than Working life/death struggle and Iggy Pop as the DJ on the radio in the background. Nothing better than that, eh?

Okay, a movie with class? You know “2001: A Space Odyssey” would have gotten first place is I weren’t so curmudgeonly lately. It explains nothing and, ignoring some brand-names (sorry Pan-Am), a lot is starting to line up, if only a little late. Futurists tend toward either way optimist or way pessimist I find. Maybe no-one writes down what the vast normal crowd in the middle says enough to write it down. Largely, that’s an irony of history.

You can watch “City of Ember” with your kids, and see if it hold their attention more than yours. The scary parts are just scary enough and very brief. I love it, myself. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” is still a classic! This may be considered a seminal work in the steampunk media canon. Of course, “Modern Times” brings in the warm human heart of the Little Tramp, who lived through a wave of this ‘progress’ mess.

3 Idiots” is a Bollywood slapstick import centering on the search for a lost classmate. This one is a must see. Best movie I saw the year it came out, in fact.

Nothing more fun for engineers than The Flight of the Phoenix“. Yes, I do prefer the Jimmy Stewart version, in fact. The later one, not so much.

Talk about your chess club nerd wish fulfillment, I still get a kick out of “Explorers“. It’s much more dignified than “Weird Science“, in which Ms. LeBrock’s best assets and efforts combined to make it a memorable performance, but not what you’d call “Art”, but amusing anyway.

A lot less fluff in “Apollo 13“, which captured the  heroic guys in short hair and white shirts using slide-rules to save the guys with ‘the right stuff’. It’s inspiring.

 These are listed in no coherent order as yet.
You got any candidates? Leave them in the comments.

I Love the Smell of Engineering in the Morning!

January 3, 2014

The Science (and social ‘dos’ of) building better Syrian barrel bombs. The Al-Assad regime’s campaign of ‘barrel bombs’ gets Brown Moses interested, so he’s providing in-depth commentary, box scores.  Should I be sad or happy that all these equations are ‘canonical’ in the trade? “Based on this equation, the optimum fragment mass can be computed to increase barrel bomb performance”:

Gun suicides kill the equivalent of two Sandy Hook shootings a day. But it’s just so goddamn depressing to talk about, so we just … don’t.

These New-Fangled Books Will Doom Us All! “New Media” has been controversial for going on 600 years.

Bill, watch out for that ‘Gish Gallop’! I fear this may not end well.

Hey, guys? I brought the hacky sack! : Dolphins ‘deliberately get high’ on puffer fish nerve toxins by carefully chewing and passing them around.

On the Established Origins of Particular Beasts from the Monster Manual.

Sex and Drugs and Ice Age Furries

December 28, 2013

The British Museum boasts a mind-blowing display of the world’s oldest known sculptures, drawings and portraits, crafted by the hands of Homo sapiens as long as 40,000 years ago. Ice Age Art: The Arrival of the Modern Mind ran from 7 February until 26 May 2013, but the photos are to die for.

Researchers have drawn up the first definitive list of genetic changes that make modern humans different from our nearest ancient ancestors, who died out tens of thousands of years ago. “We are quite confident that among these genetic changes lie the basis for the interesting differences between modern humans and Neanderthals,” said Janet Kelso, a geneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.

“Minted in Norway, spent in Iceland, gambled in Greenland, traded in Newfoundland, carried to Goddard where it fell through a hole in a brave’s pocket”. Beach brings us the tale of the Maine Penny, a medieval coin found in New England soil. Looks like one of the legit OOP artifacts.

But what if humans are not smarter than animals – we just don’t understand them? I repeat: there’s always the results of the Laser Pointer Test to consider!

Godfather Christmas and the Yuletide Enforcers: Have Yourself a Monstrous Christmas!

Neanderthals may have invented a tool that is still in use today. Bone tool called ‘lissoir’ made by Neanderthals is similar to instruments still used by modern leather workers.

Mark Plotkin’s “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice: An Ethnobotanist Searches for New Medicines in the Amazon Rain Forest” sounds like an interesting read.

How much of religious history was influenced by mind-altering substances? I’ve got a small bet in favor of the psychoactives triggering the development of culture, myself. What would a developing culture make of the shamans that continued to explore Nature’s neuroactive toolkit for performance tuning? Were they later called Evil Wizards?

St. Steven’s Day! At Last!

December 26, 2013

Wait, I said RENT-boys, not wren-boys! Oh, well, just have to go with it I guess.

Some epic science stock photo fails. I mean, it’s like print models have never done science!

Ho-ho-ho! Bloomberg anchor gets Bitcoin on live TV and is promptly robbed by a viewer, who scanned the QR code in HD. The hack was “So freaking classic but also a GREAT lesson in bitcoin security!”, well worth the $20 bux.

Why did Hitler crave the missing panel in the famous Ghent Altarpiece? Maybe because the Nazi’s paranormal research group thought the masterpiece contained a map to the Holy Grail.

Speaking of Holy Grails: Israeli discovery matches right antidepressant for each patient with a simple blood-test, maybe. Genetic study suggest that depression may be caused not by lack of serotonin, but because of damage to the brain synapses.

An open letter to Dennis Rodman from Shin Dong-Hyuk, born in 1982 in Camp 14, a political prison in the mountains of North Korea- Dear Dennis Rodman: consider a few facts of life.

Presidential Study Directive 10 (PSD-10) came into being in 2011, declaring for the first time that “preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States.” It just helped stop a genocide in the Central African Republic.

Elliot Ackerman makes the case for female SEALS.

Getaround Strikes Deal To Offer Discounted Leases For Smart Cars Listed On Its Rental Platform. Interesting integrated marketing going on here.

I’ve got both killer apnea and an aversion to CPAP masks (alien face-huggers, yaaaa!).  I did apnea surgery a decade or two ago. It was the most inconvenient recovery I’ve ever had, and it didn’t work for me. At all.  I’m still rattling the hardware on the dresser loose.  That’s bad, so alternatives always interested me. This abstract cites long term relief for 8/20 in a preliminary study exploring the effects of botox injection. Results are encouraging. Anyone heard anything about this?

I see we’ve all survived the holidays with family? Oh, good. Some holiday cheer from The Chieftains w/Elvis!

A Map of Sin and the Death of the Dumpling King!

December 19, 2013

New archaeological evidence from China for the first time documents a chain of events that forged the relationship between human and feline.

#Srirachapocalypse: the ongoing Huy Fong saga. This time it’s personal! Should I start shopping my “Srirachanado!” script yet?

Ohsho Dumpling King Dead after Suspected Shooting! Last year, Japan’s National Police Agency reported 17 gun murders. In the U.S., where population is about 2.5 times greater than Japan, the number of homicides involving firearms hovers around 10,000 per year.

Two-Headed Pig Underscores China’s Need For Quality Semen!

Some naughty crinimals hacked Target’s credit card data over Black Friday. Easier to carry than gold bars, I guess.

Meet Valkyrie, NASA’s new “superhero” robot.  Okay fine, it was designed to be able to access disaster areas and help rescue survivors. Let’s all hope for very slow disaster scenarios and that the bots can play Wagner.

The Only Thing Weirder Than a Telemarketing Robot… a Telemarketing Cyborg!!!?

Sun will ‘flip upside down’ within weeks, says NASA. It does that. The SyFy original is bound to write itself.

It’s the end of the world for radio evangelist Harold Camping. Same goes for legendary country singer Ray Price.

How Benign Bacteria Evolve to Virulent Pathogens: it’s just a shout away!

A Map of the Weirdest Sex Laws in the United States. Oklahoma bar owners: you MUST NOT ALLOW simulated sex with animals (not even them fancy animatronic ones)  on your premises! IT’S THE LAW!!!

Little Bunny Foo-Foo

December 14, 2013

Make that ‘Little Bunny YuTu’:  Good luck to ‘Jade Rabbit!! China has achieved the first soft landing on the Moon in 37 years!

The 500 people who live in Awra Amba, Ethiopia, do things a little differently, by design. The village has a mill, where grain is crushed into flour, a textile factory, a café, a tourist hostel, and two stores that cater to people from outside the village. Yet the people of Awra Amba do not follow organized religion, and that can make waves with neighboring communities. Let’s hope they don’t weigh the same as a duck, eh?

Here’s chapter and verse on a more-or-less comprehensive list of things banned in Leviticus. Some seem awfully petty. A number of them are punishable by death.

‘Rudolph’ is non-canonical. Death to the Rudolphite heretics! And the adventures of a philosophically inclined mailman.

This Khmer Rouge history lesson by Spalding Gray still fascinates me.

Walt Disney as a complex character of his times with some kinks and warts. In The Wayward Canary, from 1932, Minnie Mouse seems to own a lighter with a swastika on it, for some reason.

Traditional Catalan nativity scenes include a figure you don’t see in the States much.  He is known in Catalan as the caganer. That translates most politely as ‘the defecator’ – and there he is, squatting under a tree with his trousers down.

There’s so many similarities between the mythology of faeries and ETs, it’s like they were one and the same critters.

Nifty rocket launcher, it’s like a lazy-susan of deathThis is sooo coool, but it needs Ron Popeil to really sell it!

Did you know mammoths still walked the earth when the Great Pyramid was being built?

Here’s some early incarnations of some iconic toys.

When do the action figures arrive? Google has officially acquired Boston Dynamics, makers of robots as cool as they are terrifying. We are ordered not to fear them.