This show screened on SBS and was fairly interesting. Though I was bugged by what I think were unfair comparisons between the Da Vinci glider and the Wright brothers' flyer. The Wright flyer was a powered vehicle that managed to fly 120 feet in 12 seconds (their first flight, their best was 24.5 miles in 39 minutes). A 30 second, 100 yard hang glider flight down a hill isn't really comparable. I'm sure there were a few hang-glider/kite style unpowered flights before the Wright brothers' that would have been a better match up.
Monday, May 31, 2004
Historically Australia and the US backed Suharto (or Sukarno?) as they were worried that Indonesia would "Balkanize" and some of the resulting states may turn communist. This presumably explains why Australia was so keen to appease Indonesia at all costs -- even to the extent of angering the US by withholding intelligence information. It's been a while since communism was a threat though, so you would presume that a group of third-world islands fighting amongst themselves would be less threat to Australia than a militaristic nation with 500,000,000 citizens.
Posted by Tom at 9:10 am
Friday, May 28, 2004
Nothing like a war to get those scientiests going. For an article on the use of nanotechnology for personal armour see here. Also interesting is Israels "future infantry warrior" program and this article on Personal UAV's (unmanned air vehicle) for ground soldiers.
Posted by Watt Tyler at 10:30 pm
Michael said this better than I could:
Lightweight description of the "chaotic inflation" theory of the universe's origin, which apparently has the implication that the universe could have been created as an experiment, and with few resources, and now be so small that the experimenter has lost it...
The article mentions various ways that the creator could attempt to communicate with his creation, non of them seem to permit him decreeing that gay marriages are a sin, for example.
Posted by Tom at 2:11 pm
New Scientist reports that "a US medical team has requested permission to perform the world's first face transplant." Supposedly the face won't look like either the person's original face or the donor's face due to the underlying skull and muscle structure (and hideous scaring I'd imagine...)
Posted by Tom at 2:00 pm
Thursday, May 27, 2004
In Darfur, a region in southern Sudan approximately the size of Texas, over a million people are threatened with torture and death at the hands of marauding militia and a complicit government. Imagine a militia that forces parents to choose whether their children will be burned alive or shot to death. Imagine that in the very same month the world remembers the genocides of Cambodia and Rwanda, the unfolding news of another in Sudan is barely heard and largely ignored. The Passion of the present is a new blog to encourage more coverage of this unfolding tragedy.
Posted by Watt Tyler at 11:04 pm
My computer crashed just before posting the following links. Originally there were nice blurbs.
Posted by Tom at 2:22 pm
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
This nifty little concept car has some nice ideas. It's a single person "drive by wire" electric "car" with hubless motors and variable wheel base. This gives it very good manueverability and the ability to recline during high-speed travel and "stand up" to get in and out.
The best bit though, is that they can talk to each other, so you can have one person driving a small train of these cars.
Posted by Tom at 2:06 pm
- Physicists at the University of New Hampshire have found bacteria capable of producing "biodiesel". This reminds me of a small town (on the way to South Australia somewhere...) where they thought they'd discovered oil only to discover it was merely a bacteria that produced an oil like sludge. It's still cheaper to not use oil though...
- JP Aerospace have developed what could be a practical "Space elevator" consisting of a large blimp at a low earth-orbit and other blimps that will carry payloads up to it.
Posted by Tom at 1:38 pm
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
- Microsoft has payed out over anti-competitive behaviour towards Opera. The analysis of what was going on was pretty worrying.
- No, I will not fix your computer -- I could do with one of these sometimes. I wouldn't wear it though, so please don't bother.
- The Australia Institute -- I've seen/heard Clive Hamilton from this "left-leaning political thinktank" discussing a few issues lately, including Four Corners on over-consumption and Hack on corporate welfare.
Posted by Tom at 2:19 pm
Monday, May 24, 2004
- New Scientist reports that Archaeopteryx (the first "bird") may have had four "wings" and glided (like a sugar-glider) rather than flown. Makes sense.
- These guys in the homebrew Atari 2600 scene are doing some pretty amazing things -- it's amazing that people were ever attracted to computer games, when that was all that was on offer.
- Need a GeekMan action-figure?
Posted by Tom at 2:08 pm
Saturday, May 22, 2004
This is a long and somewhat spooky essay and a review of it. The main thesis seems to be that there is a group of christian fundamentalists that are slowly taking over the high court and the white house. I do not know enough to comment on the quality of the essay or to be able to judge wether its a good essay or hysterical propaganda. I decided to post it anyway because if its true its quite scary and because I'm curious about your opinion.
Posted by Watt Tyler at 9:27 pm
Friday, May 21, 2004
Blogosphere Ecosystem is an application which scans weblogs once daily and generates a list of weblogs ranked by the number of incoming links they receive from other weblogs on the list. The top are all American but some of my favorite UK based blogs such as normblog, harry's place, and crooked timber make it to the top three category
Posted by Watt Tyler at 10:21 pm
"If truth is not to be found on the shelves of the British Museum, where, I asked myself, picking up a notebook and a pencil, is truth?"
- VIRGINIA WOOLF
An excellent short story by the one and only Kim Stanley Robinson
Posted by Watt Tyler at 8:50 pm
Some simple explanations on how primary colours "combine" and light waves are perceived by our eyes. Also contains this nice point:
People sometimes speculate about extraterrestrials picking up TV signals from Earth and watching our soap operas. But what is transmitted is so finely tuned to the peculiarities of the human ocular and perceptual system that aliens would struggle to make any sense of it.
Posted by Tom at 5:30 pm
Some interesting comments to this Slashdot story:
If grading is intended as a motivator to encourage each student to perform his/her best, then more effort should yield a higher grade. Likewise, if grading is intended to reflect the student's ability to perform in a real-world situation, effort should probably yield a higher grade: folks who work hard tend to do better than folks who are marginally smarter but don't work hard, in real-life situations. But if grading is intended to reflect only the quality of the work that was submitted, then sure -- effort shouldn't count at all.And:
Cool idea. Imagine high school students re-writing their essays until the grader software gives them an A+.This was exactly what we could do in one of my programming classes and it was excellent. We had a deadline, but could make as many submissions as we liked until we were happy with the grade. A nice subversive suggestion in there too:
it would have been my goal to make the most wrong essay I could that would still generate a good grade from the system.
Posted by Tom at 1:58 pm
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Jose Ramos Horta on Iraq (From The Australian):
"As a Nobel Peace laureate, I, like most people, agonise over the use of force. But when it comes to rescuing an innocent people from tyranny or genocide, I've never questioned the justification for resorting to force."
see the rest here
Posted by Watt Tyler at 9:47 pm
This New Scientist interview with Hokan Colting talks about airships being used as telecommunication relay towers, much cheaper and easier to install than satellites (with less signal delay too) and with very large coverage areas due to their height.
Posted by Tom at 2:23 pm
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
On November 17, 2003, the President of the French Republic announced on TV that, having heard the report of the Stasi Commission that was appointed some months ago, he would propose a law on secularism that will forbid any sign of religious or political affiliation in schools and public administration.
In the web site of the WLUML (Women living under Muslim law) progressive Muslim women explain why they supported the law.
Posted by Watt Tyler at 10:05 pm
Hack had an interview with Clive Hamilton of the Australia Institute on Monday about the potential $85 million bail-out of Mitsubishi that touched on the issue of "corporate welfare" (The plant hires 3,000 employees with 14,000 in "spin-off" jobs and there was a meeting on Monday.)
Australia spends $16 bilion a year on subsidies (rent relief, tax breaks etc), which is 3% of our GDP. For example, the aluminium industry apparently receives subsidised electricity that works out to be about $40-50,000 per year per worker!
Posted by Tom at 2:21 pm
EverQuest players have an average wage of US$3.42/hr, the game is ranked the 77th richest country in the world (with 450,000 "citizens") and it's currency is supposedly rated higher than the Yen and Lira (Virtual Worlds: A First-Hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier). That is presumably if everyone "cashed in" for real money, and that probably neglects the labour "imported" from the real world.
This article includes the story of a kid who was bought a $500 level 50 character by his parents and then kept getting killed because he didn't know how play -- the time needed to gain level 50 obviously isn't entirely wasted, as you at least learn how to play the game.
Posted by Tom at 1:54 pm