Archive for August 31st, 2011
In engineering, we love to hack. It’s not just something we do because we get paid … it’s something we do for fun (that’s what’s kinda awesome about software engineering as a job). Obviously we’re usually working on the core product, building new features, fixing bugs, and refactoring code to make it harder/faster/better/stronger. But sometimes, towards the end of the day, we write stuff that is just for fun.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, Eugene noticed that we waste a lot of time arguing about where to go for lunch. So he wrote a “lunchbot”, that hangs out on our irc channel. The lunchbot knows the restaurants in the area and picks a random one whenever we ask it. This is a dorky but extremely efficient way to decide where to eat … no one can argue with the verdict the lunchbot gives.
A rare species of ladybird has been rediscovered breeding in the UK for the first time in nearly 60 years.
The breeding population of 13-spot ladybirds were found in the Axe Estuary Wetlands in Devon by a student. Sporadic sightings have been recorded since 1952, but not of the species breeding.
“As soon as I saw the larva I was fairly sure it was a 13-spot – it’s something I’ve dreamt of finding,” said Richard Comont, the PhD student who made the discovery. The insect was found during a “Bioblitz” event, where the public works with scientists to record all the insect species in an area.
James Chubb, education ranger for East Devon district council, said: “With the experts we had on the day I knew that we would find loads of really interesting and unusual creatures, but never for a second did I think we’d make a discovery of this magnitude.”
The 13-spot ladybird lives in wetlands and is believed to have re-colonised Britain from the Channel Islands or France.
Solyndra, a solar technology firm in California that the Obama administration once touted as an exemplar of an emerging green economy, said Wednesday that it intended to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The company said it would be evaluating its options, which could include selling the business and licensing its technology. Roughly 1,100 employees were being laid off, the company said. A local NBC affiliate in California reported that employees were “standing around in disbelief” and that they were being handed “yellow envelopes with instructions on how to get their last checks.”
The decision comes just weeks after the company — and the Obama administration — faced charges by conservative critics that Solyndra, based in Fremont, Calif., was being supported with generous government subsidies despite clear indications that it could not survive in the competitive energy marketplace.
Dick Cheney has spent his career not revealing himself, and in his new memoir and the ensuing PR blitz, he appears to be staying largely in character.
But as the former vice president uses media interviews to sell books, reporters have an unprecedented opportunity to confront him about his highly controversial legacy and push him to divulge more about how he pursued his agenda.
And there’s so much material — starting of course with Cheney’s cheerful acknowledgment of his role in promoting governmental conduct that is flatly illegal and conflicts with traditional American values.
Here are some questions journalists could be asking Cheney — and, most importantly, some facts he should not be allowed to escape.
For a list of the questions readers most wanted to ask the former vice president, click here.
NASA has totaled the impressive rainfall from Hurricane Irene using highly precise microwave measurements from a satellite.
The map, created using data recorded by the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) satellite from Aug. 20-29, reveals rainfall in some bands of the now-dissipated 10-day-long storm exceeded 2 inches per hour.
“Hurricane Irene was dropping tremendous amounts of rainfall over the eastern United States during a part of this period,” said TRMM team member Hal Pierce of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in a press release.
To gauge rainfall levels, the satellite relies on an instrument that measures microwave radiation. Flat water looks cold because of it doesn’t emit microwave radiation as readily, but round raindrops falling from clouds do and appear warm. By running calculations of the cold/warm contrast over oceans, TRMM can accurately assess rainfall totals.
Over land the situation is trickier. Soil, plants and other materials on the ground emit microwave radiation almost as efficiently as water droplets, providing poor contrast to detect rainfall. But ice crystals present at the tops of most rain-making clouds are different enough in microwave-detected temperatures to allow the satellite to infer rainfall intensity and levels.
The German city of Bonn has installed a meter to tax prostitutes for soliciting on its streets at a rate of six euros (£5.30; $8.70) per night.
Those who fail to pay face fines or even a ban, and 264 euros were found in the meter when it was first emptied, according to AFP news agency.
Tax has been levied on prostitutes elsewhere but Bonn is the first city to use a meter, a spokeswoman said.
But a prostitutes’ rights activist said the scheme amounted to double taxation.
Prostitutes are expected to pay the flat rate, regardless of earnings.
The machine, which looks like an ordinary parking meter, has been installed in an industrial area near the city centre which favoured by prostitutes and their clients.
Analysis of a piece of lunar rock brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972 has shown that the Moon may be much younger than previously believed. This is concluded in new research conducted by an international team of scientists that includes James Connelly from the Centre for Star and Planet Formation, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen. Their work has just been published in Nature.
The prevailing theory of our Moon’s origin is that it was created by a giant impact between a large planet-like object and the proto-Earth very early in the evolution of our solar system. The energy of this impact was sufficiently high that the Moon formed from melted material that began with a deep liquid magma ocean.
As the Moon cooled, this magma ocean solidified into different mineral components, the lightest of which floated upwards to form the oldest crust. Analysis of a lunar rock sample of this presumed ancient crust has given scientists new insights into the formation of the Moon.
Luna rock from Apollo 16
“We have analysed a piece of lunar rock that was brought back to Earth by the Apollo 16 mission in 1972. Although the samples have been carefully stored at NASA Johnson Space Center since their return to Earth, we had to extensively pre-clean the samples using a new method to remove terrestrial lead contamination. Once we removed the contamination, we found that this sample is almost 100 million years younger than we expected,” says researcher James Connelly of the Centre for Star and Planet Formation.
I want to believe.
Jonathan Ross has defended the salary he received while at the BBC, saying he was paid less than his market value.
Speaking to Richard Bacon on 5 live, the broadcaster and chat show host said he “turned down millions” to stay with the corporation.
“Sure I was paid a lot of money, but I’m not in a regular job,” he said on Wednesday. “I’m in show business and I was at the top of my game.”
Ross’s last contract with the BBC was reportedly worth £6m a year.
The 50-year-old left the BBC in July 2010 after 13 years. The same month he signed a new deal to present a chat show for ITV.
His departure followed the so-called “Sachsgate” affair, in which Ross and comedian Russell Brand left lewd messages on the answer machine of actor Andrew Sachs.
Ross said the pressure he felt after the incident, together with media scrutiny over his salary, contributed towards his decision to leave.
“When the money became such a big story in the papers, I didn’t enjoy the scrutiny,” he said.