Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy Fourth of July...

...to my American friends.

To anyone in Europe - please stay cool and drink lots of water. Hopefully that particular ordeal will end soon. (For those who've missed it - it was 98F at Heathrow this week).

Thursday, July 2, 2015

It's Started

So...an American robotics company has challenged a Japanese robotics company to...

...a mecha fight. (The article here calls them robots, but they're piloted, so they're mechas).

Who else really wants this to happen? I mean, we have small robot fights now, so we need mecha fights.

The American machine has two guns, one of which is a paintball gun and the other is designed to fire soft projectiles. Who knows how they'll alter it for the actual duel.

Mecha fighting leagues are a sci-fi staple and now it seems they might become reality. Like, well, so much else in science fiction.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Asteroid Day

Today is Asteroid Day - the anniversary of the Tunguska strike.

So, I figured I'd put out some asteroid facts.

1. If it burns up in the atmosphere, it's a meteor. If it hits the ground, it's a meteorite. A lot of people get these confused.

2. The most recent damaging strike took place in 2013 when a meteor exploded above the Russian city of Chelyabinsk. About 1,100 people were injured - most of them by flying glass when they rushed to windows to watch the show. (Hint, huge fireball in sky, go AWAY from the windows). This was caused by an object about ten meters across that did not even hit the ground.

3. The best preserved impact site is Meteor Crater in northern Arizona, which is nearly a mile across and over 550 feet deep. This was caused by an object about 50 meters across.

4. The Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event - a fancy way of describing the destruction of the dinosaurs - was almost certainly triggered by the meteorite that created the Chicxulub crater, which is 112 miles wide. This rock was probably somewhere between 10 and 15 kilometers across.

So, uh...we don't want to get hit by one of those. (I don't even really want to be hit by a little one *eyes the picture windows*).

Which is why we need asteroid diversion (and ideally capture and mining, because some of those asteroids are made out of pretty valuable stuff - including gold and platinum).

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Bird Brains?

Words are made up out of letters. We all know that.

Letters represent mostly meaningless sound. (Note that even in syllabic languages such as Japanese, the words are still made up out of sounds).

We thought no other animal could put sounds together in different combinations to make words.

Nope. And, surprise surprise, it's a bird. The chestnut-crowned babbler is a highly social Australian bird that has been discovered to put one sound with another sound to create something that, well, means something.

Uh oh.

The birds are definitely coming for us.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Space X Dragon Explosion

This weekend's Dragon launch ended prematurely when the rocket blew up two minutes into flight, towards the end of first stage firing.

The only data on why so far is a potential issue with the liquid oxygen tank on the second stage.

Space is hard - and although landing the Dragon is still experimental, the launch vehicle itself is fairly routine at this point. Unfortunately, it doesn't take a major failure to blow up a rocket - they're tricksy beasts at the best of times.

Here's hoping it proves to be a one off or an easy fix for future flights.


Friday, June 26, 2015

I...

...normally keep politics off this blog, but today's news is too big to ignore.

Regardless of what you feel about the specific ethics and morals - we do not live in a country where Biblical law is also secular law (and really, who would want to?)

(Also, the Bible does not define marriage as between one man and one woman - far from it).

I believe the court made the right decision. I don't believe this is completely the end of the fight on marriage (and certainly not the LGBT fight in general). But I do believe the right decision was made.

There is no justification for denying the important secular benefits we have put into the marriage package to same sex couples, other than the fact that it might offend some people. I saw a comment today from somebody who felt this was forcing her to accept homosexuality as "normal." Honestly? I don't care whether random people think homosexual relationships are normal.

I care about protecting the stability of those relationships and the children being raised by them. I care about people being able to visit their spouse in the hospital or bring their spouse into the country. I care even more about ensuring that if one parent dies any children are not separated from the surviving parent...or even from each other...by their blood relatives.

The argument to protect the children is often used to try and force LGBT people into the closet. In this case, the Supreme Court used that very same argument in the opinion that granted the right to marry one's committed partner.

Rainbow flags flying today.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Pyramid on Ceres?

Aliens on Ceres are the latest conspiracy theory. The bright spots on the dwarf planet have now been joined by a pyramid. A very big one.

And yes, it's real. Most likely it's a cryovolcano - a volcanic cone formed when water acts like lava at low temperatures. But it's still a giant pyramid on Ceres.

Worth being at least a little fascinated with, perhaps?