athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
Posted for future reference:

The Key to Quantum Gravity May Lie in the Æther.




Expect the TIMECUBE crazies and the anti-science types who think that the Big Bang is part of "Darwinism" to jump all over this, shrieking, "See? Einstein was wrong!" and insulting the intelligence of everyone who doesn't immediately see that this proves their own particular brand of blather.
athelind: (Default)

Yet Another Power Failure Knocks Out The Large Hadron Collider!



This makes me a little nervous; I'd joked earlier that the last few LHC glitches coincided with the escalating assaults on my late, lamented Grape.

I have a NEW car now, dagnabbit!


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
This is making the rounds of my Friends List; for those who haven't seen it yet, it's my turn to share.







I always said that Unca Carl was a poet.


athelind: (Eye of the Sky God)
From a significant fraction of my f-list, including [livejournal.com profile] the_gneech, [livejournal.com profile] pyat, and [livejournal.com profile] leonard_arlotte:

  • If you like, post this meme and your current wallpaper.
  • Explain in no more than five sentences why you're using that wallpaper!
  • Don't change your wallpaper before doing this! The point is to see what you had on!




This is an image from NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day site, which I read every evening.

I regret to say that I can't remember just what this image is. I know that it's a false-color image of... something. I do remember that I chose it because a) it's wide enough to extend across two wide-screen monitors (which I am not currently using), and b) because it's orange and purple, and vaguely, sinuously dragon-like in the way that clouds and fractals can be.


(If anyone recognizes this image, or has better search-fu on APOD than Your Obedient Serpent, please let me know and put a link to the appropriate APOD page in the comments!)
athelind: (Default)
[Error: unknown template qotd]

Oh, this one's easy; it's already part of my Lottery List.

I'd either set up science scholarships, or dump it all into one fusion project or another.

Probably not the Atmospheric Vortex Engine, though.

athelind: (Default)
It was a Wednesday. I was 5.

This was the fourth time I'd watched one of those impossibly immense Saturn Vs lift off from Cape Kennedy. My mother insisted on watching every televised moment she could of those flights, and I was right there beside her, as much as I could. During 9 and 10, the school was dutifully notified that I was staying home, sick; I suspect that "Moon Flu" was a common strain in 1969.

I remember -- or I think I remember -- Walter Cronkite's deep, reassuring voice; I've heard it so many times since that I can't really be sure if I remember it from the broadcast, or from the LP record that CBS released and I played regularly through the '70s. I do remember, vividly, the NASA animations that played over his descriptions of the various stages of the launch and the space flight, precise and technically detailed cut-outs that would nonetheless seem crude by today's standards.

I remember the official NASA release images my father, a newspaperman, brought home, the flimsy thermal paper just off the facsimile machine, already browning. Somewhere, I may still have a notebook full of them, mostly from Apollo 13's ill-fated flight; they were in my possession as recently as my days at Cal State Monterey Bay.

I remember the excitement, the tension. I knew, even at the age of 5, that I was witnessing the single most important event of the century, the single most important event of human history.

Forty years ago today, three men leapt off the edge of the world into the Black.

I was watching.

athelind: (Default)
A couple of years back, I made a few posts about Louis Michard's Atmospheric Vortex Engine, a plan to use the waste heat from nuclear power plants and other industrial heat sources to produce artificial tornadoes and harness them for energy.

(I'm sorry. That's just so over-the-top that I can't type it without italics.)

Today, I found an article on Inhabitat from about the same time period. It's the only one that points out the possible flaw in this system that pushes it into True Mad Science territory:

A 200-meter wide tornado might just have enough power to start absorbing heat from the surrounding area all by itself (something which would be a problem if one is hoping to keep it contained, as once the tornado achieves enough energy, there would be very little to stop it from escaping, so says Nilton Renno a professor at the department of atmospheric, ocean and spaces sciences at the University of Michigan).


And remember, the optimal place for an AVE is right next to a nuclear reactor.

Wheeeeeeee!

The hallmark of the best mad science is when making a disaster movie about it becomes redundant, because the whole thing plays out in everyone's mind as soon as they hear about it:

Dr. Renno: "You've got to stop this project! My calculations indicate that the vortex could become self-sustaining and break free of its confinement!"

Dr. Michard: "Nonsense! You're just one man flying in the face of progress! Increase the power!!"

(Indicator lights rise on the status board. Howling winds increase outside. The technicians spout technobabble. And then... red lights flash and klaxons sound.)


athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] quelonzia and I just watched the first 45 minutes of Dollhouse.

We didn't bother with the last 15.

The MacGuffin for the pilot episode was a hostage negotiation. If they'd done the same "engagement" on Burn Notice or Leverage, there would have been a lot less twiddling, and a lot more Smart People Doing Smart Things, quite possibly punctuated by explosions. Even a fairly mundane police procedural like Law & Order would have mustered more tension.

Sure, this was a pilot, and had to spend some time to establish the premise -- but My Own Worst Enemy hit the ground running in its opener, while presenting an equally-complex, somewhat less "arty" premise in a way that should be the textbook chapter of "show, don't tell".

Our combined assessment: Joss is too in love with his Brilliant Idea to actually tell a story with it.

I, on the other claw, have been "meh" about that premise since I first heard about it months ago.

I keep thinking that maybe I'm just disappointed because it was so hyped up, and didn't measure up to the hype -- but, frankly, if Joss Whedon's name hadn't been attached to it, I wouldn't have bothered to tune in in the first place.

And now I won't.


Oh, and I'm sorry if I was too busy being bored to notice if Dollhouse was "sexist".
By the way, you can watch all 9 episodes of My Own Worst Enemy at NBC's web site. Ding DING ding.

athelind: (Default)
Based on empirical evidence, it seems that 355 ml of Guinness Extra Stout is a better cough suppressant than the combination of 10 mg Dextromethophan Hydrobromide and 200 mg Benzonatate (generic for "Tessalon").

Further research is required.


On a related note, has anyone else ever noticed that many pharmaceutical names sound like characters from fantasy or science fiction? Didn't the 6th Doctor fight the "Lovaza" on the planet "Tessalon"? Wasn't "Fioranol" the cousin of Legolas?
athelind: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] araquan pointed out this 2003 article in Nature that I hadn't seen before.

I'm bookmarking it for discussion and future reference, since (as my last post should suggest) I am in no condition to peruse a lengthy formal paper at the moment.

The opening of the abstract immediately intrigues me, however (and not just because I've been reading too much Gamma World material):

An evolutionary capacitor buffers genotypic variation under normal conditions, thereby promoting the accumulation of hidden polymorphism. But it occasionally fails, thereby revealing this variation phenotypically.


If I'm interpreting this correctly, this suggests a physical mechanism for punctuated equilibrium, as well as suggesting how the usual wisdom that "random mutations should be automatically lethal 99% of the time".

I don't know how the biochemists and geneticists in the audience will react to this, but as a systems scientist, it makes perfect sense to me. Complex systems often develop regulator mechanisms as an emergent behavior.


athelind: (Default)




Forty years ago, I was bundled in front of the television, the excitement of Christmas almost forgotten as I watched the grainy footage being transmitted from more than two hundred thousand miles away -- the farthest any human being had ever been from our world.

Though only three men were there to see that Earthrise with human eyes, on that Christmas Eve so long ago, all of us, every one, touched the sky.

Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, raise a toast this e'en to Apollo 8 and her crew, Borman, Lovell and Anders.

To boldly go.


athelind: (Default)
(Alas, this poor post, wonderful as it is, will forever be forgotten, overwhelmed by the events immediately following it.)





The Earth and Moon -- as seen from Mars.



Out ride the sons of Terra,
Far drives the thundering jet,
Up leaps the race of Earthmen,
Out, far, and onward yet...



athelind: (Default)
My daily perusal of BoingBoing exposes me to a wide range of "wonderful things" -- and, occasionally, the horrific as well. On a rare occasion, something I find there will drive me to delight and elation -- and others, to tears of indignant outrage.

This is not an example of the former.

This evening, the monotone maw of Ben Stein, star of stage, screen, and Nixon speechwriting, graced us with the following:

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.


Mr. Stein, I will not attempt a rebuttal. I have no need to do so. Thirty-five years ago, Jacob Bronowski said everything that need be said in his magnum opus, The Ascent of Man, in a scene filmed on the site of those very atrocities you evoke so wryly, as the ashy remains of his own family members and yours flowed through his fingers:


It is said that science will dehumanise people and turn them into numbers. This is false, tragically false. Look for yourself. This is the concentration camp and crematorium at Auschwitz. This is where people were turned into numbers. Into this pond were flushed the ashed of some four million people. And that was not done by gas. It was done by arrogance. It was done by dogma. It was done by ignorance. When people believe that they have absolute knowledge, with no test in reality, this is how they behave. This is what men do when they aspire to the knowledge of gods.

Science is a very human form of knowledge. We are always at the brink of the known, we always feel forward for what is to be hoped. Every judgment in science stands on the edge of error, and is personal. Science is a tribute to what we can know although we are fallible. In the end the words were said by Oliver Cromwell: 'I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.'

I owe it as a scientist to my friend Leo Szilard, I owe it as a human being to the many members of my family who died at Auschwitz, to stand here by the pond as a survivor and a witness. We have to cure ourselves of the itch for absolute knowledge and power. We have to close the distance between the push-button order and the human act. We have to touch people.


Which of us, Mr. Stein, claims to know the Mind of God?
athelind: (Default)

Nanomaterial turns radiation directly into electricity - tech - 27 March 2008 - New Scientist Tech



Can we get a "whoa"?

Combine this with the nantenna, and it's looking like nanotech is going to bring about dramatic transformations in energy production and distribution.
athelind: (Default)
I don't often talk about religious, metaphysical or philosophical matters. My contemplations in these arenas are elusive things, and words are a poor and coarse net in which to attempt to snare them.

On rare occasion, however, I encounter something that drives me, however briefly, to attempt to communicate something of my opinions.



There is nothing I consider greater evidence for the existence of a benevolent divinity than a reminder of just how amazingly, elegantly miraculous the laws of nature that govern existence are.

I understand neither the fundamentalist religionists, nor the fundamentalist atheists; the more I learn about the world, the more deeply I understand the principles that govern it, the more keenly aware I become of the Divine.

How is a Supernatural Entity assembling each individual creature in a static, unchanging world more inspiring or miraculous than a cosmos where such things spontaneously arise from the very nature of information itself?

How can you not see the Hand of God in evolution, when He has granted us the privilege of watching his fingers mold the clay of reality itself?

Emergence reflects Immanence.
athelind: (Default)
Follow-Up to the Tornado Master post of 23 July 2007:

Louis Michard has his own website, where he explains the Vortex Engine without all the fluff of the new article.

Found at FUTURISMIC.
athelind: (Default)
I pointed the Vortex Engine out to Technovelgy.com, a blog that looks at ideas and inventions from science fiction that come true in today's world. They very kindly looked up the reference from The Space Merchants, along with additional material on the Vortex Engine specs that weren't in the original article.

Link here: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1134

(I wonder if you could use a Vortex Engine to create the wind pressure you'd need to run a terraforming-level Hirsch Tube?)

I should also give credit to where I originally found the article: The usually-comics-related blog of Ami Angelwings.
athelind: (Default)
Tornado Master!

Ontario Louis Michard proposes using the waste heat from a conventional power plant to create a tamed tornado, and generating far more power using turbines that tap into the vortex's energy.

On the longer term, he proposes setting up vortex engines in the warm seas around the equator, providing not only a ready-made, inexhaustable source of heat to sustain the vortices, but also taking the waste heat building up from greenhouse impacts and channeling it into the upper atmosphere to cool off the whole damned planet.

I remember that Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth used a very similar process to both generate energy and vent massive amounts of heat to terraform Venus in The Space Merchants and The Merchant's War.

This is so utterly over the top, and fraught with so many delightfully cinematic ways to go horribly, horribly wrong, and yet it's packed full of SO CRAZY IT JUST MIGHT WORK goodness.

But, seriously, atomic-powered tormandos? Calling Doctor Neil "Storm" Cloud!
athelind: (Default)
20 July 1969

We Came in Peace For All Mankind. )

March 2010

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