Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

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


For health-related reasons, Dave Winer has quit smoking. For the past six weeks, he's been posting his experiences and observations:

"I think `Wouldn't it be nice to rent a house on the east coast of Florida for the winter and do a lot of body surfing?' My mind thinks: Cigarettes! I issue a correction. `No cigarettes, sorry.'"


Nature: BaBar balances matter-antimatter books. Experimental measurement fits theory of fundamental particle physics.

"The asymmetry between matter and antimatter is the difference between a universe filled with stars, planets and galaxies, and one in which there is nothing but a glow of radiation. When matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate one another in a burst of gamma rays. Had the Big Bang produced them in equal amounts, it would have set the cosmic stage for an orgy of self-destruction."

Scientific American: The Little Spacecraft that Could ... and Did. Decades after their original objectives were completed, Pioneer, Voyager and IMP-8 keep on trucking.

"Where exactly is the edge of the sun's influence? One of the greatest surprises raised by the original Pioneer mission was ... the persistence of the solar wind, the stream of charged particles that radiates from the sun.... [W]ith Pioneer at a distance of 7.5 billion miles, it has yet to escape the long arm of the sun's reach."

Nature: Early bird ate seeds. Gut contents of new-found fossil reveal ancient tastes.

"The heyday of the dinosaurs was a golden age for bird evolution. Archaeopteryx, first reported in 1861, lived 150 million years ago in what is now southern Germany..... Clothed in feathers and with fully developed wings, Archaeopteryx had many primitive, reptilian features, including teeth and claws on its wing fingers."


Marunouchi Underground: too hip for me. In fact, I have no idea what this is.

[via /usr/bin/girl]

A selection of paintings from the Museum of Bad Art.


BBC: Getting inside an earthquake.

"If they get funding, geologists will penetrate the San Andreas Fault four kilometres beneath the Earth's surface and establish a subterranean seismic observatory. A range of seismometers will record the force of earthquake shake, while meters and sensors measure ground deformation and fluid pressure. Some scientists theorise that changes in fluid pressure may trigger earthquake slip."


Houston Chronicle: Four charged in theft of moon rocks. Material from Houston worth $1 million.

"Two men and a woman were arrested in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend as America quietly marked the 33rd anniversary of the first Apollo moon landing. Another woman was arrested in Houston on Monday. Three of the four suspects in the bizarre case were working at Johnson this summer as college interns or co-ops as they pursued careers in space science and engineering."

WSJ (subscription): Tattoo Taboo: In South Carolina You Still Can't Get One, Legally.

"... in the 1960s, after a dirty tattoo parlor in New York's Coney Island was blamed for a hepatitis outbreak, most states banned the practice. Two decades later those prohibitions began to be lifted, and today they remain in only two states -- [in South Carolina] and in Oklahoma."


I think my six-year-old will be interested in this one:

Game Spotter.

"Tracking the best web games."


Houston Chronicle: Woodlands Mall ready for a big step outdoors.

"A pedestrian-oriented, open-air shopping center of upscale retailers and trendy restaurants will be built next door to the air-conditioned retail fortress.... The new-style Main Street centers have smaller stores, usually two-story ones, with varied exteriors.... The shopping center will be connected to the new Woodlands Waterway, a mile-long canal that will be similar to the San Antonio Riverwalk."

Houston Chronicle: 9/11 event ruptures faiths in Woodlands. Disunity for all.

"... residents of The Woodlands must choose between competing 9/11 events: an evangelical commemoration at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion or an all-faiths event at Bear Branch Sports Park."


I just heard a cut on the radio from the new Eminem CD. [Yeah, I know, it's been out for two months. So I'm out of touch.]

Whoa! You know, that rap music -- it might be catching on!

It goes without saying, of course, that the lyrics are completely unsuitable for children and older adults. Or in general, civilized people.

Maybe I'll just stick with Will Smith and Lauryn Hill. Sort of like living in the 1950's and listening to that nice Rick Nelson boy playing rock and roll.


Apple: iPod: Now for PCs, too.


My wife turned 39 today.

Damn, she's old!


Another Lego link: A lego robot that plays reggae music on a ukulele.

Go ahead -- build your own!


Washington Post: Snakeheads' Luck Put Pond in the Soup. In Sparing His Fish, Crofton Man Imperiled Others.

"The mystery of how ravenous Chinese walking fish wound up in a Maryland pond has been solved, according to state investigators...."

Nature: Snake rips crabs apart.

"Zoologists have found a snake that tears its victims into bite-sized pieces. The other 2,700 or so known snake species are thought to swallow their prey whole."


Reuters: Photo: The Running Of The Bulls.

As long as I'm doing photos, here's a good one of our sun.


Washington Post: Earliest Human Ancestor? Skull Dates to When Apes, Humans Split.

"Everything scientists know about human evolution is based on a relatively small number of fossilized bones that have been unearthed over many decades of searching.... These earliest humans -- represented by a smattering of skulls, bones and bone fragments -- dotted the African landscape until distinctly human species arose about 2 million years ago. Modern humans are only about 100,000 years old."

> That last bit about "modern humans = 100,000 B.C.E." -- that isn't a terribly hard and fast number, although it isn't exactly arbitrary either.


WSJ (subscription): Hotmail Has Quite a Job to Save Its E-Mail Empire From Spam.

"Hotmail started out free of charge. One reason Microsoft is now trying to persuade users to pay for it is that the drastic increase in spam has made free e-mail very, very expensive to offer.

"Bengt-Erik Norum, a Hotmail operations manager, says spam, by nature, arrives all at once -- in torrents -- rather than in a steady stream, like regular e-mail. To handle these peaks, he said, you need to greatly overbuild your computer system."

Scientific American: First Humans to Leave Africa Weren't Necessarily a Brainy Bunch.

"... as is so often the case in paleoanthropology, the emerging picture appears to be far more complex than previously thought."


One more for Independence Day --

Arthur Schlesinger Jr., New York Times: When Patriotism Wasn't Religious.

"The [Supreme Court] handed down its decision against compulsory pledges of allegiance and flag salutes on Flag Day in 1943, when young Americans were fighting and dying for that flag around the planet. The American people then, far from denouncing the court, applauded the decision as a pretty good statement of what we were fighting for. Are we backsliding today?"


BBC: Scientists estimate 30 billion Earths.

"Virtually all the stars out to about 100 light-years distant have been surveyed. Of these 1,000 or so stars, about 10% have been found to possess planetary systems.

"So, with about 300 billion stars in our galaxy, there could be about 30 billion planetary systems in the Milky Way alone; and a great many of these systems are very likely to include Earth-like worlds, say researchers."

> I guess they mean "Earth-like" in the broadest sense -- terrestrial. However, the vast majority of the extra-solar gas giants that have been identified (so far) are in disturbed orbits that make it unlikely that their sibling terrestrials have survived.

Nature: Big city, bright lightning. Hot, dirty conurbations are thunderstorm magnets.

"A new study of Houston, Texas, the fourth largest city in the United States, finds that it attracts 40% more bolts-from-the-blue than the surrounding countryside."

Associated Press: Fossil identified as earliest land walker.

"A fossil found in 1971 has been newly identified as the earliest known animal built to walk on land, a salamanderlike creature that marked a previously unknown stage in the evolution of fish into the ancestors of all vertebrates alive today. The toothy animal, Pederpes finneyae, lived between 348 million and 344 million years ago in what is now Scotland."

Mathematical Lego Sculptures.

> My six-year-old is way into Lego these days. But I don't think he'll know what to make of this site.
> In fact, when I showed it to him, he summarized it pretty nicely: "It's an adult who's still into Legos!"

Hey, Happy Birthday U.S.A!


Miami Herald: Police: Pilots about to fly were drunk.

"Arrests of drunken pilots are rare, but not unprecedented."


Houston Chronicle: U.S. bungled arrest request. Federal agencies were not aware of May 21 warrant from Mexico.

"Rogelio Montemayor, the former Mexican state oil director caught at the center of a major political scandal back home, tried to surrender to U.S. authorities in Houston Monday after spending months as a fugitive. But federal officials at all levels -- the FBI, the Marshals Service and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Texas -- said they were unaware of any arrest warrant against him."

> Good see everything back to normal at our law enforcement agencies. (Sarcasm.)

Walter Kessinger

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