Tag Archives: gravity

Dark is the night

There were a couple of interesting things that made it in my reading list, this week:

  • Obviously, you may have heard of the official launch of Ubuntu ‘Hardy Heron’ (or if you’re into version numbering, version 8.04). There’s lots of praise for Ubuntu around the Internet. The issues I’ve been dealing with were the sound issues as mentioned in earlier posts. Is Ubuntu ready to take on Windows? Not yet, but, I don’t think that’s the point of it: However, without a doubt, Ubuntu (and generally any Linux flavour) breathes new life in your older hardware1, 2.
  • Via Metafilter, I found a whole set of Hubble photos dedictated to galactic collisions. The photos are available in different sizes3
  • The same Metafilter has a link to HP’s RPN calculators. I had one of those too: they actually work OK, although, yes, you need to get used to it. Earlier this week, I was a kind surprised to find that Gnome’s calculator doesn’t have an option to set it to an RPN-mode.
  • InformIT has an interview with Donald Knuth. Knuth apparently uses Ubuntu.
  • So, the OLPC (the one laptop per child project) is steering towards making a deal with Microsoft, possibly hinting at dropping Linux for a Windows XP-based platform.

What else?

1 I must admit that I think FireFox 2.0 should have been part of the 8.04 release: the current FireFox 3.0 has definitely some “irregularity” issues.

2 The popularity of Ubuntu apparently is causing slowdowns at the Ubuntu repositories.

3 Related (a whole set of interacting galaxies at NASA, all in one picture)

Words to watch for

TheA Synchrotron words (or rather terms) to watch for in the next coming years are:

  • Gravitational Lensing: I’ve mentioned this topic before, and trust me, it’s the most discussed topic in my neighbourhood. Better yet, every morning, I wake up to the tune of the Gravitational Lensing-nettes. On the serious side, gravity appears to be one of the most successful methods to detect exoplanets: Just recently, astronomers found the first ever mirror solar system using this technique.
  • Synchrotron: The first time I read about this machine was on April the first and that, sir, is no joke (Slashdot thread). Actually, I’ve been planning to build one of those things in my backyard (what backyard, muhahaha), but like all things “cirque scientifique”1, these things just take time to build. That being said: A synchrotron is literally a particle accelerator that (in the end) produces high-intensity X-rays. I mention this word here, because, just today, thanks to the synchrotron, we’ve finally found the very first snake with legs.

In any case, if you were thinking about starting a barbershop quartet or something, I hear that the name “The Synchrotronnettes” is still available. That is, if you can actually pronounce it flawlessly.

1 If I think of ‘cirque scientifique’, I keep thinking of this video, “Breaking Down Science”, brought to you by the Everett Dance Theatre.

A disturbance in the force

Via Metafilter (thread), I found out that Yo La Tengo’s “Murdering The Classics” session is happening today. WMFU will have a livestream, starting at 5PM EST (pls/MP3). If you need a different output stream, the WMFU blog has other types of formats, including RealAudio and Windows Media [Note: below a sample of the session].

Slashdot (and other news sites) reported that the American Institute of Physics released a study that shows that other spacecraft have experienced velocity anomalies, much like the ones detected by the Pioneer 10. The comments over at Slashdot are hilarious:

I’m sorry officer; I was experiencing a velocity anomaly.

That’s too bad, son, I’m still writing you a ticket. From now on keep it under 299,792,458 meters per second. The law is the law!

I’m not sure why I would bring it up here but the big news yesterday was about that Belgian lady who wrote up a book about her experiences during the Second World War: the book was even made into a movie. It was all fake (she isn’t even Jewish) and she explains her motives:

“This story is mine. It is not actually reality, but my reality, my way of surviving”

Wikipedia has a good background story about the hoax, which includes several references to the original publisher Jane Daniel (blog), who apparently suspected her story to be a fake.

Update 1: Good stuff: though, Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo is apparently missing today. I’ll try to get a small sample up tonight.

Update 2: It looks like the 128 KBS streams are ‘full’. I was kicked out a couple of times but was able to connect back within seconds.

Update 3: And as promised a soundbite from the session “Yo La Tengo is murdering the classics” – Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ (30+ second sample).

Update 4: WMFU has more: a video of YLT’s (hilarious) ‘The Passenger’, which indeed ended up with lyrics about Jack Nicholson.

Aliens uh?

If you’re bored and feel for a challenge this weekend: I watched a couple of videos online that were interesting enought to share.

‘Alien Planet’ (1h:30m) is a documentary about an imaginative human mission to an inhabited planet (“Darwin IV”) 40 or some lightyears away. I added this video in my ‘recent links’ section last night but I thought it was worth mentioning here as well. The documentary is cheesy but interesting, particularly because of the great animation (done by a Montreal-based animation shop). I thought that the scientific explanations of other lifeforms (or the attempts thereof) were awkward. Also, what the hell makes George Lucas an expert. See also IMDB’s entry on this documentary.

There was a buzz around the January 30th ‘God Debate’ between Chris Hitchens and rabbi Shmuley Boteach. The host of that debate has put the full video online which can be watched at the 92Y site. It’s a long video too: one and a half hour, I believe.

And once again, I would like to remind you of that other video I posted in another entry, which is the one about gravity: ‘What on Earth is wrong with gravity’. While I’m not a fan of the way how Horizon presents these kind of heavy topics, in this case they do an excellent job in trying to explain what gravity is about, in exactly 1h:30m too.

Moo (and other stuff)

Earlier today, the WordPress developers released a fix for a security issue in the xml-rpc code. There’s no need to completely upgrade your installation: upgrading overhere is sort of painless and that’s not because of the fact that my host provides automatic upgrades. Bored as I ever am, I finished up a couple of update shell scripts, which, if I have time, I could poke online one of these days. This is actually so basic, that, well, maybe you just should stick to your command-line typing skills. If your host allows you to use wget via SSH, consider yourself extremely lucky.

Other stuff: over here, milk is getting a couple of cents more expensive a liter (70 cents 5 cents1 I believe, which is more than a couple). I’m not sure why I mention it here but maybe this is related to my hunt for moo-cows (I mean, my Internet hunt for the origins of the word moo-cow). I think I’ve mentioned ‘super cow powers’ before, haven’t I?

There were a couple of things that attracted my attention the last (couple of) days: First, I found this neat 3D animation of the replication mechanism of HIV (YouTube). And related to that, LiveScience reports that soundwaves can be used to attack (any) virus:

Normal cells should not be affected by the virus-killing lasers or sound waves because they have resonant frequencies much lower than those of viruses. Moreover, it is unlikely that viruses will develop resistance to mechanical shaking, as they do to drugs.

And last but not least is this Horizon episode (BBC/Video at Google): What on Earth is wrong with gravity? The documentary goes into details about the missing links between Newton’s (mechanical) laws and Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

1 I’m a bit confused here too: but I think the correct amount was actually 5 cents.

In science today…

I readSo many lights ago… that astronomers have read detected light from the earliest stars in the galaxy. To be exact: Light that shone 13 Billion years ago. The astronomers used a technique called ‘gravitational lensing’ (using gravity of nearby objects to magnify the light from distant objects) to zoom in on 6 galaxies.

The BBC article has some amazing photos of those galaxies. However, the picture above shows and tells the complex story of galaxies that are far away: in a historical sense, or say, past tense. I find this fascinating and I’m not sure why I do. Earlier, I mentioned Eta Carinae: the 7,500 light year away star is about to ‘super nova anytime’ in the past (Or as the Register so appropriately says ‘New Pics of an Old explosion’1).

Related: Astronomers detect water (vapour) on exo-planet

1 This could be a great name for a movie…