Thursday, January 31, 2008
1-31-07, the day Boston authorities freaked out over the ATHF Mooninites ads. They had been hanging for two weeks without people freaking out over Aqua Teen Hunger Force characters outlined in LEDs.
I have a video of a still-hanging Mooninite in a Hyde Park Institution(tm).
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
(NYPD Deputy Commissioner for counter terrorism)Falkenrath would not commit to publishing a list of approved devices or approved device specifications, because he said that list could give terrorists information about what the city is capable of detecting.
Vallone replied that the council normally does not pass bills with such broad language, but that he would defer to the Police Department’s judgment in this case.
So in other words, you need a permit for your detectors, but they won't tell you which detectors you'll need a permit for. Nor could manufacturers build devices to specifications for sale in NYC, because they wouldn't be able to know what those specifications were.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
However, the emergence and commercialization of new and highly sophisticated technology developed for the purpose of detecting weapons of mass destruction brings with it the possibility that the private sector will acquire detection capabilities which were previously used only by properly trained military and law enforcement officials.
I love how science and education had nothing to do with the invention or previous use of this technology. Geiger counters must have sprung from the forehead of the Police Commissioner! They couldn't have been invented in 1911, because the government says they're new.
P.S. No more Cloud Chamber experiments either, because those would detect radiation. Can't alarm the masses.
is reporting that New York City wants to require "licenses" for any detector for nuclear, biological, or chemical detectors. We know how "permitting" devices works in Chicago--they never banned handguns in the city, they simply stopped issuing permits for them.
Is this Mr. Dangerous?
What exactly is so bad for someone to possess a detector? The claim is that the Police Department wants to prevent mass panic. In reality, they want to control information. They want to prevent citizens from making their own judgement and force them to rely on "authorities". Why not make a law to make it a crime to create a false panic? There's probably one already on the books, so we don't even need any more laws to deal with it. How many false panics have we had? What? None?
This as more than an attempt to prevent false panic from misinformed geiger counter owners. I see it as the city declaring that individuals are not allowed to think or do on their own, that they must be informed only by the authorities, that the police always know what's best. That's a bunch of bull.
The bill is so broadly and poorly written as to make illegal chlorine pool testers, geiger counters, and even your own nose. What if I make a radiation detector out of a fluorescent light bulb or LED? Are you going to require permits for those too?
EDIT: Schneier compares it to locked fire alarm boxes that slowed the response to the Great Chicago Fire.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
I'm a sucker for the latest and greatest LEDs. This particular white LED is named "Piranha" by the manufacturer. In the picture I am running it at half-brightness.
Slightly underexposed to highlight the brightness
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
The Messenger spacecraft is now 17 hours away from closest approach to Mercury, the first spacecraft to visit the tiny, dense, and baked interior planet in 30 years. Only about half of Mercury is currently mapped. It only passes by this time; it will flyby twice again, then finally enter orbit in 2011. See an orbital movie here. You might also remember this Earth flyby movie, mentioned almost two years ago here.
Friday, January 11, 2008
In the living room, for example, where there are four recessed lights along one wall, Mr. Chipman tested six dimmable bulbs and determined that one made by Greenlite with the same hue as incandescents worked best in certain spots, attractively lighting an exposed brick wall and maple bookshelves. A Satco brand bulb with a slightly whiter hue made a limestone-tiled fireplace in the middle of the wall look best, so he installed one above it. Mr. Chipman’s wife, Liz Diamond, 53, a theater director who considers herself even more particular about aesthetics than her husband, said investing time in trying multiple bulbs made a big difference. “There was one bulb that made the limestone look really freaky, ugly and moldy,” she said, but the Satco bulb now in place makes the space look “fabulous.” “I was amazed at how much variation there was, but you can really get a color that you like,” she said. Mr. Chipman agreed. “You really have to experiment with different bulbs to find the ones that work for you,” he said. “But they exist.”
Get the right color for your application. I use GE 6500K daylight bulbs during the day to completely match outside light--you would be hard pressed to figure out if the light from the other room was from a window or the bulb. I also have some old tube "full-spectrum" fluorescents to wake up to in the morning in my bedroom. Again, these have fantastic matching color rendition to daylight.
For nighttime, it's best to limit your exposure to blue light, as it disrupts the production of melatonin and hence your sleepiness. I switch to tungsten matching lights at night as much as possible. For matching incandescents, both the n:vision soft white and GE series match the color. The n:vision lights instantaneously, whereas the the GE takes too long to light (and has other objections below).
Many CF bulbs take a delay to light. This is annoying and a common complaint for many brands of bulbs. I've found that GE's Soft White 20W(75W) has a 1/2 second light time that drives me insane.
In addition, every CF I've ever owned takes time to warm to full brightness. I don't mind a short delay. I've had no problem with the the warm-up time, but in hotels I've seen lights that have taken literally minutes to light up to full brightness.
A lot of people have reported the CFs aren't lasting as long as claimed. I can believe this, especially if they bought by price. The compact fluorescents also are very intolerant of cycling--don't use them in closets and places you don't need the lights on for hours at a time. The lights are also sensitive to overheating--so don't stick them in unventilated fixtures, or recessed ceiling cans, or in general any upside-down fixture.
Now for long life. In 1991 or so I bought a very early CF. It was underpowered--I think it's a 7W. I used it for a few years and then went to college. It's still sitting in my old room at my parent's place, and I use it whenever I visit. Granted, this means it doesn't have many hours on it, but that CF bulb is older than many people I know.
My own specific recommendations are to get N:Vision soft white CFs for general use. I can say they are as close to an incandescent as I've seen in CFs.
I built an awesome "halogen torchiere killer" that I'll describe in another post.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
Wednesday, January 09, 2008
This unfolding story and the present results have been made possible by the tracking efforts of many astronomers at several observatories around the world:
* 2007 WD5 was discovered using the Mt. Lemmon 1.5-meter telescope by Andrea Boattini of the University of Arizona's Catalina Sky Survey, which is led by Steve Larson.
* Follow-up from archival images taken by the 1.8-meter telescope on Kitt Peak in Arizona were provided by Terrence H. Brezzi of the University of Arizona's Spacewatch Project, which is led by Robert McMillan.
* Andy Puckett of the Univ. of Alaska obtained pre-discovery measurements from archival images of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey’s 2.5-meter telescope on Apache Point, NM.
* Bill Ryan of New Mexico Tech's Magdalena Ridge Observatory observed 2007 WD5 on several crucial nights, with critical support from university and observatory staff.
* Observations from the 6.5-meter Multi-Mirror Telescope (MMT) Observatory in Arizona were provided by a team consisting of Holger Israel (Univ. Bonn), Matt Holman (Harvard/CfA), Steve Larson (Univ. Ariz.), Faith Vilas (MMTO), Cesar Fuentes (Harvard/CfA), David Trilling (Univ. Ariz.) and Maureen Conroy (Harvard/CfA).
* The 3.5-meter telescope at the Calar Alto Observatory in Spain provided follow-up through a team consisting of Adriano Campo Bagatin (Univ. Alicante), Gilles Bergond (Calar Alto Obs.), Rene Duffard (Inst. de Astrofisica de Andalucia), Jose Luis Ortiz (Inst. de Astrofisica de Andalucia), Reiner Stoss (Obs. Astronomico de Mallorca and Astronomisches Rechen-Institut) and Javier Licandro (Inst. de Astrofisica de Canarias).
* Fabrizio Bernardi, Marco Micheli and Dave Tholen of the Univ. of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy observed the asteroid at its faintest using the 2.2-meter UH telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008
Meet the craziest of the wacky, the weird moons of Saturn's panoply: Atlas and Pan.
In the December 7th 2007 issue of Science Sébastien Charnoz, André Brahic, Peter C. Thomas, and Carolyn C. Porco argue the equatorial ridges on these moons are a result of post-formation dumping. Pan sits in the Encke Gap in the A ring. Atlas is just outside the A ring. And it makes sense, too. They are in the outer regions of the ring system, the ridges are aligned with the Saturn ring plane, and that the kinematics would allow particles to preferentially land on the equators of these moons, plus the fact that they don't rapidly rotate (to dismiss a "frozen" rapid rotator), you can easily see this is an easy case.
Indeed, if you look at the Atlas image you can see how the central sphere is a rocky body, and the equatorial ridge is smooth, as if made of dusty particles.
One question not addressed in the paper is if Iapetus' equatorial ridge is similar in origin--others have attempted to use rapid rotation to explain that one, and it doesn't sit well when other satellites in the same system have ring-based ridges.
All of these images break my brain from the multiple viewing geometries.
Sunday, January 06, 2008
Friday, January 04, 2008
It's cool, and more in tune with more modern searching techniques than the old catalog. I hope it encourages students and researchers to use the catalog more frequently.
The new catalog is called Lens, and you can see it in beta here. My involvement with the project is that I am the system administrator on the machine behind the URL. It's running on a very nice Sun Fire v40z running Windows 2003 Server 64-bit on eight-cores, with 16GB of RAM. We also added more disk space to it by setting up a SAN and connecting via Fibre Channel. All these things are like new toys to sysadmins like me.
The software itself is an application from a Dutch company called Medialab. They've been selling this software to lots and lots of libraries over the past few years, and now they're starting to sell it to big academic libraries, like us. We're not the first academic to use it; Oklahoma State has it up and running. But we do have a very large collection--some 5.3 million "things" come up when I ask Lens what we have (there are a lot more items in the library physically, since the catalog wouldn't count individual serials and such. Plus don't get me started about uncataloged items).
On the left side of the new catalog is a Flash* app that finds some associations with search terms you've entered. I thought this was flashy, no pun intended, and pointless, until I began discovering interesting items in our collection I never knew existed. This ranged from UC dissertations to non-technical books that I've got lined up to read (one never runs out of reading material). Once I find something interesting, I dump the record into our site-licensed Refworks for later retrieval.
Instead of scrolling through a long list of items, you can narrow your search by using the right-hand column to refine by a variety of methods like format, how old the item is, or by other means. You can also refine by the classification (aka the call number range) of the book: I'm usually quickly cutting off the chaff by refining by selecting Q (Science), for instance.
We also bought additional content to stick into the new catalog--things like book covers and album art are de rigeur in Amazon, and it can grab your interest or make known items quick to find in a list. We also bought audio CD song title listings, the table of contents of many books, and some summaries of books.
A neat little tool available is you can subscribe to an RSS feed for specific searches, so if something new comes along, you can discover it automatically. (Like say the acquisition or new publication of a particular author or subject). This RSS feed will give you new items of Bill Bryson, for example.
There are some issues with it. It indexes the Library's web site, but the results are messy and voluminous. If you search for a specific author, often anthologies or chapters in a book come up before titles actually fully authored by them. The "relevancy" or ranking of an item, especially when you are searching for authors, is currently in flux and for the moment they put a lot of extra author refinements in to compensate until the main rankings are improved. For instance, if you search for science fiction author James Blish, it will bring up anthologies of science fiction he has stories in first, and then some non-related items that have the word "establish" in them, before titles written by him. A simple author refine on the right side gets rid of that, but it won't be there once the relevancy engine gets tuned.
At some point in the near future, we might enable social tagging on the catalog, like LibraryThing, so people can enter their own tags to help sort the catalog, offer reviews, raves, and criticisms of items, and such. It's still up in the air.
*If you don't have Flash, I made sure that the developers included a simple text version of the word cloud. And, if the thing annoys you truly, and you don't wish to discover items you may not have thought about to look at, you can turn it off too.
Thursday, January 03, 2008
NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute -- click to enlarge
Mimas is an old and quite battered moon. You know, the one that's 'That's No Moon', right? What's neat is that it's surface is ancient: you can date how old a surface is in the solar system by measuring the crater density. Such an old icy surface has been darkened to an albedo of 0.50 (50% reflectivity). And it compares so dramatically against the next moon out, Encedalus, which has fewer craters and is the brightest surface in the solar system: an albedo of 0.99 (99% of light reflects back from it).
The Cassini spacecraft peers through the fine, smoke-sized ice particles of Saturn's F ring toward the cratered face of Mimas. The F ring's core, which contains significantly larger particles, is dense enough to completely block the light from Mimas.
The image was taken in visible light with the Cassini spacecraft narrow-angle camera on Nov. 18, 2007. The view was acquired at a distance of approximately 772,000 kilometers from Mimas
This one is nice.
But this one is in color!
Via Planetary Society Blog, a Cassini image that will likely be a future Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Happy Public Domain Day!
We need serious copyright reform. What is the value of most of the works older than say fifty years?
Data that should be free, since it's governmentally produced and therefore in the public domain already:
Invaluable US government docs to be scanned and posted
Making a Brouhaha in the Blogosphere -- Peter Brantley
1.8 million pages of US federal case law to go online for free
Carl Malamud Takes on WestLaw
See an amazing amount of rescued video and data at: The Internet Archive
Libraries or Pirate Places?
TSA to punish fliers for facecrime a la New screening technology might detect terrorists before they act
The TSA and DIY culture clash I used to naively think as long as it passed the swab test, the TSA would professionally act accordingly and let it through, as it couldn't possibly be explosive. It seems that any exercise of your rights means immediate retaliation. The days of me refusing to let screeners and the Secret Service take photos through my cameras is probably over.
Watching FISA fizzle
Chris Dodd's actions on the telecom immunity provisions made me reconsider who I'm voting for in the primaries. More here.
DEA War on Plants
98% of all "seized marijuana plants" is wild hemp with no active drug content.
Another Man Arrested For Using Free Cafe WiFi
Ethicist Says Nothing Wrong With Using Free WiFi
When your operating system automatically connects and uses an open wifi system, how the hell can anyone claim that's illegal? Close your systems if you don't want people to use them off-site. This nonsense is why we don't currently have a ubiquitous and free wifi in dense cities.
My own philosophy comes from the old days of radio, where any radio wave entering your home or your personal space was fair game to receive and listen to. Telecom interests lobbied and paid campaigns well to get the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, which suddenly made certain wavelengths illegal to listen to, all because their cordless and cellular phones were poorly designed and completely open to listening.
Australian DRM from 1923 - dumb radio idea that refuses to die
The Schneier section.
Bruce Schneier usually gets it right about security and insecurity in the world.
- We're All a Little Nervous in a post-1748 World The stupidity and inanity of prohibiting public photography and "note-taking".
- Buildings You Can't Photograph
This should be entitled "Buildings They Claim You Can't Photograph". Know your rights: The Photographer’s Right
- Essay on Fear
- I have nothing to hide, why should I care if the government looks at it?
Why this argument is fallacious.
- Security Theater Imagine the cost of all the security, all the waiting in security queues, all the overreactions. What does that cost us economically?
- U.S. Government Threatens Retaliation Against States who Reject REAL ID
- Interview with National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell
- The War on the Unexpected
Papers Please: Arrested at Circuit City for refusing to show ID, receipt
Remember that you are never required to show a receipt to leave a store. I never do, and it saves me much time on leaving busy stores like Fry's.
A members-only store may issue such rules, but common law says when you bought the item, it's yours. Some of the people exercising this right are jerks, but that doesn't excuse the stores and their aggressive rent-a-cops.
Protesters might even nab one with a net -- one of many reasons why Ehrhard, the former Air Force colonel, and other experts said they doubted that the hovering bugs spotted in Washington were spies.
So what was seen by Crane, Alarcon and a handful of others at the D.C. march -- and as far back as 2004, during the Republican National Convention in New York, when one observant but perhaps paranoid peace-march participant described on the Web "a jet-black dragonfly hovering about 10 feet off the ground, precisely in the middle of 7th avenue . . . watching us"?
They probably saw dragonflies, said Jerry Louton, an entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History. Washington is home to some large, spectacularly adorned dragonflies that "can knock your socks off," he said.
At the same time, he added, some details do not make sense. Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies -- an accoutrement that Louton could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison.
"Dragonflies never fly in a pack," he said.
Paranoia from activists or real? I'd really like to know--this is tantalizingly straddling the border between the kooks and real technologies. I don't trust either sides' judgement or statements on this.
California Police Camera Surveillance Increasing
The only solution now that public surveillance is out of the bag is to require the government to open up all the video and use of the system to the public. ,
Video of Man Tasered to Death
Incredibly uncomfortable, so much so I haven't watched it. Tasering is torture and our society uses them way too much. Overescalation is epidemic.
Your color laser printer has been compromised and is leaking data.