Blasphemy Challenge On YouTube

Snippets from this MSNBC/Newsweek article: “Hi my name is Lindy and I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit and you should too.

With that five-second submission to YouTube, a 24-year-old who uses the name “menotsimple” has either condemned herself to an eternity of punishment in the afterlife or struck a courageous blow against superstition. She’s one of more than 400 mostly young people who have joined a campaign by the Web site to stake their souls against the existence of God. That, of course, is the ultimate no-win wager, as the 17th-century French mathematician Blaise Pascal calculated—it can’t be settled until you’re dead, and if you lose, you go to hell.

The Blasphemy Challenge is a joint project of filmmaker Brian Flemming, director of the antireligion documentary “The God Who Wasn’t There,” and Brian Sapient, cofounder of the atheist Web site Their intent was to encourage atheists to come forward and put their souls on the line, showing others that you don’t have to be afraid of God. The particular form of the challenge was chosen because, by one interpretation, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, a part of the Christian Trinity, is the only sin that can never be forgiven. And once something you’ve said gets posted on YouTube, as any number of celebrities can attest, you never live it down.

You can get details from the Blasphemy Challenge website. Their tagline: “Do you have a soul you’re not using?”

Top 10 F/X Scenes in Movie History

Popular Mechanics has their top 10 list of biggest breakthroughs in digital F/X history.

Here’s two from the list:

#6 Forrest Gump (1994)
While most filmmakers in the early ’90s used digital effects to create fantasy, the creators of Forrest Gump altered history. Using Kodak’s Cineon system, they digitized archival footage, and composited Tom Hanks’s character into historical clips.

#8 Lord of the Rings (2001)
For the huge battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the filmmakers created Massive, a computer program that generates crowds of artificially intelligent individuals “who make their own decisions based on behavior patterns,” Knowles says. This makes for more realistic battles.

Found via Digg

Apple Security Flaw Exposure Begins

As of Jan 1 2007, two security researches started posting a bug a day related to Mac’s OSX. They’re doing this in an attempt to force Apple to be more transparent and active wrt their flaws and fixing their flaws. As of Jan 2 they’ve posted one Media Player Format String Vulnerability and one Quicktime Buffer Overflow in its URL Handler.

This work is being carried out by independent security researcher Kevin Finisterre and a hacker known only as LMH.

While some of the bugs might be lower security risks, some will be significant risks, including exploits in the kernel. Besides OSX, they will also be targeting iTunes, Safari, iPhoto and Quicktime.

For more details you can check out this PCWorld article, or even better yet check out the MOAB’s FAQ page (MOAB == Month of Apple Bugs).

Word of the Day: Heisenbug

A heisenbug is a computer bug that disappears or alters its characteristics when it is researched.

One common example is a bug that occurs in a release-mode compile of a program, but not when researched under debug-mode; another is a bug caused by a race condition. The name “heisenbug” is a pun on the “Heisenberg uncertainty principle,” a quantum physics term which is commonly (yet inaccurately) used to refer to the way in which observers affect the measurements of the things that they are observing, by the act of observing alone (this is actually the observer effect, and is commonly confused with the Heisenberg uncertainty principle).

One common reason for heisenbug-like behavior is that executing a program in debug mode often cleans memory before the program starts, and forces variables onto stack locations, instead of keeping them in registers. Another reason is that debuggers commonly provide watches or other user interfaces that cause code (such as property accessors) to be executed, which can, in turn, change the state of the program. Yet another reason is a fandango on core. Many Heisenbugs are caused by uninitialized variables. Once you have identified the problem as a Heisenbug, it is usually easy and trivial to find the error and fix it.

In an interview in ACM Queue vol. 2, no. 8 – November 2004, Bruce Lindsay tells of being there when the term was first used, and that it was created because Heisenberg said, “The more closely you look at one thing, the less closely can you see something else.”

From Wikipedia

Undark and the Radium Girls

Alan Bellows on has a terrific historical/medical article called ‘Undark and the Radium Girls‘. Here’s the setup below, if intrigued, go check it out!

In 1922, a bank teller named Grace Fryer became concerned when her teeth began to loosen and fall out for no discernible reason. Her troubles were compounded when her jaw became swollen and inflamed, so she sought the assistance of a doctor in diagnosing the inexplicable symptoms. Using a primitive X-ray machine, the physician discovered serious bone decay, the likes of which he had never seen. Her jawbone was honeycombed with small holes, in a random pattern reminiscent of moth-eaten fabric.

As a series of doctors attempted to solve Grace’s mysterious ailment, similar cases began to appear throughout her hometown of New Jersey. One dentist in particular took notice of the unusually high number of deteriorated jawbones among local women, and it took very little investigation to discover a common thread; all of the women had been employed by the same watch-painting factory at one time or another.

French Space Agency To Post Its UFO Archive Online

Jacques Arnould, of the French Space Agency called ‘National Space Studies Centre’ (CNES), said they will post their database of approximately 1,600 UFO incidents.

They are planning to post this UFO archive in late January or February of 2007. This archive consists of statements and documents collected over the last 30 years in their studies of this phenomenon.

These 1,600 incidents in the database comprise about 6,000 documents.

It’s expected that the database would be posted to their web site, here’s the English version of CNES.

Secrets of Stradivarius Violins Finally Being Uncovered

Antonio Stradivari (1644 – 1737) was an Italian maker of violins. His instruments are regarded as amongst the finest stringed instruments ever created, are highly prized, and still played by professionals today.

His violins are revered today because of the uniqueness of their tone, so highly revered in fact that on May 16, 2006, Christie’s auctioned a Stradivarius called “The Hammer” for a record US$3,544,000. It is the most paid at public auction for any musical instrument

However, it was not truly understood how his violins obtained this uniqueness, it was just generally accepted that there was something about the wood or wood glue that set these instruments on an entirely different level than anyone else’s.

Unknown until now, or at least part of the puzzle is finally in place. Dr. Joseph Nagyvary made some bold claims in the 1970’s with his theory but was ridiculed by his collegues. He made it his life’s work over these last 30 years to prove his theory. He finally has.

Read about his story and what he has discovered on ScienceDaily.

A Directory By Any Other Name

There’s an interesting article by Raymond Chen on Technet; it’s mostly interesting trivia and backstory explaining some of the commonly asked questions about folder names in Windows.

For instance, why is it ‘Program Files’ instead of ‘Programs’? And why were the docs and settings moved out of the Windows folder into its own ‘Documents and Settings’ root folder, and why was the Ampersand (‘&’) removed from ‘Documents & Settings’?

If you’re interested in more like this, check out Raymond’s blog. He’s a wealth of knowledge with Windows history.

Why You Can’t Get iPods At A Discount

Slate explains why “You can’t get ipods at a discount“.

This is a very thought-provoking article, not so much because it relates to Apple and the iPod, but goes into some of the interesting details of marketing and advertising that enable me to understand some of the influences at play behind the scenes when I’m making a purchase.

Here’s an example where the 8GB iPod nano costs $250 everywhere while prices for most other electronics like this Sony Digital Camcorder fluctuate wildly giving the buyer a better deal ‘somewhere else’.

The author sets it up by explaining away some of the mystery to how retailers advertise and set prices through ‘price dispersion‘ and explains Apple’s “accepted, if controversial, tactic, a retail strategy called minimum advertised price, to discourage resellers from discounting“.

iPod nano

History Geek: ‘The Odyssey’

[This is for you tech geeks, a condensed description of ‘The Odyssey’ in just a few paragraphs :-)].

The Odyssey is one of two Greek epic poems written by Homer. I found an excellent interactive map of Odysseus’ journey to supplement the story.

Homer’s epic poem ‘The Odyssey’ tells of the travels of Ulysses, King of Ithaca and hero of the Trojan War. Following the epic ten-year war, Ulysses wandered for a further ten years, suffering many hardships and adventures in his quest to reach home.

Ulysses and his crew narrowly escaped being eaten by the giant one-eyed Cyclops Polyphemus, by blinding him. Polyphemus’ father, the sea-god Poseidon subsequently took revenge on Ulysses by creating storms to send him off course. Following one of these storms Ulysses was shipwrecked on the island of Calypso, having lost all his crew. Calypso fell in love with Ulysses and kept him with her for many years, though he yearned for home. The gods finally persuaded the reluctant Calypso to let him go, and she gave him wood for a raft and provisions.

When he finally reached Ithaca, Ulysses found his palace overrun with suitors for his wife Penelope. He disguised himself as a beggar and with the help of his son Telemachus suggested an archery contest to win Penelope’s hand. Ulysses’ bow was used, which only he could string, and he won the contest. He then revealed his true identity, had all the doors to the palace locked, and slaughtered all the suitors.


(above: bust of Homer)

BG3 coming Jan3

BG3 is not Battlestar Galactica season 3 (that’s ‘BSG3’, duh), we all know it’s on hiatus in its mid season break. I’m referring to the “Beauty and the Geek 3” reality show is back Jan 3 for probably another 7 episodes. You can see some of the previews and interviews. I’m rooting for the kid that recited Pi for over 2 hours as part of his audition tape. 🙂

If you’re not familiar with the show, here’s the deal –

This cycle will remain true to the series’ format – pairing eight gorgeous but academically impaired women with eight brilliant but socially challenged men to test intellect and social skills – for a chance to win a $250,000 grand prize. Among the challenges, the guys will be required to deliver a stand-up routine in a comedy club and test their artistic abilities when they sketch a drawing of a nude model. The women will brush up on current events for a television newscast and research history books when they act as museum tour guides.
During each competition, the geek tries to pass brains on to the beauty, while the beauty helps the geek overcome social awkwardness. At the end of the eight-week series, each contestant comes out a changed person, and one couple will walk away with a quarter of a million dollars.
Beauty and Geek

Coffee Geek: The End of the Barista?

Allow me to introduce you to George Sabados, he is an ex-barista, now a successful franchise, café business, and retail consultant as well as roaster trainer to the coffee industry. He is the former Executive Officer of the Australasian Specialty Coffee Association, and former Director of Barista College of Australia. He has judged at a number of national and World Barista Championship competitions around the world.

Mr. Sabados has ‘leet’ coffee skills, knows exactly how to create the perfect Espresso and make it perfectly every time; he has a great opinion article on CoffeeGeek: ‘Is this the end of the barista?‘.

The article is a breakdown of the latest ‘super automatic’ espresso machines gaining in popularity over the last several years that are increasing profits in the coffee houses and suprisingly finding customers accepting of this over the personality offered by the baristas. He doesn’t claim to know what the future holds for the barista profession, but does provide some insight into the coffee market that I was not aware of before.

Coffee Joke (as long as we’re on the subject)- 

Sign you may be addicted to coffee – It’s midnight and you’re weighing the pros and cons of making a new pot. 

More Retro Analog Watch Goodness

First, I told you about the very modern Bluetooth watch from Fossil, then the ultra-cool-retro Moonbase Commander watch.

Continuing on the theme of cool and potentially useless but geek-chic in watches, now Maywa Denki brings you a retro watch that goes above and beyond, it has an old style telephone rotary dial Retro Watch Blackon the face of the watch that you must dial in order to find the time.

In Japan, to know the time you can dial 117 and the voice on the other end will tell you the time in hours, minutes and seconds. This incredible watch from inventors Maywa Denki will do the same by using the dial on the face of the watch. Just dial 117 and a woman’s voice will tell you the current time in Japanese! This cool gadget can also be used as an alarm clock, and to give you information about using the three digit dialing Retro Watch blue2codes that directly link you to services — just dial the 3 digit code (e.g. 119 for fire, rescue and ambulance) and it will tell you the service associated with that number, a good way to check before you actually dial the number on a telephone itself. This watch fits any arm and is 24.5 cm long (9.5″), and comes with two tester batteries.

Jbox has it in stock, you can order it here and it’s only US$52. You can request an English owners manual as well, now that’s service! Of course, if you plan on actually using this watch, I guess it helps to live in Japan. Otherwise there’s no telling if your telephone time service is compatible with this phone or not, i’m not sure how extensible this feature is.


Found via TokyoMango

Word of the Day: Schrodinger’s cat

“Schrodinger’s cat” is simply an illustration of the principle in quantum theory of superposition, proposed by Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. To further simply the term, it’s a thought experiement, a ‘what if’ hypothetical question that essentially asks “When does a quantum system stop existing as a mixture of states and become one or the other?”

Schrodinger said:

“One can even set up quite ridiculous cases. A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following diabolical device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of one hour one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges and through a relay releases a hammer which shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid.If one has left this entire system to itself for an hour, one would say that the cat still lives if meanwhile no atom has decayed. The first atomic decay would have poisoned it. The Psi function for the entire system would express this by having in it the living and the dead cat (pardon the expression) mixed or smeared out in equal parts.”

It is typical of these cases that an indeterminacy originally restricted to the atomic domain becomes transformed into macroscopic indeterminacy, which can then be resolved by direct observation. That prevents us from so naively accepting as valid a “blurred model” for representing reality. In itself it would not embody anything unclear or contradictory. There is a difference between a shaky or out-of-focus photograph and a snapshot of clouds and fog banks.

Check-Mate for Indian Chess Player after Phone Ploy

An Indian chess player, Umakant Sharma, participated in the country’s qualification rounds to get into the national chess championships. And he was winning games…lots of games. Accruing points on such a furious pace over an 18 month period that India’s chess tournament officials were suspicious of Sharma and his rivals were bemused.

Sharma was finally caught cheating after all this time. How did he do it?

He had stitched a bluetooth device into a cloth cap that he always pulled over his ears. He was communicating through the device with accomplices on the outside who were using a computer and feeding his moves to him.

Sharma has been banned from the tournaments for 10 years.

You can read the full Reuters story on eWeek.

Word Of The Day: Cyber

Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) was an American theoretical and applied mathematician. He was a pioneer in the study of stochastic and noise processes, contributing work relevant to electronic engineering, electronic communication and control systems. Wiener is perhaps best known as the founder of cybernetics, a field that formalizes the notion of feedback and has implications for engineering, systems control, computer science, biology, philosophy, and the organization of society.

The word cyber, used in such terms as cybernetics and cyberspace, was coined in 1948 by Wiener when he wrote a book titled ‘Cybernetics’. He derived it from the Greek ‘kubernetes’, or steersman, which is also the root of the word ‘govern’. Here’s a quote from the book describing his new word:

We have decided to call the entire field of control and communication theory, whether in the machine or in the animal, by the name Cybernetics.

Wiener may have based his word on an 1830s French usage of cybernétique, which meant the art of governing.

Kimodo Dragons With Virgin Births

The BBC is reporting on some unusual happenings at the Chester Zoo in the UK.

Kimodo HatchlingScientists report two cases where female Komodo dragons have produced offspring without male contact.

Tests revealed their eggs had developed without being fertilised by sperm – a process called parthenogenesis, the team wrote in the journal Nature. One of the reptiles in the zoo is awaiting her clutch of eight eggs to hatch, with a due-date estimated around Christmas.

The following link is to the Wikipedia article on parthenogenesis if you’re interested in learning more.

Savvy Squirrels Outwit Trees

MSNBC science article:

To help ensure the survival of their species, spruce trees may try to starve off local squirrels by supplying them with very few seeds (eaten by squirrels as food for their own survival). When the squirrel populate is supposedly reduced to the point where the trees can be assured of some cones surviving to plantation for future trees, the trees will suddenly and unpredictably produce *thousands* of cones.

The cool thing described in this article is that the squirrels are counteracting this through behavior not quite understood by scientists yet. Read the article for details. Like good stock brokers, red squirrels  predict when the market will be flooded with seeds and then invest big by producing a second litter of young, a new study finds.

ASUS Releases New “Commando” Gaming Motherboard

Asus announced their latest offering for the gamer community. It’s the ‘Commando’;  the Commando provides extreme overclock ability for enhanced performance, and unique features to jazz up the gaming features and simplify the DIY process.

The Commando provides unmatched overclockability, taking FSB to 2.28GHz and memory up to 1,300GHz!!

Specification summary
CPU: LGA 775 Core2Duo, Quad-Core CPU
DDR2: 800/667/533
FSB: 1066/800
Chipsets: Intel P965 + ICH8R
6 SATA II 3Gb/s
Supports ATI Crossfire Graphics
SupremeFX Featuring ADI 1988b
Extreme Tweaker
LCD Poster
8 phase capless power design
Onboard switches 


    Asus Commando board