Hypercubed Blog

Incoherent chatter on issues related to science, computing, and philosophy.
Random chains of thought from a scattered mind.

Hypercubed Blog has Moved!


Shields up, block that dangerous Cruise missile
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2005 5/31/2005 09:10:00 PM

This is an interesting article. Apparently Tom Cruise is offering unsolicited medical (or should I say anti-medical) advice to recent postpartum sufferer Brook Shields. Cruise feels that post-partum depression should be treated with Vitamins. I do think that some people are being over medicated but who is Tom Cruise to be offering medical advise to others. I applaud Shields for calling him out on it. In her words:

Tom should stick to saving the world from aliens and let women who are experiencing postpartum depression decide what treatment options are best for them.

If you read the article you will realize that Shields' depression was extremely severe and taking anti-depressants could likely have saved her life and the life of her daughter. To the other extreme I think people are often over medicating their children. I hear all the time about young children that are taking drugs to control their hyperactivity. Sometimes it may been needed but it seams to me these people have normal active children and they are too lazy, busy, or tired to keep up with them. Children have a lot of energy and just because you can't keep up doesn't mean that you need to dope the hell out of them to make them as slow as you. Also, maybe you should stop pumping them full caffeinated soda all day and then you wont need to give them downers before bed.

On the subject of Scientology I have to admit most scientologist I meet (or see on TV) are pretty together people. Maybe the proof is in the pudding but I can't understand how can anyone believe that metal illness is the result of alien ghosts infecting the mind. Or believe in any religion whose founder (science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard) is often quoted as saying "The way to make a million dollars is to start a religion" (this is controversial). If you want to know more about the "secrets" of the church of scientology here: http://www.xenu.net/.

[via: Skeptico]


Will Wright discusses "Spore"
Posted Saturday, May 28, 2005 5/28/2005 09:18:00 PM

Will Wright, creator of SimCity and The Sims, discussed a new game project called Spore at the 2005 Game Developer's Conference (GDC) in San Francisco. In this game the player will start with a microbial life form and evolve it all the way to the point of interstellar travel. I'm not so much interested in the game as I am in what Will calls "procedural" content development. In Spore Will's game developers are not spending time creating stories and complex animations. Instead the animations and graphics are all dynamic based on a procedural system and the user selected parameters.

What's more, because the whole system is procedurally driven the individual creatures created by the player can be easily compressed into small packets and transferred into other players ecosystems. Within the ecosystems different players species compete for survival (Darwinian like). What fascinates me is that because of this procedural system the creatures are not preprogrammed. Undoubtedly, as the users create new creatures there will be life forms that the game designers never dreamt of. You see I loved the GTA series of games but you are essential playing in a world and along a plot that the game designers planned. With Spore the users are creating their own worlds and their own plots. Even the developers don't know how the plot will unfold in each users ecosystem. I really think this is the future of content.

I've thought about evolution type games (or simulations) for many years. Systems like like Conway's game of life fascinated me. I wanted to see more advanced ecosystems and more diverse phenotypes. I knew that in order to do it right the system must be dynamic enough that new phenotypes could come into play without being preprogrammed or otherwise ore-planned. Everything I've seen so far has fallen short of my vision. I hope that Spore is a step in the right direction; although at this point is all user driven. I'd love to see a evolution simulation system that can evolve based on Darwinian principles and result simulated life forms the system programmers never planned or expedited.

I was fooled
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2005 5/26/2005 10:09:00 PM

Ok, I'll admit it I was fooled. I was planning on blogging about this article according to which 42 Cambodian midgets attempted to fight a lion. I was going to suggest that they win the Darwin award and bad mouth their leader and the Cambodian government. Well, luckily I didn't because it appears that the whole article was a hoax, I should have known. Well, you should check out this site where the people that created the fake BBC article explain how they made it, how it spread, and how they are attempting to control the hoax. Interesting read.

Musings on Traffic (the web kind)
Posted 5/26/2005 10:12:00 AM

It is the 26th of May and at this point I've been blogging for 2 months now. I thought the two month anniversary is a good moment to stop and reflect on my work here. So far my traffic has been mediocure as to be expect on a new blog without a coherent theme (I've talked about this before). In the last two months (60 days) I've posted 44 entries for an average of 1.4 days between posts. Some of those posts were on the same day. I've posted on 36 days out of 60 missing 24. 14 of the 60 days I was half way around the world but still managed to post 2 entries during that time (what dedication!).

I had two major "hits" when my blog was linked to by some other majors blogs. The chart below shows the jump in traffic during these events. There are some interesting things I notice. For one the "Glass - Solid or Liquid?" post generated more unique visits to my blog whereas the "MapPoint" post generated many more page views. I take this to mean that the viewers of the MapPoint post either returned many times or found the article interesting enough to visit other pages. On the other hand the glass post generated a lot more visits presumably because of the popularity of either the skeptic's circle, the Pharyngula website, or both but the visitors didn't find the post interesting enough to stick around. It is also interesting to note that the Glass post continues to generate many hits a day while the MapPoint post has basically fallen off the map.

So I guess what this tells us is that it is not the quality of the posts that count, as the MapPoint post was apparently better quality, but getting your site linked to by other popular sites, as evident in the glass post. Also, worthy of noticing is that now that my site has shown up on the Pharyngula blogroll my blogs value, according to BlogShares, has gone from B$1,000 to B$14,000 (Yes, I know this is a fictional market, but interesting none the less) [note: apparently because the way Pharyngula does it's random blogroll my value is now back down at B$1,112.89. Buy, buy, buy.. it is bound to come up again].

Even if the above observations are true (probably not) I'm not going to let that change the way I blog. I'm still going to attempt to post about interesting things (at least for me) and am not going to attempt to have my blog name dropped every where. I'm in this for self improvement not popularity.

Goodbye Kevin Rose
Posted Wednesday, May 25, 2005 5/25/2005 06:01:00 PM

Goodbye England's Kevin Rose. Last night, with all my excitement over MediaMan and CueCat I almost forgot the biggest news of the evening. Kevin Rose of G4's Attack of the Show is leaving the show. I'm sad to see home go. He was the straight man of the group and will defiantly be missed. But the good news is that he is moving on to new (and hopefully better) things. Kevin and others are starting a download only tech show at systm.org. Seams to be a very good quality show that might be able to compete with the broadcast shows. I'm not quite sure how they plan to make money but I hope it works out.

Posted 5/25/2005 09:21:00 AM

Last night on G4's Attack of the Show Sarah's Damn Good Download was MediaMan 2.1. It looked good so I downloaded it and took it for a spin. Sarah was excited about the ability to enter data by "scanning" the barcodes using a webcam. Looked nice but I had a better idea.

I searched through the old electronic junk box in the closet (the one my wife always wants to throw away) and pulled out an old CueCat®. Do you remember CueCat? The CueCat was a barcode scanner that was handed out for free (I got mine with my wired subscription) where the idea was that users can scan barcodes into the CueCat software to jump to websites related to that product. It was an obvious cheap ploy to collect marketing data. But anyway, the CueCat actually plugged in-between your keyboard and computer and when a barcode was scanned a garbled string of characters was sent to the computer as keystrokes. Well it wasn't long before people learned how to decrypt the garbled text into a real barcode.

I had a plan. I was going to write a simple VB code that would decrypt the CueCat code into a normal barcode for input into MediaMan. Well to my surprise the brilliant makers of MediaMan have actually included the CueCat decoder into MediaMan. I hooked up the CueCat scanned a book into the barcode entry form and pow. There was the book; title, price, and even an image of the front cover. Within a few miniutes I had scanned an entire book shelf. So sweet! Thank you Sarah... that was the best damn download ever.


Old Games
Posted Tuesday, May 24, 2005 5/24/2005 09:24:00 PM

I like old games. Especially ones that I really wanted to play when I was younger and couldn't afford it (like I mentioned with Zelda) but are now cheap as hell (try the pre-played section at EBGames). It is even better when the games are free. I like to find and play old abandonware games. One of the best sites for abandonware is Home of the Underdogs. Also try searching on Google as many of these sites tend to venture too far into the not-so-abandonedware and get shut down. Another great site is replacementdocs to download old manuals.

I'm also attempting to setup a MAME machine. I've got the computer running great using AdvanceMAME and AdvanceMENU running under MS-DOS 6.22 and using the DOS version of pcAnywhere to control it. I did a lot of tweaking of pc's setup including a custom compiled version of AdvanceMAME. Hopefully soon I get around to blogging all the sweet hacking of my PC to get MAME just right. In the future I hope to get a cabinet to install everything in and make a standup cab complete with coin slots.

Read it and weep (I did)
Posted Monday, May 23, 2005 5/23/2005 09:23:00 AM

At my work there is a constant (friendly) clash between the physicists and the engineers. Well, this article at NYTimes.com sets everything straight. According to the article the top 10 classiest occupations are:

1. Physicians and Surgeons
2. Lawyers
3. Database Administrators
4. Computer System Administrators
5. Astronomers and Physicists
6. Chemical Engineers
7. Chemists and Materials Scientists
8. Network and Data Communications Analysts
9. Computer Support Specialists
10. Dentists

Only one engineer among the bunch (Chemical Engineers at #6) but still below "Astronomers and Physicists" at #5. It takes some work but you can find the other engineers further down:

12. Aerospace Engineers
20. Engineers, Other
22. Civil Engineers
43. Mechanical Engineers
44. Electrical and Electronic Engineers

How sad for all the Electrical Engineers. They are even below "Engineers, Other" at #20. So I guess even if someone argues that I am not a Physicists because my official title is "Engineer/Scientist" I'd still be at #20 safely above "Electrical Engineers". I'm glad that is finally settled.

All joking aside I find it interesting that I can rank high in all categories (Occupation, Education, and Income) but at the bottom for Wealth. I guess that is the cost (literally) of living in California.

[via: pharyngula]


A Complete Waste Of Time
Posted Sunday, May 22, 2005 5/22/2005 12:32:00 PM

This website contains tons (how many websites to a ton anyway?) of online games and gimmicks bound to lead to hours of wasted time. Many of these games (like Kitten Cannon that I've mentioned before) are highly addictive so please heed the warning posted on this website:

WARNING: Do Not Read This If You Have Work To Do!!!!!!!!!

Be sure to check out the ThrowPaper and South Park Create-A-Character. Below is my best guess at what I would look like as a South Park character.

Myself as a South Park Character

[via: Lockergnome's Windows Fanatics ~ May 20, 2005]


RoboForm Watch
Posted Saturday, May 21, 2005 5/21/2005 10:35:00 PM

While doing some ego surfing on Technorati I noticed an entry on a japanese blog translating a post I made regarding RoboForm. I've tried translating the site using babelfish but not getting very good results (did you know Babel Fish is from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?). It appears that the author is some sort of RoboForm fan-boy. It is interesting to see such a minor post on my insignificant little blog can seam important enough to be translated to Japanese. I'll have to get someone that knows Japanese to read it to see it was translated by hand or using the fish.


The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 5/18/2005 10:57:00 PM

The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy movie came out recently and I was only slightly impressed. It was funny, in a British sort of way, but not very funny. I had never read the book(s) and as I was watching I was thinking that this would be much funnier if I were reading it. Soon after that I purchased the book and while I’m not yet finished I can tell that this is going to be a great ride. The humor in the book is many times more then what was in the movie. I don’t regret seeing the movie. As a matter of fact I think seeing the movie first was a benefit. Having watched the movie it gives the book added voice and visuals that might not have been as detailed if I hadn’t seen the movie. I’ll write more when I finish the book (or the trilogy, which for some reason consists of five books) but for now I’ll leave you with a great quote that you will find in the book but not in the movie (it would never work in the movie):

…”you’d better be prepared for the jump to hyperspace. It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.”
“What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?”
“You ask a glass of water.”
Authur thought about this.

My heroes have always been scientists
Posted Tuesday, May 17, 2005 5/17/2005 09:49:00 PM

A little poem I wrote (with a little help from Willie Nelson)

I grew up dreaming of being a scientist,
and loving the scientist ways.
Pursuing the works of my well published heroes,
I burned up my childhood days.
I learned the rule of modern-day science,
don't hold on to a paradigm too long.
Just take what you need from the shoulders of giants,
and pen the words of a new science law.

My heroes have always been scientists,
and they still are, it seems.
Always in search of, but one step in back of,
myself and my paradigm-shifting dreams.

Scientists are special with their own brand of misery,
from being alone too long.
You could die from the cold in the arms of a theory,
knowing well that your best days are gone.
Picking up pens instead of a football,
I let the strength of my youth fade away.
Old worn-out pencils, and old worn-out minds,
with no more ideas and no new discoveries today.

My heroes have always been scientists,
and they still are, it seems.
Always in search of, but one step in back of,
myself and my paradigm-shifting dreams.

Always in search of, but one step in back of,
myself and my paradigm-shifting dreams.

20 questions (neural network)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 5/16/2005 11:06:00 PM

This is really cool. It has been around for a while so probably many of you have seen it before but I just discovered it. This is a web based version of 20 questions. You think of an object, answer 20 questions, and often the website will correctly guess what you are thinking of. Behind the scenes is a neural network that is constantly learning to distinguish your item from your answers. It actually works pretty well. It is better if you stick to tangible things like pencils and paper rather then the more esoteric like philosophy but will still get some of those.

20Q.net is an experiment in artificial intelligence. The program is very simple but its behavior is complex. Everything that it knows and all questions that it asks were entered by people playing this game. 20Q.net is a learning system; the more it is played, the smarter it gets.


Crappy anti-evolution article: Just an opinion?
Posted Sunday, May 15, 2005 5/15/2005 08:30:00 PM

This article at The Social Affairs Unit Weblog titled The Theory of Evolution: Just a Theory? is probably one of the stupidest anti-evolution essays I have ever read (thanks to Pharyngula for leading me to it). I can understand someone being anti-evolution for religious reasons but this guy is a historian that just has no idea what he is talking about and fails to present any form of logic. Be sure to read Pharyngula analysis. I tried to post my own comments to this blog but it appears they have shut-off their commenting system. I guess too many people pointed out the flaws. Anyway, here is the comment that I tried (twice) to post:

I realize that everyone is entitled to their own opinions but your readers need to recognize that this article is in fact not only an opinion but an uninformed one. You may in fact "have as much common sense as the next man" but your knowledge of the theory of evolution is extremely lacking. I am not a biologist and have only one college level anthropology class behind me but it is extremely easy to see the flaws in your arguments. Rather then spending my time pointing out all of them out I'll refer you to one facet of modern evolutionary theory that you have misunderstood: Punctuated Equilibrium.

According to the theory (yes, theory, everything is a theory unless you happen to be God) of Punctuated Equilibrium says "instead of a slow, continuous movement, evolution tends to be characterized by long periods of virtual standstill ("equilibrium"), "punctuated" by episodes of very fast development of new forms." Please read this website: http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/PUNCTUEQ.html and you may realize some of the flaws in your arguments. Simply put evolution doesn't just happen in one cat giving birth to a raccoon. There are ecological changes that call for the species to adapt or parish. The moths in Lancashire are a great example of this. No, the moths did not become a new species but after many, many years with enough incremental changes the Lancashire moths of the future will be different enough to be categorized as a new species. You even included another example at one point mentioning that "Most species extinctions appear to be the result of unpredictable natural catastrophes, like the meteor which allegedly wiped out thedinosaurs 65 million years ago". You are correct. A natural catastrophe disrupted the natural equilibrium in the ecosystem causing a period of fast development of new forms.

[note: my's comment(s) showed up two days later.]


Embedded Haloscan Trackback
Posted Saturday, May 14, 2005 5/14/2005 12:15:00 PM

My last post contained a link to BloggerHacks and Haloscan. I thought I’d now offer my own hack involving the Haloscan trackback system. Typically when Haloscan’s trackback system is added to a blog it is added as a simple link that invokes a pop-up window containing the trackback information from Haloscan (see example). It is actually very easy to embed this page inside your blog using embedded frames. I'm going to provide instructions for adding this to a Blooger.com template but it can easily be adapted to other systems.

First add the Haloscan JavaScript to you page as instructed to do at haloscan. Copy and paste the following code anywhere between your <HEAD> and <HEAD> tags in your page:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://www.haloscan.com/load/[your_halosan_id]"> </script>

Be sure to replace [your_haloscan_id] with your haloscan id or copy the text directly form the haloscan page.

Next you will add the embedded frame. I only want the trackback page to appear on the individual entry pages so I place the following text between the tags below the comments section:

<div id="trackbacks">
<a name="trackbacks"></a>
<h4><script type="text/javascript">
<IFRAME width="100%" height="250"
TITLE="Trackbacks" marginwidth="0" marginheight="0" width="120"
height="240" border="2" frameborder="0" style="border:none;"

Again replace [your_haloscan_id] with your haloscan id. That is mostly it, not much to it. You may notice that I have placed all the trackback code inside a <div> with an id set to trackbacks. This is so you can edit the CSS portion of your template to format the trackback section however you like it. I'm not going to go into the details of this because everyone's template is different but to start you can try coping the #comments and #comments h4 in the CSS section to #trackbacks and #trackbacks h4. Works great for me (see example).

Blogger Tools
Posted Friday, May 13, 2005 5/13/2005 10:14:00 PM

These are exciting times at the Hypercubed blog. My traffic has once again nearly tripled. My dream of worldwide readership is back on schedule although a little delayed. In honor of my new found success I’m posting some links to sites that will help other would-be bloggers.

Pharyngula::The Eighth Skeptics' Circle: Must be Malebolge!
Posted Thursday, May 12, 2005 5/12/2005 12:11:00 PM

The eighth edition of the skeptics' circle is now posted over at Pharyngula and the Hypercubed blog makes it's first appearance with Glass - Solid or Liquid?. Please hold your applause until all the blogs have performed been read.

Also, in case you don't get it (I needed to Google it) Malebolge is the eighth level of hell. Seams very appropriate.

Many and varied sinners suffer eternally in the multi-leveled Malebolge, an ampitheatre-shapped pit of despair Wholly of stone and of an iron colour: Those guilty of fraudulence and malice; the seducers and pimps, who are whipped by horned demons; the hypocrites, who struggle to walk in lead-lined cloaks; the barraters, who are ducked in boiling pitch by demons known as the Malebranche. The simonists, wedged into stone holes, and whose feet are licked by flames, kick and writhe desperately. The magicians, diviners, fortune tellers, and panderers are all here, as are the thieves. Some wallow in human excrement. Serpents writhe and wrap around men, sometimes fusing into each other. Bodies are torn apart. When you arrive, you will want to put your hands over your ears because of the lamentations of the sinners here, who are afflicted with scabs like leprosy, and lay sick on the ground, furiously scratching their skin off with their nails. Indeed, justice divine doth smite them with its hammer.


Barlowe vs. Anthropomorphism
Posted Tuesday, May 10, 2005 5/10/2005 07:41:00 AM

I fondly recall reading Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials by Wayne Douglas Barlowe when I was younger. It is a very fascinating guide to extraterrestrials seen in various science fiction literature. It was an inspiring book that encouraged me to create my own aliens. I began carrying a notebook (made of paper in thoese days) where I would record all the "fascinating" creatures that I think up, like the Jackal people, the human/plant hybrid, and the infamous jelly based people. Ok, so I wasn't that creative back then (or now, some might add). Most of my "ideas" were just anthropomorphic versions of earth creatures. Probably the most creative idea I had was a hominid with a unique pattern of male/female sex organs that in order to mate needed to find another with the opposite set of female/male sex organs in the same pattern. May sound dumb now but then again I'm not too sure that I didn't read this somewhere. I was stuck in Star Trek science fiction which, as I mentioned earlier, was pretty poor.

I also remember years later reading Expedition also by Wayne Douglas Barlowe which was entirely different. He didn't just take features of earth creatures and make them more human. Barlowe made these creatures completely alien. Alien senses, aliens mobility, and alien evolutionarily niches to fill. This book didn't just define a couple of alien creatures out of context but described an entire ecosystem. It made me realize that creatures don't exists because they are neat or useful to a story but because they fill some spot in there local environment. All the creatures need to fit together, each with features that match it's roll in the environment while maximizing it's net reproductive success.

Well it looks like others have admired Barlowe's work. This Saturday (5/14/05) Discovery Channel will be airing a program called Alien Planet based on Barlow's book Expedition. In addition to details on the show there is a very well done flash based virtual voyage to Alien Planet on the discovery website.

Talking to myself
Posted Monday, May 09, 2005 5/09/2005 12:04:00 PM

Ok, so now that mention of my MapPoint post has fallen off the list at http://msdn.microsoft.com/mappoint/ my web traffic has returned to normal (10-15 visits per day) and my dreams of worldwide redership have been shattered I can sit back and reflect on the whole blogging experience. Do I mind that my traffic is so low and I am basically writing to myself? No, not really. Sure it would be nice to get a few comments now and then to know if people are interested in what I have to say but it isn't necessary. This blog gives me a way to record the interesting things I find or think about everyday. As my mind wanders so does my blog. From special relitivty to doorknobs, from hypercubes to Zelda. These are just a fraction of the random things that I think about daily.

I think that is just the way I am. My mind picks up on things an kicks it around all day long analyzing the topic from every angle my mind is capable of comprehending (often leading to insomnia). I actually had someone tell me that the stuff I talk about during lunch is too weird for them. If my lunch topics are so strange that some people don't want to eat lunch with me then I must be saying something interesting... right? Ok, maybe not. Either way this blog serves several purposes for me:

  1. it is a great way to record my random thoughts,
  2. it is a terrific forum to post my discoveries, and
  3. it is good writing practice.

Yes, like everyone else and their half-sister-in-law I would like to be a writer. I no longer have fantasies of becoming the next Asimov or Nevin but I sure would like to write one science fiction novel before I go. Tips number one, two, and three for becoming a writer are practice, practice, and practice. Maybe with a little work I can learn to avoid run-on sentences (there are a couple in this post), fix my atrocious grammar, and perhaps through some miracle improve my vocabulary. Is that expecting to much from a blog? Probably, but at least I'm doing something.

So what is in the future for the Hypercubed blog? I'm not sure. I'm defiantly not going to promise a new post everyday. Blogging takes work and while I'm blogging I'm neglecting my other projects. I hope that in the future I can balance my blogging and my programming and, hopefully, you will see me post about some of my programming projects here.

RoboForm is like a doorknob
Posted Sunday, May 08, 2005 5/08/2005 03:21:00 AM

When you enter or leave a room do you even notice using the doorknob. Probably not. That's because it becomes a part of your motor memory. The actions required to use a doorknob are simple enough and you do it often enough that you can perform the actions by rote (i.e. routine and automatic, not requiring conscious thought [my definition]).

Every once in a while there is a piece of software that, like the door knob, can become such a part of your motor memory you forget it is even there. That is how it is for me with RoboForm is a plug-in for your browser (IE and others) that remembers your login information after you login to a password protected site. The next time you visit that site you can have the password filled in for you.

I've tried other software that does the same thing (like IE auto-complete and eWallet ) and RoboForm is by far the best. Bagusoft Password Safe 3.0 is a distant second. I'm not going to go into details of all the features (you can read them here) but simply say that if you want a password storage tool that will not interfere with your daily browsing yet lets you quickly login to your password protected sites then this is the one for you. Install it, use it, and you'll almost forget it is there, like a doorknob.


Boing Boing: Place The State game
Posted Saturday, May 07, 2005 5/07/2005 12:47:00 AM

I was never very good at geography in school. Matter of fact I wasn't good at anything other then math and science. Anyway, I think I would have defiantly done better if I had this site available to me when I was in school. This website contains several flash based web games geared towards geography education. The Place the State game is actually really fun. Makes me realize how little geography I know even today.

[Via: boingboing]


Buridan's Ass: The Tangled Bank #27
Posted Wednesday, May 04, 2005 5/04/2005 07:56:00 PM

Here is another round-robin posting "carnival". This time it is The Tangled Bank; a weekly showcase of science and medicine blog entries. This weeks "carnival" is hosted by Buridan's Ass. Be sure to read "Why We Need Science To (Correctly) Understand The World" and "Pardon me while I geek out a little....". There are also many posts discussing the ever present evolution vs.. intelligent design.


Orson Scott Card says what many of us were afraid to say
Posted Tuesday, May 03, 2005 5/03/2005 07:47:00 PM

The L.A. Times has a commentary by Orson Scott Card where he expresses his ambivalence towards the end of the Star Trek franchise. Card argues that the Star Trek franchise was the bottom of the barrel science fiction. While written science fiction has a lot to offer Star Trek was

sci-fi as seen by Hollywood: all spectacle, no substance.

While the original Star Trek was playing on air:

science fiction writing was incredibly fertile... with writers like Harlan Ellison and Ursula LeGuin, Robert Silverberg and Larry Niven, Brian W. Aldiss and Michael Moorcock, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov, and Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke creating so many different kinds of excellent science fiction that no one reader could keep track of it all.

I agree with Card. I was a Star Trek fan but all along I knew that it didn't compare to what I was reading. The thing that kept me into it was that I could suck down one episode a night (re-runs) while a novel took much longer to finish and greater concentration. But these days with good sci-fi like Battlestar and Firefly (shame it was canceled) who needs Star Trek. I once expressed a similar feeling to a group of strangers during a lunch gathering. I was later taken aside by a young lady that began to franticly yell at me that, being a Star Trek fan, she was extremely insulted. I had to explain to her that I was also a fan but that doesn't mean I can't call it like it is. I don't think I ever spoke to that girl again. I think many Star Trek fans have earned the full term "Fanatic".

Speaking of Orson Scott Card and good science fiction, I have just finished Card's Hugo and Nebula Award–winning novel "Enders Game". It was an amazingly intense and entertaining book. I felt the end was rather abrupt and I didn't care much for the subplot involving Valentine and Peter but a minor distraction in an otherwise great book. Even though this book was written relatively recently (1994) I think it is already considered a classic in the genre, I highly recommended it.

[via slashdot.com]


Glass - Solid or Liquid?
Posted Monday, May 02, 2005 5/02/2005 10:38:00 PM

I pretty much remember only one thing from my high school physical science class. You know, the class before chemistry and physics where they try to teach you about the scientific method, states of matter, and planets without a single equation. I remember very clearly the day the teacher informed us that glass was not a solid but in fact super-cooled liquid. I was skeptical at first but I was told that there is evidence. You see, I was told, window pains on medieval buildings have become thicker at the bottom then at the top because the glass is actually flowing very slowly. I was shocked and amazed. I thought this would be a great topic to bring up at cocktail parties when I grow up. "Hey there pretty lady, did you know that champagne glass you're holding is actually a super-cooled liquid?" I never had a chance to use that line but I'm sure it would have worked.

The problem: he was wrong. The consensus these days is that glass is not a super-cooled liquid but in fact a amorphous solid. The confusion comes about for two reasons:

  1. Structurally, glasses are similar to liquids. Many solids have a crystalline structure on microscopic scales with molecules arranged in a regular lattice. The molecules in glass have a disordered arrangement, but sufficient cohesion to maintain some rigidity. In this state it is often called an amorphous solid or glass (see reference).
  2. Because of the molecular structure of glass there is no first order phase transition as it cools (in other words it doesn't appear to have a distinct melting point). In a solid there is a sharp distinction between the solid and the liquid state, that is separated by a first order phase transition. Some people claim that glass is actually a super-cooled liquid because there is no first order phase transition as it cools. In fact, there is a second order transition between the super-cooled liquid state and the glass state, so a distinction can still be made (see reference).

As for the window panes. It appears that the glass making techniques of the time were not very good and resulted in noticeable thickness differences across a sheet. When placing the glass in the windows, builders would place the thicker side on the bottom for greater support. "If medieval glass has flowed perceptibly, then ancient Roman and Egyptian objects should have flowed proportionately more—but this is not observed" (see reference). Egyptian glass would now be puddles of glass.

In essence the question of what state of matter glass is in doesn't have an easy answer. The general consensus among those who know is that it is an amorphous solid (see reference). Perhaps glasses should be placed into a new state of matter rather then try to define it based on the "classes" of matter invented by ancient Greek scientists 2500 years ago (see reference).


  1. Matter: States of Matter
  2. Wikipedia - Glass - Does glass flow?
  3. The "Glass Flows" Myth (It just ain't true)
  4. Is glass liquid or solid? by Philip Gibbs
  5. Glass: Liquid or Solid -- Science vs. an Urban Legend
  6. Analysis shatters cathedral glass myth by C. Wu

Web traffic and population growth
Posted Sunday, May 01, 2005 5/01/2005 07:16:00 PM

Yesterday, my blog saw a 2.3x increase in visitors due mostly to a post on MSDN's MapPoint website ( http://msdn.microsoft.com/mappoint/ ). If my web traffic continues to increase by 2.3x everyday the number of visitors on May 23rd will exceed the current world population. Of course by May 23rd the world population will increase by over 5 million so my dream of world wide readership will be delayed by approximately 1 and a half minutes.

The above conclusion is obviously ridiculous but all the facts are true.. that will happen if my traffic continuous to increase by 2.3x every day; but it won't. But it goes to show you that facts can be manipulated and distorted to provide for false conclusions. Sometimes you need to watch people carefully because we all make faulty assumptions sometimes and sometimes they are not so easy to catch. But the preceding statements brings up one things I'd like to discuss. The worlds population is predicted to increase by 5 million in the next month, nearly 75 million over the next year and by 2 billion by the time I'm 60.

It is obvious that the world cannot sustain this growth. As the population grows will will be running out of supplies needed to maintain our population. Famine, war, and disease are all in our future. The future may also include dramatic climate changes due to population growth. It is estimated that maximum population the earth can support is between 4 billion and 16 billion people (see reference) (we already exceed the lower limit). What can be done?

I wrote an essay in my first year college English class arguing that the solution to population growth was space exploration and eventual colonization of other planets. That by moving out into space we will offload some of the Burdon on earth. In the middle of my research I realized that I was wrong. If we wanted to keep the current population constant we would have to ship out 5 million people a month. I can't image that it will be possible to ship off that many people at that rate unless there are major technological advances. In addition, the resources needed for transportation will most likely make for additional burden on our already limited resource. Until we invent transporters (Star Trek like), cold fusion or other major inovations, space exploration is not the answer.

Population control can come about through restrictive reproduction laws. Laws that restrict who can have children and how, many could work, if enforced, and most likely be a good thing in the long run. However, this type of control over individuals' personal lives goes against my political ideology. Do the ends justify the means? That is never an easy question but I tend to lean towards no in this case. Instead, I think what needs to change is the culture. I feel we need changes in our reproductive health education. Make people aware of the problem and let people choose to have less children... not force them. Educate people on how they can control their reproduction and empower people to make their own choice about if and how many children they want. I really hope that our social changes in the future can come trough education and not through laws.


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