for more information contact skot@penguinstorm.com

I Am Skooter  So here's us, on the raggedy edge.
I've proven who I am so many times / the magnetic strip's worn thin
— Bruce Cockburn, Pacing the Cage
May 3, 2016
Electricity, Heights and Women

Every move that we make is thought of and rehearsed before, so it’s as safe as crossing the street.

Uh. Sure.

Posted by skooter at 12:56 PM
Tags: Electricity, Videos

March 6, 2012
What's the Most Astounding Fact About the Universe

Posted by skooter at 9:16 PM
Tags: Astronomy, Science, Universe

January 11, 2011
For All Our Failings, We Humans Are Capable of Greatness

Posted by skooter at 12:31 AM
Tags: NASA, Science, Space

July 7, 2010
Benoit Mandelbrot and the Art of Roughness


Benoit Mandelbrot’s work in fractal mathematics was inspirational to me in my high school years, and instrumental in establishing the fact that computers were capable of producing works of true art with very little human input.

Posted by skooter at 6:00 PM
Tags: Art, Benoit Mandelbrot, Fractals, TED, Videos

June 26, 2010
Genetic Engineering Isn't the Solution for Troubled Salmon Stocks

Are we seriously considering releasing a genetically modified version of a crop that’s in trouble into the wild? Make no mistake: if these salmon are sold and raised on farms, they will escape into the wild. It’s inevitable. When that happens it’s effectively the same as introducing an invasive species, and we know how that goes.

There’s a legitimate question as well about whether all of the product of this salmon—and I refuse to call it meat—will be properly labeled in stores.

Salmon stocks are in trouble. Genetic engineering isn’t the solution to that trouble.

Genetically Altered Salmon Get Closer to the Table
By ANDREW POLLACK, Published: June 25, 2010

The Food and Drug Administration is seriously considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat — salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate.
Enlarge This Image

The developer of the salmon has been trying to get approval for a decade. But the company now seems to have submitted most or all of the data the F.D.A. needs to analyze whether the salmon are safe to eat, nutritionally equivalent to other salmon and safe for the environment, according to government and biotechnology industry officials. A public meeting to discuss the salmon may be held as early as this fall.

Posted by skooter at 4:52 PM
Tags: Genetic Engineering, GMO, Salmon

December 15, 2009
Portrait of a Multitasking Mind

Scientific American debunks the myth of the multi-tasking mind (a little bit, at least.) The emphasis below is mine.

Media multitasking is increasingly common, to the extent that some have dubbed today’s teens “Generation M.”

People often think of the ability to multitask as a positive attribute, to the degree that they will proudly tout their ability to multitask. Likewise it’s not uncommon to see job advertisements that place “ability to multitask” at the top of their list of required abilities. Technologies such as smartphones cater to this idea that we can (and should) maximize our efficiency by getting things done in parallel with each other. Why aren’t you paying your bills and checking traffic while you’re driving and talking on the phone with your mother? However, new research by EyalOphir, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner at Stanford University suggests that people who multitask suffer from a problem: weaker self-control ability.

Posted by skooter at 12:37 PM
Tags: Multitasking, Research, Science

The Last Penguin

A excellent New Yorker slideshow called The Last Penguin includes one of the saddest photos you’ll ever see: a single, lone survivor of one of Anterctica’s Adelie penguin colonies.

If you need another reason to fight for climate change think of The Last Penguin. It wasn’t that long ago, after all, that Tom Cruise starred in The Last Samurai.

Posted by skooter at 9:09 AM
Tags: Environmentalism, Penguins

December 10, 2009
Global Warming = Less Beer

As if you needed more reasons to leave the car at home, global warming is bad for hops, which meants it’s bad for beer.

Posted by skooter at 5:41 PM
Tags: Beer, Environmentalism

October 10, 2009
At Least it's Natural Gas But Blurgh Nonetheless

One day we’ll stop worrying about looking for new fossil fuels. One day we won’t need them.

I hope that day isn’t too late. In the meantime, we can take small consolation in the fact that this is natural gas. The problem is it seems likely that the energy companies will use this opportunity to invest in transferring this technology to oil rather than investing the money in the post-fossil fuel world.

New Way to Tap Gas May Expand Global Supplies

By CLIFFORD KRAUSS
Published: October 9, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY — A new technique that tapped previously inaccessible supplies of natural gas in the United States is spreading to the rest of the world, raising hopes of a huge expansion in global reserves of the cleanest fossil fuel.

Posted by skooter at 2:09 AM
Tags: Environmentalism, Oil

August 15, 2009
You Said Algebra Would Be Useless....

Mathematics has too many uses to be ignored, and this is just one of them.

Zombie outbreak would be ‘disastrous’: mathematicians
David Wylie, Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, August 14, 2009

OTTAWA — A team of Canadian mathematicians have been picking their large, delectable brains over whether humankind could survive a zombie apocalypse.

Their conclusion?

“An outbreak of zombies infecting humans is likely to be disastrous, unless extremely aggressive tactics are employed against the undead,” says the paper, titled When Zombies Attack! Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.

“Thus, if zombies arrive, we must act quickly and decisively to eradicate them before they eradicate us.”

Posted by skooter at 4:22 PM
Tags: Education, Math, Zombies

June 11, 2009
The Harper Government Is Dead

Healthcare is always the top polling issue in elections. Well, it’s always one of the top three. Healthcare and the Economy (otherwise known as jobs usually flip the top two positions.) This will kill the already dead Harper government at the next election.

Canada was relatively self sufficient, and a significant player in the world market for medical isotopes. The Harper government has just killed it, and abandoned our health care security in the process (not too mention increased costs over the long term, in all likelihood.)

Canada to get out of isotopes game: Harper
David Akin, Canwest News Service, Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2009

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Stephen Harper says Canada plans to leave the production of medical isotopes to other countries — despite the fact that for a time last year, this country was producing nearly all such isotopes in the world.

April 23, 2009
Bionic Penguins

Say no more!

Posted by skooter at 1:08 AM
Tags: Penguins, Robotics

March 20, 2009
If the Chair of the Republican National Committee Say So, It Must Be True...

Nerts. The sad thing is this guy is part of the Republican leadership. People actually look up to this guy. I’m especially fond of his warming being part of the cooling process logic. That’s just brilliant.

Michael Steele: ‘We Are Not Warming’
March 20, 2009, 11:39 am, By Kate Galbraith

The Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, has weighed in on climate change.

In a March 6 radio appearance that is only now percolating through the blogosphere, Mr. Steele apparently fielded a skeptic’s question about global warming. As transcribed by the liberal blog, the Huffington Post, Mr. Steele thanked the questioner and replied this way:

“We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long.”

Posted by skooter at 8:30 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Politics, Republican, Science

Does anybody here remember Vera Lynn? / Remember how she said that / We would meet again

Dame Very Lynn turns 82 today, my mother another year older in her early 60s, it’s the first day of spring and the anniversary of Einstein’s publication of his theory of relativity.

Battlestar Galactica goes off the air in one last finale and apparently tonight’s episode of Dollhouse is the best yet by a wide margin (as promised by Joss Whedon since day one.)

It really is quite a day.

Posted by skooter at 1:22 PM
Tags: Music, Science, Science Fiction, Television

March 18, 2009
Peering into the Dollhouse

Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse airs episode six this Friday, and according to Joss it’s the hook: the one that once you watch, you won’t be able to stop watching.

Dollhouse’s premise is programmable memories: the actives have personalities that are downloaded for engagements and when they return to the Dollhouse their memories are wiped…erased…completely forgotten (although it appears that an imperfect wiping process is the central premise of the plot.)

Scientists now appear to be advancing research into the technology, making it seem like the future of Brave New World’s Soma is not so much ingested medicines, but applied treatments.

A world without painful memories is not a complete world.

Should painful memories be erased?
Toronto researchers have been able to do it in traumatized mice
Mar 13, 2009 04:30 AM, JOSEPH HALL, HEALTH REPORTER

Something horrible happens. A child is lost. A bomb goes off. A car goes out of control.

And deep in the brain, in the lateral amygdala region, a scattered set of neurons come to life and begin to vibrate with fear.

Through an ingenious set of experiments, a group of researchers at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children have not only located these terror-laden brain cells in mice, but erased them—along with the frightening memories they stored.

Posted by skooter at 1:14 AM
Tags: Articles, Joss Whedon, Science Fiction

February 18, 2009
If alien life does exist on Earth...

Mono Lake would be one of the more believable places to find it. A very cool place.

Posted by skooter at 1:40 PM
Tags: California, Science, Science Fiction

September 9, 2008
Flinging Atoms at Each Other

I can’t wait until they get the Large Hadron Collider going. That’s going to be a blast.

Posted by skooter at 1:39 PM
Tags: Physics, Research, Science, Switzerland

June 22, 2008
A Special Moment in History - The Atlantic Monthly

In May of 1998 the Atlantic Monthy print an article called A Special Moment in History

It beings with a caution to:

BEWARE of people preaching that we live in special times. People have preached that message before, and those who listened sold their furniture and climbed up on rooftops to await ascension

and then goes on:

And yet, for all that, we may live in a special time.

The rest of the article goes on to make several points with society, in general, has yet to fully aware of. The article’s well worth reading, and should lead to some careful reflection on the values of our world.

“…William Catton, who was a sociologist at Washington State University before his retirement, once tried to calculate the amount of energy human beings use each day. In hunter-gatherer times is was about 2,500 calories, all of it food. That is the daily energy intake of a common dolphin. A modern human being uses 31,000 calories a day, most of it in the form of fossil fuel. That is the intake of a pilot whale. And the average American uses six times that—as much as a sperm whale.

The emphasis is mine.

This is closely followed by another good point, particularly salient to my life.

“…Some scientists in Vancouver tried to calculate one such ‘footprint’ and found that although 1.7 million people lived on a million acres surrounding their city, those people required 21.5 million acres of land to support them—wheat fields in Alberta, oil fields in Saudi Arabia, tomato fields in California. People in Manhattan are as dependent on faraway resources as people on the Mir space station.”

Posted by skooter at 8:05 PM
Tags: Articles, Energy, Environmentalism, Overpopulation

May 27, 2008
Maybe NOW You'll Believe Me

This isn’t a new story, but when I’ve mentioned it to people in the past they never seem to take me seriously. Bananas are going extinct, in large part because of a lack of varietal diversity.

Why bananas are a parable for our times
JOHANN HARI

Below the headlines about rocketing food prices and rocking governments, there lays a largely unnoticed fact: Bananas are dying. The foodstuff, more heavily consumed even than rice or potatoes, has its own form of cancer. It is a fungus called Panama Disease, and it turns bananas brick-red and inedible.

There is no cure. They all die as it spreads, and it spreads quickly. Soon — in five, 10 or 30 years — the yellow creamy fruit as we know it will not exist. The story of how the banana rose and fell can be seen a strange parable about the corporations that increasingly dominate the world — and where they are leading us.

Posted by skooter at 1:49 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Food

May 26, 2008
Touchdown, the Red Planet

The Phoenix Lander has touched down on Mars, using a highly accurate jet based landing system. This is a change from earlier landing methods which essentially use air bags to soften a landing and allow rovers to bounce to a stop. Sufficient for robotics, but probably not for a human landing (it’s also a less accurate method.”

Wired has an article as does the New Scientist while Scientific American’s site hasn’t yet been updated, but I’m sure it will be.

Wired also has a link to mission control’s chatter line during the landing. Very cool.

This is the a key step in a hopefully renewed push for space exploration.

Posted by skooter at 5:37 AM
Tags: Mars, Science, Science Fiction, Space

May 22, 2008
Planet of Weeds: Tallying the Losses of Earth's Animals and Plants

Written by David Quammen and published in Harper’s Magazine in October of 1998 everybody should read this article in its fully.

It’s a reminder of our small place in the world, and the dangerous potential of the future—a future that’s already 10 years old.

“…why has the rate of extinction—low throughout most of Earth’s history—spiked upward cataclysmically on just a few occasion?…The Ordovician extinction, 439 million years ago, entailed the disappearance of roughly 85 percent of marine animal species…The Devonian extinction, 367 million years ago, seems to have been almost as severe. About 245 million years ago came the Permian extinction, the worst ever, claiming 95 percent of all known animal species.” pp. 58

“How long is the lag between a nadir of impoverishment and a recoverty to ecological fullness? That’s another of [David] Jablonski’s research interests. His rough estimates run to 5 or 10 million years.” pp. 58

“…The consensus among conscientious biologists is that we’re headed into another mass extinction, a vale or biological impoverishment commensurate with the big five. Many experts remain hopeful that we can brake that descent, but my own view is that we’re likely to go all the way down.” pp. 58-59

“When did someone first realize that the concept might apply to current events, not just to the Permian or the Cretaceous?
[Jablonksi] begins sorting through memory, back to the early 1970s when the full scope of the current extinction problem was barely recognized…In 1976, a Nairobi-based biologist named Norman Myers published a paper in Science on that subject: in passing, he also compared current extinctions with the rate during what he loosely called ‘the great dying of the dinosaurs.’…in 1979, Myers published The Sinking Ark, explaining the problem and offering some rough projections. Between the years 1600 and 1900 by his tally, humanity had caused the extinction of about 75 known species, almost all of them mammals and birds. Between 1900 and 1979, humans had extinguished about another 75 known species…Myers guessed that 25,000 plant species present stood jeopardized, and maybe hundreds of thousands of insects. ‘By the time human communities establish ecologically sound life-styles, the fallout of species could total several million.’” pp. 59

“…Most conspicuous of the naysayers was Julian Simon, an economist at the University of Maryland, who argued bullishly that human resourcefulness would solve all problems worth solving, of which a decline in diversity of tropical insects wasn’t one.
In a 1986 issue of New Scientist, Simon rebutted Norman Myers, arguing from his own construal of select data that there was ‘no obvious recent downward trend in world forests—no obvious losses at all, and certainly no near catastrophic loss.’” pp. 59-60

“…perhaps the truest sentence [Simon] left behind was, ‘We must also try to get more reliable information about the number of species that might be lost with various changes in the forests.’ No one could argue.
But it isn’t easy to get such information. Field biologists tend to avoid investing their precious research time in doomed tracts of forest.

W.V. Reid of the World Resources Institute, in 1992 gathered numbers on the average annual deforestation in each of sixty-three tropical countries during the 1980s…He chose a standard mathematical model of the relationship between decreasing habitat area and decreasing species diversity, made conservative assumptions about teh crucial constant, and ran his various deforestation estimates through the model. Reid’s calculations suggest that by the year 2040, between 17 and 35 percent of tropical forest species will be extinct or doomed to be.
Robert. M. May, an ecologist as Oxford, co-authored a similar effort in 1995. May and his colleagues noted the five causal factors that account for most extinctions: habitat destructions, habitat fragmentation, overkill, invasive, species, and secondary effects cascading through an ecosystem from other extinctions….’Much of the diversity we inerited,’ May and his co-authors wrote, ‘will be gone before humanity sorts itself out.’
Teh most recent estimate comes from Stuart L. Pimm and Thomas M. Brooks, ecologists at the University of Tennessee…Pimm and Brooks concluded that 50 percent of the world’s forest-bird species will be doomed to extinction by deforestation occurring over the next half century.

Jablonski, who started down this line of thought in 1978, offers me a reminder about the conceptual machinery behind such estimates. ‘All mathematical models,’ he says cheerily, ‘are wrong. They are approximations. And the question is: Are they usefully wrong, or are they meaninglessly wrong?’” pp. 60-61

“…According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the rate of teh deforestation in tropical countries has increased (contrary to Julian Simon’s claim) since the 1970s, when Myers made his estimates. During the 1980s, as the FAO reported in 1993, that rate reached 15.4 million hectares…annually. South America was losing 6.2 million hectares a year…the Atlantic coastal forest of Brazil is at least 95 percent gone. The Phillipines, once nearly covered with rain forest has lost 92 percent. Costa Rica has continued to lose forest, despite that country’s famous concern for its biological resources…By the middle of the next century, if those trends continue, tropical forest will exist virtually nowhere outside of protected areas—that is, national parks, wildlife refuges, and other official reserves.
How many protected areas will there be? The present worldwide total is about 9,800, encompassing 6.3 percent of the planet’s land area. Will those parks and reserves retain their full biological diversity? No. Species with large territorial needs will be unable to maintain viable population levels within small reserves.” pp. 62

“…world population is still increasing, and even if average fertility suddenly, magically, dropped to 2.0 children per female, population would continue to increase (on the momentum of birth rate exceeding death rate among a generally younger and healthier populace) for some time…According to the U.N.’s middle estimate…among seven fertility scenarios, human population will rise from the present 5.9 billion to 9.4 billion by the year 2050, then to 10.8 billion by 2150 before leveling off…about 9.7 billion people will inhabit the countries included within Africa, Latin America, the Carribean, and Asia.” pp. 62

“We also need to remember that the impact of Homo sapiens on the biosphere can’t be measured simply in population figures. As the population expert Paul Harrison pointed out in his book The Third Revolution that impact is a product of three variables: population size, consumption level, and technology….High consumption exacerbates the impact of a given population, whereas technological developments may either exacerbate it further…or mitigate it…
According to Harrison’s calculations, population growth accounted for 79 percent of the deforestation in less-developed countries between 1973 and 1988…figures point toward an undeniable reality: more total people will need more total land. By his estimate, the minimum land necessary for food growing and other human needs (such as water supply and waste dumping) amount to one fifth of a hectare per person….that comes to another billion hectares of human-claimed landscape, a billion hectares less forest—even without allowing for any further deforestation by the current human population…This raises the vision of a very exigent human population pressing snugly around whatever patches of natural landscape remain.” pp. 63

“…the world’s poor also number about 1.1 billion people—all from households with less than $700 annually per member. ‘They are mostly rural Africans, Indians and other South Asians,’ [Alan] Durning writes. ‘They eat almost exclusively grains, root crops, beans and other legumes, and they drink mostly unclean water. They live in huts and shanties, they travel by foot, and most of their possessions are constructed of stone, wood, and other substances available from the local environment.’…It’s only reasonable to assume that another billion people will be added to that class, mostly in what are now the less-developed countries, before population growth stabilizes….if all the bright ideas generate by a human population of 5.9 billion haven’t yet relieved the desperate needfulness of 1.1 billion absolute poor, why should we expect that human ingenuity will do any better for roughly 2 billion poor in the future.” pp. 63-64

“[Thomas] Homer-Dixon said it more vividly: ‘This of a stretch limo in the potholed streets of New York City, where homeless beggars live. Inside the limo are the air-conditioned post-industrial regions of North America, Europe, the emerging Pacific Rim, and a few other isolated places, with their trade summitry and computer information highways. Outside is the rest of mankind, going in a completely different direction.” pp. 64

“We shouldn’t take comfort in assuming that at least Yellowstone National Park will still harbor grizzly bears in the year 2150, that at least Royal Chitwan in Nepal will still harbor tigers…Those predator populations, and other species down the cascade, are likely to disappear.” _pp. 65

“…The additional dire factor is invasive species, fifth of the five factors contributing to our current experiment in mass extinction.
…Maybe you havent’ heard much about invasive species, but in coming years you will. The ecologist Daniel Simberloff takes it so seriously that he recently committed himself to founding an institute on invasive biology at the University of Tennessee…
The problem dates back to when people began using ingenious new modes of conveyance (the horse, the camel, the canoe) to travel quickly across mountains, deserts, and oceans, bringing with them rats, lice, disease microbes, burrs, dogs, pigs, goats, cats, cows, and other forms of parasitic, commensal or domesticated creature. One immediate result of those travels was a wave of island-bird extinctions, claiming more than a thousand species,…Dutch sailors killed and ate dodos during the seventeenth century, but probably what guaranteed the extinction of Raphus cucullatus is that the European ships put ashore rats, pigs and Macaca fascicularis, an opportunistic species of Asian monkey. Although commonly known as the crab-eating macaque, M. fascicularis will eat almost anything…the dodo hasn’t been seen since 1662.” pp. 65

“…the same trend of far-flung human travel that gave biogeographers tehir data also began to muddle and nullify those data, by transplanting the most ready and roguish species to new places and thereby delivering misery unto death for many other species. Rats and cats went everywhere, causing havoc in what for millions of years had been sheltered, less competitive ecosystems. They Asiatic chestnut blight and the European starling came to America…Sometimes these human-mediated transfers were unintentional, sometimes merely shortsighted. Nostalgic sportsmen in New Zealand imported British red deer; European brown trout and Coastal rainbows were planted in disregard of the native cutthroats of Rocky Mountain rivers…the Atlantic sea lamprey found its own way up into Lake Erie, but only after the Welland Canal gave it a bypass around Niagara Falls.” pp. 66

“The problem is vastly amplified by modern shipping and air transport, which are quick and capacious enough to allow many more kinds of organism to get themselves transplanted into zones of habitat they never could have reached on their own. The brown tree snake, having hitchhiked aboard military planes from New Guinea region near the end of World War II, has eaten most of the native forest birds of Guam…One study…reports that in the United States 4,500 nonnative species have established free-living populations, of which about 15 percent cause severe harm…Michael Soulé, a biologist much respected for his work on landscape conversion and extinction, has said that invasive species may soon surpass habitat loss and fragmentation as the major cause of ‘ecological disintegration.’ Having exterminated Guam’s avifauna, the brown tree snake has lately been spotted in Hawaii.” pp. 66

“The city pigeon, a cosmopolitan creature derived from wild ancestrya s a Eurasian rock dove (_Columba livia_) by way of centuries of pigeon fanciers whose coop-bred birds occasionally when AWOL, is a weed. So are those species that, benefiting from human impacts upon landscape, have increased grossly in abundance or expanded their geographical scope without having to cross an ocean by plane or by boat…Biologists frequently talk of weedy species, meaning animals as well as plants.” pp. 67

“Now, as we sit in [Jablonksi’s] office, he repeats ‘It’s just a question of how much the world becomes enriched in these weedy species.’ Both in print and in talk he uses ‘enriched’ somewhat caustically, knowing that the actual direction of the trend is toward impoverishment
…the two converse trends I’ve described—partitioning the world’s landscape by global transport of weedy species—produce not converse results, but one redoubled result, the further loss of biological diversity…portending a near-term future in which Earth’s landscape is threadbare, leached of diversity, heavy with humans and ‘enriched’ in weedy species. That’s an ugly vision, but I find it vivid. Wildlife will consist of the pigeons and the coyotes and the white-tails, the black rats_(Rattus rattus)_ and the brown rats (Rattus norvegicus) … Forests will be tiny insular patches existing on bare sufferace, much of their biological diversity (the big predators, the migratory birds, the shy creatures that can’t tolerate edges, and many other species linked inextricably with those) long since decayed away.” pp. 67

“I see this world implicitly foretold in the U.N. population projections, the FAO report on deforestation, the northward advance into Texas of Africanized honeybees, the rhesus monkeys that haunt the parapets of public buildings in New Delhi, and every fat gray squirrel on a bird feeder in England.” pp. 68

“Now we come to the question of human survival, a matter of some interest to many…By seizing such a huge share of Earth’s landscape, by imposing so wantonly on its providence and presuming so recklessly on its forgivingness, by killing off so man species, they say, we will doom our own species to extinction. This is a commonplace among the environmentally exercised….
Jablonski also has his doubts. … ‘Oh, we’ve got to be one of the most bomb-proof species on the planet,’ he says. ‘We’re geogrphically widespread, we have a pretty remarkable reproductive rate, we’re incredibly good at co-opting and monopolizing resources. I think it would take really serious, concerted effort to wipe out the human species.’ … Homo sapiens itself is the consummate weed. … But there’s a wide range of possible circumstances, Jablonski reminds me, between the extinction of our species and the continued growth of human population, consumption and comfort. ‘I think we’ll be one of the survivors,’ he says, ‘sort of picking through the rubble.’” pp. 68

“‘A lot of things are going to happen that will make this a crummier place to live—a more stressful place to live, a more difficult place to live, a less resilient place to live—before the human species is at any risk at all.’ … Maybe we’ll pull back before our current episode matches the Triassic extinction or the K-T event. Maybe it will turn out to be no worse than the Eocene extinction, with a 35 percent loss of species.
…What will increase most dramatically as time proceeds, I suspect, won’t be generalized misery or futuristic modes of consumption but the gulf between two global classes experiencing those extremes. … So the world’s privileged class…will probably still manage to maintain themselves inside Homer-Dixon’s stretch limo, drinking bottled water and breathing bottled air and eating reasonably healthy food that has become incredibly precious, while the potholes on the road outside grow ever deeper.
…evolution never rests. It’s happening right now, in weed patches all over the planet. … What I’ve tried to describe here is not an absolute end but a very deep dip, a repeat point within a long, violent cycle. Species die, species arise. The relative pace of those two processes is what matters. … So we might reasonably imagine an Earth upon which, 10 million years after the extinction (or, alternatively, the drastic transformation) of Homo sapiens, wondrous forests are filled with wondrous beasts. That’s the good news.” pp. 69

May 14, 2008
Going Supernova

supernovaremnant_2.jpg Nasa has discovered the world’s youngest supernova. A needle in a haystack.

Posted by skooter at 7:44 PM
Tags: NASA, Science, Space, Starts

March 5, 2008
Solid State Gorilla Detector

This article, of course, reminded me so much of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s Solid State Gorilla Detector I had to laugh. Especially that last paragraph. (The emphasis is mine.)

Shark Snacks on Supposed Shark-Repelling Gadget
By David Becker, March 04, 2008

Let’s say you were in the business of creating a new type of shark repellent, and it was time for product testing. What is about the worst thing that could happen? We’re guessing a shark swimming up to your gadget, taking an angry pass or two and then trying to eat it.

Which is precisely what happened when skeptics of the Shark Shield, which generates an electric field that supposedly repels the beasties, tested the device off the coast of South Africa. An 11-foot great white registered its opinion by chewing on the thing like it was a surfer’s femur.

The manufacturer says the researchers erred by not arranging to have a wave-free ocean to test it in and rejects any theory that electric currents might actually attract sharks.

Posted by skooter at 3:24 PM
Tags: Articles, Muppets, Science, Sharks

January 26, 2008
There Will Be Blood

There Will Be Blood has been nominated for innumerable awards and honours, among them Best Picture and Best Actor. Daniel Day Lewis’ performance certainly fills the screen, but is saddled by a script I found only somewhat engaging and other performances that are weak and lacklustre.

No Country for Old Men is a better movie than There Will Be Blood, although the latter may deserve the acting award: Javier Bardem’s performance as Anton Chigurh is riveting, but may not be as virtuoso.

The story of oil reminded me of this, however, from 2001.

The New Old Economy: Oil, Computers and the Reinvention of the Earth
by Jonathan Rauch

“Knowledge, not petroleum, is becoming the critical resource in the oil business,” the author writes in this firsthand account of how technology is stretching the bounds of finitude

Posted by skooter at 4:42 PM
Tags: Articles, Atlantic Monthly, Oil

January 17, 2008
These Eyes Watched You Bring My World to an End

If only you could see what I’ve seen with your eyes!

I will be first in line for these, although I always thought that the implants imagined on William Gibson’s Molly were interesting.

Jan. 17, 2008
Bionic eyes: Contact lenses with circuits, lights a possible platform for superhuman vision
By Hannah Hickey

Contact lenses with metal connectors for electronic circuits were safely worn by rabbits in lab tests. The lenses were manufactured at the microscopic level by researchers at the UW.

Movie characters from the Terminator to the Bionic Woman use bionic eyes to zoom in on far-off scenes, have useful facts pop into their field of view, or create virtual crosshairs. Off the screen, virtual displays have been proposed for more practical purposes — visual aids to help vision-impaired people, holographic driving control panels and even as a way to surf the Web on the go.

The device to make this happen may be familiar. Engineers at the UW have for the first time used manufacturing techniques at microscopic scales to combine a flexible, biologically safe contact lens with an imprinted electronic circuit and lights.

October 15, 2007
Penguin Loyalty

From the New Scientist

Penguins take fishing trips with their buddies
10 October 2007

Penguins make bosom buddies and they like to team up with them when going on fishing expeditions.

Little penguins, the smallest penguin species, go on long fishing trips to feed their chicks. Like many other penguins they cross the beach in groups of five to 10 birds, as being in troops helps protect individuals from predators. The suggestion is that these groups fish cooperatively, in which case you might expect the birds to seek out good teammates rather than form groups at random.

Posted by skooter at 12:45 AM
Tags: Fishing, Penguins, Science

October 11, 2007
Beautiful Things in Incredibly Small Packages

Wired presents a gallery of microscopic images chosen by Nikon.

September 5, 2007
If you were a God, would you create John Tory?

John Tory just demonstrated exactly how much of an idiot he is. God help our children if Ontario elects this man:

Creationism raised as Ont. election issue
CAROLINE ALPHONSO AND TENILLE BONOGUORE
September 5, 2007 at 3:56 PM EDT

TORONTO Publicly-funded religious schools would be allowed to teach creationism and other theories, says Progressive Conservative Leader John Tory.

Tory has managed to perform one miracle though: he’s left his former supporter Warren Kinsella speechless.

September 4, 2007
From Announcement to Death in 4 Months

I think that Palm might have set some kind of record here. Announced in May, the Palm Foleo has been killed before it even shipped.

Foleo was a strange product. Palm’s products have been compliments to personal computers from day one—synchronization was their killer app. Why anybody would buy an add on product to an ad on product seemed a bit strange. With laptops plummeting in price anyway, and smart phones increasingly…smart…this is a product that didn’t make sense from day one.

Palm will die. It’s a floundering company at this point. The irony is that if the Palm Pilot killed the Apple Newton, it’s probably the Apple iPhone that will kill Palm.

Posted by skooter at 7:33 PM
Tags: Apple, Mobile Internet, Palm, Technology, Usability

September 1, 2007
One More Reason the Mojave Desert is Cool

As if Joshua Trees weren’t enough, the Mojave is also where Nasa tests its new engines.

The coolest thing about those Mach Disks is seeing them form one at a time…watch carefully: it’s the speed of sound after all.

Posted by skooter at 10:26 PM
Tags: Articles, NASA, Space, Wired

August 26, 2007
Global Warming in the New York Times

From today’s New York Times

Suddenly, 1934 appeared to vault ahead of 1998 as the warmest year on record (by a statistically meaningless 0.036 degrees Fahrenheit). In NASA’s most recent data set, 1934 had followed 1998 by a statistically meaningless 0.018 degrees. Conservative bloggers, columnists and radio hosts pounced. “We have proof of man-made global warming,” Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience. “The man-made global warming is inside NASA.

Of course, it’s long been my opinion that the man-made global warming was inside Rush Limbaugh. Why people listen to these wind bags remains beyond my unerstanding.

Posted by skooter at 1:50 PM
Tags: Articles, Environmentalism, Republican

July 10, 2007
One White Whale

This is my favourite story of the week. It’s absolutely beautiful…the thought that this leviathan of the deep was large enough in 1890 to survive a bomb lance is a humble reminder of man’s place in nature.

Bowhead Whale Reveals Century-Old Weapon
By Christina Erb

A 50-ton bowhead whale killed off the coast of Alaska this past May was found with a bomb lance fragment dating from 1890 embedded in its scapula.

Posted by skooter at 7:56 PM
Tags: Environmentalism, Whales

June 12, 2007
Mr. Wizard Passes On

Mr. Wizard is dead. I loved watching his show for a while, and kids who love science owe him a huge debt of gratitute. Canada’s Bob McDonald at Quirks & Quarks is a more mature, adult version; Bill Nye the Science Guy a more modern, kid oriented one.

Mr. Wizard will be missed.

TV’s ‘Mr. Wizard’ Don Herbert dies at 89
By LYNN ELBERAP TELEVISION WRITER

LOS ANGELES Don Herbert, who as television’s “Mr. Wizard” introduced generations of young viewers to the joys of science, died Tuesday. He was 89. Herbert, who had bone cancer, died at his suburban Bell Canyon home, said his son-in-law, Tom Nikosey.

Posted by skooter at 9:01 PM
Tags: Obituaries

March 29, 2007
On Humans

Leslie Kaelbing was at UBC as part of the Department of Computer Science’s distinguished lecturer series. She gave me my best quote of the day.

She was discussing the difference between computers and humans and how they approach tasks. Essentially the argument was that computers are excellent at performing simple, well defined tasks. They can, in fact, be better than humans on average—chess is an example where computers can excel, but the average human does not.

Humans, on the other hand, are competent at an astounding range of tasks and able to adapt to new ones as they come along. Stairs of various heights can be challenging for ambulatory robots, but for humans they’re quite simple.

This led to Leslie’s assertion that as a human being it was best to be:

“…aggressively suboptimal.”

I love this, and am going to strive for it as a goal.

Posted by skooter at 7:28 PM
Tags: Humans, MIT

January 22, 2007
Toronto, Adelaide & York, December 27th, 2006

Software Development Services

Posted by skooter at 6:19 AM
Tags: Software, Work

August 16, 2006
I, for one....

I, for one, welcome our new plantary overlords.

Pluto Wins Reprieve but Number of Planets May Rise

By REUTERS
Published: August 16, 2006
Filed at 2:29 p.m. ET

PRAGUE (Reuters) — Learning the planets of our solar system is about to become more difficult for school children around the world.

The International Astronomers Union (IAU) put forward a definition of a planet on Wednesday that will expand the number from nine to 12, and create different categories of planets in a nod to technological advances that allow astronomers to look deeper into space.

Posted by skooter at 10:22 PM
Tags: NASA, Planets, Science, Space

August 4, 2006
Rainbow Connection

Rainbows are an amazing scientific phenomenon. I was pleasantly surprised to be pointed at this rainbow gallery

Posted by skooter at 8:24 PM
Tags: Photos, Science

July 12, 2006
Seed Magazine

My new favourite online magazine is Seed Magazine, a science publication I stumbled across quite by accident.

My introduction was a pointer to a short film titled Lords of the Ring which is, in fact, quite a brilliant little piece about a complex subject: the CERN Particle Accelerator located 100 metres beneath the surface of the Earth in Geneva, Switzerland.

Well worth watching and checking in with regularly.

Posted by skooter at 9:38 PM

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