Bones3D_mac writes: Could a major coronal mass ejection from our Sun result in planet-wide nuclear disasters similar to what we witnessed in Japan? Not only could it cause the "station blackout" effect we initially heard about, but what about the potential for loss of communication lines and overall mass confusion as our usual electrical and electronic devices suddenly go dark on us for seemingly no reason whatsoever?
Bones3D_mac writes: After playing around with a batch of silly putty filled with iron filings and a powerful magnet, I noticed the stuff would always form back up into a perfect sphere no matter how much I tried deforming it, which got me thinking... has anyone ever thought of using something like this to develop a processor of some kind?
If you think about it, a sphere is a good shape to work with if you're cramped for space (a problem processor manufactures are already faced with). Spheres offer the most usable surface area within a confined space. Also, using just the surface area alone would allow for a radical new approach to processor design, simply due to the fact that circuit pathways could physically go on forever as there is no end to the surface of a sphere. A processor map could repeat into itself recursively for as many times as one could ever need. And to access the processor, one would only need to encase it into a shell of electrodes touching it's surface, sort of like wiring up a golf ball at every dimple, but at a much larger scale.
And that much is just using the surface area...
But what if we take it a step further and find a way to use the entire volume of the sphere to create circuit pathways, accessible from the surface, but where each electrode can access every other electrode attached to the sphere using the shortest possible route through the sphere's volume rather than longer pathways along the surface?
This is where the silly putty comes in... what if instead of mere iron filings, the sphere were made of a more processor friendly set of materials that could reshape their processing pathways on the fly as needed?
My guess is that if you had three of these spheres (one in a static configuration for basic processing and two dynamically reconfigurable spheres) the dynamic spheres could perform specialized tasks by offloading processing jobs on each other as the other reconfigures for the next task, as needed. The more spheres you have, the more data you can process at any time. (Perhaps using some sort of neural networking algorithms to define the configuration needed from each sphere...)
Bones3D_mac writes: As a Mac user, I've been spared much of the headache of viruses and other nasty surprises most PC users have been dealing with on a daily basis. Lately though, I've been looking into the windows side of things to expand my available toolsets, such as tablet laptops for things like photoshop and lightweight 3D modeling work.
The problem, however, is how do I keep a mission-critical system like this safe when the applications being used on it require an internet connection to phone home? Obviously, having no external connections would do a lot to prevent anything from causing damage to the data stored on the system. But it seems that it's become increasingly difficult to keep the internet out of the equation when it comes to the more expensive software.
Should commercial developers be considering other methods of preventing piracy besides just phoning home? Or should we start holding them responsible for making our mission-critical systems needlessly vulnerable due to their software's requirement that an internet connect always be present?
Bones3D_mac writes: Have you ever had to explain a serious computer-related problem to someone who is both complete ignorant of the ramifications involved and unable to comprehend the nature of the problem itself... even when you try to dumb it down with metaphors and pictures?
For example, a relative of mine recently approached me, asking me to download a bunch of copyrighted material off Limewire and burn them onto CDs. Needless to say, I attempted to explain that it wasn't legal to acquire copyrighted content this way, citing some of the numerous cases where the RIAA issued potential life-destroying lawsuits, and suggested using something like Apple's iTunes Music Store instead.
Not satisfied with the option that involved actually "paying" for the content, I was then met with the usual "if it's not legal, then why are the files on there?", and "everyone else I know does it all the time and nothing happens to them!" arguments before they finally got pissed off and stormed off empty handed.
So... how do you reason with such unbelievably flawless logic to get someone to finally understand the potential dangers involved in something they see as being completely harmless?
Bones3D_mac writes: Earlier today, a lightning bug managed to sneak into my house and took up a stationary position on the wall. While not entirely exciting by itself, it did allow me to make some observations about what exactly triggers the glow. Although it's widely believed that the glow is somehow used for communication purposes between these insects, I'm starting to question whether this is actually the case, or if it's even voluntary at all.
First off, I've noticed the environment seems to play heavily into when the glow reflex is triggered. However, it doesn't seem to be the state of the environment that matters, so much as changes to the environment itself. In toying with the lightning bug, I had found that blowing small puffs of air toward the bug and rapid changes in lighting both triggered predictable results to the point of getting the glow to occur a specific number of times relative to the number of times each action was performed.
Next, I've noticed at points where the state of the environment was kept static, the glow did not trigger at all at any point the lightning bug remained stationary. However, the glow would consistently be triggered at points immediately before and during the bug's movements, and then discontinue right before movement ceased.
Finally, it seems that not only does movement trigger the glow, but the patterns of the glow generated by the movements varied with the complexity of the movements. For example, walking would trigger a very slow blinking, but flying triggered a more rapid pattern.
Based on these observations, I'm starting to think this idea of the glow being used for communication purposes may be an inaccurate assessment, at least as far as any sort of voluntary communication is concerned. Instead, I'm inclined to believe the glow may actually be more of an involuntary and passive response to the lightning bug's overall brain activity, as opposed to a voluntary decision to light up or not light up.
I'm actually kind of curious what our entomology-minded slashdotter's think. If my thinking on this is correct, it could offer some interesting insight into how the brains of these insects actually work. (Sort of like a primitive, always-on EEG wired directly into the brain.)
More importantly, perhaps this could be used in some manner on more complex creatures to allow for instantaneous visual feedback about the state of that creature's brain, rather than having to remove these creatures from their natural environments to observe them via other methods.
Bones3D_mac writes: I've noticed in the last couple days that my DirecTV Plus DVR reciever has recently started to covertly record programming I did not specifically request. While this isn't necessarily a problem by itself, it has become a problem in that I cannot choose to delete, block or opt-out from receiving this content. Instead, I'm apparently "required" to receive this content and forced to keep it stored on my DVR drive until a time and date of DirecTV's choosing, all under the guise of a "feature" called Showcase.
Even more interesting, is that the channel this unwanted content originates from cannot be accessed manually. Also, it doesn't show up in any menu or recording schedule, rendering it invisible and completely unpredictable to the user.
Aside from the obvious inconveniences involved (hijacked disk space, seemingly random interruptions of multi-channel recordings, etc... ), it also raises an important question.
Are we headed for a "Max Headroom"-style future where mandatory television viewing will somehow become required by law? I'd hate to think the only option I have is to throw a towel over my TV screen so I can't see it.