Thursday, May 29, 2008

Space Beer

Two of my favorite things come together.

I present: Space Beer

New Details on Stonehenge Revealed by... Spinal Tap?

National Geographic has a program coming out soon regarding new discoveries about the origins of Stonehenge. In order to promote it, they have filmed a series of short interviews with a prolific Stonehenge expert, none other than Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap. Two thumbs up to the NatGeo ad people, whoever they are.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Monkeys control robots!

As the old saying goes: Either monkeys or robots are going to take over the earth (either Planet of the Apes style or a Terminator situation). Now they are working together, our assured destruction is not far off. Sure they say there are great implications for allowing paraplegics to operate mechanical arms, enabling them to be more self sufficient, I just say be careful...

Update (5/30/08): Thanks to reader Elliot for sharing the link. I want to quote a piece from the Times article to clarify that this is actually a really cool advancement because the monkeys began to use the appendage as their own (not simply control a mouse cursor or mechanical arm, as they and humans had done before). The monkeys quickly adapted the new arm as their own, and making adjustments and fine tuning motions as they would their own arm. Really quite exciting for this field. Excerpt:

In previous studies, researchers showed that humans who had been paralyzed for years could learn to control a cursor on a computer screen with their brain waves and that nonhuman primates could use their thoughts to move a mechanical arm, a robotic hand or a robot on a treadmill.

The new experiment goes a step further. In it, the monkeys’ brains seem to have adopted the mechanical appendage as their own, refining its movement as it interacted with real objects in real time.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Wikipedia Style

Wikipedia is an amazing time drain thanks to its continual linkage from one topic to the next. Starting from a simple task of identifying the 19th president (Rutherford B. Hayes), hours later I end up reading about the Chinese Legislature election of 2004. But just how many links does it take to get from one page to any other page? Well someone went ahead and figured it out. Apparently the '2007' page is the center if the wikipedia universe, only taking an average of 3.45 links to get to any other page on wikipedia.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

This Just In: Robert Ballard Even More of a Badass Than Previously Thought

I find sunken ships for a living. What do you do?

For those of you who don't know, Dr. Robert Ballard is an oceanographer, underwater archaeologist, and general badass. He is famous for being the dude who discovered various sunken ships such as the Titantic, the Bismarck, JFK's PT-109, and others. He also used to train dolphins and whales for fun.

Recently, Ballard revealed that while searching for the Titantic, he was actually secretly working for the Navy in an attempt to locate the wreckage of sunken Cold War nuclear submarines. After he found the remains of the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion, he then proceeded to make the North Atlantic his bitch and find the Titantic in 12 days. No big deal.

Praise Science Update: Post-Memorial-Day-Weekend Life Reconstruction

Artist's rendition of what your PS writers were doing over the weekend.

My Science, what a weekend. It's been pretty quiet on PS for a few days now, but there is a reason for that. Over the long weekend I traveled back to Washington to compete in the ridiculously awesome Ski to Sea race with fellow PS writer Aaron (ACSlater) and others. During a brief stop over in Seattle, we had a short beer/tear-filled reunion with Peter N (PeterNov) and later on with Kyle (Guster). Even though the Internet fulfills all of our social requirements, it was still nice to see some of my comrades-in-Science face to face again. Also, I heard that Manuel (MV) and a bunch of other people including Kyle had a wonderful time camping near Chelan. So, in conclusion, we were all too busy/drunk to post anything. Get over it.

To make up for it, here is some exciting new Mars-related news. The Phoenix Mars Lander landed safely on Sunday without asploding, which is awesome news. NASA's page for the mission, with what appears to be fairly regular updates, is here. Also, in response to an article written in March, a U.S. soldier says that he, and others like him are prime candidates for possible future one-way missions to Mars. I like where his head is at.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Space Quiz

All fans of science love space. That's a fact. See if you know as much as you think you do in this handy space quiz!

Post your score below and discuss!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Humans: Space Destroyers

Science Fiction Tales are full of Alien Races coming to destroy humanity. But what if we are in fact the destructive space faring species destroying other worlds. This Article from New Scientist postulates that microbes from Earth may be hitching a ride on our robotic explorers and contaminating alien worlds.

It's the Humans. Run!

Death of a star

Back in January, Astronomers detected a Supernova in the NGC 2770 Galaxy. But, you say, Astronomers know of tons of supernovas, why is this one special? Because Astronomers were actually were to observe this star as it went supernova. There is a great write-up of the event and its importance of at the Bad Astronomy Blog.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Biotech Company Announces it Has Successfully Cloned Pets

Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his seminal film, The Sixth Day, you too now must face the difficult moral and ethical question of whether or not to clone your pets after they pass from this mortal coil. That's right. A company called BioArts International has just announced that they have 5 pet cloning slots available to the highest bidder, with bids starting at $100,000. This announcement is the culmination of over 10 years of research during which the company attempted to clone a well-loved dog named Missy. So far, they have produced three healthy clones of Missy. Below is a video of these three cute clones and a man who is trying maybe a little to hard to replace something he lost:

Although I'm sure this sounds tempting to anyone who has ever lost a loved pet, all I can think of is the old man's warning from Pet Sematary (or South Park).

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For Sale: Nice Parcel with Views of Sea of Tranquility and Earth!

Home is where you hang your spacesuit.

Who owns the moon? Technically no one... yet. The question of lunar property rights has been around as long as the prospect of going to the Moon has been feasible (i.e. the past 5 or 6 decades) and Popular Mechanics has an interesting article on the history of this debate. Apparently some guy has been selling parcels of Moon land to people for a while now through his company called Lunar Embassy. No one has told him he can't yet, so if you are interested in becoming a land owner (albeit on the Moon) the going rate is about $20 per acre.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Phoenix Lander Has Built In Zombie Mode: NASA Unleashes Undead Robots Upon the Cosmos

If anyone has been following the unfortunate history of Martian landing vehicles you would know that they fail a lot, a whole lot. It is a failure rate that puts the Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death into some serious perspective. So imagine my glee when I discovered that another multi-million dollar coin flip is going down this Sunday when the Phoenix Lander tries an end run for the Martian polar tundra (full details). Im betting it is gonna crash and burn like its auspicious predecessor the Mars Polar Lander, but if it doesn't it will do a whole host of sciency things on the surface. It cannot move, but oh boy! can it dig.
The reincarnated lander is working against the clock, since the Martian winter almost certainly means it will end up frozen into uselessness. But in a stark display of poor planning the people at NASA gave this robot a "Lazarus" mode that will presumably utilize some kind of dark magic to power undead Lander. If this Lander somehow spreads its undeath to the rest of the Mars probes, we could be facing a hostile horde of undead rovers and motionless weather stations.

Tonight on NOVA

There are few science related shows that have crawled their way past the sitcoms and entertainment magazine filth to make it all the way to my television. And of these few shows, NOVA is one of the best. Every Tuesday at 8:00 or 8:30 for High Def PBS channel (check your local listings) NOVA explores some new facet of scientific discovery.

Tonight: Lord of the Ants, follow Naturalist E.O. Wilson on an exploration of the hive mind that is an ant colony.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday morning math mirth

If you laugh at this, you are a fan of science and maths, otherwise, go enroll at ITT Tech and get back to us when you have an appreciation from all things science

Laser Gets Wicked Upgrades for Its Birthday

First and foremost, we apologize for the lack of updates over the weekend. Our brains were addled by the warm and beautiful weather across the west coast and we were seduced away from the Internet into the unfamiliar and strange zone known as 'outside' and were exposed to things called 'sunlight' and 'fresh air'. We thoroughly enjoyed it hated it.

Anyways, in further celebration of the Laser's birthday last Friday, we have some more exciting laser-related news: the DARPA funded Advanced Tactical Laser designed by Boeing was tested for the first time last week. This aircraft mounted laser is intended to be used for anti-missile defense and tactical air to ground strikes with little to no collateral damage. Also, reader Ben has informed us about the Vulcan laser, which is the most powerful laser ever built!!! According to the article:

In experiments, the Vulcan laser focused one petawatt (1,000 trillion watts) of power into a spot about one tenth of the width of a human hair. The pulse lasted for one picosecond (one trillionth of a second), heating the target to 10 million Celsius, one tenth of that required for nuclear fusion.
That's a lot of zeros.

This is why I'm (10 million degrees Celsius) hot.

Friday, May 16, 2008

May 16th Is....

... the birthday of LIGHT AMPLIFICATION BY STIMULATED EMISSION OF RADIATION, better known as LASER!!!!!!!!! PS would like to thank reader Trent for reminding us of this super important date in Science! Lasers, or what Manuel refers to as "things that people in the future shoot", were invented on May 16th, 1960, and has been consistently rated as one of the most awesome things EVER by pretty much all types of people since then.

4,600,000,000,000,000 Watts per Cubic Light Year

That is the average amount of energy produced by the universe according to a new estimate, which is twice as much as previously expected. Here on Earth we can only see on average 2,600,000,000,000,000 Watts per Cubic Light Year due to the dust that permeates the universe. Since light emission is an important yardstick for determining distances, composition, and all other sorts of stuff, this revelation may have some profound impacts on our understanding of the stars.

Cubic Light Year is my new Unit of choice

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Praise Science has devised an ingenious solution to Houston's Ant Problem: Everyone there needs to get one of these for a pet!


Houston, We Have A(n Ant) Problem

All your base are belong to us!!!

Texas is battling a strange and previously unknown species of (illegal alien) ants which secretly arrived at some point on cargo ships at the Port of Houston. The ants, called (I shit you not) Crazy Raspberry Ants, are fouling up all sorts of electronics in the area with their erratic and fast-moving onslaught. Apparently, the ants are attracted to electronics (like many PS readers) and are thwarting nearly all traditional methods of pest control. Pray to Science that they don't fuck up anything at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston...

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sloths Not So Sleepy After All!

Our most favorite slow-moving animal in the world is not as lazy as previously thought!

According to Science Magazine, some scientists from Europe decided to see if Sloths really did sleep as much as 16 hours a day. So they got on a plane and headed to Panama. These scientists were not pleased with previous brain-activity data that measured sloths' sleeping pattern because that research was done with sloths in captivity (that were probably depressed). So, in Panama, they used a portable brain-activity recorder thingy, and what sounds like a traumatizing procedure for the poor sloths.

"Enter the portable EEG recorder. Developed in part by neurophysiologist Alexei Vyssotski of the University of Z├╝rich, Switzerland, the apparatus is housed in a cap that fits on top of an animal's head. Small wires placed just under the skin of the scalp detect brain waves and send the numbers to a data logger hidden inside the device."
The results?! Sloths sleep like 9 hours a day! Only!


YOU Want Candidates to Debate Science (according to poll...)

According to a recent poll, 85% of Americans want the Presidential candidates to debate Science! Or more specifically, how it can be used to help America continue keep doing what it does best, wage futile wars and dig itself into a hopeless financial disasters ensure the freedom, safety, and well-being of its citizens. So far, the candidates haven't really said anything of substance regarding Science (or anything of substance regarding anything, really), and many Science-oriented citizens are getting anxious to know what Scientific breakthroughs the next 4-8 years may bring. Rumor has it that McCain plans to issue a press release detailing the advances in Dirigible and Horseless Carriage technologies that he hopes to see put into effect if he is elected.

McCain '08!!!!!11

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Colbert Interviews Astronaut Garrett Reisman

It's Scientific and Funny.

Impending Doom is at Hand! Care to Make a Wager on It?

It seems that the prospects of roasting alive or freezing to death in the coming decades due to climate change is not enough excitement for some. In order to up the ante on the situation has offered a wager to their archnemesis, Nature magazine. Quite simply put, the team is betting that we start cooking in the next few decades while the Nature team, in accordance with their recent article, has been asked to place their chips firmly behind the prospect of a several decade long freeze before things start heating up again. The stakes of the wager and the benefits of such scientific racketeering are laid out in this DotEarth blogpost from the NYTimes. I'm considering offering a wager of my own on whether the Statue of Liberty will be locked in a glacier before LA is ravaged by numerous and massive cyclones, a la The Day After Tomorrow.

The Vatican Wants to Believe

He space-died for your space-sins.

Reader Tyanne has alerted us to breaking news from the Vatican: IT'S OK TO BELIEVE IN ALIENS!!!! All God-fearing types no longer have to feel ashamed of their secret UFO obsessions and/or abduction stories, because all extraterrestrial life is now included as part of God's Creation. I wonder if that means there are alien Christians? Does each alien Christian planet have an alien Jesus? If I ever get solicited by alien planet-to-planet missionaries wearing white shirts and ties, I still won't be interested.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Help Find the Mars Polar Lander

Way back in 1999 the Mars Polar Lander was literally lost in space. Communication ceased just as the spacecraft was supposed to land near the south pole of Mars. Now with the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter taking super-hi-res picture of the surface, they're hoping someone can spot the remnants of the lander on the surface of Mars.

Here's your change to do some space exploration, Good Luck

Cyber-Armageddon Coming Soon to a Matrix Near You!

DARPA, a tech-oriented government agency known for funding a wide/weird array of projects with the intent of advancing defense/military technologies, is currently developing the "National Cyber Range", an advanced testing ground designed to simulate the inevitable cyber-battleground of the future, aka The Matrix. Highly virulent and destructive malware will be deployed within the Range and computer programs designed to imitate hostile agents, disturbingly dubbed 'replicants', will do their best to penetrate network defense systems. The Range is also designed to be scalable with any new computing technologies that arise in the future. Hopefully all of this will allow the U.S. to avoid the worst-case scenario of having to rely on Keanu Reeves to protect the Internets of the future.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

Baby may become super soldier of future

Imagine running a 24 hour war with soldiers who never sleep. Well, this baby can't sleep. Hasn't since he was born 3 years ago.

Sadly, there is pressure on his brain stem that is causing this symptom. But do not think for a second that the military isn't thinking about weaponizing this ailment and installing them on their future super soldiers. Hell, that would have been awesome for college, would have gotten all of my work done. We here at Praise Science may adapt this technology so that we can bring you science updates around the clock. Continue to watch this story develop. Full story can be found here. They did perform an operation and they hope by the time he is 4 he'll be able to sleep.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Volcanic Eruption And Lightning

This photo has been making the rounds on the interwebs recently, but in case you missed it:

This is the Chaiten Volcano in Chile erupting and causing a lightning storm. If I had to guess, I would say the Apocalypse might look similar.

Some related Links:
View from Space
Another picture of the Eruption
BBC Pictorial Story of the Eruption

Friday, May 9, 2008

TSIF! (Thank Science its Friday!)

Thank Science its Friday, indeed! We hope you all have been enjoying our content over the past few weeks. Since we started writing on April 18th, we have had 423 unique site visits and 1,181 page views. Not too shabby! Don't get mad if there aren't that many updates over the weekend, because we'll probably all be devastatingly hungover because sometimes Science moves in mysterious ways.

Anyways, thanks for reading, and feel free to leave suggestions in the comments for our brand new and shining feature, Ask Praise Science, where readers like you ask us Science-related questions and where your amazing PS writers provide you with (hopefuly) accurate, yet (hopefully) entertaining answers.

Have a most Scientific weekend!

Once Upon a Time in Space

Humans have been going into space for almost 50 years now. That is awesome. Popular Mechanics has created a rad interactive timeline detailing the history of humanity's activities beyond Earth. Please view it, and take a moment to consider the great Science that we have deployed to conquer time and distance over the last 50 years. Hopefully the next 50 are equally as inspiring. Science be Praised!

Dresden Codak: Comic of Science

Dresden Codak is a web comic described by its author, Aaron Diaz, as a "celebration of science, death, and human folly". The HOB Series specifically deals with robots, so I think you may enjoy it.

Some of the Science in the comic includes:

Foglets: Nano-Technology robots that combine together to create just about whatever. The original paper on Foglets and Utility Fog is here.

Strong AI: Artificial Intelligence that can improve itself. Wikipedia link here.

Technological Singularity: The moment when the exponential technological advancement curve goes nuts.

Along with new ideas such as Time Colonists, Historical Pre-enactments, and so on.

PS. The included link takes you to the first page of the HOB Series of this comic. It starts off a bit slow, but picks up about four comics in. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

BBC headline writers think supple breasts will survive global warming

OOOOh, the study is actually about Great Tits, some kind of perverted British bird, that has begun laying eggs earlier in the Spring. Fellow perverted scientists think it's because of Al Gore's Global Warming.

Music and the Mind

The "TED Talks" (that stands for Technology Entertainment Design) are a series of videos released from the annual TED Convention where great thinkers get together to share ideas in a sort of 'state of union' format regarding their particular fields. Chances are, some of you have seen a TED Talk before. Reader Stu has submitted this particular one regarding music and the mind. The sort of 'cognitive music' presented in this video is very interesting and although its long, the video is well worth watching!

So What Do You Call an Alien Farmer? Blue Thumb?

Scientific American's article "The Color of Plants on Other Worlds" has given hope to millions of farmers who wish that their fields weren't so damn green. With the prospect of black and blue flora pervading the galaxy it makes me wonder what color of organically based illegal drugs may become popular on the terraforming colonies of tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Ask Praise Science, Episode 1: Time Zones on the Moon

Last week, loyal reader Elliot relayed to as an important Science-related question that a drunk homeless man asked him: How many timezones does the Moon have?

Wow. That is a fucking good question. Since Google yielded no useful results (seriously, if someone can find an decent answer to this question on the tubes, we'll give them 100 Science Points) we decided to institute what will hopefully become a regular feature on PS: Ask Praise Science, where you, the readers, ask us important (and hopefully non-Googleable) Science-related questions that we try our best to answer for you. So on that note, here is our best answer to Elliot's question:

How many timezones are on the Moon? Well, that depends on how you look at it. Once upon a time on Earth, Scientific men invented timezones so that uncivilized provincial train station employees would no longer make them miss their trans-continental trains to important Scientific events across the country by relying on primitive instruments and concepts such as sundials and solar time. What this means is basically we have a timezone for each hour of the day, so things like transportation and communications can easily be standardized.

So, the concept of a timezone itself is essentially contrived to satisfy a functional human requirement. Based on this, we have to ask whether or not the Moon actually NEEDS timezones. Near-future moon bases and missions will likely use a standardized Earth time for operational purposes, since the length of the lunar day (or a full lunar cycle) is approximately 655.75 hours long as opposed to Earth's 24 hours (for all you Pink Floyd fans, the dark side of the moon is myth; all parts of the moon are equally exposed to the sun at some point during a full lunar day).

Taking this into consideration, if the traditional notion of timezones is applied to the lunar day (one timezone per hour) that would mean that the Moon would probably have 655 or 656 timezones. If the 24 timezones of Earth were to be projected onto the moon, each time zone would be about 27.3 hours apart, which kind of defeats the purpose of timezones to begin with. Both of these options would most likely be totally counter-productive to any Earth-Moon synchronization efforts. I say just set universal Moon-time to Greenwich-Mean-Time or something like that, and call it good.

Hopefully that wasn't too long and that it satisfies you, Elliot. Readers, if you like "Ask Praise Science", please let us know and request some more topics in the comments section!

Humans Should Just Give Up Now, a totally rad sci-fi blog has a feature on "The Largest Mega-Sentients in the Entire Universe". And we thought we had problems here on earth with the growing arachnobot menace...

The Best Videogames of the Year by Far

Forget about GTA IV or Halo 3 or Rock Band or any of these other so-called 'blockbuster' games that came out in the past year. For those in the know, the real hot shit was the post-cyberpocalypic masterpiece, "Charles Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden" which, among other things, featured the best remix of "Space Jam" (and possibly any song) ever! The creators of this work of art, Tales of Game's, have just released another game, "The Sewer Goblet: The Wu-Tang Clan and the Wu-Tang Baby". I have yet to play it, but with a name like that, it had better be awesome.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Mighty ATLAS Detector

Yes that's a real person

Deep within the recently completed Large Hadron Collider in CERN lies the enormous ATLAS Detector. The collider is the largest ever built and took thousands of scientists from over thirty countries to design and build. The ATLAS Detector itself is tasked with observing the Higgs-Boson particle aka the God Particle, as seen in this very sciency Feynman Diagram.

Science, in squiggly line form

Members of the ATLAS experiment group have release three videos detailing the detectors innards in all its scientific glory.

The collider is expected to start smashing sub-atomic particles later this year.

NASA Home and City

NASA invents rad stuff all the time to be used in space. Its a proven fact. Whether it is due to some sort of awesome coincidence or the fact that good engineering is good engineering, a lot of these inventions are also used in many everyday situations by regular non-astronauts like you and me. NASA has an interactive website showing where and how this occurs called NASA Home and City. Pretty cool, if you ask me. But then again, if you ask me about anything NASA related, I would say the same thing.

Peaceful Flower Bots Attempt to Stave Off Robot Uprising

Patricia, loveliest of all readers, has sent us the above video, proving that not all robots are hell-bent on destroying us all. Will the gentle swaying and electro-synth-love of these flora-bots be enough to mitigate the mindless evil of Arachnobot Jr. and his army of doom-loving minions? Only time will tell...

Monday, May 5, 2008

Science Demands that you Digg Us!!!

For those of you not in the know, Digg is the website where we get 95% of all the content that is posted on PS a website that makes blogs like this one popular and their writers incredibly rich. PS now has the Digg button enabled for every post, so if you are one of those people that actually Diggs articles they read, then Digg us!

Fly My Name to the Moon

Attention Praise Science readers! NASA will send you to the moon for free! And by you, they mean your name.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Arachnobot Jr. Update

BAE Systems, the creator of the miniature robots recently featured here, how now released a video highlighting the military applications of the Arachnobot Jr and his other robot creature friends.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Hollywood, Meet Science

Most Hollywood Films are abysmal failures at preserving any scientific integrity. However, the new Iron Man movie seems to fair relatively well. From the idea of a wearable mechanical exoskeleton to the potentially intricate relationship between robots and their human creators, this article manages to link the science fiction of the film to the science real of the present.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Gchat Fun!: Skynet

2:02 PM me: gchat is back
2:03 PM it pooped out on me for a little while.
Pete: me too
2:05 PM me: it's skynet testing weaknesses
2:06 PM Pete: yes
when judgement day comes, gchat will go offline for 15 mintues
to mess up global coordination
and guerilla internet video sharing

Lax DoD Security Putting the "Joint" back in "Joint Strike Fighter"

The Joint Strike Fighter is so high right now.

It seems that DoD staff responsible for auditing paperwork from contractors working on the Joint Strike Fighter may have been doing a little too much "lighting the fires" instead of "kicking the tires". Missing paperwork, most notably from recently mentioned BAE Systems, could present a security risk within this multi-national multi-agency project.

Even though this means that the plans for this low-cost stealthy next generation fighter jet could possibly fall into the hands of practically anyone, the more troubling implication is that BAE Systems, makers of Arachnobot 9000 jr., can do whatever they want and get away with it.

First steps in creating deadly Terminator T-1000 already under way

There is no scarier scene in cinema than when a distraught T-100 sees the more-advanced T-1000 regenerate after being blown up in the last act of Terminator 2: Judgment Day

We all thought the T-100 had it wrapped when he says 'Hasta La Vista Baby.'

But now scientists, as if in unison, are beginning to explore ways to make the T-100s worst nightmare a reality (most likely un-consciously ordered to do so by Skynet), as demonstrated in the following clip.

This sort of self-maintaining robot has many possible applications, such as remote surveillance and unmanned exploration missions, but is more likely to just scare the shit out of anyone who has ever seen a Terminator movie.

Scientists are investigating the way birds use a photochemical compass to navigate the Mother Earth's weak magnetic fields in their migratory routes.

Apparently, birds use signals from chemical reactions sparked by the amount of sunlight and the earth's weak magnetic fields to guide them in their annual trips to go eat, poop, and bone in different parts of the world.

A version of this sweet chemical compass probably will be a feature on Google Maps eventually, along with colorful sperm robots.

Readers are like, Requesting Things

Last night, as I lay snuggling in my bed, I was startled awake by a cellular telephone call from none other than Jeff Collamore, aka the patron saint and inventor of Physics. He asked me a question that I should have known the answer to at the time, but alas, my sleepy mind was a jumbled zone. He said: "What is the difference between a meteor and an asteroid?" So here is the official Praise Science Response, and then some:

Meteor - The streak of light associated with space rocks and other interstellar debris as they pass through Earth's atmosphere
Meteoroid - The actual physical rock that creates a 'meteor' streak
Meteorite - Meteoroids that survive the descent through the atmosphere and physically land on the surface of Earth.
Asteroid - a medium-sized rocky object which orbits the Sun, typically smaller than a planet but larger than a meteoroid. Unlike comets, asteroids have no atmosphere. Their size can range from less than a mile to over 600 miles in diameter.
Comet - a celestial body mainly composed of frozen gas and dust which orbits the sun, characterized by an elliptical or parabolic orbit and a visible ion tail which points away from the sun.

These guys already knew all this.

Also, reader Elliot asked me a question this morning about time zones on the Moon. Stay tuned for more on that later...

Thursday, May 1, 2008


That's it. It's over. The internet is no longer just the internet. All of the people we laughed at/with were all in one place, in real life: ROFL conference last week at MIT. epic. Now they can go back to the virtual world that spawned them.

Goodbye tron-guy

Finally, see all of the internet celebrities you should have heard of duke it out on south park:


Google is well known for sprucing up their normally spartan search page with simple holiday related graphics on and around, well, holidays. So WTF is this image that they currently have up supposed to represent?

If you know or have a guess, please let us know in the comments. Best answer wins 100 Science Points!!!!!

Are We Alone? Hopefully.

Expatriot reader Darren reports from Thailand that Nick Bostrom, the director of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute (I now know where I'll go to grad school if I ever decide to go) hopes that we find no evidence of past or present extra-terrestrial life on Mars, or anywhere for that matter.

No, this guy is not a space-hater. In fact, he is a space-lover, and has high hopes for the future of human inter-galactic colonization. According to him, "the silence of the night sky is golden, and that in the search for extraterrestrial life, no news is good news". How so, you may ask? Because the lack of evidence of intelligent life, or any life for that matter, gives weight to the theory that humans are exceptional in the fact that we have overcome billions upon billions of potential evolutionary dead-ends, and have passed through the so-called "Great Filter", allowing us to take the next great step into the stars. The other option is that we have not yet encountered the Great Filter, and that it will take the much more exciting form of some sort of "existential risk", i.e.:

"a nuclear war fought with arms stockpiles much larger than today's (perhaps resulting from future arms races); a genetically engineered superbug; environmental disaster; an asteroid impact; wars or terrorist acts committed with powerful future weapons; super­intelligent general artificial intelligence with destructive goals; or high-energy physics experiments"
I'm placing my bets on the 'superintelligent general artificial intelligence with destructive goals' based upon the prevalence of sinister-robot-related news that has been showing up on PS lately.

Prototype Arachnobots Under Construction

A company called BAE Systems is working to design "autonomous, multifunctional collection of miniature intelligence-gathering robots that can operate in places too inaccessible or dangerous for humans".

What's the big deal you ask? This.

Science Save Me

While clearly not a fully fledged Arachnobot 9000, we don't want any miniature arachno-minions running around. Why not make it a robotic squirrel or slug. No one ever suspects a robotic slug.