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Archive for March, 2007

The Hex Nut of the Giants

Friday, March 30th, 2007

Science reporter John Tierney has challenged his readers to come up with an inventive name and/or explanation for the Saturn hexagon.
I’ve already posted one theory about it, but here’s another one: it’s part of a publicity campaign by the Saturn Corporation. You know, the company that makes Saturn cars. They will soon be unveiling a new vehicle called the Saturn Hexagon, and the six-sided feature on the planet Saturn is just a really big billboard.

Polar vortex

Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

A polar vortex is (in the words of Wikipedia) “a persistent, large-scale cyclone located near the Earth’s poles.” But some other planets have them too. Saturn, for example, has vortices at both of its poles. The south polar vortex is pretty typical; it looks like a giant hurricane. But Saturn’s north polar vortex is hexagonal. Nobody knows why.
When I saw the pictures of Saturn’s polar hexagon, the first thing I thought of was the Well of Souls series of novels by Jack Chalker. It takes place on the Well World, a planet almost entirely tiled with hexagonal features that are visible from space. But the Well World is an artificial structure. And, ironically, the poles are among the few parts of it that are not covered by hexagons. (The only other exception is the equator.)
So Saturn’s polar hexagon must be caused by something else. I’ll bet there’s a black monolith at the center of it.

The dawn of blogging

Monday, March 26th, 2007

According to CNet, the phenomenon of blogging is ten years old this year — but we don’t really know who invented the blog. It depends on exactly how you define the term. You can read the CNet article and decide for yourself who deserves to be called “father of the blog”.
I don’t agree that blogs originated in 1997. If you ask me, The Daily Illuminator qualifies as a blog, and its archives go all the way back to 1994.
Source: Buzz Out Loud podcast

Robops

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Like a lot of big cities, Liverpool has a pigeon problem. The city council has decided to try a new solution: bring in a bunch of robotic predator birds to scare the pigeons away. Ten mechanical Peregrine Falcons will be installed in the city center by next year. These birds (called Robops) don’t actually fly or attack pigeons, but they do squawk and flap their wings.
This is a good start, but I have some suggestions for additional steps to be taken after the Robops are installed.

  1. Come up with a better name. “Robops” is just lame. How about Robohawks? Or Birdinators? If you’re building a robot that’s supposed to be scary but doesn’t actually attack anyone, you definitely want to give it the scariest name you can think of.
  2. Pigeons are probably stupid enough to fear a “predator” that really just makes empty threats, at least for a while. But they may eventually figure out that these Robops are bluffing. So start work now on the next generation of robot raptors. These should be fully functional robot falcons that can fly and kill pigeons.
  3. Make sure to design the second-generation Birdinators with an emergency deactivation feature, so that you can shut them down remotely when they run out of pigeons and start attacking the citizens of Liverpool.
  4. You should also design weapons that are capable of shooting the Birdinators out of the sky when you discover that the emergency deactivation feature doesn’t work. Make sure that the task of designing the weapons isn’t given to the same scientist who is in charge of developing the birds, in case he turns out to be an evil genius who uses the Birdinators to hold the city for ransom. (That’s why the emergency deactivation feature doesn’t work. He’s the only one who has the valid shutdown code.)
  5. Make sure to record all of this in high-definition video, because it will make a great movie. On second thought, forget about building the birds and just make the movie.

Source: Daily Illuminator

Kitlers

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Ordinarily, I would not consider a Web site consisting of cat photos to be worth a mention here. But Cats That Look Like Hitler is an exception. This is a phenomenon that should concern us all. I had no idea there were so many of them.

“Code Monkey” revisited

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

If you liked the song “Code Monkey”, check out this music video that Mike Spiff Booth made of it.

Silly String saves lives

Friday, March 23rd, 2007

Did you know that American and British troops use Silly String to detect the tripwires of booby traps? Neither did I, until I read the Wikipedia article about it.
UPDATE: Here’s a video about an effort to keep the troops supplied with this stuff.

Rayguns

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

The folks at Weta Workshop have an online store called Weta Collectibles. (Yes, this is the Weta Workshop responsible for jaw-dropping effects in films like the Lord of the Rings series and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.) In addition to the movie-related merchandise, the store also offers rayguns. And when I say rayguns, I mean Dr. Grordbort’s Infallible Aether Oscillators, “a line of immensely dangerous yet simple to operate wave oscillation weapons”. These limited-edition handcrafted guns appear to be 19th-century technology, using phlogiston and compressed aether for ammunition. Three models are available:

  • ManMelter 3600ZX Sub-Atomic Disintegrator Pistol
  • F.M.O.M. Industries Wave Disrupter Gun
  • Goliathon 83 Infinity Beam Projector

These are exactly the kind of weapons you need when you’re battling nameless horrors at the center of the Earth, setting out to explore the distant future in your time machine, or just going for a stroll through the East End of London on a foggy night.
Source: J. Michael Straczynski

Rat humor

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

A couple of years ago, I wrote about a report that rats laugh ultrasonically when tickled. This New York Times article doesn’t really add any new information, but it includes a video that lets you see the rats’ behavior for yourself — and hear the ultrasonic chirps that, according to scientists, are laughter.
Source: Instapundit

It can’t fix everything

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007

In case you were wondering, duct tape does not cure warts.
Source: James Taranto