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Comment Re:old news from decades ago (Score 1) 199

As an even more pedantic aside: the word "ain't" IS proper English - but not necessarily in the dialect or register that you are currently using. For example, in mid to late Victorian England (1860 to 1900, and the country from which English comes, and to which standards on English, per se, must be referred) the word "ain't" was used in normal conversation by cultured and educated speakers, without any hint of impropriety. The arbitrary strictures that now affect "ain't", but not "don't" or "won't" or "isn't", were applied later.

And I ain't wrong.

Submission + - US Government introduces Pollinator Action Plan to Save Honey Bees

An anonymous reader writes: The White House has announced a federal strategy to reverse a decline in the number of honeybees and other pollinators in the United States. Obama has directed federal agencies to use research, land management, education and public/private partnerships to advance honeybee and other pollinator health and habitats. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department will lead a multi-agency task force to develop a pollinator health strategy and action plan within six months. As part of the plan, the USDA announced $8 million in funding for farmers and ranchers in five states who establish new habitats for honeybee populations.

Submission + - Why Improbable Things Really Aren't (

sixoh1 writes: Scientific American has an excellent summary of a new book "The Improbabilty Principle: Why Coincidences, Miracles, and Rare Events Happen Every Day" by David J. Hand. The summary offers a quick way to relate statistical math (something that's really hard to intuit) to our daily experiences with unlikely events. The simple equations here make it easier to understand that improbable things really are not so improbable, which Hand call the "Improbability Principle":

How can a huge number of opportunities occur without people realizing they are there? The law of combinations, a related strand of the Improbability Principle, points the way. It says: the number of combinations of interacting elements increases exponentially with the number of elements. The “birthday problem” is a well-known example.

Now if only we could harness this to make an infinite improbability drive!

Comment Re:massless photons vs black hole (Score 0) 175

Bear with me for a moment:

If inertial and gravitaional mass are exactly equivalent, and a photon has momentum (granted, it is 4-momentum - so we are dependent here upon the frame of reference) and (crudely - and, you are going to say, incorrectly) momentum is mass times velocity, then from the fact a photon has momentum we can deduce that it has mass (p=mv). From Einstein's equations, however, we can deduce that it cannot have any rest-mass, as at speed-of-light (c) movement it would have infinite moving-mass.

BUT suppose - just for a moment - two heretical things: firstly that a photon DOES have rest mass (very tiny, but non-zero), and secondly that light does NOT travel at c - the upper speed limit for the universe - but very, very slightly less than that. We speak of c as being "the speed of light in vacuum" but we also speak of there being no true vacuum anywhere in the universe. Even intergalactic space contains some matter - per cubic metre not much, but some. So we have never - and I really do mean never - measured the actual speed of light in vacuum. We have measured the speed of light in "close to vacuum" (and in glass and in water and in air and lots of other media too), but never actually "in vacuum".

Still bear with me: so what if the rest-mass of a photon is, say ten to the fortieth power smaller than the mass of a neutrino (... when I was a child I was told neutrinos have no mass - but that's changed!), and that the maximum speed of light actually occuring in the universe is one ten to the fortieth part smaller than c (the ultimate speed limit)? Then we could still have Einstein (scientifically good) and we could think of photons as having mass (ordinary common sense good) and we can get rid of Black Holes (I've never liked them - but that, I know, is not a good argument) and instead have very, very deep (but NOT infinitely deep) gravity wells.

Photons are very light - but NOT massless. Photons always move at LESS than the (unmeasured) upper speed of light..

OK - you can stop bearing with me now.

Wireless Networking

Submission + - Smart little robots to help military wireless nets (

coondoggie writes: "The military continues its drive to use wireless technology to develop bleeding edge robot systems to help it fight wars. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency recently announced a program to build wireless, mobile bots — known as LANdroids — that soldiers can spread over a battlefield that, once deployed, would then form a wireless mesh network capable of voice/data transmissions. DARPA says the LANdroids robots will consist of a radio, robotic platform, battery, and small processor, will be expendable. Solders' must be able to drop and go — benefiting from the infrastructure while it is in place but not being required to move back into harm's way to retrieve the robots. LANdroids aren't the first news of such devices this year. Cisco in March said it has developed a set of small smart robots, which can act as wireless communications relays, that sense when a mobile user is moving out of service range, and can follow the user to maintain connectivity. 2"

Submission + - The genetic secrets of the black widow spider

Roland Piquepaille writes: "Biologists at the University of California at Riverside (UCR) have identified the genes for two key proteins in the 'dragline silk' of the black widow spider. This silk, one of the seven different silks that an individual spider produces, is used by spiders as the structural foundation of their webs. But the one created by the black widow spider has outstanding strength and extensibility properties. The identification of its genetic secrets could lead to synthetic new materials for military uses, such as lightweight super-strong body armor, or for high-tech athletic gear. Read more for additional details about future clothing made of artificial black widow spider silk — and a beautiful picture of such a spider."

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