Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

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


Happy Thanksgiving!

CNN: Animal enemies: Myth vs. reality.

"When it comes to humans' worst enemies in the animal world, don't think big. Or sharp teeth. Or even mean." ...

"... because hapless deer wander onto roadways ... they and other creatures claimed 83 human lives in car crashes in 2000, according to the U. S. Department of Transportation." ...

"... the disease-carrying mosquito [is] far and away the deadliest beast in the animal world. The World Health Organization says mosquitos cause more than 2 million deaths a year worldwide."


WSJ (subscription): DNA Data Indicate All Dogs Descend From Asian Wolves.


Scientific American: DNA Study Traces Fido's Family Tree.

"According to reports published [yesterday] in the journal Science, today's dogs originated from East Asian wolves about 15,000 years ago."

The Atlantic: Bobby Fischer's Pathetic Endgame. Paranoia, hubris, and hatred -- the unraveling of the greatest chess player ever.



BBC: Did quark matter strike Earth?

"A group of researchers have identified two seismic events that they think provide the first evidence of a previously undetected form of matter passing through the Earth." ...

"One event occurred on 22 October, 1993, when, according to the researchers, something entered the Earth off Antarctica and left it south of India 0.73 of a second later. The other occurred on 24 November, 1993, when an object entered south of Australia and exited the Earth near Antarctica 0.15 of a second later."

Ars Technica: A new, super-human level of computing power?

"... these computers, when they are finished, will take over the top 2 spots on the `Top 500 Supercomputers' list at, to be sure. Indeed, ... the two machines will have more processing power than the other 498 computers on the list combined."


Point Reyes Light: West Marin women strip for peace.

> It's the 60's all over again.

Slate: Death by Spam. The e-mail you know and love is about to vanish.

"One-third of the 30 billion e-mails sent worldwide each day are spam."


Scripting News: No Smoking Update.

"In my dreams I am still a smoker. Yet I know I've told everyone that I quit. I think of myself as dishonest in my dreams. When I wake I remind myself that it was only a dream."


Houston Chronicle: Hoax theories about moon landings persist.

"... last year ... Fox television aired a program called Conspiracy Theory: Did We Land on the Moon? Moon-hoax proponents on the show argued that NASA's 1960s technology was inadequate to accomplish a moon landing, and that the U.S. government, determined to beat Russia in the space race, faked the whole thing."

> <sigh>

Slate: Why Does Louisiana Have Such an Odd Election System?

"The open primary has been criticized for forcing voters go to the polls twice in the space of a month, which tends to depress turnout. Some academics contend that it favors incumbents (who can afford to campaign twice) while others say it aids fringe candidates (who can get just enough votes to force a runoff)."

Houston Chronicle: [The] Woodlands developer looks well down road.

"The Woodlands, which began in 1974, has racked up 24,055 new-home sales over the years. One thousand businesses are there, employing 27,000 people. About 70,000 people live in The Woodlands, and that number will expand to 125,000 by the time the project is completed."

> It's a great place to live. Too bad it's so damn far from work.


The Observer: Sun's rays to roast Earth as poles flip.

"For more than 100 years, scientists have noted the strength of Earth's magnetic field has been declining, but have disagreed about interpretations. Some said its drop was a precursor to reversal, others argued it merely indicated some temporary variation in field strength has been occurring." ...

"How long a reversal might last is a matter of scientific controversy, however. Records of past events, embedded in iron minerals in ancient lava beds, show some can last for thousands of years - during which time the planet will have been exposed to batterings from solar radiation. On the other hand, other researchers say some flips may have lasted only a few weeks."


Scientific American: Making Microchips Takes Mountain of Materials.

"According to a study recently published online by the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, the manufacturing of a typical two-gram chip takes 1.6 kilograms of fossil fuel, 72 grams of chemicals and 32 kilograms of water.... Of particular note are the thousands of potentially toxic chemicals used in the manufacturing process."

Playboy Centerfolds. 1953 to 2002.

It's kind of interesting to track the changes over 50 years. Particularly the hairstyles.

In truth, I've never been a big fan of Playboy pictures. As far back as I can remember, I thought the pictures (and their subjects) were too posed, made-up and airbrushed to be erotic.


I stayed late at work last night to read a couple of technical papers. While I read, I had big band tunes playing in the background, courtesy of a younger coworker with excellent taste.

I heard Paper Moon for the first time in decades, and I was surprised by the melancholy that forms the emotional basis of the song:

It's a Barnum and Bailey world,
Just as phoney as it can be,
But it wouldn't be make believe,
If you believed in me.

> It makes me melancholy, anyway.


New Scientist: Copy protection on CDs is 'worthless'.

"But all these measures can be sidestepped, says Halderman, thanks to the computer industry's habit of continual upgrading and bug fixing. Makers of CD players and CD-ROM drives only need to make `relatively simple modifications' to their software and supposedly protected CDs can be played with ease."

Nature: Moon might reveal first life on Earth.

"The surface of the moon is spattered with over 8 million tonnes of the Earth, astronomers have estimated. A mission to collect and study this planetary shrapnel could provide unique insights into the origins of life and the planets, they say."


Slate: How Do You Stop a Lava Flow?

Houston Chronicle: 55 mph begins signing off freeways this week.

"The state highway department will start changing speed limit signs along area freeways within the week, officially ending the much maligned, politically unpopular 55 mph speed limit."


Science News: Iron-Poor Star: Closing in on the birth of the first stars.

"According to a widely accepted theory, the Big Bang forged nearly all of the hydrogen and helium in the universe but only trace amounts of a few other heavier elements. In time, as star formation began, the gas that condensed to form galaxies became increasingly enriched with heavier elements. All stars synthesize heavy elements, but the largest supply has come from massive stars exploding as supernovas. The very oldest stars, born before most supernova explosions had a chance to pop off, should therefore contain only a minuscule supply of iron and other metals."

Scientific American: Code Red: Worm Assault on the Web.

"On October 21, 2002, ... hackers tried to cripple nine of the Internet's 13 root domain names system (DNS) servers, machines that form the backbone of the net by linking all domain names to numerical Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. For approximately one hour, these root servers endured a bombardment of requests -- a 40 percent increase over their normal traffic-from `zombie' machines under the hackers' control. Seven of the machines were completely incapacitated by the deluge, known as a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS). Had the attack lasted for more than an hour and affected more machines, the hackers may well have crashed the DNS servers -- and the Internet with them."

Walter Kessinger

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