Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What unlikely outside group forces the Large Hadron Collider to shut down for three weeks every winter?

The Large Hadron Collider/ATLAS at CERNImage by Image Editor via FlickrThe Large Hadron Collider may be the most influential scientific instrument of the early 21st century, but it still has to play ball with all the various agencies and interest groups that dominate modern life. One of these organizations holds some rather unexpected sway over the LHC -- enough to force the particle accelerator to shut down its atom-smashing for three weeks or more every winter.

Want to know who the mysterious power behind the Higgs Boson throne is? As usual, you've got two ways to found out:

The former includes some rather awesome counter-theories from TechRepublic's online readership. The latter includes a vivid discussion of the fallout from Google's acquisition of Zagat. Both are worth your time, despite my involvement in each venture.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The most horrible things in science fiction

The Fly (1986 film)Image via WikipediaThere are two ways of interpreting the post title:
  • A clever pun on mashing the horror and sci-fi genres
  • The description of my contribution to SF Signal podcasts
Both are likely true, as those poor, foolish fools at SF Signal had me on their podcast again discussing the best examples of science fiction horror stories. Don't worry, it's not just me blathering about Ridley Scott and David Cronenberg (that happens, but there's other stuff, too). Lee ThomasAshley CrumpDerek JohnsonJeff Patterson, and Patrick Hester make legitimate statements about genre that tend to drown out my own sonic idiocy.

My content will horrify. Their content will edify. Either way you win, assuming horror is of interest to you. Give it a listen.

As always my chronicle of past SF Signal podcast atrocities is available here.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Dragon*Con 2011: A n00b's Tale, Part III

English: People in Star Trek costumes, at Drag...
English: People in Star Trek costumes, at DragonCon Parade in Atlanta in 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
[In the wake of Thursday and Friday awesomeness, the Saturday infodump continuous apace.]


I awoke slightly later than usual, which is to say 9:00 am, as I had burned the midnight oil at the Star Trek Reboot Review on Friday. My original plan was to attend the 10:00am "Give Me The Bottom Line" writers panel with Mike Resnick and Peter David, but after the Friday disappointments with the Writer's Track, I decided to bow to convention and take in the legendary Dragon*Con Parade. After a quick foodcourt "breakfast" (scare quotes intentional) I staked out a spot betwixt the Hyatt and Marriott along the main parade route.

Now, the parade doesn't start until ten, and when I arrived at 9:30 the crowd was already three-deep along the street. I snagged a view behind a group of parents, as it's easy to see over kids. By the time 10:00am rolled around, the crowd was 8-10 deep on every side. Despite not being in costume, I got compliments on my Diesel Sweeties t-shirt, to the point someone snapped a photo of me. (I tweeted said event, and R. Stevens himself acknowledged my nano-infamy.)

And then, the parade.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What were the 'controversial' call signs for the Apollo 10 spacecraft - The ones that got astronauts' naming rights taken away?

Logo Apollo 10Image via WikipediaLittle known fact: Apollo 10 was the last NASA mission in which astronauts were allowed to assign call signs to their spacecraft. Since then, NASA public relations has had final say on naming rights, in no small part because the Apollo 10 crew chose "controversial" names for their command module and lunar lander.

So, what were those rights-robbing call signs? There are two places to find out:

Old-school comics fans will get a kick out of this one. Promise.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What English township is the official technical namesake of broken profanity filters?

Cartoon of a person waving fistImage via WikipediaOf the various and sundry reasons we're all anxiously awaiting the semantic web, perhaps the most overlooked motivator is a desire for smarter profanity filters. This is especially true of two groups: Residents of certain English township which is the namesake of semantically dumb text filters, and a medieval aficionados who suffered rather comically at the hands of a rather famously stupid online profanity blocker.

Here's where you can learn about both:
Both items answer both questions, but from opposite ends. I encourage you to consume both and decide which is better, and not just because I like farming page views to my friends and sidejob employers. (OK, mostly that, but not entirely.)
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Which Manhattan Project scientist won the betting pool to determine the explosive yield of the first atomic bomb?

Trinity test (LANL)Image via WikipediaRemember when those wacky Los Alamos boys inaugurated the nuclear arms race by detonating the world's first atomic explosive?

Well, as humans are wont to do, those Manhattan Projectors laid out a little wagering action as to exactly how explosive said atomic gadget would turn out to be. So the question becomes: Who won the Trinity Test betting pool? 

You can find out one of two ways:
  • Audio, via one of my appearances on TechTalk radio in Chicago (which includes some additional content about Chip Bell and John Patterson's new book Wired and Dangerous)
  • Text, via a recent Geek Trivia column (which includes pithy commentary from my Geekend readership)
Hint: The guy who won the pool is probably more famous in medical circles than he is in the halls of physics. Maybe.
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