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Police tech: How cops use IT to catch bad guys
Topic: Technology 11:40 am EST, Feb 11, 2008

Ever wonder what that cop is doing in his cruiser that's parked behind your car with lights flashing -- while your heart is pounding and you're searching for your license and registration? Most likely, he's researching you on his laptop, and finding a surprisingly large amount of information. According to Lt. Paul Shastany of the Framingham, Mass., Police Department (FPD), laptops in the unit's 24 patrol cars are the most important recent technology innovation that aids police work.

Backup is especially crucial for police departments, where lack of data can make or break a court case. "We back up everything constantly," Burman says. Once per month, he goes out to the cars and copies report data to CDs. The information is also stored on the department network, and the system is backed up every night onto the town hall network.

For even more redundancy, the police department and fire department run identical Keystone applications on identical servers connected by a fiber-optic network, so each department can back up the other's data. If there's a crash on the FPD server, Burman can change his server's IP address to the fire department's server and the police department is back up and running.

Police tech: How cops use IT to catch bad guys

Muslims Protest Wikipedia Images of Muhammad
Topic: Society 3:27 pm EST, Feb  6, 2008

Online encyclopedia Wikipedia has again stirred up controversy — this time over a biographical entry on the prophet Muhammad.

Nearly 100,000 people worldwide have signed a Web-based petition asking Wikipedia to remove all depictions of the Prophet from its English-language entry, viewable here.

Muslims Protest Wikipedia Images of Muhammad

Astronomers vie to make biggest telescope
Topic: Science 2:10 pm EST, Feb  5, 2008

Just the names of many of the proposed observatories suggest an arms race: the Giant Magellan Telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope, which was downsized from the OverWhelmingly Large Telescope. Add to those three big ground observatories a new super eye in the sky, NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in 2013.


Current telescopes are able to look back only about 1 billion years in time. But the new telescopes will be so powerful that they should be able to gaze back to a couple of hundred million years after the Big Bang, which scientists believe happened 13.7 billion years ago. That's where all the action is.

Overwhelmingly cool!

The Giant Magellan Telescope. A partnership of six U.S. universities, an Australian college, the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Carnegie Institution of Washington will place the telescope in Las Campanas, Chile, around 2016. The plan is for an 80-foot mirror. The cost is around $500 million.

The Thirty Meter Telescope. The California Institute of Technology, the University of California and the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy are aiming for a telescope with about a 98-foot mirror by 2018. No site has been chosen. The cost is about $780 million.

The European Extremely Large Telescope. A partnership of European countries called the European Southern Observatory already has telescopes in Chile and is aiming for a new one with a mirror of 138 feet, scaled back from initial plans of 328 feet. The Europeans are aiming for a 2018 completion, but have not chosen a specific location yet. The cost would be $1.17 billion.

NASA's $4.5 billion James Webb Space Telescope, designed to travel 900,000 miles beyond Earth's orbit, is not faced with the atmospheric distortion of ground telescopes. Still, it will use its own version of adaptive optics. Because of temperature fluctuations in the cold of space, the telescope will have to adjust the shape of its mirrors automatically. Webb's mirror, which is 21/2 times bigger than Hubble's, has 18 segments.

While I love the concept of the Webb telescope, a $4,500,000,000.00 project seems a bit of a luxury for a nation with a debt of over $9,200,000,000,000.00, especially when the President just submitted a budget proposal of $3,100,000,000,000.00, including deficit spending in the amount of $400,000,000,000.00. I'm supportive of scientific research, but at some point during my lifetime, we'll have to use Conway chained arrow notation or Knuth's up-arrow notation to discuss the national debt.

At least we'll have some pretty pictures. :)

Astronomers vie to make biggest telescope

Modern Drunkard Magazine - Product Review
Topic: Society 9:23 am EST, Jan 30, 2008

Sailor Jerry's Spiced Navy Rum ($16-$25 750ml)

In this review you'll read the word “bouquet” only once. There.

Named for the legendary tattoo artist, you'll find this liquor nicely spiced and fiery in a friendly Puff-the-Magic-Dragon sort of way. I can assure you without qualification that this 92-proof contender is one of the few rums suitable for shooting straight. Which I did.

After five shots you'll feel as if you're relaxing on the deck of your own personal pirate ship; the sky is clear and the world is yours for the taking. A couple more and you and your mates may launch into lusty shanties about won battles and lost loves. As you approach the tenth visit to the well, you may become curious as to what would happen to certain objects if they were flung into a rapidly-spinning ceiling fan. Around 15 shots or so (you may lose count at this point), you'll— well, you'll probably remember as much as I do, which isn't much.

I do remember a dull hangover surprisingly mild for a heavier rum. Very hard to find fault with this winner, and unfortunately equally hard to find in liquor stores. Their website can point you in the right direction, however:

Modern Drunkard Magazine - Product Review

First Images of Approaching Asteroid
Topic: Science 1:14 pm EST, Jan 29, 2008

As the asteroid moved nearer to Earth, on Jan. 28, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico working with the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in W. Va. produced another image of the asteroid. Astronomers used the Arecibo telescope, which is operated by Cornell University on behalf of the National Science Foundation, to bounce radar signals off the asteroid. The Green Bank Telescope received the echo signal and transmitted the data back to Arecibo to be transformed into an image.

Other radar telescopes were expected to point toward the asteroid as it made its closest approach to Earth, 334,000 miles (537,500 kilometers), at 3:33 a.m. Eastern time Jan. 29. For comparison, the moon is an average of 239,228 miles (385,000 kilometers) away.

"We have good images of a couple dozen objects like this, and for about one in 10, we see something we've never seen before," said Mike Nolan, head of radar astronomy at the Arecibo Observatory. "We really haven't sampled the population enough to know what's out there."

Those Atari 2600 programmers were way ahead of their time.

First Images of Approaching Asteroid

Steven Weinberg: A Designer Universe?
Topic: Science 1:57 pm EST, Jan 25, 2008

This article is based on a talk given in April 1999 at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

I have to admit that, even when physicists will have gone as far as they can go, when we have a final theory, we will not have a completely satisfying picture of the world, because we will still be left with the question 'why?' Why this theory, rather than some other theory? For example, why is the world described by quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics is the one part of our present physics that is likely to survive intact in any future theory, but there is nothing logically inevitable about quantum mechanics; I can imagine a universe governed by Newtonian mechanics instead. So there seems to be an irreducible mystery that science will not eliminate.

But religious theories of design have the same problem. Either you mean something definite by a God, a designer, or you don't. If you don't, then what are we talking about? If you do mean something definite by 'God' or 'design,' if for instance you believe in a God who is jealous, or loving, or intelligent, or whimsical, then you still must confront the question 'why?' A religion may assert that the universe is governed by that sort of God, rather than some other sort of God, and it may offer evidence for this belief, but it cannot explain why this should be so.

Steven Weinberg: A Designer Universe?

Biofuels may threaten environment, U.N. warns
Topic: Science 5:31 pm EST, Jan 24, 2008

Initially, biofuels were held up as a panacea for countries struggling to cope with the rising cost of oil or those looking to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Union, for example, plans to replace 10 percent of transport fuel with biofuels made from energy crops such as sugar cane and rapeseed oil by 2020.

But in recent months, scientists, private agencies and even the British government have said biofuels could do more harm than good. Rather than protecting the environment, they say energy crops destroy natural forests that actually store carbon and thus are a key tool in the fight to reduce global warming.

I've never cared much for Ford's automobiles, but I say it's time to revisit the Ford Nucleon (with the tail fins)!

Biofuels may threaten environment, U.N. warns

French Bank Defrauded Of US$7.14 Billion
Topic: Business 9:21 am EST, Jan 24, 2008

The French bank Société Générale stunned financial markets today by revealing that it had been the victim of one of the largest frauds by a rogue trader — losing four times as much as Nick Leeson, the man who sank Barings.

The second-biggest French bank said that it had lost €4.9 billion (£3.7 billion) as a result of the rogue trades by a Paris-based trader who concealed his positions through "a scheme of elaborate fictitious transactions".

French Bank Defrauded Of US$7.14 Billion

Bobby Fischer Has Died At Age 64
Topic: Miscellaneous 8:55 am EST, Jan 18, 2008

British Chess Magazine
January 18, 2008

We have just heard from the press room in Wijk aan Zee that former world champion Bobby Fischer has died, aged 64. There is a news report (in Icelandic) at He died of kidney failure, having been hospitalised with this condition for quite some time. More news when we have it.

More at Fox News and CNN.

Bobby Fischer Has Died At Age 64

A delicate condition - Fears of both recession and inflation
Topic: Business 5:12 pm EST, Jan 17, 2008

Jan 17th 2008 | WASHINGTON, DC

The world economy is increasingly powered by countries, such as China and India, whose growth is far more energy- and commodity-intensive than that of rich countries. This shift means that the usual relationship between America’s business cycle and commodity prices may change. Past American recessions have sent the price of oil and other resources down. That may no longer be so.

How much to worry depends on whether this combination affects people’s expectations of future inflation. Because central banks have earned a reputation as inflation fighters and people expect long-term inflation to remain low, price shocks—even on the scale of the recent commodity-price surge—need not translate into persistently higher inflation. Were workers and firms to expect higher inflation, and set wages and prices accordingly, central bankers would face a big problem.

A delicate condition - Fears of both recession and inflation

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