Monthly Archives: February 2004

Slacker

Call me a slacker; I got a little lazy last week and stopped posting. By the time I wanted to post something on Saturday, my ISP went down in a burst of flames and remains down until today. Their router died, cutting off all their customers from the internet. Bummer.

But that is a lame excuse. Connectivity wasn’t lost until Saturday. I just got lazy last week and took a break. Now I am back, and raring to go. If only my ISP would fix their problems. At least I still have internet access at work.

Opportunity Located

NASA image of Opportunity landing siteAnd now NASA releases a composite photo showing the Opportunity Rover’s landing site at Meridiani Planum, taken from passing satellites in Mars orbit. The images were composited to create this graphic. The parachute is visible along the left side of the image, while the heatshield appears to have landed below the prominent crater at the right.

Perhaps most exciting is the mark Opportunity made in the soil on its first, initial bounce. The imprint is plainly visible, which is a good indicator of the looseness of the soil and its fine, dustlike nature. Matching sightings taken by Opportunity with these high detail satellite photos (and photos the rover took during its descent), NASA was able to determine the precise location of the small crater where the rover came to rest.

So now we know the neighborhood, let’s go meet some of the neighbors. Like that big honking crater about a kilometer away. Maybe there’s a Quickie Mart in there or something.

Plants Give Up Their Secret of Splitting Water

Here’s a hopeful sign for upcoming hydrogen age; scientists have isolated the chemical structure used by plants to split water into breathable oxygen and hydrogen. This was the process which changed our atmosphere into an oxygen rich one billions of years ago. If we could harness this process, the very oceans could become a vast source of renewable energy for fuel cells and hydrogen powered automobiles.

Australian Scientists Corroborate Evidence Of Martian Life

The Allen Hills MeteoriteHere’s a hot one: Scientists at the University of Queensland announced the discovery of identical magnetic crystals in both the infamous Martian meteorite and samples of terrestrial bacteria.

In 1996, NASA stunned the world by announcing evidence of life found within a meteorite recovered in Antarctica. They found evidence of organic chemicals, microfossils, and mineral waste products in close proximity to each other within the meteorite, leading to their conclusion that life existed in the cracks within the rock. But questions still remain: Are these materials evidence of life or some other process? And if they are by products of bacteria, could they merely be the remains of terrestrial microbes infiltrating the meteorite? All in all, questions remain before a definitive answer can be found.

But this new announcement could the valuable corroboration. The UQ team identified microscopic, magnetic crystals within the meteorite that matched crystals contained in the structures of common terrestrial bacteria collected on a golf course.

Dr Taylor, who now works for the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation in Sydney, said this research seriously challenges doubts of skeptical scientists by discovering that many bacteria match the features found in the Martian meteorite.

“Our research shows that the structures found in the NASA meteorite were more than likely made by bacteria present on Mars four billion years ago, before life even started on Earth,” said Dr Taylor.

How cool is that? Did life once exist on Mars? Even more tantalizing; did life on Mars provide the seed for life on our planet billions of years ago? People wonder why we send probe after probe to Mars, looking for evidence of water and life – well here’s a pretty good reason. The discovery of extra-terrestrial life ought to be a worthy subject of scientific research. And those two rovers putting around on the red planet right now are helping to answer these questions.

The First Steps Down A Slippery Slope

I seem to recall mentioning a similar story long ago, but I will go ahead and give a nod to this story about the quarantining of dissenters and protesters from anywhere near President George W. Bush. Those with differing opinions are sequestered miles away from the media and public attention in “free speech zones,” an Orwellian Newspeak term if there ever was one. I found particularly galling the tale about the protester who was arrested for trespassing in a public park, after police picked his sole dissenting poster out of a mass of pro-Bush banners.

The problem is not just the abuse of power and the curtailing of civil liberties that the current administration has embarked upon. It is the apathy of most Americans in the face of these assaults on civil liberties. We are like frogs, slowly boiling as the water heats up, yet too comfortable to hop out of the pot. Everyday another barrage of images on the television dulls our senses and fills our heads with propaganda. Forget religion, television is the opiate of the masses. Media demagogues preach ever more extreme views and seek to destroy the freedoms established by generations. Violence is glorified, ignorance championed – where will it lead? What is to become of us? Will the interminable War on Terror become a New Imperial Century?

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me–
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Rev. Martin Niemoller

Good News Everyone!

The best news I’ve heard all week: Microbrewery resurfaces at Mac & Marti’s in Tumon. The Great Deep Brewing Company guys used to work their magic out of Le Tasi Bistro in Hagatna, but differences with the restaurants owners forced them out early last year. I was bummed out, because Thursday nights at Le Tasi were becoming a habit of mine; good beer, tasty tapas menu, and my friends the Pago Bay Reefers playing a couple sets. And while two of those three ingredients still exist at Le Tasi, I must admit I really enjoyed the beer on tap.

Now I get the chance to swill their brew once again. They are tapping a keg at Mac & Marti’s down in Tumon, one of Guam’s new trendy bars. I guess I need to start braving Tumon’s horrible traffic once again and taste that great beer.

Creativity Machines

Found an interesting article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about a St. Louis resident’s amazing creativity software. Stephen Thaler’s software can actually write original music, create new words, and produce new marketable products, like the Oral B CrossAction toothbrush. By introducing noise into a neural network, his Creativity Machine actually produces new ideas.

His first patent was for a Device for the Autonomous Generation of Useful Information, the official name of the Creativity Machine… His second patent was for the Self-Training Neural Network Object. Patent Number Two was invented by Patent Number One. Think about that. Patent Number Two was invented by Patent Number One!

Could this be a first step toward an actual artificial intelligence? Creativity is one of the cornerstones of human intelligence. It is certainly a fascinating development and I suggest reading the article and visiting Thaler’s company website for more information on the Creativity Machine.

Superbowl Recap

It was a helluva game; Jake Delhomme and the Panthers really fought tooth and nail. I was especially impressed by Carolina’s old geezer receiving corps stepping up to the plate. Ricky Proehl and Muhsin Muhammed are not exactly youngsters in the league but they caught the balls that mattered and kept Carolina in the game.

And I certainly think that was the best halftime show I’ve ever seen. Thanks Janet! I about coughed up my lunch when that boob popped out. I wasn’t surprised by the media silence about the breast exposure, but when they deliberately censor out the streaker at the beginning of the second half and how Matt Chatham tackled the dude so the cops could catch him, well that bothers me. I remember this odd silence as we waited for the kickoff, and thinking it was probably a streaker since nothing usually stops the talking meatheads and their color commentary.

Oh yeah, I didn’t win anything at Planet Hollywood either. For the second year in a row the winning ticket to the Pro Bowl went to a kid. I am beginning to think the whole thing is rigged. And for $40, I expect to win something – or at least keep me stocked in beer. The damn place ran out of beer at halftime. I think next year I will just watch the game at home.

Superbowl Party Set

After some brief time conferring about what to do for Superbowl Monday, a decision was reached. Return to Planet Hollywood and enjoy ourselves like last year. All you can eat & drink, plus the big game on a plethora of television screens. I enjoyed myself last year, and I am looking forward to winning a trip to the Pro Bowl.

What’s Up With Long Now?

The Long Now Foundation is trying to build a 10,000 year clock out in the desert of Nevada. I heard a great deal about this clock in 1999, but details have been sketchy since then. But work is proceeding, and Stewart Brand provided an update to the Edge mailing list last week. The Long Now Foundation conducted an expedition to their site in Nevada last summer to locate possible locations for their clock and meet with local authorities.