ABOUT VAVATCH  -  GENMARS  -  ASTROBIOLOGY  -  PHOTOS  -  WEBCAM
ARCHIVES  -  FORUM   -  BEST OF VAVATCH

 
     
 

Saturday, May 6

Quotation of the moment:

"Whether we fall by ambition, blood, or lust,
Like diamonds we are cut with our own dust."

[from the Duchess of Malfi]. Thanks to Colin for pointing that one out.

2:24 PM | permalink | discuss


When reading this article about a 150 tonne magnet, which wasn't particularly interesting in itself, I was reminded of an idea my friends and I thought up after watching Back to the Future 2 (it was revealed that someone hadn't seen the BttF series and so we had no choice but to force him to watch all three movies that night).

Anyone who's watched the movie will want one of the hoverboards; it's a fact of life. But as yet, it's not possible to make one. Certainly any air-jet system wouldn't be able to generate the lift required, so we're left with a magnetic system. Our idea was to create some kind of park and lay a sheet of powerful electromagnets under the floor, with boards with permanent magnets doing the hovering. We have no idea how much power this would use up; maybe it wouldn't be possible until we get good superconductors, but it'd be very neat.

Possible problems:

1) The boards might flip over. Some kind of stabilising system is required, maybe based on a flywheel or something.

2) Anyone with any sort of metal in or on their bodies is in serious trouble. You'd have to go through some sort of decontamination process beforehand. We've all heard of the stories of people who got too close to NMR scanners wearing watches or having metal fillings (they might not be true, but they're pretty fun stories anyway).

My previous pet idea of artificial telepathy, or direct brain to computer communication, is progressing nicely. A team has managed to get people to interact with objects in VR with the power of thought alone.

1:50 PM | permalink | discuss


Friday, May 5

I'll post a big update later today, but in the meantime here's an interesting thing I noticed. From exactly the same survey and statistics on the sexual habits of teenagers in Scotland, BBC News ran a story entitled teenagers 'regret' early sex, while The Times had an article entitled teenagers 'enjoyed' illicit sex.

Interesting things, statistics. I'm not going to drag out the old quotation, but the fact is that stats are open to interpretation in anyway. Perhaps more interesting is the different ways the two media sources have treated the survey results. Any comments?

3:23 PM | permalink | discuss


Thursday, May 4

I received an email about the whole personality test thing that's sadly been languishing in my inbox for some days now - interesting reading. Apparently, most personality tests (where people are scores on black and white scales) are useless in the majority of cases, since it really depends on arbitrary factors and your mood at the time.

"If you're looking for online personality tests, try some based on the Five Factor model of personality (which has a lot more empirical support than the theoretical model the Keirsey test and other MBTI tests are based on) http://cac.psu.edu/~j5j/test/ipipneo1.htm or http://www.outofservice.com/you/"

Thanks to Claire Bickell (of the Culture list)

Here's a very interesting (but technical) article about how a new type of nanoparticle is being used as a biomimetic to carry potential gene therapy agents (like genes, proteins, drugs) past the immune system without detection. Basically, it's a way to get synthetic compounds into the body without them getting rejected by the immune system.

11:25 PM | permalink | discuss


I've been asked to pass on this new URL for the Views from the Gallery Site (http://freespace.virgin.net/neil.perryman/index.htm).

Coming to a Vavatch Orbital near you soon will be the weekly (or however frequently we can be bothered) 'Ask the Culture' question. In the tradition of the Internet Oracle, supplicants will be allowed to ask a question to the collective wisdom of the Culture; breaking from tradition, only the Culture will be allowed to answer the questions (you foolish human-basic mortals have not the ken to provide adequate answers).

But the Culture isn't nice and fluffy. In the words of one, "We're not so much Delphic-oracle but Sinister. If you ask us, you'd better do whatever the fuck we say, or else." In the words of another, "Fuck with the Culture, and you'll know what evil really is."

So ask away, but we're not responsible for the consequences for your not acting on our advice.

A students' union bar has lost 34,000 worth of alcohol - with claims that staff have been handing out "free" drinks. Damn, and I was going to accept Warwick University's offer as well.

On another note, it appears that the location of my blog has been discovered by not one but two sources, and that the link with the Doozer uncovered. To the batcave, Danman!

Finally, I've been told by learned individuals that there is no such thing as a 'quote'. 'Quote' is a verb, not a noun. What you really should say is 'quotation'. So now you know.

7:45 PM | permalink | discuss


I've been asked to pass on this new URL for the Views from the Gallery Site (http://freespace.virgin.net/neil.perryman/index.htm).

Coming to a Vavatch Orbital near you soon will be the weekly (or however frequently we can be bothered) 'Ask the Culture' question. In the tradition of the Internet Oracle, supplicants will be allowed to ask a question to the collective wisdom of the Culture; breaking from tradition, only the Culture will be allowed to answer the questions (you foolish human-basic mortals have not the ken to provide adequate answers).

But the Culture isn't nice and fluffy. In the words of one, "We're not so much Delphic-oracle but Sinister. If you ask us, you'd better do whatever the fuck we say, or else." In the words of another, "Fuck with the Culture, and you'll know what evil really is."

So ask away, but we're not responsible for the consequences for your not acting on our advice.

7:03 PM | permalink | discuss


Wednesday, May 3

I've been thinking; what with the 22 billion auction of the third generation mobile phone licences in the UK, and the predicted 35 billion auction of the same in Germany, well, we could go and launch roughly 10 missions to Mars. Or make a colony on the Moon. Or develop a whole Earth-Orbit space infrastructure. Forget about getting rid of the national debt, why don't we do something cool? Something that will inspire people? Or have we lost all the backbone that we ever had?

My favourite UK Babylon 5 site, Views from the Gallery, is finally back online! And they've included a new cover song, entitled Everyone's Free (to watch B5)

Favourite quote: "Don't waste your time on DS9. Sometimes they're ahead; sometimes they're behind. The series is long, and in the end, they'll only rip off B5."

Expendables is a passably good short SF story [from Infinity Plus].

11:00 PM | permalink | discuss


A bit of a science based post today (no change there then). First up are two articles from Junkscience; both are about junk science (obviously). First, a Wall Street Journal editorial wondering when people are going to catch on to the apparently unseen benefits of GM foods. Second, an entertaining article showing how the whole 'electromagnetic fields causing cancer' scandal didn't have a leg to stand on.

Exactly why do young teenagers need day planners to organise their lives? The use of 'homework diaries' at my school was relatively short-lived. Every Friday, you'd have to present a nicely completed and signed homework diary for that week to the teacher. This only resulted in pupils frantically trying to remember and scribbling in their homework for that week on Friday morning. In other words - it's a big waste of time. There is such a thing as taking time management too far.

The BBC Science Correspondant has a quick rant on astrologers trying to pretend their 'profession' has a grounding in science, using the alignment of five planets as an example.

Quote: "...the gravitational pull of a football held at arms length has more effect than the pull of the distant planet Mars."

6:44 PM | permalink | discuss


Tuesday, May 2

Right now I'm listening to Douglas Adam's series on the Internet via Realaudio. No startling revelations or stunning insights, but it's interesting listening. The radio is a great way of having two information inputs at the same time; you can read and write, and listen at the same time and still take most (probably not all, though) of it in. Wonderful.

[Good quote from Douglas Adams though: "So far, democracy is more or less limited to ticking a box every few years. You get to choose between this set of guys and that set of guys. One might call it uncharitably call it an elective dictatorship, except that our political systems are hedged around so many safeguards that it's hard for our leaders to do very much or change very much."]

Yet another good Reith Lecture, this time about business' role in saving the environment. As you might have guessed, I can't actually read everything I post here but I do try to at least scan over everything quickly; in this case I'm going to have to take the time out to read this properly. Or listen to it, maybe.

Hum. Smokers are being offered a prize of $10,000 to quit smoking. No comment.

I know I've made a point about not talking about other weblogs here, but I have to give credit to the NoLondon blog for this quote:

"Vavatch Orbital, far less 'wacky' and far more useful that I had at first mistakenly supposed."

I should change that to my tagline now, I reckon. I may go and make a new sidebar or something for occasional references to other weblogs. I'm weakening, but I still want to keep the main weblog pure and unsullied from other blog uninfluences.

10:31 PM | permalink | discuss


It's true, you name it, it's on the Internet. This has got to be funniest banner I've seen; I mean, green cards on the Internet? Makes you proud that you're not an American.

Something that I've known for some time; girls are outperforming boys. A few examples; my friends have recently gone to some medical courses aimed at helping you get offers from medical schools. Boys were outnumbered roughly 5 to 1 there. I play in an orchestra; out of 85 musicians, less than 15 are male. OK - that's a small sample size, but on a national scale, while boys might still have the marginal upper hand in A-Level results, girls are beating us at every level up to GCSE. It won't be long before this effect filters up past the A-Levels, as well.

They simply just seem to be working harder. I came to the conclusion a long time ago that in 20 to 30 years, the professional workplace will be dominated by women.

Two very good articles arguing against performance-related pay for teachers (a scheme which the UK government is pushing). The first is by a school teacher, the second (certainly more readable) is by the Superintendent of Schools for the Lancaster County School District [from Democracy news (again)].

7:02 PM | permalink | discuss


Monday, May 1

Dead-Horse Management [unashamedly thieved from Democracy News]

Ancient wisdom says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, in organizations we often try many other strategies, including the following:

* Changing riders.

* Buying a stronger whip.

* Appointing a committee to study the dead horse.

* Arranging a visit to other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

* Raising the standards for riding dead horses.

* Appointing a task force to revive the dead horse.

* Creating a training session to improve riding skills.

* Comparing the state of dead horses in today's environment.

* Changing the requirements so that the horse no longer meets the standard of being dead.

* Hiring a consultant to show how to ride a dead horse.

* Harnessing several dead horses together to increase speed.

* Increasing funding to improve the horse's performance.

* Declaring that no horse is too dead to beat.

* Doing a study to see if outsourcing will reduce the cost of riding a dead horse.

* Buying a computer program to enhance dead-horse performance.

* Declaring a dead horse less costly than a live one.

* Forming a work group to find uses for dead horses.

* Changing the performance requirements for the horse.

* Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.

Anyway. I am becoming increasingly convinced that BBC News is not taking it's position of being the world's foremost news provider seriously enough, based on their graphic for the Microsoft saga.

7:43 PM | permalink | discuss


Campaigners claim that a planeload of holidaymakers flying to the USA cause as much environmental damage as the average UK motorist does in one year. But, hold on. You get, what, 200-300 people in on each plane? So divide one year by 300, and essentially, by flying to America, you cause the same environmental damage as driving for one day. Doesn't sound quite so scary that way, does it?

In my haste, I nearly forgot about Channel 4's new emillionaireshow.com - they're actually giving away 2 million to the best Internet start-up idea they receive before 12th May. Pretty neat, and even better is the fact that pretty much no-one has heard about this. If I had the time or inclination, I'd give it a serious shot. I wonder which executive at Channel 4 gave the go-ahead for this idea

Watching Futurecast last night, it struck me that this was the first proper 'hard-science' science-fiction programme that had ever really been produced before. Channel 4 calls the Futurecast series 'factually-based technothrillers' - yes, it's called hard-science?

I quote: "Newborn [one of the Futurecast episodes] may sound like science fiction but is based on very real science."

Why is it that people think science fiction can't be based on science? It's like calling all fiction fantasy.

I'm not going to comment on the quality of the Futurecast series - it had its ups and downs - but really matters is that Channel 4 actually bothered trying to produce what really is a hard-science fiction strand.

[Definition: Hard science fiction is basically science fiction based on 'proper' physics; technology might be extrapolated into the future with biotech and nanotech and so on, but it's still completely plausible science.]

Perhaps someone should tell Channel 4 that they needn't bother thinking up original storylines when there's such a rich trove of stories out there to use already, many of which were written by British authors.

1:37 PM | permalink | discuss


Sunday, April 30

I keep a sharp eye on Infinity Plus these days - stories like The Second Window make it worth it.

There I was, happily watching Good vs Evil for the first time, thinking to myself - 'Hey, this isn't such a bad show after all,' when I go and do a search for it on Aint it Cool News. And find out it's already been cancelled. Arghhh. Bloody typical.

A while back, I revisited keirsey.com to read up on the old personality profiles. While showing someone else around the site, I decided to take the test again; to my horror, my personality had completely changed from the rather cool profile it once had been. In desperation, I retook the test again. Yet another different personality; was my schizophrenic side emerging? (wait a second, can you actually have a schizophrenic side to your character?)

The point is, it appears the test is only valid the first time you take it or else you'll be consciously changing your answers in order to get the result you want; true, the test might account for that, but after you've seen the answers and read the profiles taking the test again to get a 'better' (or even the same) result won't work.

I've been looking around a fair few of the other weblogs lately and I've been having to restrain myself from writing yet another damning essay on the weblog phenomenon. The things that irritate me now are:

1) People who don't capitalise sentences (it doesn't look cool, it just makes it hard to read)
2) Goddamn introspective 'I'm so different, I have a tought time, I require attention and look, I'm a rebel' weblogs
3) More goddamn introspective weblogs who just talk about themselves all the time
4) Yet more weblogs that just talk about other weblogs all the time
5) Inexplicable links

[Disclaimer: These are my personal views. I know people who like introspective weblogs; good for them, I say. I myself don't mind introspection, in moderation, but I can read much better introspection from other places. Because introspection on weblogs is not really introspection, it's warped exhibitionism.]

2:03 PM | permalink | discuss


As promised, Vavatch Orbital is the first to examine the implications of Barbie running for President: read Vavatch's in-depth report here.

A reader recently informed me that it's a little annoying that my bottom frame seems to stick around all the time - my bad, I should have remembered. I spent quite a while changing this page's sidebar so that the frame would disappear going to external links - obviously I forgot the fact that I post external links all the time in the weblog. So consider the problem solved from this post forward.

1:31 PM | permalink | discuss


 
 

Powered by BLOGGER and BLOGVOICES