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Comment Biofilm, yummy (Score 1) 148

Just in case anyone was wondering what the fuck biofilm is:

"A biofilm is any group of microorganisms in which cells stick to each other on a surface. These adherent cells are frequently embedded within a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS). Biofilm extracellular polymeric substance, which is also referred to as slime (although not everything described as slime is a biofilm), is a polymeric conglomeration generally composed of extracellular DNA, proteins, and polysaccharides. Biofilms may form on living or non-living surfaces and can be prevalent in natural, industrial and hospital settings."

Another PSA: Don't drink the water in Venezuela; its inhabitants are measured in centimeters.

Colosseum Lift That Carried Wild Animals Into Arena Rebuilt 176

An anonymous reader writes: Archaeologists have built a replica of the lift that was used to move lions and other wild animals into the Colosseum 1,500 years ago. It is estimated that a million animals may have been killed in the history of the arena. It took a year and a half for the archaeologists and engineers to build the 23ft-high timber lift, using only materials that would have been available to the ancient Romans. Gary Glassman, a director who made a documentary about the project said, "One of the reasons we are attracted to the Colosseum is because of the incredible violence that went on here. The question it poses is, how could such an advanced culture have staged such bloody spectacles? The Colosseum is a snapshot in stone, a physical embodiment of the culture of Rome."

Comment Impactor efficiency versus rocket payload? (Score 1) 150

Would it be more efficient to launch an impactor from Earth to change the asteroid's trajectory or to launch a rocket (using the same rocket that would launch the impactor) carrying a second rocket that would attach to the asteroid and burn to similarly change its trajectory? An impactor would need to be calculated precisely in advance, while attaching a rocket would allow some room for error since its burn could be controlled remotely. The actual feat of getting the rocket to land and securely mount itself would be a challenge however. I don't think "blowing it up" is a good idea, but diversion if possible seems the least-risky and most-effective method.

Comment Re:Battlefield Earth sucked (Score 1) 121

In the book, they locked open the teleporter network to thousands of Psychlo worlds, then set a nuke off on the homeworld. The fireball washed over the teleportation fields of other teleporter platforms and ignited thousands of planets in giant nuclear fireballs.

I haven't read the book or seen the movie, but holy shit that sounds awesome.

Comment Re:Examining explosions in a vacuum (Score 1) 235

Guilty as charged. :) I think randomness is the result of interactions we can't observe, that's it's an illusion we're generally more than happy to accept. I don't let it ruin my day or anything (I love the idea of free will and all), but my intuition tells me deep inside that it's probably not so. A shame our lifespans are so short, as it would be terribly interesting to see what science a few hundred years from now would have to say about it.

Comment Re:Examining explosions in a vacuum (Score 1) 235

What we know about explosions at any scale tells us nothing about the Big Bang, which was not an explosion.

The Big Bang was an expansion of space, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's not useful to consider similarities between explosions and expansions. The fact that matter and energy in the universe are not perfectly uniform and symmetrical is evidence that the Big Bang, even the singularity itself if there was one, was not uniform or symmetrical. If it was then there had to be an outside influence creating the asymmetry.

Comment Examining explosions in a vacuum (Score 1) 235

You'd think based on what we know about smaller scale explosions that the universe would be spherical, but even explosions in a vacuum aren't perfectly spherical. The shape of the shrapnel field and gasses depends on exactly how the explosion occurs. Until we know how dark matter and dark energy affect regular matter and energy with respect to accelerating it there's no obvious way to determine what the shape of the universe would be 13+ billion years after its creation. Subtle imperfections in the initial, generally spherical, shape of the universe might be amplified by their interaction with dark matter and energy, resulting in the initial sphere becoming highly irregular as it expands in size.

I think the question could be attacked from two sides. We can examine the current shape of the universe (shitty, because we can only see what is possibly just a small piece of it which may prove insufficient to extrapolate an accurate bigger picture) and ask, "If it looks like this now, what must it have looked like in the beginning," or we can attempt to understand through mathematics and theory what happened in the beginning and then extrapolate what it must look like now. Either way, I don't think we'll have a generally-agreed-upon answer anytime soon. Dark matter/energy is a giant hole in our understanding of how/why things move in the universe, so first thing first, figure that one out then worry about the size and shape of the universe.

Comment ISS studies (Score 1) 137

The ISS crew stays in their tin can for six month stints and seem to get along fine (from what we know, anyhow). A trip to Mars would take about six months. We know from interviewing prisoners what complete isolation will do to someone (and it's not good), so assuming a crew to Mars had at least four people I'm not sure there's a significant problem to solve here. Obviously the crew would have to be vetted and have prior experience in this type of situation (such as on the ISS), but as long as they're not sending random volunteers (ahem, certain other attempt to get to Mars) I think they'll do just fine.

Comment Re:Competition rules (or lack thereof) (Score 1) 237

...and then you'll get a run of situations where someone spikes whatever the competitors are drinking at the tournament... so that 95% of the contestants end up disqualified, making the advantage that much easier.

The ones who are left are likely drinking mind-enhancing fluids anyway.

Or even likelier, hiring third parties to swing batons at competitors' fingers and hands, rendering them physically unable to move the chess pieces and unable to focus due to the pain. Or playing footsie with them under the table to break their concentration. Or building up a resistance to a nerve toxin over decades, then releasing a small amount into the room to kill everyone but their self. If I were going to cheat at professional chess competitions, I'd probably invent an FTL drive and ask the Vulcans if I could borrow Spock, as he's pretty good at chess. If that failed, I could intentionally become assimilated by the Borg and introduce a virus into their hive mind that both gave me free will and ran Chessmaster 9000. Failing that, I'd probably just have to nuke the entire planet from orbit, then carefully plant evidence that I'd won every chess competition ever held during my lifetime. Any future sentient species a few billion years down the road would be like, "Man, that guy was fucking boss at chess."

"You know, we've won awards for this crap." -- David Letterman