Monday, December 08, 2008

Nukes vs. Massive Nukes

I've been watching old 1950's SciFi of late and I've been reminded of a term that you don't really hear anymore- the "H-Bomb". This bomb was a massive "upgrade" from previous nuclear bombs, being vastly more destructive. Many military minds thought it was ridiculous from a tactical perspective. The problem with it is the explosion is so large you can't really use it on the front line of a conventional war, because you'd wipe out your own troops. This bomb is really meant for wiping out civilians far behind battle lines.

Poking around the web I found this image of the first nuclear explosion, code named "Trinity," a project managed by J. Robert Oppenheimer. I also found out that Oppenheimer was very much opposed to building the H-bomb, or super-bomb. Los Alamos has a bit about it here.

I think J. Robert had some serious misgivings about what he'd birthed, at least he seems a little reluctant in this video. We should all be thankful the H-bomb has never been deployed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My new favorite website

I get lots of questions from people, often technical. Quite often I don't know the answer, but I always have an answer quickly. I've been sending links to Google search results as answers to questions for a long time. Now, I can send a link to a page where the question answerer can actually watch the search get typed in.

Your answer is out there, just waiting to be discovered...

My new favorite website:

Thanks Ted, for sending me that link!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Colin Powel on Islamophobia

"I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say, and it is permitted to be said. Such things as 'Well you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.' Well the correct answer is 'He is not a Muslim, he's a Christian, he's always been a Christian.' But the really right answer is 'What if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country?' The answer is 'No. That's not America.' Is there something wrong with some 7-year old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she can be president? Yet I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion he's a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists. This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo-essay about troops who were serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery and she had her head on the headstone of her son's grave. And as the picture focused in you can see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards, Purple Heart, Bronze Star, showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then at the very top of the headstone, it didn't have a Christian cross, it didn't have a Star of David. It had a crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Karim Rashad Sultan Khan. And he was an American, he was born in New Jersey, he was 14 at the time of 9/11 and he waited until he can go serve his counrty and he gave his life."

Friday, October 17, 2008

Internet searches may improve brain function

I've been a big fan of internet searches, Google searches in particular, since the 1990s. Web searches have changed my life- by searching the web I have learned things that have launched me on a new, very fun and satisfying career.

When I compare myself to other people, it appears I am a person who has trouble storing particular types of information, specifically proper nouns; people names and street names are particularly difficult for me. Other types of information, often completely useless, I store with great ease.

While I have a hard time storing this data, which might just be a bunch of garbage anyway, I have a great love of uncovering data and getting to the bottom of how things work.

I remember thinking the card catalog at the library was a fairly cool thing, and as kid I spent many hours looking through card catalogues by subject, learning how to use them better. It was just fun. So clearly, I was a web search fanatic waiting to happen.

When web searching started, I dove right in asking questions of the search engine as if it were some sort of genie in a bottle. Of course this is a silly way to search, which trial and error quickly revealed.

The real way to search is to think about how people will write about the problem you are trying to reasearch. Somewhere, there is a set of keywords that will get you right to the answer of your question, and those words do not include things like "the" or "and" or "is", unless you are searching for a quote or song lyrics.

This is pretty straightforward stuff, and I mention it to point out the idea that as you search, you get better at searching, and you think about the problem of searching differently as time goes by.

A study has come out that point to the idea that web searches are actually good for your brain, and good for old brains. It just gives me that warm fuzzy feeling to know that my addiction is actually good for me.

Below is the article:



Internet use 'good for the brain'

Areas activated by reading a book in the brain of an experienced web user
For middle-aged and older people at least, using the internet helps boost brain power, research suggests.

A University of California Los Angeles team found searching the web stimulated centres in the brain that controlled decision-making and complex reasoning.

The researchers say this might even help to counteract the age-related physiological changes that cause the brain to slow down.

The study features in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

As the brain ages, a number of changes occur, including shrinkage and reductions in cell activity, which can affect performance.

It has long been thought that activities which keep the brain active, such as crossword puzzles, may help minimise that impact - and the latest study suggests that surfing the web can be added to the list.

Lead researcher Professor Gary Small said: "The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerised technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and older adults.

"Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function."

The latest study was based on 24 volunteers aged between 55 and 76. Half were experienced internet users, the rest were not.

Each volunteer underwent a brain scan while performing web searches and book-reading tasks.

Both types of task produced evidence of significant activity in regions of the brain controlling language, reading, memory and visual abilities.

However, the web search task produced significant additional activity in separate areas of the brain which control decision-making and complex reasoning - but only in those who were experienced web users.

The researchers said that, compared to simple reading, the internet's wealth of choices required people to make decisions about what to click on in order to get the relevant information.

However, they suggested that newcomers to the web had not quite grasped the strategies needed to successfully carry out a web search.

Professor Smith said: "A simple, everyday task like searching the web appears to enhance brain circuitry in older adults, demonstrating that our brains are sensitive and can continue to learn as we grow older."

Rebecca Wood, chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Research Trust, said: "These fascinating findings add to previous research suggesting that middle-aged and older people can reduce their risk of dementia by taking part in regular mentally stimulating activities.

"Older web users - 'silver surfers' - are doing precisely this."

"Frequent social interactions, regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet can also reduce dementia risk."

Dr Susanne Sorensen, head of research at the Alzheimer's Society, said: "Use it or lose it may well be a positive message to keep people active but there is very little real evidence that keeping the brain exercised with puzzles, games or other activities can promote cognitive health and reduce the risk of dementia."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Italian robot

An Italian candidate for the Google X Lunar Prize:


Note: Very good moves and looks, but those little feet are going to have problems in dust, particularly the teeny little wheels. A Lamborghini might drive better on the moon.

Interesting robot motion

An Italian candidate for the Google X Lunar Prize:

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Morbo on politics.

Linda: “And so with two weeks left in the campaign, the question on everyone’s mind is, who will be the president of Earth? Jack Johnson or bitter rival John Jackson. Two terrific candidates, Morbo?”
Morbo: “All humans are vermin in the eyes of Morbo!”


Morbo: “Morbo will now introduce tonights candidates. Puny human number one, puny human number two and Morbo’s good friend Richard Nixon.”
Nixon: “Hello Morbo. How’s the family?”
Morbo: “Belligerent and numerous.”
Nixon: “Good man, Nixon’s pro-war and pro-family.”


Morbo: “Morbo demands an answer to the following question. If you saw a delicious candy in the hands of a small child. Would you seize and consume it?”
John Jackson: “Unthinkable.”
Jack Johnson: “I wouldn’t think of it.”
Morbo: “What about you Mr. Nixon? I remind you. You are under of a truth-o-scope.”
Nixon: “Question is vague. You don’t say what kind of candy and whether anyone is watching. In anyway I certainly wouldn’t harm the child.”


Linda: “The sheer drama of this election has driven voter turnout to it’s highest level in centuries, six percent.”
Morbo: “Exit poll show evil underdog Richard Nixon trailing with estimated zero votes.”
Linda: “The time is 7:59 and the robot polls are now opening. And robot votes are now in. Nixon has won.”
Morbo: “Morbo congratulates our gargantuan cyborg president. May death come quickly to his enemies.”