Geek Month in Review: May 2011

By JB Sanders

And the weather is warming!

Fantastic Time-Lapse Movie
If you’ve never seen a cloud layer boiling and roiling like the ocean against a beach, you haven’t seen a real time-lapse movie. Must watch this in HD (full-screen).

The Amazing Transforming Apartment
Anyone else reminded of Bruce Willis’ guy from “Fifth Element”? Watch what this guy packs into 24 square meters:

It’s a Plane! No, it’s a Train! Actually, It’s Both.
A Japanese research group is working on a type of “train” that floats above the ground on a cushion of air. No, not a maglev train; apparently those are old hat. They’re working on a train that acts like a plane cruising right above the ground.

National Jukebox
The US Library of Congress (working with Sony) has put together a database of sound recordings from the early part of the 20th Century. It’s streaming-only, but has a wealth of stuff, all searchable. It’s not just music, but speeches, too.

Let Quantum Physics Officiate Your Wedding
No, really, that’s what the title of the article is. Apparently a scientist is using some machine to quantum entangle photons as they pass over the happy couple. Or something.

The New Domesday Book
In the 80’s the BBC and some historians cooked up a national effort to create something like the original Domesday Book, on it’s 900 anniversary. The original was a census of England at the time. The new thing was created with a population survey, tons of photos, virtual walk-throughs of historical buildings, etc. And then pressed onto special laser discs. That’s right, laser disks. Which required a special reader to read and a specific computer to display. Fast forward 30 years or so, and todays historians are worried the disks won’t be able to be read anymore (can’t think why).

The Project:

Here’s what they did to solve it:

CDC Tells How to Prepare for Zombie Apocalypse
Do they know something we don’t? You ever read that story about a conspiracy that uses movies and tv shows (“fictional” ones) to prepare the wider population to accept and deal with an upcoming Big Problem? No? Oh, never mind then.

Surreal Monuments from the Future
So I totally stole this from the Illuminated Site of the Week, but here’s 25 monuments in the former Yugoslavia that look like they’re from the future.

Orchidarium Professor Ruth Cardoso
It’s a nifty looking building, but the name itself is just so much fun to say. It’s a memorial to Professor Ruth Cardoso (which is why her name is tacked in there), but the purpose of the building itself is to grow Orchids. Thus the “Orchidarium” part.

What If We’re the Forerunners?
An amusing little blog entry that posits, ok, there something like 500 million Earth-like planets out there, just in our galaxy. So why isn’t there a spaceship in orbit right now, offering to sell us cheap hyperdrives? Well, what if we’re the first sentient race? And then he has a very funny idea….

Concrete Tent
Brilliant, simple idea. Ship a canvas tent that’s been impregnated with concrete, put it up with an air blower, dose it with water and in 24 hours, you have a permanent concrete structure. Awesome!

Real, Functional Bionic Hand
Welcome to the 21st Century, where we have real bionic limb replacements. No, I’m not kidding. Yes, it is real.

When Your Museum Gets Raided by the CDC in Biohazard Gear…
…You know you’re doing something interesting. So this historical society in Virginia put on an “oddities” exhibit from their collection, including a letter from a smallpox sufferer who included one of their smallpox scabs. Call me crazy, but I think there are some things you don’t need to collect for posterity, and potentially viable smallpox is definitely high on the list.

Weather in Mordor Today: Overcast, 100% chance of Eye*
Official in Hungary are using locations from the “Lord of the Rings” instead of real places to test broadcast their automated radio alerts.

* Headline courtesy of

Need a Drone?
Need an unmanned aerial drone cheap? Need to make 3D maps of the photos your drone takes? Look no further than Pix4D, a cloud-based company that helps stitch together your aerial’s photos and create nice 3D maps out of them. They also created a spin-off company that can sell you the drones.

Graphene: the New Plastic
The latest miracle material — wait, don’t stop reading. It really is. The discoverers/inventors have a Nobel prize to back up their assertions. Not to mention the over 200 scientists doing active research into it.

Icelandic Volcano Eruption, in HD
Because there’s nothing those Icelandic folks like better than a good volcanic plume. Video in wonderful HD.

Pigs Flying
Duke Nukem has gone gold. I know, hell has frozen over. (See the illustration in the linked article, it’s funny.)

Lost Pyramids Found
It’s not really news that infrared satellite imaging will reveal hidden structures. It’s certainly not news that Egypt has pyramids. What is news is that these researchers found 17 pyramids, over 1,000 tombs and over 3,000 ancient settlements, all previously unknown. Oh, and the city of Tanis. You remember that one, right? From the first Indiana Jones movie? Buried in the sands thousands of years ago, Ark of the Covenant? Yeah, that Tanis.

Robots Developing Their Own Language
No, not a headline from 2044. It’s a lab in Queensland (Australia) where the researchers are setting up their robots to develop their own communications system.

Ring Around the Moon
Japanese research firm is proposing building a ring of solar cells around the Moon’s equator, and then beaming the 13,000 terawatts of energy back to Earth. Yeah, seriously.

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: