Geek Month in Review: March 2011

By JB Sanders

More links for more geeks

Crocheted Reef
An entire reef made from yarn. Yes, it’s a real thing. And odd.

Dr Who Auction**
Bring your truckload of money, because you’ll need it.

Drilling Causing Earthquakes?
So Arkansas experienced a 4.7 magnitude quake Sunday (February 27th). Arkansas. Let that sink in for a moment. Arkansas. It’s not exactly a hotbed of quake activity. The article here discusses some research that suggests that the recent spate of earthquakes in the state might be the result of over-zealous natural-gas drilling. Seriously, is anyone other than me thinking it’s a precursor plot to some kind of James Bond film?

Walking Cactus
Not a typo, not a surrealist painting (although it might resemble that, strongly). This is a fossil found recently in China. It’s a “creature” that could be related to a worm or a lobster, with spines. Lots of spines. Be sure to check out the speculative movie for what it might have looked like.

Analogies Can Be Graphs
Or is it metaphors. Anyway, great take on the graph.

Spacewar, 50 Years On
The venerable first video game, originally coded on a PDP-1, has been ported up to the web. It’s using the original Spacewar code, running on a PDP-1 emulator. Originally the emulator was running in Java; in the latest version it’s been ported to HTML5 tools. Enjoy!

In case you’re not sure what a PDP-1 is.

Beer Bricks
So in 1963, Heinekin came out with beer in a bottle that, once emptied of beer, could be used as a brick. Yeah, how progressive is that? Plus it looks like a pretty cool glass wall.

BLDBLOG Interviews China Mièville
Love that BLDBLOG. Here he interviews the celebrated urban fantasy author China Mièville. Fascinating stuff.

Here’s an excerpt to whet your appetite:

“And in his 2004 novel Iron Council, Miéville imagines something called “slow sculpture,” a geologically sublime new artform by which huge blocks of sandstone are “carefully prepared: shafts drilled precisely, caustic agents dripped in, for a slight and so-slow dissolution of rock in exact planes, so that over years of weathering, slabs would fall in layers, coming off with the rain, and at very last disclosing their long-planned shapes. Slow-sculptors never disclosed what they had prepared, and their art revealed itself only long after their deaths.”

Nintendo Bets On 3D
So this is where things are going.

Scientists Discover Giant Cave System on the Moon
Oh yeah, for real. Not the opening to some creepy science fiction movie. They posit that this would be a good place to build a moon habitat.

You’re Playing With Them Wrong
Because nothing you did as a kid was as awesome as these Star Wars Lego(tm) action shots. Seriously.

NASA Space Nerd Broadcasts
Like space? Or rocket science? Want to see what NASA is doing RIGHT NOW? Try out their live broadcast web feed. It’s like c-span in space.

Your Alien Invasion Will Be Graded
Speaking of space, scifi author and columnist John Scalzi grades a variety of movies featuring alien invasions. Not on how good the movie is, but on how successful the invasion was. Fun!

The Mathematics of Juggling
For you juggling geeks and you math geeks, a talented juggler with a PhD in Mathematics discusses high-end math as it applies to juggling. There might also be some balls flying through the air.

Transparent Solar-Powered TV
Yeah, really.

Atlantis Found – Again!
But maybe for real this time. The research team found the concentric rings described in Plato’s story (which is a first, in terms of Finding Atlantis), submerged where they think a tsunami hit it. In Spain.

Different link with a video describing better what the hell they’re talking about.

The Missing 9th Legion
Back in the days of Roman Britain, the ninth legion went north to quell a rebellion and was never heard from again. Read about the theories of what may have happened to it. Whatever became of the 9th, the results of their disappearance were dramatic. Rome sent reinforcements, and at the head of the 6th Legion was Hadrian. Yes, that Hadrian. The guy who’s wall defines the border of England and Scotland to this day. (Hadrian’s Wall)

History of the 9th, along with some commentary on their disappearance and appearances in fiction.

Ok, maybe it’s the survivalist in me, but these “everything you need to survive” kits are pretty cool. They’re designed to go to areas after a disaster, or be available to emergency services to distribute to those lacking homes or shelter. The kit includes a 10-person tent.

It’s called Guerrilla Gardening. You take these bits of compost & dirt shaped like grenades, wet them and toss them into abandoned urban blight. Boom! Mother Nature takes over and the seeds in the center of the “Seedbom” puts out flowers. Such an amusing idea, now commercialized into purchasable throwers.

Quote from their website: “Guerrilla Gardening is taking ownership of abandoned urban spaces and bringing them to life with plants and flowers.”

3D Loom Creates Objects With Carbon Fiber

So it just isn’t a Geek Review without some kind of 3D printer-type post. This time, it’s one of only two machines in the world, used to create parts for the Lexus LFA. Mesmerizing video.

Alfred Has Died
The actor, Michael Gough, who portrayed Batman’s butler (Alfred Pennyworth) in several of Tim Burton’s Batman movies has died. He also (watch how I work in a Dr Who reference) portrayed the Celestial Toymaker in the first season of Dr Who. Plus he had a 65-year career in stage and screen. A more worthy obituary linked to title.

How Much Radiation?
Ever wonder how much radiation you can suck up and not have a problem? Want to see that comparison visually, with solid science behind it? Well, look no further than xkcd, not only a great comic, but purveyors of fine graphs and maps.

Famous First Words in Tech
Not just the first words spoken on the telephone, but also the first transatlantic phone call, the first email, and the first twitter. Amusing!

Sneaky Bots**
Scientists are developing autonomous surveillance drones that know when and how to hide while watching. Creeeeepy!

Digital Currency
Some hackers have actually figured out how to make it and to make it in an interesting way. Video helps explain some of it.

How Insanity Helps SciFi Writers**
Especially that Phillip K Dick guy. Who if he had lived and kept up his output, would have surpassed Isaac Asimov as most prolific SciFi author.

Slow Sky
Another great time-lapse video of the starry sky. This time from South Dakota in the depth of winter. For you astro-geeks, there’s details on the equipment used to capture it.

HD version highly recommended.

Ten of the strangest spiders you’ll ever see pictures of — unless you’re a spider scientist, in which case, more work.

Water Powered Car
And no, I’m not kidding. It breaks down the hydrogen out of the water and uses it to generate electricity. It can run for a hour on just a liter of water — though it has a longer overall range.

Company’s website

What if Dr Suess Created Star Wars? **
With illustrations. Why are you still reading this? Go look!

** Rebecca sent this one along.

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: