Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tuesday Two: Robots and Bacteria

Tuesday Two

Robot Guard In robot news, Josh Lowensohn explores the Rovio, a $250 robot that acts like an internet controlled telepresence guard dog. Let's hope they never hook this thing up to Skynet. Terminator's primitive cousin has been born!
Yuk!  Bacteria! On the biotech front, the cleverly named Institute of Food Research made an announcement about genetically engineered bacteria that does what it is told to do just by eating a rare sugar called xylan. Sounds just tasty. I'll have two!


Tesla Motors has been trying to give themselves a lot of press. Their desperation lead them to submit a couple of cars to the British show Top Gear. Bad move! Well, let's be honest, an electric "sports" car that only has peak performance for a 100 mile radius before needing a 2 to ..umm 16 hour recharge? Well, Top Gear's review may not have been 100% fair, but they make some very important points. Here's the video.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Possible types of Alien Lifeforms (Part 3: Arsenic Life)

What if the basic molecules of life where completely different? Life on Earth needs water, carbon, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, and phosphorous. This last one is of particular interest.

Phosphorous is not particularly abundant on Earth. Yet Terran life needs the element. A similar element that could replace phosphorous is arsenic. Of course, arsenic is poisonous to us. This is because it is so similar to phosphorous. It may be possible that life could have evolved on other worlds to use arsenic instead of phosphorous. This is because arsenic can do everything that phosphorous does (in the way of structural bonding and energy storage). It could also be used to drive metabolism. On such a world, phosphorous would be the poison because it would interfere with those functions, much as arsenic interferes with the functions of phosphorous in life on Earth.

Is it possible for lifeforms to be poisonous to each other because of their basic chemistry? Would it be dangerous for arsenic based lifeforms and phosphorous-based lifeforms to simply touch each other or even to life in the same space?

References: “Are Aliens Among Us?” by Paul Davies, Scientific American December 2007

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

FOX "News" magically turns Republican into Democrats

TCorp has noticed something quite interesting about Fox "News" channel. They are appear to be intentionally labelling embarrassing Republicans as Democrats. Once is a typo, twice is a strange coincidence, but there are four times identified here from over a long period of time.

Fox turns Republicans into Democrats

Fox turns Republicans into Democrats

Fox turns Republicans into Democrats

Fox turns Republicans into Democrats

Hello, can anyone say Nineteen Eighty-Four
or Wag the Dog?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Rat Terriers are an interesting breed. They are smart, but independent. That means, they understand you, but take your directions more as suggestions than actual commands. So, our Rat Terrier is named Toebzilla for the fact that he can be a little terror that acts like Godzilla by often walking around on two paws as he terrorizes. Maybe that's where the word terrier comes from? He is adorable and loving.

He does look to us for approval, though its more a matter of watching us to see what he can get away with. Right now, he's sleeping on our couch on top of a quilted blanket which he has adopted as he bed. He did try to take this liberty without my permission, so I made him get off the couch and wait for permission to hop back on. Now that he's sleeping, he's not terrorizing anything.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tuesday Two: Snap Cracke Pop

Word First

Welcome to the first day of Fall 2009. I have something called Tuesday Two on a professional technical website that I maintain. I will be reposted some of those here from time to time. These will include brief showcases of two noteworthy inventions (maybe more sometimes, maybe less). In addition, I may also highlight an epic fail invention. Hmm, I don't know about that word epic fail. It's too much en vogue right now and will likely not be used in a couple years. Let me make up my own derivative.

I will sometimes highlight an epoch-fail invention. That's likely a safe term that won't get over used by the likes of G4 and other "we are cool gadget geeks" media outlets. Epoch-fail also out-does the term epic fail because even an epic is only a short period when compared to geologic time frame of an epoch. Epoch-fail inventions will be (in my opinion, as always) failures that can be registered in terms of how long the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, or when we last had a comet (or was it an asteroid, or huge broken-down alien space ship) smack into the Yucatan Peninsula.

Also, it should be noted that by "invention", I also mean innovation, device, gadget, idea or any other unique real world or conceptual imagining. Normally, I will stick to recent news, but don't be surprized if I honor the axle or deride the idea that UFO's helped Egyptians build the Pyramids.

Tuesday Two

Kindle saves the Earth!Kindle gets nod for living up to the hype. Recent study shows that it is indeed more environmentally friendly than paper books. This, combined with its new lower price should turn some green heads and open their pocket books.

We'll save Fido when Jesus saves you!Do dogs go to heaven? Regardless to one's beliefs, there is now a service available to take care of pets left behind once the Rapture happens. It's billed as,"The next best thing to pet salvation in a Post Rapture World"


  1. This week's first Epoch-Fail award goes to the beloved iPhone 3GS, based on reports from France that suggest it is exploding and cracking without warning. Yikes!
  2. A second Epoch-Fail award goes to those who have been trying to link the good ol' meat and potatoes diet with bad things. Recent studies have not shown a link between meat and dairy products with breast cancer in women.
  3. Yet a third Epoch-Fail award goes to Bank of America for not cashing the check of a man who was born with no arms because he was unable to provide a thumb print.
  4. This week's final Epoch-Fail award again goes to Apple, but this one is directly granted to Steve Jobs for his alleged lie to the New York Times about why the new iPod Touch doesn't have a camera.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Addition of poetry

So, I experimented with an artsy blog for a few years now, and it's not really gone anywhere, so I'm moving over much of its content to Its Trouble. This is going to occur over time. Any further creative works will be included here, not there. There are already some poems on Its Trouble (click on the Poetry label to see all). Some of the poems that will be republished here are from a past time and represent past feelings. Some of those are more Stream of Consciousness and a finally polished poem. I'm adding all here without judgment or qualification beyond the statements I just made.

I don't know if I'm going to completely shutdown the other site or just leave it up for reference.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Santa Clara Forty-Niners

On June 2, 2009 in a televised Santa Clara City Council meeting, the Term Sheet for the potential 49ers football stadium was approved. The wheels of bureaucracy are in motion. The (hopefully) inevitable outcome is one step closer to being a reality. I don't know what the 49ers will be called when they move to Santa Clara, but they will be moving.

Sorry City of San Francisco. The real engine of the San Francisco Bay Area (Silicon Valley) is getting the prized possession that you took for granted for so long. The 49ers will be moving to the metropolitan area of the nation's 10th largest city (San Jose).

The 49ers will play their games in the heart of their fan base! Only 8% of session ticket holders currently live in San Francisco. It has been suggested that the majority of the 49er's session ticket holders are actually from Silicon Valley, including support from corporations.

Should their name be changed to Santa Clara 49ers, or even Silicon Valley Chips? I'm inclined to say no. I suggest they change their name to San Francisco Bay 49ers. This way they can continue the 49er traditions. Also, they can be said to represent the whole area while still sporting their famous SF logo.

It is my hope that the measure for public approval of the new 49er stadium will be on our ballots in 2010, and that the stadium can be completed for the 2014 session.

One of the bonuses to having a new, well designed stadium is that it will be a likely candidate to host the Super Bowl! If they finish the stadium soon enough, Santa Clara city may be the host city for the Super Bowl before 2020! Even the City of San Francisco will benefit from that, despite their own laziness.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Drake Equation

Drake's Equation is an often quoted formula that is used to guesstimate the number of extraterrestrial civilizations that might be in existence at any one time. It combines eight (often arbitrary) elements from star formation to stages in life development. From this is derived a supposed number that represents how many advanced civilizations might exist in our galaxy right now.

These elements are:

  • Average rate of star formation in our galaxy (R*)

  • Fraction of those stars that have planets (fp)

  • Average number of planets that potentially support life per star that has planets (ne)

  • Fraction of those planets that actually develop life at some point (fl)

  • Fraction of those planets that then develops intelligent life (fi)

  • Fraction of those civilizations that develop technology that can and does send detectable signals of their existence into space (fc)

  • And, the length of time such civilizations remain detectable via their transmissions (L)

The formula this looks something like N = R* x fp x ne x fl x fi x fc x L.

Here's an example of how to use the formula based on estimates of values for its variables.

  • R* = 10/year (10 stars formed per year, on the average over the life of the galaxy)

  • fp = 0.5 (half of all stars formed will have planets)

  • ne = 2 (stars with planets will have 2 planets capable of supporting life)

  • fl = 1 (100% of these planets will develop life)

  • fi = 0.01 (1% of which will be intelligent life)

  • fc = 0.01 (1% of which will be able to communicate)

  • L = 10,000 years (which will last 10,000 years)

Drake's values give N= 10 × 0.5 × 2 × 1 × 0.01 × 0.01 × 10,000 = 10 civilizations with which there is possibility for us to currently communicate. This can be useful to provide rough guests as to the chances of how successful we can expect to be in our hunt for E.T.'s with programs like SETI.  SETI has a lot of equipment pointed into space looking for signals.

By Colby Gutierrez-Kraybill ( [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
However, the formula is so full of guests, it may not have any value at all. In fact, even the elements of the formula are themselves guests. For example, one might question why star formation rate has any impact on how many planets may form with life. Also, given more modern understandings of our galaxy, such as the Rare Earth Hypothesis, many other factors may be more important that those used the Drake Equation. Additionally, there is a problem that many stars have been discovered to have Hot Jupiters, which would destroy any terrestrial worlds, thus preventing the opportunity for life to develop in that star system. Even worse, the question is raised about our own arrogance in the assumption that all life would resemble us enough to communicate in the same forms as we do.

It appears now that the Drake Equation is actually pseudo-science. It is not based on any hypothesis. It is nothing more than a series of guests. It does not produce anything that is testable. In fact, it's author, Dr. Frank Drake, didn't originally intend for this formula to be used in the way that is has been. It was meant to be an organizational tool for the discussion about intelligent life in the Universe specifically for a gathering called The Green Bank Meeting in 1960, so named for its location at the Green Bank Telescope.

Right now, it seems the best way to know how common life is in our galaxy is to explore it. The Drake Equation is more of a mathematical toy than an actual useful formula.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

California Nature (minor tweak)

Your journey roads herald adventure,
Impelling me to climb your cloven heights,
And romp carelessly,
as aureate poppy fields beckon.

Sun-kissed waters bounce along your shoreline.
They entice me to surf the crashing calm waves.

Canopy-enveloped valleys thrive with floral scents
That draw my ingression, but I forestall.

Instead I caper like Racetrack Playa’s sailing stones,
Which tickle your basin by some unseen will.

I endeavor to hike your proud hills,
And find places to gaze lostly into lakes full with sky.

Vineyard nectar overflows like sweet sweat,
To spur my soul’s arousal as I partake.
Your boundless attributes gratify my wanderlust,
And allure me to appease your nature.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"In the Hopper"

As far as I can remember, the very first (and only) time I've ever heard the phrase "in the hopper" occurred this week.  It was such a strange phrase; I had to look it up.  It turns out that the person who introduced me to this phrase used it completely incorrectly.  The statement from that person made to me was similar to "let's keep this in the hopper for awhile."  The inference is that something is being put on hold for a particular time frame.  However, "in the hopper" actually has a meaning that is quite the opposite.  When I looked it up on, I found that it refers to something being introduced or something about to happen or be realized.  Now that I've learned a new phrase, I just might start using it (correctly, of course).  One might say that my use of "in the hopper" is now in the hopper.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Possible type of Alien Lifeforms (Part 2: Exotic Amino Acids)

For the most part, life on Earth uses the same set of nucleotides (amino acids) to form the basis of their DNA. In all, almost all known life uses 20 particular amino acids. These are often classified by their bases as A (adenine), C (cytosine), G (guanine) and T (thymine). These are the basic building blocks of DNA. They are also used to build proteins. Of course, from a certain point of view, DNA is just a really long protein.

How DNA uses these amino acids is described by Paul Davies in his article Are Aliens among Us? published in Scientific American, Dec 2007. He states, "The genetic code is based on triplets of nucleotides, with different triplets spelling out the names of different amino acids. The sequence of triples in a gene dictates the sequence of amino acids that must be strung together to build a particular protein."

Alien lifeforms may use exotic amino acids that are far different than the ones used by life on Earth. It is possible that the set of amino acids we use may not even appear on other worlds. Evidence by scientific study suggests that there are many other forms of amino acids that may be useful (or at least available) for other types of life. Evidence of exotic amino acids on other worlds has come from meteorites. Also, others have been synthesized in the lab.

Other lifeforms from other worlds may be completely different from us while still using the same basic DNA structure we use. A question remains, would life formed by exotic amino acids be all that much different than Terran life in appearance? Would the exotic amino acids lead life to evolve along completely different paths that we as yet have not conceived?

Reference: “Are Aliens Among Us?” by Paul Davies, Scientific American December 2007

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