March 30, 2010
Earlier this morning the Large Hadron Collider successfully smashed two proton beams together at 3 times the previous record speed. Unfortunately, it will probably be at least a few months before we know any of the results of the collisions. That’s because there’s so much data produced from just one collision that it takes even the world’s fastest supercomputers a considerable amount of time to do all the number-crunching. In the meantime, they’ll probably be doing even more collisions at even higher velocities. Amazingly, even though they’re shattering all the records for collision velocity, this thing is still only in the testing phase. It could be at least another year before they’re smashing particles at the machine’s full potential. I especially enjoy the analogy made by Steve Myers of CERN that aligning the beams is akin to “firing needles across the Atlantic and getting them to collide half way.” Good analogies really put things into perspective. This device is easily the most significant piece of technology mankind has ever built. More can be found at Discovery News. I was also elated to see that this story made headlines on CNN.com this morning.
In somewhat related news, particle collisions (though much less powerful) might be the cause of Toyota’s recent accelerator problems. The current thinking is that cosmic rays may be responsible for glitches in the processing chips used by Toyota in their cars’ computers, and that those glitches are causing the faulty accelerator problem. It sounds rather ridiculous, but it’s actually happened before in other sensitive electronics. The earth’s upper atmosphere is constantly bombarded with radiation from not only our own sun, but also high-energy gamma rays from distant supernovae. The ozone layer absorbs almost all of this deadly radiation, but the impacts result in a cascade of lower-energy particles that do make it to the surface. These are mostly harmless, but when they impact sensitive microprocessors, they can wreak havoc. Since Toyota has been a pioneer into the realm of increasingly computerized vehicles, that puts them at higher risk for these types of problems. (Via Live Science)
I hope everyone enjoyed yesterday’s tomfoolery. Everyone seems to hate April Fool’s but I enjoy all the jokes. I always look forward to what kind of ridiculousness Google will cook up each year. Here’s the Wikipedia page with a history of their pranks.
Shoot the Mountain have been getting a lot of buzz lately and playing a lot of shows, but everyone’s been wondering when their first release would happen. Well, it’s finally happening on May 16th on Theory 8 Records, and it’s an EP (presumably self-titled?). A release show will happen on that date at the Basement with Totally Snake (WTF?!?) opening. They’re also playing on April 9th at the End opening for Appleseed Cast.
The Features just released details of their upcoming tour with The Dexateens. They’ll be hitting clubs all over the southeast, northeast, and midwest later this month and into May. Oh, and they’ll also be featured in the July issue of Nylon Magazine.
Four Russian cosmonauts and two European astronauts volunteered to be locked up together in a simulation of a spacecraft for 105 days. This is part of an experiment to study the psychological and physical effects of being stuck with 5 other people for an extended period of time in cramped quarters. The experiment will help scientists and engineers plan for an eventual manned-mission to Mars. This will be very interesting to monitor.
I’ve been reading a few different posts and articles over the last week or so regarding a recent vote on science standards for the Texas Board of Education. The board held a vote on several standards for science education and it was mostly a travesty, the biggest of which was the deletion of the statement that the universe is “roughly 14 billion years old.” Sure, there are several different numbers out there that vary by a few million years, but everyone in the entire scientific community agrees that it’s pretty damn close to 14 billion years. A variance of a few million years is NIL when you look at the big picture, and is definitely covered by term “roughly.” There’s absolutely no evidence to suggest otherwise! One faint glimmer of hope is that the board voted down a proposed change that would allow the teaching of “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution. If this had passed, it would’ve been just one more way for Creationism to creep its ugly way into the scientific classroom. This article on the NewScientist blog sums it all up very well. I suggest reading it. I cannot get over the quote of board chairman Dr. Don McLeroy, who is quoted as saying, “I disagree with these experts. Someone has got to stand up to experts.” HA! Yea, you tell ‘em Dr. McLeroy! Tell those experts that they don’t know what they’re talking about! Afterall, they’ve spent the majority of their lives studying REAL science, FACTS and EVIDENCE… how could they possibly know what they’re talking about? I find it amazing that this man (a dentist) was able to get through medical school with such anti-scientific beliefs. I sure as hell wouldn’t want someone that dumb working on my teeth.
Ok enough ire for one day. I’ll leave you with this hilarious video clip from a 50’s sci-fi movie. I really hope this is how they dance in the future.
February 16, 2009
Via Ironic Sans. Click the image to go directly to the post.
The official SXSW music schedule has been released. It’s pretty user-friendly, as you can sort by day or by alphabetical listing. As with any festival, it’s gonna be a game of saying, “ok, who do I really care the most about seeing?”
Two great links from Kottke.org, as always:
I’m officially going to attempt having people over to watch LOST and play the official LOST drinking game. Please, if you watch the show, go read this. And then do it on wednesday. Preferably at my apt. My favorite: take a drink whenever “The island jungle scenes look as if they were shot in someone’s backyard, or the oversize potted plant section of an Office Max.”
Some really cool chemistry experiment videos. HORRIBLE WEB DESIGN ALERT! Warning- this website looks like something straight out of 1997. But the videos are pretty cool nonetheless.
I saw a story on CNN.com yesterday about a fireball and corresponding sonic boom heard/seen over Texas sunday morning. While the story doesn’t say specifically that the fireball was falling debris from the satellite collision last week, it does seem to hint at it. But the Bad Astronomer doesn’t think so, mainly becuase the debris appeared to be moving too quickly. It’s more likely that it was indeed a large meteor that just happened to hit the atmosphere a few days after the satellite collision. But as you can see in the BA post, nothing is for certain just yet. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this…
Finally, an interesting clip on the Daily Galaxy from an interview with astronomer Neil Degrasse Tyson on why the world will not end in 2012. I would embed the video here, but as far as I can tell, you can only embed YouTube and Google videos on WordPress blogs. Grr.