Monday, November 19, 2007

Al Franken bags key endorsement

Minnesota Public Radio reports:
The political arm of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5 voted Saturday to back Franken, a comedian turned candidate.

The union represents 43,000 public and nonprofit employees in the state. Its leaders said in a news release that Franken's membership in four entertainment unions and his proven ability to raise money for the campaign put him in a stronger position than Ciresi.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

lawsome

From the Women's Press
After a Philadelphia prostitute was gang-raped at gunpoint by four men, she sought justice in court. The 20-year-old single mother, who worked for a service advertised on craigslist, agreed to have sex with two men for money. Instead, one of the men pulled a gun, robbed the woman, and forced her to have sex with himself and three friends at gunpoint, stating that if she did not cooperate he would kill her. In court, Municipal Judge Teresa Carr Deni dismissed the rape and sexual assault charges. stating "she consented and didn't get paid. I thought it was a robbery."
Can you believe this?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Its kinda sad



Its kinda sad to hear this. Also weird. From an interview by Dick Cheney in 1994.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

body parts of grammar

going head to head

going toe to toe

walking shoulder to shoulder

my lips to your ears

Monday, November 12, 2007

Iraq : Daily Life

A slice of life from bloggers in Iraq

Aunt Najma from Mosul writes:

I'm sick of talking about the bad situation. I just hate the mornings, there's always shooting and many explosions. .... I always have doubts that I'll be able to make it to college - the roads are rarely open.... My cousin drove me home the other day - building after building, destroyed, burnt. Black signs announcing deaths. .... I asked my cousin about a destroyed building I hadn't seen before. He said it was months ago. I was shocked. I didn't ask about the ones that followed.

We're really strangers in our country... oh well, excuse me, I don't think "our" should be used anymore. I'm not sure whose country it is, but it's not mine for sure.

Reality Realised

Iran plans to crack down on vice: which includes decadent films, drugs, and alcohol. The campaign has the blessing from the Supreme Leader: Ayatollah Khomenei.

as any good first step involves, they are going for the biggest of threats to society: women's clothing.

should people start paying attention to Ayaan Hirsi Ali?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

shoot!

dumblaws.com says:

In Lousiana, it is illegal to rob a bank and then shoot at the bank teller with a water pistol.

full text of the Louisiana Law

hat tip: heard on the freethought radio.

Friday, June 01, 2007

building a bureaucracy

just pick a favorite bureaucratic website and see the document requirements page. for instance the consulate of any country and their page listing documents for any particular service. My wager is over 100 years requirements would have been added or replaced, but only rarely will they be dropped.

The list will grow and continue to grow. at our expense.

Friday, May 25, 2007

dot or no dot

Because Gmail doesn't recognize dots as characters within usernames, adding or removing dots from a Gmail address won’t change the actual destination address. Messages sent to yourusername@gmail.com and y.o.u.r.u.s.e.r.n.a.m.e@gmail.com are all delivered to your Inbox, and only yours.

Gmail allows only one registration for any given username. Once you sign up for a particular username, any dot variations are made permanently unavailable for new accounts.
-from Am I receiving someone else's email?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

making sense of the absurd

If you have time on your hands, then the following piece is recommended for reading; Making Sense of the Absurd. It sort of goes through a list of things that starts to blur the line between absurd, right and wrong. It isn't making the case that religion isn't absurd, but that we probably take too many scientific statement for granted. for instance:
    7. Parallel lines never meet.
    8. The sum of the interior angles of a triangle is 180°.
Well, these aren't quite accurate. There's an implicit constraint on these statements that they are true only in euclidean (planar) geometry. In non-euclidean geometry, these statements can take wild turns. For example, on the surface of a sphere like our own planet, we can start at the north pole, walk south 1 mile, east 1 mile and north 1 mile and return exactly to our starting point. Our turns were approximately right angles and our return also consists of a right angle, meaning that the triangle we walked had interior angles summing up to almost 270° (to the nit-picky, this isn't strictly true--in order to get exactly 270°, we'd need to walk all the way down to the equator, but I'm too lazy to walk that far). And while we're talking about the globe, we can observe the long parallel longitudinal lines to see that they can indeed meet twice: once at each pole. In other more intriguing spaces, such as lobechevskian space whose shape is often compared to that of a saddle, we can find parallel lines that intersect exactly once. And if the real-world example of the globe isn't enough to discredit the universality of propositions 7 & 8, we could look at the math supporting Einstein's theory of special relativity which relies on non-euclidean math to derive its results.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

women for religion?

I have often heard that our morals come from religion. take one example where it does not: Women and Men are created equals. There is no religious orthodoxy in history that has not attempted in the name of religion and/or religious scripture to oppress women. examples abound: Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and they all regulated women's bodies, thoughts, behavior, and actions.

when women have secured their equality by struggling against religious orthodoxies, why do they still flock to religion?

Monday, April 30, 2007

oh on the corridor

overheard on the corridor: "It wasn't my wife this time. It was another random variable."

Friday, April 27, 2007

On faith : Sir John Houghton

Sir John Houghton: One of the most important statements as a scientist: "I don't know". One of the most important statements you should be prepared to make as a believer. "I don't know". Both evolutionists and religious fanatics can learn a bit from this man.

Monday, April 23, 2007

democracy

Cheese eating, yuppy French had a election, where all the jobless people wandered into voting booths, to avoid the sun. They had 85% turnout. U.S, the paragon of democracy, so much that there is enough left to be exported to Iraq. The most touted turnout for elections in U.S. history had a record 55% turnout.

French election is also very significant in the sense of Sarkozy offer a new direction that explores a freer economy that tilts away from labor and provides greater freedom to employers. Ms. Royal offers a more socialist program that has energy and vision. It remains to be seen which way the election will go as the first round votes are close.

Simwinga's green model

Hammerskjoeld Simwinga wins $125,000 for the award, sometimes called the Nobel prize for the environment.
He helped set up bee-keeping and fish-farming projects for people in the North Luangwa valley, where elephant numbers had shown a dramatic fall. He persuades local people they can earn money by keeping elephants alive.
Mirroring the experience of Muhammad Yunus, who said over 95% of loans go to womenfolk:
Over 70% of loans are made to women and Mr Simwinga says they are the backbone of the programme. "We deliberately pushed our resources to the womenfolk in the community because we knew that working with the women was the strongest part of persuasion," he told Reuters news agency.
As an inspiring story of resolve and progress, Mr. Simwinga describes:
He inherited the North Luangwa Wildlife Conservation and Community Development Programme (NLWCCDP), when its US founders Delia and Mark Owens were forced to leave in 1996.

Despite fears it would collapse, Mr Simwinga, known as "Hammer" and named after UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold who died in a 1961 air crash in Zambia, instead managed to expand the project.

"If I had left as well then the work we had worked for so many years to build would have just collapsed," he said.
news link: BBC World Service

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Friday, April 20, 2007

profiling shooter?

livescience.com you can't profile school shooters

One of the problems, they say, is : There are far too many people who are depressed and lonely are not mass-murderers. And how ever finely you make up a profile, the number of false-positives* will be more than true mass-murderers that fit that profile. This reminds of the Bayesian estimation "paradox" that Arunn on Nanoscience posted a while back.
Example: False positive in a medical test (example taken from [1])

A “false positive” in medical terminology is a situation when ... a person not actually having a particular disease or conditions may be returned a positive result in a test. ... Suppose that a test for a disease generates the following results.

(1) If a tested patient has the disease, the test returns a positive result 98% of the time, or with probability 0.99
(2) If a tested patient does not have the disease, the test returns a negative result 96% of the time, or with probability 0.96.

Suppose also that only 0.1% of the population has that disease, so that a randomly selected patient has a 0.001 prior probability of having the disease. The question now is what is the probability that a positive test results in a false positive?

from back of the envelope calculations:

If there are 1000 people, 1 person has the disease. of the 999 people only 96% were detected. so 39.96 were detected positive, but don’t have the disease. So only 1 in 40 people detected to have the disease really do have the disease.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

E=mc2 (Documentary)

I was checking out the documentary about E=mc2 . The documentary attempts to bring to the fore the contribution of one of the greatest minds of the century, Albert Einstein, his equation relating mass, energy, and the speed of light. If we cut through the melodramatic presentation with the Victorian charms and the bourgeois society and its workings, rest of the documentary takes us through the most important developments that made Einstein's discovery possible. As Newton said 'standing on the shoulders of Giants', the documentary attempts to show the giants on whom Einstein stood to see farther than light, figuratively speaking.

The first important milestone happened to be the idea that various forms of energy though having an existence independent of their own, are inter-related and can be changed from one form to another. Heat in the steam, and electricity in the wire, and magnetism of the magnets were all examples of energy in the pristine form, all having a common undercurrent: "energy". Michael Faraday showed that electrical energy can be used to create magnetism in objects and vice versa. The theory of electro-magneitc waves and electromagnetic field came to be proposed for the first time.

The debate that then ensued was about the conservation of matter. That it can neither be created nor be destroyed. It was shown by Antoine Lavoisier, assisted by his wife Marie Anne, that water can be converted to steam, then passed through iron and then condensed at the other end. The liquid at the other end is water, but is lesser in mass than initial. The hydrogen gas collected along with the water in the container and the rust that had formed by reaction between iron and oxygen accounted for the missing mass.

The next crucial part was that energy was proportional to the square of the velocity. It was shown by a Dutch scientist that when a lead ball is dropped on to a box of clay, it makes 4 times deeper impression when dropped from twice the height. Thus providing evidence to the squared relation, though it went against the proposals of Newton at that time. It took a century to gain general acceptance among the scientific community. Major headway in these episodes was played by Gottfried Leibniz and Emilie du Chatelet. Emilie du Chatelet lead a prolific role in science apart from excelling in arts, and raising a family of 3 children. She translated the Newton's Principia in French.

We are then taken back to Faraday who had then proposed that light itself as a form of energy and hence an electromagnetic wave. It caused much furor as people were still grappling with the idea of the mysterious interplay between Electricity and Magnetism that Faraday himself had demonstrated earlier. Maxwell came along to show that mathematics did permit such a possibility. But then Maxwell also suggested that, to be consistent with his theory, even if one were to travel at the speed of light (690 million mile per hour), one would observe light traveling at the 690 million mile per hour away from them. If you travel next to a car at the same speed as that car, that car would then appear stationary to you. The proposal was counter-intuitive.

Einstein for his part, had to reconcile this fact. He realized that this is possible if the hands of the clock were to move slowly at higher speeds. Thus time was no more independent of the space, measured in watches. Space and time were now related. This dealt an incredible blow to 3 centuries of resolute faith in the scientific belief that time was an absolute.

Einstein began to wonder, what would happens if train were to be accelerated to the speed of light, and more fuel were added to it to accelerate it further? Will it travel at a speed greater than light? That's not possible. So, he concluded that the added energy must be converted to mass of the train to conserve energy.

Thus it allowed him to derive the relation between energy, mass, and velocity of light. E=mc^2

The documentary then goes on the show the meteoric rise of Einstein among the ranks and his proposal for special and general relativity of which a nice introduction can be found on shallowthgts.

So definitely get hold of the documentary and see it. You will learn about women who played very important role in science and have remained relatively unknown. You also get to see the coming together of important scientific developments, each one a truly great milestone.

IMDB: tt0476209

(an updated repost from the past)

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

equality indeed (joke alarm)

Kurt quipped on the CT forum: "We have been a horrible animal. after the Spanish inquisitions, the two world wars, Hiroshima, Roman games. Its clear the earth is trying to get rid of us." Joyce Carol chimed in the middle with the question "But which sex is doing this stuff?" without a second thought Kurt Vonnegut made the snarky comment "Women are no good at doing science, you know? We discovered that at Harvard." (see the video)

I thought this was a nice short exchange for more reasons than one. Kurt may have meant that - In Cat's cradle Kurt talks about the detachment of scientists from the impact their discoveries have on the world, however disastrous they may be. Especially that this is independent of gender. But if you twist his statement it could also mean "If Women claim they can do the most wonderful discoveries just as well as men have in the past, they should accept with calm deference that they are capable of committing the very same horrors as well."

History has shown only few contributions of significance from women. Naturally so. So why would anyone search history to point to the potential of women or the capacity of women to be creative as evidence? Rather, why not believe in the inherent equality of men and women as the basic hypothesis of natural law? Desmund Tutu described of man (and women) "he(she) is capable of most evil acts as he(she) is of the most elevated."

when local search isn't local

I did a linkpost on the interviews about local search and business models before. As a follow up I found this

Cathy: (h/t Paul)
Hate to tell you this, but right on the first page of the Yahoo Local Minneapolis results sits Minneapolis Florist-Same Day, (612) 339-4023, 381 5th St Se, Minneapolis, MN 55414. There’s no flower shop at that location. The calls are just forwarded to an ‘order gatherer’ in Issaquah, WA called Cascade Florist. ...

The second Minneapolis results page shows Florists of Minneapolis, (612) 827-6356, Minneapolis, MN 55408. Nope. Not a real florist either.

the listings on your local search aren't truly local. then what is?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

local ad search

FindBuffalo:

Q: With a $1,000 or less annual budget, what 3 things should a small business execute online?
Paul: Getting their correct business information to the online portals, get social (online), and proactively encourage customers to provide online ratings and reviews … and up the budget (ok, that’s four).

Matt: Less than $100/month? That’s ultra-small budget. Okay… 1) A blog. 2) A listing in all the free local search sites. 3) A PPC campaign on low-cost, long tail phrases (including geo-targeting).

Local Ad sites: truelocal iBeginsource yelp

Nina Hale shares her views on strategic internet marketing:
What do you think of Google getting into Pay Per Action (PPA) advertising? Do you see yourself recommending this for some of your clients?

This is a fascinating idea, and I’m studying it seriously for some clients. This is another great form of disintermediation that Google is getting into, but also supports their goal of building their user base by providing successful web experiences, because they will rank good converters higher.

Aggregators like Lending Tree, Search for Colleges, etc., have made enormous amounts of money in this space and I love the idea of putting some of that power back into client’s hands. Of course, the aggregators will also love it! I think it will be most successful overall in fragmented industries.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Gandhi: love and truth as supreme moral law

Gandhi says how he perceives God. In all of the 6 minutes he appeals not to religion or spirituality but to humanity. I suspect even a majority of secular humanists will find themselves in agreement.


Friday, April 13, 2007

this day. 36 years ago. man enters space

News from the NASA pages.
On April 12, 1961, the era of human spaceflight began when the Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the Earth in his Vostock I spacecraft. The flight lasted 108 minutes.

Twenty years later, on the morning of April 12, 1981, two astronauts sat strapped into their seats on the flight deck of Columbia, a radically new spacecraft known as the space shuttle. more here ...

Click on the image to see the full "Hunstsville Times" story.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

future of tv?

On India Uncut Amith wrote about this video by Cheddarvision.tv who have posted on youtube, a video that shows cheddar cheese as it ages. Striking is the similarity to the concept described by Lewis Black on what makes a successful television. you definitely got to watch Lewis Black.

Paul Wolfowitz. saga continues...

The man who led the charge on the Iraq war as part of the PNAC. When he took charge of the World Bank, he made the fundamental argument that "countries whose governments are highly corrupt should not receive aid". It has its merits, as Wolfowitz recognizes that "major hurdles to transfer from aid to development is corruption". Wolfowitz began to decide by himself which governments are corrupt and which aren't. He stood against aid to Congo because he found out that their representatives to New York had charged hundreds of thousands of dollars at their bank expense account. Similarly he decided India doesn't meet his standards and so obstructed the flow of aid to India. People at world bank argue that it is not their place to take up anti-corruption efforts and focus only on development. This is an interesting debate and one that must be followed closely. But this got muddled in the hypocrisy of the man leading the charge.

Just as he joined the World Bank as its head, conflict of interest arose, as the woman he had been dating also worked at the bank. This quickly lead to corruption and controversy. Bush style.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

can never divide?

1. Given that x is a positive integer prove that f(x) = x2 + x + 1 will never divide by 5.

2. Consider the expression xx + 1, where x be a positive integer.

It can be verified that x = 7 is the least value for which xx + 1 divides by 23.

Given that n is a positive integer, find the least value of x for which xx + 1 is divisible by 2n.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

India unspoken

Joseph Curiale's journey into the life of Anjamma and many others like her who would have committed suicide due to heavy debts.
On March 2nd of this year, I saw something very disturbing on CNN… thousands of farmers in South India have committed suicide because of 7 years of drought, and because of the mounting debt ... forced to switch to genetically modified seeds and expensive pesticides made things much worse ... more than 150,000 farmers have died countrywide as a result,
In a little more than a month I raised around $9,000! So I strapped that money to my waist and headed for India with total faith. When I stood before Anjamma, in the exact spot I had seen her on CNN a few weeks earlier … My biggest challenge at that moment was not to ... break down crying…
Joseph Curiale now has a foundation that has helped many widows out of poverty and will keep them out of it at least for the next 5 to 6 years.

A story from Jadugoda, related to development technology [from the AID India website]. I remember reading an essay by Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, early after Indian independence, on how India cannot afford to produce talent without a moral, ethical dimension. It seems this has been done, without our realizing so.
The soil of Jadugoda in the Jharkhand region has provided uranium to run the Atomic Energy program in the country and develop Nuclear capabilities, but the Santhal aadivasis of this region are dying a slow death by uranium radiation ... It is a death the reality of which is being denied by all Government agencies. In the region of the uranium mines, in villages such as Chatikocha, Dumardeeh, Telaitaand, Echada, Bhatin, and Lipighututu, 45 of every hundred women are suffering from spontaneous abortions. The children are dying. Most of the children are becoming physically and mentally handicapped. People are not living beyond 65 years of age. No one wants to marry the girls from this area. The girls who did get married are being abandoned for their inability to bear children. Under the influence of radioactivity, physical malformations, cancer and pulmonary diseases are assuming demonic dimensions.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Drive fewer miles

Vehicles make up almost one-third of smog-forming emissions nationally, and because we are driving more and more miles every year (up 127% since 1970), vehicles continue to be a significant contributor to air pollution. Whenever possible, take public transportation, car pool, and combine activities into one trip (such as shopping trips). Even your Weather channel says so!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

heartburn? use organic vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar ::

Many consider apple cider vinegar as a natural way to cure heartburn. This should be done with caution as this is actually adding more acid to the stomach. This is believed to be helpful by the theory that heartburn is caused by lack of digestive enzymes in the stomach, which causes the food to sit and ferment and therefore expel gas and acid into the esophagus. The natural enzymes in the vinegar help to replenish the stomach enzymes to ease digestion. Those who choose this method should only use organic apple cider vinegar with natural unfiltered enzymes. All other vinegars filter out the enzymes.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

open office file sizes v. windows

word files v. open document format (.doc v. .odf)
74K v. 11K
93K v. 13K

excel files v. open document spreadsheet (.xls v. .ods)
127K v. 5K
126K v. 6K

exact same content. very different sizes.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

great movie, nice song!

Jules et Jim (1962) by Fran├žois Truffaut. A story well ahead of its times, probably even ahead of today's accepted norms.

books on my list : lucifer effect and human behavior

Philip Zimbardo talks about his new book 'Lucifer Effect: How good people can do bad things". Zimbardo says "That human behavior is more influenced by things outside of us than inside." This is a book I am looking forward to read along with "Discipline & Punish: The birth of the prison" by Michel Foucault. Foucault analyses the birth of modern society and the role of prisons as a symbol of power and means for delivering justice.

Breast Cancer detection

American Cancer Society recommends MRI scan over Mammogram for patients who may have high risk of breast cancer. From the Star Tribune pages:

On the mammogram, there was no sign that Carla Meyers had breast cancer. But last November, she had an exam with an MRI, a more powerful imaging device that shows far more details. And that's how her tumor was spotted. [news link]

also from the same article ...
"We've had several patients call in and cancel their mammograms, saying 'I want to have a breast MRI instead,' " said Dr. Audrey Caine, medical imaging director of the HealthEast Breast Cancer Center at St. John's Hospital in Maplewood. ... MRIs cost $1,500 to $2,000, 10 times as much as a mammograms, and have a high rate of false alarms. MRIs use computerized magnets and radio waves, rather than radiation, to produce images of the body's organs.
More on at npr.prg.

Trumpeter Swans dip into lake in Bonobo's neighborhood

Trumpeter Swans will dip into a lake near 8 bonobos. The 8 Bonobos will get to name these Swans that are dipping in their neighborhood for the first time.



Trumpeter swans are America's largest waterfowl, weighing up to 35 pounds with an 8-foot wingspan. Once common across much of the continent, they were hunted for their feathers to near extinction by the late 1800s. [picture courtesy: Surf Birds]






Bonobos have sophisticated language skills, a trait they'll demonstrate when asked to name the swans.

Swartz said they'll either use a board that has symbols the apes associate with objects or choose names from a list researchers provide. The apes already use the board to communicate with humans to identify things like location, food and color. [picture courtesy: William Calvin]


[News Story link]

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

converting types may end blood shortage

BBC reported today that blood types can be converted
"The method, which makes use of newly discovered enzymes, may help relieve shortages of blood for transfusions. The work, led by the University of Copenhagen, is reported in the journal Nature Biotechnology.
This should have potential to make a large scale impact on everyday needs. The mechanism by which this is done is:

The blood cells of people with group A and B blood contain one of two different sugar molecules - known as antigens - which can trigger an immune system response. People with AB blood have both types of molecule, while those with group O blood have neither.

And they found two bacteria (out of 2500 candidates) that could do this:

The new technique works by using bacterial enzymes [from two bacteria - Elizabethkingia meningosepticum and Bacterioides fragilis] to cut sugar molecules from the surface of red blood cells.
The research still needs to be tested before there is talk of any implementation on the field.

Monday, April 02, 2007

top 20 reasons why you visit this page

michael ware sniper
Michael Ware bio cnn
photo,bio, Michael Ware CNN
liquid crystallizes below room temperature
stop blog harassment
fibonacci sums
100mpg cars
Michael Faraday + signature
ice formations artics
Convolution property of fibonacci numbers
how small are atoms
sodium acetate handwarmer make
what metal is solid at room temperature but liquid at at body temperature
100mpg
indian scientist pankaj joshi

Did you come this for one of these reasons? Google keyword search statistics says so.

Sunita Williams will run Boston marathon, in space!

Williams is registered for next month's Boston Marathon, even though she'll be stuck on the international space station when the rest of the field lines up for the 111th edition of the race. So the U.S. Navy commander will run the equivalent distance on a treadmill -- 210 miles above Earth, and tethered to her track by bungee cords so she doesn't float away.
-- Read the rest of the article

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Sydney black outs: its lights shown on global climate change



Major Landmarks including the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor House shut down its lights for 1 hour in the evening in an attempt to raise awareness about Climate Change.

Said GW "Sydney did what?"

The News story

Friday, March 30, 2007

Michael Ware

Journalism, especially covering a war, is always scary. Here is a interview when Andersen Cooper sat down with Michael Ware. Michael Ware has spent 4 years covering the war in Iraq.

Michael Ware, man from Brisbane, spent early part of his Journalism career for TIME and has now joined CNN as the Baghdad correspondent. He now has the reputation for having traveled to insurgent's territories to report their perspective of the war.

Interview parts I II III IV V VI (these are on U-toob. they maybe pulled off eventually.)

An excerpt from one of his pieces:
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A sniper is watching these American soldiers. You're looking at the unobstructed view from the sniper team's vehicle.

And they are waiting for their moment, as the soldiers mingle with Iraqi civilians.

"People are around them," warns the sniper's spotter, who seems to be operating the video camera.

"Want me to find another place?"

"No, no," comes the reply. "Give me a moment."

And, then, the soldier falls forward. You hear the sniper's vehicle start, and they slip away.

American casualties this month are tracking at near record numbers. This video is a glimpse into an enduring feature of this war.
A career bio quote from Michael Ware on a radio show:
"I'm actually a lawyer or an attorney by training. But after graduating law school, I only stayed in practice for one year after working in our court of appeal, then fell into journalism, working for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation newspapers in Australia, where I eventually covered the conflict in East Timor. After that, I took a job with Time Magazine in Australia, and then after September 11, I was sent to Afghanistan, where I stayed for over a year. And then as the war in Iraq approached, I entered Iraq through Iran, into the Kurdish North, where I hooked up with U.S. Special Forces, and the Peshmerga militia, and covered the Northern front line. Ever since then, I have essentially been living in Baghdad."

Electric car timeline

Time line for 'Electric Car design' dates back to 1834 when Thomas Davenport invented a car run on non-rechargeable batteries. Thomas Davenport was the first to hold patent on Electric car design. His auto shop where he did this work is still preserved in Forestdale, Vermont.


for the full time line see the Who killed the Electric Car movie page from Sony Classics.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Science with a bang

Boomer has a new approach to teaching, "anything that makes a bang or a noise is good".
One day the cops showed up as a result of a half-baked Boomer stunt. He was testing whether a 1.5-million-volt Tesla coil could shoot a spark across the room. In the process, he cut off all police radio communications for miles.

Boomer’s reaction: “Neat!”
Would you have liked him as your science teacher?

While Shane Totten won the Golden Apple award for teaching.
Students line up in pairs and hold balloons attached to sticks over a candle. The balloons filled with the students’ breath, regular carbon dioxide, make small pops. The balloons filled with hydrogen the students got by combining hydrochloric acid and zinc in a flask pops and creates a small fire ball, eliciting screams from some of the kids in the class.
It’s a lesson on mini-Hindenbergs, complete with Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” in the background. --[Excerpt from Naples News]

for your viewing pleasure: What would happen when, at low gravity, balloons filled with water are pinched? NASA has posted some demo videos on this.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NASA playing with marbles?

NASA scientist Bill Cooke is shooting marbles and he's playing "keepsies." But, this knowledge will help keep astronauts safe when America returns to the Moon in the next decade. some very interesting stuff on simulating meteors and their impact using fancy marble guns on carefully arranged soil terrains. More here in the NASA pages

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

peek into the abyss?

Will you look up at the clouds or down into the abyss?

Grand Canyon glass skywalk is open for public. BBC Sketch of the design:

convolutions and sum of sums

Let Sk be the sequence of simple sums, that is S1=1, S2 =1+2, Sk =1+2+...+k then
S1 + S2 + ... + Sk = k.1+(k-1).2+(k-2).3+ ... + 2.(k-1)+1.k = the convolution of the sequence {1, ...,k}.

In your spare time you can show that sum of sums equals (n)(n+1)(n+2)/(1.2.3) and sum of sum of sums equals n(n+1)(n+2)(n+3)/(1.2.3.4) and so on.

1.2.3 = 6.
1.2.3.4 = 24.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Enticing review

The bloodred walls are lined with Ralph Steadman's dark and drippy drawings and Gary Larson's devilish Sunday comics. Vultures perched in tree branches inhabit the restaurant's back wall, watching over any diner unlucky enough to be facing north. But forget impending death by taking comfort in the menu: lemon ricotta hotcakes, buffalo sausage, and homemade jam and peanut butter served with every slice of toast. The unlikely jewel in this crown is the wild rice porridge. Wild. Rice. Porridge. It's a sumptuous mixture of wild rice, blueberries, cranberries, hazelnuts, sweet cream, and pure maple syrup. It's also one of the best reasons to get out of bed since Christmas. - From review of Hell's Kitchen
This is not an endorsement, but I agree with the above review. Only because the review is written so well! Well, Hell's Kitchen is pretty good for a breakfast place.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fibonacci Sums

The Fibonacci series is: F1=1, F2=2, for n=2,3,... Fn+1= Fn + Fn-1. The (n+1)-st number is the sum of n-th and (n-1)-th number in the sequence.

Fibonacci numbers have the property that: the sum of the first n numbers of a sequence is contained in the sequence. Do you know of others?

F1+F2+F3+...+Fn = Fn+2-1

Actually the sequence G1=1, G2=2,for n=2,3,... Gn+1= Gn + ... + G2 + G1 trivially staifies that property. So, Fibonacci sequence is not unique in the above sense. Can you think of a sequence {Hk} such that

H1+H2+H3+...+Hn = Hn+3 - c? for some constant c.

On a tangent: Kolmogorov information complexity speaks of representations that can compress information effectively. Not only does the following set of characters "F1=1, F2=2 Fn+1= Fn + Fn-1" contain the entire Fibonacci sequence, but also the sum of its first n elements.

Search Engine Spoilers

I wanted to search for consumer experiences of a decent dealership in my area. Since, google general search includes all kinds of corporate sites, I looked up something like "subaru decent dealer in my neighborhood nice people" in google blog search. The top 10 results were hijacked by very random corporate spam links from dealerships that want to sell cars, but are not even in my neighborhood! We are told blogs are a democratic medium, and these search results seem to show that blog network is not well connected enough for good regular blogs to trump over cheap sleazy spam.

Maybe google can tweak their engine for blog search to weed out these spammers more effectively.

Crazy!

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Girl Like Me

A Girl like me, a short film by Kiri Davis is a project for an after-school program that won the audience award at the Silverdocs festival and the Diversity Award from Media that Matters festival.

Kiri Davis was on NPR to talk about her project. The title for Kiri Davis' project is drawn up on a video by Bill Cosby called 'A Boy like Me' made in 1972.

New green is coal?

Winona Daily News reports
The latest trend in the green world of ethanol is a surprising one: coal.

Minnesota’s first coal-fired ethanol plant soon will begin operation in Heron Lake, and it won’t be the last. The high price of natural gas is enticing new plant owners to embrace coal power. But while it may make economic sense, the choice of this fossil fuel to make a renewable one has some people shaking their heads. [emphasis added]
look around in your neighborhood to see if this is the trend we want to see? The report offers this comment on the Californian law:
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and his state’s Legislature have embraced a plan to rate all motor fuels by greenhouse gas emissions over their entire life cycles, from production to transportation to ignition.

Measured that way, ethanol made from plant residue would earn an excellent rating. Ethanol from corn would do moderately well. And corn ethanol made in a coal-fired plant? That would rate poorly — even lower than ordinary gasoline, according to Schwarzenegger’s office.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Having Kids

I recently came across a thoughtful blog by my friend at Thought Raker on "When Should you have a child?" She lays out some very thoughtful reasons suggesting "it is better to have a kid later in your life." After a comment on that blog from someone who is juggling the idea of balancing independence and career with having kids, she has now expanded on the older blog.

On the experience of having kids, there is a very engaging conversation on pregnancy from Whirlpool Family Talk podcast (and this you got to listen to!). Here is the audio:

Saturday, March 10, 2007

U.S Welfare Subsidies and global effects

PBS NOW has a program on the effects U.S subsidies have on global cotton farmers. A few excerpts ...
There are roughly 30,000 cotton-growers in America who receive billions of our U.S. tax dollars every year through government subsidies. ... Ray Offenheiser, president of the anti-poverty organization Oxfam America told NOW, "There is a direct association between these subsidies and the hunger in Africa and the plight of African farmers."
The website also has podcast and a video, with responses from Oxfam and the U.S National Cotton Council.

The community in Vidharba region of Maharashtra is sustained by cotton farming. In recent years it has been plagued by farmer suicides. A number of articles on this topic can be found here and here. On Jan 3, 2006 P.A. Sainath writes in his column "The swelling register of death"
Farm suicides in Vidarbha since November 1 have crossed the 100 mark. There have been 200 since June 2. But the last 100 have occurred in less than two months. A little more than 65 farmers have taken their own lives in December alone.
"Note that the rise in suicides has followed the fall in cotton price," points out Vijay Jawandia, Vidarbha's leading farm activist. "This is no surprise. The government's so-called `relief package' of Rs.1,045 crore for the farmer has not had the slightest impact on the trend."
Question is: Is the world listening?

noodling

considering many options, but decided on none. [source: Anonymous]

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Water and Oil do mix

To provide for water in plastic bottles to Americans for one year requires 47 million tonnes of oil, which is equivalent to taking 100,000 cars off the road. - Container Recycling Institute.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

U.S shortchanged by Ford and GM?

An article today in Guardian Unlimited about Green F1 racing car from Honda had this small bit
in the US, where the transportation department estimates that the average fuel economy of cars and light trucks sold in 2001 was just 24.5mpg, the same as in 1999 and slightly below the 24.7mpg in 2000. The peak was 26.2mpg in 1987. The auto website 40mpg.org says Americans have little choice. It says there are now only two vehicle models on sale that have a petrol mileage of at least 40mpg. In 2005, there were five.

By comparison, Europe has 113 models. Adding insult to injury, nearly two-thirds of the 113 highly fuel-efficient car models that are unavailable to American consumers are either made by US companies, such as Ford or GM, or by foreign manufacturers with substantial US operations, such as Volkswagen, Nissan and Toyota.

[emphasis mine]

Monday, March 05, 2007

SUVs and Monster trucks

Reasons for not buying a SUV:
  • The environmental damage is very significant.
  • Even if it buys safety for the owner, in any accident it will inflict greater damage to the family in the other car.
  • The mileage is very low. The CAFE standards has a very interesting history. In 1979 the standards for passenger cars was at 18mpg and and for light trucks at 17mpg. S.U.Vs introduced in the 90's got classified as light trucks and since then the standard has nudged its way up to 21 mpg today. The passenger car standards have increased up to 27 mpg. The low price of oil in U.S helped a surge in market share for S.U.Vs.
Today GM still advertises "at least 30mpg cars" on their website, when most competitors have gone way past that mark and the future looks to 100mpg cars.

U.S. Predicting Steady Increase for Emissions

NY Times article says the U.S predictions for emissions over the next decade will increase at the same rate as last decade. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has come out with a report and have upped the certainty of human involvement to 90%. There are now people trying to confuse the concern of global cooling in the 70s to global warming concern now. To set the record straight: the excessive particulate matter in the atmosphere helps scatter the heat before it reaches the earth and thus causes cooling. This has been addressed using particulate matter regulations since the 70s. However volcanoes continue to play a role in global cooling. This is not to be confused with the excessive amounts of greenhouse gases being pumped in to the atmosphere which causes global warming (unfortunate use of language).

from the NASA website (link to .rtf file):
  • How do volcanoes affect the atmosphere? As volcanoes erupt, they blast huge clouds into the atmosphere. These clouds are made up of particles and gases, including sulfur dioxide. Millions of tons of sulfur dioxide gas can reach the stratosphere from a major volcano. There, the sulfur dioxide converts to tiny persistent sulfuric acid (sulfate) particles, referred to as aerosols.
  • How do volcanic emission influence climatic changes? Global cooling often has been linked with major volcanic eruptions. Sulfate particles reflect energy coming from the sun, preventing the sun's rays from heating Earth thus lowering temperatures in the troposphere, and changing atmospheric circulation patterns.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

pain in the neck?

Rdoctor has a very lengthy blog on just that. Neck pain and whiplash.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Batmobile for sale

Sowmya commented here that $98000 for a Tesla is a lot, and today the Batmobile goes on auction and is expected to sell for £75,000 ($187000). "The Batmobile was devised when the cartoon superhero suffered a broken leg in the 1950s, and his trusty sidekick Robin built the vehicle to allow him to continue protecting the residents of Gotham City" reports the news.com.au website news-link here

Since Oscars went green, will the future Batmobiles be Teslas? This will be a good item to blog about as this is the first time an entire event of this magnitude has gone green!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Education

If you think cost of Education is expensive, imagine the costs of ignorance
- Derek Bok

Saturday, February 24, 2007

100 mpg car

Steve Lapp, a professor from Ontario, says the moment has nearly arrived. "I've actually gotten over 100 mpg on some trips in my 2001 Toyota Prius," he says. The secret? He mounted solar panels on the car's roof to keep the batteries charged when the sun is shining. If Lapp, a backyard big thinker, can get triple-digit mileage occasionally, why can't the world's car manufacturers hit the mark on every drive?
Automotive X prize will soon announce a challenge to design 100mpg car that can be produced in large scale.

Some interesting bites from a very long but very interesting article in Popular Mechanics:
  • Body Use of carbon fiber instead of aluminum or steel, because of its superior strength to weight ratio can bring down the weight of the vehicle significantly.
  • Aerodynamics "We're noticing in the wind tunnel that what you do on the bottom of the car can be more profound than the roof shape. The rear of the car needs to be either long and attenuated or abruptly cut off. A car's wake can have a detrimental effect on the mileage by creating a partial vacuum behind the car, tugging it backward." says Stewart Reed, who chairs the Transportation Design Department at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif.
  • Tires Tire manufacturers already use silica in the tread compound to help lower rolling resistance. David Van Emburg, Michelin North America's product marketing director, says we could soon see exotic tires with 20 percent lower rolling resistance than today's models.
Ongoing efforts All electric 100 mpg car from Tesla Motors (Jon Mittelhauser has a blog on why you should get yourself a Tesla). The Aptera Concept Car from Steve Fambro of Accelerated Composites have a 330 mpg, 2 passenger car that can cost under $20K (link : pdf file). Popular Mechanics has a design to achieve 100 mpg without too much extra sweat using existing technology.

Excuses, worse than school children


The Committee was unanimous in its view to submit its report by 8 June 2006 when the 15 months time originally allotted was to expire. However, it came across some insurmountable impediments. In June 2005 the Committee had written to the Ministry of Programme Implementation and Statistics seeking relevant data of NSSO based on 61st Round (corresponding to the 2004-05). It was expected that this data would be available by November 2005. Though the Ministry of Statistics tried its best to supply us the information early but, may be because of the extensive nature of the work, it could not be supplied to us even by May 2006. -- Sachar Committee Report

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Science Experiments in under 10 minutes

An excerpt from Dave Barry's column "Science: It's just not fair"
you might consider duplicating the one that my wife swears she did in the 7th grade late on the night before the science fair. It was called ''Waves,'' and it consisted entirely of a baking pan filled with water, and a pencil. ''You swished the pencil around in the water, and it made waves,'' my wife explained.

I asked her what scientific principle this project demonstrated, and, after thinking about it for a moment, she answered: ``The movement of the water.''

Impossible though it may sound, I did a project in 6th grade that was even lamer than that. It was called ''Phases of the Moon,'' and it consisted of a small rubber ball that I had darkened half of by scribbling on it with a pen. You were supposed to rotate the ball, thus demonstrating scientifically that the phases of the moon were caused by, I don't know, ink.

The total elapsed time involved in conceiving of and constructing this project was maybe 10 minutes, of which at least nine were devoted to scribbling.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

40 trillion gallons over your head

If you live in the United States, there are 40 trillion gallons of water above your head on an average day. Each day, about four trillion gallons of this water fall to Earth as precipitation, such as rain, snow, or hail. Some of the water that falls to Earth soaks into the ground and provides runoff to rivers, lakes, and oceans. The remainder—more than 2.5 trillion gallons—returns to the atmosphere through evaporation, and the process begins again. read more ...

an earlier attempt to explain rain from clouds - 'Being on Cloud Nine'.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Colorful Demise of a Sun-like Star

link post. click the title.

Ten Myths about cars

Popular Mechanics have a list of 10 myths your dad was wrong about.

Here is one:
DAD SAID: "Don't replace wiper blades, just clean them with solvent."
BUT: Mineral spirits and other petroleum-based solvents kill rubber. Occasionally wiping the blades with alcohol removes dirt, but the rubber blades still deteriorate with age and sunlight, and must be replaced regularly.

Jay Leno has a few comments on some of those "myths".

Friday, February 16, 2007

Cars too want to loose Weight!

Keywords: Traction, Emission, Balance, Weight Transfer

How does your car handle on slippery Ice? One of the factors is:[1] Front wheel drives handle better than rear wheel drives on slippery roads as the weight of the engine is on the drive wheels, which helps to improve traction. How does weight affect traction? Though we won't see the exact science of it, we can get a peek at the factors that play a role in the story behind traction.

Medium sized cars weigh approx 600 lbs less than 25 years ago. Mid-sized Cars now weigh around the ballpark of 3000 lb.

A debate carried in an article, carries the following points:

"vehicle quality is a better predictor of safety than weight" says an University of Michigan physicist Marc Ross. "It turns out that relatively inexpensive light cars do tend to be unsafe but more expensive light cars are much safer and are as safe as heavier cars and SUV (sports utility vehicle) models," said Ross. "Analyzing statistical things is sort of funny," Ross said. "If you choose categories so you get cheap cars in your category, then the death rates go up. What we found is that the price of a car is a much better predictor of risk in traffic accidents than the weight of the car."

"No matter what you do, you cannot repeal the laws of physics," spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Russ Rader said. "A larger, heavier vehicle is always going to be safer than a smaller, lighter vehicle. If you're looking at small cars vs. larger cars, small cars have twice as many occupant deaths as large cars." He noted, however, SUVs have a higher rollover risk and are disproportionately involved in single vehicle crashes.

Reducing the weight also brings with it other benefits: “A 40% decrease in car weight can result in a tremendous reduction in CO2 emissions,” says Ignaas Verpoest of Belgium’s Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

How does weight interplay with traction? While driving, if you change direction towards your left, you get pushed to the right. This push transfers the weight on the left tires to the right. Your car has 60% of its weight (1800 lb) on the front tires and 40% on the back (1200 lb). So the car is unevenly loaded. When you make such a turn this push has a chance of pushing you over. The best protection against this comes by adding weight to the car: the greater the weight, the harder it is to transfer any weight from one side to the other. Some recommendations that come your way suggest placing weight on the rear ends to balance weight between the tires. Using a front-drive car, so the higher load on the front tires can be effectively countered.

There are other suggestions: Increasing the distance between the right and left tires (a person is more stable standing in "at ease" posture than in the "attention" posture). Also, reducing the Center of Gravity of the vehicle, or the "center of balance" of the vehicle (a Sumo wrestler or a Football player buckles down before taking a hit from the opponent). For something to think about until the next blog:

***For slippery ice, there is a lot more at play, on how the steering is used along with brakes, keeping off the gas pedals, etc. But these are things you do independent of the design of the car.

related: European cars are doing much better than U.S cars in mileage standards.