Technology


Some pretty cool stuff: Scientists create cloak of invisibility.

In effect the device, made of metamaterials — engineered mixtures of metal and circuit board materials, which could include ceramic, Teflon or fiber composite materials — channels the microwaves around the object being hidden.

When water flows around a rock, [co-author David R.] Smith explained, the water recombines after it passes the rock and people looking at the water downstream would never know it had passed a rock.

The cloaking has to be designed for specific bandwidths of radiation.

In this case it’s microwaves, and someone measuring them wouldn’t be able to tell they had passed around an object. The hope is to do the same for light waves.

Looking at a cloaked item, Smith explained: “One would see whatever is behind the cloak. That is, the cloak is, ideally, transparent. Since we do not have a perfect cloak at this point, there is some reflection and some shadow, meaning that the background would still be visible just darkened somewhat.

As they say - “If you can hide something from microwaves, you can hide it from radar — a possibility that will fascinate the military.”

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A lot has been made recently about whether enemy combatants, who are not party to the Geneva Convention, should be afforded protections of that same agreement, and how we should more completely define appropriate behavior.

In a similar vein, I wonder if we’ve come to the point that we need define and become signatories on an agreement for acceptable blogging behavior.

Last week’s personal attacks on Michelle Malkin were petty, stupid, and really took “the politics of personal destruction” to a new low level. It’s not that Michelle has thin skin or needs people to stand up in her behalf. She can take care of herself. Of course, it’s the top guy who everyone is aiming to ‘bring down a notch’. But that still doesn’t make stuff like that right.

This whole blogging thing is an amazing information and idea wave. We have everyone from journalists and professional writers to college kids to Average Joes all participating. The whole concept of being able to communicate what you think and throw it out to the world is a pretty empowering idea when you think about it. Of course, most of our little blogs aren’t going to change the world. But everyone gets a chance to ‘think out loud’ and communicate with people across the country - some you may agree with and some you may not. But in the end, I don’t think that anyone can say they don’t learn something.

Seperating fact and opinion. You don’t have to like the message that a particular blogger is bringing. If they mis-state, misrepresent, or screw up their facts — then by all means they should be corrected. New information comes to light all of the time. If you don’t like their opinion, then that’s fair too. Instead of taking the Kindergarten route and calling them names or drawing a nasty picture of them and showing it to the boys in the bathroom so you can all have a laugh at their expense, maybe you should instead focus on presenting your own opinions and logic using the same set of facts.

So do we need a “Code of Conduct” in the blogging world? If we can’t seperate attacking the message from attacking the messanger, then maybe it’s time for it.

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It used to be that every once in a while a post on this blog used to fail to show up in the Technorati index. Now since September 12th, it refuses to update. The automatic ping mechanism . But even a manual ping via the Technorati website fails to awaken the beast.

The blog bizhack also discusses the sound of one blog clapping. Many people seem to fall into this bizarre state for extended periods of time.

There has been a lot of speculation about Wordpress versions, plug-ins, and the like… but I haven’t heard any definitive statement from anyone (especially from Technorati, who is the only one who can actually know for sure what’s happening) where you experience this, or have solved the condition?

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Apparently the state of California has officially run out of better things to do today. According to Reuters, the state of California is filing lawsuits against auto manufacturers because of ‘global warming’:

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - California sued six of the world’s largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages.

The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles’ emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

It also comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation’s first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions.

An automaker trade group called the global warming move a “nuisance suit.” Car manufacturers have also held up California state rules to force cuts in tailpipe emissions from cars and trucks with legal action of their own.

The lawsuit names General Motors Corp. (NYSE:GM - news), Ford Motor Co. (NYSE:F - news), Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T), the Chrysler Motors Corp. U.S. arm of Germany’s DaimlerChrysler AG (DCXGn.DE) and the North American units of Japan’s Honda Motor Co. (7267.T) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (7201.T).

“(California) just passed a new law to cut global warming emissions by 25 percent and that’s a good start and this lawsuit is a good next step,” said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club’s Global Warming Program.

Lockyer told Reuters he would seek “tens or hundreds of millions of dollars” from the automakers in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Northern California.

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages for past and ongoing contributions to global warming and asks that the companies be held liable for future monetary damages to California.

It noted that California is spending millions to deal with reduced snow pack, beach erosion, ozone pollution and the impact on endangered animals and fish.

“The injuries have caused the people to suffer billions of dollars in damages, including millions of dollars of funds expended to determine the extent, location and nature of future harm and to prepare for and mitigate those harms, and billions of dollars of current harm to the value of flood control infrastructure and natural resources,” it said.

Ford deferred comment to the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which called the complaint a “nuisance suit” similar to one a New York court dismissed.

“Automakers will need time to review this legal complaint, however, a similar nuisance suit that was brought by attorneys- general against utilities was dismissed by a federal court in New York,” the industry group said in a statement.

Toyota declined to comment as the company evaluates the lawsuit. The other automakers had no immediate comment.

David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research, a nonprofit organization that provides public research and forecasts into the industry, said it would be tough for the industry to immediately meet demands from some critics.

Adoption of diesel engine emissions technology or gasoline- electric hybrids comes at great cost and improving gas mileage also likely means smaller lighter vehicles, trade-offs that are not attractive to consumers, he added.

“These are not free technologies, they are very expensive,” Cole said. “Most people are price sensitive.”

In the complaint, Lockyer charges that vehicle emissions have contributed significantly to global warming and have harmed the resources, infrastructure and environmental health of the most populous state in the United States.

Lockyer — a Democratic candidate for state treasurer in the November election — said the lawsuit states that under federal and state common law the automakers have created a public nuisance by producing “millions of vehicles that collectively emit massive quantities of carbon dioxide.”

OK, first there lawsuits brought by the various states against cigarette companies. These succeeded in large part because the states had very real health care expendatures for illness related to smoking. Of course, once they got their windfall payoff, the money was not sufficiently invested in health care… but that’s another story.

So if the state of California doesn’t actually consider this a nuisance suit, or a “press release” type of lawsuit, what exactly are they going to prove, really.

I have a sample response from each of the car companies: Unfortunately, this lawsuit has sensitized us to the ramifications of doing business in the state of California, and it leaves us no alternative but to stop selling our vehicles in that state. While we do not wish to make it difficult for the state’s 34 million residents to have affordable transportation, we can not subject ourselves to possible open-ended litigation such as this lawsuit. California residents will not be prohibited from purchasing vehicles from any dealerships in neighboring states, but will be asked to sign a waiver of responsibility indicating that they understand that they alone are responsible for any legal recourse should they operate the vehicle in their home state. Good day and good luck.

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Last month, I asked if there had been any progress in the return to the moon.

Apparently there has been some progress - more names have been chosen! This time it’s for the ship: Orion (Astronaut lets new moonship name slip)

“We’ve been calling it the crew exploration vehicle for several years, but today it has a name — Orion,” Williams said, taping a message in advance for the space agency that was transmitted accidentally over space-to-ground radio.

UPDATE: It seems that the purpose of the International Space Station has also become more clear. It’s now to be the backdrop for a commercial for a golf club.

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From an AP report today (Ga. Peaches touted as future fuel source):

Part-time farmer Jimmy Griner hopes his ever-so-fragrant, crystal-clear, 180-proof moonshine can help solve the nation’s energy problems. Griner arrived at the Georgia Bioenergy Conference this week carrying of quart of the stuff in a Mason jar. He’s licensed to make 10,000 gallons a year of the high-octane elixir that’s distilled from fermented Georgia-grown wheat.

I know that the whole “green-fuel” hype is very much in vogue today, especially with government happy to throw good money at more research. But, I’ve seen this episode already! It was already in the Dukes of Hazzard in 1979! From epguides.com:

“High Octane”: Uncle Jesse fires up the old still for a good cause: to make moonshine that can make a combustion engine run to win a contest of a workable fossil-fuel that could save the country’s pollution problems, and get the Dukes $10,000 in cash. But a revenue agent is on to the sneaky Dukes, and so is Boss Hogg who wants to take Jesse’s moonshine to the contest like it was his.

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The world of the Internet opens up everything at your fingertips. There is information (of all kinds) available in ways never before accessable. I remember eight years ago when we were putting together a website for a local organization. There was some information to let others in the community know about the group and what it was doing. There was also information that was useful to members. At that time, we received some website creation guidelines from a national organization. It was amazing to see. No photos of children could appear for their own protection. Because families were involved - no combinations of first & last names or enough information in order to figure out where they lived or how to contact them. Not being able to show a picture of an activity - it seemed so hard to believe. But preditors were already lurking out there. And the guidelines did not spring to life on their own… there were certainly activities that had occurred that made them necessary.

Now it’s 2006. The internet is even more connected. And danger continues to lurk in all of those places. It is more important than ever to protect kids from those dangers. But when government tries to take on that task, however well intentioned, it seems like a debacle in the making. I just read about the DOPA legislation and it confuses me (Bill to Ban Social Sites in Schools Moves to Senate):

MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Bebo and other social networking sites would be banned from schools and libraries in the U.S., if a bill approved by the U.S. House of Representatives becomes law.
Called the Deleting Online Predators Act or DOPA, the bill passed the House last week in a overwhelming vote of 416-15. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA), who introduced the legislation, has said that many social networking sites are “hunting grounds” for child predators. The bill now goes to the Senate within the next month, where it is expected to pass, and then to President Bush for his expected signature.

DOPA would instruct the FCC to ban commercial sites with personal profiles, personal journals and direct communication between users. Some estimates indicate that the number of sites fitting this description could easily be in the hundreds, possibly more.

So I started looking at this. On the surface… it looks like politicians trying to control the areas where they have some control: schools, libraries, and public places. And who wants to take the side of the sick slimeballs that actually do prey on children? Certainly not me. It has been frightening to watch how easily it all takes place. Dateline NBC has spent the entire Spring programming showing how quickly sickos lined up to take advantage of young kids they contacted over the internet, only to walk in and find a film crew. [And there’s even more (Men Charged After ‘Dateline’ Sting)…. apparently no shortage of these SOB’s exists across the country].

But when I read the news article, I just can’t understand how these good intentions can be implemented. The first obvious point is that most youngsters probably will access from home, rather than schools and public libraries anyway. And that’s where parents absoletely have to be involved. The government can’t solve that problem for them.

But how exactly are the lawmakers going to detemine what sites you are not allowed to visit? How in the world can the libraries and schools keep in compliance with such an edict as sites come and go? I do believe that anyone who provides internet access (including schools and libraries) can enforce any policy they wish about sites that they allow acces to using their machines and connection. But how exactly does the government legislate this exactly?

You can read the entire text of the bill here. Some excerpts:

“The term ‘commercial social networking website’ means a commercially operated Internet website that— (i) allows users to create web pages or profiles that provide information about themselves and are available to other users; and (ii) offers a mechanism for communication with other users, such as a forum, chat room, email, or instant messenger.”

“The term ‘chat rooms’ means Internet websites through which a number of users can communicate in real time via text and that allow messages to be almost immediately visible to all other users or to a designated segment of all other users.”

“Section 254(h)(5)(B) of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 254(h)(5)(B)) is amended by striking clause (i) and inserting the following: (i) is enforcing a policy of Internet safety for minors that includes monitoring the online activities of minors and the operation of a technology protection measure with respect to any of its computers with Internet access that— (I) protects against access through such computers to visual depictions that are— (aa) obscene; (bb) child pornography; or (cc) harmful to minors; and (II) prohibits access to a commercial social networking website or chat room through which minors— (aa) may easily access or be presented with obscene or indecent material; (bb) may easily be subject to unlawful sexual advances, unlawful requests for sexual favors, or repeated offensive comments of a sexual nature from adults; or (cc) may easily access other material that is harmful to minors; and’’.

I know what he is driving at. But doesn’t it seem that every blog has the potential to meet this generic definition? And any IM site?

I think that Rep. Fitzpatrick has his heart in the right place. I’m sure he really does want to protect kids. But I don’t think that you can create a sufficiently generic definition that really protects children from this threat in legalese. It is real. It is evil. But it can only be stopped by educating the children… not by trying to hide them from it in certain settings.

I don’t see how schools and libraries can hope to comply with this legislation, although they are the ones seemingly left on the hook for figuring out how to implement this.

Talk with your kids. Help them to understand the dangers and tactics of these sickos. Be honest. Be mean if you have to. It would be nice if we could trust everyone and be friends with everyone — but we can’t. So you have to be honest with your kids. Mandating that a library must restrict access to MySpace is just not going to do it.

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As the TV news-readers continue to respond to a summer heatwave by connecting it to global warming, the causual observer can be excused for not realizing that there’s more to the “global warming” discussion than it might seem. Intellectual Conservative’s An even more Inconvenient Truth: The Myth of Man-Made Global Warming has the most well-written summary of the global warming phenomenon and the “science” that backs it up. It’s a must read!

“Despite building thousands of factories that spew massive volumes of heat and countless tons of noxious elements into the atmosphere, or man’s penchant for paving over wetlands and clear-cutting forests, human beings are merely spectators in the process of global climate change. Interested spectators yes, and spectators who can certainly affect isolated, highly focused environmental changes by building a dam here or setting off a nuclear bomb there, but a spectator nevertheless. One medium-sized volcanic eruption has more impact on the Earth’s climate than a few million SUVs or a thousand or two rust-belt factories operating at full capacity, despite what little Johnny’s teacher told him during last year’s Earth-Day celebration.”

The essential question being asked is “How do you know?”

It’s an absolute must-read!

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This has nothing to do with Iraq, Iran, North Korea, the DNC or any other current hotspots.

I wonder how we are doing on Bush’s mandate to “Return to the Moon”? Is it completely forgotten yet?

To recap, in January 2004, with much fanfare, there were some pretty big announcements made President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program :

  • Today, President Bush announced a new vision for the Nation’s space exploration program. The President committed the United States to a long-term human and robotic program to explore the solar system, starting with a return to the Moon that will ultimately enable future exploration of Mars and other destinations.
  • The President’s vision affirms our Nation’s commitment to manned space exploration. It gives NASA a new focus and clear objectives. It will be affordable and sustainable while maintaining the highest levels of safety.
  • The benefits of space technology are far-reaching and affect the lives of every American. Space exploration has yielded advances in communications, weather forecasting, electronics, and countless other fields. For example, image processing technologies used in lifesaving CAT Scanners and MRIs trace their origins to technologies engineered for use in space.

So the goals outlined were:

  • Complete its work on the International Space Station by 2010
  • Retire the current space shuttle fleet by the end of the decade
  • Develop the new Crew Exploration Vehicle; Develop & test by 2008, conduct first mission no later than 2014
  • Series of robotic missions to the Moon beginning no later than 2008
  • Return to the Moon as early as 2015 and no later than 2020
  • Develop extended missions to the moon as a stepping stone towards a mission to Mars.

NASA… how are we doing? Other than naming the rockets ‘Ares’… are we really on track?

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Lately I’ve seen a commercial a few times that has me confused. A little girl dressed in an aardvark costume is upset, apparently because she had a small part in the school play. But when Mom & Dad show her the video, she realizes how important she is because her singing is load and clear on the close-up video.

That’s a nice story. (Cue the soft focus). Building your child’s self esteem through a camcorder accessory. Anyway, apparently the Sony HandyCam which now has an optional Bluetooth microphone so that you can capture audio far from the camera. (Of course, the parents still couldn’t have been too far away if the Bluetooth connection was working).

But when they showed the video, it looked like the kid had a huge silver box pinned to her aardvark costume. It’s great Mom & Dad managed to capture her audio (and the exclusion of all other) on their recording… but it’s still pretty obtrusive to have to carry that box around!


I see
that the rig costs $199. Wow… you must really want remote audio badly to pay that!

What a price for this self esteem…

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