Saturday, April 28, 2007

Leprechaun Sighting

Okay, looked up in that tree and really tried to see the Lepechaun. Maybe you'll have better luck than me.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday Madness 4/27/07: Log riding

(via Brian Flemming)

Bobby "Boris" Pickett R.I.P.

I just found out that Bobby "Boris" Pickett, the singer of The Monster Mash, has died. I'm sad not only because I have a soft spot for composers of goofy songs, but because Pickett was an ardent environmentalist. A couple of years ago, Pickett reworked his old classic with new lyrics to benefit Defenders of Wildlife. Take a listen to Monster Slash.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Supper time!

I can't imagine feeding this many dogs at once. But the most amazing part, for me, was that none of them went for the food until they were given the okay. Now that's some disciplne!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Monster by Mail: the sequel

Len from Jawbone Radio has begun the second phase of Monster by Mail. This time the theme is Fictional Movie Monsters. You come up with the name for a horror/sci-fi flick, and he'll draw you a monster from that movie (and mail it to you). This opens up avenues that didn't exist with the single word description.

The other difference this time around is that the "making of" video is no longer free--it's ten dollars extra. I can't blame him for raising the price, though. Puting together the videos takes time. Plus, the first phase of the project (150 monsters) sold out in a week, and this phase only exists by popular demand.
UPDATE #1: I may have misspoken. It seems the YouTube videos are still free like the last time; the $10 gets you a hard copy of the "making of" video. This should be a higher quality than the flash video from YouTube. I'm not sure whether it's just this or if the hard copy includes a non-time-lapse version of the video. I'll let you know when I get mine in the mail.

UPDATE #2: I just got my high quality mp4 version of the YouTube video. It looks really good in full screen mode!

Anyhoo, here's the one I ordered: Attack of the Probing Mantis from Mars (Click on the picture to see the "making of" video.)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Carnival of Mathematics: Edition 6 is up

The sixth edition of The Carnival of Mathematics is up at Modulo Errors. My favorite submission was about the guy who thought he was being clever by finding a "short cut" to a problem only to discover that "brute force" was actually the most efficient means of solving that problem.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday Madness 4/20/07: The Day They Kicked God out of the Schools

It looks like this asshat has figured out the root cause behind all school shootings.

Can rocket science build a better brain surgeon?

Doctors and scientists at the University of Calgary have developed a surgical robot that's MRI compatible. That means that a brain surgeon sitting at a computer screen can remotely perform surgery on a patient while getting detailed MRI images of the surgery. Pretty neat!

"Many of our microsurgical techniques evolved in the 1960s, and have pushed surgeons to the limits of their precision, accuracy, dexterity and stamina," says Dr. Sutherland, professor of neurosurgery, University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine and the Calgary Health Region. "NeuroArm dramatically enhances the spatial resolution at which surgeons operate, and shifts surgery from the organ towards the cell level."

Designed to be controlled by a surgeon from a computer workstation, neuroArm operates in conjunction with real-time MR imaging, providing surgeons unprecedented detail and control, enabling them to manipulate tools at a microscopic scale. Advanced surgical testing of neuroArm is currently underway, followed by the first patient, anticipated for this summer.

The neuroArm should significantly improve brain surgery by allowing neurologists to do things they can only dream about today.

"The best surgeons in the world can work within an eighth of an inch. NeuroArm makes it possible for surgeons to work accurately within the width of a hair," Doc Seaman says. "This will put us on the world stage and will help attract more top people in medicine and surgery, which will benefit the university and the community as a whole."

And it really is rocket science.

A global search for robotics expertise led Sutherland to MDA, a perfect fit for neuroArm because of the company's background in creating specialized space robots, used aboard NASA space shuttles and the International Space Station.

"NeuroArm is a great fit for us, allowing us to apply our world-renowned space solutions to medical applications that will benefit patients here on Earth," says Bruce Mack, vice-president of development programs of MDA's Brampton operations. "The combination of our remote operation and sensory information expertise, coupled with our manipulation technologies, will enable improved decision making and performance in the operating theatre."

Developing neuroArm required an international collaboration of health professionals, physicists, electrical, software, optical and mechanical engineers to build a robot capable of operating safely in a surgical suite and within the strong magnetic field of the intraoperative MRI environment.

A collaboration between brain surgeons and rocket scientists: there has to be a joke in there somewhere.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

This bone makes sperm!

God is alleged to have made Eve from one of Adam's ribs. Now scientists are a step closer to knocking her up with one of his ribs. Scientists in the UK have created primitive sperm cells from bone marrow stem cells.

They have yet to make fully functioning human sperm this way, but last year, they were able to achieve that with mouse stem cells. The obvious benefits would be for infertile men (eg. testicular cancer survivors) to create ther own sperm. But scientists caution that there's still a lot we don't know.

Experts caution that turning sperm stem cells derived from bone marrow into functioning sperm would be no small feat. "Before we get too excited about this being a new form of infertility treatment, these cells cannot as yet be made into functioning sperm, so we have no idea if they can pass 'the acid test' – the ability to fertilise female eggs as is achieved with donor sperm in IVF treatment,” says Malcolm Alison of the London School of Medicine and Dentistry in the UK.

Stem cell biologist Harry Moore at the University of Sheffield in the UK worries that sperm created from bone stem cells could have undetectable abnormalities that could cause disease in offspring. "Unfortunately, these stem cell manipulations can lead to permanent genetic changes which would make them unsafe to use especially as a potential sperm or egg,” he says.

Anyway, this seems really exciting. But as is that wasn't enough, there is another potential application of this technology.

And women may be able to use the technique to produce sperm, allowing lesbian couples to have their own biological daughters. Nayernia says that researchers have produced the same early-stage sperm cells in mice from bone marrow cells taken from female mice.

"It should be perfectly possible for fully functional mature sperm cells to be made from these female-derived cells too," he told New Scientist.

Come on, aren't you just thrilled to the bone?

Sunday Madness 4/15/07: Masochism Tango

I was first introduced to Tom Lehrer through Dr. Demento. Here's a hilarious animated video of the Masochism Tango. (via Ed Brayton)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Friday, April 13, 2007

Birthday wishes!

On this date in 1743, the man who would become this nation's third President was born. Besides being the third President, I consider Jefferson, along with Benjamin Franklin, to be one of the leaders of The Enlightenment on this side of the Atlantic. I think my next bible will have to be a Jefferson Bible.

But enough about Jefferson. Today is also the birthday of a certain lady on a Roman Holiday. Happy Birthday, Mom! I hope you're enjoying Rome.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Monster by Mail

Len from Jawbone Radio has been busy with his latest project Monster by Mail. To raise money for his new baby he set out to draw 150 monsters on demand.

For a limited time only, I am offering original hand-drawn monster sketches, delivered right to your doorstep. Not only that, but you'll be able to watch your monster be drawn and colored through the magic of VIDEO!

Simply write one word to describe your monster - greasy, stinky or melancholy, for example. If you write more than one word, I will only use the first one, so choose carefully! Click the Paypal button and your word will be automagically sent to me. When I get your word, I'll draw a monster based on the word, slap a stamp and your address on the card and you'll have AN ORIGINAL PIECE OF ART IN YOUR MAILBOX within a few days! You'll also be able to watch a video of the creation of your monster.

I've been having a ball watching the videos as they come out. I've even been turned on to some musical artists I hadn't heard of before (ex--The Ropes). Luckily I got in early because he sold out quickly.

Thanks for making Monsters By Mail such a huge success, Thanks to your support, we met our goal in UNDER ONE WEEK. However, due to the overwhelming response, I have closed up shop to meet the demand. But not to worry. Monsters By Mail will reopen soon and I'll continue doing original monster art for all! Huzzah!

It would be awesome if he brings it back, because I noticed a dearth of bugs! How can there not be more bugs?!? Or perhaps a monster that some people would actually find scary, like "PeanutAllergy." Anyway, for now he's not accepting any more submissions but he's only about half way through the monster orders, so there's still plenty more videos to come.

Here's a few of my favorites (click on the picture to see it being drawn).




And last but not least, the drawing I comissioned for my sister's birthday: Happy Birthday, Titi!


Creepy Doll

Ths is just like when I saw them live ... except without the uke player. Damn! Why do New Yorkers have all the fun?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Friday, April 06, 2007

Carnival of Mathematics: Ordinal 5

The fifth edition of The Carnival of Mathematics is up at Science and Reason. After a quick perusal, my favorite posts are the one's about Penrose-oid patterns in medieval muslim tiling.

The study of the mathematics behind muslim tiling is nothing new, but the connection to Penrose patterns is.

Friday Madness 4/6/07: End Of The Line

Some people go to film festivals and act like a kid in a candy store. I understand that, but I'm not a huge cinema buff. I like movies, but I rarely go to the movies (and I almost never watch TV). So when a film festival comes to my home town, I try to see some of the films. Tonight I'm going to see The Curse of William Penn, and tomorrow night it will be End of the Line.

It appears to be a standard George Romero type horror film, except that instead of brain eating zombies, we have religious fundies intent on either converting or killing you.

Could this be Armageddon? I don't know, but it sure sounds like a fun movie.

Bar fun with pi

Above is the pi animation which I featured before. I like it because it gives you a real perspective of what pi means as well as a sense of scale. For example, watch the video below and see if you think those bar patrons would've been fooled if they had been familiar with the above animation.

Naturally he would have had less success if they had been drinking beer from bottles, and if they'd been drinking from pint glasses

he could've stacked it even higher. (Ahh, but how much higher?) That's the power of knowing a little bit of math: you can win bar bets against those who know no math. (There might be some other advantages too.)

Monday, April 02, 2007

World Oil Production About to Peak Out!

Fredrik Robelius of Uppsala University in Sweden theorizes in his doctoral disertation that World Oil production will go into decline some time between 2008 and 2018. He's not saying that the wells will run dry, but rather that the easily pumpable stuff won't be spewing up any more. That means that we're going to have to work harder to get at the stuff that is there, and production levels will necessarily go down.

Fredrik Robelius bases his forecasts on studies of global oil reserves, historical production, and new finds. He focuses on the very largest oil fields, so-called giant fields, which produce a total of at least 500 million barrels of oil.

Giant fields comprise only about one percent of all oil fields in the world, but they nevertheless account for more than 60 percent of total production. Unfortunately, the trend is heading downward when it comes to new giant-field discoveries, both in terms of the number of fields and the volume of the fields located. The majority of the largest giant fields are found around the Persian Gulf and are more than 50 years old.

“The dominance of giant fields in global oil production supports the thesis that they will be crucial to what future production will look like," says Fredrik Robelius.

He developed a model based on historical production, the total exploitable reserves of the giant fields, and their rate of diminution. The model assumes that oil fields have a constant rate of diminution, which Robelius has verified by studying a number of giant oilfields where production has waned. The analysis shows that an annual rate of diminution between 6 and 16 percent is reasonable.

To be sure that the future production of a field will wind up inside the interval of the model, Robelius used both pessimistic and optimistic estimates. Then he combined the results from the model with field forecasts for deep-water production, new finds, oil sand in Canada, and heavy oil in Venezuela to construct his forecasts.

“All cases studies show that global oil production will begin to drop off at roughly the same time as the giant fields. According to the most pessimistic scenario, the peak will be reached in 2008, whereas the most optimistic scenario, assumed to follow a 1.4-percent annual increase in demand, places the peak in 2018."

And just in case you thought nuclear power was the answer, think again.

Over the past 20 years, safety concerns dampened all aspects of development of nuclear energy: No new reactors were ordered and there was investment neither in new uranium mines nor in building facilities to produce fuel for existing reactors. Instead, the industry lived off commercial and government inventories, which are now nearly gone. worldwide, uranium production meets only about 65 percent of current reactor requirements.

This means we need to get serious about developing alternative and renewable energy sources, as well as step up conservation efforts and eliminating wastefull energy usage. The best way to do this is to raise prices. Keep in mind this is about to happen sooner than we had predicted: the supply is about to diminish and I see no clear sign that demand is headed in that direction. Better to start raising prices now with a stiff energy tax and us the revenue to build the altie infrastructure. I just hope this happens before it's too late. But then again, who needs to plan for the future when you've got quarterly budget targets to meet? (GRRRR!!!)

Also, if you're thinking that Fredrik Robelius is just a lone loon who's numbers don't add up, check out what Matthew Simmons, chairman of Simmons & Co. International in Houston has to say.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

The Curse of William Penn

Easter weekend is just about upon us. My family lives out of town and I'll be staying home (that means missing my sister's birthday ... er, I meant tenth anniversary of her 29th birthday. But it can't be helped; I can't exactly afford to fly to the Bahamas right now.) And not being the church-going type, what exactly can I do?

One possibility is the Philadelphia Film Festival. Okay, more than just a possibility; I plan on watching some of these films. I don't have my whole itinerary planned yet, but I have settled on my film for Friday night: The Curse of William Penn.

The premise of the film is that the reason that no Philadelphia team has won a championship since 1983 is because they started building skyscrapers taller than the hat on the head of the statue of William Penn atop City Hall.

For years, nobody could erect a building taller than Billy Penn, but in 1985/1986 that taboo was finally broken ... and the city hasn't won a championship since. Could it be a curse? An atheist like myself isn't supposed to believe in curses, but as a Philadelphia sports' fan ...

Otters in love

Here's a video of two otters floating around holding hands. It's really cute, but I have a major complaint with it. The adorable footage is ruined by a soundtrack consisting of the excruciatingly mind-numbing chatter of some very annoying and noisy primates. I would recomend muting the sound while watching.
(In all fairness, not all primates are this annoying. The screams of howler monkeys

would have worked just fine.)