English is hard, but it used to be a lot worse.

masturbate-a-large-wordMost of us native English speakers don’t think too much about how fucked up a language it is because we’ve been speaking it — more or less — all our lives, but it’s definitely one of the hardest languages to pick up if you’re trying to learn it. It’s full of stupid rules and weird exceptions to the stupid rules and flat out contradictions to the stupid rules.

The good news is, it used to be a lot worse:

 

The Universe is a stunningly big place.

If you find yourself needing a little perspective today then take 2 minutes to watch the following YouTube video:

Now consider this: Those dots aren’t individual stars. They’re individual galaxies.

This animated flight through the universe was made by Miguel Aragon of Johns Hopkins University with Mark Subbarao of the Adler Planetarium and Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins. There are close to 400,000 galaxies in the animation, with images of the actual galaxies in these positions (or in some cases their near cousins in type) derived from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) Data Release 7. Vast as this slice of the universe seems, its most distant reach is to redshift 0.1, corresponding to roughly 1.3 billion light years from Earth. SDSS Data Release 9 from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey (BOSS), led by Berkeley Lab scientists, includes spectroscopic data for well over half a million galaxies at redshifts up to 0.8 — roughly 7 billion light years distant — and over a hundred thousand quasars to redshift 3.0 and beyond.

I find this both awe inspiring and a little sad. That’s just a small slice of the universe we know about and it is mind bendingly huge on its own. When you stop to consider the distances between those galaxies it’s hard not to be awed by it.

And that’s also what makes me a little sad. Proxima Centauri is the next closest star to our solar system and it is roughly 4.24 light years away pretty much putting it out of our reach for visiting unless we find some way to bend the laws of physics. The closest known galaxy to ours is the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy which is roughly 25,000 light years away from the Sun. That’s a difficult number to fathom on its own. When you realize that a light year is 5.87849981 × 1012 miles (roughly 6 trillion miles) it becomes even more so.

Now consider how close everything looked in that video. There’s just tons of places to go and see! Except that you’re looking at literally billions of light years of distance which means we’ll probably never see any of it up close. We’ll be lucky if we ever make it to Proxima Centauri given the distance involved, going to a neighboring galaxy is likely to forever remain a dream of science fiction writers. Not that NASA isn’t still considering the possibility, but the challenges of just getting to our neighbor star are overwhelming.

So much stuff out there and no real chance of seeing it. Guess I’ll have to settle for watching sci-fi movies for the time being.

Wicked cool tilt-shift time lapse of Carnival in Rio De Janeiro.

Watch this full screen and with HD turned on. Absolutely wonderful:


The City of Samba from Jarbas Agnelli on Vimeo.

I would love to have a chance to see the parade in person.

How to build your own TARDIS

In this very amusing video from German teacher Sillysparrowness we get to watch as she goes about building her own personal TARDIS. I have to admit that half of the reason I’d like to own my own home instead of renting an apartment is so I could do the same. Then I remember I really don’t have any experience using any power tools beyond an electric screwdriver. Still, a man can dream. #seb #TARDIS #Neato

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Public Alerts on my Google Maps? YES PLEASE!

This could prove to be mindbogglingly useful for a lot of people. Not the least of them myself. #seb #Google #Neato #Technology

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Google adding Public Alerts to Maps, keeps you in the loop in times of worry
You can’t deny that Google often hands out marvelous tools for the masses to utilize (yes, some can be a miss), and today the King of Search is launching a fresh virtual apparatus as part of its Crisis Response project. Dubbed “Public Alerts,” the feature is accessible from within Google Maps, keeping you in the loop during times of high alert. Your search query will trigger things like weather relevant to your area, public safety and earthquake alerts — all of which are provided by the NOAA…

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New force feedback system allows more subtle effects using less power

This sounds like it's a really cool piece of tech that could make force feedback in controllers, phones, and tablets a lot better while also reducing power requirements. Here's hoping we see it in the next generation of game consoles. #seb #neato #computing

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This paper-thin wafer may be the next big thing in force feedback
The most common form of force feedback in our electronic devices is the sort of rumbling buzz you get when a motor spins some sort of mass inside the case of your hardware. Video game controllers usually have two motors, one on each side of the controller, and that sort of "rumble in stereo" configuration allows for a number of effects based on the speed of each motor. This takes power, it takes space, and there's not much you can do with the technology. At CES I met with Vivitouch, a company…

New force feedback system allows more subtle effects using less power

This sounds like it's a really cool piece of tech that could make force feedback in controllers, phones, and tablets a lot better while also reducing power requirements. Here's hoping we see it in the next generation of game consoles. #seb #neato #computing

Embedded Link

This paper-thin wafer may be the next big thing in force feedback
The most common form of force feedback in our electronic devices is the sort of rumbling buzz you get when a motor spins some sort of mass inside the case of your hardware. Video game controllers usually have two motors, one on each side of the controller, and that sort of "rumble in stereo" configuration allows for a number of effects based on the speed of each motor. This takes power, it takes space, and there's not much you can do with the technology. At CES I met with Vivitouch, a company…

Older brother stands up to bullying dad for gender stereotyping.

Here’s one of those stories that’ll make you feel a little better about your fellow humans:

Dear Customer who stuck up for his little brother, | Up and down we go..

Eventually, I helped the brothers pick a game called Mirror’s Edge. The youngest was pretty excited about the game, and then he specifically asked me.. “Do you have any girl color controllers?” I directed him to the only colored controllers we have which includes pink and purple ones. He grabbed the purple one, and informed me purple was his FAVORITE.

The boys had been taking awhile, so their father eventually comes in. He see’s the game, and the controller, and starts in on the youngest about how he needs to pick something different. Something more manly. Something with guns and fighting, and certainly not a purple controller. He tries to convince him to get the new Zombie game “Dead Island.” and the little boy just stands there repeating “Dad, this is what I want, ok?” Eventually it turns into a full blown argument complete with Dad threatening to whoop his son if he doesn’t choose different items.

This could’ve ended badly, but this kid has an awesome older brother. Go read the whole thing to see how it turns out.

Young girl on the marketing of kid’s toys.

Consider this an antidote to the faith-in-humanity-destroying collection of tweets I posted the other day. Young Riley wants to know why marketing people think girls are only interested in pink princesses:

Damn good question indeed. Perhaps she’ll grow up to make some changes in how toys are marketed some day.

The quest for Absolute Zero temperature comes a step closer to reality.

Sometimes I can’t help but be awed at what physicists are accomplishing in the lab.

How cold is cold enough? Eliminating entropy picokelvins from absolute zero

When you think about the temperatures associated with “cold,” you probably imagine a cold winter day, or a block of ice (32 °F, 0 °C, or 273.15 K). This is downright balmy compared to the nanokelvin (10-9 K) temperatures physicists can regularly achieve in the lab. Now, things are about to get even chillier with a new technique that can reduce the entropy—and therefore temperature—of a cold gas to near-absolute zero by finely controlling the number and energy level of atoms.

At near-absolute…