I was reading a Washington Post article about the crazy number of police shootings in the US so far this year. It’s a good article, but I kept getting distracted by the groovy high tech graphics that Washington Post is using nowadays. Check this one out:
Screen Grab from May 30, 2015 Washington Post article. Some award-winning shit right here!
Anyone else have flashbacks to the 1980’s on seeing this dazzling graphic? Here is a screen grab from the Raiders of the Lost Ark game for the Atari 2600:
Raiders of the Lost Ark video game on the Atari 2600 (1982). The movie on which this video game is based is this many pixels old.
Used appropriately, graphics can greatly improve an audience’s comprehension of raw data. A picture is more likely to be understood and remembered than a number in a table of numbers. Used inappropriately, graphics only serve to confuse, as it the case here in my opinion.
So how come nobody is talking about the giant extinction event that the Earth is just barely gonna avoid on Thursday? :-)
Asteroid 1999 FN53 will be whizzing past the Earth on Thursday, May 14 and will miss us by about 3 million kilometers. While a number of asteroids have come quite a bit closer in recent years, there is one important difference: 1999 FN53 is HUGE! It is a mile across and if it were to hit, the result would be more than a mere catastrophe. With that in mind, let’s talk about some really big-ass explosions and see where 1999 FN53 fits in the scheme of things. To ease comparison, I’m adding a scale factor to each of the impacts, events, and explosions discussed below, where a “1” is energetically equivalent to the Hiroshima bomb.
Except where otherwise labeled, the images used in this post are public domain.
Operation Sailor Hat (Scale: 0.03)
One million pounds of TNT (500 tons, or 0.5 kilotons).
Posted in Science
Tagged Media, Society
For several years, Australia’s Parkes Observatory has been detecting sporadic, mysterious radio bursts that appeared to emanate from deep space. Last month, it was reported that this mystery has now been solved. Apparently, the folks at the observatory would sometimes open the microwave oven door prematurely, without first turning the microwave oven off. The telescope was detecting the brief burst of microwaves that escaped the oven. Doh!
That amusing anecdote reminded me of a similar story from several years back. Physicist Riley Newman at the University of California at Irvine was trying to measure the gravitational attraction between a steel tube and a copper rod. Think about that for a moment! You feel the gravitational attraction of the Earth beneath you because the Earth is rather enormous. Imagine trying to measure the gravitational attraction between two small objects like a steel tube and a copper rod: The possible sources of error in that measurement are insane! Riley’s team had either eliminated or accounted for all of the possible sources of noise as best they could, but they still encountered a strange phenomenon that caused their measurements to go a little screwy on occasion. It mostly occurred at night, and what would happen is a chart recording that otherwise was a level line would start to climb. It would climb for an hour or so, then level off, then very slowly decline again to it’s original value.
Posted in Science
Copyright — Madison Woods
“Ashish!” said Sal as he washed his glassware at the laboratory sink, “You look like shit!”
“I feel like shit, man!” said Ashish. “I’ve gained eight pounds in the last week, but I’m not fatter in the slightest: I’m just heavier. And I’m nauseous and dizzy, and my hands are shaking and I feel cold and clammy.”
“Maybe you’re dehydrated? Drink your wada.” Sal pointed at the bottle in Ashish’s hand.
“I’ve been drinking water like crazy,” said Ashish as he refilled his bottle from the spigot. “It’s not helping man. I think I’m dying or something!”
“Hmmm,” said Sal. “You will die before long, I suspect, if you keep drinking the deuterium oxide.”
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. The exact quantity of deuterium oxide one would have to drink to actually die has long been a favorite cafeteria conversation among organic chemists. You would probably have to replace a substantial portion of your bodies water for it to be fatal: Possibly as much as 25% to 50%. Heavy water is a little more than 10% heavier than regular water, so you would gain a bit of weight without becoming any larger (your density would increase). Eventually, deuterium would become incorporated into various enzymes and proteins and your body would start to shut down. If you went in for an MRI, the hospital staff monitoring the MRI results might be surprised that you have no brain. Deuterium is invisible to an MRI. Since an MRI ordinarily is looking at protons (hydrogens), and since deuterium would replace a substantial portion of the hydrogen in your body in an extreme case of deuterium oxide poisoning, your deuterated brain would appear to an MRI to be a little faint. Although you would normally find deuterium oxide in an organic laboratory, you wouldn’t find big jugs of the stuff, so this story is a bit far-fetched in that regard. Still, when I saw this week’s photo prompt, I could imagine the photo being of a water dispenser in a laboratory of some kind, and I couldn’t resist the deuterium oxide angle. :-)
Roger J. Shawyer’s Electromagnetic (EM) Propulsion Drive. Is this thing Steampunky, or what?
The Intertubes lit up last night with a reported successful test at NASA’s Johnson Space Center of an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive. The drive is said to operate by pushing against virtual particles, meaning that it requires no reaction mass be expelled from a rocket nozzle. For comparison, this is the equivalent of making your car go forward by pushing on the dashboard. In other words, it’s bullshit. The story was picked up by some mainstream media sites in Europe and will probably be all over the US sites today.
There is NASA, and then there is “NASA”. I know who NASA is: They are the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and they have a groovy *.gov website here.
Yet NASA does not seem to be the source of the story. Rather, the story comes from NASA Spaceflight.com. Who the fuck is NASA Spaceflight.com? I’m not really sure, but they appear to be just another internet forum. The story has been on CNET, Gizmodo, Huffington Post (UK) and will probably be in the mainstream US news tomorrow, and the source is … an internet … forum. Seriously, what is with these news rags like Huffington Post? Do they see “NASA Spaceflight” and think “Ah yeah! They must be legit: They have ‘NASA’ in their name and stuff!” If they’re gonna use internet forums as sources of news, why not shoot of the Moon and go to Above Top Secret or some crazy shit like that?
Granted, somewhere behind the glitter there is a grain of truth: There really are people at NASA playing around with this stuff. But it’s fringe as hell, the concept seems to break an awful lot of fundamental laws of physics, and — importantly — the thrust that has been observed from this engine is very very small. In other words, it is likely to be an artifact of something else and not actually thrust. This same EM engine was in the news many months back, and at the time it was suggested that the thrust was an artifact of air currents. What’s new here is that the latest test was in a vacuum, so atmospheric effects have been ruled out. There are still an awful lot of things that need to be ruled out before one jumps to the conclusion that Newton’s Laws can be thrown out the window. :-P
Update (May 4, 2015)
The magazine Popular Mechanics has chimed in on the latest news about this emDrive. See: You Still Shouldn’t Believe in the emDrive.
Posted in Science
“Told you so!” I croaked to Sal as we approached the stationary freight train. “You said it was a mirage — a goddamn Fata Morgana. Well, ain’t no goddamn mirage.” Sal didn’t have the energy to respond.
We were spent, having walked for hours in the desert Sun in search of water or shelter. I touched the train: It was real. But it was also silent and seemed abandoned. The freight cars radiated like ovens in the desert Sun. They were no shelter.
My eyes had no tears to shed as I turned to Sal in dispair. “Sal? … Sal?” He was not there.
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. I must say I struggled with this one! I checked the photograph early yesterday morning thinking I would get the jump on it, but I couldn’t really put any kind of story together. All kinds of things came to me, but nothing that I could hammer into a complete story — just a series of incomplete, disconnected thoughts. So I put it away and mulled it over yesterday and this morning before finally something reasonably complete came to me. :-)
Crusty Mavis ran the most profitable brothel in Lexington county, thanks largely to the Northboro Baptist Church. They had built their church right next door and then demanded that Mavis close her ‘business’ which was unlawfully close to their sacred ground.
She closed all right — closed her front door and opened a new front door on the other side of the building, which was just far enough from the church to be in compliance with the ordinance. With a church next door, Mavis’s Sunday Services really brought in the customers, many of whom were ironically keen for her back door.
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. Enjoy! :-D
The Residents of Magnolias Assisted-Living made up — Martha was sure of it — the worst band in Pickens County. That the police had not run them out of the park an hour ago was a miracle. She pulled the trumpet from her lips and strained to hear the sound of drilling beyond the din. She could not.
Fred caught her eye, tapped his watch, and mouthed “One more hour.”
Martha sighed and returned the trumpet to her lips. Drilling the bank’s vault was taking a lot longer than she had imagined it would. She closed her eyes and pictured herself tomorrow on a beach in Belize; sand squishing between her old toes; a Mai Tai in hand. She smiled and willed herself to play another hour.
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. Enjoy! :-D
Exclusion Zone Expedition; Day 37.
We penetrated deeper into the exclusion zone today and came upon the remnants of another house. Very little of the structure remains.
What are ghosts? I’ve never believed in them in the conventional sense, yet I feel surrounded by them here. This place is full of ghosts. They mill about me, eat dinner at a table that is no longer here, tell jokes, laugh, fart, fuck. They speak to me. I know that they aren’t really here, of course. But they are!
Radionuclide levels in the area are too high for a detailed exploration of the site. We must move on.
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. I have not done one of these in quite a while. I have been slack with this blog for a number of months now, but I’m going to try to change that.
Brad could feel Marie’s eyes boring into him like a pair of surgical lasers.
Surrounded by children on Brad’s festively decorated and brightly lit porch, Marie stepped close and seethed into his ear: “God damn it, Brad, candy cigarettes are not appropriate to give to kids at Halloween.”
“They could be collector’s items, you know,” said Brad. “They’re pretty damn hard to find nowadays.”
“Find … something … else,” Marie seethed.
Brad disappeared into his house and returned after a moment with a jack-o’-lantern full of lollipops. The kids all grabbed fistfuls as Marie mouthed “Better!”
Brad’s margarita and piña colada lollipops likely contained no actual alcohol, but they were quite tasty and he really didn’t like just handing them out like that.
An entry to this week’s Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. A Halloween-type entry seemed appropriate for the first day of October. :-)
The wine rack across the bar from me burst into all manner of groovy, swirling colors. “Whoa!” I said. “What do you call this shit again?”
“Space Invaders,” said Sal. “The latest in hallucinogenic malware. It’s kind of like LSD, except that it’s entirely electronic. The one I gave you is just a sample: It will auto-delete in five minutes.”
I rubbed my temple with my fingers. “It won’t damage my implant, will it?”
“Nah,” said Sal, as he turned into a giant yellow ball with a mouth.
“You’re a giant yellow ball with a mouth, Sal!”
“Heh heh!” said Sal. “I threw in a touch of the Pac Mans.”
I kind of struggled again this week with the Friday Fictioneers photo prompt. However, a theme I often play around with is the idea that, if future humans are augmented with electronic devices and implants, there will likely be associated malware, viruses, and illicit “drugs.” I put “drugs” in quotation marks because I’m not referring to conventional organic molecules here: I’m referring to electronic scripts that alter your perception by modifying the sensory information that gets sent to your brain. Enjoy! :-D
Attica was a strange place in the seventies. Right around 2065, they instituted a new rule. It was kind of a strange rule — an “off the books” kind of rule if you know what I mean. People outside of the prison didn’t know about it, and the warden pretended he didn’t know about it. It didn’t exist in writing anywhere, but it was a real rule that was honored and respected by prisoners and guards alike. That rule was this: Rewards and punishments could be traded between prisoners. If you earned a reward, you could have another prisoner receive it in your place. If another prisoner had punishment due, you could volunteer to take that punishment instead. Of course, none of this was free: Spending a week in solitary for another prisoner was worth a pack of cigarettes. We had a nice economy going with that rule.
Mavis’s leathery cheeks molded themselves into an almost imperceptible smile as she watched, through yellowed eyes, the commotion on the beach. Celebrity debutante Harris Pilton had arrived with her entourage that morning and was busy posing for her photo shoot.
The irony was not lost on Mavis. The older and wiser you get, the less people care what you have to say. Nobody paid much attention to Mavis as she tended the saltwater evaporation ponds. Yet down on the beach, throngs of people hung on every word from an imbecile.
Mavis didn’t mind: It was the way of things.
My contribution to this week’s Friday Fictioneers. Probably not my best. I looked at the photo this week and really drew a blank. :-(
In case anyone has missed it, a Colombian Women’s Cycling Team has been shaking up Europe this week. Apparently that flesh-colored midsection in the photo is actually “gold”. Amusingly, the lighting for this photo casts just a touch of shadow in the right place to suggest bush.
Right about now, I feel compelled to put on my best Borat impersonation and say “Very Nice!”
I noticed an advertisement on Facebook today for a “Down With Big Brother” t-shirt. Oh, the fucking irony! Somewhere along the way, I listed George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four as one of my favorite books in my Facebook profile. Facebook’s algorithms will have fed on that profile and are actively trying to sell me shit they think I want to buy. This is the kind of thing that really makes me want to craft an aluminum foil hat.
Things like freedom, privacy, oppression … they used to mean something. They used to be ideas. They used to be things. How did it come to pass that such things have been commoditized and are now nothing more than click-bait bullshit advertisements begging to be “liked” by the sheeple?
On the one hand, if you’re interested in writing dystopian science fiction, our present society offers plenty of inspiration. On the other hand, it no longer seems to be fiction. :-(
At any given moment in history, the President of the United States might be a democrat or republican. The President might be liberal or conservative, male or female, black or white, gay or straight. Yet despite all of the possible permutations of the Presidency that one might imagine, it remains the case that the President neither drives a Batmobile nor shoots spider silk out of his ass.
During his or her four to eight years in office, the President will either get blamed or take credit for everything that happens on his (or her) watch. Yet the President is responsible for neither stock market booms and busts nor high or low employment. How relevant is the US President? You know that old song by Stealers Wheel?
Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right,
Here I am — Stuck in the middle with you.
Basically, it doesn’t matter. Shit happens in the world and the President … he’s just sort of there. He’s a mystery person, much like the Pope. He comes out of his box and makes a pronouncement from time to time and then disappears again. We all take it on faith that he or she actually exists and isn’t just some kind of animatronic puppet, but the truth of the matter is it wouldn’t really make much difference. For all I know, just before the President appears on camera, some guy might be putting a coin in a slot to activate him.
“Yes, my little pelvic affiliate? Num num!”
Candice pointed to the window. “Shh! Cut it out. I thought I saw something moving out there!”
I looked up from Candice’s neck at the window reflected in the bathroom mirror. “Nobody there,” I said. “No pervs out there. Num num!”
“Are you sure? I don’t want the neighbrohood kids watching us, you know … doing the nasty.”
“Ain’t no neighborhood kids, dahlin’,” I said. “Zombies done ate them all months ago.”
“But the zombies then … I don’t think I want them watching either!”
“Zombies ain’t pervs, Candice. They just want to eat your brains. Num num!”
“You have a very strange perspective on things, Martin. You know that, right?”
“I know. Num num!”
This is probably a bit weird. I looked at the photo prompt for this week’s Friday Fictioneers and drew a blank. Doh!
What is wrong with this picture?
This graphic depicts the passage of asteroid 2014 RC past Earth on September 7, 2014. At time of closest approach, the space rock will be about one-tenth the distance from Earth to the moon. Times indicated on the graphic are Universal Time.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
That is the cartoon created by NASA/JPL showing the trajectory of asteroid 2014 RC as it makes its close approach to Earth on September 7, 2014 (i.e. this Sunday). Click the link there to visit NASA’s original news bulletin on the subject. Problem is … it’s wrong.
Asteroid 2014 RC is expected to pass within about 25,000 miles (40,000 km) radial distance from Earth’s center, or about 21,126 miles (34,000 km) from Earth’s surface. Geosynchronous satellites (the green ring in NASA’s cartoon) orbit at a radial distance of 26,000 miles (42,000 km), or about 22,000 miles (36,000 km) above the planet’s surface. In other words, that little line showing the path of the asteroid should be INSIDE the green geosynchronous satellite ring.
I dunno … maybe I”m just being a dick by pointing this out here. But come on man! It’s fucking NASA! Can’t they draw a cartoon right?
Posted in Science
Got a bat-shit crazy idea?
Do you tend to ramble incoherently?
Then you need write a patent! No worries — the US patent office will accept anything, no matter how crazy it is. Case in point: US Patent No. 8,609,158 which is, apparently, a cure for everything. It is a patent for a pharmaceutical drug, or food, or recipe, or lifestyle (it’s really hard to say) that purports to be “so potent that it removes or alleviates” the following problems:
- Mood disorders
- Attention Disorder symptoms
- Thought disorder
- Mental illness
- Right lip retardation symptoms
- Physical problems
- Lymph Node cancer
- Bumps in the neck
- … and many other illness symptoms
PHOTO PROMPT Copyright – Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Doug cradled his coffee cup in his numb fingers as he warmed his weary bones beside the fire. Far to the east, a dome of light illuminated the night sky: The city from which they had fled, where electricity and heat and comfort were plentiful.
A fellow refugee glared at the dome and raised a clenched fist into the air. “Fucking robots.”
“Boys and girls,” said Doug, “the human race needs to fight back. It’s now or never.”
Gaunt faces all around nodded approval in the glow of the campfire. “Aye,” said one. None noticed the drone overhead.
An entry for this weeks Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle. The idea is to write, in 100 words or less, a story based on the week’s photo prompt. Thus far, I’m always over 100 words, although for this weeks entry I think I’m pretty much spot on. I never could keep my crayon inside the damn lines! :-P