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Tech journalist since the dark ages. Windows Secrets, LangaList newsletter, Windows Magazine (NetGuide, Home PC), Byte, Popular Computing, yadda yadda yadda. Google me, if it matters.

This feed is mostly personal interest; it's NOT my professional writing. There's tech here, yes, but also lots of general science and some politics and weird humor thrown in.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Before radar: Giant WW1 and early WW2 "sound mirrors" detected approaching aircraft acoustically

Many sound mirrors were built in England, and later scrapped when radar became available; some are being excavated and restored now.



Story: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/sound-mirrors--the-earliest-form-of-air-raid-warning--unearthed-on-south-coast-9821837.html

Other, often bizarre-looking, early acoustic aircraft detectors:










If nothing else, perhaps they'd make the enemy die laughing. :)

The Infinite Voyager:The Golden Record

Each of the two Voyager spacecraft --- the first human-made objects to enter interstellar space --- carries a "Golden Record" into the void.

These are phonograph records that contain a wide variety of sounds (opera, jazz, tribal drumming...) and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth.

Each spacecraft also carries a stylus; and the records are embossed with visual instructions on how to construct a playback device so that intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or future humans, may access the records' contents.

The embossing also includes a map showing where Earth is, using prominent pulsars as reference points.

The Infinite Voyager:The Golden Record site includes a link to the music, so you can hear what's winging its way into deep space. Take a listen!



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Why working at home is both awesome and horrible - The Oatmeal

I've worked at home --- self employed --- for 17 years. (Yikes!)

Parts of the Oatmeal's "Why working at home is both awesome and horrible" rang true, both for the positives and negatives of working alone.

Here's just one segment:


Monday, November 17, 2014

A little space humor (2/2)

Want to buy a used comet lander? Only $9 on eBay! (Note: You gave to pick it up yourself.)



A little space humor (1/2)

Check out the twitter hashtag #WhyIGotFiredFromNASA.

Examples:

When Jim Lovell called down "Houston,  We have a problem"  I responded: "Press 1 for English,  2 for Spanish."
--- ‏@berkemeyerjj

Was greeting every PhD with "Eeeeehh, what's up, doc?"
--- @RickTsaara

NASA I left a Tribble in a food bin on a Russian Soyuz resupply ship.
---@USAinSpace

Because yelled "Thruster? I barely know her!" at each and every opportunity.
---@FailedProtostar

Turns out that answering a Congresscritter's question with "As every third grader knows..." isn't a good idea.
--- @wesmorgan1

Suggesting we designate one astronaut as a Red Shirt, just in case, was considered "poor taste"
--- @lantenengo

"That's how they did it in Armageddon" is not considered "proof of work"
--- @MarcusBeaubier

Friday, November 14, 2014

Republican math: $36 is more than $6,000.

Your tax dollars at work:

The average family making $50K per years pays about $6000/year in grants and subsidies to Big Business.

The average family making $50K per years pays about $36/year in funding Food Stamps.

Guess which spending the GOP wants to cut?


(Multiple sources; see: http://www.commondreams.org/views/2013/09/23/add-it-average-american-family-pays-6000-year-subsidies-big-business)

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Oatmeal explains what Net Neutrality really means

Last year, GOP darling and future presidential candidate Ted Cruz took money from Comcast's lobbyists. This week, he spoke out against net neutrality. (Big surprise, I know.)

Today, the Oatmeal published an open letter to Ted Cruz, explaining what net neutrality really is, in terms even a Senator can understand.

http://theoatmeal.com/blog/net_neutrality

NASA seeks volunteers for "ground truth" observations

NASA wants to improve its satellite cloud observations by having volunteers take picture from below clouds--- showing conditions as actually experienced, or ground truth --- at the same time that satellites are recording the image from up top.

NASA says: "With such simultaneous satellite and ground observations, scientists can compare the two perspectives to determine if satellites are missing any important details. The combination offers a more complete picture, and it provides a better basis for global records of clouds."

There are two versions of the project.

The first is open to anyone:
"Rover – The Rover project was designed for the citizen scientist community... and allows the observers to make observations from permanent and non-permanent locations. Roving observers report their observations with a unique Rover nickname so that they can track their observations and temporal satellite matches."
There's also a version of the program specifically designed for students:
"S’COOL – The Students’ Cloud Observations On-Line (S'COOL) project was designed for the traditional school setting. When your class registers to be a SCOOL observer, your teacher will be registered under a specific latitude and longitude for which you will submit observations as a class. With the teacher's user name and password, the teacher can log in and review the class's observations and temporal satellite matches. These cloud observations are stored in the S’COOL database so your class can track their progress and compare their observations to those of other classrooms."

More info and sign-up data: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=84662&src=eoa-iotd

Watch today’s comet landing live online

Good source for live streaming coverage options (now in progress 2014-11-12 9AM EST onward): http://earthsky.org/space/watch-wednesdays-comet-landing-live-online