Saturday, June 13, 2009

Shaken Not Stirred: 007 Fountain Of Youth

The British Medical Journal reports on how shaking your vodka martini instead of stirring it is better at reducing the amount of hydrogen peroxide, which was also found to be better than gin or vermouth alone. This improves the antioxidant properties of the beverage, explaining why James Bond always managed to stay so young and handsome.

Meteorite Hits 14 Year Old Boy

So what are the chances of being hit by a space rock? This article from The Telegraph tells of how a 14 year german lad got struck in the hand by a falling rock. Luckily the impact didn´t kill him but the force was enough to scar him and send him spinning. There are apparently no recorded fatalities from such events, (though a dog was killed in Egypt in 1911), but plenty of examples of material damage are recorded like the storm that hit Chicago in 2003.

Real IRA Leaders Responsbile For Omagh Bombings

A civil case against the leaders of the Real IRA has found the perpetrators guilty of the Omagh bombing. The BBC reports on how although no-one was sentenced in a criminal court, the fact a civil case has been won provides a means for victims of atrocities to attribute accountability and financial consequences to these actions. This sends a clear message to society and will make a misery of the daily lives of those found guilty. Justice indeed.

Nokia Developing Wireless Selfcharging Mobile

This article reports on how Nokia are developing a self-charging mobile phone that will use solar power together with the radiation emitted by phone masts. Obviously the device must be sensitive enough to pick up the 500Mhz to 10GHz range of frequencies and convert that into sufficient power to charge a phone. Current protoypes can only generate 5 milliwatts but the intention is to produce 10 times as much. To me the most worrying thing is the sheer amount of radiation that we are bombarded with every day. Sure wireless may provide a large degree of convenience, but due to the broadcast nature of the medium, it seems that a lot of energy gets wasted, let alone what all those radio waves are doing your insides.

$1 Million Mattress

The BBC reports on an unfortunate Israeli mother who had stashed her savings in her mattress. When her daughter had bought her new one and thrown the other out, the hunt was on to find it again. Authorities were reportedly assisting in the search of land fill sites.

Tasered Grandma

Speeding grandma refuses to do what the officer tells her and gets tasered. Yes, she may be 73 years old but she is not above the law. The only risk with that thing is that you might trigger a heart attack or something, so is it excessive when she resisted at every opportunity? Considering how this week an 88 year old white supremacist shot and killed a security guard at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, just because they´re old doesn´t mean they aren´t dangerous.

Official: Mexican Swine Flu Pandemic

A pandemic is defined as a situation when a disease is found to spread through human contact independently in two or more continents. On the 11 June 2009 the WHO granted this status to the Mexican swine flu, the first time in 41 years. Although most cases are not serious there have been fatalities, particularly in North America and the worry is that the disease could develop into a more aggressive variant.

Chinese Web Censor Software Hacking Risk

The Chinese have made it mandatory for all new PCs to be shipped with censorship software that blocks websites. The BBC reports on how the software is buggy and could provide a potential backdoor for hackers. It is intended to protect Chinese citizens from the evils on the web, but is of course a perfect vehicle for government censorship. An interesting point was how the percentage of pink in a website was used to decide whether it should be filtered as pr0n. However those have a preference for ebony babes are probably immune to this feature.

New Periodic Table Element 112

This is just getting silly now. An chemical element to me should be something that occurs naturally or from natural processes somewhere in the universe, not some construction in a lab that lasts a few milliseconds. After we´d had the likes of Californium and Americanum added to the list I though the race would be over. The BBC reports on how Professor Hoffman has been adding stuff to the table since 1976 and is waiting for accreditation by the IUPAC for recognition of heavy element number 112. To me it´s just playing god and has little scientific benefit.

Happy 50th Birthday Hovercraft!

The hovercraft is a distinctly British invention, invented, designed and built in the heyday of post-war British innovation. As this BBC article explains, although fuel efficiency has made them less competitive for commercial transport, there is still demand in parts of the world where swampy terrain makes them an ideal transport solution, as well as military applications. It also spawned the hover mower.

Robot Knows Best

European researches at JAST are developing a robot that can predict human behaviour. This article describes how robots are usually used for fixed tasks, often replacing manual labour or situations that would be too dangerous for humans. They are not very good at conversing or assisting as a natural human companion would, which is the reason for this research. Such a robot could not only assist humans but also provide corrective actions in case it detected the start of a potential mistake.
Sounds like the first step to Skynet for me, because at the end of the day, who knows best? A robot will be perfect at following strict rules and conditions. However the fuzziness that humans are so good at, especially when conditions are not perfect and crucial decisions must be made is not something that could easily be replaced by an automaton.