Archive for March 2010


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TED Talks At TEDxNASA, planetary scientist Joel Levine shows some intriguing — and puzzling — new discoveries about Mars: craters full of ice, traces of ancient oceans, and compelling hints at the presence, sometime in the past, of life. He makes the case for going back to Mars to find out more.

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Written by Aaron Nee

March 31, 2010 at 7:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Manipulating the Manipulators

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Derren Brown devises an elaborate demonstration of how subliminal marketing influences even the masters of manipulation.

Embedding is disabled on the clip, so you will have to follow the URL to see it –

Brown performed the same demonstration in his US version of the program.  You can see the slightly modified US demonstration here,

I previously posted an interesting interview with Brown conducted by Richard Dawkins, which is also worth checking out.

The Human Cost of Leaves

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You’ve probably noticed a growing awareness among consumers, awareness of where the things they buy come from and what the human cost is associated with that product.  It becomes difficult to buy a pair of shoes or a lousy T-shirt without asking “Am I supporting an abusive industry?”

A seemingly unrelated topic is that of the US’s awkward transition into legalizing Marijuana.  The clumsy shift in the law is made comically evident here in California, where laughable billboards advertise “medical” Marijuana cards and dispensaries are popping up everywhere.  The drug is understood by many to be an innocent offense – illegal but harmless.  Soon, perhaps very soon, it will be legal to grow and sell cannabis, but in the mean time, the same question we ask about our clothing and cheep electronics applies to Marijuana.  Where is it coming from?  Who is getting hurt to get it here?

There was a recent article in McClatchy that highlights Mexico’s expressed frustration toward the US’s flirtations with legalizing Marijuana.  There are those among our Southern neighbors who believe the US is undermining Mexico’s attempts to control the violent drug cartels that plague the country.

Tim Johnson’s article is worth reading and Mexico’s concerns warrant consideration as the US continues forward in developing new drug laws.

Written by Aaron Nee

March 27, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Patent This!

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The subject of patents copyrights, trademarks etc. is a subject I find fascinating.  The concept of protecting an idea makes a good deal of sense to me while at the same time seeming absurd to the extreme.  What in fact is an idea and what rights does one have to an idea?  Making laws about something as philosophically slippery as ideas is bound to lead to trouble and abuse.  Bellow are two examples of US patent claims that belong in the Onion and yet are sadly real.

At there is a report on Global Findability, Inc. suing over the use of a fictional alien code in the film Knowing.  The code, a string of numbers, represents a time, place and event apparently in a similar fashion to Global Finability, Inc.’s patent.  It is not clear if the patent includes using aliens as the transmitter.

Even more offensive is US Patent Number 6368227 , an actual patented method of swinging on a swing.  The method patented is a way of swinging that most children in America have probably used independent of anyone teaching them.  The following is from the US Patent Office’s online database.

I claim:

1. A method of swinging on a swing, the method comprising the steps of:

a) suspending a seat for supporting a user between only two chains that are hung from a tree branch;

b) positioning a user on the seat so that the user is facing a direction perpendicular to the tree branch;

c) having the user pull alternately on one chain to induce movement of the user and the swing toward one side, and then on the other chain to induce movement of the user and the swing toward the other side; and

d) repeating step c) to create side-to-side swinging motion, relative to the user, that is parallel to the tree branch.

2. The method of claim 1, wherein the method is practiced independently by the user to create the side-to-side motion from an initial dead stop.

3. The method of claim 1, wherein the method further comprises the step of:

e) inducing a component of forward and back motion into the swinging motion, resulting in a swinging path that is generally shaped as an oval.

4. The method of claim 3, wherein the magnitude of the component of forward and back motion is less than the component of side-to-side motion.

Written by Aaron Nee

March 26, 2010 at 2:08 am

Mashing Sagan

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A brief perusal of youtube will turn up numerous video mashups using Carl Sagan’s partial audio recording of Pale Blue Dot and video ransacked from other sources. The other day I came across what was by far the most ambitious Pale Blue Dot mashup.  The video is 40 minutes long and meant to only be the first part in a series. Drawing on a vast collection of footage from other productions, the mashup does a nice job of accenting and even at times commenting on Sagan’s words.  If you like Sagan, I think you will find the video an enjoyable addition to his legacy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Mashing Sagan“, posted with vodpod

Written by Aaron Nee

March 25, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Posted in Art, science

Tagged with , ,

The Politics of Homosexuality

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At a Princeton Lecture event Andrew Sullivan,  author and former editor of The New Republic, reprised his article, “The Polotics of Homosexuality”.  The Nation called Sullivan’s article “the most influential article of the decade on gay rights.” Sullivan has written numerous popular books and articles on the subject of homosexuality and gay rights.  As a very thoughtful, articulate, openly gay, Roman Catholic conservative, Andrew brings an interesting perspective to the contemporary conversation on homosexuality.

The lecture is well worth a listen.

Knowing How We Know What We Know

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If you are interested in understanding how we understand things, then you will probably enjoy a podcast called “Brain Science”.  Here is a little blurb about the host and the podcast from the show’s site:

Dr. Campbell is an experienced emergency physician with a long-standing interest in mind-body medicine, the brain, and consciousness. In this podcast she shares recent discoveries from the world of neuroscience in a way that people of all backgrounds can enjoy. Dr. Campbell believes that understanding how the brain works gives us insight into what makes us human. She is also committed to showing how the scientific method has unravelled many long-standing mysteries.

Written by Aaron Nee

March 21, 2010 at 2:35 am