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Comment Colaninno Minimum (Score 2) 571

The current one can be called the Colaninno Minimum. "Around 2006, solar physicist Robin Colaninno described the current minima as both extended and unusual, both similar to the Maunder Minimum (in that it's longer than usual in the Cycle) but also being quite different (in that it won't be the exact same length, nor have the same climate effect)."

Comment Meteorites! (Seriously!) (Score 1) 458

Meteorite fragments! Thought-provoking, and under $20. I love walking into a classroom, putting one in a kid's hands to pass around, and asking them what they think it is. That they are common blows their minds. At the risk of mentioning my own column, I go into in depth here:

Comment people who blow things up = cool, right? (Score 1) 614

Kristian von Bengtson and Peter Madsen of Copenhagen Suborbital. Not only are they building a homemade rocket to get to space, but Madsen already built a submarine just to commute to work. The Mythbuster guys, because they are paid well to blow things up on tv. Plus Kari Byron, just because. Also, everyone that does underwater caving (most dangerous sport/adventure around), wingsuit builders, etc.

Comment is the term 'DIY' overloaded (Score 1) 53

I think DIY has become the 'organic' of this decade, a term overused. Now people call it DIY if you do anything remotely clever. "DIY bagel heating using a toaster!".

And there are the "more DIY than thou" arguments. One person chided me that using PCB fabricators wasn't DIY because I didn't swirl my own templates in an acid bath (at satellite diaries)... I had to point out I was making a DIY satellite, not a DIY PCB. Besides, I asked him if he'd actually smelted the copper ore for his boards, because if not, you know, it's not really DIY.

That said, I love the DIY movement. It's as if Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin had a (legal) lovechildmovementlaunch.

(And that last word is DIY, I made it myself!)

Comment Scanners are allowed (Score 5, Interesting) 445

This may come as a shock, but the summary isn't *gasp* fully accurate. Scanners are allowed at the library sale they say forbids it. It's actually rather interesting-- the early "member's only" hour forbids scanners, then they let scanners in during the open sale hours. So it's a nice compromise between "let people browse" and "let the book sellers make a profit", they're just giving first crack to readers, then a fair shake to sellers afterwards. Neat compromise, that.

Comment Sound matters (Score 4, Insightful) 366

Turns out (citation needed) sound continuity is more important than video. People will put up with choppy or lossy video, as long as the soundtrack remains relatively coherent. But if the sound is dropping out or breaking up, they stop watching.

Which, if you think about it, is why we put up with crappy internet videos that speed along, but get frustrated when it's constantly buffering.

PC Games (Games)

Valve Trademarks 'DOTA' 141

An anonymous reader tips news that Valve Software has filed a trademark claim for the term "DOTA," fueling speculation that the company will soon reveal a new Defense of the Ancients game. Voice actor John St. John recently said he was recording for such a game in a post to Twitter. The tweet was subsequently deleted. Last year Valve hired 'Icefrog,' lead developer for the original DotA mod.

Comment Web pollution via parroting (Score 4, Funny) 101

I ran into bizarre web parroting-- a site took an article about my DIY satellite from "Wired", and (best guess) ran it through an English->Chinese translator then back to Chinese->English. So we end up with sentence-by-sentence content stealing, but with its own working, e.g.:

"Once deployed, they can put out enough power to be picked up on the ground by a hand-held amateur radio receiver." [from Wired]

"Once deployed, they can put out enough energy to be picked up on the belligerent by the hand-held pledge airwave receiver." [from Tubesat Gerber]

Or this bit

"Once the bastion of NASA and commercial satellite services, space has now become the final frontier for the do-it-yourselfer next door." [Wired]

"Once a bastion of NASA as well as blurb heavenly body services, space has right away turn the final limit for a do-it-yourselfer subsequent doorway." [Tubesat Gerber]

That's me, the blurb heavenly body service belligerent receiver!

A. "Music from Space, Launching 2011"


Best Way To Publish an "Indie" Research Paper? 279

alexmipego writes "I'm a developer, and a few months ago while working on a common geodesic problem (distance between two GPS points) I started to research a new algorithm that greatly improves the performance over existing algorithms. After relearning a lot of math I'm now fairly close to the final algorithm, after which I'll run extensive benchmarks comparing my algorithm with the most commonly used ones. After spending so much time on this, and if the final results are positive, I feel that simply posting this type of work on a blog might not be the best option, so I'm looking into something more formal, like a research paper. I've no experience on those, have not even read a complete one, so my first question is what resources do you recommend to learn how to write one? And even after I write it, I can't expect to be published by Science or other high-profile publications. So where should I send it to make it known by people in the respective fields and be taken seriously?"

Comment Re:Telegraph sensationalized stories (Score 1) 464

I worry about "Chicken Little" syndrome with space weather alerts. "GPS will die, sending airplanes crashing and sinking boats. Cell phones will fail, stranding travelers and resulting in people in remote areas dying due to exposure. Worse of all, our TV may go out for a few hours."

Jay Reich from the Dept. of Commerce talked about 'overwarning' versus 'need for science', covered at but here's the summary:

Science is rigorous, slow, based on data and challenge. This means politically it's horrible, and the media overstates it. So we have to balance warning with overhyping and risking people tune us out. Solution? Unknown.

Comment build your own satellite (Score 2, Interesting) 398

If you want to go the mad scientist route, build a satellite in your basement. It's about the same cost as buying a motorcycle ($8K including launch) and, as far as mid-life crises go, a lot cooler. I'm doing it ( ), and blogging about how it goes at

You get to learn neat stuff about electronics, Arduino-level programming, and HAM radio.

It's worth it just for when people ask what I do for fun...

There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly. -- Publius Terentius Afer (Terence)