Science, art and other neat stuff (and an open thread)

Hey folks — time once again for science, technology, and just plain cool stuff I’ve found ’round the ‘Net. I have so many stacked up in my browser tabs though, I’ve decided I will limit my faux pithy remarks to a maximum of two sentences per link.

Apple’s new iOS 7 software update is making people sick, as in motion sickness, nausea and headaches, and it’s worse on iPads. The theory is it’s due to their attempt to use animation to simulate 3D effects.

Texas schools and libraries decide they don’t want to know that animals feel emotions — so their solution is to ban the book of short stories, “The Smile of a Dolphin,” written by the renowned researchers who study them. Are we surprised?

Killer Hornets Terrorize China.” I simply had to click on that one, and learn that swarms of giant yak-killer hornets are attacking people without warning, mainly in Shaanxi province, and have killed 28. Zzzzzzzzz!

Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Northwestern University, have developed an intravaginal ring doped with an anti-retrovial drug that may help prevent HIV infection for women (who, as studies have shown, are more likely than men to become infected when exposed to the virus). Very promising.

The number of confirmed planets orbiting stars other than our own is nearing 1,000. I still remember learning in my grade school science classes that not only did we not know if there would be planets at other stars, it was a flat-out truism then we might never really have the means to detect them from here.

The incredible variety of planets we've found (credit: C. Pulliam & D. Aguilar (CfA))

The incredible variety of planets we’ve found (credit: C. Pulliam & D. Aguilar (CfA))

A 300 million year old fossil of a predatory amphibian, Sclerocephalus haeuseri, killed by its last meal. A moment of ignominious failure captured for all time.

A robot that learns like a toddler — looking at and handling physical objects, or by being physically directed.  I can’t decide if it’s cute, fascinating, creepy, disturbing, or all of the above.

A robot that blurs the line between machine and human (Italian Institute of Technology)

A robot that blurs the line between machine and human (Italian Institute of Technology)

Water on Mars. Not only has Curiosity discovered there is roughly 2% water in soil samples, it also discovered a pyramid-shaped volcanic rock known as “mugerite,” which only forms in the presence of water.

(Sigh.) Fusion power remains tantalizingly out of reach. If I had a dollar for every time over my half century on this planet I read a story about how incredibly close we are to self-sustaining fusion reactors, I’d be a very wealthy woman.

And finally, saving the best for last: It was only a matter of time before artists began using 3D-printers to create some of the most amazing art I’ve seen. Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger have designed a massive space, room, I don’t know quite how to describe it, save that it looks like a collaboration between Geiger and Escher. Take a look at their site, which has more photos and videos, at Digital Grotesque.

Amazing 3D printed 'room' by Digital Grotesque.

Amazing 3D printed ‘room’ by Digital Grotesque.

(Okay, I cheated, that last one had three sentences. As ever, consider this an open thread.)

Published professional writer and poet, Becca had a three decade career in technical writing and consulting before selling off most of her possessions in 2006 to go live at an ashram in India for 3 years. She loves literature (especially science fiction), technology and science, progressive politics, cool electronic gadgets, and perfecting Hatch green chile recipes. Fortunately for this last, Becca and her wife currently live in New Mexico. @BeccaMorn

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75 Responses to “Science, art and other neat stuff (and an open thread)”

  1. Naja pallida says:

    Firefly had over a million dollar per-episode budget. A far cry from insubstantial… but $1-2 million per episode is about the range for most series with any level of special effects and makeup these days. Doctor Who, Warehouse 13, Enterprise, etc. I’m wondering what the budget for Marvel Agents of SHIELD is. The big problem with scifi programming is that they really need network production that “gets it”. With Firefly, the story was so deep and different from anything before it that the pencil pushers at Fox had no clue what they had, and because it didn’t take off like a rocket (in no small part due to their lack of understanding of the material), they buried it. Syfy is doing the opposite with Defiance. Hoping that it will become an underground classic, if only they just plugging away at it. Either way, they have to justify the couple hundred million they’ve already invested into it – and the associated game.

  2. heimaey says:

    It’s 2013…1973 was 40 years ago.

    I’m an idiot because technology is an inevitability of nature? OK sure…

  3. Monoceros Forth says:

    So maybe I’m an idiot as you say, but it’s not for that reason.

    But earlier:

    The iPhone IS an inevitability of nature.

    You’re an idiot for this reason.

    (And you said you were born in ’73. How does that make you over forty?)

  4. heimaey says:

    I am over 40. There are lots of people who are 40+ who embrace change and technology. Not all of us lock ourselves in a room and stop evolving at 40.

    The iPhone IS an inevitability of nature. Everything we have done and who we are up until now and going forward is nature. You cannot go against nature because when you do “go against nature” that’s part of nature too. We were designed by nature and we may be our own undoing, but that is just darwinism in action if we do.

    And accepting changes blindly without criticism is not what I’m doing. I’m accepting change and when it’s bad I will admit it. The difference between me and you is that when I see something new, I don’t run away from it, I see what it has to offer and adapt to it. If it’s not good, it will fade away and be replaced in a newer version. Just because something changes and takes time and effort to figure out doesn’t mean it’s bad. I’m just not so set in my ways. So maybe I’m an idiot as you say, but it’s not for that reason.

  5. heimaey says:

    I love you all claim I don’t know you, but then you start throwing around things like this that claim you know me. Believe me if the grid collapses (drama much) I’ll be just fine.

  6.® says:

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  7. Monoceros Forth says:

    Wow, some braggart geek who hasn’t seen forty yet is lecturing us all on his solomonic acceptance of change, as if pointing out some design flaw in Apple’s latest toy were a failure of wisdom on a par with refusing to acknowledge the setting of the sun or the inevitability of death.

    I wonder if the concept of “change”, which you have attempted in your clumsy way to use as a weapon against your numerous critics, is something you’ve ever bothered to examine with any depth. Not all forms of change are of equal weight; not all deserve humble sufferance. It’s bizarre, this notion that a product of technology ought to be regarded as though it had dropped on us out of the sky, to be embraced all on its own without criticism because to criticize is to refuse that gift from the gods upon which you bestow the ostentatious name of change.

    The iPhone is not an inevitability of nature. It is a product. It is something designed by men and women who sometimes make mistakes. Accepting every aspect of a design blindly and without criticism doesn’t make you wise; it makes you an idiot–all the more so since you presume to look down on people who aren’t as blindly uncritical as you.

  8. karmanot says:

    Yep, there are legions of we grumpy old luddites. When the grid collapses we’ll invite you over a candlelit dinner and teach you how to survive without instant.

  9. karmanot says:

    OMG 73? You are young. I get your point about advanced technology, but I embrace slow time and the luxurious feel of quill and parchment. I utterly reject the banalities of Tweets and Facebook. I eat slow food consciously prepared and consciously moving in slow space. The slower it is the closer to the infinite it becomes. I began to embrace slow after acquiring my first computer—an IBM that had to be feed DOS language.

  10. heimaey says:

    You are the definition of grumpy old luddite, so we’re even.

  11. heimaey says:

    I was born in 73.

  12. karmanot says:

    Do use candles or halogen?

  13. karmanot says:

    I didn’t care for Stargate. Compared to the old Star Trek series it was infantile. Speaking of FOX, their recent anime series featured a hefty dose of anti gay propaganda.

  14. karmanot says:

    Firefly was great!

  15. karmanot says:

    SyFy is also virulently anti gay. That’s why I stopped watching it.

  16. karmanot says:

    It’s all about you isn’t it Millennium baby.

  17. karmanot says:

    “I do think you’re a kind of a dinosaur though” I don’t know about Zorba, but I definitely am. Now get off my f*ing lawn .

  18. karmanot says:

    Ya have to spit out the seeds Zorbie! :-)

  19. karmanot says:

    Love it!

  20. karmanot says:

    “Do they offer any improvement or replacement?” Ted Cruz as the next Joe McCarthy.

  21. karmanot says:

    “There is no end to the lack of brains” OMG, it’s true. Republicans are Zombies.

  22. Zorba says:

    Well bless your heart. Aren’t you special?

  23. lynchie says:

    You know absolutely nothing about me. You are the definition of consumer. You must categorize others because it makes you feel comfortable. If you don’t you are unable to deal with abstract ideas which differ from yours.

  24. heimaey says:

    Im not accepting hype. The system is a big improvement. My advice for you: First step: Stop being a luddite. Second step: Learn to live in the modern world. Third step: Just because you don’t get it doesn’t mean it’s bad.

  25. heimaey says:

    I set myself up for that one. :p

  26. lynchie says:

    accept the hype and spend the dough. I prefer to see if that change will be good for me not for the corporation trying to profit off supposed change.

  27. lynchie says:

    good choice

  28. BeccaM says:

    Oddly enough, Defiance was already renewed for a 2nd season after just a few episodes. I’ll say this much for the SyFy channel: They don’t leave a lot of uncertainty as to whether or not shows will continue for additional seasons.

    Sadly, the writing was on the wall pretty early for Stargate: Universe in its 2nd season… the usual Stargate franchise fans just didn’t much go for the dark stories or how long they tended to take to unfold. Overall, I rather liked it, but that was my only complaint, too — they took way too long before Dr. Rush’s ‘secret’ (that he had full access to the ship’s bridge and computer) was revealed…and also wasted way the hell too much story time with their magic “swap bodies with someone on Earth” stones. What they took two seasons to tell should’ve been done in one.

    Firefly, on the other hand, was a prime example of how network programming execs can literally kill a show (Friday death-slot schedule, failing to broadcast the 2-part pilot at the beginning, ordering the remaining episodes to be broadcast out of sequence, weeks-long gaps between airings, etc.). When it wasn’t renewed, not very many were surprised — although the dickish move not to show the last three episodes kind of proved the Fox execs never planned to have the series succeed at all.

  29. heimaey says:

    It’s impossible unless I live under a rock.

  30. heimaey says:

    Change is change. Accept it or fade away into the dust. Bye.

  31. lynchie says:

    you are obviously an expert on everything but please stop speaking down to us. Some of us may be less “tech savy” than you but we are still allowed to have our likes and dislikes. Change is good but change for the sake of change accomplishes nothing. Microsoft does the same thing, in the end it is about money.

  32. lynchie says:

    then don’t pay attention

  33. heimaey says:

    It wasn’t directed at you specifically. No need to get snippy, but when people result to cuss words, they usually don’t have anything intelligent or worthwhile to say.
    I do think you’re a kind of a dinosaur though – I bet you in a month you will have forgotten all about the upgrade. No offense, but all the people complaining are usually the people who have a harder time with technology in general. I know some tech savvy people who don’t like the interface but for other reasons, non-aesthetic. People who go nuts about the aesthetics and not the features themselves, which are a vast improvement, are usually the people who are again not as tech savvy. The changes you are talking about like where to find stuff are just innate for most people, it took me 5 seconds to figure out the changes. Apple is smart enough to know, as they always have been, that the user just doesn’t know what they want yet. The problems with apple today are their crappy hardware systems that die much quicker then they used to.
    So embrace the change, it’s not going away – you also don’t have to upgrade. My friend is still running 3.3.1 and is happy with that. Maybe you should think about that in the future.

  34. heimaey says:

    Oh come on. Honestly, we go through the same song and dance almost every year. It gets so tiresome.

  35. Indigo says:

    Space X does look viable, I agree, but meanwhile, the Right is focused on undermining the health and economic stability of the public. Proving that government doesn’t work by crippling, then dismantling it is beginning to take its toll. If that “breaking bad” policy continues to corrode the system the way it has over the past decade, we won’t have a space program by 2025.

  36. zorbear says:

    I didn’t know you could lick Apples — damn, I just threw out two Leopard versions, too!

  37. zorbear says:

    But, isn’t every show/every season always a one season budget without promises of renewal? But look what some people can do with that (e.g., Firefly…)…

  38. BeccaM says:

    We have Richard Nixon to thank for that. As soon as his ass hit the chair in the Oval Office, he began cutting the NASA budget — hence why three Saturn V rockets lay rusting as exhibits rather than having been used as intended.

    And why we ended up with the spaceship equivalent of a pick-up truck — and nowhere for the shuttle to go. And why Skylab wasn’t put into a high enough orbit to stay up for more than a few years, nor was pushed into higher orbit by the space tug that was never built.

    Right around 1970-71 was when the leaders of this country decided it wasn’t to be the Moon + a permanent space station + a Mars program, but only a temporary space station and that’s it.

    Truly, it wasn’t a failure of ability, but of will. By time Reagan took office, the idea of a serious space program was shelved in favor of budget cuts, robotic probes, and the occasional pointless speech about how we were going to do great things… until cut and canceled in the next budget cycle.

    At this point, I have more faith in ventures like SpaceX.

  39. BeccaM says:

    Thanks, PappyVet!

  40. Indigo says:

    We children of the 40s and 50s were assured that Lunar City would be operational before the end of the 20th century. There would be satellites overhead where elderly and convalescent could live in low gravity, and construction in space would have started on the expedition fleet to Mars. Fantasies, most likely, but more to the point, a failure of nerve here at home has held us back from what could have been possible by now.

  41. pappyvet says:

    Waxing nostalgic,enjoy !

  42. pappyvet says:

    This one’s for the Sisters

  43. pappyvet says:

    Yes animals feel,its some Texans that I wonder about

  44. BeccaM says:

    Yep. Open thread. Talk about anything you like. And good for you!

  45. BeccaM says:

    Beautiful, Indigo!

  46. BeccaM says:

    Apple’s new iOS system makes people sick? Yet somehow violent video games about stealing cars with guns makes everyone happy.

    Apples and oranges, seriously, and no pun intended. An OS that makes people motion sick makes the entire device they run much less usable. A violent video game doesn’t have to be played — it’s a choice.

    Apple didn’t give people a choice about iOS 7. And once installed, that’s it, no going back. If you find a video game objectionable, you can always uninstall it.

  47. BeccaM says:

    I can’t quite say I’ve been ‘sold’ either, save that at least it’s original SF programming.

    But yeah — huge stage. The entire planet has been devastated. Alien ships in orbit and dropping as “ark falls” all the time. Yet the only place we’ve seen at all is the town of Defiance itself, and a little of the surrounding territory.

    On the other hand, there’s not a whole lot one can do with a 13 show budget, for a series no one knew whether it’d be a success or not. I am glad though they were renewed for a 2nd season.

  48. BeccaM says:

    Cool, thanks.

  49. Hue-Man says:

    Why didn’t I think of that? “Victoria’s Ann Makosinski emerged victorious from the 2013 Google Science Fair on Monday night, winning her age category (15-16 year old) with her ‘Hollow Flashlight’,
    which is battery-free and runs off body heat from the human hand.”

    “Canada’s newest scientific superstar lists her idols as Nikola Tesla, Marie Curie, and Pandit Ravi Shankar.” Her video explaining her invention before the Google Science Fair.

    Headline: “Acidic oceans killing Pacific oyster industry”

    “Oysters started dying by the billions along the Northwest coast in 2005, and have been struggling ever since. When scientists cautiously linked the deaths to plummeting ocean pH in 2008 and 2009, few outside the West Coast’s $110-million industry believed it.

    By the time scientists confirmed it early last year, the region’s several hundred oyster growers had become a global harbinger — the first tangible sign anywhere in the world that ocean acidification already was walloping marine life and hurting people.

    The industry in Willapa Bay, a shallow estuary, and Puget Sound employs about 3,200 people and produces one-quarter of the U.S.’s oysters.” P.S. Drill Baby Drill!

  50. Monoceros Forth says:

    Eh, this is Apple, trading usability for “lickability” ever since Steve Jobs came back to get revenge for the well-deserved failure of NeXT.

  51. Monoceros Forth says:

    The level of childishness on display must surely be unprecented. I’m no fan of the ACA but at least it is some sort of constructive policy. At least it’s some attempt to address an important problem faced by this nation’s citizens, and it became law by all the usual machinery of our representative government. And all that the GOP has done ever since is refuse to accept that the law is legitimate. They act as though it were a decree handed down by a tyrant and not a duly voted-upon act of Congress. Do they offer any improvement or replacement? Not a damn thing. Does the GOP any longer have the slightest interest in actual governance? Do they care about solving any of the nation’s problems?

  52. Zorba says:

    To each their own nicho. I am not fond of it, and I only wish that I could go back to the earlier version, but this is not possible. If they had allowed this, those users who like the newest version could continue to enjoy using it, but those who did not like it could have gone back to the previous version.
    But they will not let us opt out once we have down-loaded it. Not cool.

  53. nicho says:

    GOP Congressdouche yells “Let’s roll” as they vote to shut down either healthcare or the government.

    There is no end to the lack of brains or class among conservatives.

  54. Naja pallida says:

    I’m still not entirely sold on Defiance. It is a great premise, with a great back story, it just doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere as a series. They set this huge stage, but the stories they have told thus far are tiny against that backdrop.

  55. nicho says:

    I have iOS7. I love it. Go figure.

  56. Naja pallida says:

    Not to be confused with Whorenado… what happens when Republicans control Congress? :)

  57. Monoceros Forth says:

    The unambiguous discovery of numerous extrasolar planets is surely one of the greatest achievements of astronomy in recent years. It is a little frustrating to know, though, that there’s effectively zero chance we’ll be able to see even the nearest of them up close within even the next millennium. I am a child of the late ’70s and the ’80s; Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” and the news from Voyager were part of the texture of my childhood and I suppose I took it for granted that something like Project Daedalus would be launched eventually. Now that seems more remote than ever. We haven’t been stagnant but neither have we waded much further out into the cosmic ocean, as Sagan put it, than we have since the days of Voyager 2.

  58. Drew2u says:

    On my way home tonight I listened to this rather fascinating hour of TED Talks, especially the first segment of “Rewilding”.

    “Every species plays a crucial role in our natural world. But when humans tinker with the equation, a chain reaction can cause entire ecosystems to break down. In this hour, TED speakers explain how everything is connected in nature, with some bold ideas about how we can restore the delicate balance and bring disappearing ecosystems back.”

  59. Zorba says:

    I have never, ever played violent video games, so you can address a different f*cking demographic regarding those.
    It gets tiresome to me when they “update” systems and make things worse. They do often change things and improve them, and kudos to them at those times. But far too often, they change things just for the sake of change, without considering whether those changes will improve the user’s experience.
    It also gets tiresome to me to listen to people like you who think that those of us who object to some of the changes are some kind of dinosaurs, unwilling to accept any changes.

  60. Luigi Proud DemoCat! says:

    Open thread right? I was in the Kroger today and bought some Bertolli pasta and sauce. While I was there, I convinced 2 other shoppers not to buy Barilla. If all of us visit the pasta Isle to do a moment of evangelizing, we can hurt Guido where it hurts – in his wallet.

  61. Indigo says:

    Okay, it’s a day late, but since it’s an open thread, I’m going with Friday Orchid Blogging Restored. This is my purple dendronium, blooming on my apartment patio, a bit late this year. August was too hot but September is just right:

  62. Indigo says:

    I miss the SciFi channel more than any of the others. So many interesting day time series . . . gone.

  63. DJ_without.the.spin says:

    Mixed Martial Arts. Those Asian giant hornets are quite frightening – not just what they do to people but what devastation they can have on honeybee populations

  64. heimaey says:

    Apple’s new iOS system makes people sick? Yet somehow violent video games about stealing cars with guns makes everyone happy. We go through this every year when they update their system, people complain and like things the way they were before then get used to them and forget after a couple weeks. It’s the same thing with almost all interfaces. Every time Facebook changes something, people are up and arms. It gets tiresome.

  65. Zorba says:

    I definitely agree. They seem to be enamored of catchy-looking “bells and whistles” that do nothing to help, and in a lot of cases hurt, the basic functioning.
    It’s like “Oooh, look, shiny!”

  66. The_Fixer says:

    I think that the first thing they need to teach computer people is “Fix what’s broke before you give us stupid features that no one is going to use, and leave the unbroken stuff alone”.

  67. BeccaM says:

    What’s “MMA”?

  68. Zorba says:

    Oh, yeh. I have an iPad and updated to iOS 7. Big f*cking mistake. I cannot go back now to the earlier version. But one of the first things I did was go into Settings/General/Accessibility and reduce the motion.
    There are a lot of other things that make it less user-friendly, as far as I am concerned.
    The first thing that computer guys and gals should have hammered into them is, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

  69. Steven Jaeger says:

    SyFy has done as many of the good channels have gone, el cheapo “re-alley-ty (as in where the trash bins are). Look at TLC and, damn, I forgot now but anyway, Any channel relying upon minimally scripted “reality shows and I include all the wrestling, MMA, etc shows” shows that they no longer deserve support of anyone who enjoys good scripted entertainment. And if anyone says MMA is not scripted they don’t know. I worked with a couple different guys who perform in MMA, and you better believe it’s scripted.
    Actually I was really joyful to see the planetary count hit the 1K range. With the work on warp fields, ‘photon molecules’ announced a couple of days ago, and quantum transporters, we’re getting a bit closer to our destiny—- the stars.

  70. UncleBucky says:

    Settings > Reduce Motion.

  71. karmanot says:

    Yep—-called ‘Hornado’ It will attract the teen crowd over at Syfy.

  72. BeccaM says:

    Only if there’s room between the ‘paranormal’ and wrestling shows.

    I used to love that channel… At least “Defiance” has been an interesting series.

  73. Jimmy says:

    Giant killer hornets. I’m sure the great minds at Syfy are already planning their next lame TV movie that will inexplicably be watched by millions of people.

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