Archive for July 27th, 2011
GIF images (short for Graphics Interchange Format), introduced by CompuServe in 1987, were one of the first two image formats used on Websites — they were even around before the JPEG. While people’s terrible judgment and poor site-building skills gave animated GIFs a bad name during the home computer boom of the late ’90s, they are still used en masse on the Web. And when it’s time to bring the lulz, knowing the way of the GIF is key. Not only can GIFs do the work of a thousand words in self-expression, but they can also serve as funny mini-videos, showing the user a short clip without having to go through the trouble of buffering a video.
Here’s a crash course on manufacturing GIF web gems using Adobe Photoshop or the Web.
“Tell them, when that my mother went with child
Of that insatiate Edward, noble York
My princely father then had wars in France
And, by true computation of the time,
Found that the issue was not his begot”
(Richard III (William Shakespeare) Act 3 Scene 5)
The debate about whether of not King Edward IV was illegitimate is hardly a new one. A few years back the issue was the focus of a British TV documentary, Britain’s Real Monarch in which evidence was presented that seemed to confirm that the Yorkist King was born to someone other than Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York. In fact it has been suggested that Edward’s real father was a humble archer from the Rouen garrison named Blaybourne rather than the blue-blooded patriarch of the House of York. Today it seems like little more than old skeletons in the closet but in the grand scheme of things it is actually rather significant. If Edward the IV was indeed illegitimate that not only invalidated his own right to occupy the throne of England but also the right of every monarch since.
The story begins in France during the final years of the Hundred Year’s War as England sought to retain her remaining French territories. Richard Duke of York and his wife Cecily Neville were at the town of Rouen in Normandy, which Richard used a base to launch his military campaigns. Edward was born on April 28th 1442 which placed the time of his conception somewhere in the early Summer of 1441. This is where things get interesting…
The archives of Rouen Cathedral from the Summer of 1441 show that the clergy were offering their prayers for the safety of the Duke of York who was away on campaign at Pontoise, several days march from Rouen where Cecily had remained behind. This means that during those key weeks when Edward must have been conceived, his supposed father simply was not around to do the deed. If Edward was conceived before Richard went off on campaign then that would put the length of Cecily’s pregnancy at an impossible eleven months. We can also assume that Edward was not born prematurely as there is no mention of it. The risks associated with sickly or premature babies with a claim to the throne meant that chroniclers always recorded them in writing. No such document relating to Edward has been discovered, suggesting that the pregnancy went to full term thus placing the time of his conception right in the middle of the period where Richard was out of town.
Years ago, NASA mission controllers managing the Pioneer spacecraft detected a faint anomaly in the telemetry data the probes were relaying back to Earth. It appeared as if they were drifting slightly off course, although no clear reasons for these events were made obvious. A new study clears the mystery.
Investigators determined that heat is responsible for the drift. The Pioneer probes are now both located in the interstellar medium, but they can no longer be contacted via radio due to interferences.
Pioneer 10 was the first to launch, in 1972, with Pioneer 11 following suit in 1973. They are deep-space explorers and, as such, were put on a course that took them out of the solar system, and into the interstellar medium.
Their main mission was that fly further than the Inner Asteroid Belt – between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter – and to investigate the Jovian and Saturnine systems. They imaged both gas giants, some of their moons, and their impressive ring systems as they flew past.
At this point, it would appear that the Sun’s gravity is forcing the probes to gradually slow down, despite the vast distance separating them from the star. This is a gold mine for researchers, who installed equipment that could detect gravitational pulls from the Sun outside the solar system.
The algorithm was developed by astronomer John Anderson, but the readings it predicted were different from what the spacecraft were sending back. This discrepancy was dubbed the Pioneer Anomaly, and experts have been trying to explain it for years.
The latest analysis indicate that heat generated by the radioactive plutonium fuel the probes are carrying may account for these differences. The entire mystery can be explained if heat generated by the thrusters is dissipated unevenly from the spacecraft.
Doctor Who has been beaten to the top spot in a poll of sci-fi fans to find their favourite hero by the star of a show that was cancelled after one series.
The poll picked Captain Mal Reynolds, star of cult American television series Firefly, as the ultimate sci-fi hero beating the Time Lord, now in his 11th incarnation, into second place.
Torchwood’s Captain Jack Harkness was third in the poll of 10,000 people followed by vampire slayer Buffy and her co-star Spike.
Dave Bradley, editor-in-chief of SFX magazine which commissioned the poll, said: “Few people would have bet against Doctor Who topping this poll, but the surprise win for Mal Reynolds shows how much love there still is for Firefly.
“Putting the top 100 icons to the vote really caught people’s imagination – sci-fi is more popular than ever before.”
It goes without saying that both parties love an energized base. Energized bases vote. They donate. They volunteer. They can move big agendas. But dispassion is not their strong suit. The words “debt ceiling” never appear in this recent Michael Gersen column, but the subtext is pretty clear:
[There is a recent tendency to] constrain politicians with blood oaths… The imposition of oaths beyond the Constitution… assumes a certain theory of representation — the belief that politicians are merely mechanisms for the expression of public sentiment. They are, in this view, computers to be pre-programmed for desired outcomes. When Edmund Burke was presented with a similar argument, he agreed that the opinions of constituents “ought to have great weight” with a representative. “But his unbiased opinion,” Burke continued, “his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living.” This exercise of judgment, he argued, is not consistent with “authoritative instructions; mandates issued, which the member is bound blindly and implicitly to obey, to vote and to argue for, though contrary to the clearest conviction of his judgment and conscience.”
In other words, an enraged base shouldn’t trump an informed politician, because leaders are often closer to the facts than the activists back in the district who got them elected. If a politician listens to experts and is convinced that something needs to be done about climate change, or if financial experts are telling leaders about serious consequences to not raising the debt ceiling, then “mature judgement”, not “public sentiment” should determine decisions.
It’s three decades since I last set foot in a “learner” car and the intervening years have spawned undreamed-off wonders such as ABS, electronic traction control… and the £1.40 litre of unleaded. But one thing hasn’t changed: the nerves still kick in the instant I spot the brake and clutch levers on the passenger side. Will my licence be confiscated if, on our drive through London, instructor Chris Watkinson has to use them?
It’s not my safety record that’s under scrutiny today, however; it’s my ability to squeeze as many miles as possible out of a gallon of unleaded. And it turns out to be a lot more difficult than I thought.
I’m sampling the AA’s new Drive Smart eco programme and, with fuel prices at record levels, you might want to consider one, too. It costs £50, and with the average two-car family expected to spend an extra £350 on fuel this year compared with 2010, it could be money well spent