Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Its snowing on Mars

This strange picture is proof that it snows on Mars! lol. Cool as!

"Chalk another discovery up to the Mars Phoenix Lander. Several months after finding water ice beneath the Martian soil, the NASA robot has now turned its gaze upward to the sky, and has observed a light snowfall over the polar region. Scientists said the discovery of snow on Mars was made by an instrument that shined a laser into clouds about two miles above the ground, revealing the presence of ice crystals. “Nothing like this has ever been seen on Mars,” said [scientist] Jim Whiteway [Los Angeles Times].

The ice crystals quickly vaporized as they fell through the atmosphere of Mars, but researchers say they’ll be watching during the next two months to see if the snow ever reaches the ground. Over the past few months, as the Martian winter has moved in, Phoenix has also observed frost, ground fog, and clouds of ice crystals.

In another recent experiment, Phoenix examined the composition of the Martian soil and confirmed the presence of calcium carbonates, common clays found in wet environments on Earth…. [T]he presence of carbonates suggests that water was a dominant force in Mars’s early chemistry [National Geographic News]. However, the Phoenix hasn’t yet succeeded in its search for the complex organic molecules that would indicate that the planet was once habitable for microbes.

The Phoenix’s mission is now winding down. Before the end of October, [engineer Barry] Goldstein said, there won’t be enough power left to keep the lander’s robotic arm operating, so digging into the soil and scraping ice samples from beneath the soil will have to stop. By November, Phoenix will be standing rigidly in the pitch dark, and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will encase it in ice like some otherworldly frozen mummy - at more than 150 degrees below zero Fahrenheit [San Francisco Chronicle]. While the Phoenix has a “Lazarus” program that will send a signal to Earth if its solar panels reactivate after the harsh winter, the lander’s engineers say the chance of a resurrection is extremely slim."

Saturday, September 27, 2008


You can count me very interested in this one! I think Stone is a fantastic filmmaker, and both JKF and Nixon were amazing pieces of cinema!


The Corpus Clock

Prof Stephen Hawking is to unveil a remarkable £1 million clock with no hands that pays tribute to the world's greatest clockmaker.

One clock made by the legendary John Harrison, the pioneer of longitude, took 36 years to build and he was still calibrating it when he died at his home in London on March 24, 1776, his 83rd birthday.

The Corpus Clock has been invented and designed by Dr John Taylor for Corpus Christi College Cambridge for the exterior of the college's new library building.

It will be unveiled on 19 September by Prof Stephen Hawking, cosmologist and author of the global bestseller, A Brief History of Time.

Dr Taylor, an inventor and horologist who studied at the College in the 1950s has put £1 million of his own money and five years into the project.

"One of my heroes is John Harrison," he says.

Of Harrison's many innovations, he came up with the 'grasshopper escapement', explained Dr Taylor, referring to the device used by Harrison to turn rotational motion into a pendulum motion for timekeeping.

"No one knows how a grasshopper escapement works, so I decided to turn the clock inside out and, instead of making the escape wheel 35 mm across and hidden in the case, it is 1.5 m across and visible with the grasshopper escapement around the outside," said Dr Taylor.

He calls the new version of the escapement a 'Chronophage' (time-eater) - "a fearsome beast which drives the clock, literally "eating away time".

It is the largest Grasshopper escapement of any clock in the world.

The Chronophage "hypnotises the watcher with its perpetual motion, punctuated by an extraordinary repertoire of slow blinks, jaw-snaps and stings from its tail," says Dr Taylor.

The Corpus Clock, a true mechanical mechanism, which is wound up by an electric motor, has no hands. "It is a new way to show time, with light," said Dr Taylor.

The clock has no digital numbers, either, but instead a series of slits cut into the face, each a tenth of a degree across.

Blue LED lights are arranged behind the slits, and 60 quarter inch lenses, so that when the escape wheel moves, a series of rapidly darting lights runs in concentric circles to mark passing seconds, and pause at the correct hour and minute.

What appears to be lights flashing in sequence are actually controlled mechanically, using the same principle as a zoetrope, the old fashioned way to view a moving image through slits. The total wattage used by the clock is less than that of three 60 watt bulbs.

Its massive round face, nearly five feet in diameter, was engineered from a single sheet of stainless steel, the mouldings - like a series of waves rippling outwards - were blasted into place by precisely-controlled explosions under water. On the hour, a chain drops into a wooden coffin hidden behind the clock "to remind us of our mortality," he said.

The clock also plays tricks on the observer, seeming occasionally to pause, run unevenly and even go backwards. All this is achieved through mechanics rather than computer programming.

Harrison used his clocks as time standards for the marine chronometers he had pioneered to deliver accuracy great enough to allow the determination of longitude at sea.

There have been few significant advances in the mechanical clock since Harrison went against the grain of contemporary thinking by using large pendulum swings, enlarging the pendulum's "dominion" to reduce errors.

Among Harrison's many remarkable innovations was the gridiron mechanism, consisting of alternating brass and iron rods assembled so that expansion and contraction rates cancelled each other out as the chronometer moved from the tropics to colder climes.

He was also the inventor of the first caged roller bearing, the father of the ball bearing, in his last clock. Over 100 ball bearings are used in the Corpus clock.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Adrenalin redux

Once upon a time, I used to do white knuckle sports whenever I could. But I haven't had a chance recently - and I'm missing it! Had the odd roller coaster last year, but nothing to scare me to death since Africa in 2005.

My very good friend Craig is out in New Zealand, and if I wasn't so bloody skint I would go out and visit him in Queenstown, the home of the bungy jump. Apparently, they're still inventing crazy shit to jump off, or be thrown out of. I heard there is some crazy jump with a jetpack on your back that you can do, and it accelerates as you're falling. Now that sounds fun!!!

So to make myself feel better, and remind that I am not a total big girls blouse nowadays, I am posting my various photos and clips of me trying to kill myself :) And although you could argue that all of last year was one huge roller coaster lol, I want to do something exciting soon!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It pops balloons!

This high power green laser is so powerful it is able to cut through black tape and pop balloons ! Its average power output is an amazing 75-99mW. It has typical peak output power of 115mW. Thats about 100 times more powerful than most laser pointers on the market. Point it up at the sky at night and you see a visible beam as far as the eye can see.


Weight: 762g approx
Wavelength: 532nm (green)
beam Diameter: < 1.5mm
Output Power: 75-99mW
Safety features: Aperture Shutter, Master Key Switch, Output Indicator LED, 2-second delay, Safety Interlock Dongle
Tested life span: 5000 hours (continuous use)
Diode MTTF: 5000 hours
Dimensions: 190mm X 38mm
Power Supply: 2 X 1.5V "C" batteries
Class: Class IIIb laser product

Friday, September 19, 2008

Welcome to the World of Tomorrow

Futurologist predicts the trends that will shape the next 50 years




Coming in: Truth sensor

Going out:
• Letter writing • The idea of 'normal' weather • Personal privacy • Ashtrays • Milkmen

Coming in: •Truth sensors • Wearable computers • Dream machines


Going out: • Getting lost • Thank-you letters • Landline telephones

Coming in: • A human settlement on the moon • Disposable mobile phones • Intelligent cosmetics • Hotels just for sleeping


Going out: • Post offices • Free parking • Survivors of the First World War • Unfenced beaches • Secretaries • DVDs • Democracy in Russia • Telephone directories • The idea of a proper retirement • An independent Taiwan • State pensions •

Coming in: • Surgery carried out by robots • Artificial eyes


Going out:
• Proper spelling • Driving on the road for free • Desktop computers • Work-free weekends • The Maldives • Paris Hilton

Coming in: • Hydrogen-based fuel stations • Offshore prisons • 'Mindwipes' to remove the memory of a bad day at the office • Sensory internet


Going out:
• Reality TV • The Great Barrier Reef • Trade unions • Inheritance tax • Taking a proper lunch • Wrinkles, thanks to cosmetic surgery

Coming in:
• Robots to take care of young children • Virtual holidays • A ladder into space • Artificial memory enhancers • Self-driving cars • Artificial bacteria


Going out: • Children playing without supervision • Coins • Oil • Microsoft • The middle class • Low-cost travel • Bangladesh

Coming in:
• Self-repairing roads • Diets based on your individual genome • 3-D printers • Virtual reality windows


Going out: • Banknotes and wallets • Petrol engines • Addiction and deafness - both will be cured • National currencies • Free public spaces • The idea of saying 'sorry' • The European Union

Coming in: • Factories in space • A single global currency • Wallpaper that plays videos • Countries used entirely as prisons


Going out:
• Any remaining monopolies • Ties • The British monarchy • Natural childbirth

Coming in: • Individual taxes based on the amount you pollute • Invisibility cloaks • A man on Mars


Going out: • Household chores • Belgium as a unified country • Incurable blindness • Google • Any survivors of the Second World War

Coming in: • Tiny robots for pest control • Brain transplants • Downloading of memories • Global ID cards, elections and taxes • Warp drive • Robot policemen

and beyond...

Going out: • The idea of ugliness • Nation states • Death - unless you want it

Coming in: • Artificial brains • Mining asteroids • Web 4.0 • Clothing that monitors and controls your stress levels

It is hard enough to make these things work if no one is messing with it.

Hackers infiltrate Large Hadron Collider systems and mock IT security

"Hackers have mounted an attack on the Large Hadron Collider, raising concerns about the security of the biggest experiment in the world.

As the first particles were circulating in the machine near Geneva where the world wide web was born, a Greek group hacked into the facility, posting a warning about weaknesses in its infrastructure.

Calling themselves the Greek Security Team, the interlopers mocked the IT used on the project, describing the technicians responsible for security as "a bunch of schoolkids."

However, despite an ominous warning "don't mess with us," the hackers said they had no intention of disrupting the work of the atom smasher.

"We're pulling your pants down because we don't want to see you running around naked looking to hide yourselves when the panic comes," they wrote in Greek in a rambling note posted on the LHC's network.

The scientists behind the £4.4 billion "Big Bang" machine had already received threatening emails and been besieged by telephone calls from worried members of the public concerned by speculation that the machine could trigger a black hole to swallow the earth, or earthquakes and tsunamis, despite endless reassurances to the contrary from the likes of Prof Stephen Hawking.

The website - www.cmsmon.cern.ch - can no longer be accessed by the public as a result of the attack.

Scientists working at Cern, the organisation that runs the vast smasher, were worried about what the hackers could do because they were "one step away" from the computer control system of one of the huge detectors of the machine, a vast magnet that weighs 12500 tons, measuring around 21 metres in length and 15 metres wide/high.

If they had hacked into a second computer network, they could have turned off parts of the vast detector and, said the insider, "it is hard enough to make these things work if no one is messing with it."

Fortunately, only one file was damaged but one of the scientists firing off emails as the CMS team fought off the hackers said it was a "scary experience".

The hackers targeted the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment, or CMS, one of the four "eyes" of the facility that will be analysing the fallout of the Big Bang."

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Ever wished you could get your own copies of clips or music from Youtube?

Well this website will do that for you. Its a file conversion site. You paste your URL into the zamzar website, put in an email address. Then they will convert it to whatever file type you like, and email you link to pick up your newly converted file from Zamzar again.

So if you just want the audio from a Youtube clip, then you set it to MP3 or whatever other audio file you want. If you want a copy of the youtube clip, then set it to AVI or MP4.

Its great fun! I've been converting converting all sorts of rare clips into AVI's. And I've also got hold of a couple of ultra rare dance tunes in MP3.

But I'm most happy I've got the music video for the Annie Lennox song Little Bird. I only watched this video for the first time a few weeks ago and was blown away by it. I've tried to find a copy online, but it turns out this video is rarer than rocking horse shit! So this grainy copy on Youtube is the only place I have ever come across it - until now! Grainy or not, this is my new favourite music video ever! lol.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Large Impact Simulation

I watched last night one of the best clips I have ever seen on Youtube. I don't know if it was because I was a wee bit tipsy lol, or because the clip uses the music of the brillaint Great Gig In The Sky, written by Richard Wright of Pink Floyd who sadly died yesterday, but I was left stunned by watching it.

Either way this clip, created by the Discovery Channel, is a stunning piece of animation, set to incredibly evokative music, and is both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

I hope you enjoy this half as much as I did.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sarah Palin for President?

I don't usually post about politics, let alone foreign politics - but I think most of us realise that the current US political elections will define America for the next 4 plus years, and therefore will influence politics right across the plant.

I find the business with Sarah Palin, the new Republican Vice President nominee absolutely amazing, and a trifle scary. It is an amazing stroke of political genuis from the McCain camp. But what she stands for, and what some other Republicans hope for her destiny frankly scares me.

"At the time, it seemed like Sarah Palin was McCain's attempt to gather votes from disaffected Clinton supporters, and in that regard she was an insult of the highest degree, the notion that Clinton supporters would be so stupid as to vote for any woman, regardless of her neanderthal policies. Since then, partly though the courtesy of some of my readers here, I've learned that the purpose of nominating Palin was not primarily to lure Clintonites but to energize the Republican base, the evangelicals and fundamentalists, the anti-choice, anti-science, anti-compassion hard-liners whose only argument with Bush/Cheney is that they didn't pursue their agenda strongly enough.

I now understand that, to a liberal, Sarah Palin is a crippling nightmare because she stands an excellent chance of becoming president, but to the Republican base, she's an electrifying dream -- because she stands an excellent chance of becoming president. McCain isn't "throwing the base a bone" by nominating one of them to a powerless office, he's extending hope to the base, who strongly disliked him before but will now come out and vote for him in droves in the hope that McCain will, in fact, die and office and give them the president they really want. To the majority of the country, McCain's message is "You better hope I stay alive in office," but his message to "the crazies" (Rove's term, not mine) is "Hey, you never know, I'm an old, old man.""
Todd Alcott blog

Anyway, the good folk on the American TV show Saturday Night Live have done a sketch on this weeks show that beautifully eloquates my feelings on Mrs Palin. Performed by comediennes Aimie Pohler and the brilliant Tina Fey (star of the hilarious comedy show 30 Rock which is recomended by me too).

Take it away ladies!

Edit: Youtube keep taking the video down as fast as people keep putting it up. I have posted 2 different clips of this, and both have kaput! Try Youtube and see if someones posted. I'm looking for another version of this. I'm not going to be defeated by NBC! lol

Edit: Lets see how long this one lasts!