Archive | April 2012

A real “Sonic Screwdriver”

It looks like a group of physicists have taken inspiration from Doctor Who and created a “sonic screwdriver”. How cool is that? So far, it has managed to lift a rubber disk using ultrasound, which isn’t quite as good as The Doctor, but he IS about 900-odd years old!

The Dundee researchers used energy from an ultrasound array to form a beam that can both carry momentum to push away an object in its path and, by using a beam shaped like a helix or vortex, cause the object to rotate.

Now, that sounds pretty cool as it is, but what makes it even more interesting is the potential medical applications using ultrasound. Ultrasound is already used, for example, to deliver chemotherapy into brain cancer cells, or in dentistry for cleaning teeth. The head of the group that made this screwdriver claims it could be used for even more targeted delivery or precise cellular manipulation.

I bet The Doctor would be interested.

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Breivik requests an acquittal?!?!

Anders Breivik, the man who bombed government buildings in Oslo and killed a total of 77 people last summer, has urged the jury to acquit him.

Breivik said he would do it all again and asked to be acquitted.

Although he admits the bombing and attack on a youth camp, he has pleaded not guilty to terror and mass murder.

“These acts are based on goodness, not evil,” he said, adding that he had toned down his rhetoric out of concern for the victims.

What the fuck?

On Monday, prosecutors played harrowing recordings of the events and described the fate of each victim in detail.

Throughout the evidence, Breivik remained emotionless, although he shed tears when the court played a 12-minute anti-Islam video which he had posted online on the day of the carnage.

I’m not a lawyer or a psychologist/psychiatrist, but this doesn’t sound like the work of a man who is legally insane to me. It sounds like a sociopath – somebody with no empathy at all. And he thought this was “for the good of Norwegian society”?

There is, perhaps, one silver lining to the whole affair: he’s given himself and his cause a lot of bad publicity. I personally admire the Norwegian government’s response just after the attacks: to use more democracy, not less. Some countries could take a lesson from that.

Make Everything Okay

I found this site while using StumbleUpon. I wish there was a key to do this!

Possible evidence for particles that are their own antiparticles has been found.

Okay, why is that interesting? Well, every elemental particle has a corresponding antiparticle, which is almost exactly the same but has an opposite charge: such as an electron (negatively charged) and a positron (positively charged). Majorana fermions were predicted back in 1937 by Ettore Majorana, and if they exist they may be useful in creating quauntum computers.

To create a device that would have both the right material and a means of measuring Majorana fermions, the team connected an indium antimonide nanowire in between an electrode made of gold and the end of a superconducting material. They then placed the result onto a silicon substrate which had been preprinted with logic circuits to allow for reading the electronic properties of the nanowire. With the stage set, the team then cooled the device to just fractions of degrees above absolute zero and then introduced a magnetic field at one point and additional current at another. In both instances, the researchers found that at two points along the wire, their device registered a strong response at just the places where Majorana fermions were predicted to occur. The responses in effect showed that the particles didn’t move when in the presence of a magnetic field or an electric current, because they are electrically neutral.

Granted, it isn’t confirmed yet, but it matches the theoretical predictions so far. And even if it doesn’t actually end up being much use, it’s still a discovery!

Darth Vader & Son

I found this via Camels With Hammers: what if Darth Vader was a good dad to Luke?

These aren't the toys you're looking for

Are we there yet?

More images at the link.

Oh, it’s Easter

Oh, so it’s Easter Sunday. I’d be sitting outside getting some sun if the wind wasn’t a nuisance, but there’s some great views from my bedroom window of Lago di Varese. But instead of boring myself stiff in a church listening to somebody waffle on about some zombie or other, I’ve had a lovely fry-up (including some potato cakes I made yesterday), and done some extra revision for the exams. A tad more productive, I’d say!

To be honest, I’ve never really seen Easter as anything but time off school – and in recent years as exam revision time. The whole supernatural aspect makes no sense to me at all, especially Jesus “rising from the dead”. You know what geeks call that, and how they deal with it? It’s a zombie, and all too many geeks have pages-long lists of plans for something they want to happen.

What really, really annoys me – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – is that it changes all the time! According to a friend of mine (Aengus Finnegan, a Gaeilgeoir who was doing a PhD in Irish place names) the issue has been going on for nearly 1600 years: some of the written records in Irish dating from back then concern arguments between Rome and the Irish church on when Easter should be, and between both parties and a splinter group that did it differently. If it’s been going on for that long, then it won’t be solved any time soon, which is a bit of a nuisance.
Finally, I just don’t see any difference between the Easter Bunny and the whole resurrection thing in terms of reality. They’re both fictional – only the Bunny actually gives you nice things 🙂
Mmm…chocolate…

UPDATE: I found this image on Pharyngula. I think it’s pretty funny.

SOPA Mk 3…here we go again!

Do they ever give up? Once again, some members of the US Congress are backing a reincarnation of SOPA. There’s a petition against it here, so go sign that.

Laws like this could politics even dirtier: all you’d need to do would be to leak information that your opponents were engaged in hacking, and they’d be finished! And because they’re worded so vaguely, they’re far too open to interpretation and can then be updated/tightened in increments. Finally, just consider the hypocrisy involved by Western governments in creating such laws: they create them, and then turn around and criticise governments such as China, Iran etc. for censoring the Internet.

You might as well try to shut down /b/ while you’re at it!