Nature: Optical detection of radio waves through a nanomechanical transducer

“Many applications, from medical imaging and radio astronomy to navigation and wireless communication, depend on the faithful transmission and detection of weak radio-frequency microwaves … signals can be transferred directly into standard optical fibres rather than copper wires …” From the Nature journal. In Computers & Technology.

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Need Rain? Save a Forest.

From nature, international weekly journal of science :


Earth & Environmental Sciences

More Earth & Environmental sciences ▼
A large source of low-volatility secondary organic aerosol

Forests emit huge quantities of volatile organic compounds into the atmosphere and their oxidation forms secondary organic aerosols that scatter solar radiation and act as cloud seeds. The mechanism of formation of aerosol particles remains unclear, but this study identifies some of the intermediate compounds that aid aerosol formation. These findings could help improve assessments of biosphere-aerosol-climate feedback mechanisms, and the air quality and climate effects of emissions produced by vegetation.

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Showing Him The Door

When Cambridge finally demolished their pioneering Computer Technology Lab, to make room for a new one, a heritage site where one of the world’s first electronic computers was designed and built was literally and unceremoniously dumped on the scrap heap. One of the researchers rescued a door from the heap, painted in an old green enamel, because it was the only green door in the old lab, and had therefore once been attached to the office of Sir Maurice Wilkes, Cambridge’s legendary pioneer of computing.

As told by David Hartley to the San Jose Computer History Museum in a May 11, 2011 interview, when Sir Maurice finally retired, they hauled the rescued green door out of the basement, affixed a brass plaque to it, and presented it to Wilkes as part of his retirement ceremony. But he wasn’t allowed to take the door home. So then, what did they do with it?

Hartley said, from that day on, whenever a distinguished colleague and pioneer would retire, “we would put another brass plaque on the green door, give him a nice speech, and show him the door.”

— for more information about Sir Maurice Wilkes and the interview with Hartley, see

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Slashdot: “Company Releases World’s First Christian Tablet”

Just in from Slashdot:

But if you’re looking to get in God’s good graces, or you’re simply in the market for a family-friendly tablet, you may want to check out Family Christian’s Edifi. Billed as the world’s first Christian tablet, its genesis came with the inevitable intersection of technology and religion, according to Brian Honorable, a technology supervisor at Family Christian…”

We’ll venture a guess it’s based on a two thousand year old design, runs deprecated software, and has a great search engine. Tell it what answer you want, and it’ll fetch up to 10 customized passages to substantiate your opinion.

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Quote of the Day

“If you’re not sure about wanting to support Mitt Romney, whether you’re liberal or very conservative, you ought to be excited, because he’s been on your side at one time or another.”

— Rep Louis Gohmert, R-TX

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End of Space Shuttle Era

It’s the end of a glamorous and inspiring era, all right. As the last Shuttles are piggybacked to final repose in public museums and display monuments, there’s been much talk-TV hand-wringing from all ends of the political spectrum. Many of us wistfully wish that the Shuttle could have been deployed longer, that a re-usable NASA solution could have been deployed before the old one was retired, and that we hadn’t scrubbed the next BIG frontier – a manned Mars mission.

There will be time for this. Look at how much we’ve accomplished – and discovered – since Apollo 11. The simple truth: we already spent that money. It’s estimated that our total war cost in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan will cap out at over $3.7 trillion. [Reuters]

Click the above image for NASA’s choice of full-size images of this scene.

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Schrödinger’s Cat, 2012

The New York Times had an amusing op-ed piece “A Quantum Theory of Mitt Romney,” by David Javerbaum. Mitt Romney is compared under several different tenets of Quantum Physics, in which Romney can simultaneously be both a moderate and a conservative, or, in the Feynman diagram, in which a Romney and anti-Romney collide and annihilate each other.

I was quite surprised the author didn’t also nail down the famously skeptical Schrödinger’s Cat thought experiment, in which we are asked to ponder a celebrated cat that might indeed be either dead or alive, depending on the outcome of a random event.

Wikipedia notes that “Schrödinger did not wish to promote the idea of dead-and-alive cats as a serious possibility,” but, more than 75 years later, the evidence is now tangible, dragged in not by the cat, but by politicians.

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Pink Slime

No matter how medically safe “pink slime” may be, it’s disgusting. The consumer, not the meat processor plant, must be the final judge of what’s food and what’s chemically processed byproduct. The fact that “pink slime” has been quietly pushed to market without prominent WARNING! notices is even more disgusting.

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NYTimes Quote of the Day


How can you compare the dishonoring of the Holy Koran with the martyrdom of innocent civilians? The whole goal of our life is religion.”

— MULLAH KHALIQ DAD, a religious leader in Afghanistan, on the relatively muted reaction to the massacre of civilians apparently by an American soldier. (New York Times 3/15/2012)

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Commander in Chief?

Wir sind nicht auf der Suche nach Erfahrung. Wir sind auf der Suche nach einer Oberbefehlshaber.” — Rick Santorum, Des Moines, Jan 2, 2012
(“We are not looking for executive experience. We are looking for a commander in chief.”)

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Boehner Out of Touch

Every time we begin to think of House Speaker John Boehner as one of the more level-headed new-breed conservatives, he leaps at the opportunity to discourage such hasty, ill-advised conclusions. We found another example of this in the Wall Street Journal:

Despite the outreach, Russia hasn’t fully cooperated with the U.S. on key global challenges, most notably international sanctions against Iran and Syria. “We should do more to compel the Kremlin to curtail its relationship with Iran, particularly related to its nuclear program and missile technology,” Mr. Boehner said.

Compel? What was he thinking? It goes without saying the West doesn’t want to see Russia in bed with the psychotic Iranian government or its nuclear program. “Compulsion” didn’t work with the cold-war USSR. We’d never attempt it with allies or with neutral countries with whom we want to continue to cooperate. It won’t work any better with modern Russia. If Boehner fears a Russian return to old-style KBG diplomacy under Putin, what better way to push the Kremlin in that direction than “gunboat diplomacy” talk like Boehner’s? He’s out of touch.

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Christie Bows Out

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie announced he was “not ready” to run for President. Pundits said he was “not ready” to address the concerns of a right-wing theological Republican base.

Family Research Council president Tony Perkins says the New Jersey governor’s support for an anti-bullying initiative could discourage social conservatives from voting for him if he does run. Read more: The Daily Caller

I’m probably one of the last people in the world who’d be regarded as qualified to judge whether Christie had the right stuff to become GOP frontrunner candidate. I stopped voting Republican – any candidate, any office – early in the Bush Administration. Christie doesn’t buy same-sex marriage, but he’s against bullying. I have no idea whether Christie has mapped out a comprehensive platform on all the issues, or had time to assemble a staff to work it out. What I’m hearing from the voters is that they think maybe this is a good thing. I liked the sound bites I heard.

Christie was a plain talker – not in the rubber-stamp agenda-driven style of a Perry or Cain, but in an enormously refreshing, broad-based and common-sense way. Christie was a man who knew how to answer a direct question. He struck me as a politician who is concerned with the well-being of all his constituents, not with the nefarious machinations of some political party.

Maybe the Republican Party just isn’t ready for Chris Christie.

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Ig Nobel Prize Awards 2011

You can find the announcements almost anywhere. I used Scientific American and Reuters.

Surely you follow the annual Ig Nobel awards? No? According to Wikipedia,

The Ig Nobel Prizes are an American parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October for ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The stated aim of the prizes is to “first make people laugh, and then make them think”. Organized by the scientific humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research (AIR), they are presented by a group that includes Nobel Laureates at a ceremony at Harvard University’s Sanders Theater, and they are followed by a set of public lectures by the winners at MIT.

My personal favorite award for 2011:

— Americans Dorothy Martin who predicted the world would end in 1954; Pat Robertson who predicted the world would end in 1982; Elizabeth Clare Prophet who predicted the world would end in 1990; and Harold Camping who predicted the world would end on September 6, 1994, and on October 21, 2011; Lee Jang Rim of Korea who predicted the world would end in 1992; Shoko Asahara of Japan who predicted the world would end in 1997; Credonia Mwerinde of Uganda who predicted the world would end in 1999 — for teaching the world to be careful when making mathematical assumptions and calculations.

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