May 28, 2010

Iron Baby

Milady's response: "So cute! So cute!" My response: "How does Iron Baby change its diaper when it's in that suit?" :)

May 23, 2010

Azureus Rising

I've come across a concept video for a proposed trilogy of feature films called Azureus Rising. The producers describe the series thus:

Azureus is the story of a young man who after escaping death and enduring a life changing journey - matures into a heroic freedom fighter. Azureus Rising is an epic tale of self discovery, obligation and love against all odds.

I realize this video is "concept," and visually it's quite good. But it also seems, well..., stale. Where have I seen all this all before? Super-human leaps, check. Pushing off so hard the ground breaks underneath you, check. Landing on one's fist and knees with a resounding thud, check. Sounds a bit too Iron Man-ish, Matrixy to me. And, of course, no bullet can touch our hero, no armor is too strong for our hero's weapons. The mechanical scorpion is easily dispatched with our hero's sword going through the armor like so much butter. Riiight! No doubt these movies will be produced and become monster hits.

Quantum Teleportation Achieved Over Ten Miles of Free Space

What really impresses me about this accomplishment is not the possibility of a Star Trek-style transporter, but of creating an ansible. (Whether that's really feasible I have no idea, but I'd like to think so.) From Ars Technica via Nature Photonics:

Quantum teleportation has achieved a new milestone or, should we say, a new ten-milestone: scientists have recently had success teleporting information between photons over a free space distance of nearly ten miles, an unprecedented length. The researchers who have accomplished this feat note that this brings us closer to communicating information without needing a traditional signal, and that the ten miles they have reached could span the distance between the surface of the earth and space.

As we've explained before, "quantum teleportation" is quite different from how many people imagine teleportation to work. Rather than picking one thing up and placing it somewhere else, quantum teleportation involves entangling two things, like photons or ions, so their states are dependent on one another and each can be affected by the measurement of the other's state.

When one of the items is sent a distance away, entanglement ensures that changing the state of one causes the other to change as well, allowing the teleportation of quantum information, if not matter. However, the distance particles can be from each other has been limited so far to a number of meters.

Teleportation over distances of a few hundred meters has previously only been accomplished with the photons traveling in fiber channels to help preserve their state. In this particular experiment, researchers maximally entangled two photons using both spatial and polarization modes and sent the one with higher energy through a ten-mile-long free space channel. They found that the distant photon was still able to respond to changes in state of the photon they held onto even at this unprecedented distance.

However, the long-distance teleportation of a photon is only a small step towards developing applications for the procedure. While photons are good at transmitting information, they are not as good as ions at allowing manipulation, an advancement we'd need for encryption. Researchers were also able to maintain the fidelity of the long-distance teleportation at 89 percent— decent enough for information, but still dangerous for the whole-body human teleportation that we're all looking forward to.

May 15, 2010

Rendezvous with Rama

This very short film is a student(!!!)-made adaptation of Arthur C. Clarke's 1972 novel, Rendezvous with Rama, which is about a mysterious alien spaceship that passes through (but does not stop in) our solar system in the year 2130. The novel has never been made into a film, although actor Morgan Freeman and director David Fincher tried to do so earlier in the decade; unfortunately, the project appears to be dead for the time being. (Are you reading this, J.J. Abrams?) Anyway, this is a superlative short film. I only have two quibbles about it: 1) What, no flashlights as the astronauts move forward into a dark tunnel? and 2) the throwing of the torch and the resulting explosion of light is not in the original novel. Otherwise, an awesome piece of work here!

May 12, 2010

When Giving Charity is the Right Thing to Do

Giving charity to the "wrong" person is still the right thing to do. Remember this hadith the next time you fear your saudaqah will be spent only on things like alcohol or cigarettes:

Abu Hurayrah reported Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) as saying: ‘A man expressed his intention to give charity, so he came out with charity and placed it in the hand of an adulteress. In the morning, the people were talking and saying: “Charity was given to an adulteress last night.” He (the giver of Sadaqa) said: “O Allah, to Thee be the praise – to an adulteress.” He then again expressed his intention to give charity; so he went out with the charity and placed it in the hand of a rich person. In the morning the people were talking and saying: “Charity was given to a rich person.” He (the giver of charity) said: “O Allah, to Thee be the praise – to a well-to-do person.” He then expressed his intention to give charity, so he went out with charity and placed it in the hand of a thief. In the morning, the people were talking and saying: “Charity was given to a thief.” So (one of the persons) said: “O Allah, to Thee be the praise (what a misfortune it is that charity has been given to) the adulteress, to a rich person, to a thief!” There came (the angel to him [the giver of charity]) and he was told: “Your charity has been accepted. As for the adulteress (the charity might become the means) whereby she might restrain herself from fornication. The rich man might perhaps learn a lesson and spend from what Allah has given him, and the thief might thereby refrain from committing theft.”’
-- Found in both Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.

May 3, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill by ASTER

On April 20, 2010, an explosion destroyed the Deepwater Horizon oil platform operating in the Gulf of Mexico 80 kilometers (50 miles) offshore, killing 11 crew members, and releasing 5,000 barrels of oil per day into the water. The huge oil slick was being carried towards the Mississippi River Delta, and was expected to reach the Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi shores as early as Monday, May 3. This image, from the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) instrument on NASA's Terra spacecraft, was acquired May 1, 2010. It is located at 29.0 degrees north latitude, 88.3 degrees west longitude. The image covers an area of 79.1 by 103.9 kilometers (49 by 64.4 miles).

Photo credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

May 1, 2010

But Will They? I Don't Think So.

Bill Maher on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico:

Every asshole who ever chanted 'Drill baby drill' should have to report to the Gulf coast today for cleanup duty