Archive for September 26th, 2011
The title of this picture from redditor theroboticdan is “My cousin’s entire Bridal Party sank into a lake this weekend. Awesome picture…. ” but the top-voted comment gave it the above title. There are plenty more puns in the comments
Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology say they have discovered the largest and farthest reservoir of water ever detected in the universe.
The researchers have found a mass of water vapor that’s at least 140 trillion times that of all the water in all the Earth’s oceans in a quasar — one of the brightest and most violent objects in the cosmos — 30 billion trillion miles away, a Caltech release said Friday.
“The environment around this quasar is unique in that it’s producing this huge mass of water,” says Matt Bradford, a scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and a visiting associate at Caltech. “It’s another demonstration that water is pervasive throughout the universe, even at the very earliest times.”
Because light from the distant quasar has taken 12 billion years to reach Earth, the observations reveal a time when the universe was just 1.6 billion years old.
A quasar is powered by an enormous black hole steadily consuming a surrounding disk of gas and dust and spewing out huge amounts of energy.
In this particular quasar, the water vapor is distributed around the black hole in a gaseous region spanning hundreds of light-years, astronomers said.
Measurements of the water vapor and of other molecules, such as carbon monoxide, suggest there is enough gas to feed the black hole until it grows to about six times its current size.
Don’t judge a book by its cover – instead, try and wait for the last line.
Following our massively popular and lovingly selected list of the 100 best opening lines from books, it’s now time for the closing lines to shine. Because, whilst the beginning of a book may get all the glory, it’s the ending that really stays with you. A vague last line casts a shadow over the entire novel, whereas a powerful and poignant one will keep you wondering for weeks to come.
From classics such as George Orwell’s Animal Farm to L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, we’ve scoured the Stylist book shelf for the best closing lines (or, in some cases to give context, the best final few lines) ever written. If you don’t want to know a book you’re yet to read’s final thought, look away now…
Whenever we turn on the news, we’re treated to statistics about things there seem to be no way of verifying. How many people has the average person slept with? How many crimes has the average person committed? The numbers quoted are often the result of surveys. In a survey, there’s nothing to keep people honest, especially about things like crimes. Scientists have found that dice can shake the truth out of people.
Dave Winer wrote a timely piece this morning about how Facebook is scaring him since the new API allows applications to post status items to your Facebook timeline without a users intervention. It is an extension of Facebook Instant and they call it frictionless sharing. The privacy concern here is that because you no longer have to explicitly opt-in to share an item, you may accidentally share a page or an event that you did not intend others to see.
The advice is to log out of Facebook. But logging out of Facebook only de-authorizes your browser from the web application, a number of cookies (including your account number) are still sent along to all requests to facebook.com. Even if you are logged out, Facebook still knows and can track every page you visit. The only solution is to delete every Facebook cookie in your browser, or to use a separate browser for Facebook interactions.
Here is what is happening, as viewed by the HTTP headers on requests to facebook.com. First, a normal request to the web interface as a logged in user sends the following cookies:
Note: I have both fudged the values of each cookie and added line wraps for legibility
It’s true! NASA’s space shuttle is controlled by a computer running on only one megabyte of RAM. How is this possible? Since the space shuttle and all its hardware is over 30 years old, so is its computer. The current computer is actually an upgraded version of the 500-kilobyte computer that was used until 1991, but still based on the same outdated technology from the 1980s.
So how does the computer process all those complex calculations with only one megabyte of RAM? Well, the shuttle, unlike the average modern computer, doesn’t need a complex graphical user interface and all the fancy programs and games we use. All it does is process the raw data it gets from all the sensors and coordinate the shuttle’s functions, in a simple UNIX-like environment. True, all those calculations are complex, but they do not require a more powerful computer than they already have.
Still, why weren’t the old computers replaced with newer ones? As the popular saying goes, don’t repair what’s not broken. If new computer systems were to be installed, they would require massive testing until they were nearly 100% fail-proof. You wouldn’t want to get a “Blue Screen Of Death” in the middle of a launch, would you? And during the past 30 years the computer system performed nearly-flawlessly. Another reason would be NASA’s budget constraints. Why spend money on something that’s working well anyways, instead of doing something useful in space?