Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

Blog of the real Xenophilius Lovegood, a slightly mad scientist

Archive for August 19th, 2011

America (the Band) tonight

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

I just found out that America is performing tonight in Redding, CA. I was headed up to Mt Shasta anyway so I called the Cascade theatre and got one of the last tickets. America’s biggest hit was the song “Horse with no name”, but my favorite is “Sister Golden Hair.” It won’t be exactly the same without Dan Peek singing, but he actually hasn’t been with them since he left the band in 1977. (Dan died last month at 60 years old).

Update: Great show! Gerry Beckley has a very unique and enjoyable voice and has written some great songs with the band. I also enjoyed the openers, Clearcut, who joined America on stage during one of the last songs. The balcony was way too hot and many people complained. They need air conditioning. I was surprised to learn that America has been together playing 100 shows per year for over 40 years.

20110820-085224.jpg

Posted in Music | Leave a Comment »

$1.1 million bus used by Obama has high-tech defenses – but what are they?

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

President Barack Obama has logged more than 300 miles in the rural Midwest so far on what Republican frontrunner, Mitt Romney, is calling his “Magical Misery Tour.” The three-day bus trip will take President Obama through Minnesota, Iowa and Illinois.

But many are more interested in the mystery than any economic misery. The mystery is of course what kind of bus $1.1 million buys.

The imposing Greyhound-sized bus is black, with blacked out windows and red and blue police lights.

The Secret Service refuses to give away many details on the design, but has said it has similar features to Obama’s regular ride, The Beast. The tricked-out Cadillac known as The Beast looks like a regular limousine, but is built more like a tank.

If the Obama Bus is similar to The Beast, it will have tank-like armor and cutting edge technology. For example, The Beast has 8-inch thick armor-plated sides, special bulletproof glass, and Kevlar-reinforced tires. The tires are mounted on specially designed rims that can continue to drive even if the tires are missing.

Like The Beast, the bus is probably airtight, and likely has an advanced fire suppression system, oxygen tanks, and is built to withstand a chemical attack.

In case of a medical emergency, bags of Obama’s blood are likely carried onboard just as they are in The Beast.

With more room than The Beast, the bus will probably have more defensive tricks up its sleeves than The Beast’s night vision cameras, shotguns, and tear-gas cannons.

The electronics and communications are no doubt state of the art, and are sure to replicate The Beast’s direct satellite phone line to the Vice President and the Pentagon.

The Secret Service used a fund for transportation and armored vehicles to buy two of these buses from the Hemphill Brothers Coach Company for a total of $2,191,960. No word on whether the company will make more, but Cadillac said they would not make The Beast for any private customers or foreign country saying the design is “very private and secretive.” Chances are these buses are two of a kind and will remain so. …

via $1.1 million bus used by Obama has high-tech defenses – but what are they? – CSMonitor.com.

Posted in Politics, Technology | Leave a Comment »

IBM produces first ‘brain chips’

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

IBM has developed a microprocessor which it claims comes closer than ever to replicating the human brain.

The system is capable of “rewiring” its connections as it encounters new information, similar to the way biological synapses work.

Researchers believe that that by replicating that feature, the technology could start to learn.

Cognitive computers may eventually be used for understanding human behaviour as well as environmental monitoring.

Dharmendra Modha, IBM’s project leader, explained that they were trying to recreate aspects of the mind such as emotion, perception, sensation and cognition by “reverse engineering the brain.”

The SyNAPSE system uses two prototype “neurosynaptic computing chips”. Both have 256 computational cores, which the scientists described as the electronic equivalent of neurons.

One chip has 262,144 programmable synapses, while the other contains 65,536 learning synapses. …

In humans and animals, synaptic connections between brain cells physically connect themselves depending on our experience of the world. The process of learning is essentially the forming and strengthening of connections.

A machine cannot solder and de-solder its electrical tracks. However, it can simulate such a system by “turning up the volume” on important input signals, and paying less attention to others….

via BBC News – IBM produces first ‘brain chips’.

Posted in Technology | Leave a Comment »

US will review 300,000 immigrant deportation cases

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

Illegal immigrants to the US who pose no threat to the public are likely to have deportation proceedings against them shelved, the Obama administration has announced.

Reviews will be conducted of about 300,000 illegal immigrants marked for deportation, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.

Republicans have argued the policy sidesteps Congressional lawmakers.

An estimated 11m illegal immigrants, most of them Hispanic, live in the US.

The new policy means many illegal immigrants who came to the US as children, have graduated from high school and want to enrol in college or the armed forces will be designated low priority for deportation.

‘Ignoring the law’

Ms Napolitano said pursuing such cases merely clogged up courts, diverting resources away from deporting those who posed a threat to public safety.

In a letter to a group of senators, Ms Napolitano said undocumented convicted criminals would continue to be expelled from the country. …

via BBC News – US will review 300,000 immigrant deportation cases.

Posted in Politics | Leave a Comment »

‘Star Trek’ sequel 2012/2013

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

J.J. Abrams eager for ‘Star Trek’ sequel but says he won’t rush it

“Star Trek” fans were heartened this weekend when one person involved in the 2009 reboot said that the planets were finally aligning for a sequel. A movie that continues the prequel adventures of the young crew of the USS Enterprise could potentially begin shooting next year, producer Damon Lindelof told several outlets, with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto and the rest of the crew back on board.

On Wednesday, J.J. Abrams, who is expected to return to direct the new movie, told 24 Frames that the process is finally kicking into gear but that he and his team need to remain deliberate about it.

“What works, in the feature world and television, is something that has real staying power,” Abrams said. “We’re working hard on that, making the kind of headway that frankly I wish we were able to make months ago. But you can’t do everything.”

The schedules of many of the principals has indeed been stacked with other projects. Abrams has spent much of the time since the first “Star Trek” concentrating on “Super 8,” his throwback monster movie that has become a breakout hit earlier this summer. He’s also had a full plate on the television side, shepherding the new Fox prison series “Alcatraz” and new CBS conspiracy-thriller “Person of Interest” (more on “Person of Interest” shortly).

“Star Trek” writers Alex Kurtzman and Robert Orci, meanwhile, have been working on their drama “Welcome to People,” while Lindelof has been working on Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus.” All three were involved in this weekend’s “Cowboys & Aliens.”

Kurtzman and Orci have said that parts of the new “Star Trek” movie have been sketched out. But based on Abrams’ comments, there’s clearly a lot more work to be done, which would mean that the sequel won’t start shooting until sometime in 2012 at the earliest.

Paramount is itching for a new “Star Trek” installment, what with the last film taking in $386 million around the world and earning critical plaudits to boot. (The studio had tentatively said the movie could come out next June; that’s obviously not going to happen.)

via J.J. Abrams eager for ‘Star Trek’ sequel but says he won’t rush it – latimes.com.

Robert Falconer, May 12, 2011 – … Abrams confirmed that there still isn’t an officially approved script for the Star Trek sequel, but said “we’re working on it.” He also mentioned that for the sequel, Lost veteran Damon Lindelof is working with Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman. So far, all Abrams will promise is “amazing ideas.”

“Damon is working on the script for this one. As busy as I’ve been with ‘Super 8,’ I remember that when we did the first one, Damon was that busy with ‘Lost.’ So it’s going to be very cool to have him on board as a writer…There are some amazing ideas. These are not just great friends of mine, but they’re great writers. I’m thrilled and very optimistic that it’s going to get to where it needs to get to.”

Speculation for the new film has run from Khan…to the possibility of Gary Mitchell appearing in the story. Klingons have also been discussed.

For yours truly, I would like to see the Enterprise encounter something truly epic and beyond imagination. It’s a tall order, and for a tentpole franchise both the studios and the filmmakers may want to stick with the tried-and-true action-adventure mold.

Posted in Science Fiction | 1 Comment »

How old the Moon?

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

That old moon might not be as antique as we thought, some scientist think. They say it’s possible that it isn’t a day over 4.4 billion years old.

But other astronomers disagree with a new study’s conclusions. They think the moon is up to its typical age-defying tricks and is really pushing 4.6 billion as they have suspected all these years.

Either way, the new analysis of an important moon rock brought back by the Apollo 16 mission is showing that the moon isn’t ready to give up its true age and origins quite yet, even though scientists thought they had it all figured out a decade or two ago.

“It’s not as ancient as we might think,” said study chief author Lars Borg, a geochemist at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. His study appears online Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The study uses new techniques and radioactive isotopes of lead and other elements to date the moon rock at 4.4 billion years old. …

via What’s the age of the Moon?.

Posted in Space | 2 Comments »

Wood may be 10 million years older than thought!

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

Wood texturesA study of 400-million-year-old samples of fossils has revealed that woody plants appeared about 10 million years earlier than previously thought.

The samples revealed rings of cells characteristic of wood, a team of scientists observed.

They also suggested that the woody substance appeared to be a mechanism to transport water rather than acting as a support to allow plants to grow taller.

Phillipe Gerrienne, a geologist from the University of Liege, Belgium, told BBC News that the samples are the first and, to date, only samples of woody plants that had been placed in the Early Devonian period.

“The Middle Devonian plants with wood are shrubs or trees of very small stature. Our plants are much smaller, herbaceous and probably 20-40cm (8-16in) tall,” he said.

“I would even say that our plants are smaller than some other contemporaneous plants. In fact, all Early Devonian plants were herbaceous, so externally, you would not be able to tell which had wood and which had not.”

He added that the ancient plant samples featured in the study would help researchers understand the first steps of “true wood” evolution.

The study has been published in the journal Science.

via Wood may be 10 million years older than thought! | Discovery Online.

Posted in Earth | Leave a Comment »

Brain-eating amoebas blamed in three deaths

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

It’s eerie but it’s true: Three people have died this summer after suffering rare infections from a waterborne amoeba that destroys the brain.

… The amoeba, called Naegleria fowleri, is the only type that infects humans and is more than 95% lethal. The first death in 2011 occurred in June in Louisiana, according to the CDC. …

The median age of the victims is 12, possibly because children and teenagers are more likely to play and swim in water. Nearly two-thirds of those killed by the amoeba are children under the age of 13.

The amoebas enter the human body through the nose after an individual swims or dives into warm fresh water, like ponds, lakes, rivers and even hot springs.

Lurking in fresh waters during the summertime, they’re more likely to infect humans in July, August and September.

It’s unclear why out of the millions of people who swim in the same fresh waters, a small fraction of people are infected by the amoeba. …

The amoeba is not a parasite. A human is an “accidental end point for the amoeba after it’s forced up the nose,” Yoder said. It does not seek human hosts.

But when an amoeba gets lodged into a person’s nose, it starts looking for food. It ends up in the brain and starts eating neurons.

“It causes a great deal of trauma and a great deal of damage,” Yoder said. “It’s a tragic infection. It’s right at the frontal lobe. It affects behavior and the core of who they are — their emotions, their ability to reason — it’s very difficult.”

Early symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, vomiting and neck stiffness. Later symptoms include confusion, lack of attention to people and surroundings, loss of balance, seizures and hallucinations.

The amoeba multiplies, and the body mounts a defense against the infection. This, combined with the rapidly increasing amoebas, cause the brain to swell, creating immense pressure. At some point, the brain stops working.

Death typically occurs three to seven days after the symptoms start. …

via Brain-eating amoebas blamed in three deaths – CNN.com.

Naegleria (nay-GLEER-e-uh) infection is a rare and usually fatal condition caused by an amoeba commonly found in freshwater lakes, rivers and hot springs. Exposure occurs during swimming or other water sports.

The amoeba — called Naegleria fowleri — travels up the nose to the brain, where it causes severe damage. Most people who have naegleria infection die within a week.

Millions of people are exposed to the amoeba that causes naegleria infection each year, but only a handful of them ever get sick from it. Health officials don’t know why some people develop naegleria infection while others don’t. – cnn

If you go to hot springs, don’t put your head under the water unless the water is treated. Is this why we sneeze if we get water in our nose?

Posted in Strange | 1 Comment »

Criminal ‘Flash mobs’ pose challenge to police tactics

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

Flash mobs are typically random performance art, not gatherings of criminals. I organized the first flash mob in Sacramento years ago. We put on tin foil hats and walked from the Crest Theatre to a nearby park to hear some music, then disbanded.

Armed with cellphones and connected through Facebook, bands of young people have been rushing into stores to steal goods or assaulting bystanders in a spate of recent “flash mob” incidents across the USA.

Philadelphia leaders imposed an early curfew on parts of the city this month after roving bands of teens beat and robbed bystanders during violent attacks across the city. This week, surveillance cameras caught several dozen youths swarming into convenience stores in Germantown, Md., and Washington, D.C., and stealing armfuls of snacks and drinks as the store clerk looked on helplessly.

The suspects in these crimes often connected via cellphones and share information on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook, police say.

… Everyone agrees: It’s uncharted territory for law enforcement.

“You’re looking at an emerging form of crime,” says Sean Varano, a criminologist at Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. “We don’t know what power these police agencies have to monitor these websites or where do reasonable expectations of privacy start. “

A recent survey of 106 retailers nationwide by the National Retailer Federation showed that 80% had experienced multiple-offender crimes in the past six months and one in 10 had been hit by a criminal flash mob, says Joseph LaRocca, a senior adviser with the group. “These crimes are not new,” he says. “What’s new is the social network and Internet activity to coordinate these ad hoc attacks against stores.” He adds: “We’re still trying to figure out how best to address these issues.”

Addressing them is often tricky. Earlier this month, the Cleveland City Council proposed making it a crime to summon a flash mob via Facebook, Twitter and other social media. It was a response to recent flash mob violence in Cleveland suburbs that was mobilized by social media sites. Mayor Frank Jackson vetoed the proposal, saying the ordinance might infringe on residents’ rights.

“Use of this technology in a criminal way and how we react to it — without throwing away the Constitution — is a challenge we all have,” Jackson says. “We want to be responsible.”

One of the most controversial recent incidents occurred last week in San Francisco when a group of activists threatened to block access to downtown San Francisco subway stations to protest the shooting by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police of a homeless man. Transit police shut down cellphone service at the stations Aug. 11 to quell the protests. The hackers group Anonymous responded by breaking into the transit agency’s marketing website and releasing personal information of more than 2,000 customers.

Shutting down cellphone service to combat protests — a tactic seen in Iran during 2009 election protests and in Egypt earlier this year during protests that eventually ousted president Hosni Mubarak— is not normally done in the USA, says Rebecca Jeschke of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group for digital and electronic rights. BART officials called the tactic a legal way to ensure a safe commute.

“I’m deeply disturbed by the idea that a government agency will shut down cellphone service if they suspect there is a planned protest,” Jeschke says. …

via ‘Flash mobs’ pose challenge to police tactics – USATODAY.com.

This part bothers me the most:

… A recent survey of 106 retailers nationwide by the National Retailer Federation showed that 80% had experienced multiple-offender crimes in the past six months and one in 10 had been hit by a criminal flash mob, says Joseph LaRocca, a senior adviser with the group. …

I don’t think this is true, but perhaps of the 100,000 stores owned collectively by Wallmart, Target, K-mart, etc, there have been 14 flash mobs that were criminal (out of hundreds which were just goofy art). The way this is twisted makes it sound like a hidden attack on our constitution. I agree with Gene Policinski, executive director of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who says:

“We open up a dangerous area if we start empowering agencies to prevent us from speaking because it might down the road lead to something else.”

via USAToday

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

China Debuts a Drone at Robotics Show – WSJ.com

Posted by Anonymous on August 19, 2011

Nathan Hodge – China made its debut this week at the world’s largest robotics trade show when a Shenzhen-based firm showcased its F50, a small drone with a high-definition video camera that a company brochure billed as a tool for monitoring protests, or responding to building fires.

 

The appearance of AEE Technology Co.’s relatively small, short-range drone—about the size of a pizza pan—in the drone market underscores the burgeoning international competition in the market for unmanned aerial vehicles and military robots.

State-run and private Chinese companies have invested heavily in recent years in developing drones both for export and for China’s military and …

via China Debuts a Drone at Robotics Show – WSJ.com.

Pretty much a toy compared to at least one drone they had two years ago according to the China Defense Blog, Sunday, July 03, 2011:

The existing of a Chinese “Global Hawk” is nothing new as it has been featured in various trade-shows and with reported maiden flight conducted on November 7th 2009 (here).

However, until today there has been no confirmation to suggest that the PLAAF is adopting this high high-altitude UAV — this recent photo of Xianglong in PLAAF color suggests that the program is advancing to next stage of development.

Posted in Technology, War | Leave a Comment »

 
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