Tuesday, March 30, 2010

LHC Produces a Dozen Mosquitoes

There is a lot of hoopla in the press today announcing that the LHC (large hadron collider) has broken all records for an atom-smasher at 7 TeV. There's good reason for that. Apart from a genuine energy threshold having been crossed by a particle accelerator, the LHC is also a year behind schedule, and since it cost the EU $10 billion equivalent, CERN is under a lot of pressure to demonstrate all kinds of pay-off, which inevitably leads to a stream of PR releases. What's amusing about this PR release is that most people don't even know what an electron-volt is, let alone what a hadron is (or as one unfortunate colleague of mine unwittingly entitled his slide: "Large Hardon Collisions"). So, as exhorted by atomic physicist Max Born's granddaughter: let's get physical.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Happiness is being a trichromat

It is that time of the year when winter suddenly finishes and spring violently bursts out, with all flowers blooming in profusion: sakimidareru
咲き乱れる 。Only, this year the flowers did not last long. Our neighborhood has a squirrel invasion and they ate all flowers in a day, so today I had to buy flats of different flowers, hoping the squirrels do not like them.

In fact, the squirrels do not like all flowers, and this one pot shown below has survived for well over a decade. Are the colors not pretty? Yoko would say that happiness is being a trichromat.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Baking donuts

It is still early in the morning, but the alarm clock goes off and turns on the radio.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pardon Me, Can You Prepeat That?

Sanwa Newtec has developed a printer that works without toner, ink, or paper. Instead, the PrePeat RP-3100 is based on a special thermal head and special paper made of PET plastic that can be reused over and over again. PET is recycled polyethylene terephtalate used in the manufacture of plastic drink bottles, etc.

Sanwa prepeatable printer

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thacker to receive Turing Award

ACM named Charles P. Thacker the winner of the 2009 ACM A.M. Turing Award for his pioneering design and realization of the Alto, the first modern personal computer, and the prototype for networked personal computers. Thacker's design, which he built while at Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), reflected a new vision of a self-sufficient, networked computer on every desk, equipped with innovations that are standard in today's models. Thacker was also cited for his contributions to the Ethernet local area network, which enables multiple computers to communicate and share resources, as well as the first multiprocessor workstation, and the prototype for today's most used tablet PC, with its capabilities for direct user interaction. The Turing Award, widely considered the "Nobel Prize in Computing," is named for the British mathematician Alan M. Turing. The award carries a $250,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation and Google Inc.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

workflows for technical reports

Writing about workflows for scientific books, I recently came across two old documents while I was searching for a completely different document.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

vicissitudes of a color book

Books can do amazing. Last October, in his post To Bits and Back Again, Nathan picked up a story on how I had to clean up the clutter on my desk. He wrote how Google's Dan Bloomberg recycled my book clutter through his secret π machine for the edification of readers on the whole planet. Here is the next saga:

Friday, March 19, 2010

Seeing at the Speed of B Not c

Bees see the world almost 5× faster than humans, and this gives bumblebees the fastest colour vision of all animals, allowing them to easily navigate shady bushes to find food, so write researchers Skorupski and Chittka in the Journal of Neuroscience. The ability to see at high speed is common in fast-flying insects; allowing them to escape predators and catch their mates mid-air. However, until now it wasn't known whether the bees' full colour vision was able to keep up with their high speed flight. This research sheds new light on the matter; suggesting that although slower, it is still about twice as fast as human vision. [Source: physorg.com]

✝ We know from another recent post that insect vision emerged later than in vertebrates.

Custom Print Bigger Than Search?

Last week Fast Company published a graphic that showed the spending on marketing and advertising in 2010. It's an interesting figure with lots of items of discussion. One thing that caught my eye was the difference betwen custom print versus online search.

The marketing and advertising spend for custom print publications is estimated at $19 billion while search engine ads is estimated to be $14 billion.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Babbage's Print Automation Engine

The Computer History Museum currently has a functional version of Charles Babbage's engine on display. It's a fascinating and intricate bit of hardware.


Of course once you get past the elegance of the ripple carry and listen to the docents it's clear that the difference engine was actually a print automation engine.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Seeing the 600,000,000 Year Old Origins of Vision

There are many genes involved in vision, and there is an ion-channel gene (opsin) responsible for starting the neural impulse of vision. This gene controls the entrance and exit of ions and thus, acts as a gateway. "We determined which genetic 'gateway,' or ion channel, in hydra is involved in light sensitivity," said senior author Prof. Todd H. Oakley of UCSB's Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology. "This is the same gateway that is used in human vision."

Hydra are simple animals belonging to the phylum cnidaria, which first emerged 600 million years ago. The vision of insects emerged later than the visual machinery found in hydra and vertebrate animals.

"This work continues to challenge the misunderstanding that evolution represents a ladder-like march of progress, with humans at the pinnacle," said Oakley. "Instead, it illustrates how all organisms—humans included—are a complex mix of ancient and new characteristics."

[Source: physorg.com]

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Magnetic movie

Of course, we cannot see magnetic fields other than in the aurora borealis, that is why we have computer animation. Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt of Semiconductor are two masters in the use of computer animations for visualizing phenomena.