Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Tune in on Sunday

What do psychological experiments in the 1970's, Abu Ghraib, Enron, and bomber air crew have in common? Tune in on Sunday to find out.

I'm looking forward to seeing what Brook and Kat have for us in another exciting installment from the Fuzzy crew.

Also maybe memes, chlorophyl, plant life on other planets, and new light weapons if we can squeeze it all in.

Remember, you can find our podcasts on Odeo.

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Antarctic expedition

Check this out

Highlights from Australian Anrtarctic division footage from Voyage 3. from the Radio national science show website they also have some great photos of the trip!

Thursday, 19 June 2008

More Fake Fuzzy

CERN Search in for New Fundamental Particles

Nuclear physicists working at the new Large Hadron Collider in Cern have two new fundamental particles to add to their search. Already they have the monumental task of trying to locate the hypothesised Higgs Boson, sometimes dubbed the “God Particle”. Scientists have surmised the existence of the Higgs based on theories of super-symmetry. According to current these theories, finding the Higgs Boson would plug a gap believed to exist in the zoo of particles.

Now, in addition to strange objects such as quarks, bosons, and gluons, social scientists have asked the experimenters to search for the politicon and the twiton which are thought to exist only within the human brain. It is surmised that the politicon carries political force, and comes in two forms, differentiated by their spin. Left-spinning politicons likely to form homogeneous clusters, leading to uniform structures such as crystals.

On the other hand, right-spinning politicons act independently. Their more individual behaviour form looser bonds, and are probably related to the apparently random movement in fluids, known as Brownian Motion.

Another theoretical particle has been dubbed the twiton, on the basis that it is the basis of stupidity. Researchers expect to locate high concentrations of the twiton between two key region of the brain – the high-order planning prefrontal cortex, and the emotional centre known as the amygdala.

The prefrontal cortex is related to planning complex cognitive behaviours, personality expression, and moderating socially correct behaviour. This brain region orchestrates thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals. The amygdala is the more primitive part of the brain which processes memories and emotional reactions.

In stupid people, high concentrations of twiton overwhelm the prefrontal cortex with signals from the amygdala, leading to the dominance of emotions over intellect. The twiton’s action is transmitted through a force called bozone, blocking the processing of useful ideas and information.

Indirect evidence of bozon has already been detected via indicators such as certain hair styles, and underpants overtly displayed under baggy trousers. Cern researchers are currently collecting likely samples for testing in the Large Hadron Collider.

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Monday, 16 June 2008

Little D'oh, Big D'oh!

One of the joys of doing a live show is hearing your gaffs go to air. We were discussing the failure of a NASA space flight caused by a faulty O ring, and I am heard to say "not the Challenger..".

But that's a tiny off-the-cuff blooper. What about premeditated, smack your forehead national scale, go to the bottom of the class clangers? How about this one. But first, a few questions.

. at a time when we are desperately concerned about climate change what, apart from CO2 drives global climate? Hint - this factor is intimately related to our current chronic drought.

. what major food source is critically under threat through over exploitation?

. what part of Australia's national territory contains vast mineral wealth for our economic prosperity?

The answer of course, is the ocean.

So why, oh why (personal opinion) are we stupid enough to cut* the CSIRO's budget for the Southern Surveyor by $3 million? The Cleveland marine research lab at Moreton Bay is being closed, moving scientists to a converted jail (seriously).

* source: Rosslyn Beeby, Canberra Times

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Wednesday, 11 June 2008

A couple of fwd links to Arctic ice updates and currently visible spacecraft in the night sky

Has near-daily updates on how the arctic ice is doing. Not so well at the moment.

lists the brighter spacecraft visible from your suburb over the next few days (click on the 'global flybys'). Since the international space station can reach magnitude -3 (brighter than anything normally seen except the sun, moon, and occasionally Venus) it's easy to see even in the cities.

Human genome in 15 minutes

This company is developing the technology for a human genome in 15 minutes and expect it to come online in 2013 and cost $1000 per genome. The raw sequence is generated in three minutes! and the polished one in 15! Really does leave sequencing gels way back there, in my day we used to ..... ok actually I'm not that old. Apologies to Rod who confessed he used to use punch cards in his computing work.

here is the company claim

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Great Women in Science - Grace Hopper

From now on, till I run out of ideas, I want to do short pieces on-air about great women scientists. Last week I talked about Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood babe, and co-inventor of frequency-hopping radio, an idea now behind mobile phone communication (CDMA). Clever and beautiful.

Tomorrow I'm going to present (admiral) Grace Hopper, the inventor of the COBOL programming language. Here, she is described as of the first software engineers and, indeed, one of the most incisive strategic "futurists" in the world of computing.

Many of those of us who toiled under the yoke of COBOL may not be sure we want to thank her, but it was the mainstay of business computing for decades, and is remains the core of many systems, even today.

But Edsger Dijkstra wasn't impressed. He famously said The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should therefore be regarded as a criminal offense.

And guess what! Her team is credited with finding the first ever computer bug! Or, at least with first use of that term. I think the notebook where this was recorded is now in the Smithsonian Institute.

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Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Technology Briefs

Women who remained chained to the domestic machine in spite of years of liberation may like the following technological breakthroughs in the new field of “linen hygiene”. Both relate to techniques forcing their male partners into great rigour in their washing cycle - literally. These inventions encourage men to be more careful about submitting their dirty cloths to the laundry.

Researchers say these inventions aren’t specifically targeted at men, but studies have shown that they are by far the greatest offenders. Men are about 3 times more likely to have a bogeyed hanky in their pockets. 76% of men studied carried excessively soiled items of nasal linen, with a SDR (Snot Density Ratio) greater than the WHO recommended limits of 1,000ppm.

To combat this practice researchers embedded Snot Detection Factors into the material of the hanky. SDF turn an unsightly green when the SDR levels are high enough, hopefully prompting the owner to deposit the item into the laundry basket.

“This tends to encourage all but the most hardened hanky keepers”, researchers said. But they also commented that preliminary studies show there remains a hard core of (mostly men) who will keep their hanky no matter what. “We believe there are men out there who would hang on to their hankies, even if it look like a six-week old squashed cane toad”, they added.

Meanwhile another research group has come up with a more intrusive device for sniffing out those with lax laundry habits. The device can be retro-fitted to airport passenger screening systems to detect passengers wearing underpants that need washing. Officially these are known has Passenger Hygiene Protectors (PHP), but colloquially they have become known as “GrungyDax”.

Airport officials dislike the GrungyDax label, insisting the PHP is there to “enhance passenger comfort and hygiene”. One source who declined to be named said “Really, this is for everyone’s benefit. I mean, imagine sitting next to someone on a flight to Hong Kong, and they haven’t changed their jocks for three weeks”.

Feminists have attacked both these inventions, seeing it as another male-oriented high-tech approach to dumping more washing on women. Getting the green-tinted “snot-rags” out of their pockets is one thing, but is it going to make them turn on the washing machine? Time will tell.

(note that some or all of the preceding story may be invented)

Fuzzy Logic podcasts here!

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