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Contrary to popular belief the experiment with ‘falling bodies’ were actually balls rolling down an inclined plane and unpublished working papers from as early as 1604 clearly showed that he had performed earlier experiments demonstrating the time-squared law.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

“White Trash Etiquette” or “Geek My Ride”

For Christmas i had this book on my wish list: “Geek My Ride: Build the Ultimate Tech Rod“.

Geek My Ride

I didn’t get it.

So anyway, I decided to go look at it tonight and see if I really really wanted it and if so I would probably order it this week. But as I navigated my way through Amazon to my wish list, I came across something else that Amazon was pushing…

White Trash Etiquette: The Definitive Guide to Upscale Trailer Park Manners

Trailer Trash

This is what the Editorial Review says:

White Trash Etiquette contains everything you need to know to live like decent trash, including:

• The proper way to fake a back injury
• How to prevent your in-laws from stealing the silverware at wedding receptions
• The Ten Hottest White Trash Career Opportunities
• How to improve your drunk-driving skills
• Sound advice on everything from lying to your boss to making your next convenience-store robbery fun for the whole family

There’s also troubleshooting for troublemakers:

• I’m getting married; can I still wear white if I’m a tramp?
• Can chicks ever really respect an accountant?
• How do I pick a good bail bondsman?
• How can I get my 14-year-old cousin unpregnant?

And much more.

I’m tempted to add this to my wishlist, but so far i’m resisting the urge.

Stargate Action Figures

You probably know by know I’m a Stargate SG-1 fan (got my picture taken with Amanda Tapping and everything!). Ahem, so anyway, there are SG-1 action figures out right now through Diamond Select Toys. These consist of a several series of figures covering everything from Vala’s figure , Jack O’Neil in his Black Ops outfit , Mitchell, a Prior, Thor and much much more – view all figures from this page. Overall these are very nice action figures and feature several points of articulation so you can pose them and the detail on their gear is spot on.
Oh yeah, they have Samantha Carter as well though the figure is probably the one with the least resemblance to the actor. Click the Carter image below for a much closer look, pretty sad resemblance if you ask me. In fact, click here to see the Microsoft Live image results for ‘Samantha Carter‘ and compare for yourself. However, i spot checked a bunch of these figures and they are generally around US$14.99 when purchased singly, they do have some in sets of 4 for around $60.

Send in proof of purchases for 4 of the figures and you can get an Elite Serpent Guard Jaffa figure!

Carter

Latest Announcement for the Las Vegas Star Trek Con

Robbie McNeill

Creation Entertainment announces that Robbie Duncan McNeill (tom Paris of Voyager) will also be attending this year’s 2007 Official Star Trek Convention (Aug 9-12, 2007).

Robbie joins these guests that have already been announced:

  • William Shatner
  • Leonard Nemoy
  • George Takei (Sulu)
  • Conner Trinneer (Cmdr. Charles ‘Trip’ Tucker in Enterprise)
  • Armin Shimerman (Quark in Deep Space Nine)
  • Nicole de Boer (Lieutenant Ezri Dax in Deep Space Nine)
  • Dominc Keating (Lt. Malcolm Reed in Enterprise)
  • 70 other guests

This convention is being hosted by Creation Entertainment, they hosted the Stargate Con I attended in Vancouver, BC last year, it was a blast and well organized. You can view pics of last year’s Star Trek Con in Vegas on their site, as well as read details on this year’s ST Con here.

Ghostbusters Revisited!

Who ya gonna call? GHOSTBUSTERS!! Man when I think about that song, and all the movies, I am reminded of Slimer, and the bumbling, yet efficient paranormal trapping group, with their particle beam weapons, and vortex traps. But one thing that always had captured my interest was the car they souped up and screamed around town in. What? You say you liked it too? Well, keep your ectoplasm in your pants, because it’s up for sale!

Ecto-1

Proof again that you can buy just about anything online, folks! This handsome and famous 1959 Cadillac is tricked out and ready to drive away! The price, you ask? Only a cool $150,000 🙂

Winners of Nano-Hazard Symbol Contest Announced

An estimated 30,000 people gathered at the World Social Forum in Nairobi last week where participants had a chance to vote for their favorite Nano-Hazard Symbol – a design that warns of the presence of engineered nanomaterials (1 nanometer = 1 billionth of a meter).

The 3 pics below are the winners of the international graphic design competition announced last week. The winning designs were submitted by: Dimitris Deligiannis (Greece), Shirley Gibson (Scotland), and Kypros Kyprianou (England).
3 Nano Winners

“Tiny tech is no small matter – there was intense competition to design a nano-hazard symbol, and enormous interest in Nairobi,” said Pat Mooney of ETC Group. “We ended up with three winners who were virtually tied for first place,” explained Mooney.

The competition netted 482 unique designs from 24 countries. An independent panel of judges selected 16 finalists that appeared on the ballot in Nairobi that you can see below (clicky)

Nano 16 finalists

If you’d like to view all entries all 482 design submissions can be viewed here.

Such as this one that looks like billiard balls and a cue. Or this Ladybug wielding a wrench. This one i just don’t get, an elderly couple with a disintegrating cane? Is this one an alien head?

In any case, if you spot a good one, please link to it in the comments!

You can read a little more about the contest here at etcgroup.org. You can view their blog here (feed added!)

A View of the Heavens

Every self-respecting nerd/geek I have known has spent their fair share of time gazing into the night sky and imagining just what its like on other worlds, or just travelling through the stars. Not everyone has a unfettered night sky view from their location because of city lights, trees, etc. So have I got a site for you! Nasa hosts a picture website that displays a new astronomical photo every day, along with a technical description by a guest professor. Here is the picture for today:

Janruary 30, 2007

I’m fortunate enough to live in an area where, on a cloudless night, I can see a million stars above me. But, for those times that aren’t so weather friendly (which is most of the time), I go here, and check out the newest nebula, pulsar, or supergiant.

Transformers Are Everywhere!

Indeed, this is a true statement. With the upcoming release of the new epic movie “Transformers”, media and manufacturers alike are pumping out the robot goodness in every facet of product catagories imaginable. When I was a kid, there were cars, guns, casettes and airplanes that could morph into some fearsome looking automatons. Now, as I was rifling through some of the goodies you can get now, I spotted this unusual item for sale.

Transformers

I don’t know about you guys, but if I were a transformer, I think i’d rather be something a little more significant than this. Next thing you know, we’ll see transformer cigarette packs, whos only defense is blowing smoke at you 🙂

Find It With Your Cell Phone

My editor tells me that cell phones are of intense interest to our readers, so I couldn’t resist the challenege to find you the newest technology for our little buddies.  Of current development, is a great new business locator program that is currently in beta called “Tellme“. 

TellMe banner 

Find any business in America by talking or typing.
Thumbs tired of typing? Now you can use the power of your voice to find a business.
Just say what you’re looking for and get the address, map, and directions. And it’s all free.

Now don’t count your ringtones before they go off….there is a catch.  Since the program is in beta, there are a limited amount of cell phones it will function on, AND it is availble only on the Sprint and Cingular networks.  I’d like to test this myself, but currently Verizon Wireless is sucking the life out of my bank account.  Fear not though, they do have a form you can fill out with your info to inform you when their service is available to you.

What Kind of Rave Dancer Are you?

A friend sent me this link today, and by god, I tell you that they hit the nail on the head.  Check this place out, and discover just what kind of rave dancer you are!  Personally, I’m more like #8, the fridge guy.  If you think they left any out, let us know here in the comments section!

Rave Dancer

I think they left out the “shocked with 10,000 volts of electricity” dancer 🙂  Party on!

 

Pandora – By the Music Genome Project

 Pandora

All geeks love music – whether its the atonal rhythmic booming of some indie band, or the soothing flow of instrumental jazz.  Whatever your tastes, if you’re like me, you’re always searching for more of the same kind of your favorite music.  Search no further my friends – the folks over at the Music Genome Project created Pandora, an intelligent web-based free service that take your minimal input about your favorite music,  then builds and plays a comprehensive list of songs it thinks you’ll like.

Pandora is a music discovery service designed to help you find and enjoy music that you’ll love. It’s powered by the Music Genome Project, the most comprehensive analysis of music ever undertaken. Just tell us one of your favorite songs or artists and we’ll launch a streaming station to explore that part of the music universe.

We take your input (artists, songs) and feedback (“I like this”, “I don’t like this”) and use the Music Genome Project to create stations that play songs that are musically similar to what you’ve told us. That’s it; only the music counts. We don’t care how popular the artist is, who’s backing them, and we don’t care which genre bin they usually belong in. Only the music matters.

This is the real deal, my friends.  I input several different genres of music/artists/titles, and I wasn’t disappointed yet.  A definate plus is that their music database is quite vast, as I haven’t been played the same song twice…EVER.  I’m definately keeping this earmarked for regular use, as an alternative to iTunes Radio or Live365.

Al Capone (Dead Jan 27th 1947)

Al “Scarface” Capone was an American gangster who rose to power during the Prohibition era  when the United States banned the production and sale of alcohol. His vicious career demonstrated the power and influence of organized crime in the United States.  Despite popular beliefs, Capone did not bring Italian strongarming over to the US; during his rise in the streets of Brooklyn, he stylized his own code of ethics, using criminal activities to achive his own widespread success.

Al Capone

Eventually due to tax evasion, treasury agents took him into custody and he was duly sentenced to ten years hard labor in a prison at Atlanta, Georgia, and ended in Alcatraz Island in San Francisco.  After release, he lived out the rest of his days in his estate on Palm Island, Florida, where he eventually died on January 27, 1947.