Cowlix Wearing my mind on my sleeve

Friday, May 31, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Launch delay

With weather posing a high risk all weekend, the shuttle launch has been rescheduled for Monday.

Thursday, May 30, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Bad science

Not Even Wrong: pointing out the importance of science education through examples of Wolfgang Pauli's comment, "This paper is so bad it is not even wrong."

I just know you've been worried about this

Life can go on forever There may be hope for life in the long run after all. It was previously thought that the fact that the universe's expansion is accelerating meant that eventually there would not be enough energy available to for life to exist. Even with slower and slower metabolisms, which would be required to reduce energy use, eventually a point would be reached where organisms could no longer get rid of heat and would burn up. New work shows that this isn't necessarily the case, depending on the reason why the expansion is accelerating. That reason is something that's still up in the air.

In the right kind of accelerating universe "life can go on indefinitely", say Katherine Freese of the University of Michigan and William Kinney of Columbia University in New York. We don't know whether ours is the right kind, so the doomsday scenario is still possible, but at least there's hope.

An accelerating universe limits how much energy is available to life because distant regions get too far away to be reached by organisms confined to travelling below the speed of light.

See also:

Launch tonight?

See what sneaks up on you when you stop paying attention to the world for a little while? Endeavour is scheduled to launch tonight at 7:44 Eastern, weather permitting, to deliver a fresh crew to the station and to continue work on the station's robot arm.

Tuesday, May 28, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Cloning results

Physics bans cloning: long known results from quantum mechanics ruling out the copying of a quantum particle have been extended to classical systems composed of many of these particles, because doing so disturbs the original system. But what that does that mean for biological cloning? Not a whole lot. Even if a genetically identical clone is made, once that clone starts growing, breathing, and living, it is subjected to different environmental pressures than the parent causing the clone to diverge from the original almost immediately. [via The Daily Grail]

Doing your homework

Bad Science Never Dies: on the continued citation of scientific papers after they have been retracted.

At a certain level, these studies have become urban myths. Despite no longer possessing scientific authority, their repeated publication has let them take on a life of their own -- regardless of any grounding in truth. Such scientific myths are worse than simple scare stories about kidney stealing or the influence of the full moon, because future researchers unwittingly depend upon their (invalidated) analyses.

[via The Daily Grail]

Monday, May 27, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Steal this book

Vanishing books, a secret passageway make a heist fit for a novel in France: a real-life locked room mystery is finally solved.

When over a thousand priceless books and illuminated manuscripts, some weighing up to five kilograms, began vanishing from a locked room in an eighth century monastery, police were stumped. Investigators worked for nearly two years to catch the thief as the books continued to disappear from the library of the Mont Sainte Odile monastery in the Alsace region of eastern France.

[via BookNotes]

When you need to know the Mayan date

Calendar Converter: a Javascript tool that will convert dates between different calendar systems. [via abuddhas memes]

Real Genius

Weapons of Precise Destruction: on how the armed unmanned warplanes which have been getting a workout in Afghanistan could be turned to assassination.

Saddam Hussein has not been seen publicly for the past year. He did not attend his recent 65th birthday celebration, despite the fact that young girls were dressed as suicide bombers--a sight that he must have hated to miss. But he has good reason to fear the outdoors. A Predator may be lurking there, patiently waiting for its intended prey--him.

[via Red Rock Eater]

Criminal code

Allchin: Disclosure May Endanger U.S.

A senior Microsoft Corp. executive told a federal court last week that sharing information with competitors could damage national security and even threaten the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. He later acknowledged that some Microsoft code was so flawed it could not be safely disclosed.

So, Microsoft admits that their code is so buggy that disclosing those bugs could pose a risk to the country. Is writing that code a crime? Is selling it? Is failing to fix it? Is using it in a military context? [via Red Rock Eater]

Water on Mars

Ice reservoirs found on Mars: The Mars Odyssey's Gamma Ray Spectrometer has found large quantities of ice beneath the surface of Mars. This isn't the first find of water on Mars (and it seems there may have been photographic evidence as far back as 1980), but the volume found in this discovery could be significant for the possibility of life and the support of future manned exploration.

Looking back on a coup

Inside Venezuela's Failed Coup: a look from April at the two day coup in Venezuela.

The last week witnessed a gigantic military crisis affecting the highest levels of command of the armed forces, which was able to get the president out of Miraflores Palace, put him in a situation where he was prepared to resign, and ready to fly to the largest island of the Antilles [Cuba]. But what seemed to be a lightning strike into the heart of the Fifth Republic went out of control in less than two days, and before the week was over, the roles were reversed.

But the most surprising thing about the entire drama is that, during the 48 hours of high tension among the various factions, there was not a single armed confrontation. Not a single shot was fired. Over the course of these two days about 20 officers played a huge game of chess, a war of persuasion, and the main chessboard was to be found on the fifth floor of the old Ministry of Defense building.

See also:

Friday, May 24, 2002 Permanent link to this day
We don't need a law for everything

The Congress, in a push led by John Shimkus, is well on it's way to passing a law, the Dot Kids Implementation and Efficiency Act of 2002, to enable a kids safe domain: The Coalition to Protect Protozoa shows it's really not that complicated by introducing

In a followup to the "dot kids" legislation (H.R. 3833) to create a "dot kids dot us" domain proposed by Congressman John Shimkus (R-Illinois), the Coalition to Protect Protozoa has taken the initiative to create a new safe place for protozoa on the Internet under the "dot protozoa dot us" domain.

"This is the perfect place to locate material which has been reviewed for acceptability and viewership by America's protozoa," creator Matthew Kaufman explained. "Protozoa are the most abundant animals in the world in both number and biomass, significantly outnumbering our own children, and we have now taken the first step to safeguard our nation's protozoa."

[via Politech]

Not to say we told you so...

The People For The American Way bring us John Ashcroft's First Year as Attorney General: The Triumph of Right-Wing Ideology Over Our Constitution and Laws.

In January 2001, a remarkably broad coalition of civil rights and other public interest organizations opposed the confirmation of John Ashcroft as U.S. Attorney General. People For the American Way helped lead that effort, and produced more than 80 pages of reports analyzing John Ashcroft's long public record. Those reports documented a career notable for its commitment to right-wing ideology, its lack of demonstrated commitment to fairness and equal opportunity, and its insensitivity to the rights of women and minorities.

One year later, Ashcroft has done much to ensure his legacy as a right-wing ideologue who is willing to bend the Constitution and laws to his worldview, disregard the constitutional principle of checks and balances, and endanger Americans' basic rights and freedoms. This People For the American Way Foundation report reviews his actions both before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that have an impact on a range of civil rights and civil liberties.

[via Interesting People]

A hint of targets to come?

The 2001 Patterns of Global Terrorism report has been released.

President Bush put state supporters of terrorism on notice in his 20 September address to the joint session of Congress: "Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists." The seven designated state sponsors--Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, and Sudan--clearly heard the President's message. While some of these countries appear to be reconsidering their present course, none has yet taken all necessary actions to divest itself fully of ties to terrorism.

Sniffing for surfers

Tapping the alpha geek noosphere with EtherPEG: what do people surf for in the middle of tech conference speeches? With a notebook, a wireless network card, and a packet sniffer, you too can find out. [via Interesting People]

Wednesday, May 22, 2002 Permanent link to this day
I knew Clippy had a use

Clippy helps out George.

Monday, May 20, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Reliving the industrial revolution

The brown revolution: on the rise of "megacities", primarily in developing countries, as their economies move to a more urban basis.

In the long run, that is good news. If countries now industrialising follow the pattern of those that have already done so, their city-dwellers will be both more prosperous and healthier. Man is a gregarious species, and the words "urbane" and "civilised" both derive from the advantages of living in large settlements.

History also shows, though, that the transition can be uncomfortable. The slums of Manchester were, in their time, just as awful as those of Nairobi today. But people moved there for exactly the same reason: however nasty conditions seemed, the opportunities of urban life outstripped those of the countryside. The question is how best to handle the change.

Shrinking polar bear habitat

Polar bears on the web: the Norwegian Polar Institute and the WWF (no, not that WWF) have tagged two female polar bears and put the tracking system on the web.

See also: Polar Bears at Risk

Reading between the lines

The Cuneiform Digital Library: cataloging the thousands of cuneiform tablets scattered around the world.

Questing for bugs

Microsoft to launch massive online games network

The network will allow large groups of Xbox users to play tournaments together via the internet. But access to the network will come at a price. It will reportedly cost $9.95 per month to connect to Xbox Live, on top of the price of each game, and the service will only be available to those already paying for high-speed internet access.

The first security holes games are expected to be open this summer.

See also: Microsoft's $1 Billion Bet on Xbox Network

Saturday, May 18, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Castro on Bolton

Castro's response to being added to the Axis of Evil.

Anyone who remembers the fifteen incredible pretexts, known today through declassified official documents, that were elaborated at the end of 1961 by the high US authorities to undertake a direct military attack against Cuba in 1962, would not be surprised by such a sinister lie. We demand proof. Let them produce even the tiniest piece of evidence! They do not have any, and they cannot have them because they simply do not exist. They should not be hiding behind the alleged sensitivity of their sources, when there is actually not an atom of truth in what they are saying. This very old trick and overly stupid argument only serve to demonstrate their little consideration for, and low concept of, the American people whose intelligence deserve more respect.

I will also say this: If a Cuban scientist from any of our biotechnology institutes had been cooperating with any country in the development of biological weapons, or if he or she had tried to create them on his or her own initiative, he or she would be immediately presented in a court of justice as we would consider it an act of treason to the country.

[via also not found in nature]

Where's the debugger?

DNA seen through the eye of a coder: Genetics explained in terms that a programmer can understand. [via leuschke]

Indiana uses it

So, you've dashed off for the weekend to explore Egyptian ruins and you've run across a tablet covered in strange markings. You need [via Bifurcated Rivets]

Human cloning patent?

Debate on Human Cloning Turns to Patents: The International Center for Technology Assessment's Patent Watch Project reports that a patent recently awarded to the University of Missouri and licensed to BioTransplant explicitly covers a method of human cloning. The University says that the patent has only been licensed for use in animal-to-human organ transplants and wouldn't be used for human cloning.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Bolton speech

Beyond the Axis of Evil: Additional Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction: the full text of John Bolton's speech where the AoE was expanded to include Cuba, Syria, and Libya.

America is determined to prevent the next wave of terror. States that sponsor terror and pursue WMD must stop. States that renounce terror and abandon WMD can become part of our effort. But those that do not can expect to become our targets. This means directing firm international condemnation toward states that shelter--and in some cases directly sponsor--terrorists within their borders. It means uncovering their activities that may be in violation of international treaties. It means having a direct dialogue with the rest of the world about what is at stake. It means taking action against proliferators, middlemen, and weapons brokers by exposing them, sanctioning their behavior, and working with other countries to prosecute them or otherwise bring a halt to their activities. It means taking law-enforcement action against suspect shipments, front companies, and financial institutions that launder proliferators' funds. And it requires, above all, effective use, improvement, and enforcement of the multilateral tools at our disposal--both arms control and nonproliferation treaties and export control regimes.

Multilateral agreements are important to our nonproliferation arsenal. This Administration strongly supports treaties such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the Chemical Weapons Convention, and the Biological Weapons Convention. But in order to be effective and provide the assurances they are designed to bring, they must be carefully and universally adhered to by all signatories. Therefore, strict compliance with existing treaties remains a major goal of our arms control policy.

See also:

December 17: The U.S. Army has disclosed that officials at the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah have been producing weapons-grade anthrax - virtually identical to that found in the letters mailed to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy - for nearly a decade. This is the first such admission since the U.S. offensive biowarfare program was cancelled in 1969. A spokesperson for Dugway has stated that all of the facility's anthrax is well protected and accounted for. Officials claim that the small amounts of anthrax produced at Dugway are used for defensive research and that the research complies with all current treaty obligations.

Arc of Instability

From Arc of Instability to Axis of Evil

If the US adopts the 'axis of evil' as its slogan, the EU's equivalent is the 'arc of instability' on its eastern and southern borders. These two images, and the policy mechanisms they imply, are so very different. One is aggressive and categorical, the other apprehensive and cautious. But what happens when they overlap? Can they be coordinated?

Defining globalization

Globalisation, Exclusion and the Politics of Resistance

What is at issue here, I suggest, is a confusion over what I characterise as expansive and `imploding' phases of world capitalist development. My argument is that the expansive phase of world capitalism is over. The expansive phase of capitalism was characterised by the extension of the fundamentals of economic activity, namely trade and productive investment ever further into more and more areas of the globe; that phase has now been succeeded by a phase of deepening, but not widening capitalist integration.

[via wood s lot, in a round about way]

Sunday, May 12, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Imposing freedom

The Liberty Doctrine: Michael McFaul proposes that the use of U.S. power should be aimed at the forceful promotion of individual freedom abroad above all else.

The next phase of the war on terrorism, therefore, must be the expansion of liberty to these areas. The United States cannot be content with preserving the current order in the international system. Rather, the United States must become once again a revisionist power -- a country that seeks to change the international system as a means of enhancing its own national security. Moreover, this mission must be offensive in nature. The United States cannot afford to wait and react to the next attack. Rather, we must seek to isolate and destroy our enemies by eliminating their regimes and safe havens. The ultimate purpose of American power is the creation of an international community of democratic states that encompasses every region of the planet.

Evolving society

A Brief History of Thinking Outside the Box: Social Inventions Through the Ages: Utne Reader lists at the major changes in society over time. I'm not sure about some of their choices: do raves really rank up there with Urukagina's Code?

Clear enough?

Moral Clarity: Safire looks at a phrase that has seen wide use in justifications of military action and intervention recently.


U.S. Offensive in Latin America: Coups, Retreats, and Radicalization: on U.S. intervention in Venezuela, Columbia, and other countries in the region.

The worldwide U.S. military-political offensive is manifest in multiple contexts in Latin America. The U.S. offensive aims to prop up decaying client regimes, destabilize independent regimes, pressure the center-left to move to the right, and destroy or isolate the burgeoning popular movements challenging the U.S. empire and its clients.

Babble on

The "Oh Really?" Factor: FAIR looks at the (in)accuracy of the O'Reilly Factor.

Updated to correct O'Reilly Factor's URL

But it must be true...

Global Village Idiocy: Thomas Friedman on the spreading of misinformation over the net and the tendency of people to believe what they read.

At its best, the Internet can educate more people faster than any media tool we've ever had. At its worst, it can make people dumber faster than any media tool we've ever had.


The post-human future: an excerpt from Gregory Stock's book, Redefining Humans, on the manipulation of the human genome. As genetic knowledge and technology improves, this path is inevitable. As soon as we know how to do it, someone will.

At first glance the very notion that we might become more than "human" seems preposterous. After all, we are still biologically identical in almost every respect to our cave-dwelling ancestors. But this lack of change is deceptive. Never before have we had the power to manipulate human genetics to alter our biology in meaningful, predictable ways.

See also:

Where are the bones?

Bigfoot at 50: Evaluating a Half-Century of Bigfoot Evidence

Though sightings of the North American Bigfoot date back to the 1830s (Bord 1982), interest in Bigfoot grew rapidly during the second half of the twentieth century. This was spurred on by many magazine articles of the time, most seminally a December 1959 True magazine article describing the discovery of large, mysterious footprints the year before in Bluff Creek, California.

A half century later, the question of Bigfoot's existence remains open. Bigfoot is still sought, the pursuit kept alive by a steady stream of sightings, occasional photos or footprint finds, and sporadic media coverage. But what evidence has been gathered over the course of fifty years? And what conclusions can we draw from that evidence?

See also: The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization

Thursday, May 09, 2002 Permanent link to this day
And the winner is...

The top bugs of all time. [via Information Addiction]

Life's library

Library: the original Albert Goldbarth version and the reader contributions.

This book saved my life.
This book takes place on one of the two small tagalong moons of Mars.
This book requests its author's absolution, centuries after his death.
This book required two of the sultan's largest royal elephants to bear it; this other book fit in a gourd.
This book reveals The Secret Name of God, and so its author is on a death list.

[via wood s lot]

Fighting tor peace

The US quietly wades into South Asia's rebel conflicts: on the varying degrees of involvement of the U.S. in South Asian regional conflicts.

The insurgency in Nepal is just one of three deadly conflicts in South Asia which have brewed quietly in the background of the Afghan conflict. But the lack of media attention is no indication of a lack of US involvement. In all three conflicts, which together have claimed tens of thousands of lives over the past two decades, US officials have quietly been applying pressure and support for peace talks, and, in the case of Nepal, a war against Maoist rebels.

[via Unknown News]

Tuesday, May 07, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Does North Korea know?

US expands 'axis of evil': John Bolton, US Under Secretary of State, announced that the Axis of Evil has doubled in size with the addition of Cuba, Libya, and Syria. This may be a silly question, but aren't expansions of organizations usually announced by members?

Solar evolution

The Strange Case of the Iron Sun: on Oliver Manuel and his alternative theory of the evolution of the Sun. He claims his research points to the Sun having evolved from the out of a supernova and that a neutron star still forms its nucleus. The technical details can be found on his site.

Manuel fits a popular stereotype, the lone dissenter promoting a new idea that flies in the face of the scientific establishment. In the real world, some of these theories eventually have been proven right but vastly more have been proven wrong. Manuel is under no illusions about the popularity of his idea. "Ninety-nine percent of the field will tell you it's junk science," he says. The evidence weighs in heavily against him. If he's right, however, we need to completely rethink how planetary systems form. Even if he's wrong, some scientists say, at least he has made people think.

Monday, May 06, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Art for the very well sighted

Silicon Art: images found on microprocessors. [via Boing Boing]

Hersh on the WoT

Seymour Says: highlights from Seymour Hersh's talk on the War on Terror as the keynote speaker at the Chicago Headline Club's Peter Lisagor Awards.

"We have an attorney general that is, I don't know, how would you describe him, demented? We have an attorney general who doesn't seem to understand the law. He's talking about John Walker Lindh, a young boy. John Walker Lindh has made a confession that hasn't been made public. And [Ashcroft] is using parts of the confession to attack him, in public, and that's against every code of every U.S. attorney; it's one of the first things in the rule book. You can't take material that's privileged and use it publicly against anybody.

[via also not found in nature]

Searching in vain?

Home Alone in the Universe?: Fred Heeren examines the search for extraterrestial intelligence, the impacts its success would have for religion, and the reasons to think we won't be making contact other intelligent life anytime soon, if ever. [via Fragments from Floyd (Va)]

Sunday, May 05, 2002 Permanent link to this day

Virtual Diasporas and global problem solving project: looking at the uses, both good and bad, of the net and other communication technology to bring communities together from wherever their members have spread to.

See also: Dial-in Diasporas


State Secrets Privilege Gets a Workout: a summary of two cases in the last two months where the Bush Administration has invoked the state secrets privilege to dismiss lawsuits against the government.

Timeless literature

Smart arses: There is a rush to save scrolls which are still in the library in Pompeii where they were buried by Vesuvius but are now in danger of being flooded. What are we leaving to future generations to preseve? Bijan Omrani surveys the Bodleian Library's toilet graffiti to answer this question.

In Pompeii, every phrase scratched into the ancient walls -- whether it be the drunken effusion of a guest returning from a dinner party, or the plaint of a lover shut out from his mistress -- is greedily catalogued. Professors rejoice when even the most opaque fragment of Greek lyric emerges from the darkness. How can we rest easy with ourselves, knowing that the most private thoughts of the nation's premier scholars are falling prey to the janitor's bucket and mop?

See also: The History of Plumbing - Pompeii & Herculaneum

Saturday, May 04, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Do I need another addiction?

Nethack goes graphical. [via #!/usr/bin/girl]

Friday, May 03, 2002 Permanent link to this day
Rumsfeld won an award

The 2002 Jefferson Muzzles have been announced. These are awarded each year near Thomas Jefferson's birthday to (dis)honor those who've ignored his warning on limitations of free speech. [via BookNotes]

Wednesday, May 01, 2002 Permanent link to this day
DMCA, European style

Alan Cox attacks the European DMCA: a summary of a talk given Monday by Alan Cox at a Lonix conference on the European Union Copyright Directive, which is said to be more restrictive than the DMCA. [via Voidstar]

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Copyright © 2001-2002 by Wes Cowley