Sunday, October 18, 2009

R2D2 In Star Trek XI

This blog post tells of a cameo appearance of R2D2 in the latest Star Trek film. Industrial Light and Magic which was first set up by George Lucas of Star Wars fame included the droid in the scene in which the enterprise comes out of warp into a debris field around Vulcan.

Sci-Fi Reality

The BBC magazine has an article about applications of technology popular in science fiction series. Unfortunately the only thing that looks to have any kind of application is induction as means to wireless charge electronic devices, though personally I find induction which is used for toothbrushes and shavers very ineffecient, when at the same time we are supposed to be saving energy.

Smartphones Sap Cellular Capacity

Smartphones are selling like hot cakes at the moment, while the rest of the mobile market sags. However their increased popularity may have an undesired side effect. Ars reports on how smartphones consume up to 8 times as much cellular bandwidth than laptops because they are constantly determining their location and other actions that a laptop connection that does not. It takes only three smartphones to generate the same signaling impact as a laptop, though of course the amount of data downloaded is much smaller.

Computer Game Violence

Two cases this week of how computing games lead to violence (yeah, right). Firstly a Finnish guy gets so pissed off with his broken Internet connection during a spot of online play, that he decides to go out and stab the first person he finds, in this case a 15 year old girl. Secondly a disagreement that started with the purchase of a video game led to a teenager being set alight. I hope this doesn't fuel the whole violence debate again. Some groups just need a scapegoat instead of looking at the real issues of responsibility and upbringing.

'Leccy Magnetic

The BBC reports on how spin ice has been used to demonstrate magnetic currents, in a similar way to how electric currents exist. I always find experiments at a few degrees Kelvin a little hard to fathom, since the best they can do is demonstrate the existence of a property or behaviour. In this case decaying muons were used to show the direction of movement of the magnetic charge, not unlike iron filings. By placing a magnetic field on one side of the crystals, they were able to show that the magnetic particles were attracted in the same way that a electrons do in an electric field. Manipulating these magnetic currents could have computing applications, but once again, we are talking about very specific properties of very specific materials at a few degrees K. They'll need to find similar propoerties in more accessible materials if this is going to be applied to anything at all.

LHC Plagued By Higgs Bosons From The Future

CERN's LHC has been built to detect the existence of the Higgs Boson, which will help confirm theories about the origins of the universe. Now two scientist have published a paper that suggests that the LHC which is having a spot of downtime at the moment, could have been sabotaged by Higgs Boson particles from the future. Apparently there is room for traveling back in time in these theories and by applying quantum random numbers to the action of running the LGC, they propose that backward causation has resulted in the machine having bad luck. The LHC is due to be fired up again on November 4. The paper can be found here.

Vegetarian Spider

The BBC has an article about a central American spider that doesn't eat meat but prefers the protein rich tips of acacia plants. The veggie spider has to evade bands of ants that also live on the plants in order to get to the newer shoots. It's one of those jumping spiders that runs after prey rather than spinning webs and in this case seems to have evolved to eat veggies due to the high degree of competition for food.

30 Years Of Username/Password Failure

Ars Technica has a good article explaining that even after 30 years, we still all have trouble remembering passwords. The article references a study in Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society which indicates that a study made on Unix systems in 1979 tells the same tale as our modern day password woes. The human brain is okay at remembering a few combinations, but our associative memories are better at remembering things like faces and pictures.

Tim Berners Lee Apologiese For The Slashes

When you are writing a protocol you try to give yourself enough space for future extensions. Apparently Sir Tim Berners Lee didn't realise that the slashes in http:// were redundant and the BBC reports that he issued an apology on the matter this week. He also noted that the two extra characters add up and increase the overall carbon footprint of the web. After everything the net has given us, I think we can forgive him.

Here In My Heart: RIP Al Martino

The BBC reports that the UK's first number one hit artist, who's single "Here In My Heart" stayed 9 weeks at the top in 1952, has died aged 82. Al Martino also had a role in The Godfather films.

Actimel Yoghurt Ad Banned

The UK have banned an advertisement by Actimel because it falsely claims improved health for children, say the BBC. The studies used to back up the claim were found to be dubious and insufficient evidence, such as studies on sick children in India (do they use them as guinea pigs?). Horizon had a programme that covered the claims of supermarket products and the bio-yoghurt products were also covered. Since humans generally have balanced gut bacteria, messing with it may give positive results but may also produce negative ones. I try to avoid the stuff like the plague.