Thursday, May 31, 2007

Rollback Novel by Robert J. Sawyer REVIEW

Rollback Novel by Robert J. Sawyer 317 pp TOR

Something momentous has occurred. Sigma Draconis has sent Humanity a message.

A message in code.

Sarah Halifax is a research scientist and one of many asked to help decode the mysterious message.

Little hope is held out for the message to be decoded any time soon. But connections are made and the first communique is decoded and answered.

A multi billionaire wants in on the action that he knows will happen 28 years in the future. He wants to guarantee some of the people that were here for the first message are also there for the second. He offers Sarah RollBack, which will bring back her youth and thus guarantee that she will be available to decode the second message and many more. The kicker is that Sarah must have Don by her side in this adventure, its either that or no dice. Reluctant, the benefactor agrees but the procedure goes horribly wrong and now its a rush between death and decoding the Dracon's newest message.

I will admit that I had a hard time getting comfortable with Rollback. Why? Well, I guess the
rollback issue. I know that is wrong headed. But here we have been built up to an excited pitch with not one but two mysterious messages. For me I wanted to know about Sarah! How she felt, was there enough time....could she hold out? Would she be finally able to decode the second message. That isn't in the book, you say? Oh yes, it certainly is, however as the book is about “Rollback” we are treated heavily to Don's angst for being young, his embarrassment for being old....and his guilt for what seemed to be inevitable infidelity. I am sorry, Don could have been left out of this novel completely and it would have suffered not. Don was not a person I felt that I liked, did not for a moment agree with his choices and frankly never bought into his conflicts. Yes, I know, he was put in a very difficult position, one not of his choosing....but old, he has moral back bone and young he can't resist temptation? How droll. I suspect the writer felt the same implosion happening, but what is added? A robot! And it develops more moral fiber than Don in just a page or two? Please....!

Rollback as a story about an old man forced into a young society fails. However the robot manages to pull the two separate story halves together. Because in the end there is a joyous coming together, a tearful parting, ultimate triumph, happiness and great joy. I loved the ending of this book, but when the robot is the moral high-ground....something is wrong. I would give this book a marginal read recommendation. At 317 pages, it still is a very fast read. It starts well. The ending is a bit sophomoric, over all, it is entertaining. So I suggest you get a bigger cup of tea than usual, relax and don't fight the urges to flip ahead a bit.

On a scale of 1 to 5 Rollback is a 3.5

Sci-fi writers join war on terror

Nelson sent me a wild one from USA Today:

Looking to prevent the next terrorist attack, the Homeland Security Department is tapping into the wild imaginations of a group of self-described "deviant" thinkers: science-fiction writers.

The writers make up a group called Sigma, which writer Arlan Andrews put together 15 years ago to advise government officials. The last time the group gathered was in the late 1990s, when members met with government scientists to discuss what a post-nuclear age might look like, says group member Greg Bear.

Now, the Homeland Security Department is calling on the group to help with the government's latest top mission of combating terrorism.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Heros creates a spin off and more NBC SF's Tim Goodman writes in his blog:

NBC was the announced that it would spin off "Heroes" into a second series called "Heroes: Origins," a limited-run, six-episode drama that will introduce a new character each week and incorporate an online element that will allow "Heroes" fans to vote on which of the six new characters on "Origins" will be added to the original series.

in other NBC science fiction news -reports of solid additions to the fall schedule

-- "Journeyman," a drama about a San Francisco newspaper reporter (Kevin McKidd from "Rome") who can go back in time to alter the events in people's lives. It will follow "Heroes."

-- "Bionic Woman" -- yes, that bionic woman (sans "the" in the title), a series "reimagined" from David Eick of "Battlestar Galactica."

Two new Fox SF shows on the fast track

Tim Goodman of writes that the Fox network has killed off bunches of freshman programs. Many new replacements are in the works for next season. Two programs which I noted earlier as possibilities are well on their way to becoming very solid.

- "New Amsterdam," executive produced and directed by Lasse Hallström, it's about a New York City detective who's immortal. Of course, next season it appears that every third character is immortal, so that takes some of the cool out of it, but you can't discount Hallström.

-- "The Sarah Connor Chronicles," is based on the character from the "Terminator" movies and essentially moves her and her son, John, to New York where they prepare to stop running and fight back.

click here for the complete article

A Plan to Build a Giant Liquid Telescope on the Moon

from WIRED:

Roger Angel a leading astronomer at the University of Arizona, is proposing an enormous liquid-mirror telescope on the moon that could be hundreds of times more sensitive than the Hubble Space Telescope. Using a rotating dish of reflective liquid as its primary mirror, Angel's telescope would the largest ever built, and would permit astronomers to study the oldest and most distant objects in the universe, including the very first stars. LMT's or liquid mirror telescopes, have been built on Earth -- the Large Zenith Telescope in British Columbia is the third largest telescope in North America -- but the moon's low gravity and lack of atmosphere would allow for a truly gigantic instrument. Angel dreams of a 100-meter mirror, which would be larger than two side-by-side football fields and would collect 1,736 times more light than the Hubble. Even a 20-meter instrument, which is more likely in the near term, would be 70 times more sensitive than the Hubble and could detect objects 100 times fainter than those that will be seen with the James Webb Space Telescope, a next-generation orbiting observatory scheduled for launch in 2013.

Thanks to Shaun Saunders for the post

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Scientists create 'plastic' blood

BBC news reports that Scientists have developed an artificial plastic blood which could act as a substitute in emergencies. Researchers at Sheffield University say that the artificial blood is light to carry, does not need to be kept cool and can be kept for longer. The new blood is made up of plastic molecules that have an iron atom at their core, like haemoglobin, that can carry oxygen through the body.

US return to the Moon & Mars becoming highly unlikely

According to msnbc:

NASA's road back to the moon and onward to Mars, could fall short due to lack of needed funding. NASA's vision of extending the human touch beyond low Earth orbit is being subjected to lack of both White House and Congressional budget support. "The budgets are not there. We're seeing a business as usual approach that is not going to deliver the robust and broad-based exploration program laid out in the vision for space exploration," said Congressman Nick Lampson of Texas' 22nd Congressional District that represents NASA's Johhnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. Former shuttle astronaut, Michael Coats, now the 10th director of the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas has said - "The President's fiscal year 2008 budget request is absolutely vital to NASA after the cut we took with the continuing resolution this year".

Friday, May 25, 2007

New Attraction Simulates Shuttle Launch at 17,500 MPH

From Wired Magazine we read:

The Kennedy Space Center will open the Shuttle Launch Experience, an amusement-ride-cum-astronaut-flight-simulator designed to mimic the 17,500-mph liftoff of a NASA shuttle orbiter. The 44,000-square-foot attraction isn't just a ride; it's a flight simulator on par with what astronauts in training experience, says Bob Rogers, CEO of BRC Imagination Arts, which built it. The $60 million project employs seat rumblers and shakers that rattle riders through the turbulent main engine start, the firing of the solid rocket boosters and then their separation. Air bags in each seat sink and rise to capture the sensation of extreme acceleration. The shuttle's windshield, an 84-inch high-def screen, is enveloped in fire when the external tanks separate. Inside the capsule, riders are subject to an onslaught of 13-channel sound, from the roar of the engines to the commander barking instructions. Low-frequency sound vibrates the riders' chests, evoking the feeling of being unable to breathe. According to Rogers, some astronauts who have experienced the exhibit have reported it to be more realistic than some of NASA's and the military's own training simulators.

Nanotube textile could make super-light armour

A lightweight material made from carbon nanotubes that is stronger than steel, and conducts almost as well as aluminium, has been unveiled by Nanocomp, a start-up based in New Hampshire, US. Nanocomp representatives said about the new technology, "The trick is that our nanotubes are much longer than usual - millimetres in length rather than micrometres". This will lead to much lighter and stronger textiles as well as a possible ultralight electrical wiring technology.

click here for the complete story in NewScientist

Thanks to Shaun Saunders for the post

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Tracing Our Sun’s Family Tree

Shaun Saunders sent me an interesting story from

In the story, new research is going on, into the chemical composition of stars could identify our Sun's long lost family. Present theories suggest that our Sun was born in an open cluster some 4.6 billion years ago, growing alongside its sibling stars. An open clusters are loosely gravitationally bound groups containing up to a few thousand individual stars. These clusters formed from the collapse of a giant molecular cloud of gas and can have ages up to 10 billion years. Each cluster has a unique chemical composition. The rresult of which are that the member stars of each cluster shared the same chemical composition. Such chemical homogeneity is expected if all the stars are formed together within the same parent gas cloud, and as such, it should be possible to trace back which stars belonged in the same group as SOL even though the loose knit cluster separated billions of years ago.

click here for more of the article at

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Comet may have killed off cave-men

Shaun Saunders sent me this interesting piece that was published in the Guardian Unlimited science magazine. The article postulates that a comet may have exploded over the northern hemisphere of Earth some 13 thousand years ago killing off many primitive human cultures as well as many of the large land animals. Here is an excerpt:

>Scientists uncovered evidence that suggests a comet exploded over the Earth nearly 13,000 years ago, destroying many primitive stone age cultures and populations of mammoths and other large land animals. The blast also caused a major bout of climatic cooling that lasted 1,000 years and seriously disrupted the development of the early human civilisations that were emerging in Europe and Asia. Arizona geophysicist Allen West states that 'It was about 2km-3km in diameter and broke up just before impact, setting off a series of explosions, each the equivalent of an atomic bomb blast. Scientists report that they have found a layer of microscopic diamonds at 26 different sites in Europe, Canada and America. These are the remains of a giant carbon-rich comet that crashed in pieces on our planet 12,900 years ago, they say. The huge pressures and heat triggered by the fragments crashing to Earth turned the comet's carbon into diamond dust.<

click here for complete story

Monday, May 21, 2007

New Bionic Woman clip

Tech Republic /Geekend have posted a two minutes, 18 seconds clip of the new Bionic Woman pilot debuting this fall on NBC. It stars Michelle Ryan as the new, nanotech-enhanced Jamie Summers squaring off against a bionic villainess played by Katee Sackhoff, better known as Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica remake on the Sci-Fi Channel. From what I see, don't expect your daddy's bionic babe....aint happening. I suspect that the clip is much darker than the show, but even still, this is going to be a rough and gritty ride that in no way resembles the earlier show of the same name. The clip closes with Summers saying...."I know what I am capable of now....send who you want....and I will bury them one after the other." Ouch! Serious Painkiller attitude! I know that I have been turned around a bit by this clip. Click the links, see what you think.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

New software can identify you from your online habits

Boy if you can't see a science fiction story in this....Shaun Saunders, our resident consumerism critic, sent me this..... and if you haven't already seen indications of this and see the implications....well....

>The computing giant Microsoft, is developing software that could accurately guess your name, age, gender and potentially even your location, by analysing telltale patterns in your web browsing history. Previous studies show there are strong correlations between the sites that people visit and their personal characteristics. So, IF YOU thought you could protect your privacy on the web by lying about your personal details, think again.<

Click the article title for more....oh and there is much much more

Britain gives nod for animal-human hybrid embryos

Has anyone listened to episode 46 of Beam Me Up? ( in this episode we have a story called "Of Mice and....." by Australian writer Shaun A. Saunders where he takes us to a future where human animal hybrids are common. The story is eminently disturbing. But if you think it's far future sci-fi.....well Shaun sends me this ABC news article to frighten us just a bit more. Here is an excerpt... read the story....and then go listen to Shaun's story...

-Britain cleared the way for scientists to conduct experiments using hybrid animal-human embryos after the government bowed to protests from researchers who said a proposed ban could hurt their work. Scientists want to use the hybrid embryos to find cures for illnesses such as Parkinson's, stroke and Alzheimer's.-

The article goes into more detail, which is all very exciting medical research, one that I really hope succeeds, however, listen to Shaun's story for a frightening possibility of where this could go, without proper control.

Friday, May 18, 2007

2007 Nebula winners!!!!

Whoooooooooooohooooooo here are the Nebulas for 2007!!!!!
Nebula and Norton Award Winners

Novel: Seeker, by Jack McDevitt (Ace, Nov05)

Novella: "Burn," by James Patrick Kelly(Tachyon Dec05)(podcast version)

Novelette: "Two Hearts," by Peter S. Beagle (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)

Short Story: "Echo," by Elizabeth Hand (F&SF, Oct/Nov05)(BMU #44)

Hubble spots ring of dark matter

Astronomers have found one of the best pieces of evidence for the existence of dark matter. They have identified what appears to be a ghostly ring in the sky which is made up of this enigmatic substance. Using the Hubble Space Telescope, the scientists have established that the ring formed long ago after a colossal smash-up between two galaxy clusters.

click article title to go to complete article

Submitted by Shaun Saunders

Merging galaxies observed in unprecedented detail

Shaun Saunders sent me this story from NewScientist - In short the article shows two nearby, gas-rich galaxies have been caught crashing into each other in unprecedented detail, pinpointing the location of the two colossal black holes within them. The new observations could shed light on how easy it will be for the black holes themselves to merge one day.

click on the article title to go to the complete story

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Newest issue of AntipodeanSF available

I just received the newest issue of the flash SF emag AntipodeanSF. Lots of good short stories here. Shaun Saunders has a selection this month as well. Shaun Saunders' story this month is set in his MallCity universe and is called Fabcola: Our needs our your needs. Most of the time when you read Shaun's Mallcity stories, your allowed to step back and reflect. Yes the claims are fantastic, but they are "in the future" no matter how possible they are. Only later do you find out that far from being in the future, most are just around the corner. With his newest, Fabcola is in your face and MallCity is an all too real possibility. Check out the newest offering from Saunders and others in this month Antipodean.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Terminator kill-bots to be run by system 'Skynet'

Ok, when I first saw this story, I thought someone at the Register was spending way too much time in the john smoking something he shouldn't. But I followed a few of the links and it keeps getting stranger and weirder! Click on the article title for the complete story, here is a portion of the story:

Following the announcement of the new Flying-HK-style "Reaper" death machines for the British forces, the prophetic nature of the Terminator movies has been further confirmed.

Not only will the UK MoD deploy airborne cyber-gunships remarkably similar to those in the films, the flying robot assassins will be controlled by an IT project named "Skynet". This latest case of life imitating art comes with the news that the first of the Skynet 5 satellites has gone operational and is now successfully carrying data to and from British forces fighting in Southwest Asia.

Oh there is more! No I am not in fear of terminators arising and killing all humans...however you have to wonder at the sanity of of putting a system like this together, automating it and then blatently calling it Skynet! I don't know about you, but it seems to me to be a big FU in the face of the general public by whatever English governmental agency that is in control of this deal. Unreal!

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Female pilots reached for the stars

I found a neat article on early Mercury era female test pilots on the CNN site. Here is an excerpt :

Nearly half a century ago, 13 female pilots proved they were as fit to go into space as the men who became immortalized as America's first astronauts, the Mercury 7.

The women underwent the same intensive medical tests, at the same Albuquerque, New Mexico, clinic, administered by the same staff, as the men did two years earlier.

"When you put them next to the men, they were as good or better," recalled Dr. Donald Kilgore, who helped test both the men and women between 1959 and 1961 at the Lovelace Clinic.

What was the women's biggest obstacle?

"Ovaries," said Kilgore. "The world just wasn't ready at that time."

click on the article title for more.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

James Doohan's ashes, possibly lost?!

According to ABC news the rocket that was supposed to carry James "Scotty" Doohan's ashes into space April 28, malfunctioned and may have impacted on top of a mountain in New Mexico's San Andres range -- a location so remote that it was even feared lost. Now, search teams say they know where the rocket is, but they can only reach it by helicopter. A recovery mission is planned.

It has come to light that this particular flight was never suppose to reach orbit for release of Doohan's (as did Gene Roddenbery's ashes a few years ago) and the 200 other persons ashes aboard. This flight was a sub-orbital and the rocket was planned for recovery so the ashes could be returned to the families. Charles Chafer, owner of Space Services Inc., the company behind the launch said another portion of Doohan's ashes will fly on a future mission, when they will be released into orbit.

Thanks to Shaun Saunders for the info

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Many Worlds, Many Treats

Cory Doctorow's Boing Boing blog started me off on this tangent today. So thank you Cory!

What this little gem is: Chad Orzel in his blog Uncertain Principles discusses Quantum Mechanics to his dog. Here is a excerpt, please click on the article title for the complete story at Uncertain Principles. It's worth it.

I'm sitting at the computer typing, when the dog bumps up against my legs. I look down, and she's sniffing the floor around my feet intently.

"What are you doing down there?"

"I'm looking for steak!" she says, wagging her tail hopefully.

"I'm pretty certain that there's no steak down there," I say. "I've never eaten steak at the computer, and I've certainly never dropped any on the floor."

"You did in some universe," she says, still sniffing.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Galaxy collision reveals missing matter

Baby galaxies growing from the debris of a galactic traffic accident have been hiding a lot of extra matter, new observations suggest.

If so, galaxies like our own could contain vast quantities of invisible gas that outweigh their stars and other visible material – and these gas stores could represent some of the "missing" normal matter astronomers have been puzzling over.

Click on the article title for more information.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Tracking billboards could give you the eyeball

In Shaun Saunders MallCity 14 we were introduced to "infopanels" which for all intents were bulletin boards that could track where you were looking and feed you specfic adverts. I know when I read the book, I though that the tech was still a ways off and in any event, way too intrusive. So what does Shaun send me? Well, here is an excerpt, click on the article title for the complete story.

A camera that monitors eye movements from up to 10 metres away makes it possible for smart billboards that track the attention of passers-by. The developers behind the technology – dubbed Eyebox2 – believe it could have a range of possible applications, but should particularly interest advertisers. This is because it allows billboards to track people's attention. The system uses an array of infrared LEDs and a 1.3 megapixel digital camera to monitor eye movements. It can track several people at once and can determine their gaze from four metres away to within 15 degrees.

Is the evidence for multiple universes all around us?

I thought that this article that Shaun Saunders sent me was particularly interesting. A few weeks ago we read his story "Hubble" and we just finished reading Paul Melko's "The Walls of the Universe" both about the effects and possibilities of multiple universes. Good tales both, but your often left thinking that its much too fantastic. Well some scientists seem to feel differently! Here is an excerpt.

IT HAS long been accepted, at least in theory, that other universes might exist and might even collide with ours. Yet the idea that we would ever be able to see the aftermath of such collisions, and so find evidence of other universes, has seemed beyond the scope of science. According to the standard model of cosmology, our universe underwent a phase of exponential expansion, known as inflation, just after the big bang. In theory, inflation could still be happening, with bubbles of space-time suddenly blowing up to create new pocket universes. The usual assumption is that these other universes are disconnected from us, and that we can't enter them and look around, or observe them in any way. "People often criticise discussions of multiple universes as meaningless because we can't detect whether they actually exist," says Anthony Aguirre of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Aguirre thinks the proof of cosmic collisions could be all around us, as imprints in the cosmic microwave background (CMB) left over from the big bang.

click the article title for more. This is very interesting reading especially if you listened to Shaun's Hubble and Paul's The Walls of the Universe.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Did antimatter 'factory' spark brightest supernova?

The brightest supernova ever recorded may have been triggered by an exotic process involving antimatter in an extremely massive star, a new study says. The explosion may offer a rare glimpse of how the universe's first generation of stars died. The explosion was first spotted on 18 September 2006 and named SN 2006gy. It quickly became apparent that it was something out of the ordinary. To begin with, it broke the record for the intrinsically brightest supernova ever recorded. It now appears to have been an extremely massive star meeting its end in a highly unusual way that involves the production of antimatter. With 100 times the energy of a typical supernova explosion, SN 2006gy was simply too energetic to be explained by the explosion of a lightweight object like a white dwarf star. Research theory suggests that super massive stars (in the area of 150 times the mass of SOL) may not collapse in the same manner as normal supernova, but instead be ripped apart by much more exotic forces.
Click on the title to read the complete story

submitted by Shaun Saunders

Venus's double vortex evolving

Just after it began orbiting the planet in April 2006, Venus Express spotted something resembling a double-eyed hurricane in the clouds over the planet's south pole. The mysterious double vortex in the clouds above Venus's south pole is thought to be a product of the super-strong winds that tear westward around the planet. But scientists do not understand why the winds produce a double vortex rather than a single one. The newly released images show the double vortex over the south pole is even more complex than first thought. Its structure varies with height, with the double vortex more prominent and intricate at lower altitudes.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Monday, May 07, 2007

Can man can see into the future?

Shaun Saunders sends me a story abut Professor Dick Bierman, who suggests that ordinary people really do have a sixth sense that can help them 'see' the future. At present he is doing paranormal experiments using of all things a hospital brain scanner. His results - if verified - might help explain the predictive powers of mediums and a range of other psychic phenomena such Extra Sensory Perception, deja vu and clairvoyance. On a more mundane level, it may account for 'gut feelings' and instinct.

This is an odd article, but certainly worth reading. Click the title to read more

3D object printer becoming a very real possibility!

Do you folks remember Cory Doctorow's story Print Crime that I ran a few weeks ago? Look it up and have a listen and then read this story....too damn close!!!!

Thanks Nelson for the heads up on this one!

In a few years, it will be possible to make these items yourself. You will be able to download three-dimensional plans online, then push Print. Hours later, a solid object will be ready to remove from your printer. Three-dimensional printers have been seen in industrial design shops for about a decade. They are used to test part designs for cars, airplanes and other products before they are sent to manufacturing. Once well over $100,000 each, such machines can now be had for $15,000. In the next two years, prices are expected to fall further, putting the printers in reach of small offices and even corner copy stores. The next frontier will be the home. One company that wants to be the first to deliver a 3-D printer for consumers is Desktop Factory, started by IdeaLab, a technology incubator here. The company will start selling its first printer for $4,995 this year. Three-dimensional printers, often called rapid prototypers, assemble objects out of an array of specks of material, just as traditional printers create images out of dots of ink or toner. They build models in a stack of very thin layers, each created by a liquid or powdered plastic that can be hardened in small spots by precisely applied heat, light or chemicals.

Navy Heats Up Cold Fusion Hopes

Cold fusion, the ability to generate nuclear power at room temperatures, has proven to be a highly elusive feat. In fact, it is considered by many experts to be a mere pipe dream. Cold fusion has gotten the cold shoulder from serious nuclear physicists since 1989, when Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann were unable to substantiate their sensational claims that deuterium nuclei could be forced to fuse and release excess energy at room temperature. Spawar researchers apparently kept the faith, however, and continued to refine the procedure by experimenting with new fusionable materials. However, a recently published academic paper from the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) in San Diego reports that Spawar scientists Stanislaw Szpak and Pamela Mosier-Boss have achieved a low energy nuclear reaction (LENR) that can be replicated and verified by the scientific community. Szpak and Boss now claim to have succeeded at last by coating a thin wire with palladium and deuterium, then subjected it to magnetic and electric fields. The Spawar method shows promise, particularly in terms of being easily reproduced and verified by other institutions. Such verification is essential to widespread acceptance of the apparent breakthrough.

Submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Nasa testing methane buring rocket engine

While most NASA rockets are powered by liquid oxygen and hydrogen or solid chemicals, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) is testing a methane engine. The technology is still in an early stage of development and isn't ready for space. But if the technology proves itself, methane engines like this one could eventually be key to deep space exploration.

For a short movie of the engine test - click on the article title and follow the instructions for viewing the short video. Its very impressive, just from the sound of the engine running!

submitted by Shaun Saunders

Electric fields could give subs 'fish-like' sense

Robotic and uncrewed submersibles could operate more effectively by mimicking the way some fish probe their surroundings with electric fields. Many marine and freshwater fish can sense electric fields, but some also generate their own weak fields over short ranges to help navigate, identify objects, and even communicate with other fish. Studying the biomechanics of these "weakly electric fish", researchers have now come up with an artificial electric-field sensing system. They say it could ultimately give robot submersibles the same additional sensory capabilities. The electro-location system consists of two field-emitting electrodes and two voltage-sensing electrodes. If the electric field is not disturbed by anything in the water, the two pairs of sensor electrodes should provide identical readings. But if something is placed within a few centimetres of the sensors, the field is disturbed and causes a variance in the sensor readings.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Space Pioneer Wally Schirra Dies At 84

From CBS news

Astronaut Walter M. "Wally" Schirra Jr., one of the original Mercury Seven astronauts and the only man to fly on all three of NASA's early space missions, has died at the age of 84. Schirra, commanded the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit, in 1962. Schirra became the third American to orbit the Earth, circling the globe six times in a flight that lasted more than nine hours. He returned to space three years later as commander of Gemini 6-A and guided his two-man capsule toward Gemini 7, already in orbit. On Dec. 15, 1965, the two ships came within a few feet of each other as they shot through space, some 185 miles above the Earth. It was the first rendezvous of two spacecraft in orbit. His third and final space flight in 1968 inaugurated the Apollo program. For the Apollo 7 mission in October 1968 — which followed the deadly Apollo launch pad fire which killed fellow Mercury teammate Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee — Schirra's crew ran a shakedown cruise, and for eleven days, they tested what was essentially a brand new spacecraft in every possible way. In all, Schirra logged nearly 300 hours in space.

Thanks to Nelson for bringing this to my attention

StarWars type Binoculars on Darpa drawing board

In a new effort dubbed "Luke's Binoculars" -- after the high-tech binoculars Luke Skywalker uses in Star Wars -- the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is setting out to create its own version of this science-fiction hardware. These binoculars will add a strange and powerful new weapon in their arsenal: a pair of high-tech binoculars 10 times more powerful than anything available today. To be able to achieve this level of power, Darpa hopes to integrate technologies that have been in laboratories for years, ranging from flat-field, wide-angle optics, to the use of advanced electroencephalograms, or EEGs, to rapidly recognize brainwave signatures. The defense agency wants the binoculars to have a range of 1,000 to 10,000 meters, compared to the current generation, which can see out only 300 to 1,000 meters, also the binoculars are supposed to provide a 120-degree field of view and be able to spot moving vehicles as far as 10 kilometers away. The most far-reaching component of the binoculars has nothing to do with the optics: it's Darpa's aspirations to integrate EEG electrodes that monitor the wearer's neural signals, cueing soldiers to recognize targets faster than the unaided brain could on its own.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders

Code Guardian -homebrew CGI animation treat

What if WW2 was fought by giant robots? Well I want to thank Geekend and SFSignals for bringing this gem to my attention. a homebrew animator has cooked up C.O.D.E. Guardian, a 13-minute CG mini-movie that posits what World War II would have been like if the major powers had giant mecha robots at their disposal. The link that the title goes to is part 1 but the second part is available right on the same page on youtube. For a short, this is wildly entertaining and extremely well done. I would sit through a full lenght of this! Check it out!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Genetic discrimination ban edges closer to reality

By a fairly wide 420-3 margin, the House of Representatives gave a nearly unanimous thumbs-up to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which would "prohibit employers from using genetic information or test results when making employment and health benefits decisions" if it gets a similar nod of approval from the Senate. if the bill becomes law, health insurers couldn't use "genetic information to set premiums," nor could they require customers to submit genetic tests. Essentially, this could ensure that any future human mutation hacks you inflict on yourself, or more frightening, any robotic humanoid whose genes would find it out, will be safe from scrutiny come interview time.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Space telescopes image the Sombrero Galaxy

Data from a trio of space telescopes – Chandra, Spitzer and Hubble – have been combined to produce the new image of the sombrero Galaxy. Chandra observations reveal hot gas that glows in X rays and extends about 60,000 light years from the centre of the galaxy, which itself is only 50,000 light years wide. The gas is probably being blown outwards by a wind driven by supernova explosions in the galaxy.

Click on the article title to go to the site. They have an excellent short video of how the image of this galaxy was put together from the data from the other three telescopes.

submitted by Shaun A. Saunders