December 31, 2012
Fancy Balloon

A German engineering firm has created a pretty nifty flying... thing. Buoyancy is provided by helium. The funky shape and the way it moves is what provides propulsion. Bonus: powered by a smart phone. Hey, it's not like you really need super-precision to fly something that's just going to sit there if you stop.

Posted by scott at 07:09 AM | Comments (0)
A Distant Tragedy

Every once in awhile even a remote view can be powerful. In all honesty I'm not sure if I would've spotted that something had gone badly wrong from that distance, and back then I lived and breathed the space program.

Posted by scott at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)
Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Bunch

The US's ongoing exploitation of innovative drilling techniques to increase petrochemical reserves and production would seem to be rattling a few cages. Energy independence has been one of those things that would be great to have but impossible to achieve. We're not hearing more about it because, of course, we're achieving it in the wrong way. Intellectual purity is always more important than actual results.

Posted by scott at 06:56 AM | Comments (0)
December 29, 2012
How Do You Say, "Watch This" in Arabic?

Posted by scott at 06:09 PM | Comments (0)
The Continuing Voyages...

Not sure how we missed it, but it looks like the name Enterprise will grace another aircraft carrier. A new-style big-deck one, no less. Beats the hell out of naming them after politicians, is all I'm saying.

Posted by scott at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)
~ Hammer of the Gods ~

One of the largest Viking ships ever found is scheduled to go on display at the British Museum in 2014. This one's old enough and fancy enough to have actually been built for King Canute, one of the great "What If" kings of England.

Posted by scott at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)
December 28, 2012
Look out for Scooters!

Nice to know NOVA isn't the only place with drivers like this:

Posted by scott at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)
December 25, 2012
Our Kind of Christmas!

Posted by Ellen at 07:00 PM | Comments (0)
Merry Explosive Christmas!

Posted by scott at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)
December 24, 2012
Crouching in the Dark

First a mother of a child like Adam Lanza came forward. Now someone who once considered himself Adam Lanza has done the same. Lots of good points in there, all strongly reminding me how lucky I am having such a normal, well-adjusted child. It also provides insight into why the main character in my first book and a supporting character in my next, who grew up in horrible isolation, act the way they do. I'm hoping the difference in their outcomes will be illustrative.

Posted by scott at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)
December 22, 2012
Crazy Is

Someone who actually knows a famous person who's famously gone off track can spend some time trying to provide insight into their character. Or, they can plug their book and blame someone they don't like much. Me? Nobody forces anyone to become a world-class athlete. I'm of the opinion that, to be competitive at that level, it's impossible to be anything but an enthusiastic participant

Posted by scott at 06:42 AM | Comments (0)
Suit Up

Well, since they are designing a new space suit, why not make the color scheme white and lime green? I think we'll see lots more of this as time goes on.

Posted by scott at 06:31 AM | Comments (0)
December 21, 2012
Down in a Hole

I genuinely like old buildings, old places, because the edges and details of whatever they are now provide clues to whatever they were then. In downtown DC, for example, there are certain areas which still have police telephone housings. And then there's a basement in Portland with a very old secret.

Posted by scott at 06:41 AM | Comments (0)
Your Thought for the Day

Posted by scott at 06:13 AM | Comments (0)
December 20, 2012
Your Thought for the Day

Posted by scott at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)
Compassionate History

It would seem that, at least occasionally, we haven't always been complete bastards to each other. Fans of The Clan of the Cave Bear should recognize "Shanidar-1," who was the model for the character Creb.

Posted by scott at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)
Gun Truth

As if you needed another reminder, the AR-15 is not a "spray and pray" symbol of child-killing anarchy. It's actually the ultimate all-in-one precision weapon. Re-chambering for the ultra-cheap .22lr round was something I knew about conceptually, but it took reading this article to understand the implication. What a concept!

Posted by scott at 06:26 AM | Comments (0)
Fist of Fury

A new anatomical study of the human hand is suggesting fighting may have influenced its shape as much as the need to manipulate objects. The article mentions some pretty interesting observations, but not any predictions to bolster the theory.

Posted by scott at 06:13 AM | Comments (0)
December 18, 2012
And Now, Your Moment of Zen

Posted by scott at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)
Tiny Terror

So now we need to add a single species of microbe to the list of things that may have caused the Permian mass extinction event. Me, I suspect there likely isn't a single cause for something so disruptive it killed off 90% of all the species on the planet. But it does make for an interesting idea.

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM | Comments (0)
December 17, 2012
The Politics of Dancing, With Chinese Characteristics

Chinese government to Chinese citizens: these are not the perverts you're looking for. The communist party is conservative in the way the Roman Empire was conservative, for the same reason: it fosters control. The Internet is, for them, ultimately subversive. It's a dragon they can't control. Their main problem is they didn't realize this fact until they'd invited the dragon in and let it get nice and comfy. It won't consume them. China doesn't work that way. It will, however, eventually bring about their downfall. Unfortunately China doesn't know what comes next, and that very idea defines, for that country, soul-shattering terror.

Posted by scott at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)
Hey, Watch This!

Warning: very "blue" language, but otherwise SFW.

Posted by scott at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

Funny only because it seems he'll be ok: a Polish man was recently admitted to a hospital after he "answered his iron." And no, that's not a euphemism. The phone rang and he put the iron to his head. To add insult to injury, he then proceeded to bash his head on the door frame trying to get water on the burn.

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM | Comments (2)
Why History Matters

It turns out the deadliest school massacre in US history happened in... 1927. There will always be maniacs targeting schools. Like lightning strikes or meteor collisions, aside from basic common-sense precautions, there's not much to be done about it.

Posted by scott at 06:48 AM | Comments (0)
That's a Party!

It's all fun and games until the homemade hand grenades come out. And all this time I thought an open bar at the office Christmas party was daring. And, apparently, this is common in Thailand, a carry-over from various school rivalries.

Posted by scott at 06:10 AM | Comments (0)
My Kingdom For A...

New, albeit unpublished, evidence discovered with a mysterious skeleton found buried under a parking lot apparently confirm that Richard III's body has been rediscovered. Apparently the release of the evidence is being held up pending the release of a documentary that, if I'm reading it correctly, was ultimately the source of funding for the whole project. Seems fair to me, but I have these wacky ideas that people who pay for things have a right to them. Such a silly belief in this day and age, I know...

Posted by scott at 06:01 AM | Comments (0)
December 15, 2012
TV Time

Coming soon to a media center near you: Sony has announced a new line of "4k" TV sets. Boasting a native resolution four times higher than common HD TVs today, Sony is also providing a media server with 4k content and a promise to refresh that content periodically for free. At a whopping $25,000, I'd expect nothing less.

I seem to recall it took big (36" +) LCDs about ten years before we started to seriously consider buying one, and about four years after that before the TV we had finally fell over and died. Our current TV is 4 years old, so we seem to be right on track for one of these 4k things, in 2023.

Posted by scott at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)
December 14, 2012
Are You F'ing Kidding Me?

For some, it's not enough to simply be successful. You have to be successful in the right way, for the right reasons. This sort of criticism is something I've read about successful black people struggling with for years. I just haven't seen quite as crystal-clear an example of it in quite some time. I heartily agree with the show's host's comments:

'RG3, the ethnicity, the color of his fiancee is none of our business. Itís irrelevant,

'He can live his life any way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, thatís his business, thatís his life. I donít judge someoneís blackness based on those kind of things.

'I just donít do that. Iím not that kind of guy.'

Posted by scott at 08:46 AM | Comments (0)
Fun with Fright

Horror films. Serious business. Hey, man, it's only make believe after all!

Posted by scott at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)
A River Runs Through It

Scientists have announced the discovery of the first extra-terrestrial river. Since it's on Titan, it flows with methane instead of water. Not something you'd normally go water skiing in, although I'm sure some redneck out there would try. Now, watch this!

Posted by scott at 06:51 AM | Comments (0)

I guess, if your sample is big enough and homogenous enough, this sort of thing is inevitable. It's still pretty weird. Turns out all those stories of someone assuming someone else's identity have more to them than I thought.

Posted by scott at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)
December 13, 2012
That's a Lot of Martgueritas

"Imagine all of the buildings on Manhattan, suddenly starting to move and fall over. I bet it'll be even cooler if I ever manage to get it in HD on my home theater rig at home. Nature can be... big...

Posted by scott at 09:58 AM | Comments (2)
And the Satellite Goes, "Tumble Tumble Tumble"

Best Korea seems to have finally sorted out their missile, at least once, but their satellite tech still needs work. Unfortunately, as noted in the article, just because this likely means they still can't drop a nuke where they want, it doesn't actually prevent them from trying. Sleep well tonight!

Posted by scott at 06:35 AM | Comments (0)
Preservation, Warts and All

If this article is to be believed, the old Russian practice of putting a frog in a pail of milk to keep it from going sour may actually work. Which is fine, as far as it goes. Me, I think I'll stick with good ol' pasteurization myself. But I'll be plenty happy if it somehow leads to new kinds of antibiotics.

Posted by scott at 06:28 AM | Comments (0)
December 12, 2012
Fun with Fighters

It looks like someone needs to tell the Russian air force they're not the Soviet air force anymore. Or maybe they did just decide to keep the red start? Me, I think maybe they're just too cheap to re-paint their airplanes. Lots of fun to watch, though!

Posted by scott at 01:21 PM | Comments (0)
When Snacks Attack

And now, introducing... beer battered bacon-sprinkled deep-fried Doritos. You're welcome. Pleased to be forming an orderly queue...

Posted by scott at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

It seems the Navy's effort to gain organic drone support on carriers is going well. Me, I'd be pretty nervous standing in front of what (on the deck, it seems) is basically a giant RC aircraft with an equally giant jet engine on it. Maybe it's the camera that makes it seem so close.

Posted by scott at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)
Iron Snail

By studying a rare sea snail that incorporates iron in its shell, scientists believe they'll be able to create an entirely new class of more effective body armor. In other news, there's a snail out there with an iron shell, and boy is it UGLY.

Posted by scott at 06:44 AM | Comments (0)
December 11, 2012
Well That's Un-Good

Speaking of rovers, it seems that Curiosity managed to make it to Mars with a flaw that could see it drop dead in an instant. It's gotta be one of the worst feelings, realizing you need to get inside a suitcase buried in the back of the car only AFTER it's buried in the back of the car. And proactive electrical shorts seems a bit of a contradiction, but what do I know?

Posted by scott at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)
Meanwhile, on Mars

While NASA's new super-rover, Curiosity, is grabbing all the headlines, its older sibling, Opportunity, is still plugging along and doing good science. At least one of its instruments no longer works due to old age, but otherwise the probe seems well-positioned to still be around for the tenth anniversary of its landing. Go, you little golf-cart, go!

Posted by scott at 06:55 AM | Comments (0)
Still No Cure For... Oh, Wait...

Efforts to harness our own immune system to fight cancer appear to be proceeding apace. The side effects sound pretty gnarly, but apparently the current "last ditch" cancer treatment, bone-marrow transplant, is even worse. As is commonly said with these sorts of stories, "faster, please."

Posted by scott at 06:49 AM | Comments (0)
The Style of Change

Ever wonder what the men of France in 1902 thought their "women of the future" might look like? Well, ok, neither did I, but the result is still pretty interesting. Apparently they figured military uniforms would involve a lot of corsets. Who knew?

Posted by scott at 06:40 AM | Comments (0)
December 10, 2012
Virus Chopper

Problem: your DIY drone may not be the best-performing one in the competition.

Solution: crush your enemies, drive them before you, and hear the lamentation of their servos. I, for one, welcome our goofy battery-powered virus-wielding overlords.

Posted by scott at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)
Pee Brain

A group of Chinese scientists has worked out a way to create neuron cells from ordinary urine. The cells did not turn cancerous, a big problem with stem cells, and were created in a significantly shorter time than other methods. To paraphrase Deng Xiaopeng, where the cells come from doesn't matter, as long as they fix the problem.

Posted by scott at 06:38 AM | Comments (0)
December 09, 2012
Conversations That Only Happen in My House

Conversations that only happen in my house:

Ellen: "Ok, guys, where'd you hide my mannikin head?"

Olivia: "I didn't!"

Me: "I didn't!"

Ellen: "Well, where is it?"

Me and Olivia, together: "On top of the cabinet upstairs, next to the bathtub."

Olivia: "It's been creeping me out for months."

Me: "I've been almost knocking it off that cabinet for months."

Ellen: "Great. I've lost my head."

Me: "So what you're saying is, you've lost a full-sized human head in our house?"

Ellen: "Yes. Yes, I have."

Posted by scott at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)
When Editorial Standards Attack

And now, proof that the MSM really is all that stands between us and a takeover by The Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. It's... it's like they're not even human, they're so good.

Posted by scott at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)
Romani Roamin'

A new genetic study has shad new light on the origins of the Romani, better know to most of us as Gypsies. It seems they're originally from northwest India, and moved seemingly as a unit about fifteen hundred years ago.

Posted by scott at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)
December 07, 2012
Derp in a Truck

There's "turning to crime because you're too dumb to do anything else" stupid, and then there's this guy.

Posted by scott at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)
Ancient Fabulous

A recent archeological find is all the excuse The Daily Mail needs to make catty observations about women and fashion. Now that I think about it, they usually don't even try that hard.

Posted by scott at 07:13 AM | Comments (0)
Fashion Fun

Yeah, most of the time you really shouldn't dress up for portraits. The thing is, thirty years from now the pictures taken this year will look just as dorky. It's all about smiling and remembering, after all.

Posted by scott at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)
When Rat Domains Collide

And so, the endgame began: with catfish hunting pigeons. Not babies, either. Meh, I'll bet they've been doing this for as long as pigeons have been within reach. A 30% success rate is actually pretty good in the wild, from what I've read at any rate. With video!

Posted by scott at 06:34 AM | Comments (0)
December 06, 2012
And I Thought DC-Area Drivers Were Bad

Posted by scott at 07:24 AM | Comments (0)
No Matter Where You Go

Most of those "you gotta see this!" videos, you don't.

This is not one of those videos.

Posted by scott at 07:03 AM | Comments (0)
December 05, 2012
Another Thought

Posted by scott at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)
Your Thought for the Day

I think UK Christmas parties must be a lot more fun than the ones we have in the US.

Posted by scott at 09:40 AM | Comments (0)
We're Here to Help!

Look, folks, when it comes to government work, your choices are "fast, efficient, and effective." On good days, you get to pick two. Personally, when it comes to disaster relief I'm fine if they pick fast and effective. And I must emphasize this is only what happens on the good days. Most of the time, you don't get to pick at all.

Posted by scott at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)
December 04, 2012
You Go, Gramma

Problem: alopecia has struck you completely bald.

Solution: Wigs are SO 20th century, dear.

My wife if this ever happens, let me show you her...

Posted by scott at 06:55 PM | Comments (0)
Y Iz Fud in Funny Pakaj?

Posted by scott at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)
Road House Blues

Remember that house in China that was basically in the middle of a highway? Yeah, it's not there anymore. Conventional wisdom was that the owners must've had high-level connections to the party to hang on that long. As it stands, I'm not sure the settlement they admitted to getting was any higher than what they were refusing before they started to get all this attention.

Posted by scott at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)
Paging Steve Miller, White Courtesy Phone Please

So stop me if you've heard this one before: a Waco, Nebraska woman was recently arrested after she bragged about robbing a bank and stealing a car. No, she didn't blab to a friend, she posted a video on YouTube. High 19 year-olds tend not to have good decision making skills. At least nobody seems to have gotten hurt. And they took her kid away? Really? Ok, Florida, your turn now.

Posted by scott at 07:01 AM | Comments (0)
December 03, 2012
I Spy

If these UK scientists are to be believed, women spend more time checking each other out than do men. A slightly more suspect finding is men stare more at the eyes than at the figure, at least of photos or paintings. I bet if they were to somehow record the inner dialog of the observer, the differences would be even more pronounced.

Posted by scott at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)
Practical Science

Finally, engineers have created a truly important invention. Of course, heat-resistant chocolate won't be cheap. Would you be willing to pay the premium? I think it'd rely on a number of factors, and yes, hormones and the equipment that generates them figure prominently on that list.

Posted by scott at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)
~ Big Ol' Jet Airliner ~

If this rather precious flight-tester is to be believed, the 787 really is all that and an in-flight bag of chips. Our flying is done on comparatively short routes, so it's too big for me to think I'll be flying in one any time soon. Still, if we do ever have occasion to fly cross-country or even across the Atlantic, I'd definitely be sniffing around for a ticket on one.

Posted by scott at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)
December 01, 2012
But Will it Make Them Crap Rainbows?

Just in time for Christmas: inflatable unicorn horns for cats. Because when I think of gentle, magical, horse-like creatures, the first thing that comes to mind is a cat.

Posted by scott at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)
China Meme

It looks like the Chinese are pretty proud of their aircraft carrier. You know, the one that'd never be turned into an actual ship, never be made operational, and was at least three years away from launching aircraft? Yeah, that one. Meh. Carriers are neat. I'd be proud, too.

Posted by scott at 07:56 AM | Comments (0)