Technolotics #17 – Perfectly Spherical Balls



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Perfect spheres into space to check Einstein’s theory

The Gravity Probe B satellite [1] was launched by NASA to measure the curvature and rotation of space time around earth [2]
Testing two unverified predictions of general relativity – frame dragging and the The Geodetic Effect – which have implications for the grand unification of physics
The four gyroscopes in the satellite ddidn’t vary from a perfect sphere by more than 40 atomic layers
Electromagnetic torc rods were used to hold the satellite in a static orientation, so tiny changes in the orientation of the gyroscopes could be measured
Magnetometers onboard sensed the earths magnetic field, and position and orientation were measured with tiny gyroscopes – allowing the onboard computer system to adjust the flow of currents to the torc rods accordingly, controlling the pitch, yaw, and roll of the craft
Perfect example of the faster, cheaper, better mantra which has been nasa’s guiding principle in recent years – although this approach has faced difficulties [3]
An awesome description of the development of the experiement, as the scientific implications behind it, can be found here [4]

Negroponte and the $100 laptop

Big press release this week… [5] – The laptop seems not to be vaporware
The man behind the project, Nicholas Negroponte is founder of the MIT media lab, and wired magazine [6]
Preliminary specs now available – forms a wi-fi mesh network out of the box, has dual mode high contrast colour & bw display, 40 minutes of power from 1 minute of cranking, 7″ screen, microphone and speaker, 500mhz processor
Also, Negroponte turned down Jobs’ offer of free copies of OSX – probably due to the possibility of apple reneging the offer in the future, and the lack of memory on the machine – 1gig total

Negropoente has stated that he wants the users to develop software for the machine
Compilers and a development environment will ship with the laptop
It’s not yet clear which education software will be included
Let’s hope armys in the developing world dont develop software to use the machines as a VOIP and unit tracking device for battle

Thailand and Brazil have already shown interest
Negraponte proposes the laptops be paid for over a 5 year period – but this may still be too much for developing nations where wages are just a few dollars a month
The real question is whether the funding behind this laptop would be better spent cancelling 3rd world debt, restructuring ‘fair trade agreements’ which cripple developing nations ability to compete, and preventing weapons sales to nations disintegrated by war

AOL & TIVO merge / AOL Launch In2TV

AOL is to launch a new ‘on-demand’ streaming tv brand In2tv – divided into channels for [7]
‘DVD Quality’ Content will be provided by Time Warner – and many of the shows annoucned so far are ancient – Pinky and the Brain, Falcon Crest, Mr. Cooper, Perfect Strangers, Wonder Woman etc
Adds will be shorter than normal television – 2 compared to 8 minutes, but ‘unskippable’
Our guess is that the service will have all sorts of restrictions – e.g.: no watching 10 episodes of Babylon 5 in a row, may be geographically restricted and / or restricted to a special client browser like iTunes
The selection will change on a month by month basis – so as not to canibalize DVD box-set sales – expect this service to be used to whet, rather than sate your appitite
You can expect to get a lot more tv on bittorrent, as people start to capture the stream
The service will also include social features – IM, games, quizes, online chat with cast members; and promotional features – stars before they were famous, theme months etc [8]

Google Map of Sex Offenders

Another service has launched, integrating google maps API with publically available databases
In this case sex offenders register of each US districts – publically available under the emotively entitled ‘Megans Law’, passed in 1994 the wake of tabloid outrage over the death of Megan Nicole Kanka – raped and murdered by a paedophile who lived accross the street
Now you can surf for sex offenders in your area – clicking on the icon gives you their name, picture and address
Brings up questions of privacy, nefarious use of api’s, public access to such information
Sex offenders register does not just contain paedophiles and rapist – offences which require registration vary hugely from state to state, and even county to county
Example: [9] This list of offenses from Franklin county Missouri State includes – Sexual Contact with an Inmate or resident of a jail, prison or correctional facility, and Sodomy !!!!,
In the case of Franklin county – picked as a random googled example, the registration is for life, and extends back to offenses committed as long ago as 1979

Short Stories

Student folds paper 12 times

Everybody said that you can’t fold paper 12 times…. they were wrong [10]
Evidence that you should never assume something’s impossible…

Digg might bury slashdot

Wired news story on how digg is going to become bigger than slashdot


Massive gmail bug that google never mentioned

The ability existed to hack into ANYONE’s account on gmail
Google never mentioned it (their produce is only beta)
Luckily the bug was never published until google solved the problem


Media Pimp

Jason: The script of scarface poster [13]
Jason: Techtainment