In a fit of profound cleverness (in the “who would have thought of that” department) a photocopier has been invented by Fuji that will copy a page in Japanese, translate it into English, and put the English words on the page in the place of the Japanese ones in the final printout (or English to Japanese if you desire. Unbelievable. Still, I imagine it could create some particularly humorous nonsense sentences when they machine puts the literal translation in but can’t compensate for syntax or meaning.

Also, gotta love those Estonians. Having already tried an internet based national election, they are now moving on to plans for and election where people vote using their mobile phones. Given the amount of info you need to hand over to get a mobile contract, and the fact that the SIM ID is a unique identifier it seems like a pretty clever idea (and one which appeals to both my nerdish and my politically vacal tendencies.


Firstly, hooray for those quirky folk at MIT:

1. They think they’ve discovered the molecular basis for fear. Now if that isn’t a potential target for military drug R&D I don’t know what is.

2.  They’ve also been tinkering with next generation space suits, which instead of being pressurised are just really really elastic, to counteract the effects of the no atmosphere of space, and the low atmoshere of other plants/moons.

Next, using the power of photon emission some guys have developed a genuine random number generator. This is great because up until now most all computer based random numbers were just approximations generated by an algorithm, and not actually random. What’s even better is it’s apparently available free of change via the internet for researchers or other people interested in random numbers.

Finally, those/us cooky New zealanders, they’ve come up with an idea to make a biofuel derived from algae that can be used to power commercial jets. They go on to say that algae ponds covering “only” 34,000 square kilometers could supply enough fuel for all the world’s aircraft. That sounds great in theory, but that’s somethink like 15% of NZ’s land area, that doesn’t sound quite to practical…

I finally get it

One of the amusing features of getting old is that it seems to take longer and longer to become aware of and take up the emerging cultural trends of the day. My first recallection of this was when the whole “Bling” phenomenon passed me by for about 5 months before I became aware of it (not that that really constituted a big loss for me, or the rest of society for that matter).

I have generally put it down to the fact that you spend all day working and not randomly surfing the net or gossiping with vacuous 15 year old girls (who unfortunately seem to originate and perpetuate many of these “trends”).

As a result I have been amused to realise that after several years of reading about them and hearing everyone go on about how it’s the new hot thing, I finally seem to “get” the internet phenomenons of Youtube and Facebook.

I had in the past looked at a few videos on youtube, but had never gone beyond linking in to look at a specific video, and then leaving again. I just didn’t get the whole fun of jumping from video to tenuously related video and seeing where it took me, or watching (usually only parts of) unbelievably bad video blogs. Perhaps its the acquisition  of higher speed broadband that has changed it for me (less loading lag time) but I’ve now found quite a lot of fun in link-surfing around Youtube. I’ve also decided that it’s a great system for putting video on my blog (as seen recently in my Youtube Stumbles regarding Harry Potter) without having to bother with setting up my own streaming video server – watch for more videos of Jack soon.

Facebook also was something I saw people using and didn’t get. I couldn’t see the point. I could email people quite adequately already, why would I need to do it through a website for everyone else to see as well? But in a fit of curiosity a few weeks back I signed up and now I can’t seem to go 12 hours without checking whether I’ve got new friends, or new photos have been added, or someone’s changed their status, or written on my wall. It’s unbelievably compulsive. It also makes sitting in my study being boring and reading anatomy seem immensely less socially isolating than it was only a month ago.

So it’s only taken  me a few years to get with the program, but I’m finally here.

If you are using facebook as well and want to add me as a friend, you should be able to locate me with either my gmail or hotmail addresses.

Keeping a foot in the door

After seeming to blindly stumble into corporate quick sand, by choosing to continue investing in film based photography and ignore the rise of digital cameras, it looked for a while like Kodak might go the way of the dinosaurs, however some good corporate restructuring and product re-alignment seems to have held them steady, and now it looks like once again they are regaining their place at the top of the photographic food chain.

Today I was reading about a new filter technology which Kodak has invented with dramitally increases the light sensitivity of digital camera sensors (by a factor of 2 to 4, depending on shooting conditions). This will apparently have particular applications in mobile phone cameras.

Anyway, now I’m looking forwards to it’s arrival.

I love technology, by sometimes being a wannabe early adopter is a bit of a hassle.

Suburban insecurity

One of the things I have noticed in our house, parked as it is in the middle of suburbia, is the preponderance of wireless networks in our area.

Not only do we have good reception on our own wireless modem, we can see at least 4 others depending on where you are standing in the house.

This says something quite interesting about the extent to which networking hardware and fast broadband internet connections have become mainstream technologies.

The other thing that this has illustrated is that you can make technology simple and accessable, but as much as you spell it out in the installation instructions you can’t make make people take security seriously. Of those wireless networks I mentioned, only 2 had any form of security set up on them. The others were open for anyone to see/use/access/hack. I imagine that it simple constitutes ignorance on the part of the owners, but if they knew how much a person parked outside their house could access, I think they’d be pretty disturbed.

Physical activity

I read yesterday about a couple of cool things in the world of physics.

Firstly it appears that they may finally have observational evidence of the presence of dark matter. There is a really good explaination of the results and some of the background of the science here. It also contains links to the academic paper and the NASA press release. Given that this has been such a bone of contention in modern physics it’s nice to see it starting to pan out one way or another.

Secondly, an Irish company (those crazy crazy Irish) believes it has stumbled upon a way of producing “clean” energy from some system involving the interactions of magnetic fields. It’s a superb advance if it can be validated independently, although if that happens it will also confuse the hell out of a lot of people, because superficially at least it appears to violate the first law of thermodynamics (which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, but can only be converted from one form to another). They have publically advertised for independent physicists to validate their system, and it will be interesting to see what the eventual outcome is.

Foolish things to do with cordial

A few weeks back I did something rather stupid.

I was drinking a glass of cordial and put it down on my desk as I was playing on my computer.

Jack being his usual rumbunctious self jumped up onto the desk, and started sniffing my cordial with a view to drinking it (he likes human drinks, but thankfully hasn’t figured out how to get into the grog cupboard yet).

Simone trying to be helpful shifted the drink closer to me so that I could stop Jack from drinking it, and somewhere in the subsequent confusion Jack moved, I reacted, and the cordial spilled onto my computer’s keyboard.

Now in the past I had heard stories about people drying their keyboards and continuing without any problems, but that didn’t seem to work.

Then I recalled some-one who swore that they had washed their keyboard and hung it out to dry, and had it back working the next day. Obviously they didn’t have a laptop keyboard, because that didn’t work either.

In the end I just had to bite the bullet and buy a replacement keyboard.

Turned out to be the most expensive cup of cordial I’ve ever had.

Anyway, for everyone’s amusement, here is a pretty picture of my keyboard in the bathroom sink. Kids, don’t try this without asking your parents first.


For once I agree with Phil

It seems that you should never say never.

While I pretty much disagree with almost everything Philip Ruddock (Australian Attorney general) say and does (sometimes simply as a matter of principle), I actually agree with him on this one.

Essentially it ammounts to finally codifying fair use within Australian law, because currently it is technically illegal to copy CDs you own onto an iPod in order to listen to the songs, and other things of that nature.
If nothing else it nice to occasionally see the media consortiums not always getting entirely their own way.

One step closer

I have in the past commented several times on my opinion that a really worthwhile application of digital technology lies in the ability to digitally photograph, catalogue and store the contents of old and rare (particularly religious) texts so that they should be accessable to everyone.

The other day I stumbled on another little technology that makes this an easier and more realistic prospect.

It’s called DjVu and is a new image compression system designed specifically to allow documents to be scanned so as to be readable, and to compress the resulting files to be smaller than if they had been compressed with other systems such as JPEG.

One step closer.