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Weekly 40 theme was wildlife. Guessing flora counts. This was taken at dusk at my friends...
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20 May

Brilliant article on time travel from Stephen Hawking

in Science & Technology
Illustration of a light cone, based on :Image:...

Image via Wikipedia

As to be expected , Hawking has a talent for explaining these concepts to those of us who don’t have an IQ equal to the GDP of a large city.  Short version: Time travel is possible, the Large Hadron Collider proves it, but only to the future and it’s gonna take some big, big bucks

Deep underground, in a circular tunnel 16 miles long, is a stream of trillions of tiny particles. When the power is turned on they accelerate from zero to 60,000mph in a fraction of a second. Increase the power and the particles go faster and faster, until they're whizzing around the tunnel 11,000 times a second, which is almost the speed of light. But just like the train, they never quite reach that ultimate speed. They can only get to 99.99 per cent of the limit. When that happens, they too start to travel in time. We know this because of some extremely short-lived particles, called pi-mesons. Ordinarily, they disintegrate after just 25 billionths of a second. But when they are accelerated to near-light speed they last 30 times longer.

It really is that simple. If we want to travel into the future, we just need to go fast. Really fast. And I think the only way we're ever likely to do that is by going into space. The fastest manned vehicle in history was Apollo 10. It reached 25,000mph. But to travel in time we'll have to go more than 2,000 times faster.

The article really is worth a read if you’re into this kind of thing.  One thing I found particularly interesting is the idea that time moves differently depending on the surrounding mass.  For example, the GPS satellite array has to be constantly recalibrated in order to compensate for being further outside the influence of earth’s gravity than those of us on land.  Another implication of this, according to Hawking, is that manned missions to outer systems are more possible than we’d think:

The slowing of time has another benefit. It means we could, in theory, travel extraordinary distances within one lifetime. A trip to the edge of the galaxy would take just 80 years. But the real wonder of our journey is that it reveals just how strange the universe is. It's a universe where time runs at different rates in different places. Where tiny wormholes exist all around us. And where, ultimately, we might use our understanding of physics to become true voyagers through the fourth dimension.

Much like The Forever War, such expeditions would be of little use to those of us back on earth, though maybe our great-great-great-(great-great)-grandchildren can enjoy the extraterrestrial kitsch.  Perhaps a My-Ancestors-Went-To-Andromeda-and-All-I-Got-Was-This-Lousy-T-Shirt?


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18 May

You know the economy is bad when Spiderman is forced to wash windows for a living

in Economy, Geek, WTF?!

If you live in Dubai (or apparently France & Qatar as well), you can hire some poor schlep in a Spidee outfit to come wash your windows.  Can’t imagine wearing that full get-up in the desert heat.

Spidermanpsierysytle

My personal fav in the ‘write your own caption’ category comes from Brainspore @ BoingBoing who points out that “The windows may be clean but the rest of the building is going to end up getting covered in web fluid residue.”

17 May

The Environmental Assault of GM Farming

in Corporatism, Environment(alism), Food

The latest in a string of disasters from the Franken-Food folks:

Millions of hectares of farmland in northern China have been struck by infestations of bugs following the widespread adoption of Bt cotton, an engineered variety made by the US biotech giant, Monsanto.

Outbreaks of mirid bugs, which can devastate around 200 varieties of fruit, vegetable and corn crops, have risen dramatically in the past decade, as cotton farmers have shifted from traditional cotton crops to GM varieties, scientists said.

Smaller cropped version, made for Template:Agr...

Image via Wikipedia

I published an article on GMO farming as part of a sustainable development module in grad school.  While I was (still am) largely cynical of our ability to predict the long-term consequences of such scientific forays, I had no moral qualms about research into genetic modification.  Agrarian societies have long engaged in such manipulation through selective breeding and modern biotechnology is ostensibly an attempt to employ sophisticated gene splicing techniques to achieve the same ends.  Since the manipulation occurs at the genetic level, the randomness of the selective breeding process is bypassed and therefore the results can be more predictable within fewer generational attempts.

Particularly with the promise of super-foods such as 'golden rice', I was initially enthusiastic about biotechnology's potential to address global food security. After completing my research, however, I found little to support the movement in its current form, and substantial evidence that it should be halted immediately. 

At minimum, the research and development expenses associated with bringing a crop to market are far too immense for practically anyone outside global agribusiness.  Virtually all of the research and production of plant GMO’s is carried out by seven major “life science” companies, many of whom are actually pharmaceutical giants. Golden Rice projects may be good PR, but they ignore the fact that people aren't hungry because their rice is no nutritious enough, they're hungry because all they eat is rice.  In the meantime, these corporations mount an assault on the farmers themselves with the inclusion of suicide genes which ensure that crops become infertile after a single season (requiring the purchase of more seeds), that they work with only a single strain of pesticide/herbicide (happily sold by the same company) and whose controversy artificially constricts the available market to countries friendly to GM foods (notably, the U.S.).

In an ecological sense, GM crops not only shuttle much of the developing world into mono-cropping (think Ireland's potato famine), but also have the same effect as hospital superbugs (e.g. antibiotic-resistant strains of MRSA spawned by the overuse of germicides).  Those organisms able to adapt to the chemical assault form super-pests and super-weeds which are not only nearly impossible to control, but have the bonus effect of assaulting neighboring farms who chose not to become slaves to global agribusiness.

Hey, I'm all about human ingenuity.  But does anyone still believe that multi-national corporations have our best interests in mind?

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12 May

Followers turn lone nuts into leaders.

in Personal, Video, Wisdom

As my last post may hint, I've been on a bit of a crusade these last months towards a more minimalist lifestyle.  Now keep in mind that for an ADD/over-achiever like myself, minimalism is relative.  Nevertheless, I have been trying to practice the art of radical exclusion to the best of my ability.  On of the hardest things for me is trimming down my daily reading list.

The Art of Great Things is one of the blogs that has managed to survive my feed scalpel on multiple occasions, very much for the occasional nugget of wisdom they offer in posts such as this one.  Actually, it is a repost from Jeffrey Tang of a talk given by Derek Sivers on the collision between the American leadership drive and the importance of learning to follow - something I could certainly stand to improve upon:


This is what jumped out at me upon reading what Derek had to say:

“It was the first follower that transformed a lone nut into a leader. There is no movement without the first follower. We’re told we all need to be leaders, but that would be really ineffective. The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow and show others how to follow.

When you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first person to stand up and join in.”



Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy

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11 May

Minimal

in Lifehackery, Personal

It’s my birthday today.  Think I might start taking this advice for the year to come:

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09 May

Kisai Broke - geeky conversation piece or selfish time hoarder?

in Geek, Products

Uber-geeks rejoice!  No longer are you bound by dictated fashion trends or plain-vanilla Binary timepieces.   TokyoFlash has delivered a new way to display time that is easy enough for a child yet esoteric enough to confuse anyone outside the "know".  Seriously, if the RIAA sat down to design a watch, this would be the result - a timepiece we can enjoy secure in the knowledge that no passing stranger will be able to 'steal' the time that we worked so hard to pay for!

08 May

Do we really want a War on Immigration to parallel the War on Drugs?

in Capitalism, Immigration, Racism

The newest installment of Tom the Dancing Bug reminds me of a recent discussion I was having about supply and demand in the (illegal) immigration debate.  At its base, this is an issue of supply (what the U.S. has to offer) and demand (who stands to gain from the risk) and I reject the notion that demand side efforts, such as increased border control and deportation controls, can ever do much to address the problem.  Such 'solutions', much like the war on drugs, play well with the electorate because they have the appearance of being proactive while diverting attention away from the ruling class and keeping people from questioning the obvious - that if there were no jobs for illegal immigrants, then there would be no illegal immigrants.

It would be cheaper and more effective to crack down on the supply-side (employers) but that would be targeting our economic drivers (if I'm feeling gracious) or white people (for when I'm feeling a bit more cynical).
Employers in the U.S.are already numbered, tagged and monitored - they are finite in number and easy to regulate. The same cannot be said about immigrants who the U.S. will never, ever be able to stop until the costs of illegality outweigh the benefits. 





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06 May

It was a Muslim immigrant who saved the day in Times Square

in Terrorism

Yet one fact being ignored in the American media’s sensationalist
narrative about the failed bombing is that the man who was responsible
for police finding the bomb was Muslim. The UK’s Times Online reports
that Aliou Niasse, a Senagalese Muslim immigrant who works as a
photograph vendor on Times Square, was
the first
to bring the smoking car to the police’s attention.

Yes, but don'tcha know that this was actually all a plot to get us to let our guards down and forget that immigrants are evil, Muslims are evil, and damned are we when the twain shall meet!?!

03 May

Forget boycotting. It's time to break Arizona

in Immigration, Police Abusing Power, Racism

I'm surprised how many people I would ordinarily consider sane are finding creative ways to rationalize the rancor driving Klu Klux Klarizona's new immigration policy (yeah, you know who you are).  With a straight face, some have even chastised me as though I should be accustomed to carrying paperwork as a guest in a foreign country (btw - no paperwork needed) and then have the audacity to act as though I am hyperbolic in suggesting that the law dismantles the fourth amendment in deference to criminalizing skin color.   Millions of lawful residents - and yes, born and bred American citizens - are being targeted to assuage the xenophobia stoked by the election of a black president.  But hey, who cares – it’s not about you, right?  I thought Robert Greenwald highlighted the hypocrisy best:

4126186099_01eb73007d_b
Image: Ku Klux Klan, a Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivative-Works (2.0) image from arete13's photostream

I'm probably not going to get pulled over and questioned about my citizenship while driving in Arizona. I'm probably not going to have to carry my birth certificate in my car to prove I was born in the United States. And let's be honest: The only reason this is true is because I am not a Latino.

Exactly.  Let's be honest here - if we were having a problem with illegal Canadian workers, this law would never have passed because nobody wants to profile white people. So after decades of being either ignored or used as a political football by mainstream politicians, it's great to see Latinos starting to get organized, but screw boycotting Arizona.  Does anyone honestly believe that the state would miss any of the kind of people that would bother? 

No, Arizona's government has crossed the line and doesn’t need a spanking – it needs to be broken.  Here's a good start.  If you have brown skin or even if you can just speak with a plausible accent - grab some summer vacation time, hop on a plane, train, or automobile and head down to Arizona.  Spend the day at the park, in the mall, or driving up and down main street.  Make yourself seen.  Get pulled over.  If you want to lop this atrocity off at the knees then you gotta take it to the only thing these people understand.  Money.  Make this law too expensive to enforce and it goes away.  Yeah ... it's that easy. Oh, and note for the Democratic party: You want a winner for 2010?  The hop on board here before the GOP wises up.  You may have done next to nothing to woo Latinos over the past decades ever but now's your chance.  The only reason not to is if you're worried about pissing off the racist right and guess what - they ain't votin' for y’all anyways.

03 May

Forget boycotting. It's time to break Arizona

I'm surprised how many people I would ordinarily consider sane are finding creative ways to rationalize the insanity driving Klu Klux Klarizona's (crappy pun for a crappy legislature) new immigration enforcement policy (yeah, you know who you are).  With a straight face, some have even chastised me as though I should be accustomed to carrying paperwork as a guest in a foreign country (btw - no paperwork needed) and then have the audacity to act as though I am hyperbolic in suggesting that the law dismantles the fourth amendment in deference to criminalizing skin color.   Millions of lawful residents - and yes, born and bred American citizens - are being targeted here to assuage the xenophobia stoked by the election of a black president.  I thought Robert Greenwald highlighted the hipocrisy best:

I'm probably not going to get pulled over and questioned about my
citizenship while driving in Arizona. I'm probably not going to have to
carry my birth certificate in my car to prove I was born in the United
States
. And let's be honest: The only reason this is true is because
I am not a Latino.

Exactly.  Let's be honest here - if we were having a problem with illegal Canadian workers, this law would never have passed because nobody wants to profile white people.

So after decades of being either ignored or used as a political football by mainstream politicians, it's great to see Latinos starting to get organized, but screw boycotting Arizona.  Does anyone honestly believe that the state would miss any of the kind of people that would bother?  No, Arizona's government has crossed the line and needs to be broken.  Here's a good start.  If you have brown skin or even if you can just speak with a plausible - grab some summer vacation time, grab a plane, train, or automobile and head down to Arizona.  Spend the day at the park, in the mall, or driving up and down main street.  Make yourself seen.  Get pulled over.  If you want to lop this atrocity off at the knees then you gotta take it to the only thing these people understand.  Money.  Make this law unenforceable and it goes away.  Yeah ... it's that easy.

Oh, and note for the Democratic party.  You want a winner for 2010, time to hop on board.  You've done little to nothing to woo Latinos but now's your chance.  The only reason not to is if you're worried about pissing off the racist right and guess what - they ain't votin' for ya anyways.