Saturday, January 31, 2004

Something else to worry about #5

[See previous]

Everyone knows that X-rays and CT scans can be beneficial, but they also have a downside. According to this article, about 0.9% of new cancers discovered in the U.S. are caused by X-rays. There are two amazing statistics in the article:According to this page: "In the United States, men have about a 1 in 2 lifetime risk of developing cancer. The risk for women is about 1 in 3."

This page has some interesting stories about the "x-ray martyrs" in the early 1900s.

The next time the dentist says, "Hey, it's time to take take your annual X-rays", perhaps the question to be asked is, "Is that really necessary?"

Superbowl prediction

This page predicts that the Panthers will beat the Patriots, based on the performance of a video game duel held Wednesday. It will be interesting to see if this prediction technique can maintain its perfect record for 9 straight years.

As video game simulations of sports get more and more realistic, can the video games amass enough data to start accurately predicting how real games will play out? I would tend to think not, because the games would have trouble handling things like injuries to key players during a game. But maybe that kind of thing washes out statistically.

Friday, January 30, 2004

The Worst cars

This article from Forbes chronicles the Worst cars of all time. It's especially funny since I owned one of these cars as a teenager... and at the time I was so grateful to have a car that it really did not matter. "Freedom" is better than "immobility" no matter how bad the car is...

Low-power computer

A new low-power computer running Linux will help with the design of hand held devices and robots. It's called the GumStix, and it is based on the Intel PXA255 processor. The PXA255 is a high-performance, low-power processor designed to be used in handheld devices. The computer, with the processor and 64MB of RAM, draws only 200 milliamps.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Something else to worry about #4

[See previous]

It's not clear where they come from, but someone is manufacturing a cell phone gun. From the outside it looks like a cell phone, but inside it contains four short gun barrels, four firing pins and four .22-calibre bullets. This movie shows you how it works.

The MER's brain

This is a nice article on the computers that are powering the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on Mars: The Brains of NASA's Red Planet Rovers

Places to go for gadget news

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Another advanced transportation system

Wired featured another transportation system similar to SkyWeb Express and SkyTran (see previous post). It is called ULTra:

The ULTra web site says: "A personal automatic taxi providing on demand driverless travel - using its own guideway network. Effective, low cost and sustainable transport for cities, airports and special applications worldwide." It's max speed is 25 MPH, so SkyTran (at 100 MPH) seems more interesting in larger cities where it is 30 miles or more from one side to the other.

Something else to worry about #3

[See previous]

In San Jose, students were recently caught using a KeyKatcher to capture teacher passwords, break into the school's computer system and download tests:

The Key Katcher device contains a microcontroller and 64K of flash memory. You plug it into the keyboard cable of any desktop PC. It stores every keystroke typed on the keyboard -- more than 60,000 of them (a slightly larger version can store more than 130,000 keystrokes). Later you unplug the Key Katcher, take it home and look at the characters it captured. It only takes about 10 seconds to plug one in or unplug it, and it gets its power from the keyboard cable.

The Key Katcher is so small that it is almost undetectable, but the paranoid among us will probably start checking publicly available PCs before typing anything.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Cutting Edge Transportation Systems

A friend who read about the transportation system in Manna sent in a link to SkyWeb Express:

The opening sentence is: "Taxi 2000 Corporation introduces SkyWeb Express, a system that will be faster, safer, more flexible and less expensive than any other mode of transportation." There's a nice video explaining the system architecture and its advantages at the bottom of the home page.

A quick search of the web offers a similar idea called SkyTran:

It's opening sentence is: "SkyTran is non-stop, 100 mph personal transit that can totally eliminate commuter congestion in any city, for the same costs of one linear line of light rail."

Here in the RTP area where I live, we have been hearing for years about a light rail system that will install something like 35 miles of track and 16 or so stations for $725 million. Therefore, this sentence on the SkyTran web site is of interest: "People are still being conned into voting yes to be taxed to have archaic, hideously poor performing light rail systems built. Time to properly utilize the microprocessors, sensors and controllers that didn't exist in 1950 to cut costs and move people fast anywhere in a city."

The site goes on:SkyTran is the result of that thinking. Read the whole thing - It sounds a lot cooler than light rail...

Friday, January 23, 2004

Electric bike #2

The previously mentioned Electric Blade is a ~$5,000 electric bike with fantastic performance, but you can't pedal it.

The M-750 is an electric mountain bike that costs about half as much, and you have a choice of pedaling or motoring.

The motor is in the back wheel, and the batteries are in the front. It weighs about 65 pounds, folds in half, can go about 20MPH and has a 15 mile range.

Encouraging creativity

Why sleeping on it just might work

From the article:I've found that showers help a lot too. After that, for me, comes bike rides, walks and long drives on Interstate highways.

See also:
Study may offer new clue to good memory. "A reduction in the level of a chemical during certain types of sleep allows the brain to replay activities, which helps fix memories, German researchers report."

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Please let this happen...

Intel Pursuing Much Faster Home Internet Access

According to the article:The standard is known as 802.16 or WiMax. According to the article, a single antenna on top of Intel's headquarters building allowed people to get 7 megabit access 12 miles away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The challenge of long-term space flight

This is a good article on the problems that come with long-term space flight -- Surviving Space: Risks to Humans on the Moon and Mars. From the article:It will be interesting to see the solutions we invent.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004


On Friday, January 16, CNN published its polling results for the Iowa caucuses in this article. Here's what the polls indicated:When the results were tallied on Monday, January 19, they were:The polls were not even close to predicting reality.

It is interesting to speculate on why the polls could be that far off just one weekend before the event. Some possibilities:Since polls can be so inaccurate, it makes you wonder about all the news stories that use polls to bolster an argument, and all the politicians who listen to those polls. For example, a news story might say, "Polls indicate that 50% of Americans strongly support legalizing assault rifles (or whatever)." Really? How accurate is that number unless you really put it to a vote?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Online porn in a new light

This week's issue of Time is all about sex. One of the articles is entitled The Porn factor, and it contains this amazing statistic:Masturbating online... It is difficult to imagine, especially tens of millions of people doing it, but if it's in Time magazine it must be true.

The article Addicted to online porn from MSNBC contains this quote:"Tracking down erotica", apparently, was not the only thing they were spending so much time on.

CNN pegged the number of Internet porn users at 34 million per month (August 2003) in the article Sex sells, especially to Web surfers:75% of 34 million is 25 million people masturbating online.

All of this helps to explain something that is happening in Las Vegas. I was there last week, and on many street corners you find people handing out little cards the size of baseball cards that look like this:

This is one of the tame ones. On the back of the card it says:




1 GIRL FOR $40 - 2 GIRLS FOR $80


These cards are literally everywhere along The Strip in Las Vegas -- Not only are people handing them out, but you find them stuck in the holes of chain links fences, arrayed along the tops of bushes, littering the streets, etc.

The men and women handing these cards out look like normal people. One woman was handing them out at a crosswalk at noon with several cops nearby directing traffic. She looked to be in her 50s or 60s. Her comment was, "Hey, it's a job."

At another corner I had to wait for the light to change, and several guys were handing out cards. I asked one of them, "How does this work?" He said, "You want one girl, forty dollars. You want two girls, 80 dollars. You want pussy pussy, maybe 100 dollars. They come right to your room. Only takes 20 minutes."

So... if you want to consider online porn to be the "gateway drug", then this is one place where the gateway leads. It will be interesting to see if this "house call" phenomenon spreads outside of Las Vegas.

The conclusion of the Time article is: "As such incidents multiply, more Americans -- parents especially -- may come to Chandler's conclusion: We have to turn off the porn."

Something else to worry about

[See previous]

This photo published in Popular Science should be enough to get most people to start using headsets for their cell phones:

The article is entitled A Swedish study links mobile phones to brain damage. In rats, anyway.

Back to the Moon #2

The article Bush's New Space Plan Excites Russia contains this fascinating section:The Energiya has three times the lifting capacity of the space shuttle.

One thing this quote implies is that we can think of Russia as a freelance space contractor. With prices like these, there are wealthy individuals who could consider funding their own space programs. It also puts the X-Prize in a different light. If the rules allowed it, someone with a few million dollars could win the X-Prize in a cakewalk using Russian technology as the foundation.

This quote also implies that any other country that has the will and the money can use Russia's skills to get to the moon or to Mars.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Going back to the moon

President Bush has announced his plan to return to the Moon, with an eventual goal of going to Mars. CNN reported the plan this way:It's that "16 years" part that has me dumbfounded. Look at the history of early U.S. spaceflight:That is an absolutely amazing record of achievement. There is no other way to say it.

How in the world did we accomplish all of that? Think about it -- At the start of 1958, America had never had anything in orbit and NASA did not even exist. We knew NOTHING. We had never tried to keep a person alive in the vacuum and weightlessness of space, had never used ablative heat shields to handle re-entry, had never fired a retrorocket in space, had never created a space suit, had never "walked in space", had never fired maneuvering rockets in space, had never stopped and restarted an engine in space, had never docked two spacecraft in space, had never left earth orbit, had never orbited another object in space, had never landed on another object, had never taken back off from another object. We truly knew nothing in 1958. We did not even know what the moon was like -- there was some concern that it would be too soft to walk on. We had never sent a probe to the moon in 1958.

Not only did we know nothing, but the computer technology we had available in the 1960s was pathetic. Most of the design work on these space missions was done with pencil and paper and slide rules. Slide rules! We did not have computer-aided design, computer controlled machine tools, or PCs/Workstations. There was no NASA, no Internet, no microprocessors, no graphite composites, no cell phones, no Microsoft, no space stations....

Yet, despite our total ignorance and lack of technology, we went from NOTHING all the way to man on the moon in just 11 years. It is unbelievable when you think about it.

Now we are talking about going back to the moon. Look at where we stand today compared to 1958. In 2004:Given our current position, how long should it take us to get back to the moon? Two years? Maybe three? Compared to where we were in 1958, it should now be trivial to put people on the moon and establish a colony there. Instead, it will take us more than a decade simply to retrace our steps. It will probably take us longer to go back to the moon than it took us to get there the first time!

How do we get back to the kind of energy, drive and passion -- and the kind of creativity, skill and talent -- that America had in the 1960's? How is it that with all the advancements we've made in the last 45 years, we are actually slower now than we once were? What is that telling us?

We should elevate our expectations. Americans should be living on the moon in 2010 and walking on Mars in 2020. If not, it would be very interesting to see China leapfrog us and beat us to Mars in spite of America's substantial head start.

A Terabyte for $1,200

Need a Terabyte of disk space? You can now add it to your computer in about 15 seconds! Click Here:If you are using your computer with a video capture card to act like a Tivo, or if you do lots of video editing, this is an incredibly easy way to add storage.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Online Movies

The world does not yet have the movie equivalent of iTunes. But there is some evidence that Movielink is heading in that direction, and it is getting a fair amount of press right now. The deal at MovieLink is that you pay $3 or so to download a movie. The movie can live on your hard disk for up to 30 days (as long as you don't play it), and then deletes itself automatically. As soon as you play the movie, a 24-hour clock starts. You can watch the film as much as you want in the 24-hour window, and then it deletes itself.

The MovieLink model is trying to emulate the Blockbluster rental model, but it is a far cry from what you'ld like -- a cheap way to buy and own forever an electronic copy of a movie. If that's what you want, the only easy way to do it right now is to buy a DVD and use a piece of software from a place like 321 Studios to copy the DVD onto your hard disk.

Another place that is doing the same thing as MovieLink is CinemaNow.

If you are interested in "alternative" films (older stuff, documentaries, B-films, etc.) you can try MovieFlix.

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Something else to worry about

[See previous]

Warming to doom many species

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Links from Friends

Over the last couple of weeks, here are some interesting links that friends have sent me:Feel free to send in more...

Mars Video

This article -- Mars rover’s color postcard reveals a new world -- has a very nice free video attached to it. In the video, NASA goes through the first hi-res color images coming back from Mars and explains what they are seeing.

The official site where NASA releases the latest photos is here.

Monday, January 05, 2004

New zero-calorie snacks

I used some Pam cooking spray the other day to bake a cake for Irena. I happened to notice the "Nutrition facts" panel, and it is extremely interesting. It looks like this:

What's interesting about it is the fact that the folks at Pam Headquarters have found a way to make calories disappear.

Look at the ingredient label. The first ingredient is canola oil, and the second is grain alcohol. The can contains 6 ounces (170 grams). At a minimum, that means that 3 ounces (85 grams) of the can's contents should be oil and alcohol. Oil contains 9 calories per gram and alcohol contains 7 calories per gram [ref]. Taking the average -- 8 calories per gram -- it seems that there should be at least 8 * 85 = 680 calories in the can. Yet, on a per-serving basis, there are zero calories. The 680 calories vanish when you use the product.

What this means is that, simply by subdividing any snack food, we can eliminate all the calories. For example, a normal Snickers candy bar weighs 2.07 ounces (58.7 grams) and contains 280 calories. That's because a normal snickers bar contains only one serving. If the Snickers bar is re-labeled as having 400 servings (each serving approximately 3 x 3 x 3 mm), each serving would have zero calories and we could eat a Snickers bar without gaining any weight. These new zero-calorie snacks should revolutionize the industry. And at any meal you can control your caloric intake by taking very small bites. Using Pam technology, you can now indulge in that big piece of chocolate cake at a restaurant. Simply take 500 nibbles of it...

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Prepare to Upgrade!

It would appear that, about a year from now, it will be time to upgrade in a big way. Some of the things coming down the pipe and converging in 2005 include: Having all of this happen at about the same time should make the "standard desktop machine" of 2005 quite impressive.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Tree Protection Area

About a mile away from my house in Cary, NC...

Friday, January 02, 2004

2004 Wish List

There are lots of people out there making their predictions for 2004. For example:Instead, I'd like to make some requests. These are things that I wish would arrive in 2004:Any day now...

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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