creimer writes: One of the most strangest stories to come out of The New York Times is the Cold War nightmare of red mercury that ISIS could use as a WMD against it's enemies: "Red mercury — precious and rare, exceptionally dangerous and exorbitantly expensive, its properties unmatched by any compound known to science — was the stuff of doomsday daydreams. According to well-traveled tales of its potency, when detonated in combination with conventional high explosives, red mercury could create the city-flattening blast of a nuclear bomb. In another application, a famous nuclear scientist once suggested it could be used as a component in a neutron bomb small enough to fit in a sandwich-size paper bag."
creimer writes: The New York Times Sunday Review has an interesting article on the astronomical night life when viewed from Sao Paulo, Brazil, featuring a treasure trove not visible to astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere: "Yet the Southern Hemisphere claims the three brightest stars of the night sky: Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri. Canopus belongs to the Carina constellation, notorious for two things: the Carina Nebula, four times as large and even brighter than the famous Orion Nebula, and the star system Eta Carinae, which is expected to burst as a supernova or hypernova sometime in the next thousand years. (A scientist told the BBC that the explosion would be so bright that you would see it during the day, and you could even read a book by its light at night.) Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, the 11th-brightest star, are called “The Pointers,” as they form a line in the sky to the constellation Crux (the Southern Cross). Crux is the smallest of all 88 constellations but one of the most distinctive. It is visible at practically any time of the year in all of the Southern Hemisphere."
creimer writes: "The New York Times is reporting that some Chinese citizens will have to change their name for the new identity cards.
"The bureau's computers, however, are programmed to read only 32,252 of the roughly 55,000 Chinese characters, according to a 2006 government report. The result is that Miss Ma and at least some of the 60 million other Chinese with obscure characters in their names cannot get new cards — unless they change their names to something more common.""
Christopher D. Reimer writes: "The New York Times is reporting the death of John W. Backus, 82, creator of the FORTRAN programming language. From the article: 'Mr. Backus and his youthful team, then all in their 20s and 30s, devised a programming language that resembled a combination of English shorthand and algebra. Fortran, short for Formula Translator, was very similar to the algebraic formulas that scientists and engineers used in their daily work. With some training, they were no longer dependent on a programming priesthood to translate their science and engineering problems into a language a computer would understand.'"
Chris Reimer writes: "The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that only one percent of web pages are sexually explict. From the article: 'A confidential analysis of Internet search queries and a random sample of Web pages taken from Google and Microsoft's giant Internet indices showed that only about 1 percent of all Web pages contain sexually explicit material. [...] The ACLU said the analysis, by Philip B. Stark, a professor of statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, did not appear to substantially help the Department of Justice in its effort to prove that criminal penalties are necessary to protect minors from exposure to sexually explicit information on the Internet.'"
Chris Reimer writes: "The New York Times is reporting a federal investigation of the the Venezuelan owners of Smartmatic Corporation, a voting software company, and whether the anti-U.S. government is trying to influence the U.S. midterm elections. According to the article: 'Government officials familiar with the Smartmatic inquiry said they doubted that even if the Chávez government was some kind of secret partner in the company, it would try to influence elections in the United States. But some of them speculated that the purchase of Sequoia could help Smartmatic sell its products in Latin America and other developing countries, where safeguards against fraud are weaker.'"
Chris Reimer writes: "Call me an old fart but I been trying to find a brand new manual typewriter at a reasonable price so I can fulfill my Hemingway fantasy of writing on a typewriter and drinking a shot between pages. (The MacBook is nice but falls a bit short in the fantasy department.) There seem to be only one model from two different vendors (the MS 25 from Olivetti and Royal). Does anyone know if there are other manual typewriters available?"
Chris Reimer writes: "The BBC is reporting that the American Bluegills fish is being used as an early warning system for dangerous substances in the local water supply. From the article: 'A small number of fish are kept in tanks which are constantly filled with water from the municipal supply. The computerised system registers changes in the fishes' vital signs and sends an alert when something is wrong. Since 11 September 2001, the US government has taken the threat of attacks on water supplies seriously.'"