Geek News Links – May 20 2011

For fruit flies hooked on meth, sugar wards off death [MSNBC]
Fruit flies on meth experience less drug toxicity if they’ve been snacking on a sugary diet, a new study finds.

Informatics robots protect, cuddle, serve [ISDNEWS]
Developers chose to make Paro a baby harp seal rather than a cat or dog so people could accept the robot without preconceptions.

Shock to skull can improve gaming [VGACHARTZ]
In one of the more unusual video game-related studies to emerge recently, a DARPA-funded experiment has found that running electricity through your scalp can help make you a better game player.

Dead ‘space alien’ in Russia is really bread and chicken [EXAMINER]
For a few days, the Internet was abuzz over a Youtube video that reportedly showed the corpse of a space alien being discovered in Siberia. However, a mere 3 days after the video was posted online, it has been revealed to be a hoax.

Facebook adds two-factor authentication [CSOONLINE]
Facebook enhances security of the site with two-factor authentication, improved HTTPS. But is it enough for security pros?

Meet the new Porsche Panamera S Hybrid [MotorTrend]
380 horsepower, a 0-to-60 time of 5.7 seconds and a top speed of 167 mph. And it’s a hybrid.

The best place to play poker online is Party Poker.

Boy Scouts Get Robotics Merit Badge

The 101 year old para-military organization known as the Boy Scouts is trying to remain relevant in the 21st century by updating their merit badges. One change is the recently added Robotics badge, shown above (actually the Pathfinder Mars rover). This badge increases the relevance of math, engineering, computer science as important skills as opposed to pitching a tent, building a camp fire, archery and canoeing.

Now don’t get me wrong, those older “classic” skills, while dated, could still play a role in saving your skin when the zombie invasion begins. So they do have a place if survival skills are a priority for you or your son. 🙂

Read more at the SF Chronicle

BTW, I was a Boy Scout, I only advanced to Life Scout rank.  I wish we had the Robotics badge back when I was a kid. 😉

In Your Face(book)

The following is a guest post from Lokesh Vishwakarma, an IT graduate from KC College, Mumbai, India. The topic is the role of social networking in the recent historical events occurring in some Arab countries.

From Morocco to Yemen the Arab world is burning, and fueling this fire of change is the 21st century panacea ‘The Social Networks’. These agents of change helped the Arab civilization achieve what they couldn’t, for decades, in just a few days or weeks. Be it Facebook, Twitter, Google or usual blogosphere, they have found themselves central to the action in an unprecedented way. Lets us take a look at how some of these new found tools have spurred the actions on the ground.

Facebook and Twitter – The cradle that rocked the despots

#Sidibouzid, this twitter hashtag gave rise to a movement which toppled not only the Ben Ali regime but also inspired a dozen other mutinies. The picture of Mohammed Bouazizi, the youth who set himself on fire in the Tunisian town ‘Sidi Bouzid’ in protest against the unemployment spread like wild fire on youtube and other social media. This was for the first time the internet spawned a feeling of enough is enough among the Tunisians.

Soon after Tunisia happened, Egypt was getting ready to herald in to the new dawn of democracy, the first salvo being “We are all Khaled Said” facebook page. Khaled Said was the young Egyptian man who was beaten to death by police in June 2010. The online activists began protest groups with Khaled as their ‘martyr’, some anonymous activist also came up with the Arabic version of the facebook page, who was later revealed as Google executive Wael Ghonim. #Jan25 made its presence felt on twitter, the day Wael called for young Egyptians to take to the streets. Twitter was abuzz with videos, pictures, data and links tagged with #jan25, which became an effective way to group together online information about the protest. The influence of social networking was such that, an Egyptian man named his newly born child as “facebook”. By now one thing was very clear, that the social networking websites have become a force to reckon with.

The events in Tunisia and Egypt inspired a whole lot of generation and Yemen was no different. The “Yemeni Anger Revolution” group has almost 20000 members on facebook, those who were not bitten by the social network bug were encouraged to pass on the word via traditional methods like SMS and cards. After the Yemeni government cracked down on internet, many nonresident Yemenis settled outside Yemen shared their contact numbers with their friends and relatives in Yemen in wake of internet shutdown, to help them share news about Yemen, many of NRYs tweeted and retweeted news and also links with the international media.

The hashtag #feb17 has categorized the Libyan movement and given a fresh identity to the Libyan protest amid unrest across the Arab world. Feb 17 is the date when the Libyan protest against the megalomaniac colonel began. Information – what little is accessible from the country – has been pouring in on Twitter and Youtube, where activists are uploading news the minute they are able to get online. A dedicated facebook page for the Libyan revolution has more than 82000 members and another key facebook page by the name of ‘RNN Libya’ has 22000 members. Libya being the most oppressed and closed nation of the region has caught the fever of Internet-driven dissent passed on from their friends in Tunisia and Egypt, as young Libyans are been exposed to the power of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter to voice opposition to the regime.

Just like the #feb17 Libyan protest, the Bahraini activists have #feb14 as their identity on twitter. Internet providers were shut down and facebook accounts were deleted across Algeria as thousands of Pro-democracy demonstrators were arrested in violent street demonstrations. President Abdelaziz Boutifleka’s government first cracked down on the internet to nip the protest in the bud.

In Morocco, the facebook group “Movement of freedom and democracy” has attracted more than 90000 members. The Iraqis had their own twitter tag as #iq4c but many of them tagged news of protest in Iraq with #feb25 so as to reach a larger audience of the internet by linking their cause with other popular revolts.

In Syria, the case is bit different; people are still learning about the arab revolution through facebook, media, twitter, newspapers and blogs. The facebook page “Syrian Revolution 2011” has received more than 25000 followers. People in Syria have slowly started to come out in open against the Syrian authorities.

As the crusade for democracy and basic human rights rages on, Today’s youth have a lot of tools at their disposal which the earlier crusaders didn’t posses. The Internet has become a conduit for disseminating the idea of democracy which was till now alien to the Arab civilization. For a change the Internet is applauded for its power to influence and change history for the better.

Robots Become Self-Aware


Scientific American:

Cornell University’s Hod Lipson is developing robots that can reflect on their own thoughts by equipping them with two controllers. One controller was rewarded for chasing dots of blue light while avoiding red dots, and the second controller modeled how the first behaved and how successful it was. This technique, known as metacognition, enabled the robot to adapt after about 10 physical experiments, as opposed to the thousands of experiments needed using traditional evolutionary robots. "This could lead to a way to identify dangerous situations, learning from them without having to physically go through them–that’s something that’s been missing in robotics," says University of Vermont’s Josh Bongard.

Blood Light, The Lighter Side of Death

The wait is over, "Blood Light" is back and better then before with longer episodes, the same comedic creativity, and a few new faces that will keep us all on the edge of our seats waiting to see what’s to come. After launching the first 5-episodes in September of 2010, "Blood Light" has gained great momentum and a loyal fan base in the short time it has been running.

"Blood Light" is centered on the premise that “This is NOT a show about vampires; it’s a show about people who happen to be vampires.” Two recently turned Vampires, Alex and Ethan, struggle with the realization that being a Vampire is not as ‘cool’ as it seems. Along with Connor, their human friend, who pretends to be a Vampire to get women to sleep with him, they soon realize that death sucks just as much as life.

Here’s episode 1 below, check out their site to watch the videos.

Square Kilometer Array: Africa


How far back in time can the Hubble Ultra Deep Field IR see? About 10 billion years, that’s approximately half a billion years after the Big Bang. Want to look back further? Try the SKA. That stands for the Square Kilometer Array.

The vision for the SKA will be an array of ~3000 dish antenna radio telescopes with a collecting area of about one square kilometer. This will make the SKA about ten times more sensitive than the largest single dish telescope at Arecibo, Puerto Rico.

The International SKA Steering Committee has whittled the possible locations for this array to one of two locations: South Africa and Australia are the finalists. If Africa wins the SKA bid, the core of this giant telescope will be constructed in the Karoo region of the Northern Cape Province near to the towns of Carnarvon and Williston, linked to a computing facility in Cape Town. Reasons why South Africa make an ideal location are:

  • Low levels of radio frequency interference and certainty of future radio quiet zone.
  • Best imaging – an ideal physical environment (little water vapor, calm stable weather conditions)
  • Very little light pollution
  • Affordable – Required land, labor and support services available cheaply

For a full list of facts on the SA bid, this SKA Africa site has all the details.

I’ve got my fingers crossed they win the bid 🙂


SKA Africa
Wikipedia: SKA

Two Planets Found Sharing One Orbit


Cool news from NewScientist on the discovery of two planets on the same orbit:

The two planets are part of a four-planet system dubbed KOI-730. They circle their sun-like parent star every 9.8 days at exactly the same orbital distance, one permanently about 60 degrees ahead of the other. In the night sky of one planet, the other world must appear as a constant, blazing light, never fading or brightening.

Super Bowl Ad Stories: How a 12-Year-Old Rescued This Coke Ad

“That ending is terrible. This is a Coke ad. We can’t do that,” they told him.

Curtis walked out the meeting, somewhat dejected. He had no ideas for alternative endings.  … Curtis went home and sat down to dinner with his wife and his two high-school-aged children. His wife asked how the day’s presentation went. He told them about his predicament. Then his son, Will, who was about 12 at the time, piped up with a suggestion.

That was it. Curtis went back to Coke with the idea, and they loved it.

via Fastcompany

Inside the San Francisco Fire Department’s Ladder Shop

San Francisco has some unique requirements that lend it to needing wood ladders in place of aluminum ladders like most cities.

The shop that makes them today has been doing so since 1919, and some of the earliest ladders are still being refurbished and kept in use. These craftsmen in the shop take their job seriously, for instance, they keep the wood on site for 15 years before using it so the wood can acclimate over time to the local climate!

Inside the Ladder Shop at the San Francisco Fire Department from AdamKaplan on Vimeo.

Porn-Unboxing the Boxee Box

Don’t worry, there’s no nudity. 🙂

I’ve been getting into Home Theater PC (htpc) in an effort to reduce or eliminate my dependency on Comcast and also reduce my TV bill. While looking for information on the HTPC world, i came across this funny but informative video  unboxing of the Boxee box.

If you have trouble with the video, here’s the link.

Found via Paul Roberts, it seems he’s a Boxee tester which is cool.

Reimagining Frankenstein With A Steampunk Twist

Kevin Mowrer has a fantastic imagination and also has artistic skills to pull off a really cool idea. The idea involves a Frankenstein-world with a steampunk aesthetic, he’s also sharing his sketches and artwork. Kevin describes the aesthetic he’s going for here:

I’m looking for a metal-heavy, sooty look with forms and shapes that aren’t just barrels and brass but suggest a more profound alternate industrially based technology that has reached a high level of functionality and power but isn’t plastic and electronic nor wood and horses. There’s two levels of technology in this story. One that is almost magical in it’s ability to make things move and another that is much less sophisticated. This “steamier” technology is still created by the same folks who make the amazing technology but is purposely dumbed down to keep control of the larger population

If you enjoy Steampunk, you should follow Kevin’s efforts to develop this world, it’s very cool stuff.


Bizzaro Toy Story 3 Scenes

Woody the serial killer?

My new friend Amy Leigh has a penchant for Toy Story 3 and I wanted to turn you onto her latest post ‘10 Bizarre Depictions of Toy Story 3 toys‘ .

In the post she wonders what the Toy Story 3 characters are doing with their free time when the camera stops rolling. She’s pulled together her top 10 favorites like the one above where Woody is happily carving up someone’s head.

As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, she takes us down the road of Cross Dressing Woody and Woody takes an interest in girls, both quite funny. 😉

Check it out.

What is That?

Hey folks!  Well guess what?  I found some new images for you guys to check out and scratch your heads over!  I got them from all over the place, some are old tech, new tech..macro shots…you name it.  One thing is for sure, you will have fun trying to identify them =]  This first image is local for me, taken right here in the evergreen state…


Please lease your interesting or creative responses in the comment section!

Churchill Banned UFO Report to Avoid Mass Panic

Via Yahoo! News (yeah, i’ve had this in my queue for 2 weeks, i’m lazy busy):

Reports given to Churchill claimed that a reconnaissance aircraft returning to Britain from a mission was shadowed by a UFO as it crossed the British coast.

The plane’s crew were reported to have photographed the object, which they said had “hovered noiselessly” near the aircraft, before moving off.

According to the letter describing this alleged incident: “Mr Churchill is reported to have made a declaration to the effect, ‘This event should be immediately classified since it would create mass panic among the general population and destroy one’s belief in the Church.'”