Readymech Paper Toys

readymech galleryHave you seen these really cool toys that you can generate from your own printer and download from Readymech.com? Readymechs are free, flatpack toys for you to print and build and they’re designed for your standard 8.5″x11″ paper.

Below is a closeup of the Geisha, I’m assembling the Pirate right now…
Geisha

Why People Probably Don’t Understand Probability

On NPR today, Robert Siegel talks with Columbia statistics professor Andrew Gelman. Gelman is the co-author of the book Teaching Statistics: A Bag of Tricks, which includes an age-old statistics experiment that demonstrates how people misunderstand probability when it comes to the coin toss.

They also talk about the fact that the Superbowl coin flip has come up ‘Tails’ for 10 straight years now!

You can listen to the story on NPR from here.

Nokia Does Something Right

Nokia Aeon

Everyone’s getting fanatical about their cell phones these days. Especially if concept phones like Nokia’s very own Aeon ever make it into the mass consumer market. The Aeon will feature a full touchscreen surface that does away with the standard keypad, giving you an extremely sleek and sexy look that is guaranteed to turn heads each time you answer a call. One thing’s for sure though – unless Nokia knows how to perfect a material that does not attract fingerprints like ants to sugar, you’ll probably spend half your time wiping the Aeon.

And despite it good looks, it comes jam-packed with current technology, plus a few new ones – such as Nokia’s wireless concept, called “Wibree”.  Wibree is a prototype open technology offering connectivity between mobile devices or personal computers, and small, button cell battery power devices such as watches, wireless keyboards, toys, and sports sensors. The technology enables new use-cases and growth potential in this market segment.

So, sign me up!  I’d easily drop a few bennys for this slick unit.  I’ll monitor this phone’s development – even though it seems that Nokia might not actually release it as a consumer phone.  This is one rumor I hope is proven wrong in the months to come.

Quantum Physics Made Relatively Simple

Hans Bethe

Quantum theory is probably the most important discovery of the 20th century. It made it possible to understand atoms, then to understand chemistry (the chemistry bond is important to biology), particle physics and electronics.

Cornell University is hosting a series of video lectures on Quantum Mechanics presented by one of it’s principal architects – Hans Bethe.

They were taped in 1999 when he was 93 years old, 6 years before he passed away. Hans was a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1935, started up the Cornell Department of Physics into the top rank, became a key figure in the Manhattan project and eventually launched the United States into the field of high energy elementary particle physics.

These videos are suitable for experts and non-experts alike, they cover the basics of Quantum Theory as well as its historical perspectives, enjoy.

How do you dial 1-800-FLOWERS?

Mike Calligaro is a developer on the Windows Mobile team. He has a great article explaining some of the challenges that have arisen in the latest mobile phones with QWERTY keyboards and trying to dial some of those marketing phone numbers like 1-800-FLOWERS. In a standard 12 key type phone, there are groupings of letters that map to the a number like ABC assigned to the number 2 so T9 interprets the dialing appropriately. But now the QWERTY keyboards have the letters and mapped out to individual keys so you can’t simply dial 1-800-FLOWERS as you did before.

Read the backstory and details here.

Pixel City

In an effort to dredge up more cool stuff for you to ponder, I stumbled across this piece of eye-candy.  Although the artist is unknown, this panorama was reportedly drawn pixel-by-pixel.  If true, this image would have taken a great deal of time to create.  Being an entire pixelated city, give it time to load (took about two minutes on my 6mb d/l pipe), it’s gargantuan in size.

Pixel City

It kinda reminds me of those early adventure games I played, like “Syndicate”, or more conventional games like (ick) Pokemon.  Enjoy!

What Is This?

Okay, I’ll admit that last week’s image was a bit tough.  I’m trying to stress out those brain cells, and get the imagination burning!  At the very least, perhaps get people who didn’t know what it was to search out on the net and try to figure it out.  Well, this week is something a bit easier :)  Gratz to pjwhite for the closest guess – last week’s image is of an integrated circuit tester.

This week’s image:

What

As always, post your guesses in the comments area.  Have fun!

You Are Eaten By A Grue.

Older geeks will recognize this articles title as an unwanted encounter in a dark space!  For the neo-geeks out there, I present to you: Zork I: The Great Underground Empire.  The original classic, Zork I is arguably the most important computer game ever released as it completely changed the way that people viewed both computers and computer gaming.

 The Great Underground Empire

Instead of action games or shoot-em-ups, Zork I was an adventure game designed by adults for adults with incredibly descriptive prose and a parser that would accept and recognize full English sentences. While only a treasure-gathering game, Zork I paved the way for all future adventure games, and certainly must be played to see how the computer gaming industry truly began. While it doesn’t have much of a story beyond the hunt for twenty treasures, it needs to be recognized most for its contribution to the industry. Though it may seem unpolished or incomplete, this is due to the fact that the storage media of the era wasn’t capable of holding all three chapters of Zork, but shouldn’t stand in a way: this is still a classic game, and worthy of play today.

Ready for adventure the way it was meant to be?  Stab this link: Zork I

I love this game!

(D&D): Dungeonscape – A Refreshing New Take on Dungeon Adventures for DMs

Dungeonscape D&D book

Welcome to the Dungeon!

Since the dawn of the DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game, the dungeon has remained a place of mystery, excitement, and danger. Purple worms burrow through the earth, eager for their next meal. Savage orcs lurk within the darkness, ready to surge forth and lay waste to civilized lands. Strange cults, mutated monsters, and forgotten gods hide within the choking darkness of the dungeon’s halls. Nowhere else offers greater prospects for wealth, magic, and power. Yet the horrors that lurk beneath the world never give up their treasures without a fight….

This D&D supplement presents a refreshing new take on dungeon adventures. It shows Dungeon Masters how to inject excitement, innovation, and thrilling adventure into their dungeons. New rules for encounter traps allow DMs to build deadly snares to catch the unwary. For players, the journeyman class is a cunning wanderer, a jack-of-all-trades who can cope with anything the dungeon throws at him. New equipment, feats, and prestige classes give adventurers the tools they need to survive the dark beneath the earth.

Title: Dungeonscape (amazon)

MSRP: US$19.77

Availability: Feb 13 2007

Format: Hardcover

Visit Wizards for more information and their other books.

The CIA’s real Star Gate Program

A true story

If I told you this true story involved Saddam Hussein and nuclear weapons as just minor pieces to a bigger story you’d probably think this 2 decade long tale had something to do with the Gulf War or the Iraq War….it’s not.

This is about Star Gate, I’m not referring to the TV show ‘Stargate’. Instead, it’s about a little known CIA initiative that was declassified in the 1990’s as a part of Bill Clinton’s Executive Order #12958 April 17 1995 “Classified National Security Information”.

Well, the CIA has at least declassified portions of the project; some 270 pages of reports have been released out of the possible tens of thousands of documents created over the Star Gate project’s life which spanned from its inception in 1972 to 1995 when the program was made public. I should mention that we at least think the project has ended, at least according to the government, it’s over.

So what was ‘Star Gate’?

In essence, Star Gate was just one of the code names the CIA gave to a program that involved the U.S government’s reliance on a form of telekinesis called ‘Remote Viewing’. Other code names associated with off-shoots of the program included Sun Streak, Center Lane, Scan Gate and Grill Frame.

Continue reading

History Of The Speed of Light

Man had tried to deduce, or had contemplated, for over two thousand years the following question:

How fast is light?

Where to start in this journey of discovery, let’s start in the middle with a medieval geek Galileo.

Most geeks are aware of Galileo’s experiments with falling bodies. No goofball, not dropping bodies from the leaning tower of Pisa 😛 But did you know that Galileo attempted to measure the speed of light as a part of this experiment with falling bodies?

Contrary to popular belief the experiment with ‘falling bodies’ were actually balls rolling down an inclined plane and unpublished working papers from as early as 1604 clearly showed that he had performed earlier experiments demonstrating the time-squared law.

In order to perform his experiments, Galileo had to set up standards of length and time, so that measurements made on different days could be compared in a reproducible fashion. For measurements of particularly short intervals of time, Galileo sang songs with whose timing he was familiar.

Galileo also attempted to measure the speed of light, wisely concluding that his measurement technique was too imprecise to accurately determine its value.

  • He climbed one hill and had an assistant climb another hill; both had lanterns with shutters, initially closed.
  • He then opened the shutter of his lantern. His assistant was instructed to open his own shutter upon seeing Galileo’s lantern. Galileo then measured the time interval for his assistant’s shutter to open.
  • Knowing the time interval and the separation between the hills, he determined the apparent speed of light.

On repeating the experiment with more distant hills, Galileo obtained the same time lapse, concluding that the time for the light to travel was much less than the reaction time of the person, and therefore that the actual speed of light was beyond the sensitivity of his measurement technique.

But Galileo wasn’t the first, not by far, to make an attempt at the measurement, nor to consider whether light even had a speed.

Before Galileo, Isaac Beeckman proposed an experiment in 1629 in which a person would observe the flash of a cannon reflecting off a mirror about one mile away.

Probably the most bizzare attempt to classify the speed came in the 1300’s by Sayana. He was an important scholar and minister of his king’s court in India and had written many books on various subjects including religion, medicine and philosophy.

He is claimed to have mentioned the speed of light, in the following comment he wrote on verse 1.50 of the Rig Veda:

Thus it is remembered: O Sun you who traverse 2202 yojanas in half a nimesa.

These ancient units translate into a speed of 186,536 miles p/s, a value amazingly close to the modern value of c of 186,285 miles p/s and has been called the most astonishing “blind hit” in the history of science.

Astonishingly lucky indeed.

The history books on light go back as far as Empedocles (430 BC) and Aristotle (322 BC) and Heron (c 70).

Empedocles maintained that light was something in motion, and therefore there had to be some time elapsed in travelling.

Aristotle said that, on the contrary, “light is due to the presence of something, but it is not a movement”. Furthermore, if light had a finite speed, it would have to be very great; Aristotle asserted “the strain upon our powers of belief is too great” to believe this.

One of the ancient theories of vision is that light is emitted from the eye, instead of being reflected into the eye from another source. On this theory, Heron of Alexandria advanced the argument that the speed of light must be infinite, since distant objects such as stars appear immediately when one opens one’s eyes.

So where does the story end? We end it with 20th century scientific experiments answering the question once and for all.

The speed of light was ‘discovered’ (as in proven) in 1926 by Albert Michelson using a rotating prism to measure the time it took to make a round trip from Mount Wilson to Mount San Antonio in California. His precise measurements yielded a speed of 186,285 miles p/s (299,796 k p/s).

Word of the Day: “Erg” (aka Mosquito pushups)

Erg derives from the Greek word ‘ergon’ meaning “work” and so an erg is the unit of energy and mechanical work.

It’s equivalent to 1 micro joule, or put another way 1 million ergs equals a joule.

Well it’s about this point that you interject:

“come on Andy, what is a joule then?”

And as I open my mouth you immediately cut in with:

“and don’t try to say one joule is the work done or energy required to exert a force of one newton for a distance of one meter where a newton is the amount of force required to accelerate a mass of one kilogram at a rate of one meter per second squared because I’ll just get lost”.

OK, no problemo, i think i can further simplify this for you. On one of my submarines many years ago I asked our Engineer if he could define ‘erg’ for me and he said:

“An erg is the amount of work done by a mosquito doing a pushup”

Hmmm. Now *that* it is something you can relate to! So now you know that a joule is equal to 1 million mosquito pushups (aka ergs).

BTW, try searching google or live.com for ‘mosquito erg pushup’ and you will see that my engineer at the time was clearly not making it up at the time as i had originally suspected since there are others in the physics world propagating this analogy.

Happy word geeking.

References:

Skype 3.0.0.214 Released

Skype 3.0.0.214 

Skype is the next phenomenon from the people who brought you KaZaA. Just like KaZaA, this uses P2P (peer-to-peer) technology to connect you to other users – not to share files this time, but to talk for free with your friends. The technology is extremely advanced – but super simple to use. You’ll be making perfect quality free phone calls to your friends in no time.

Latest changes:

  • Bug fix: SkypePM.exe crashes on first start after installation
  • Bug fix: Russian language display problems in updater
  • Bug fix: Groups panel stayed open when user was changed
  • Bug fix: Contact list focus was lost when using some toolbar buttons

Hit this bad boy for a experience you won’t believe!  If enough interest is generated, perhaps we’ll start a Geeknews channel :)

Build Your New Vista PC Without Breaking The Bank

Vista is now released to the world and “The Tech Report” has a decent article on how to build your PC for Windows Vista.

They try to stick to $500, $1000 and $1500 budgets, make most if not all of their purchases from newegg.com (my personal favorite as well) and they go for the most bang for the buck so they’re not getting cheap here.

Not surprising here, in their detailed descriptions of the 3 systems, is that the Intel Core 2 Duo system was the most expensive compared to the Athlon alternatives.

I’m an Intel snob myself and have already resigned myself to the fact that i’m going to have to pony up a few bucks to build my new system.

Information With Attitude

Data served with a kung fu chop!  That’s right, Ninja.com (the deadly accurate search) exudes stealth and mysticism with their stark black website powered by the Google engine.  They also offer a unique “@ninja.net” email address in a first come, first serve basis when public registration opens in two weeks.

Ninja Search Engine

Magellan, Yahoo, Open Text, and Google (among others) have been and are the major players up to now.  Does Ninja stand a chance?  Being powered by Google doesn’t give it that much originality, but I have to admit getting the cool “@ninja.net” email might be worth playing with it for a few weeks :)

What is this?

Hello again, everyone!  Last week I premiered a new facet of Geeknews, where readers had to guess what was pictured below.  I’d like to thank everyone for their answers, and as promised the first correct answer was submitted by ‘tmrafi’ who identified the picture as a standard ball mouse inner workings.  Good job!

Here is this weeks photo:

What is this?

Good luck on the guesses! Please submit all answers in the comments section.

Flickr Addicts Unite!

Flickr Leech

Flickr.com is widely know as one of the web’s best photo sharing comunities. And people like myself, can lose hours upon hours in there just using the search or “interestingness” feature to look at countless photos people from all over the globe have taken and posted in their accounts.

I’d like to call attention to a “hack” that Andrew Houser has developed by tweaking the Flickr API so that instead of only viewing 50-100 pictures at a time on the Flickr website, you can use his interface at Flicker Leech to view up 200 thumbnails of photos from users public accounts at a time. All you have to do is type in a search word(s) and the thumbnails will display. Click on the thumb, and it will take you to the full size photo in the users public account.

This is an excellent utility in my opinion, and I am thankful to Andrew for creating it. It sure beats crawling through the Flickr website all night, where you can grab thumbs in half the time with Flickr Leech!

Cellswapper

Get bad cell reception in your area?  Frustrated because all the cool new phones only work on other networks?  Your cell not able to live up to its full potential because your network has cut out key capabilities?  Well the folks over at Cellswapper.com have a potential solution for you.

Cellswapper.com

CellSwapper allows millions of unhappy cellular users to transfer their contract to another consumer for the remainder of the contract period. The consumer is fully absolved of all responsibility and is free to initiate a new plan with a different carrier. This system also provides an exclusive deal for those looking to start a wireless service plan a short-term contract with no activation fees.

And what a service it is too…they’ve been covered by high end networks like MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal and C|Net. Now the idea of sliding out of your contract may be appealing to some, but be aware that there are a few minor catches.  One is that the “seller” has to make their contract as appealing as possible, which may require including your expensive cell phone, or even a cash bonus.  And on top of that, you pay a fee to Cellswapper for the convenience when someone actually does assume responsibility for your service.

I have to admit, this service does have an appealing nature to me.  I bought my Motorola RAZR through Veriszon Wireless, and was fully aware of the phones capabilities.  However, it wasn’t until I received the phone that I found out that they had blocked two vital features I was keyed in on.  The first being able to use the “V-Cast” feature, which allows you to recieve streaming video on your phone, and the other was being able to transfer ringtones and pictures to and from my computer.  Neither are functional (unless you reprogram your phone).  That frustration alone might prompt me to pursue the Cellswapper service.

Regardless, they have some positive testimonials you can look through to see how its worked out for other folks.  As always, if you have tried this service, or know someone who has tried it, let us here at Geeknews know about it!