World’s first 3D crop circle

I forgot to post about this when I first heard it on the radio, but I felt it interesting enough that I needed to track down a good article. On July 10th, the first ever 3D crop circle was discovered in a wheat field in Oxfordshire (in England).

cropcircle100706_228x154.jpgThe world’s first three-dimensional crop circle has been discovered deep in the English countryside, sparking the start of the corn circle season.

. . .

Steve Alexander, a crop circle photographer of more than 15 years, said: “I thought it was a groundbreaking formation. We have not seen anything like it before.

“The floor lay and the way the design appears to weave in and out has never been seen before, certainly not that I am aware.

. . .

“The move from a two-dimensional square into a three-dimensional cube might indicate that these patterns emanate from a dimension of reality we cannot access.

Or, maybe, just that the people dedicated to making these crop-circles have gotten better at fooling all the people who believe crop circles are a creation of some higher-intellect aliens or other-dimension critters.

[tags]Crop Circles[/tags]

Laser Focus World magazine

With a name like Laser Focus World, are you even surprised I post it? With the tagline “The Magazine for the Photonics & Optoelectronics Industry” I’m interested in it just for the name. Hey, I like lasers. What can I say? Check out some recent Laser Focus World headlines:

Laser desorption of hydrogen could be boon to silicon-chip makers

Anything that smoothes the process of computer-chip manufacture even just a bit could mean millions of dollars in savings to the chip maker.

Terahertz mirror is omnidirectional and broadband

Though terahertz technology is receiving most attention for its homeland-security applications in checking people, mail, or luggage, it also has applications in short-range free-space communications.

Crack-free gallium nitride layers grow on silicon substrates

Researchers at Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS) have reported successful growth of high-quality crack-free gallium nitride (GaN) epilayers on 6-in.-diameter silicon (Si) substrates using metal-organic chemical-vapor deposition to fabricate blue-emitting nitride multiple-quantum-well light-emitting diodes (LEDs).

I don’t even know what most of that means, and I’m still feeling all tingly inside. Sadly, at $150 for a single year subscription, all this stuff I wouldn’t understand anyway remains out of my grubby paws. No word on frikkin’ sharks and their applicability to the world of lasers.

[tags]Laser Focus World, Lasers[/tags]

Company works to increase American laziness

(via Slashdot)
As mentioned in the Slashdot article, I’m sure this is a sign of the coming apocalypse.  In an eight week trial program labelled “Laundry Time,” the Internet Home Alliance will have nine families test washers and dryers with advanced technology.  This will allow family members to receive laundry status updates and control laundry functions via cell phone , TV, or Internet connection.

Those skeptics in the audience (such as myself), might see this as a heightening of American laziness.

Laundry Time’s high-tech vision: “You settle down to do some Web surfing after a busy day. When you start up your browser, you get an Instant Message alert telling you that the dryer did not start its cycle. You realize that you forgot to press the start button. Laundry Time asks you in the IM whether you would like to start the cycle. With your mouse, you select “yes,” which starts the dryer, and you continue Web surfing without interruption.”

My solution is to not be stupid.  Pushing the damn START button before walking away seems like a given.  Perhaps it’s time we start mandating non-stupidity tests for people who want to be parents?

I’m with the BuzzBlog guy on this one:

BuzzBlog’s low-tech alternative: Wrinkles-schminkles.  If you’re taking phone calls from your laundry appliances while operating an automobile let’s just say that a messy crease in the khakis is the least of your concerns.

[tags]American laziness, Laundry Time, Net-enabled laundry[/tags]

RFID passports (finally) coming soon to the US

(via Engadget)
The US State Department appears to finally think it is ready to issue e-Passports to Americans. Privacy advocates, security specialists, techie-weenies, and sensible people everywhere object, but in typical government manner, the State Department doesn’t care. “Nyah, Nyah!” appears to be the message.

Here’s the gist of it:

They’ll have radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and are meant to cut down on human error of immigration officials, speed the processing of visitors and safeguard against counterfeit passports.

Yet critics are concerned that the security benefit of RFID technology, which combines silicon chips with antennas to make data accessible via radio waves, could be vastly outweighed by security threats to the passport holder.

Making RFID tags usable but not abusable is a tough problem (right up there with solving Fermat’s last theorem, honestly). The technology will likely speed border checks and such, but by the very nature of the technology, they will be abusable and likely very insecure.

“Basically, you’ve given everybody a little radio-frequency doodad that silently declares ‘Hey, I’m a foreigner,'” says author and futurist Bruce Sterling, who lectures on the future of RFID technology. “If nobody bothers to listen, great. If people figure out they can listen to passport IDs, there will be a lot of strange and inventive ways to exploit that for criminal purposes.”

. . .

“The basic problem with RFID is surreptitious access to ID,” said Bruce Schneier security technologist, author and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, a technology security consultancy. “The odds are zero that RFID passport technology won’t be hackable.”

. . .

In May, researchers at the University of Tel Aviv created a skimmer from electronics hobbyist kits costing less than $110. The equipment was small enough to fit into a briefcase or be disguised in any manner of luggage or clothes that could hide the 15-inch copper tube antenna.

The antenna boosts the read-range from a few inches to a few feet. To extend the range of surreptitious access much further, a second piece of equipment is needed to fake the RFID reader into sending a “read” signal, which is then relayed via radio waves to the skimmer’s reader near the targeted RFID chip.

. . .

U.S. passports are issued for ten years, which means the RFID chip technology of those passports, along with their vulnerabilities, will be floating around for a decade. Technology would have to “stop cold” Schneier of Counterpane says for improvements in skimming and hacking equipment not to occur.

Schneier has talked about this before in his Crypto-Gram newsletter.

In 2004, when the U.S. State Department first started talking about embedding RFID chips in passports, the outcry from privacy advocates was huge. When the State Department issued its draft regulation in February, it got 2,335 comments, 98.5% negative. In response, the final State Department regulations, issued last month, contain two features that attempt to address security and privacy concerns. But one serious problem remains.

It’s still a hard problem to solve, and none of the security experts I trust have bought in to the project yet. Until I see someone like Schneier say “This is well done, with measures which should prevent unauthorized access.” I’m not liking it. Oh, and a little hint – it’s not likely any such expert will say any such thing any time soon.

[tags]RFID passports, e-passports, Identity theft[/tags]

Have so much fun, it’s dangerous

With a site named DangerouslyFun, how could I not post it? There are only a few projects there now, but with dangerous fun, it has to grow. Surely loads of people will be contributing. Here’s a sample:

The premise of this project is catching flamable gas within soap bubbles. You can then transfer the bubbles to any surface you wish and light them on fire. The bubbles burn very quickly, creating an impressive fire ball but generally not burning or igniting the surface they are placed on. Read Disclaimer

Yes, you read that right – burning bubbles!

[tags]Dangerously fun, Dangerous fun[/tags]

Build your own proximity detector

(via MAKEzine blog)


Come on!!!! You know you want one! Here’s my thinking on this project – build this, figure how to link it to your PC, and put up a couple around your cubicle at work. Suddenly, no one can surprise you by sneaking up to your cube because they are too short to see and detect over the wall. The Instructables guide mentions hooking it up to a sound playback device, but I think if you could hook it up via USB and write a driver to make a pop-up onscreen whenever the detector activates, you’d have a nearly perfect boss-detection-system (BDS) for work use.

[tags]MAKEzine, Proximity detector, DIY projects[/tags]

UK to outlaw standby power mode?

(via PVR-wire)

“But I live in the US – I don’t care about that!” you might protest. And the truth is, for both of my regular readers, it probably doesn’t matter much (and I exaggerate – I doubt I have 2 regular readers). But this is a preview of a law I honestly expect to see come state-side eventually. Why? Well, check out the reason for a no-more-standby-mode law.

THE Government is to outlaw standby switches on televisions and video and DVD players to cut the amount of electricity wasted in the home.

Refrigerators, washing machines and dishwashers will have to become energy-efficient, and lightbulbs that burn too much energy will be phased out.

According to yesterday’s Energy Review, standby facilities use 8 per cent of all domestic electricity.

See that? Standby mode makes for 8% of domestic UK usage. Eliminating standby mode means after you turn off your TV, you’ll have to actually get your rear off the couch and push the power button on the box to turn it back on. This is because the remote-control power-on feature relies on the TV being in standby mode instead of being powered-off.

Of course, what more likely will happen is people will leave more equipment on when possible, thus increasing overall power consumption. But I’m just cynical enough to think people will take the lazy way out instead of the economical way out. Almost no one will notice the extra buck or two leaving on the computer or TV on will cost over a month, but they’ll remember having to drag that lazy ass off the couch to take three steps and turn on the TV with the button on the device.

[tags]UK power consumption, Electronic equipment standby mode[/tags]

Underwater image competition

I’ve already lost the source of this link. I think it’s another boingboing article, but I’ve gotten so many tabs opened to things I want to post about that I lost the original story. That said, go see some wonderful photos of underwater critters, the equipment used to see them, and some videos that go along with all that.

Pictured here – Deep-sea physonect siphonophore from the Arctic Ocean:


[tags]Underwater photography[/tags]

Biped robot kit

(via boingboing)
All geeky readers here, please raise your hands. Now, those of you with raised hands, keep them up if you’d like your own bipedal robot. Good. So, everyone who put their hands down – you can leave now – you’re not sufficiently geeky to be here. I deal with only high-level geeks, thank you very much. Those of you still here, check out the new Robo-One bipedal humanoid robot.

ROBO-ONE type bipedal humanoid robots were first introduced a little over four years ago. Almost all of the current designs have at least 16 or more servo motors, advanced controller boards, and fairly involved kinematics. That’s fine for the real devoted (maniac) robot fans, but as the robots have gotten more and more complex they have become way too difficult for the novice fans to master.

. . .

At the same time, Iwaki-san, the head of the Robot Force organization and a dedicated robot builder and competitor himself, believes that in order for number of robot players to increase dramatically, it must be FUN. Believe me, the Robo-Fight and Robo-Gong events are more fun than the proverbial barrel of monkeys, as we know from personal experience.

With that in mind, Robot Force set some basic design criteria for a low end, simple robot kit. In order to be considered a ‘humanoid robot’, their new robot would have to:

  • Have two legs and arms
  • Be able to walk around
  • Swing its arms to punch and fight
  • Get up from the ring mat either from a prone position or from its back

In addition, it had to:

  • Be easy for the customer to understand, build, program and operate
  • Have a low parts count with a minimal number of servos, since they are the most expensive single component in any humanoid robot design
  • Be low cost enough so that a large number of customers could afford it
  • Be a lot of FUN!

There you have it. Fun, easy to make, inexpensive, blah, blah, blah. What matters is this is a 3 servo robot that is designed to be more accessible than previous generation robots. And apparently, usable in robo-fights!!! Who doesn’t love a good robo-fight?

[tags]Robots, Robo-Fights[/tags]

Australia continues to host freaky-scary creatures

(via Dubious Quality)

Last week in his Friday Links section, Bill posted about fanged kangaroos and the ‘demon duck of doom’ found in Australia. Given the absurdly deadly creatures already known to inhabit the country on land and in the sea, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised to know there were even more deadly inhabitants in the past (psssst – this is the main link – the whole purpose of this post – if you skip the others, follow this one).

SYDNEY, Australia – Forget cute, cuddly marsupials. Paleontologists

say they have found the fossilized remains of a fanged killer kangaroo and what they describe as a “demon duck of doom.”

A University of New South Wales team said the fearsome fossils were among 20 previously unknown species uncovered at a site in Australia’s northwest Queensland state.

. . .

Vertebrate paleontologist Sue Hand said modern kangaroos look almost nothing like their ferocious forebears, which lived between 10 million and 20 million years ago.

The species found at the dig had “well muscled-in teeth, not for grazing. These things had slicing crests that could have crunched through bone and sliced off flesh,” Hand said.

Crunched? Damned kangaroos. I don’t think I want my bones crunched through, nor my flesh sliced off, thank you very much. Fortunately, these things appear to be gone now. Still, freaky-scary, I tell you. Oh, and freaky-scary is a technical term, I think. Although I haven’t verified that.

[tags]Australia, Freak-Scary critters[/tags]