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

WarGames 2, Finally A Sequel In The Making

From Slashdot today we learn that the sequel to the 1983 classic “Wargames” has finally gotten underway and is filiming in Quebec. Matthew Broderick won’t be reprising his role, instead the hacker do-gooder will be played by Matt Lanter.

In this sequel, hacker Will Farmer (Lanter) cracks into a goverment super-computer named Ripley and engages it in an online terrorist-attack simulation game. Little does Farmer know that Ripley has been designed to appeal to potential terrorists, and certain glitches have turned made him paranoid.

Father of Yogi Bear Dies

From the AP:

Joe Barbera, half of the Hanna-Barbera animation team that produced such beloved cartoon characters as Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear and the Flintstones, died Monday at the age of 95. Mr. Barbera died of natural causes at his home with his wife, Sheila, at his side.

With his longtime partner, Bill Hanna, Mr. Barbera first found success with the Tom and Jerry cartoons. The antics of the battling cat and mouse won seven Academy Awards. Mr. Hanna passed away in 2001.

The partners, who teamed up while working at MGM in the 1930s, went on to new success in the 1960s with a series of animated TV comedies, including “The Flintstones,” “The Jetsons,” “Yogi Bear,” “Scooby-Doo” and “Huckleberry Hound and Friends.”

Why Gamers cheat

Forbes has an article on why gamers cheat, breaking down the reasons into 4 buckets:

There are four major reasons why players cheat in a game: they’re stuck, they want to play God, they are bored with the game, or they want to be a jerk.

It goes into detail on each of these and also explains why cheating is actually good for you.

The author is Mia Consalvo an associate professor in the School of Telecommunications at Ohio University. Her current research examines women’s game play, the economics of the videogame industry and pedagogical uses of games. She has just written the book Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Videogames , to be released by MIT Press in 2007.


Do You PikiPimp?

Pikipimp allows you to pimp your pik. Upload a picture of a person, maybe yourself or your friend. Next, pimp it out with a beard, glasses, funny hat, scars, bruises, tattoos, body jewelry and much more.

Then you can preview it, download or save it to the gallery along with all the other buffoons.

Here’s mine. Link to yours in the comments.

Addictive World Map Game

I know you’re probably tired of the zillions of Flash based games on the net, for the most part I am too.

But here’s one I recently heard about that I find fun. Well I find it fun ’cause only a geek would really find something like identifying countries on a map of the world fun: World Map.

I knew I was pretty weak with the African continent, but looks like I need to bone up on my geography in Eastern Europe due to the many new states that arose from the USSR.
World Map Game