RPU – Ray Tracing Processing Unit

(via Tingilinde)
I have no details on this beyond what the brief note at Tingilinde, but apparently the August 2006 issue of Scientific American has an introductory article to new ray tracing hardware.  The information in the article was part of a talk at SigGraph 2005.  Looks like I’ll need to head to the bookstore and pick up the magazine (or possibly get the digital edition).
[tags]Scientific American, RPU, Ray Tracing Processing Unit, Ray Tracing[/tags]

Double-barrel cigarette holder

This brief article from the November 1931 issue of Modern Mechanix has the accessory every smoker needs:

Double-Barrel Cigarette Holder
We don’t know whether the cigarette manufacturers were behind this idea, but it might be a good idea for them to give away one of these new holders to all smokers. Just think how cigarette sales would jump if everybody smoked two at one time!

[tags]Modern Mechanix, Cigarettes, Smoking[/tags]

Superhero stamps for the US postal service

stamps_dccomics_600s-b.jpgIt appears I learned about these just in time – the new superhero stamps are due out Friday, July 21st (edit: was Thursday, July 20th). So tomorrow Friday after I drop the kids off at school, I suppose I’ll need to swing by the post office and buy a couple of sheets of stamps. Then, I can take two of each stamp and mail one of each of them to my children. My dad did this for me when I was younger, and that’s what got me started collecting stamps. Sadly, I no longer know where all my stamps are. Nothing I had was worth much anyway, but I hate losing the collection.  Just for kicks, maybe I should ask my mother if she still has my stamps.
To see a larger view of the stamps, click on the above image. The full view will open in a new window.  To see the full list of heros on the stamps, follow the link to the full article: Continue reading “Superhero stamps for the US postal service”

Team Fortress 2 details emerge

(via TechEBlog)

250px-Team_Fortress_2_Group_Photo.jpgIn developement for almost as long as Prey and Duke Nukem Forever, Team Fortress 2 is probably one of the most anticipated, least known about game on the gaming horizon. Valve has just released a brief gameplay video showing the current state of the game.

Just like its predecessor, in Team Fortress 2 players will be able to choose to play as one of several archetypal classes at the start of a match, each with its own unique strengths and weaknesses

Head over to Wikipedia for more information on the development and vaporware view of this game:

Team Fortress 2 is the long-anticipated sequel to the original Team Fortress mod for Quake being developed by Valve Corporation. It is a multiplayer team-based first-person shooter with strategy elements. The game has been through various concepts and designs: in 1999 the game appeared to be deviating from the original Team Fortress by heading toward a more realistic and militaristic style of gameplay, and the design metamorphosed further over the game’s seven-year development. The final rendition of Team Fortress 2 currently appears to bear more resemblance to the original Team Fortress design, and sports a distinctive, cartoonish visual style.

The lack of information or apparent progress for six years of the game’s supposed development caused it to be labelled as vaporware, and it was regularly featured in the top 5 of Wired Magazine‘s annual vaporware list among other ignominies.

[tags]Team Fortress 2, Vaporware, Valve software[/tags]

FDA likely to say no to bionic eye

LiveScience.com recently posted this article about the FDA’s refusal to approve a bionic eye. I changed the headline to indicate the FDA is likely to say no. Here’s why:

In the 1970s TV show “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the strapping young astronaut got a bionic eye. A U.S. company had hoped that next year that might be your grandmother. Not so fast, a federal advisory panel said Friday.

A tiny telescope designed to be implanted in the eyes of some elderly patients should not receive Food and Drug Administration approval, the panel recommended on a 10-3 vote.

Later in the article:

The FDA typically follows the recommendations of its outside panels of experts, but isn’t required to do so.

So it is likely the bionic eye will be rejected, but it isn’t a final decision yet. Now, on to the story of the eye.

The first-of-its-kind device is called the Implantable Miniature Telescope. The telephoto lens could enable some patients to do away with the special glasses and handheld telescopes they now use to compensate for the loss in central vision caused by age-related macular degeneration, according to VisionCare Ophthalmic Technologies Inc., its manufacturer.

. . .

The device is designed to be implanted only in one eye, which would provide central vision. The other eye, left untouched, would be responsible for peripheral vision, leaving the brain to combine the two views to form a single image. Getting used to that could require patients to undergo professional rehabilitation, the FDA said.

The surgery to implant the telescope is more difficult than conventional cataract surgery and can lead to damage to the inside of the cornea, according to the company. Patients also may experience a higher rate of loss of cells lining the cornea, which can require removal of the device and a cornea transplant.

In clinical trials, 141 of 193 patients implanted with the device showed after a year improved distance and near visual acuity, defined as the sharpness of vision in reading an eye chart, according to FDA documents. Ten patients reported a loss in acuity in either distance or near vision. Doctors removed eight of the devices, four of them from patients dissatisfied with how they worked, FDA documents show.

And more at the above link. And as a co-worker pointed out, that annoying sound whenever you use the bionics would probably drive people crazy. More so than everything slowing down around you when using a bionic leg.

[tags]Bionic eye, FDA[/tags]

Bush’s threat to veto stem cell funding is morally bankrupt?

(via boingboing)
Let me start by saying that I am not linking to this article because I agree nor because I disagree. I simply don’t know enough about the stem cell research debate to judge whether or not it is good or bad to perform the research or limit money for doing so. I am linking to this article that is critical of Bush because I find the argument put forth compelling and intelligent, and it shows a view of the situation that I had not considered before.

Over at Salon.com, Scott Rosenberg makes a good case for the claims behind the stem cell research veto being bogus. I’m still thinking about this and trying to decide how I feel about the whole issue. I need to learn more about stem cell research and what limits, if any, the 2001 funding stops caused, as well as what gains we can realistically expect if stem cell research is increased.

President Bush appears poised for the first veto of his presidency. The cause that has finally pushed him to reject Congressional legislation? An attempt to expand funding for stem cell research that Bush hobbled back in 2001.

For millions of Americans, the potential fruits of stem cell research — in the form of cures to dangerous diseases — are a serious matter with grave personal import. For President Bush, the issue has always served as a political football.

On the one hand, Bush argues that the destruction of human embryos (microscopic organisms made up of a few cells) is a kind of killing. His press spokesman, Tony Snow, adopting the supercharged cant of anti-abortion activists, referred to it recently as “murder.” In order to stop such “murder,” Bush agreed in 2001 to limit all federal funding of stem cell research to a handful of pre-existing “lines” of cells — cells that had been created specifically for research. His argument was, let’s not use tax dollars to pay for the destruction of more embryos for the sake of research.

Here is why Bush’s position is a joke: Thousands and thousands of embryos are destroyed every year in fertility clinics. They are created in petri dishes as part of fertility treatments like IVF; then they are discarded.

Hmmmmm. To my eye, this is a well written article. I think it’s worth reading, regardless of which side of the issue you fall on. The above snip is substantial and informative, but not all of the article. Follow the link and read for yourself.
[tags]Stem cell research, Bush veto[/tags]

BBC: Disney axes 650 global film jobs

I find the BBC’s wording of that headline curious, given who’s birthday it is today. That said, this doesn’t sound like happy-fun-rosy times at Disney now, does it?

US entertainment giant Disney is to cut 650 jobs worldwide as part of plans to produce fewer adult-oriented films and concentrate on family blockbusters.

The firm is to reduce its film output from about 18 to 12 movies a year, with only two or three from adult-oriented subsidiary Touchstone Pictures.

The article says the cutbacks are part of an effort to reduce the number of flops (like The Ladykillers and The Alamo) and hopefully produce more big hits (like the recent Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest).

[tags]Disney, Movies, Pirates of the Caribbean, Box office hits, Job cutbacks[/tags]

CinemaNow to Offer Burnable Film Downloads

I’ll be watching this to see how it works out. I’m interested in the limitations put on the burned discs.

CinemaNow will soon start selling downloads of popular films that can be transferred, or “burned,” to blank DVDs for use with home DVD players, and such Hollywood heavies as Walt Disney’s Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment have already signed on to provide content, the Associated Press reports via the New York Post.

. . .

In the past, CinemaNow users couldn’t watch film downloads on their televisions unless they connected them to computers, the AP reports.

. . .

Hollywood studios have been hesitant to adopt the online download sales medium for films due to piracy concerns and the possible cannibalization of retail stores sales, but advances in encryption and additional digital rights protection technologies have led them to experiment with the concept.

. . .

Benjamin Feingold, president of Sony’s home entertainment division, told the AP, “It’s a test of the distribution and security architecture,” and he agreed that studios would license more content once the system is vetted.

The company will offer films starting at $8.99 each, and they’ll include all the features that a DVD purchased in a retail store would, according to the AP, though once a copy is burned, its quality will be slightly lower than an official studio DVD. CinemaNow’s film downloads will also be able to be transferred to DVD only once, but customers will be able to repeatedly watch the movies on their computers, according to the AP.

I’m interested in what DRM protections they’ll be using, and whether the burned discs can be backed up. I know there are piracy issues here, but there are also issues of me being able to keep a movie I’ve paid for and should legally be allowed to watch whenever I want. At least, if I understand what they are doing, that seems to be an issue to me.

[tags]CinemaNow, Legally downloadable movies[/tags]

New wonder in shaving! Electric razors now available

electric_razor_sml.jpgBringing us an article from the February 1932 issue of Modern Mechanix, the web site Modern Mechanix has the all the details on these new fancy contraptions.

AT LAST the electrical dry shave is with us! Requiring no blades, no lather, no cleaning, the ingenious razor shown in action in the photo at the left gives a cleaner shave than any conventional type razor, it is claimed.

Plug the razor into a wall socket and it’s ready for use—no hot water or towels required. The razor cuts the hair in exactly the same way as the clippers used by barbers. It has but one moving part.

Yeah, I need to get one of those. Why, supposedly, you can’t even cut yourself with one of these fancy ‘lectric razors.

[tags]Electric Razor, Modern Mechanix[/tags]

Are you getting enough caffeine?

(via boingboing)
I drink Mountain Dew.  I actually like the taste of it.  A few years ago, I converted to diet Mountain Dew, since as much as I drink meant I was taking in an extra 500-1000 calories a day in sugar.  I know the diet drinks have other problems associated with them, but Mountain Dew is one of the few caffeinated drinks I can tolerate, and I’ve not figured how to get more sleep on a consistent basis yet.

That all said, if you ever wondered if you were getting enough/too much/too little caffeine from your beverage of choice, then cspinet has a guide to help you determine how much you are getting.  For the record, here are some numbers that help me decide what to consume.

  • Coffee, grande (16 oz.) Starbucks -  550
  • NoDoz, Regular Strength (1) – 100
  • Mountain Dew (12 oz.) – 55
  • Water, caffeinated (Edge 2 O), (8 oz.) – 70

Now I need to track down an affordable provider of that caffeinated water and I’ll be able to drop my Mountain Dew habit *AND* get a boost to my caffeine intake.  W00t!