Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

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


It looks like this year Syracuse is the only one of my picks to make it to the final four. Sorry I didn't go with Texas.

Joe Chemo.

"Meet Joe Chemo, a camel who wishes he'd never smoked cigarettes. Joe is having trouble feeling COOL these days, now that he's lost most of his hair."


Nature: Neanderthals' capable of fine handiwork. Our primitive cousins didn't lose the evolutionary race for want of manual dexterity.

"Palaeontologists had previously doubted that Neanderthals had the manual dexterity to make and use tools such as the shafted axes favoured by early modern humans. Neanderthals were thought to be unable to form the ‘precision grip’ that we use today to manipulate delicate items such as pens and tweezers.

"Not so...."

Scientific American: Evidence Mounts for Mysterious New Class of Black Holes.

"Stellar black holes arise from the collapse of massive stars. Supermassive black holes, on the other hand, are thought to form from enormous gas clouds. Exactly how midsize holes are born, however, remains in question."

"Next year, how will we feel when China invades Taiwan because they think they have weapons of mass destruction?"

> My main concern about this war hasn't been the prospect of carnage and death in Iraq. Things have been pretty bad there for the past dozen years anyway. (Sorry if that sounds flippant or callous.)

> My main concern is that we are setting a really bad precedent.


Nature: Global greenhouse affects air pressure. Climate-change predictions may be an underestimate.

"Researchers have found that changes in air pressure over the past 50 years bear the fingerprint of human influence. This is the first report of a human effect on barometers, rather than thermometers."


I know this is incredibly shallow and self-centered, but ...

ARRGGG! I cannot BELIEVE they are starting a war during the opening of the NCAA basketball tournament! Here it is, time for the one sports event that I look forward to ALL YEAR LONG, and the television coverage is going to be preempted by a WAR THAT I'VE BEEN TRYING TO IGNORE!!!

So anyway, here are my brackets. My final four is Kentucky, Arizona, Florida and Syracuse, with UK to take it all.

Let's hope peace returns quickly, and without a lot of bloodshed.

CBS Sportsline: CBS plans to televise eight Thursday night games.

"CBS moved its afternoon coverage to ESPN because of the war.... If CBS opts to switch games later Thursday or Friday night, they would be shown on ESPN2."


Newsweek: The Arrogant Empire.

"Watching the tumult around the world, it's evident that what is happening goes well beyond this particular crisis. Many people, both abroad and in America, fear that we are at some kind of turning point, where well-established mainstays of the global order -- the Western Alliance, European unity, the United Nations -- seem to be cracking under stress. These strains go well beyond the matter of Iraq, which is not vital enough to wreak such damage. In fact, the debate is not about Saddam anymore. It is about America and its role in the new world." ...

"... the United States will spend as much next year on defense as the rest of the world put together (yes, all 191 countries)."


There must be an application for this in seismic exploration --

Science News: On the Rebound. Reversed echoes may fight disease and foster communication.

"... physicists in Europe and the United States have recently been creating environments in the laboratory and underwater that exhibit reversed echoing. Instead of actual walls, from which only run-of-the-mill echoes would reflect, the researchers direct their sounds to computerized microphone-loudspeaker units that return them in a time-reversed order -- the last sound component to arrive is the first to be sent back.

"Such setups refocus sound with remarkable precision. When a person sings out ‘hello’ in such an environment, the sound not only comes back reversed but it also beams specifically to the vocalist's head -- and nowhere else."

Nature: Earliest human footprints found? Italian volcano bears tracks of early Europeans.

"The 20-centimetre prints hint that early man was less than 1.5 metres tall when he walked down the Roccamonfina volcano between 385,000 and 325,000 years ago."


Washington Post: Water Scarcity Prompts Scientists to Look Down.

"With Earth's inventory of clean, fresh water dwindling fast, scientists who once looked to the clouds are increasingly looking downward for new sources of the life-giving resource. What's tempting them is a mysterious world of deep underground aquifers -- huge rivers and lakes far beneath the surface, some of them containing ‘fossil’ water as much as a million years old."


The Economist: A convenient war, perhaps.

"Oil markets will probably remain buoyant even if Mr Bush's war against Saddam Hussein turns out to be as swift and relatively bloodless as his father's was in 1991."

> Bloodless? We killed a lot people during, and after, that war. I guess they meant U.S. casualties.

> I'm not making a political statement, I'm just keeping it honest.

My brother had a good one to add to the "best sf books" list: Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

"There are others I would have included but quit thinking about it when I saw an Anne Rice title -- Vampires?? Hardly SF or Fantasy."

> Actually, you could probably say the same about Gravity's Rainbow.


Top 50 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books. Selected by a book club hoping to sell some more books, of course.

I've read 26 of them, maybe more. Most of those before I turned 16.

I missed a lot of the fantasy titles. In fact, I'm kind of skeptical about combining fantasy and SF into a single list.

I was surprised by some of the excellent choices of lesser-know books, like Delany's Dhalgren and Brunner's Stand on Zanzibar.

Books that didn't make their list that I would have included: Niven & Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye and Le Guin's The Dispossed.

And what about Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon?

Reuters: Girl baffles teacher with SMS essay.

"The teenager's essay which caused the problem began:

"My smmr hols wr CWOT. B4, we used 2go2 NY 2C my bro, his GF & thr 3 :- kids FTF. ILNY, it's a gr8 plc."

OUCH! --

The Carnegie Mellon Tartan: Local collegian catches piercing on bookshelf.

"Campus Police officers provided a medical escort for a student who reported that she caught her nipple ring on the corner of a case and ripped it from her breast."

[via Jill Matrix]


Science News: Mature Before Their Time. In the youthful universe, some galaxies were already old.

"If confirmed, the study indicates that some galaxies were in place and forming stars at a prolific rate when the universe, now 13.7 billion years old, was just an 800-million-year-old whippersnapper."

Walter Kessinger

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