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Some cool science-related stuff I’ve come across the past few days:

  • Let’s be frank, the climatologists were absolutely dead wrong in their prediction of a warmer-than-average winter in the eastern US for 2010/2011. Their forecast was based on the fact that historically, La Nina winters are warmer in the eastern US. We are definitely in a La Nina winter, so what the hell has been going on? The fact is, the global climate is VERY complex, and our computer models for both short-term and long-term forecasting are still struggling to get a grasp on what’s really going to happen. The main culprit for our cold winter this year is the Arctic Oscillation. This is another large-scale weather pattern that is fairly unpredictable over the long-term, and has so far overpowered any effects the La Nina pattern has had on the southeast US. The Nashville office of the National Weather Service has been posting fairly frequent updates about this situation, so I recommend reading the latest one to get the detailed explanation you may or may not be desiring. It would appear that winter will be re-establishing its grip on TN for a few more weeks at least.
  • In the past year all the major mobile phone service providers have been touting their new 4G networks. But honestly none them have speeds even close to what was traditionally defined as “4G.” The International Telecommunication Union has a set of standards for what speeds can be considered 2G, 3G, 4G, and so on. 4G used to be defined as download speeds of 100 Mbps to 1Gbps. Those kinds of speeds won’t be attained for 4 to 5 years, by most estimates. In December of 2009, the ITU changed the rules on what can be called 4G, which allowed all mobile phone service providers to instantly start labeling their slightly improved wireless broadband speeds as such. Most of these speeds are probably better described as “3.5G” or “3G+” but I honestly don’t care. I just don’t want people to think that the speeds they’ll experience on their mobile browsers is somehow leaps & bounds faster. This information came from an article on Wired that I recommend if you want more detailed info.
  • I came across this amazing video clip on Universe Today on Monday, but am just now getting around to posting. The sense of scale when talking in astronomical terms is very difficult for a human mind to comprehend, so when things like this come along that really help illustrate that sense of scale, I’m fascinated. This video clip shows what several different planets, including another earth, would look like in the night sky if they were as close to us as the moon. Just wait until Jupiter shows up. (According to the comment from the creator below the video, this is actually what it would look like through a weak pair of binoculars… so what you’re seeing isn’t meant to depict the entire night sky, only about 62 degrees of it.) Be sure to click on the HD button and make it full screen.
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The blog Nashville’s Dead has been kicking ass overall lately, as chronicled by the Scene in their People Issue from a few weeks back. I want to take a moment, however, to specifically point out the photography work of their main shuttergirl Bekah Cope. The photo to the left is of Turbo Fruits on Saturday night of SXSW at the Mohawk Patio. Not only was it an insane performance, as evidenced by the fact that Jonas is hanging upside-down from the rafters, but it’s the perfect shot to capture the essence of that particular show. Bekah shoots all shows with film and a simple on-camera flash in a way that most professionals try to avoid at all costs. But she fearlessly challenges the norm and as a result, her work has an entirely different aesthetic than what the more seasoned professionals go for. It’s good in a completely different way. Her perspective and style is refreshing and fits perfectly with DIY feel of Nashville’s Dead and the music they cover (a good majority of it is house shows). At times some of her photos almost hit the same spot on my visual palate as William Eggleston’s work does. Check out her SXSW photos at Nashville’s Dead and more of her stuff on her flickr.

I’ll take just a moment to express my opinions about the recent rumors of a Verizon/Sprint/T-Mobile iPhone coming soon. A Wall Street Journal article earlier this week mentioned that the iPhone will likely be opened up to other carriers as early as this summer. While has long been a matter of “when,” not “if,” I’m certainly excited that this is finally happening. I’m very skeptical, however, that a Verizon version of the phone will be on the market before 2011 or even later. Currently there are two main protocols for 3G (3rd generation) wireless networks: GSM and CDMA. I won’t get into the technical details, but basically T-Mobile and AT&T both use the GSM standard, while Sprint and Verizon use the CDMA standard. Obviously the iPhone is a GSM device since it’s currently only on AT&T, thus it would be relatively easy to make one for T-Mobile since they’re GSM as well. Building an iPhone for Verizon and Sprint, however, is a different ballgame because many of the components have to be different. This is why I think it may be a little longer before we see a CDMA iPhone. Though the report did mention that some companies are already building the components for CDMA iPhone, there’s a lot more to it than just building the device. Verizon is known to be cranky about the content delivered through their network, and while I have no idea what they have up their sleeve in regards to iPhone content, I have to say it’ll probably be different than it is on the AT&T network. I hope I’m wrong about that though. Furthermore, Verizon is supposedly going to unveil their new 4G network sometime next year, which will use the new LTE standard, which will supposedly become the universal standard for all wireless networks. So why are they building a CDMA phone in the first place when it’ll just be replaced in a couple of years? The reason this matters to me is that I’m one of the people who would love to have an iPhone, but refuse to switch to AT&T. This is because I constantly see people on AT&T having signal coverage issues. Case in point: the entire floor on which I work which is just slightly below street level is a total dead zone for ALL other carriers except Verizon. If I didn’t have Verizon, I would have no phone service ALL DAY LONG. I’ve seen the same thing happen in other buildings as well. Not to mention Verizon is way ahead of the rest of the pack in customer service ratings. Sorry for the rant.

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