Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

(Click here for posts on geophysics and the energy industry.)


Robert X. Cringely: I Told You So. Alas, a Couple of Bob's Dire Predictions Have Come True.

"Palladium is the code name for a Microsoft project to make all Internet communication safer by essentially pasting a digital certificate on every application, message, byte, and machine on the Net, then encrypting the data EVEN INSIDE YOUR COMPUTER PROCESSOR.... Under Palladium as I understand it, the Internet goes from being ours to being theirs. The very data on your hard drive ceases to be yours because it could self-destruct at any time. We'll end up paying rent to use our own data!"

> I linked to Cringely's earlier story on TCP/MS last August.


Science News: Rain Forest Primeval? Colorado fossils show unexpected diversity.

"The size, shape, and riotous variety of fossil leaves unearthed at a site in central Colorado suggest that the region may have been covered, some 64 million years ago, with one of the world's first tropical rain forests."


UPI: Giant nuke may run Earth's magnetic field.

"New data analyzed by J. Marvin Herndon, geoscientist and president of Transdyne Corporation, of San Diego, Calif., and Daniel F. Hollenback, a nuclear engineer and criticality expert at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tenn., show the reactor -- a ball of uranium about five miles in diameter and located at the center of the core -- may have been operating nearly since the formation of the planet."

> I thought this was pretty interesting, but aside from this UPI article, it hasn't gotten any press. Why? It doesn't sound like a totally crackpot idea -- they actually try to provide some physical evidence in the form of natural H3 to H4 ratios. The popular science press is happy to write up every crazy new speculation about black holes and alternate universes, so why not natural fission reactors in the Earth's core?

> Although "only 65 percent of all the uranium on Earth" seems like a ridiculously high number.

[This entry on Green Gabbro has some good observations.]

> BTW, the topic of natural nuclear reactors is sort of interesting --

Curtin University: Oklo Fossil Reactors.

"The reactor zones themselves were centimetre to metre thick layers of highly enriched U, buried within the U ore."


Scientific American: Human Demand Exceeds Earth's Sustainable Supply.

"When the researchers compared supply and demand, they found that in 1999 ... humanity consumed 120 percent of the earth's sustainable -- or consistently replenishable -- resource capacity.... In 1961 the world used 70 percent of its sustainable productivity; since the 1980s it has consistently exceeded it."


BTW, today was my mother's 79th birthday.

Just typing that sentence gave me vertigo.


The Peculiar Art of Mr. Frahm: a study of the effects of celery on loose elastic.

"It is unfair to judge Art Frahm by these illustrations. He did many that were much, much worse. (And better, too.) But the falling-panty theme is a staple of his work."



Sky and Telescope: A Close Asteroid Flyby.

"This is only the sixth known asteroid to penetrate the Moon's orbit, and by far the biggest.... A disturbing detail is that 2002 MN was discovered three days after its closest approach."

Scientific American: 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense. Opponents of evolution want to make a place for creationism by tearing down real science, but their arguments don't hold up.

"Embarrassingly, in the 21st century, in the most scientifically advanced nation the world has ever known, creationists can still persuade politicians, judges and ordinary citizens that evolution is a flawed, poorly supported fantasy." ...

"... when scientists talk about the theory of evolution ... they are not expressing reservations about its truth. In addition to the theory of evolution, meaning the idea of descent with modification, one may also speak of the fact of evolution.... The fossil record and abundant other evidence testify that organisms have evolved through time. Although no one observed those transformations, the indirect evidence is clear, unambiguous and compelling."

Reuters: Report Names `Sweatiest' U.S. City.

"On a typical summer day, San Antonio residents lose more than 1 liter of perspiration per hour during exercise such as walking, the announcement said."


CNN: Summer solstice heats up solar mystery.

"Solar activity has picked up around the June solstice in recent years, meaning that the sun is more likely to release energy bursts that, if directed our way, can disturb electrical systems on the ground and in orbit, NASA researchers said."

> Huh? Why would the sun give a rat's ass where the Earth is in its orbit or which way the Northern Hemisphere is pointing?

> (And why do we capitalize the names of all the planets, but not the sun?)


WSJ (subscription): Commutes Haven't Changed Since Days of Roman Empire.

"Commuting, you see, has its own theory of relativity, postulated by U.S. Department of Transportation scholar Yacov Zahavi many years ago. He argued that people in every society in every era budget roughly the same amount of time for daily travel -- about half an hour one-way -- to accomplish routine tasks."

Associated Press: As suicide bomber strikes Israel, leaders of Hamas, Hezbollah meet with Lebanese officials and praise attacks.

Associated Press: Palestinian Bomber Left Suicide Note.

> This suicide bombing stuff is nuts. How can you make peace with someone when their objective is to commit suicide while killing you? Mutually assured destruction isn't a deterrent -- it's their goal!

> I still believe Israel needs to change its tack and focus its efforts on soothing the Palestinian middle-class -- or what passes for middle-class -- and undercut support for this kind of insanity. But I have to admit that it's probably hopeless.


Science News: Presto, Change-O! Extraterrestrial impacts transform Earth's surface in an instant.

"So far, scientists have identified fewer than 200 impact craters on our planet. However, one look at the pockmarked moon -- which shares Earth's orbit around the sun -- suggests that many of our planet's scars have faded or remain hidden."

Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics.

"Ever notice how cars in movies always burst into flames the instant they collide with anything? ... Thank heavens it's not so easy or people would be regularly blowing themselves up while refilling their gas tanks."

> Movie reviews are at the bottom of the page.


As I was getting ready to leave work on Thursday evening, I found a large tarantula near the office building. I've never seen a wild tarantula before, but they are indigenous to the area from California to Louisiana. I scooped him into a box, took him home and showed him to my kids. (I'm pretty sure it was a male.) Then I released him in the woods behind my house.

Later that night when I turned down my bed sheets, I found a toy tarantula on my pillow, courtesy of my wife. Yes, I jumped.

More tarantula links:

The Tarantula's Burrow. (Includes a downloadable calendar.)
Desert USA. (Has a quicktime movie near the bottom.)


Nature: 15 new planets. Hints of solar system like ours spotted.

"... two spacecraft under development - NASA's Kepler and the European Space Agency's Eddington - will hunt for Earth-sized planets. They may even find them orbiting in the habitable zone around their stars. If alien life is similar to ours, these should be the only planets elsewhere in the Universe that can support it."


Scientific American: Fibbing Common in Everyday Conversation.

"The investigators also discovered that women and men seem to tell different sorts of fibs. `Women were more likely to lie to make the person they were talking to feel good, while men lied most often to make themselves look better,' Feldman remarks."

Ryan Hoagland: The new view from my kitchen window.

[via /usr/bin/girl]


Social Issues Research Centre: Guide to Flirting.

"Many flirtatious encounters are of naturally short duration - where it is understood that there are no serious intentions, merely an ego-boosting acknowledgement of mutual attraction. These light-hearted `brief encounters' are part of normal social interaction, and only the pathetic or desperate would imagine that every passing exchange of flirtatious banter is a prelude to matrimony."



Nancy Keates, WSJ (subscription): Turning to the Experts for Sleeping Disorders

"I told [Canyon Ranch's behavioral therapist] about a recurring nightmare, in which a man is chasing me with a knife. (This is a common one, I'm told.) His advice? I should `intervene' in my nightmares -- by practicing a daydream in which I take the knife away from the man and stab him back.

"I have tried this, and it seems to be helping. One night, I actually got the guy."


Houston Chronicle: TNRCC shifts into reverse. Panel shelves 55-mph limit, but don't get in a big hurry.

"If procedure is followed to the letter, including public hearings on the proposal, approval by federal regulators and implementation by state transportation officials, it could be next spring before any changes take effect."

> I haven't noticed any enforcement efforts on the toll roads this week.
> Next day: I take it back, I saw a couple of drivers get tickets this morning.


Time to put the kids down for bed --


[via my brother]

Here are some other [pilfered] videos.


Wall Street Journal (subscription): Lean Times: The Surprising Rise Of Radical, Calorie-Cutting Diet. Could Self Deprivation Be the Secret To a Longer, Albeit Famished, Life?

"The diet, dubbed `calorie restriction' in the clinical parlance of science, would be called severe deprivation in any other lexicon." ...

"Calorie restriction appears to create biochemical changes in the body that have a more-profound effect on lifespan than simply avoiding diseases caused by excess fat. No one knows for sure how it works. It might lower the levels of free radicals, or potentially toxic particles created by the breakdown of food. Other scientists believe it triggers a state of emergency called `survival mode' in which the body eliminates all unnecessary functions to focus only on staying alive."

> It would be nice to live to 120, but not if I have to spend the next 80 years starving.


VH1: One Hit Wonders.

[via Zannah, the digital girl]

Walter Kessinger

Stale Thoughts Archive Walter's Home Page