Sep 02, 2014

XKCD's What If: "Dear Abby for Mad Scientists" in book form

posted by Laura Domela

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If you read the column, you know the drill: strangers on the Internet ask Munroe weird, extreme hypothetical questions, like what would happen if you could throw a baseball at the speed of light, or what it would take to make an astronomically plausible asteroid of the size and density of the one that The Little Prince lives on. Then Munroe -- a former NASA roboticist who trained as a physicist -- answers these questions with a kind of fiendish comprehensiveness, describing the bizarre physics of very small, very large, very fast, very slow, very empty and very dense things in meticulous detail that does nothing to mask his near-satanic glee in the perversity of the universe at its extremes. 

There's no learning like the learning you do when you're laughing. And if the laughter isinspired laughter, laughter at the vastness and strangeness and sheer delight of the universe, then the learning sticks, because it is bonded to an intense emotion. Reading Munroe doing science is that kind of intense experience, that kind of learning. Every one of these short, lucid, illustrated science articles is a lesson about physics that's not only memorable, it's a pleasurable memory, tinged with tingly, delicious terror-at-a-distance for the howling, eschatological dementedness of physics.
via Boing Boing

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Tags : books, physics, comics,    0 comments  
Sep 02, 2014

GM to install distraction-tracking gadgets in 500k cars

posted by Laura Domela

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If you're on the road, there's a good chance that you've fired off at least one text message while behind the wheel. Distracted driving is a perilous activity for all involved, but that hasn't stopped many drivers from updating statuses, responding to snapchats, and other similar activities while behind the wheel. Various "nanny" systems have been proposed that will take action against this, and it seems GM will be the first automaker to mass produce vehicles with such a system in place.
via Slash Gear

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Tags : cell phones, cars, mobile,    0 comments  
Sep 02, 2014

Save the planet by never using Comic Sans

posted by Laura Domela

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via Inhabitat

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Sep 02, 2014

Scientists empirically discover the best cheese for pizza

posted by Larra Morris

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Originally spotted by NPR, a paper appearing in the Journal of Food Science titled "Quantification of Pizza Baking Properties of Different Cheeses, and Their Correlation with Cheese Functionality," aims to answer the century-long culinary quandary and is also the most delicious-sounding scientific study I've ever heard. The study focused specifically on the interplay between cheeses on a pizza once they're baked. In a video, professor Bryony James, who was associated with the study, breaks down the group's methodology behind eventually selecting mozzarella as the undisputed pizza cheese champion.

The study included several options, including cheddar, colby, gruyere, and provolone. Using machine vision, letting the scientists get objective data from imaging rather than subjective data from taste buds, the team discovered that the reason mozzarella works so well is because of its low free oil conten and its overall elasticity, allowing it a chance puff up and blister unlike the competition.
via Gizmodo

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Sep 02, 2014

Office aquarium doubles as a desk divider

posted by Larra Morris

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This was the call center of Freshwater Software, a now defunct company based in Boulder, Colorado. In 2000, the company commissioned this unique office design. The cubicles were not divided by fabric walls, but glass aquariums. The custom desks were built by a local carpenter, then the fish tanks by Jesse Damman, a professional aquarium maker.

Occasionally a fish jumped out of the tank, but workers reported that it was an enjoyable experience. The sounds produced by the tanks provided background noise that was helpful in a call center.
via Neatorama

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Sep 02, 2014

Physicist shows why your WiFi sucks in that one room

posted by Larra Morris

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If WiFi can track a heartbeat through walls, why can't I get internet in my corner bathroom? Jason Cole was trying to figure that out too, but unlike me, he's a PhD student in physics. So he mapped his own apartment and assigned refraction values to the walls (shown above), then applied so-called Hemholtz equations to model the electromagnetic waves. As detailed in his (math-drenched) blog, the best spot for his router was where you'd expect: directly in the center. Since that was out of the question, he was still able to get "tendrils" of internet by placing it in the corner of the apartment. His experiment implies that even in a distant room you could eke some connectivity by judiciously shifting around your laptop. Some of his readers want him to turn into a WiFi mapping web service -- unfortunately, he thinks the idea is "unfeasible" due to the processing time and assumptions made.
via Engadget

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Sep 01, 2014

Memory reformat planned for Opportunity Mars rover

posted by Laura Domela

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An increasing frequency of computer resets on NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity has prompted the rover team to make plans to reformat the rover's flash memory. The resets, including a dozen this month, interfere with the rover's planned science activities, even though recovery from each incident is completed within a day or two.

Flash memory retains data even when power is off. It is the type used for storing photos and songs on smart phones or digital cameras, among many other uses.

Individual cells within a flash memory sector can wear out from repeated use. Reformatting clears the memory while identifying bad cells and flagging them to be avoided.
via Mars Daily

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Image: NASA's Mars rover Opportunity captured this view southward just after completing a 338-foot (103-meter) southward drive, in reverse, on Aug. 10, 2014. The foreground of this view from the rover's Navcam includes the rear portion of the rover's deck. The ground beyond bears wind-blown lines of sand. Image courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Tags : space, Mars,    0 comments  
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