Geek Month in Review: December 2010

By JB Sanders

All the Geek that’s fit to Ho Ho HO.

Virtual Worlds Made Easy
All you need to visit this virtual space is a web browser. Seriously.

Strange Terrestrial Life
NASA announced that a form of bacterium that uses arsenic instead of sulphur as one of its basic building blocks has been discovered. This is odd because no other form of life on the planet — not mushrooms, not bugs, not animals, not us, not anything (even slime-mold!) — is built that way. Freaky!

Fly-over of New York City
You’re expecting this to be some footage from 1982 or something, right? I mean, come on! Who can do a fly-over of NYC in this day and age? These guys, that’s who. In an RC airplane at 7am in the morning (when regular air traffic is light). And sure, the TSA and NYC police talked to them — but no arrests or nasty exchanges. Amazing!

Oh, and for the RC enthusiasts out there, a link to the setup they used.

New Leonardo DaVinci Codes Discovered
Well, not “new” exactly. “Previously unknown” is probably a better way to put that. Sill, Leonardo was one of the biggest geeks of all time, so any new codes from him is note-worthy. This is some more of his un-deciphered mirror-writing. Good stuff!

You Got Virus in My Battery!
Scientists are working on a way to take a virus that typically afflicts tobacco plants, coat the little beasts in nano-particles of metal and stuff them into batteries. Because there are so many of them and they’re so small, the coated viruses will provide much more surface area for the electrode, dramatically increasing the battery’s storage capacity. Nifty!

Real Light Cycle
So these guys built a real working replica of the Light Cycles from Tron (and not to be confused with the flyers from Return of the Jedi, like I did the first time I heard of these things). Neat looking, but it looks about as maneuverable as their movie counterparts.

Who Started It All?
Ever wondered who created the longest running science-fiction tv show? Want to see some still pictures of them? Click away!

If Day-Old Soup is Better … How Awesome is This?
Archaeologists in China uncovered 2,400-year-old soup. That’s right, it’s been stewing for 24 centuries. That’s some concentrated awesome right there. The soup was found still liquid in a sealed bronze container.

Burning Liquid Sulfur: Blue Flames!
Ever wonder what a sulphur mine inside a volcano might look like? Wonder no more — awesome photos ahead!

Lego Antikythera Mechanism*
That’s right, you read that correctly. Combine the worlds best make-it-yourself toy (Legos!) with an ancient device discovered in clay jars in a shipwreck. What’s the result? Pure concentrated awesome!

Lovecraft eBooks*
Did you know his stuff was public domain now? No? It is! Download away!

Map of the World: Facebook Style
Fancy ray-of-light visualization of all the users on Facebook, based on geographic location on the globe. Bonus: dense math explanation about how the map was generated based on friendship relationships. Neat!

Lost Your Head? Found!
Among the types of “antiques” and “collectibles”, a mummified severed head is not one that immediately makes my “must have” list. Anyway, what a great find to discover that your mummified head is Kingly. Woo!

What Happened to the Water??
Ever wonder what Niagara Falls would look like without all that pesky water everywhere? Wonder no more!! Bonus: grainy 60’s video.

Air Condition the Whole Outside
You’ve heard your Dad say it countless times, but now it’s Real. Some brain trusts have come up with a sculpture that produces cooler air simply by the nature of it’s structure. Oh, and of course, it’s made from 3D-printed sand. The idea being you set up a few hundred of these near buildings and micro-climate those hot days away.

Changing Wallpaper
You’re expecting some kind of funky, new-fangled “paper” that users computers and gizmos, right? Nope. It’s just standard-old wallpaper with various color images overlaid on it — and then depending on what light you provide, you get different images. It’s almost Victorian!

Fish Keys
Great little stop-motion animation of underwater zen — all done using various metal implements.

You Want Real Faces? You Can’t Handle Real Faces!*
Behind the scenes of the fantastic-looking, realistic faces in the new video game LA Noir. Figure out if someone is lying to you by actually looking at the character’s face in-game. Video link is a behind-the-scenes of the tech.

A Very Zombie Holiday*
Not sure about baking etiquette during a zombie outbreak? Have no fear, this instructional 1950’s-style video is here. Best line? “Kids? It’s time to give Gammy her Christmas gift.”
Bonus points for the Serenity/Firefly reference.

* These links thanks to Alex. Thanks, Alex!

About John:
John’s a geek from way back. He’s been floating between various computer-related jobs for years, until he settled into doing tech support in higher ed. Now he rules the Macs on campus with an iron hand (really, it’s on his desk).

Geek Credentials:
RPG: Blue box D&D, lead minis, been to GenCon in Milwaukee.
Computer: TRS-80 Color Computer, Amiga 1000, UNIX system w/reel-to-reel backup tape
Card games: bought Magic cards at GenCon in 1993
Science: Met Phil Plait, got time on a mainframe for astronomy project in 1983
His Blog: