SETI Turns To Higher Wavelengths

The SETI investigation now includes possible communication via Laser.

According to ScienceNOW, astrophysicists are already processing photons picked up by existing gamma-ray telescopes being used to scan for exploding stars. The goal is to find any anomalous flashes of light that may be an alien civilization trying to communicate their presence through an optical beacon.

[Via 3quarksdaily]


Introduction to Randomness and Random Numbers

Random Bitmap is run by Dr. Mads Haahr and he provides a True Random Number Service. It’s a true random number generator as opposed to the more common Pseudo Random Number Generator because the site uses atmospheric data as a random source instead of allowing the computer to generate numbers.

The page describing ‘randomness’ is really cool because it’s not just a primer on RNGs but delves into the debate between Quantum Events and Chaotic Systems used by builders of True Random Number Generators.

If you’re not in the mood to check out that excellent article, at least swing by the main page and play with a few of the simple and fun generators like the Bitmap Generator. I just created the 128×128 bitmap at the top.


Word Of The Week: Blob

Your average geek and probably all non-geeks have different definitions for the word Blob. Comic Geeks think of the Marvel comic villain ‘The Blob’. To classic sci-fi movie aficionados ‘The Blob’ movie from 1958 (and 1988 remake) was an amoeba-like alien that terrorized a small community.

In the world of software however, BLOB usually stands for “Binary Large Object” and is used for storing information in databases. I say ‘usually’ because there are other obscure software references to the term. For instance ‘God Object‘ and ‘Meatballs‘ can also be known as blobs.

Also, before going further with the definition, ‘BLOB’ was not originally intended to be an acronym, in fact it’s a backronym (more on this after the definition).

A blob is a data type that can store binary data. This is different than most other data types used in databases, such as integers, floating point numbers, characters, and strings, which store letters and numbers. Since blobs can store binary data, they can be used to store images or other multimedia files. For example, a photo album could be stored in a database using a blob data type for the images, and a string data type for the captions.

Blobs are usually multimedia objects though they can also be executable code. They usually need much more space than other data types. The amount of data a blob can store varies depending on the database type, but some databases allow blob sizes of several gigs.

Blobs were originally just amorphous chunks of data invented by Jim Starkey at DEC in the ’90s, who described them as “the thing that ate Cincinnati, Cleveland, or whatever”. Later, a marketing person felt that it needed to be an acronymn and invented the backronym ‘Basic Large Object’. Not long after, an alternative backronym was created: ‘Binary Large Object’.

Here’s the e-mail thread from 1997 providing “The true story of BLOBs.

Word Geek

Happy Birthday Interweb?

There’s some debate as to the true birthdate of the Internet, some say it’s Jan 1, 1983 when the National Science Foundation’s university network backbone came online. But others claim it’s April 7, 1969.

The earlier date may be symbolic but it’s the publication of the first Request for Comments, RFC 1. It was written by Steve Crocker of UCLA, titled “Host Software’ and was referring to experiments on the ARPA network.



Play-By-Post DnD: Pros/Cons


Martin Ralya of Treasure Tables posted a two part article on his blog last week about how he ‘lost his virginity’ at Play-by-Post (PbP) as the DM. These are in-depth with some of the technical details, tips and tricks and other sage advice to keep it real, keep the flow of the adventure from stalling and lots more.

In part 1 of the post he gives the tips/tricks and some examples of how to implement the process, a basic intro to PbP and the guidelines for his game.

In part 2 of the post he talks about what went well in the campaign, what went badly and the modifications he’d make in the future.

All in all it’s gotten me thinking about looking into finding a PbP campaign for myself as opposed to trying to find a local group to join! :grin:

BTW, Martin’s site looks like a goldmine of information from an experienced GM (since ’89), i’ve subscribed to his feed! Want to get a taste of his blog? Here’s his ‘Top 25‘ most popular posts.

Just geeky