NIST makes even more accurate atomic clock

(via Engadget)
Apparently, the possibility of being off 1 second every 70 million years was just too much for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  So NIST recently announced a new ultra-precise clock based on the oscillations of a mercury ion.  The new clock, tested and measured over the past 5+ years, should have an accuracy such that drift will be less than 1 second over 400 million years.  It will still take some time before this clock becomes the new standard, but the extra precision certainly suggests it will happen.

A prototype mercury optical clock was originally demonstrated at NIST in 2000. Over the last five years its absolute frequency has been measured repeatedly with respect to NIST-F1. The improved version of the mercury clock is the most accurate to date of any atomic clock, including a variety of experimental optical clocks using different atoms and designs.

. . .

“We finally have addressed the issue of systemic perturbations in the mercury clock. They can be controlled, and we know their uncertainties,” says NIST physicist Jim Bergquist, the principal investigator. “By measuring its frequency with respect to the primary standard, NIST-F1, we have been able to realize the most accurate absolute measurement of an optical frequency to date. And in the latest measurement, we have also established that the accuracy of the mercury-ion system is at a level superior to that of the best cesium clocks.”

And if you just want to learn more about atomic clocks and how they work, check out the NIST atomic clock page.

[tags]Atomic clock, Ultra-precision[/tags]

Wooden USB flash drives

(via MAKEzine blog)
usb-drivecraft.jpgTake a geeky gadget, put a pretty wrapper around it, ????, profit. In this case, ???? = get low-cost craftsmen to perform the work. These handsome USB keys are built by craftsmen in South African nation Sao Tome e Principe, on the Guinea Gulf along the equator. The project is currently working on getting large orders to keep the whole thing going.  These are really nice drive cases, and I’d love to see more of this kind of craft-work done with geeky stuff like this.
[tags]USB drive, Craft projects[/tags]

Meerkats teach their young how to hunt by dismembering scorpions

Again, sometimes the articles are just for my amusement and edification. This is one of those. Non-geeks are likely to want to skip ahead to another article.

Meerkats apparently live off a diet of scorpions – the kind that can kill an adult human. Sure, the Meerkats have some resistance to the poison, but those pinchers can still do a job on the Meerkat. Adults have learned how to handle their prey so as not to get stung or pinched. The young ones, however, haven’t learned how to do this, so the adults teach them in stages.

First, the adult brings dead scorpions in. As the young Meerkats age, the adults start bringing in live but partially dismembered scorpions. Eventually, they bring in fully capable scorpions and let the young ones tear them up.

Instead of letting their young figure out how to hunt dangerous scorpions on their own, older meerkats collect and disable the prey so the youth can learn how to deal with the feisty food.

The discovery, detailed in the July 14 issue of the journal Science, is one of the few examples of teaching in animals.

. . .

Meerkat hunters rapidly bite their prey’s head or abdomen to disable its attack, but young pups lack the experience for the task. Instead of allowing pups to learn by trial and error and risk receiving a potentially life-threatening sting, other meerkats older than three months take the pups under their wing to show them how its done.

“When pups are really young, helpers find and kill a scorpion and bring it to the pup,” said study co-author Alex Thornton of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.

The helpers respond to the pups’ begging calls, and as the cries sound more and more mature, the teachers increase the difficulty of the lesson. Instead of a dead scorpion, teachers remove the stinger from a live scorpion and present it to the pups. At this stage in the pupil’s tutelage, if the scorpion escapes, the teacher nudges it back for a second try.

Once the pups have mastered disabled prey, teachers bring an unaltered scorpion to the classroom for their students to tackle.

It’s a very interesting article.  The rest of the article talks about the believed evolution of teaching.  Since typically animals don’t behave this way, as far as teaching the young to hunt, scientists reason that there must be some benefit to the adults that outweighs the time lost from hunting and feeding.  Read the whole article if you want to learn some of the hypotheses.

[tags]Meerkats, Evolution, Teaching, Dismembering scorpions[/tags]

Wolfking FPS keyboard

(via Gizmodo)

Peripheral manufacturers are routinely trying to come up with “the next big thing” in controllers – especially for the PC shooter crowd. The most recent entry we’ve seen is this FPS keyboard from Wolf King. The half-plus keyboard is designed for left hand use so you can keep your right hand on the mouse. It has all the keys you normally can easily reach with your left hand, plus F1 through F12 in easy reach circling the top of the keyboard. Additionally, some of the right-hand side keys have been moved to be somewhat accesible. All this, and it’s only $34.99.


[tags]FPS controller, Wolfking, FPS[/tags]

DHS releases top terrorist targets list

(via Schneier’s security blog)
Our government has wisely used our tax money to carefully analyze potential terrorist targets, narrowing the list from 160 targets a few years ago to a mere 77,000 targets now.  In case you are wondering if you are near a top terrorist target site, here are a few details from the linked article.

When it comes to homeland security, I give up.

I’ve tried to highlight the absurdity of trying to protect every cranny of our country from al-Qaida attack. I’ve critiqued everything from the waste of buying anti-terrorist locks for Sammamish City Hall to the illogic of not having security cameras outside our airport. And yes, I’ve resorted to that columnist stock-in-trade: mocking and satirizing.

. . .

And on that list of national assets are … 1,305 casinos! No doubt Muckleshoot made the cut (along with every other casino in our state).

The list has 234 restaurants. I have no idea if Dick’s made it. The particulars are classified. But you have to figure it did.

Why? Because here’s more of what the inspector general found passes for “critical infrastructure.” An ice-cream parlor. A tackle shop. A flea market. An Amish popcorn factory.

. . .

And yet … there is one more thing that’s got me wondering. The report says our state boasts 65 “national monuments and icons” — somehow twice as many as Washington, D.C.

There you have it.  Washington state has twice as many national monuments and icons as Washington, D.C.  I left out mention of the 700 critical mortuaries that are top terrorist targets, by the way.  I wonder if this list is an accurate view of what the federal government truly views as hot spots for terrorist attack, or just a big list of places where our congress-critters feel money needs to be spent on influential voters?

[tags]Top terrorist targets, Idiocy in government, OMGWTFBBG?!!1?![/tags]

Cool Tool – Low Rise Cot


This is a gadget that would come in handy if the wife and I ever started camping again. Really, for any travel where you don’t know what kind of bedding, if any, you’ll have, the low rise cot would be perfect.

luxurylite_cot2.jpgThis is one of the lightest, and most comfortable sleeping “mats” I have ever found. When rolled up and compacted it is smaller than all the other mats out there, so it takes up less room in a pack or pannier. Only drawback is how to use it effectively in a winter climate. In the summer in a tent, cooler is good most times as you can sleep better since you are not sweltering in the heat. It takes no more time to take down and set up than inflating a thermorest or other compact mattress. Lastly, for larger guys like my self, it distributes my weight better. The stiff feeling I get after a sleep on most foamies, thermorests, and mattresses does not come about on this cot. For these reasons the Low Rise Cot is getting popular with the cycling crowd.

— Ben Eadie

LuxuryLite Low Rise Cot
Available from LuxuryLite

[tags]Cool Tools, Low rise cot[/tags]

Ooops! State department pwnz0rr3d.

(via boingboing)

Some days, things just don’t go your way. For the people responsible for US State Department computer and network security, it looks like that day was at least one day last month.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department is recovering from large-scale computer break-ins worldwide over the past several weeks that appeared to target its headquarters and offices dealing with China and North Korea, The Associated Press has learned.

I’ve worked computer security at government sites before.  This is the nightmare I think everyone at those sites has at least some times.

Investigators believe hackers stole sensitive U.S. information and passwords and implanted backdoors in unclassified government computers to allow them to return at will, said U.S. officials familiar with the hacking.

. . .

“The department did detect anomalies in network traffic, and we thought it prudent to ensure our system’s integrity,” department spokesman Kurtis Cooper said. Asked what information was stolen by the hackers, Cooper said, “Because the investigation is continuing, I don’t think we even know.” Continue reading “Ooops! State department pwnz0rr3d.”

Just say no to NCAA 2007 for the PSP

I don’t have a PSP, and if I did, I wouldn’t be buying NCAA 2007, as I’m not into sports games.  But, for those of you that are into sports games and that do have a PSP, make sure you avoid NCAA 2007 for the PSP.

There is apparently a bug in the PSP version of NCAA 2007 that can only be described as crippling. Thanks to Jesse Leimkuehler for alerting me to this.

As reported in various forums, in the PSP version of a game, the ball is spotted at the point where a runner first makes contact with a defender, NOT where he actually gets tackled.

Here’s an example: let’s say you’re on the 50 yard line. You run the ball wide on a pitch. The first time a defender touches you is at the 45. You break a tackle at the 45 and take it all the way for a touchdown.

Oh, wait–no you didn’t. The ball will get spotted at the 45.

Oh, yeah. That’s a bug.

[tags]PSP, EA Sports, NCAA 2007[/tags]

Linux Read/Write NTFS driver

(via OSNews)

This is practically old news now, but the Linux NTFS team announced last Friday, July 14th, that a public release of the NTFS for Linux driver is now available.


As part of the Linux-NTFS project, I’m happy to announce my contribution to ntfsmount and libntfs which resulted ntfs-3g, a read-write ntfs driver, capable for unlimited file creation and deletion.

The driver was successfully tested very exhaustively for a longer period of time by many ways and methods, creating and destroying millions of files and directories on newly created images, and on over 40 real, very diverse NTFS images collected over the last four years.

[tags]Linux NTFS driver, Linux, NTFS[/tags]

Simple tips to boost your Intarw3b speeds

Chris Pirillo shares a couple of easy to follow tips for improving network speeds on your computer.

  1. Open yourself to OpenDNS. They have configuration pages for your OS or hardware router. Both Scott Beale (LaughingSquid) and I have seen dramatic differences in speed since going through their DNS servers. Matt’s happy about it, too. My speed difference was probably even more dramatic, considering I’ve already implemented my second recommendation…
  2. If you’re on Windows, install FastCache: “Every time you go to a new website, or a website you haven’t been to in a day or so, your computer needs to locate the server again using DNS. Each DNS request can take anywhere from 50 milliseconds, to even a second or more, but most are in the 100 to 200 millisecond range. Want to save a couple hundred milliseconds? Probably not, but what about a couple million or more? That’s what AnalogX FastCache is all about.” I’ve been running FastCache since Mark released it on the first Helpathon. My stats are somewhat stunted, but I’ve saved 6d 18h 27m 53s worth of time (in 118w). It really adds up.

There you have it. Now hop to, and get that pr0n faster.

[tags]Chris Pirillo, Faster networking[/tags]

Octopus wrestling is my hobby

Modern Mechanix has some of the most interesting flash-back articles I’ve ever seen. The latest to catch my eye is an article from the April 1949 issue of Mechanix Illustrated. As indicated by this article’s title, the magazine article is called “Octopus wrestling is my hobby.” Even if I didn’t find the article fascinating, I’d probably have to post it just to use the awesome headline and the cool story cover page.


Here’s a new kind of deep-sea fisherman—he stalks the cunning, eight-armed king-of-the-ocean in the coral lagoons of the Pacific

By Wilmon Menard

“YOU have come to the right place, my son,” said the old man. “On this atoll, the world’s first octopuses were born—and will one day die, we pray!”

The wizened grandfather of my native guide greeted us with those words when we landed on the tropical beach at Rimaroa during our ocean-wide hunt for octopuses. For, as in ancient days, the Islanders still regard the giant octopus with awe.

They believe him to be the prowling ghost of the wicked god Tumuraifenua, who cast the natives into darkness by holding down the sky with his tentacles. According to the legend, sickness overwhelmed the population and slimy monsters crawled from the deep lagoons to devour entire villages. But for me, wrestling and killing the treacherous octopus was simply a hobby and I had crossed the Pacific to engage in this fascinating pastime.

. . .

Then, there would be a human-like moan and the water would be clouded with sepia. The long tentacles would flay the surface of the lagoon in savage fury, as the monster tried to rid itself of our spears which were firmly imbedded in its head. If necessary, another spear would be dispatched into the writhing hulk. It took a long time to tire the octopus and we had to hold firmly to the ropes attached to the end of the spears to prevent it from sinking to the bottom of the lagoon where it would be lost to us.

What did we do with the octopus after we killed it? We simply lashed it behind our outrigger canoe, towed it back to the village and presented it to the district chief. And what did the natives do with it? They ate it!

. . .

One day, in the late afternoon, Roo and I discovered a huge monster with 25-foot tentacles in a coral grotto just below the surface of the lagoon. We let out a cry for the natives of the village to assist us. This brute was just too big for two men to handle. With spears, knives and clubs, the entire village arrived to do battle with the giant octopus.

The monster, disturbed by the noise and sensing no escape from its attackers, lashed out menacingly with its long writhing tentacles. As quickly as the grisly arms rose above the surface of the lagoon, the natives slashed them off. In the darkness of the coral cavern, I could see the horrible purplish eyes.

Suddenly, one of the bolder assailants gave a warning shout. Being closer to the monster’s lair, he saw that it was emerging from its retreat to fight us in the open. As it rose to the surface, pulling itself up the reef wall by its partly-severed tentacles, I could see that it was of a reddish hue, with a hideous horned head. Then it started rolling toward us. Although its sepia secretion clouded the water during the first stages of the conflict, I could see that its tentacles were really 25-feet long. Partly cut off by the natives’ knives, they flayed the surface of the lagoon, groping out for the attackers.

. . .

Like to wrestle an octopus? I realize it all sounds like a loathsome sport but it’s really more fun than hunting some poor harmless creature. When you wrestle and kill an octopus, you’re ridding the marine world of a treacherous enemy.

And you’d better watch your step, too. For there’s no such thing as a reckless octopus hunter. You’re either careful or dead.

Read the full article for further details of the battle.

[tags]Modern Mechanix, Octopus wrestling[/tags]