Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for December, 2010

Pakistan drone attack ‘kills 18 militants’

Posted by Anonymous on December 27, 2010

MapMissiles fired by a suspected US drone have struck a vehicle in north-west Pakistan killing at least 18 militants, officials say.

The strike took place in Mir Ali village, 25km (16 miles) from Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district.

US drone attacks are fairly regular in North and South Waziristan which are Taliban and al-Qaeda strongholds.

More than 100 such attacks occurred in 2010, most of them in North Waziristan. …

Officials told the BBC that the first drone fired two missiles at a vehicle, missing it narrowly.

It was joined by two more drones that fired six missiles, killing the four men who had abandoned the vehicle. All four were foreign militants, officials say.

Several minutes later, a group of 14 militants from the group led by Hakimullah Mehsud were killed when a vehicle taking them to the site of the earlier attack was hit by missiles from another drone, they said.

There has been no independent confirmation of the incident. Militant groups often dispute official death tolls.

Drone strikes are credited with killing some top insurgents but are also blamed for civilian deaths.

The repeated attacks have angered Pakistani public opinion. The government criticises such strikes, saying they merely fuel support for militants.

But recent leaked diplomatic cables on the Wikileaks website suggest that Pakistani officials privately condone such strikes. …

via BBC News – Pakistan drone attack ‘kills 18 militants’.

UFO sightings make me more and more nervous.  US citizens are permitted to own guns, but guns against drones are absurd.  Too little too late. If some foreign government got a hold of one of these drones and started targeting US civilians, there should be some personal defense against them. We should each be allowed to build and operate radar to monitor the airspace above our homes and to own a few SAMs … for personal protection.  What is the targeting altitude of a predator? Perhaps there are missiles that are too small and too short range to hurt any civilian aircraft but could provide protection against drones.

Why would Pakistani officials privately condone remote controlled attacks that kill their civilians? Seems unlikely.

Posted in Politics, Technology, War | Leave a Comment »

Holiday Greetings From People in Space

Posted by Anonymous on December 25, 2010

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Sacramento’s K Street to get new look in 2011

Posted by Anonymous on December 25, 2010

According to an article by Jennifer Smith  K street in Sacramento will be getting a major nightlife boost. A San Francisco nightclub operator is going to open a complex of three venues in mid January.

“Pizza Rock features a Sistine Chapel-style painted ceiling celebrating rock, while a real Peterbuilt truck appears to come crashing through a wall, offering an unusual perch for a dj to spin tunes. ..

Next door to Pizza Rock, the upscale Dive Bar features a 7,500-gallon aquarium where mermaids and mermen will perform.

“They’ll just be swimming around in there, they’re going to sit on their perch and interact with the crowd,” said General Manager David Brattmiller.

The third venue in the $8 million complex is called District 30, a nightclub that will cater to the 30-something-year-old crowd. “It’s the best sound you could possibly have,” said Brattmiller.

The Downtown Sacramento Partnership views the new complex as a major addition to the revitalization of K Street. …

By next fall, K Street will also reopen to car traffic for the first time since 1969. …

The City of Sacramento approved a $5.7 million subsidy for the entertainment project last year, hoping it spurs even more economic development in the blighted corridor. …

via Sacramento’s K Street to get new look in 2011 | News10.net | Sacramento, California | News.

Speaking of nightlife on K street, I hope these new clubs also help bring more people to the Crest Theater. I love that place.

Posted in Art | 1 Comment »

Science news highlights of 2010

Posted by Anonymous on December 25, 2010

2010 was a year dominated by the repercussions of the Deepwater Horizon accident, which caused the biggest ever release of oil into the ocean.

In the world of research, we were introduced to “Synthia”, the first life form with synthetic DNA, and “X-woman”, a new member of the human family tree.

BBC science reporter Paul Rincon looks back at the twists and turns of a year in science and the environment. …

via BBC News – Science news highlights of 2010.

Nice review article. I wanted to see if I missed anything in my posts about major discoveries in 2010. Here are two that I would have posted but must have been busy that day:

- the first full-sky image from the Planck telescope.

- The UN biodiversity conference in Nagoya, Japan, agreed a 10-year plan aimed at preserving nature.

Posted in Earth, Space, Survival | 1 Comment »

New solar fuel machine ‘mimics plant life’

Posted by Anonymous on December 25, 2010

In the prototype, sunlight heats a ceria cylinder which breaks down water or carbon dioxide A prototype solar device has been unveiled which mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy into fuel.

The machine uses the Sun’s rays and a metal oxide called ceria to break down carbon dioxide or water into fuels which can be stored and transported.

Conventional photovoltaic panels must use the electricity they generate in situ, and cannot deliver power at night.

Details are published in the journal Science.

The prototype, which was devised by researchers in the US and Switzerland, uses a quartz window and cavity to concentrate sunlight into a cylinder lined with cerium oxide, also known as ceria.

Ceria has a natural propensity to exhale oxygen as it heats up and inhale it as it cools down.

If as in the prototype, carbon dioxide and/or water are pumped into the vessel, the ceria will rapidly strip the oxygen from them as it cools, creating hydrogen and/or carbon monoxide.

Hydrogen produced could be used to fuel hydrogen fuel cells in cars, for example, while a combination of hydrogen and carbon monoxide can be used to create “syngas” for fuel. …

The prototype is grossly inefficient, the fuel created harnessing only between 0.7% and 0.8% of the solar energy taken into the vessel.

Most of the energy is lost through heat loss through the reactor’s wall or through the re-radiation of sunlight back through the device’s aperture.

But the researchers are confident that efficiency rates of up to 19% can be achieved through better insulation and smaller apertures. Such efficiency rates, they say, could make for a viable commercial device. …

via BBC News – New solar fuel machine ‘mimics plant life’.

Posted in Alt Energy | Leave a Comment »

Skype finally bringing video calling to iPhone 4, others?

Posted by Anonymous on December 25, 2010

So let us set this up for you: Skype has been telling everyone that it’ll be making a “series of video-related announcements” at CES next month… and it’s participating in a panel called “Video Calling Gets Ready for Primetime,” so yeah, needless to say, we’d have to guess that Skype’s finally getting ready to enter the mobile video calling game in a big way. Anyhow, the final piece in the puzzle filtered into our inbox this morning: a help document on Skype’s site detailing making video calls using Skype for iPhone. We don’t know whether there’s a corresponding document out there for Android, Symbian, or other operating systems, but we’re certainly hoping so — because if these guys come to the table at once with versions for all the major phone platforms, we’ve got a feeling they’ll be dominating the mobile-to-mobile and mobile-to-PC video calling market in no time.

via Skype finally bringing video calling to iPhone 4, maybe other mobile platforms? — Engadget.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

Iron Age Copper Reveals Earth’s Stronger, Faster Magnetic Field

Posted by Anonymous on December 24, 2010

Slag left over from Iron Age copper smelting shows the Earth’s magnetic field was stronger and more variable than scientists ever imagined.

“This is a very challenging result,” said geomagnetist Luis Silva of the University of Leeds, who was not involved in the new work. “It’s completely outside of anything we thought could be happening in the core.”

The Earth’s magnetic field comes from the movement of molten iron in the core. The field’s strength and structure are constantly changing. But paleomagnetists (scientists who study the history of the Earth’s magnetic field) thought the changes were usually small and slow, fluctuating by about 16 percent over the course of a century.

But a new study of ancient copper mines in southern Israel found that the strength of the magnetic field could double and then fall back down in less than 20 years.

“The magnetic field reached an intensity that was much higher than anyone had ever thought before, two and a half times the present field,” said graduate student Ron Shaar of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, lead author of the new study. “And you can have dramatic changes in the intensity of the field in periods of less than decades.” Shaar presented his results in a poster here at the American Geophysical Union meeting Dec. 14, and in a paper to appear in Earth and Planetary Science Letters.

To measure the strength of the magnetic field, Shaar and colleagues turned to piles of waste metal left near an ancient Egyptian copper mine.

When melted iron cools rapidly, it freezes with a signature of the Earth’s magnetic field at that instant. Paleomagnetists have traditionally studied the glass-like rocks thrown from volcanoes to build a picture of how the magnetic field has changed over time. Their measurements, plus theoretical models, showed that the magnetic field’s strength peaked around 3,000 years ago in the middle Egypt’s Iron Age. …

via Iron Age Copper Reveals Earth’s Stronger, Faster Magnetic Field | Wired Science | Wired.com.

Posted in Earth | 8 Comments »

Pictures: Giant Mars Pits Revealed in Sharp Detail

Posted by Anonymous on December 24, 2010

 Mars pit (NASA space picture)

 Mars pit (NASA space picture)

Car-size boulders punctuate the bottom of the smaller Martian pit (pictured in a fall 2010 HiRISE image). A bright sand dune laced with windblown ripples covers the sloping western side of the hole.

The two pits are believed to be relatively young, according to NASA. As the pits age, the slopes become shallow and widen as they material at the edges collapses inward.

“There are probably thousands of the older ones, and the younger ones like these, which are very steep and dark, may number be up to dozens,” principal investigator McEwen said.

(Related: “Mars Has Liquid Water Close to Surface, Study Hints.”)

Published December 21, 2010

via Pictures: Giant Mars Pits Revealed in Sharp Detail.

 

Posted in Space | Leave a Comment »

Can You Live Forever? Maybe Not–But You Can Have Fun Trying

Posted by Anonymous on December 24, 2010

…. Let’s say you transfer your mind into a computer—not all at once but gradually, having electrodes inserted into your brain and then wirelessly outsourcing your faculties. Someone reroutes your vision through cameras. Someone stores your memories on a net of microprocessors. Step by step your metamorphosis continues until at last the transfer is complete. As engineers get to work boosting the performance of your electronic mind so you can now think as a god, a nurse heaves your fleshy brain into a bag of medical waste. As you—for now let’s just call it “you”—start a new chapter of existence exclusively within a machine, an existence that will last as long as there are server farms and hard-disk space and the solar power to run them, are “you” still actually you?

This question was being considered carefully and thoroughly by a 43-year-old man standing on a giant stage backed by high black curtains… The man was David Chalmers, one of the world’s leading philosophers of the mind. He has written some of the most influential papers on the nature of consciousness. He is director of the Centre for Consciousness at Australian National University and is also a visiting professor at New York University. …

via Can You Live Forever? Maybe Not–But You Can Have Fun Trying: Scientific American.

Posted in Mind, Technology | Leave a Comment »

Rendlesham: UFO mystery ‘was a US cover-up’

Posted by Anonymous on December 24, 2010

Answer to the mystery?: An Apollo space rocket capsule went missing at the time of the incidentTHE internationally-famous Rendlesham “UFO incident” story was a cover-up to save the blushes of blundering US helicopter pilots, a special investigation claimed last night.

BBC Radio Suffolk broadcast a live programme to investigate the enduring mystery of the UFO “crash” in the Suffolk forest nearly 30 years ago – a story which has gripped enthusiasts across the world.

Host Mark Murphy spoke to a number of people who have an interest in the story in an attempt to uncover some truths during the live show, which was broadcast from the Cold War Museum on the former USAF Bentwaters base and the “landing” scene.

He said, after looking at the various theories, the one that seemed most plausible was that the “alien spacecraft” was actually an Apollo space rocket capsule which had been dropped following a helicopter accident early on Boxing Day 1980.

“The Woodbridge airbase was home to the Apollo recovery team which would be called out if the rocket landed anywhere other than the Pacific,” he explained.

“For whatever reason, it seems the helicopter crew went up on Christmas night and took the capsule out for a trip, suspended below it on chains.

“The helicopter was flying low and it smashed into the runway lights, causing it to drop the capsule into the forest. They then came back the next day to recover the capsule. It was then taken to an air force base in America and, apparently, its dimensions match up with those in the forest supposedly caused by the ‘alien spacecraft’.

“Lots of people saw lights in the sky that night and there was one couple, who are no longer with us, who swore they saw a helicopter carrying on chains what looked like an upside down ice cream cornet.” …

via Rendlesham: UFO mystery ‘was a US cover-up’ – News – East Anglian Daily Times.

Posted in UFOs | Leave a Comment »

 
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