Quasars Are The Same All The Way Back

01/14/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Thoughts, Science

You might have to be pretty darned science nerdy to sit and watch the entire presentation by Michael Strauss like I did.

These are some fairly serious results back from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

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Bruce Schneier on passwords

01/11/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.wired.com/news/columns/0,72458-0.html?tw=wn_columns_securitymatters_1

Another excellent column from Bruce Schneier on security, this time on passwords and the cracking mechanisms used to break them. I read through it feeling a little smug as none of the choice flaws he mentioned are ones I do.

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Fun science at work

01/11/07 | by Adam | Categories: YouTube

First link is to a demonstration of a tub of sulfur hexafluoride (transparent heavier than air gas) causing a silverfoil boat to float in mid-air.

Second link is to unexpected behaviour of liquids under various conditions.

(Via BoingBoing)


Time for a copyright law update

01/11/07 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Spambots and linkage

01/10/07 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

I'm not sure what to make of this one. Checking my logs, there are three posts being repeatedly hit in sequence by different IPs.

I've looked at them and can't find anything that's terribly special. My guess is that it's some generic spambot which not-so-randomly grabs text from posts to try to fool Bayesian filters but I really have no idea. The post on referrer searches seems to also be a popular one for fake domains as it turns up commonly in the "referers" log. It's not doing me any harm other than running up Ritchie's bandwidth and artificially inflating the pageviews on those pages but it is a bit of a mystery and I don't like those.

Any ideas?


Musings on Apple's iPhone

01/10/07 | by Adam | Categories: iPhone

Link: http://www.apple.com/iphone/phone/

Unless you've been living under a rock or intensely ignoring the internet and all other media over the last few days, you know about Apple's new iPhone. Time Magazine has a good write up on its genesis. David Pogue of the New York Times also has some commentary. CNN's Fortune has an interesting article on how Apple tried to keep the whole thing under wraps for the MacWorld unveiling despite large numbers of contributors.

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Rest In Peace, Amestris

01/07/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Announcements [A]

I regret to announce that our female button quail, Amestris, has passed away:

Button quails

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Netstorm Lives!

01/06/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions, Games

Link: http://www.netstormhq.com

Looking through my shelf of game titles, I found a game that I remember having immense troubles with on a particular level. That game was Netstorm.

It's a quirky title - a meld of RTS and puzzle game. You have a priest who can build workshops and make energy sources, and you can build generators, shielding towers, and weapons, harvesting storm crystals with the ultimate goal of paralyzing the enemy priest, fetching him, and sacrificing him on a storm altar to win the round and new technology.

Your temple lets you build bridge segments. The bridge segments have to "dry out" to be of good quality. If you use them too quickly, any nearby explosions will cause your bridge and anything connected to it to fall into the abyss. There is a Tetris-esque component to this part of the game, especially if you're trying to hook the bridges up to other islands or storm geysers, and you have to leave yourself enough side bridges so that you can hook generators and weapons to it.

The strategy is interesting in that there are multiple specialized elements in addition to the non-specialized "sun" element which lend some strategy. Ice towers are not very strong, but they re-form. Thunder cannons are extremely powerful, but they can only face in one direction. Sun disc throwers are very weak, but can kill whirligigs in flight and can attack at any angle.

Since Activision abandoned the game in 2002 (shutting down all servers), Netstorm HQ has stepped up to the plate. Best of all (save for the fact that others have had to step in to support it), it has become abandonware, and you can download the game from there (minus the music that came on the original CD, I believe).

I bet I will get stuck again on that same darned level, though. Grrr.


Spellforce 2

01/05/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Games

Spellforce 2 is the sequel to the Spellforce game that I quite enjoyed.

For those of you who have never played Spellforce games before, they are a combination of a party-based adventure game like Baldur's Gate, and a resource-and-building RTS game like Starcraft. You have a party that you can outfit with new equipment, select their skills, etc.

The story is set past the era of the rune warriors, and the RTS aspect of the game feels a lot more "ordinary" than in the original (conjuring beings out of monuments was a favourite aspect of mine in the original). It's a fairly epic story, although confusing at times.

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Identify the Creationist Quiz

01/04/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions, Thoughts, Religion, Science

Link: http://www.nineonline.net/index.phtml?location=http://server/Raf/upload/vianieuw2,607/

Admittedly, this is a little harder than your average quiz on identifying various kinds of creationists, with the addition of odder categories like Omphalos Creationist and Vedic Creationist, but it pays to know your creationists.

What would this be?

For Teilhard de Chardin, the acceptance of the factual reality of darwins theory does not require a rejection of Christianity. All of evolution, he thought, is moving towards a point of convergence called the Omega Point: a condition of synthesis that is at once the logical outcome of natural evolutionary processes and a state of consummate union with the divine

I'll help you cheat on the first answer, since it doesn't fit all that well with the others: it's a Theistic Evolutionist.


Who needs zip codes?

01/04/07 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.boingboing.net/2007/01/04/royal_mail_delivers_.html

BoingBoing has a post about a letter sent in the UK that arrived. In and of itself, that conclusion is perhaps not all that special, but it's the way that the letter was addressed which is rather more interesting...


Visual guide to food-calorie relationship

01/03/07 | by Adam | Categories: Potpourri

Link: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-does-200-calories-look-like.htm

This links to a pictorial representation of what 200 calories looks like when it's still food.

(Via BoingBoing)


Simple English Wikipedia

01/02/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Distractions

Link: http://simple.wikipedia.org

If you go to the main Wikipedia page, you will get a multitude of options of languages. One "language" that caught a coworker's eye was "Simple English". The guidelines are to use simple words, keeping low literacy and foreign speakers in mind, using Basic English where possible (the BE 850 list, or the BE 1500 list), in addition to other terms that can be linked to other pages. Of course, that can sometimes be difficult. Many of the pages have a caveat that "somebody doesn't think this is simple English".

Contrast the first part of the Simple English entry on Nuclear Fission...

Nuclear fission is something that happens with atoms and gives off a lot of energy, and is used in nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors. This process was discovered in December 1938 by the German nuclear chemist Otto Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann in Berlin.

...with the regular one...

Nuclear fission—also known as atomic fission—is a process in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry in which the nucleus of an atom splits into two or more smaller nuclei as fission products, and usually some by-product particles. Hence, fission is a form of elemental transmutation. The by-products include free neutrons, photons usually in the form gamma rays, and other nuclear fragments such as beta particles and alpha particles. Fission of heavy elements is an exothermic reaction and can release substantial amounts of useful energy both as gamma rays and as kinetic energy of the fragments (heating the bulk material where fission takes place).

The Simple English version is definitely lacking in a lot of entries. If you have patience, can keep to BE 1500, and want to make your mark on Wikipedia, this might be a way to cut your teeth on the Wikipedia project.


A Different Approach to Cosmology : Hoyle, Burbridge and Narlikar - Part 1

01/02/07 | by Nimble | Categories: Reviews, Books, Science

Link: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/0521019265?ie=UTF8&tag=thecerealkill-20&linkCode=as2&camp=15121&creative=330641&creativeASIN=0521019265

There's a lot to this book, so I'm simply going to have to split the review of the book into a few pieces.

There are a few main themes to this book: to provide some recent history of cosmology, to give some interesting astronomical observations, to explain Quasi-Steady State Cosmology or QSSC, to explain some mainstream cosmology, and to tie QSSC into modern observations.

The three authors are no slouches in the astronomy field. That's not to say that they're right, of course. Hoyle in a nutshell:

This is one more reason for paying attention to Sir Fred. Even when he was wrong he was extremely interesting.

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