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Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Science 1 : Malaria 0 ?

Is this it? Do we now have a solution for Malaria and possibly more?  Judge for yourself – this short and very interesting video is well worth watching.

Weird Sounds of a slowed-down Modem

Listen to this – a modem slowed down 700% – it’s WEIRD.

 

Science… is it necessary?

This afternoon I happened to stumble upon this recent recording of the BBC with Professor Brian Cox

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9622000/9622751.stm

The subject matter was interesting and Brian Cox is emerging as a great orator, the kind of person we really need to reverse the current trend away from scientific thinking and back to mysticism which I personally find extremely worrying.

In a world where some understand more than ever about the world and universe around us but in terms of numbers, less and less people can be bothered to try to understand the world around them, the BBC must take much of the blame (for the UK – religion pretty much takes the blame single-handedly in other parts of the world). There was a time when "Tomorrow’s world" at least made an attempt to explain the new emerging technologies but since then the BBC has been on a path of deliberate dumbing down, appealing to illiterate children and adults at the expense of doing what a taxpayers auto-visual tool really SHOULD be doing – and that’s educating us.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the audio recording above as the hapless interviewer tries his best awkwardly to make fun of quantum mechanics instead of taking the opportunity to learn and to help the audience learn from Mr Cox.

I so hate being forced to pay for the continued existence of the BBC – they need to be forced to fight for survival – how many Brits I wonder when comparing SKY with alternatives realise that ITV don’t get the TV licence, so of all the many channels (except for the variations on the BBC) only the one company gets our money (which we have no alternative but to part with) – the BBC – yet when presented with the opportunity to help enrich our knowledge – the best they can do is make fun – thinking we’re just as stupid as they are and won’t understand or care about what Brian Cox and others have to say. What a wasted opportunity.

UFOs… Load of old ROT?

I’ve been thinking about aliens and UFOs recently – mainly because every time I go channel-hopping on Sky there’s some conspiracy program or other trying to prove the government is covering things up.

I’m afraid after many years of thinking about this subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that UFOs fit into the same categories as gods – i.e. wishful thinking, nothing more.

Why?

Well, that’s not to say I don’t think there ARE UFOs – a long way away minding their own business. I just don’t think there are any here – and I think SETI are wasting their time looking for radio broadcasts from space.

Part of the problem is our inability sometimes to see out of the box.. take UFO sightings for example. It’s absolutely DEAD CERT that UFOs do not come from any planet in our solar system – if that doesn’t make sense to you I’m not going to explain other than to say – go and watch Discovery channel – we’d know if there were any massive factories on these planets creating UFOs. So where does that leave us? Well, other solar systems of course.

There are so many star systems out there with planets that there are BOUND to be advanced civilisations out there and they’d need to be a pretty advanced civilisation to send out a UFO into our star system. Why? Because unless their main goal in life was wasting time, they’d have had to figure out how to go faster than light by some way – and our science says that’s pretty much a non-starter.

That’s not to say that faster-than-light travel is impossible – it’s just to say that if it is both possible and practical we won’t be doing it in the near future – and that’s the point… they would have indeed to be so far ahead of us that we could not possibly hold anything other than novelty value for them. This is real life, not Stargate (much as I like Stargate).  Indeed that’s the central plank of my argument – anyone SO advanced would be very unlikely to accidentally leave the lights on so we could spot them at night.

But more’s the point, we’ve been serious about technology for less than my lifetime – lets face it back in the 50’s we had, what BAKELIGHT and VALVES and most devices were that simple that it was actually possible for one very bright person to know pretty much how everything works. Those days have long gone. In 60 years we’ve transformed this planet and our technologies beyond recognition and we’ve only just STARTED…  We USED to send out Megawatts of easily digested signals which would go off to other worlds in time but today we send highly encrypted digital signals – mostly by methods that don’t involve powerful wide-angled radio waves. In time everything will be a mix of optical and short range radio – so we won’t be sending ANYTHING significant out to space and what we do send out will be so well compressed and encrypted – that it will look just like – well, noise. Background noise in fact.

Any aliens likely to be within range will:

a. likely have no use for us other than as zoo specimens

b. be transmitting data so complex we could never hope to read it – just as someone from the 50s could never hope to do anything useful with a DVD.

c. Be watching us from a safe distance just the military can watch us from satellites so far away you can’t tell them from stars – only much much further away and with much better resolution. they are likely now to be watching us as we decimated each other in WWII. There is no way they can see or hear what we’re doing now because the information won’t have reached them yet. They will know that anything they learn will be so old as to be useless.

And if they do need to pop down to pick up samples – they’re CERTAINLY not going to leave the lights on so we can see them coming!

I trust that knocks aliens on the head!

Peter Scargill

Sterling Engine

This is great..  Note the components of this engine – a test tube, some marbles, a pipe, a plastic cork and a syringe !! Marvellous..

 

Sterling Engine – of a sort

Free Solar Panels Anyone?

Around a month ago, I noticed a pamphlet dropped through the door. “Save More Than Money” said the recycled-cardboard ad. “Free electricity from Free Solar Panels” said the tickertape plastered across the front.

The basic idea is you get free installation and supply of a bunch of photoelectric solar panels for your roof – you get the electricity, the company (Norton Energy Solutions) get the kickbacks from the government for electricity returned to the grid – and presumably all sorts of other benefits.

There was a meeting at Wark town hall on Thursday 30th September and apparently this went very well with several people signing up there and then.  I’ve since spoken to the suppliers who say they can also handle flat roofs! Of course, they’ll be generating the most electricity when you are LEAST likely to use it –ie mid-day on  sunny day… and so most of this will presumably end up going back into the grid hence providing the company with subsidised payback – Perhaps I should be less cynical – but I’ve played with lots of different kinds of photovoltaic cells and the difference between direct 90 degree sunlight and anything else… is outstanding..

How well  the PUNTER benefits out of all of this has yet to be seen however they’ve promised to contact me tomorrow with a view to arranging something when I get back from holiday.

Project Natal – Milo

This just blew me out of the water – enjoy…

Venter on DNA and the Sea

This is a video of Craig Venter back in 2007 discussing the progress they were making with artificial life – and how this might be adapted to various uses – i.e. ultimately replacing the petrochemical industries and other gob-smackingly outstanding ideas….   towards the end I was amused when he referred to the 18 months they took out for ethical policy studies… in which they delayed their studies in 1999, in which he says…"every major religion participated in this… it was a very strange study because the various religious leaders were using their scriptures as law books and they couldn’t find anything in them prohibiting making life… so it must be ok"….

Weird – on the one hand you have a guy talking matter-of-fact about stuff that anyone who’s NOT watched him most likely thinks is distant future sci-fi… and on the other hand what kind of crazy state is science in where it has (at least in the US, I hope to Betsy not in the UK) to go talking to religious leaders  for their approval – I thought they only did that in the dark ages!!

Anyway, thankfully none of this has stopped progress and they’re now so far advanced, you can’t help thinking that any day soon we’re going to hear something major – like an alternative to oil, cures for major diseases… it might be just Venter’s style but listening to what they’ve already achieved makes one proud to be around in the early 21st century. WELL impressed….. and his latest video wherein they’ve put together the first artificial working life complete with embedded website address in the DNA – well….mind-blowing…

Here are both videos – I suggest if you’re interested watching them in order…. the TED videos are just SO much better than watching pap on TV as they don’t have to cater for the lowest-common denominator – yet still usually manage to keep the talks surprisingly understandable to the lay-person.

 

The Miracle of Life – The Venter Way

Most people by now will be aware of the somewhat subdued British press reaction to J. Craig Venter’s team’s creation of the first self-replicating cell designed by computer. The BBC made some silly references to the hand of god and otherwise really didn’t do the subject justice.

Is this some mad-scientist tinkering or the real thing? Well most folk will never know as any in-depth conversation on the subject is too dry for public consumption and so your average Sun reader will no doubt continue to think that Venter sits there with a vial of chemicals doctoring cells.

All I can offer is the suggestion that you take a look at the TED video on this subject… this is FAR from mad-scientist stuff. Venter’s team understand so much at this point that rather than making a simple modification, their computer-designed DNA actually contains not only enough information to affect the design of the cell, but while allowing the cell to be viable, they’ve managed to ensure that the DNA of each replicated cell not only contained coded information on the names of the design team but they also have three QUOTES in there!!! Talk about proving the point!!!

Those of you who watched BLADE RUNNER will remember the artificial snake who’s skin sample contained a manufacturing number. Well, Venter and his team are FAR, FAR away from doing anything like that in terms of a snake – but on the other hand the information they’ve implanted in the DNA is WAY ahead of a simple manufacturing number.

If you can stomach the technical babble this is well worth watching.

Finally a Decent Fuel Cell?

When I watched this I was thinking “total con artist” until I saw the customers… this actually looks like it might be real!??!?