Monday, June 30, 2008

A New York Times article tells of an auction that was to sell some pretty amazing scientific publication, including Copernicus’ “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” (“On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”). Yes, the very same book that heretically presented a heliocentric theory of the solar system. Also in the auction is one of the first phone directories! Pretty cool stuff.

From the New York Times article titled, “Among Scientific Treasures, a Gem” by Dennis Overbye:

The Copernicus is a cornerstone in the collection of a retired physician and amateur astronomer, Richard Green of Long Island, that constitutes pretty much a history of science and Western thought. Among the others in Dr. Green’s library are works by Galileo, who was tried for heresy in 1633 and sentenced to house arrest for his admiration of Copernicus and for portraying the pope as a fool, as well as by Darwin, Descartes, Newton, Freud, Kepler, Tycho Brahe, Malthus and even Karl Marx.

Read all about it here.

(The image is of the copy of “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium” on sale at auction.)

The auction took place at Christie’s on June 17, 2008 and fetched an ultimate price of $2,210,500. Not bad considering the article estimated the value at about $1,000,000. The page on the Christie’s site describes the book as a FIRST EDITION OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION OF THE 16TH CENTURY AND A "LANDMARK IN HUMAN THOUGHT”

Looking over the items in the sale I came across this one, Charles Babbage’s (1791-1871). On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures. London: Charles Knight, 1832. The site’s page describes the item as “one of the first books on operations research, and a classic of economics. Babbage undertook this analysis of machinery and manufacturing processes to discover ideas and techniques that could be applied to the construction of his Difference Engine no. 1, which he knew would stretch the available mechanical technology to its limits.”

Babbage’s engines were the subject of the book, “The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. I interviewed Sterling about the book for the British Science Fiction Association’s Online Magazine, The Matrix when they were covering Steam Punk in a retrospective celebrating the BSFA’s 50th Anniversary.

Here is one question excepted from the interview where Sterling describes Babbage:

LC: Are technological advances—in the POV of this book—not always such a good thing, especially if they come “before their time?”

BS: I don't believe that Babbage's early computer failed because it was "ahead of its time." The machine was feasible and well financed. It failed mostly because Babbage was Babbage. Babbage was a politician as well as a technocrat, and it's his techno-elitist politics that are adapted in DIFFERENCE ENGINE.

Look for the full interview on the BSFA’s Matrix website.

When Galaxies Collide!

A pair of galaxies imaged by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii are on a collision course, a powerful gravitational phenomenon when two galaxies pull each other closer so that they eventually either merge or pass through one and other, creating severe and, to us, beautiful disruptions, mostly by exciting star formation.

The image is fascinating, almost unrealistic in its clarity and beauty. Both are spiral galaxies and both are showing all or most of their face to us; a marvelous image that inspires the imagination to the great wonders of the universe. Not only is the size scale immense, but the timeframe over which this process (collision) is talking place is millions of years; a ballet of cosmic leviathans.

This is similar to what the Milky Way (our home galaxy) and Andromeda will look like when they eventually collide, a forgone conclusion according to scientists.

The Gemini Observatory website says this:

Once thought to be unusual and rare, gravitational interactions between galaxies are now known to be quite common (especially in densely populated galaxy clusters) and are considered to play an important role in galaxy evolution. Most galaxies have probably had at least one major, if not many minor, interactions with other galaxies since the advent of the Big Bang some 13 billion years ago. Our own Milky Way, a spiral galaxy like those in this image, is, in fact, performing its own stately dance. Both with the nearby dwarf galaxy, called the Large Magellanic Cloud and a future interaction with the large spiral galaxy M-31 or the Great Andromeda Galaxy, which is now located about 2.6 million light years away from the Milky Way. This new Gemini image is possibly a preview of things to come for our own galaxy. Ultimately the end result of these types of collisions will be a large elliptical galaxy.

Read all about it either at the Astronomy Magazine website or in the Gemini Observatory press release.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Seems that the rumors of the death of the Scientific Method are greatly exaggerated.

John Timmer, Science Editor over at Ars Technica wrote a little rebuttal piece titled “Why the cloud cannot obscure the scientific method” against the article by EIC Chris Anderson that appeared online at Wired’s website.

I liked the way he started the article which captured by attention right away:

Every so often, someone (generally not a practicing scientist) suggests that it's time to replace science with something better.

Just for the record (and because I check to see what his creds were) here is his bio from the website.

John got a Bachelor of Arts in Biochemistry (yes, that's possible) from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cell Biology from the University of California, Berkeley. He's done over a decade's worth of research in genetics and developmental biology at places like Cornell Medical College and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In addition to being Ars' science content wrangler, John still teaches at Cornell and does freelance writing, editing, and programming, often with a scientific focus. When physically separated from his keyboard, John tends to respond by seeking out a volleyball court, bicycle, or a scenic location for communing with his hiking boots.

British Sunday: Movie Review - Iron Man

You can read my Iron Man review for the British Science Fiction Association’s The Matrix website.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gene Simmons To Fans: Go F... Yourselves.

According to a report, Gene Simmons announced that he is rolling up that massively long tongue of his and going home. He blames the fans for the destruction of the music industry. That's right, folks, the fans killed the Radio Star.

Not short sighted business models by giant corporations that continued to consolidate despite the growing trend to the do exactly the opposite.

Not the fact that music is overpriced and people who were used to hearing it free on the radio thought they could still hear it free on their computers somehow but when the industry never did a darn thing to offer this, the fans took the technology in their own hands.

Not Apple, that blessedly created the coolest portable music listening device ever on the planet.

Not the musicians who could only deliver crap music over and over again or the large, souless, brainless music companies that churned out the ground meat of music for decades.

Not the overpriced tickets for concerts or the overpriced tee-shirts or the overpriced albums (did I mention that the music is overpriced?)

Not Contemporary Country Music.

Not MTV that used to be Music Television but is now, what, Reality Television so it should be called RTV.

Not... well... You get the point.

Gene Simmons blames, downloading. Downloading. He's buying this crap too? For over a decade I've been hearing how the poor music industry is suffering for one reason or another. Too many video games. Not enough video games. Too much Television. Not enough television.

What a bunch of complainers. Really. How many excuses do they have to make before they turn the mirror on themselves. Innovation and good music. That's all it takes. I mean Google makes tons of money and they give eveything away for free. Everything! So why can't a huge conglomerate of companies put their heads (and their wallets) together to think of a way to out of this mess.

Oh right, they did... The RIAA goes around victimizing fans in a strong-arm fashion that resembles the Sopranos more than Nirvana. The time has come for the music industry to come to grips, count themselves lucky that people do want to listen to music, but in a diferent format and develop a new business model. One that actually works.

Suring downloaders is not the way. There must be another. Find it before the industry shatters into a million little pieces since that's the way it looks like it's going.

Ars Tehnica quotes Gene Simmons in an AOL news story:

"The record industry is dead. It's six feet underground and unfortunately the fans have done this," Simmons said, according to AOL News. "They've decided to download and file share. There is no record industry around so we're going to wait until everybody settles down and becomes civilized. As soon as the record industry pops its head up we'll record new material."

I wonder about these guys. When they say stuff like this they really show their age.

Read all about it here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Metallica to Management: What the F...?

Ars Technica reports that Metallica has changed their minds. Either that or they were out of town-so to speak-the day their management decided to send some rust into the internet pipes with rediculous cease-and-desist orders to bloggers.

Even the dark lords of 80s metal listen to the blogosphere these days.

Read all about it at Ars Technica.

The End of Theory: The Scientific Method is Obsolete

"All models are wrong, but some are useful." Fascinating stuff but is it really just throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Compiling and computing data at a rate unseen or imagined in the history of humankind is a giant leap forward but we'll still end up in the same place. It's almost backwards, where the immense data generates a theory to describe the results rather than a few data sets inspiring them. Yet, imagination in science on the order of, say, Einstein's brain, will never be replaced, at least in my lifetime.

read more | digg story

Friday, June 20, 2008

Robonaut by NASA.

Our challenge is to build machines that can help humans work and explore in space. Working side by side with humans, or going where the risks are too great for people, machines like Robonaut will expand our ability for construction and discovery.


The Clone Wars Cometh To Wii

Just got the email advertisement announcing the Clone Wars Game coming to Wii. They say that the game was built from the ground up for the Wii. I’m thinking how cool the Wii-mote will be to play in the Lightsaber Duels feature. I’m siked. It’s my own personal killer app for the Wii that will make me buy one this summer. The release for the game is set for the Holiday season 2008.

From the LucasArts website:

Star Wars The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels, in development by Krome Studios exclusively for the Wii, delivers fun-filled Lightsaber battles for the entire family while it immerses players in the characters, locations, and epic duels from the all-new Star Wars feature film. Built from the ground-up for the Wii, Lightsaber Duels features an intuitive motion-controlled combat system that puts the lightsaber weapon in your hand for non-stop fun.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Might As Well Be Science Fiction

The New York Times reports that Tim Russert's son, Luke, got the two presumed presidential candidates to sit together and then hug each other. Perhaps we should be voting Luke Russert (who is only 22 years old) to be our next president.

In death, Tim Russert did on Wednesday what no living journalist has accomplished this campaign season: he got Barack Obama and John McCain to sit together and talk, quietly.

Specifically, it was Mr. Russert’s son, Luke, 22, who got the presumptive Democratic and Republican nominees together. He requested that they sit next to each other at his father’s funeral at Holy Trinity Church in Georgetown. Then, in remarks from the pulpit, he exhorted them and other politicians to “engage in spirited debate but disavow the low tactics that distract Americans from the most important issues facing our country.” At the end of the service, the two candidates embraced.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


"[The formation is] where all the big sexy dinosaurs that we grew up learning about are most commonly found.” - Scott Foss, a paleontologist in the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM's) Salt Lake City office, commenting on the Hanksville-Burpee Quarry where a “trove” of dinosaur bones were found, according to a National Geographic article.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Metallica Makes As Much Sense As Dick Cheney At A Quail Hunt

Or maybe it’s the drugs. Perhaps it’s the fact that the band is so far removed from its garage band days that it can’t remember when it was cold and hungry and would have done any immoral or illegal act (and probably did do any immoral or illegal act) to get their music heard. Or maybe it’s that their management is contracted to Beazulbub. Whatever the case, Metallica has shown its age again.

I first read about it in my RSS Feed Reader of an ars technical post titled, “Metallica to bloggers: don't review our music” written by Nate Anderson:

Given all that Metallica has done, said, and been through in the last 20 years, what could they still do that would lead bloggers to ask, "What the hell is wrong with Metallica?" In this case, the answer is fairly pedestrian but still dumb: censor bloggers… Read the rest of the article here at ars technical.

Then I followed a link to the Wired Listening Post blog to get more on the scoup in a post titled, “Metallica Kills Early Reviews of Upcoming Album” by Eliot Van Buskirk:

Oh, Metallica, why can't you get it right? The band seemed to have learned somewhat from the dark days of the Napster debacle by offering fans online access to pre-release material and in-studio video footage, but now it has apparently unleashed another potentially damaging fiasco upon itself by forcing bloggers to take down reviews of their upcoming album… Read the rest of the article here at Wired.

Aparantly Metallica’s management said that they invited reporters to listen to the music so they wouldn’t write about it only because the music they heard was an early mix. Why invite reporters to an event and then not specifically tell them they shouldn’t write about it or sign a non-disclosure agreement?

That makes as much sense as inviting Dick Cheney to a quail hunt and expecting him not to shoot anyone in the face.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller’s “Cloud Nine” project was a levitating city of spheres. Very cool. Very Sci-Fi. Check out some other spheres here.

Thanks to BuzzFeed for pointing out the coolness of Buckminster and getting me buzzing about it.

The UN declares 2009 the International Year of Astronomy

How did I miss this? In December of 2007 the United Nations (UN) 62nd General Assembly proclaimed 2009 the International Year of Astronomy.

Rarely do I just take a press release and paste it into my blog wholesale and declare it a post but since Astronomy is near and dear to my heart, I thought, what the heck?

The Resolution was submitted by Italy, Galileo Galilei’s home country. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 is an initiative of the International Astronomical Union and UNESCO.

The International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009) celebrates the first astronomical use of the telescope by Galileo - a momentous event that initiated 400 years of astronomical discoveries and triggered a scientific revolution which profoundly affected our worldview. Now telescopes on the ground and in space explore the Universe, 24 hours a day, across all wavelengths of light. The President of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) Catherine Cesarsky says: “The International Year of Astronomy 2009 gives all nations a chance to participate in this ongoing exciting scientific and technological revolution.”

The IYA2009 will highlight global cooperation for peaceful purposes the search for our cosmic origin and our common heritage, which connect all citizens of planet Earth. For several millennia, astronomers have worked together across all boundaries including geographic, gender, age, culture and race, in line with the principles of the UN Charter. In that sense, astronomy is a classic example of how science can contribute towards furthering international cooperation.

At the IAU General Assembly on 23 July 2003 in Sydney (Australia), the IAU unanimously approved a resolution in favour of the proclamation of 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy. Based on Italy’s initiative, UNESCO’s General Conference at its 33rd session recommended that the UN General Assembly adopt a resolution to declare 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. On 20 December 2007 the International Year of Astronomy 2009 was proclaimed by the United Nations 62nd General Assembly. The UN has designated the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the lead agency for the IYA2009. The IAU will function as the facilitating body for IYA2009.

The IYA2009 is, first and foremost, an activity for the citizens of planet Earth. It aims to convey the excitement of personal discovery, the pleasure of sharing fundamental knowledge about the Universe and our place in it, and the merits of the scientific method. Astronomy is an invaluable source of inspiration for humankind throughout all nations. So far 99 nations and 14 organisations have signed up to participate in the IYA2009-an unprecedented network of committed communicators and educators in astronomy.

For more information on the International Year of Astronomy 2009 please visit the website.

Monday, June 09, 2008

I Smell Blockbuster Police Buddy Movie

One's an Angry Black Guy.

The other's an angry White Guy.

Together, they're cleaning up the South Pacific.

Good News, Bad News From Steve Jobs

The good news is that Apple announced its new iPhone 3G, called the iPhone 2.0. The bad news is that it’s still handcuffed to the AT&T network, which means I will not be getting one anytime soon, even at the reduce $199 price.

According to the Apple press release the iPhone™ 3G, cobines all the “features of iPhone with 3G networking.” It also includes built-in GPS and iPhone 2.0 software, “which includes support for Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync and runs the hundreds of third party applications already built with the recently released iPhone SDK.”

The SDK (Software Developer’s Kit) allows third party developers to create software for the iPhone.

“Just one year after launching the iPhone, we’re launching the new iPhone 3G that is twice as fast at half the price,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “ iPhone 3G supports Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync right out of the box, runs the incredible third party apps created with the iPhone SDK, and will be available in more than 70 countries around the world this year.”

Also on the agenda was “Mobile Me,” an application that synchs data between applications on your iPhone, iPod touch, Mac, and PC. Reaching to the proverbial “cloud,” the software will allow all your devices to stay in synch, updating each other automatically when you make a change on one. They are calling this action, “Push.”

According to the Apple website, “Push happens automatically, instantly, and continuously.”

Cool device. Just wish I could use it.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

If Only They Could Get Young Lynda Carter To Star As Wonder Woman Again...

Ahh... My childhood sweetheart.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Nine Sad Songs For Loosing Your Job, Girlfriend, House, Or Internet Connection

Are you having trouble in the current economic crisis? Has your Internet download been capped by Time Warner? Is the subprime crisis threatening your housing situation? Did losing your house and the cap on your Internet cause your girlfriend to leave you?

Then head over to the your favorite download center (if you have the bandwidth left) and download these nine songs to drown your sorrows within. Why nine? Because Top Ten lists are the property of David Letterman's production company, World Wide Pants.

So my lists only go to nine...

1. Trent Reznor's (NIN) song "Hurt" is a depressing enough song, but when sung by the eternally black Johnny Cash it's not just sad and depressing, it's downright scary.

2. Sonic Youth's version of the Carpenters' "Superstar" brings out a profound desperation in the song that I never realized before.

3. "Everybody Hurts" by REM is one of my solid favorite depressing songs.

4. "Hold On" by Sarah McLachlan about a dying lover is another great one, like a prayer in song.

5. "Beauty Queen/Horses" by Tori Amos is also a sparse, sad song.

6. "Sometimes When We Touch" by Dan Hill is a classic sad song.

7. "The River" by Bruce Springsteen is a sad short story set to music about the frustration of blue-collar life in a rural town.

8. "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star, a sad love song.

9. “Ol’ 55” by Tom Waits is just a great traveling song about moving on in life.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Administration Supresses NASA Climate Data

The Bush administration tried to suppress data out of NASA that pointed to global warming. Not surprising from the track record the administration but very surprising from an agency committed to science. Of course the Agency has always succumbed to political pressure. Just read Tom Wolfe’s book, “The Right Stuff.

In the New York Times, an article titled, “NASA Office Is Criticized on Climate Reports” reported that “two years after James E. Hansen, the leading climate scientist at NASA, and other agency employees described a pattern of distortion and suppression of climate science by political appointees, the agency’s inspector general has concluded that such activities occurred and were ‘inconsistent’ with the law that established the space program 50 years ago.”

Quoted in the article is Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat:

“Global warming is the most serious environmental threat we face, but this report is more evidence that the Bush administration’s appointees have put political ideology ahead of science,” Mr. Lautenberg said in an e-mailed statement. “Our government’s response to global warming must be based on science, and the Bush administration’s manipulation of that information violates the public trust.”

Read the article here.

In a related piece reported previously, James E. Hansen, a top NASA climate scientist, said to the New York Times that the Bush administration “tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.”

Read all about it here.

This Never Gets Old...

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It's On...

Single Mother Single Handedly Takes On The RIAA

I first read about this in a Business Week article titled, "Does She Look Like A Music Pirate?" but apparently this case has been getting online pixel ink for a while.

The long and short of it is that this woman, Tanya Andersen, was wrongfully sued by the RIAA for downloaded music. It was discovered that the user name the recording industry thugs associated with her account was someone else's. Typical. What happens is that these guys show up at your door with a subpoena and tell you that you'd better settle for thousands of dollars since you're going to loose anyway. "Might as well give up the goods now," they tell you, "because you know that we know that you know that you're guilty."

Seems that they messed with the wrong woman this time. Good thing for people like Tanya Andersen.

Cohenside supports her efforts because:

A) She's a single mother and I have a soft spot in my heart having been raised by one.

B) The RIAA is an umbrella organization for the Communist Party--no kidding, check it out for yourself.

C) I hate big, heartless, rich, corporations that pick on the little guy. (Or girl in this case.)

D) The record industry had a horrendous track record (pun intended) of treating its talent like slave labor and now it's trying to sue the consumers for downloading some songs so they can continue to rape the artists and the consumers equally and make globs of money.

Read about it here on the Wired Blog, but also do a Google search to find out more.