Archive for September 27th, 2011
The fallen satellite mystery may have been solved.
There was some mild panic around the world that a piece of a falling dead satellite the size of a bus could hit a person last weekend, but the debris ended up “about as far away from large land masses as you can get” on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.
NASA says that the dead satellite’s debris fell over the south Pacific Ocean — estimates suggest about two dozen pieces scattered over 500 miles. Although the U.S. Air Force figured that the satellite entered Earth’s atmosphere above American Samoa, AP reports that “pieces of it didn’t start hitting the water for another 300 miles to the northeast, southwest of Christmas Island.”
NASA states, “This was not an easy re-entry to predict because of the natural forces acting on the satellite as its orbit decayed”:
Six years after the end of its productive scientific life, UARS broke into pieces during re-entry, and most of it up burned in the atmosphere. Twenty-six satellite components, weighing a total of about 1,200 pounds, could have survived the fiery re-entry and reach the surface of Earth.
Earlier predictions suggested that the satellite could hit land, with unconfirmed reports of debris in Canada.
According to NPR, Lottie Williams of Oklahoma is the only person on record to have been hit by space junk. A piece of what is believed to be the Delta II rocket hit her shoulder in 1997. Given that this satellite landed in the ocean, it seems Lottie’s title remains intact.
When our news editor asked on twitter what sort of animal “ this six-legged spider thing” is? Her question was answered in less than one minute by entomologists. It was indeed an unfortunate spider who has lost two of his legs. While Robin may be fraught with concern or sympathy for the poor little bugger, she need fear not because spider commonly self-amputate a leg here and there. Of course the process of regeneration may leave the spider a bit more vulnerable out in the wilds of nature. Thankfully, her little friend will likely be much safer in the confines of the Scientific American offices.
Spiders may amputate their legs as a defense strategy, but it’s not clear what trade-offs exist. For instance, if a spider amputates its leg and undergoes regeneration, is future reproduction impacted, is it more susceptible to predation, is it less mobile or less of a competitor?
Two weeks ago, Thierry Breton, CEO of European IT services giant Atos Origin, declared his intentions to completely phase email out of his company within the next three years. Specifically, Breton referred to the spam-is the nature of email, likening his campaign to post-Industrial Revolution campaigns that aimed to reduce environmental pollution. While email was a revolutionary breakthrough in communication and information technology, he argues, it has become dated as the most efficient means by which we interact with each other today.
In place of email, Breton says that Atos will increasingly encourage its employees to collaborate on instant messaging and social networking platforms–which, like the rest of us, they’re already doing regularly for the most part. The basic idea here is that email is dated and has exceeded its functionality as the most efficient communication platform on which individuals communicate. This marks the first time an enterprise company of this size has made such a definitive statement on email, but it most certainly won’t be the last. In truth, the slow shift from email to messaging and social networking platforms began years ago, but it’s only recently that this phenomenon is being officially recognized by enterprise leaders.
As we write checks and use our debit cards this holiday season, banks are forcing some of us to overdraw more often by clearing the largest transactions first, instead of processing them in the order they come in.
Eight of the nation’s 10 largest banks — Citigroup (C), Bank of America (BAC), Chase (JPM), Wachovia (WB), Wells Fargo (WFC), HSBC (HBC), U.S. Bank (USB) and SunTrust (STI)— typically pay checks that arrive on the same day from the largest to smallest dollar amount, according to USA TODAY research. Most large banks do the same with electronic transactions, according to a review of deposit agreements and conversations with the banks.
The order in which banks process checks and other debits determines the overdraft fees they charge. Those fees make up 90% of service charges on deposit accounts, and they’re expected to yield a record $53.1 billion for financial institutions this year, research firm Moebs Services says.
Banks have been increasingly relying on fees because in recent years the gap between the money they earn on products such as mortgages and what they pay out on deposits such as CDs and money market accounts has narrowed.
How do you combine an obsession with Zombie movies and data analysis of Google Maps?
Simple, you produce the map, above. It was created by Oxford University’s Internet Institute – and the guys behind the fantastic dataviz site, Floating sheep: Mark Graham, Taylor Shelton, Matthew Zook and Monica Stephens.
Using a keyword search for “zombies”, it visualizes the absolute concentrations of references within the Google Maps database.
The map reveals two important spatial patterns. First, much of the world lacks any content mentioning “zombies” whatsoever. Second, and related, the highest concentrations of zombies in the Geoweb are located in the Anglophone world, especially in large cities.
It also shows how Africa, where the word ‘zombie’ originally came from, misses out on those criteria.
“Is My Son Gay?,” a new app available in the Android Market, has a rather simple premise: It claims to determine, through a series of 20 questions, whether or not the survey-taker’s offspring is, in fact, a homosexual. And yet despite this simplicity of purpose, the app is–surprise!–incredibly controversial.
The Android app was made by French developers “Emmene Moi” (Eng.: “Bring Me”), whose only previous work was on “Mon Fils Est-Il Gay?” (Eng.: “Is My Son Gay?”). The English version of “Mon Fils Est-Il Gay?” looks to be a straight translation from the French, as the app’s description in the Android Market appears to have been ripped from a computerized service like Babelfish. Here is the description:
You’re questioning yourself? 20 questions to know more about your son. After this test you’ll have the proven answer to a question you might have since maybe a long time.
The app itself is a 20-question survey of “Yes” or “No” questions designed to identify your son’s sexual preference. Via rue89, and translated into English by resident HuffPost French speaker Alice Hines, these questions are:
1. Does he like to dress up nicely? Does he pay close attention to his outfits and brand names?
2. Does he like football?
3. Before he was born did you wish he would be a girl?
4. Has he ever gotten into or participated in a fight?
5. Does he read sports magazines?
6. Does he have a best friend
7. Does he like team sports?
8. Is he prudish/modest?
9. Does he like diva singers?
10. Does he spend a long time in the bathroom
11. Does he have a tongue, nose or ear piercing
12. Does he spend time getting ready before being seen in public?
13. Have you asked yourself questions about your son’s sexual orientation?
14. Are you divorced?
15. Does he like musical comedies?
16. Has he introduced you to a girlfriend ever?
17. Is the father (you) very strict or authoritarian with his son?
18. In your family is the father absent?
19. Was he shy as a child?
20. Is he close to his father?
Reaction around the Internet has not been kind.
Anyone who spends a moment thinking it over can name an array of alien creatures that are memorable. Science fiction is rife with critters that have made an impact on fans in an indelible fashion. The Buggers in Ender’s Game made us ultimately look at ourselves and question whether the monsters who will arrive to destroy humanity aren’t already there in the mirror. But no one ever remembers the aliens that demand to be hugged and squeezed and loved.
These are the ones being honored today. The most trustworthy and loyal of friends, cutest balls of joys, and most earnest of alien friends have too long been ignored. Sure, some creatures on the list below do have a layered lesson to teach, but each is loveable in their own way.
Of course an alien is not going to be loveable in exactly the same way a human is, or even a pet. In order for a sci fi creature to be considered it has to first of all actually be an alien (sorry Gizmo, you’re cute but also some sort of demony rat thing). Once we’ve established the alien cred, there’s one simple question to be answered: does the alien bring about honest to goodness joy? Misty eyes, an audible sigh, and a knowing smile to yourself are all good signs you’ve found yourself a loveable alien.