Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Alexa in the National Post

My friend Alexa (of Cheap Eats Toronto / Ottawa fame) has been quoted in the National Post regarding this year's cancellation of the Kensington Market Festival of Lights.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tracing Digital Photos

The New Scientist has an article about a new technique for determining what kind of camera has taken a particular digital photo.
While many people own the same camera models, Pollitt believes that this technique can still be used forensically. He says that because digital cameras have a shelf life of only 18 months, this can help to narrow down when and where it was sold.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

American Religious Beliefs

Harris Interactive has the results of a poll on American religious beliefs.
80% of adult Americans believe in God – unchanged since the last time we asked the question in 2005. Large majorities of the public believe in miracles (75%), heaven (73%), angels (71%), that Jesus is God or the Son of God (71%), the resurrection of Jesus (70%), the survival of the soul after death (68%), hell (62%), the Virgin birth (Jesus born of Mary (61%) and the devil (59%).

Recreation of "Oldest Computer"

Wired has an article (with a demonstration video) about a British scientist who has made a working reconstruction of the ancient Greek Antikythera mechanism.  The device, consisting of a complex series of rotating metal disks is several thousand years old and is believed to have been used for astronomical calculations.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Space Shuttles for sale (sort of)

Yahoo is reporting that NASA is trying to decide what to do with the Space Shuttles once they are retired. One could be yours for $43 million (shipping not included).

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Using Your Desktop Wallpaper

I've linked to some desktop wallpaper before (mainly on Smashing Magazine) but here is one designed not to look pretty but to be used. The idea is hat you put different files in the different areas of the wallpaper depending on what they are for or how urgent they are.

It's worth a look but since I run all my applications full screen I don't really see my wallpaper that often.

Using DNA Evidence to find Criminal's Relatives

The LA Times has an article about the police using DNA evidence to find criminals when the criminals aren't in the DNA database. They can now find people in the database who are relatives of the actual criminal. Normal police work follows from there.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Long Distance Keycutting

This article announces that researchers have successfully duplicated a key from a long range digital camera picture. In the example the picture was taken from 195 feet.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Warbirds over the Pacific

National Geographic has a nice photo of three American WWII aircraft flying in front of a sunset.

Lego in the Kitchen

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratory has a post about using Lego in your kitchen. Some of the containers don't look half bad (though as a Lego fan I may be biased).

Factoid: The Soviets weren't allowed to use the Panama Canal

The BBC has an article about a Soviet warship transiting the Panama Canal after a visit to Latin America. What caught my eye was this:
The 50-mile (80km) canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans was shut to the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Do It Yourself Compact Calendar

Another tool for do-it-yourself productivity folks, this website lets you create your own "compact calendar".

I think I've talked about the compact calendar before, these are an interesting way to view a whole year and do high level planning. Today's site lets you custom make your own. You can specify the start and end points as well as any holidays. Once you print it out you can scribble all over it to do your planning.

New Drug may cure Jet Lag

The LA Times reports on the discovery of a drug that might eliminate jet lag.
Some research has shown that administering melatonin can adjust sleep cycles in travelers and workers, but the results have been mixed.

Because melatonin can't be patented, drug companies have been interested in developing melatonin mimics, such as tasimelteon, which can be patented.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

DVD: The Illusionist

Set in 19th Century Vienna, The Illusionist is the story of a stage magician who returns to the city after years wandering the world.  The son of a woodworker, he was forced to leave after a teenage romance with a member of the local noble family.  On his return, under a stage name, he finds his former love is now all but betrothed to the Crown Prince.  Naturally things become complicated, especially when a Police Inspector with an interest in magic gets involved.

There are a few minor problems with the plot but overall I definitely enjoyed this movie and would recommend it.

Planets over Los Angeles

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a nice photo of Venus and Jupiter together with a crescent moon over the lights of Los Angeles.

For the next little while Venus and Jupiter will be close together in the sky and very bright. It has been cloudy in Ottawa for the past few days but this evening I manged to see the two planets and they were extremely bright. Worth looking for if you are out and about.

Followup: A later Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the same three objects in an amusing configuration.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The End of Wall Street?

Portfolio.com has an article by Michael Lewis about how he sees the current financial crisis as Wall Street's own incompetence coming back to kill it.

Lewis wrote the book Liar's Poker in the 1980s about his experiences at an investment bank. The book is considered by many to be the classic book about 1980s Wall Street.

I thought I was writing a period piece about the 1980s in America. Not for a moment did I suspect that the financial 1980s would last two full decades longer or that the difference in degree between Wall Street and ordinary life would swell into a difference in kind. I expected readers of the future to be outraged that back in 1986, the C.E.O. of Salomon Brothers, John Gutfreund, was paid $3.1 million; I expected them to gape in horror when I reported that one of our traders, Howie Rubin, had moved to Merrill Lynch, where he lost $250 million; I assumed they’d be shocked to learn that a Wall Street C.E.O. had only the vaguest idea of the risks his traders were running. What I didn’t expect was that any future reader would look on my experience and say, “How quaint.”

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The History of the Lego Minifig

Gizmodo has a pictorial history of the minifig (the little yellow men that come in Lego sets). I hadn't realised that Jar-Jar had made an appearance in Lego.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ice on Mars

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of some ice that was found underneath the Phoenix Lander on Mars.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Modern Day Depression

The Boston Post has an article that tries to predict what a modern day depression would be like.

Beyond that, two of the basics of existence - food and clothing - are a lot cheaper today, thanks to industrial agriculture and overseas labor. The average middle-class man in the late 1920s, according to the writer and cultural critic Virginia Postrel, could afford just six outfits, and his wife nine - by comparison, the average woman today has seven pairs of jeans alone.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

First Picture of the Earth from the Moon

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a newly restored image from 1966. This is the first picture of the Earth taken from the moon and was taken by Lunar Orbitor 1.

As an aside, today is the 10 anniversary of the International Space Station.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Japanese Vending Machines

Dark Roasted Blend has a post with lots of pictures about vending machines in Japan. The flower vending machines would be particularly helpful after too many visits to the beer vending machines.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Visualising Sorting Algorithms

Another geeky one here.  This page is a visual representation of various sorting algorithms and how they affect the data being sorted on each pass.  On the page you can click on the images and watch as the rows are slowly reordered.  Handy for getting your head around the ways the various schemes work.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trail of an asteroid

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the trail left behind in the sky by a meteor that fell to earth in daylight. The asteroid was the first to be detected in space before it entered the Earth's atmosphere.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Picture of Extra-solar Planet

Science News has an article with what is believed to be the first picture of a planet orbiting another star.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Logo Evolution

Best Ad has a post showing how various famous logos have evolved over time.  Some of them, like General Electric, have stayed remarkably similar while others, like Nokia, have changed completely.

Stretching a Cruise Ship

wtfurls has a post (with pictures) about a cruise ship being stretched like a limousine. They cut the ship in two, insert a pre-built middle section then weld the whole thing back together.

Bump Key Video

Lifehacker has a post with a video that demonstrates how easy it is to open a normal lock with a "bump key". I knew that this was possible but thought it took a bit more effort than it appears to in the video.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Perils of Translation

The BBC has an article that illustrates the risks of making a sign in a language you don't understand. Signmakers in Wales needed to translate a sign from English into Welsh so they emailed the English part of the sign to a translator then put the response on the sign. Unfortunately the response was an automatic out of office reply.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Flash Game: Chronotron

Another flash game for your amusement.  Chronotron isn't quite as much fun as Amazing Contraption was but the idea is brilliant.  It is basically a time travel based level game.  To complete each level you have to cooperate with an earlier version of yourself.  As I mentioned, the game isn't the greatest but it is worth trying for the way it makes you think about the levels.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Factoid: Leno has met all the Bonds

A minor claim to fame, Jay Leno has met all of the actors who have played James Bond. And according to the same article, he thinks they should be kinder to their cars.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Long Term Storage

Kevin Kelly has an article about an attempt to build a modern day Rosetta Stone that will last 2,000 years. The 3 inch metal disk will be etched with 350,000 pages of the Book of Genesis translated into over 1,500 different languages. You need a 750 power microscope to read the text.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

First World War Sketches

The Mail on Sunday has an article about a First World War British soldier and the sketches he made during scouting missions on the front lines at places like Vimy Ridge. The sketches themselves are amazing, especially given the circumstances under which they were made.

Observation: TVs at the gym

Often when I go to the gym in the afternoon I am the only person in the cardio room. This means I get to change the channels on all the the TVs. Usually I change them from sports or soap operas to the news. In the past few weeks however I have noticed that the TVs are often set to the various financial news channels.

I'm not sure if this counts as an economic indicator or not.

Where did those chains start?

Bootsnall has a post detailing the original locations of 15 now massive chains.

I have vague recollections of visiting the original KFC (then known as Kentucky Fried Chicken) on a family trip to Florida.  I also think I may have been to the original Barnes and Noble in New York City but I'm not sure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Virgin Galactic Reject Porn Deal

Space.com reports that Virgin Galactic have rejected a $1 million offer to make a porn film in space.

Post-blogging the Sudeten Crisis

Another geeky post here but this one is for history geeks. Aviation history blogger Airminded has just finished an experiment of "live-blogging" a historical event. He used newspaper archives and other sources to post-blog the Sudeten Crisis.

The Sudeten Crisis is also known as the Munich Crisis and is the series of events leading up to the famous "Peace for our time" announcement just before the Second World War.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Cake In A Mug

I haven't actually tried this but it looks like it might be fun.  It would be perfect for the lunch room at work assuming you happened to have all the ingredients.

Do Not Call Lists

Security expert Bruce Schneier has a blog post where he mentions the new Canadian Do Not Call List.  One thing he mentions:
Here's my idea. If you're a company, add every one of your customers to the list. That way, none of your competitors will be able to cold call them.
My question is, couldn't someone write a small program to pull all of the phone numbers in Canada from say Canada411.com and add them all to the Do Not Call List?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

October Smashing Wallpaper

I'm a bit late with this one but Smashing Magazine have another set of their monthly desktop wallpapers.  I decided to skip the Halloween themes and went with the large ship in the fog. 

Friday, October 17, 2008

Moleskine Monster Post

Being a bit of a paper productivity geek, I've been intrigued by the current interest, some would say fetishism, for the Moleskine notebook. To summarise it all, Freelance Switch has a post with a huge list of links to articles about things you can do with your Moleskine.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

NASA Photo Archives

NASA has a new website with all of their photo archives.  There are some very nice pictures there.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

First launch

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a nice black and white photo of the first launch from Cape Canaveral.

Friday, October 03, 2008

A Slightly Rude Comic

I'm not sure why but I like this comic. Note that it would be suitable for work anywhere I've ever worked but your mileage may vary.
via reddit

Monday, September 29, 2008

Safer Fertilizer

The New York Times has an article about a new process to make ammonium nitrate fertilizer unusable as an explosive.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Economics Experiments

Slate has an article about some economists who experimented on the payment schemes for fruit pickers and managed to increase their production.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Hack: Put your keys on your moneyclip

Lifehacker has an interesting idea to keep your keys and moneyclip together. It won't work if you have too many keys or with modern car keys but still an interesting idea.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Things that are only sort of banned

Security guru Bruce Schneier has a post about something that had always bothered me but that I'd never been able to put my finger on.  Basically there are some things that you can't take on a plane but that don't get you in any trouble if you get caught trying to take them on a plane.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Eclipse from space

Futility Closet has a post with a picture of an eclipse seen from the Mir spacestation.  You can see a large black spot on the surface of the earth - not sure how wide it is.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Comic: Mister Bookseller

A very nice one shot comic.
via reddit

Flash Game: Fantastic Contraption

Fantastic Contraption is a fun little game where on each level you have to move an object from a starting point to a goal.  You do this by constructing a machine from various parts and then letting the machine do the actual moving.  

After you have completed a level you can see what machines other people built to solve the same problem.  Some of these are amazingly complex.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fibonacci Converter

Futility Closet has a short post about how you can use the Fibonacci sequence to convert miles to kilometers.
This works because the two units stand in the golden ratio (to within 0.5 percent).

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Paper Kid's Trainsets

If you have little kids who always wanted a trainset (or if you are in the same category) then this webpage has links to PDF files that you can print to build your own paper trainsets.  The page is in Japanese but you should be able to figure it out.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Obit: David Caminer the first systems analyst

The New York Times has the obituary of David Caminer. Caminer worked at Lyons which was a British tea shop chain. After losing a leg in the Second World War he returned to Lyons and became the manager of their systems analysis office. It was there that he helped implement the world's first commercial computer system.
The finished LEO, which had less than 100,000th the power of a current PC, could calculate an employee’s pay in 1.5 seconds, a job that took an experienced clerk eight minutes. Its success led Lyons to set up a computer subsidiary that later developed two more generations of LEO, the last with transistors, rather than the noisy vacuum tubes used in the first two models.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Google Chrome Comic Book

For the introduction of the new Chrome browser from Google, they have created an online comic book that explains the browser's features.  The comic is by Scott McCloud of Understanding Comics fame.

According to this post on TechCrunch one of the physical comics, of which only a few were produced, is already on sale on eBay.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Monthly Smashing Wallpaper

Smashing Magazine have their monthly post of desktop wallpaper. I've gone with the shot of St Paul's Cathedral (mostly because that used to be the view out my window) but I do miss last month's levitating kung fu rabbit.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

TED Talk: The Oil Endgame

Another interesting presentation from the TED conference, this one is about strategies to deal with the increasing scarcity of oil. There are several interesting points about car design.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Vintage Signs

If you like old fashioned neon signs here is a great flickr set for you.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Factoid: Car Sales

Ford's venerable F150 pickup ended its 17-year-run as the best-selling vehicle in America last month, dethroned by the Honda Civic and three other Japanese sedans. General Motors is looking to unload Hummer, the epitome of gas-guzzling excess, after sales fell 60 percent in May. The number of Civics sold in one month exceed the number of Hummers GM expects to sell all year.
From this interesting Wired post about how high gas prices have killed the SUV.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Weaving with Index Cards

This isn't origami but it is something sort of useful that you can do with an index card. Craft magazine has a video that shows how you can make a loom out of two index cards. Obviously this only works if you want to weave something the width of an index card.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Evolution Observed in Lab

The New Scientist is reporting that evolution has been observed in bacteria in a laboratory. A scientist raised 44,000 generations of E. coli bacteria and eventually one batch evolved the ability to use a nutrient that normal E. coli can't.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quiz: 100 Commonest English Words

Codebox Software has a quiz that lets you find out how many of the 100 commonest English words you can list in 5 minutes.

I got 44 in case anyone needs a goal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Factoid: Eating Out

The average Canadian household spends 24.4 per cent of its total food dollar on food service, compared to 41.4 per cent for U.S. households.

I'm not exactly sure what this means or why the difference is so large.

This is from an article, which is worth reading on its own, about an experiment that shows that people will spend more money in a restaurant if the menus don't have dollar signs on them.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Don't talk to the police

Security guru Bruce Schneier has a post that links to this video of Professor James Duane of the Regent University School of Law explaining why you should never talk to the police. While I'm not sure how relevant the advice is under Canadian law, it does seem to make sense. Once the police are interested in you as a suspect there really isn't anything that you can say to change there minds.

The problem is that Professor Duane doesn't really explain what to do when you aren't a suspect. I don't think that he's really suggesting that witnesses shouldn't talk to the police but he should have made that clear. The problem of course is that you can start out as a witness and end up as a suspect and I would imagine that the transition between them isn't very clear.

Another video shows the second part of the lecture and features a police officer discussing, and essentially agreeing with, the points made by the Professor.

Follow up: John has also blogged about this.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Target Panic

The New York Times has an article about target panic. This is a condition suffered by champion archers which prevents them from aiming at a target.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Mile High Showers

The Telegraph reports that certain models of the new Airbus A380 will have showers in first class.

Such luxury is reserved for the 14 people in the first class cabin, who will have access to the two showers during the trip.

The passengers will book their 25-minutes slots, which will include five minutes in the shower itself and some extra time to dry themselves off and get dressed again.

Follow up: Here's a blog post with pictures from a tour of the plane, including some of the shower.

Spacestation crosses the sun

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a great photo of the International Space Station silhouetted against the sun.

Torpedo Video

The blog The Stupid Shall be Punished has a post with a video of a retired American warship being sunk by a torpedo fired from an Australian submarine.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Calendar Desktop Wallpaper

An interesting idea from Smashing Magazine, fancy desktop wall paper with a built in calendar. I've never been a big fan of desktop wallpaper - I usually leave the one the comes with the machine - but these are interesting in that they each (well most of them) have a calendar of the month somewhere in the image. Plus they come out with new ones every month.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

You can't judge a book by its cover

The other day I was sitting in the coffee shop minding my own business (more or less). A mid-thirties white man and a small child came in and sat beside me. The kid looked like a fairly normal eight-ish year old boy but the man, presumably the boy's father, looked slightly rough. He didn't look dangerous or anything but was a bit weathered looking and had a slightly scruffy beard and some tattoos.

They were sharing a packet of pretzels and after a few minutes the kid held one up and said, "What do you think this looks like?"

The father said "it looks a bit like a Chinese character. In fact it looks like the character for hot."

He then broke of a tiny part of the pretzel and said "There, now it looks just like the character for hot."

The father then spent the rest of the meal modifying pretzel to teach the son various Chinese characters.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Party Game for Werewolves

Werewolf is an interesting party game that doesn't require any special equipment (except for some slips of paper that the players draw to determine their role).

There are four different roles in the game - one player is the moderator, two are werewolves, one is a seer and the rest are villagers. All of the roles are kept secret except for the moderator who basically runs things.

Every turn has two phases - day and night. Every night the werewolves kill a villager and every day the villagers lynch one other player (ideally a werewolf). Also every night the seer can determine if one other player is a werewolf or not.

The werewolves win if they kill all the villagers. The villagers (and the seer) win if they kill both the werewolves.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Flying Frog

National Geographic Photo of the Day has an action shot of a flying frog. I didn't know there were flying frogs but this is National Geographic after all.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Usually it's just me

downforeveryoneorjustme.com is a handy website for finding our if a website is really down or if you just can't see it for some reason.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Own goal needed to win

Snopes.com (the famous debunkers of urban legends) has an article about a soccer game in which both teams had to score on their own goals in order to advance in the tournament.

There was a strange rule in effect that said that a win in penalty kicks counted as a win by two goals. Since one of the teams in the game needed to win the game by two to avoid being eliminated from the tournament, they decided the force the fame into penalty kicks by scoring in their own goal to force a tie. The other team then tried to prevent this by scoring in their goal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Eating in the air

A blog post from my friend Alexa describes an unusual meal that she had recently. They basically strapped her to a chair then hoisted the table and chair (and a bunch of other people) 35 meters into the air with a crane. Then they fed her breakfast.

Things you can do with a Wii remote

Sometimes you can make some interesting things by combining software with cheap(ish) things you have laying around. This video shows some interesting things you can make with a Nintendo Wii remote.

The video is from one of the talks at the TED conference. I've been slowly looking through them and some of them are really worth watching.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Learn any language in an hour (sort of)

A blog post from Tim Ferriss (of Four Hour Workweek fame) tells how you should spend the first hour of learning a language looking for pitfalls. He has some sample sentences that he gets translated that highlight potential trouble spots.

Canadian Millionaires

The National Post has a column about Canadian millionaires. The article breaks down the percentages of the population that are millionaires by age. Over 15% of people born between 1945 and 1954 are millionaires whereas only about 2% of people born between 1965 and 1974 are.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Flying Aircraft Carriers

Airminded has a post about airships used to carry airplanes. This was a big idea in the early days of aviation but never really worked out.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Russia to build spacecraft for private tour company

Yahoo News reports that the Russian Space Agency has entered an agreement to construct a Soyuz spacecraft for a space tourist agency.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Cardboard Bicycle

The Telegraph has an article, with a photo, about a bicycle that has a frame made out of cardboard. I have seen cardboard furniture before but I think this is the first time I've seen an outdoor vehicle made of cardboard.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Flash Pages can now be Indexed

Tech Crunch is reporting that Flash pages can now be indexed. Presumably this means that their content will now be visible to search engines.

Follow up : Google reports they will be including the pages.

Designer Packing Tape

In case you have too many plain looking things in your life, you can now get designer packing tape.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Rare Clouds

Cool Stuff lives up to its name with a set of photos of unusual cloud formations.

House of Mystery

The New York Times has a story about a family who bought an $8.5 million apartment and had it thoroughly renovated. During this they had the architect hide puzzles in the apartment's structure. Make sure you look at the slide show to see pictures of the various strange features in the apartment.

The Guardian also has an article on the apartment.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Robotic Origami

Wired has a video of a robot folding an origami crane. Robots and origami! How many more of my buttons could they push?

Make sure you watch through to the end to see what is really happening.

P.S. I know it's not really a robot, it is a pair of remote manipulator arms.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Spacestation Grows Again

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the newly enlarged International Space Station.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Tiger Hunter Extraordinare

Damn Interesting has a post about Jim Corbett a big game hunter of the late Victorian era who only hunted man-eating animals.

Factoid: US fuel use in Iraq

About 50 percent of the diesel that the military burns in Iraq is devoted to transporting more fuel. And about half of that gets poured into generators and stoves.
From an article on Danger Room about an experiment burning trash to generate power in Baghdad.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Making it up in volume

Wired has an article about a fellow who signed up for thousands of accounts with various brokerage houses and then kept the small amounts that the companies deposited in his account to verify the new relationship.

He opened 58,000 accounts and managed to accumulate over $50,000 before being arrested.

Lottery Factoid

Twenty percent of Americans are frequent players, spending about $60 billion a year. The spending is starkly regressive. A household with income under $13,000 spends, on average, $645 a year on lottery tickets, about 9 percent of all income.
That is from an op-ed piece in the New York Times about how American society has split in the investor class and the lottery class.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Last Pinball Factory

The New York Times has an article about the last factory that makes pinball machines.
Though pinball has roots in the 1800s game of bagatelle, these are by no means simple machines. Each one contains a half-mile of wire and 3,500 tiny components, and takes 32 hours to build — as the company’s president, Gary Stern, likes to say, longer than a Ford Taurus.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dyson Airblade Hand Dryer

I always find it interesting when someone comes up with an innovation to a product that seems like it can't be improved (bagged lettuce is another example).

I encountered this hand dryer several times on my recent trip to the UK. Surprisingly it really is a superior dryer. It works differently from a regular dryer though. Instead of holding your hands under a stream of air, you insert your hands into the machine and then slowly pull them out through the "blade" of air. The air forces the water down your hands and eventually off the ends of your finger tips.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Old Fashioned Aerial Photographs

The Telegraph has a slideshow of some early aerial photos taken by Alfred G. Buckham. Some very nice pictures of London in the 1930s often with other biplanes in the background.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fractal Furniture

I'm not sure why but I like the look of this fractal chest of drawers. It might be a bit difficult to build though.

Rubik's Cube Art

This site has some pictures of art made with Rubik's cubes. Much cooler than it sounds.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Historical Google Maps

Google Maps Mania has a post about a new set of historical maps that can be overlayed on Google Maps. The 1843 London map for example lets you see how the street layouts have changed (and remained the same).

Powered Exoskeleton Videos

Danger Room has a post with videos of powered exoskeletons that allow the wearer to carry much larger loads than they normally could.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Titanic was found as part of secret mission

The Times reports that the wreck of the Titanic was found as part of a secret mission to locate the wreckage of two sunken nuclear submarines.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Rotherforths in the US

Ancestry.com has a map of the distribution of Rotherforths in the United States in 1920. I think you can guess how this is going to turn out.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wall Climbing Robots

The IEEE has an article (with pictures) about small robots that can climb walls. One of them even looks like a gecko!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Phoenix landing

Astronomy Picture of the Day has some pictures of the Phoenix lander on Mars. One of the pictures is the first photo ever taken of a spacecraft landing on another planet.

Followup: Here is a picture of the view from Phoenix.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Spaceship Arriving

Astronomy Picture of the day has a nice photo of a supply ship arriving at the International Space Station.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Long Life Bulb

The LA Times has an article about a light bulb at a fire station in Las Angeles that has been lit for 107 years. It was off once for 22 minutes when the fire station moved to a new location.

Track ships on Google Maps

Hi-Def San Francisco has a Google Maps page that shows the real time positions of ships in San Francisco Bay.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Consumer Spending Graphic

The New York Times has an interesting graphic that displays US consumer spending. In this case both the graphic and the information in it are interesting.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

The Time for Television

An interesting article that was originally a speech, Gin, Television, and Social Surplus, looks at the effect on society of the time spent watching television.
Or put still another way, in the U.S., we spend 100 million hours every weekend, just watching the ads. This is a pretty big surplus. People asking, "Where do they find the time?" when they're looking at things like Wikipedia don't understand how tiny that entire project is, as a carve-out of this asset that's finally being dragged into what Tim calls an architecture of participation.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Ultimate Rubber Band Gun

Those of you who like to shoot rubber bands should check out this article on Boing Boing that links to a video of The Disintegrator. A rubber band Gatling Gun, the Disintegrator can shoot 40 bands a second.

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Milky Way

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a great panorama of the Milky Way.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Trader handsignals

The New York Times has a graphical article that shows what the hand signals used by commodity pit traders mean.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

UN Data Now Available

The United Nations has an interesting new website that presents a lot of their statistical data.

This page for example shows CO2 production by country over time. Using the controls on the left you can add other countries (Canada for example) to the chart. Aside: This raises the question of why the Canadian numbers are so different from the US ones.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Factoid: private jets at Davos

According to this not particularly worth reading article in Newsweek, Gulfstream says that the Davos conference usually attracts more of its planes than any other gathering, drawing up to 10 percent of the 1,500 planes in service to Zurich airport.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Growth of Walmart

The page has a video showing an animation of Walmart's expansion across the US.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Generating Character Names

Just the thing for the aspiring novelist, this site creates character names based on data from the US census.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Traffic shockwave observed in lab

Have you ever been driving on the highway when you suddenly get stuck in traffic which when you get to the front has no apparent cause? Well, the New Scientist has an article about Japanese scientists who have managed to reproduce this in the lab.

The scientists had 22 cars going around a track all of which were told to drive at a steady 30 kilometers / hour. Eventually a wave caused by one driver briefly putting on his brakes travelled back through the stream of cars and caused several to come to a complete stop.
via slashdot

Follow up: Stu kindly sent a link to this little Java applet that simulates traffic flow. If you try the ring road simulation you will see how the traffic bunches up and eventually stops.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


Can you name all the elements in 15 minutes? Try this quiz and find out.

The way the quiz works is interesting, there is a display of the periodic table and an entry box at the top. You type the name of an element into the box and if it is correct the answer is placed into the table.

There are a number of the quizzes on the site all with similar interfaces. Try naming all the countries of Asia for example or all the US states. The only down side is there aren't any stats so you can't tell how you compare with other people who've taken the same quiz.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Rotherforth - the name

For those of you who have wondered how rare these Rotherforths really are, check out this page that is part of a surname analysis of the British census. Apparently there were 208 (of voting age) in the UK in 1998.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Feeling Secure

Bruce Schneier has a blog post about the difference between being secure and feeling secure.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A New User Interface for Magazines

This site has an interesting new user interface for a magazine. Basically it uses the Google Maps scroll and zoom style interface over the pages of a print magazine. I'm not sure that it will catch on but it is an interesting idea.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Dextre stands up

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a nice shot of the new Dextre robot standing up from the space station.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The first explored area of the moon

Kottke.com has a post which links to two maps that show how much of the moon was explored by the first Apollo landing. The first shows Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin's explorations superimposed on a soccer field. The second shows it on a baseball diamond.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why don't people do what economists think they should?

The LA Times has an article explaining why evolution has lead people to make strange economic choices.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

50 Best Works of Art

Kottke.org has a very short post that links to a list of the 50 best works of art in the world (including where they are and how to see them) and a link to a site that links to photos of them all.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Space shuttle pictures

Two nice pictures of the recent Space Shuttle launch from the Astronomy Picture of the Day. The first of the launch and the second a few minutes later.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Rotherforth in the news

I can't say I've ever encountered this before but here we have an actual news article about someone named Rotherforth. According to this article in the Bradford Telegraph and Argus a Police Constable named Simone Rotherforth was inured in a scuffle with a drunk.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

New space station photo

Astronomy Picture of the Day has a photo of the International Space Station with the new lab installed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Origami with your Tea

Another practical use of origami. This company has replaced the little tag on the end of the string on your teabag with a little origami boat. The boat floats in your tea so that you don't have to scald your fingers to take the bag out.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stick to your Resolutions

The New York Times has a column by Steven Levitt, of Freakonomics fame, about a method to ensure that you will carry through with a resolution.
to write a check for a substantial amount of money to the American Nazi Party, seal it up in a stamped envelope, and vow to drop it in the mail if you break your diet.
He then describes a new website called StickK.com that does a similar thing by essentially holding a cheque from you until you either complete or fail at a resolution. If you fail they send the cheque to a charity of your choice.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

New Lab on Space Station

Astronomy Picture of the day has a nice picture of the new Columbus Laboratory on the International Space Station.

Monday, February 18, 2008

How a Bobbin Works

I must confess I have always wondered how a sewing machine actually works. Now a post on Material Mama has an animation that shows exactly how the two threads get tied together.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Upside Down Demolition

Fogonazos has an article about a building being demolished in London. The difference here is that, due to the way it was originally built, this building is being demolished from the bottom up.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Superhero Suits

Always wanted your own superhero outfit? Well these folks will custom make one for you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Pop-up Light

The perfect pop-up book for the bedside table. When you open it, a light pops up.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Where the Blondes Are

Strange Maps has another interesting map this one showing where in Europe blondes are predominant.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

"Terrorproof" Buildings

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about new high-rise buildings that are resistant to extreme damage. The article is specifically about Number 7 World Trade Centre which is billed as the safest building in the world.
"The biggest change in high-rise construction now is this sealed, hardened core," says Dr. Herb Hauser, president of New York-based Midtown Technologies, who worked with the architects of the skyscrapers that will ring the new World Trade Center. "This means that the structure around the core can go down, or be on fire, or be invested with a biological or chemical problem, but the actual core itself will be protected."
While I don't have any problem with improved buildings, I do think that the title of the article (which I have copied) illustrates the nature of the real problem. Since buildings can't feel fear they are inherently "terrorproof". A building doesn't care whether it is being damaged by an earthquake, extreme weather, bank robbers, vandals or terrorists.

Sniffing the Browser History

Another geeky one, this time a blog post about how a website can tell what other sites a user has visited.

The method depends on the fact that browsers show visited links in a different colour than unvisited links. The technique uses JavaScript to create a page (that you never see) with a bunch of links, then checks to see which links are in the visited colour. This seems to mean that he can only check if you've been to a specific list of sites rather than seeing the whole list of you've been. He has a demo page if you want to see it in action.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Lego Art

I normally go for smaller Lego models myself but this fellow has made some very impressive large ones.

Map of US Christian Denominations

Strange Maps has a map showing the distribution of Christian denominations across the US. The maps shows counties where more than 50% of the residents belong to the same religion. The interesting things were the number of such counties (ie almost all of them) and the contiguous blocks of the same religion in different areas of the country.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Adventures in Stacking

BLDG Blog has a post about stacking blocks. The posting links to a subscription only article but does have some nice diagrams.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Homemade Sunbeam

Popular Science has an article about a fellow who made his own flashlight. This particular flashlight though has 38 million candle power and can project a spot of light onto a cloud four miles high. There is a how it works gallery for those of you who want to build your own but keep in mind that the builder of this one sunburned his face when he looked into the beam.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Star Forts

Deputy Dog is back with another great photo post. This one is about the star shaped forts, that were built to defend cities after the development of cannons.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Good Looking Libraries

Curious Expeditions has a Compendium of Beautiful Libraries. This is a long post with a huge number of photos of the insides of fancy libraries. Some nice looking pictures if you are a book lover.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yahoo and Google to provide OpenIDs

Another geeky posting I'm afraid. This time we have two articles from TechCrunch, both about OpenID.

The first is about Yahoo providing OpenID and the second about Google doing the same. I haven't tried this but it should allow you to sign into a huge number of websites using your yahoo or Google id. I.e. you don't have to create an id on every single site you visit.

The Google offering isn't quite as useful as it could be as they seem to be only allowing people who have blogs on Blogger (which Google owns) to use their id. I suppose this may change in the future.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

More Domain Shenanigans

Following up on my earlier post about someone registering domains after they have been searched for, TechCrunch is reporting that Domain Solutions, the original and still largest domain registrar, is doing something similar. If you search for a domain using their search tool, they will register any unregistered domain that comes up. That way if you want it you have to buy it from them.

Japanese Robot Snowplow Makes Ice Bricks

InventorSpot has a posting about a robotic Japanese snowplow that packs the snow into bricks of ice which it can then stack up.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Sound Mirrors

Deputy Dog has a post about the sound mirrors that were built along the British coast before the Second World War. In the era before radar the sound mirrors were designed to gather the sound of incoming aircraft and reflect it to a microphone so that defending aircraft could be launched.

A Gaza Primer

Slate's Explainer has a background column about the Gaza Strip.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Mystery of a Found Digital Camera

Yahoo has an article about the quest to locate the owner of a digital camera found in the back of a New York taxi.

US Private School Endowments

The New York Times has an article about the huge endowments that some older American private schools now have. The article mainly focuses on Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, New Hampshire. The school, which has a thousand students, now has over US$ 1 billion in its endowment fund.
With its small classes, computers for students receiving financial aid, lavish sports facilities and more, Exeter devotes an average of $63,500 annually to house and educate each of its 1,000 students. That is far more than the Thomas family could ever afford and well above even the $36,500 in tuition, room and board Exeter charges those paying full price.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Travel Quiz

Travelpod has a traveler IQ test that is a fun little quiz game.

I went to a presentation by the founder of travelpod at the Ottawa BarCamp last year and he said that the game was a huge driver of traffic to the site as well as a source of new members.

Friday, January 25, 2008

New Drug Could Eliminate Sleep

Wired has an article about a new drug, orexin A, that may be able to eliminate the need for sleep.
The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Collapsable Home Office

Here is an interesting item of furniture. It is a home office that folds away into a nice looking little rolling cart.

Flash: Flying Polar Bears

An amusing little flash game that features a leaping polar bear and falling ice cubes.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Funny Business at the Domain Registrar

There have always been rumours that if you search for a good domain name on one of the online name checker sites, someone will register it before you do. Now the DailyDomainer reports seeing numerous domains registered within 30 seconds of being checked. The problem is made worse by domain tasters who manage to register their domains for free for 30 days.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

18th Century Messaging

Low-tech magazine has an article about an 18th century French communications system that could send a message from Amsterdam to Venice in 1 hour. The system consisted of a towers fitted with semaphore signals. The operator in each tower watches the previous tower through a telescope and copies its signal. The operator also looks at the tower before the previous one to confirm the signal is correct.

I've only started looking at the Low-tech Magazine site but it looks interesting so far.

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Ten Hour Work Week

The New York Times has an article about the Canadian website PlentyOfFish.com. The site is a dating website that owner Markus Frind developed on his own as a programming exercise. Frind is the only person who works on the site, and he only puts in about ten hours a week, but the site makes about ten million dollars a year.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Money Shots

Some interesting photos on Flickr using US money and real landmarks.

DVD: Next

I didn't really notice this movie when it first came out. It is the one where Nicholas Cage plays a character who can see two minutes into the future. Naturally the government want him to help them catch terrorists but he just wants to be left alone.

I really liked the movie. There were a few problems with the plot - like "who were the bad guys and what were they trying to accomplish" but on the whole things moved fairly well. The main emphasis was on Cage's character's power and how he uses it.

Well worth watching.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The end of Direct Current in Manhattan

The New York Times has an article about the ending of direct current (DC) electrical service in Manhattan. The service was originally started 125 years ago by Thomas Edison when he was trying to establish DC as the standard for distributing electricity.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Tracking Shoppers

TechCrunch has an article about a new application that allows store managers to track where customers walk in their stores. The system uses radio receivers that listen for the pings the customers' cell phones send out periodically.

I'm not sure if there are privacy implications here or not. The system can tell people apart but can't identify them. Plus I suppose people could just turn off their phones if they are worried about this sort of thing.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Origami: Make a Drinking Cup

Wikihow has a page on how to make a drinking cup from a sheet of paper. This may have been more useful over the holiday season but could still come in handy. I'm not sure how long a given cup will last but I was amused at the warning not to use the cup for hot beverages.