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Every Girl Should Have One August 29, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Mutants, Toys.
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When I think of all the pool floats I have bought for my girls, I cringe when I realize I could have bought them this.  They never would have asked for another (for one thing. For another, the other kids at camp wouldn’t have swiped this sucker, that’s for damned sure).

From Amazon.

They Are Here Somewhere August 28, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Geek Stuff.
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Untitled 

From reddit.com.

Teach Your Children Well August 27, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Uncategorizable.
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Girls especially need to know how to slay dragons.

Gluten-free Bread Adventures III August 27, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Toys, Uncategorizable.
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Well, not exactly, except the yellow thingie below is a toast-cutter for punching

out bat-logoed bread, while the egg cup is, well, um, yeah.  Looks like fun.  It comes as a set from Amazon.

Zinc Oxide and You August 26, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Japan, Science, Uncategorizable, Video.
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Japanese researchers at Tohoku University have created a special coating which reduces friction on high-speed, high-temperature bearings by 30%.  Made of a zinc oxide material, the coating has been integrated into bearings in a nifty jet engine-powered generator for emergency use capable of producing eight thousand watts, enough for two Japanese homes:

ZnO-coated high-performance bearings developed

Tiny, isn’t it?  Is there anything zinc oxide can’t do?

Why Your Life is Not a Journey August 25, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brain, Brilliant words, Uncategorizable, Video.
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Snippets from the film “Tree of Life”.  .

Gluten-free Bread Machine Adventures II August 23, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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in which Our Hero tries Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Wonderful Bread Mix, using the package directions exactly.  The bread machine in question is the Black and Decker All-In-One Deluxe(tm) Automatic Breadmaker, set for Regular crust and Rapid rise.  This nominally takes 1:58 to bake.

 

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Delicious with butter so far.  Have not yet tried the toast  Update possible at breakfast.

A Theory of High-temperature Superconductivity August 18, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology.
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Scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have a potential  explanation for high-temperature superconductivity of cuprates, the superconducting breakthrough of the 1980s. They theorize that a certain density of electron pairs.are required, and when the density is too small or too great, superconductivity disappears.

They painstakingly created many differnt cuprates with different amounts of doping to create cuprates (actually, 2500 different compounds of lanthanum, strontium copper and oxygen) with differing number of electron pairs using an amazing beam epitaxy system to create each compound layer by layer. Because cuprates have 50 atoms per unit cell, it’s very easy to get a mixture of compounds, so it’s hard to know what kind of result you are seeing. They fixed that problem with this:

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.phys.org/newman/gfx/news/hires/2016/10-scientistsun.jpg

This beam epitaxy system builds compounds layer by layer and has some awesome built-in surface chemistry tools, like an absorption spectrometer and an electron diffraction gizmo to monitor surface morphology, thickness, chemical composition, and crystal structure of the resulting thin films in real time.

This is exceptionally elegant work, and points to potential understanding of  a general theory which may help in finding room-temperature superconductors.

Homework: Dependence of the critical temperature in overdoped copper oxides on superfluid density , I. Božović, X. He, J. Wu & A. T. Bollinger

Cheap Water Disinfectant From SLAC August 16, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Science.
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A bunch of scientists as Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory have developed a thin-film composite which can disinfect  a liter of water with just 1.6mg in 20 minutes (99.999% inactivation).  It does this with a sandwich of MoS2 and copper and sunlight.  The MoS2 generates hydrogen peroxide and the copper promotes the hole-electron separation which multiplies the effectiveness six times.

FLV-MoS2 disinfection schematic.

The method is not a cure-all; for instance, it doesn’t remove chemical pollutants from water. So far it’s been tested on only three strains of bacteria, although there’s no reason to think it would not kill other bacterial strains and other types of microbes, such as viruses. And it’s only been tested on specific concentrations of bacteria mixed with less than an ounce of water in the lab, not on the complex stews of contaminants found in the real world.

Still, it’s a damned good start. I would like to point out that these materials are very cheap and found nearly everywhere.

Homework:

Nature Nanotechnology (2016) doi:10.1038/nnano.2016.138

Rossia pacifica (the Stubby Squid) August 15, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Octopus, Photography.
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lives 900 feet down.  Not an octopus, however.

Science News Roundup August 12, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Geek Stuff, Science, Star Trek Technology, Uncategorizable.
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I haven’t had a lot of free time for stuff I like lately, but I didn’t want a few items from my science newsfeeds to go unnoticed by you, my adoring public. I expect most people don’t follow this kind of stuff closely, so pay attention:

First off, a team from the UK has found that a commonly available drug Fenamate can reduce the inflammation in a particular pathway to protect against a Alzheimer’s disease model in rodents. A mouse is not a man, but the results are intriguing enough (protected all rats in the study) that trials with humans are being strongly considered.  Because the drug is already approved for pain relief, the difficulty in getting into trials in the first place is enormously reduced. “In the USA, wholesale price of a week’s supply of generic mefenamic acid has been quoted as $426.90 in 2014. Brand-name Ponstel is $571.70. In contrast, in the UK, a weeks supply is £1.66, or £8.17 for branded Ponstan. In the Philippines, 10 tablets of 500 mg generic mefenamic acid cost PHP39.00 (or the equivalent of $0.88USD) as of October 25, 2014.”—Wikipedia.

Evil bastards? Well, sure. What do you expect from companies who can buy or sell legislators?

Next, paraplegic patients have had nerve and muscle function partially restored using a three-step training regimen in Brazil. Starting with VR to give them the sensation of walking through haptic feedback during brain-controlled maneuvering through a VR landscape, the patients then proceeded to move using a robotic walker on a treadmill with full support, also run through the brain-machine interface. Finally, they practiced walking with the robosuit used in that World Cup game a couple of years ago.  This took months, but the eight fully paralyzed patients who completed (one moved away) ALL showed some improvement.

This is a big deal.  None of these guys were ever supposed to get any sensation or control back.

This program is on-going, so we don’t know how much improvement will ultimately result from this innovative program, but I for one am pretty excited. Isn’t this why we work in computer science in the first place?

The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi August 3, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Uncategorizable.
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The Quantum Thief by Hannu Rajaniemi is a fun little novel of theft, betrayal, cleverness and impossible physics which brazenly attempts to disguise itself as science fiction.  Too advanced; it has to be magic.
Well, there is a Martian city that migrates run by captive human brains (in electronic bodies; apparently perfect copies of one’s self can be made in this future), shape-shifting people and spaceships, memory bullets (not ones that remember shapes, but more like computer viruses for mind and smart matter). Nothing impossible about that at all, no sir. There is a quantum prison in which the prisoners all play Prisoner’s Dilemma with guns instead of money inside a computer simulation, wherein these perfect copies of people play each other. Insane torture, sure, but certainly possible, right? Uh huh. There is the thief, rescued from this prison by the aforementioned shape-shifting person and ship, agents of a goddess interested in stealing…something. I kind of forget what the McGuffin is because of all the pretty shiny futuristic stuff going on in the impossible far future—it’s very distracting.

The focus on future tech didn’t make anyone else unhappy, though; Hannu Rajaniemi sold a trilogy’s worth of books, of which TQT is just the first. Honestly, I liked it enough to at least look for the second one.

This Old House August 3, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Uncategorizable.
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We renovated our house for rental (and we are FINALLY finished, thank you very much) a wrenching business that took more than a year.The trauma associated with this (I lost my father, my wife lost her father, the children moved out, I lost my job (threw it away; can’t say that was smart), and an unholy assortment of lesser terrors. like crippling sciatica, pneumonia and gluten poisoning) could render less hearty men to catatonia, instead of meditation which is where I went.

We built a bathroom in the basement, driving nails into the concrete with a .22 caliber shell:

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Well, that’s all the photos of the bathroom in the basement, except this one (featuring the amazing walk-in bathtub):

DownstairsBathtubAndToilet.

Next we installed a beautiful laminate floor in half the house:

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This necessitated the removal, refinishing and replacement of the kitchen cabinets:

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Kitchen sink and cabinets

We did the counters while we were at it. The total effect throughout the house was, I like to think, very creditable:

LivingAndDining

All the furniture seen here was bought at the Oakland Museum’s white elephant sale for dirt cheap, despite being nice antiques or nearly so.  We wanted to rent the house as furnished, but the renters declined that honor, opting to BUILD their own furniture.  And  they seem to be doing it but first they put up this sign:

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Hilarious.  I didn’t look in the bathroom for other restaurantalia, but they probably have that as well.

Fluke, by Christopher Moore August 1, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words, Mutants, Science.
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Fluke, by Christpher Moore, is another hilarious tale of a, well, tail, specifically the fluke of a humpback with the words “Bite me” on its fluke. The first person to witness this unusual coloration is Nathan Quinn, a whale biologist with a great fascination with whale song.  He and his terminally cute but too young-for-him research pixie Amy Earhart photograph the whale in the course of research… and the frame of film containing it goes missing.  And his sound recordings.  And his boat. And, finally, him.  He is pursued by his colleague and photographer Clay, Clay’s mean sex-fiend schoolteacher girlfriend Claire, a surfer-Rastafarian hybrid named Kona1 (nee Brad Thompson or something not very Jamaican, Hawaiian or surfish, but more New Jerseyish) and The Old Broad who funds them and who insisted that the whale called her to tell him to bring him a pastrami sandwich.

Much funnier when he tells it, of course; Moore’s signature humor is gentle and mocking  and wry and just silly sometimes. Basically, I would die to be a tenth as funny at any time.  Fluke had me laughing in crowded doctor’s waiting rooms.

Available on Amazon, naturally, but I got mine at sfpl.org.

WARNING: contains some actual science.  Does not detract from the story in the slightest.

1Kona refers to the research pixie as “the snowy biscuit”, for her fair complexion and, well, biscuitness

A Policy Initiative July 24, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Brilliant words, Uncategorizable.
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Stuffilike.net has always been devoted to stuff I actually like, from Hello Kitty sex toys and other strange ironies to octopodes and  current technologies I first saw in the original Star Trek show which are now, if not commonplace, at least no longer utterly fictional (still no flying cars, though).

One of the consequences of this relentlessly cheerful editorial policy is the self-limiting nature of the work. Some days I don’t like things very much, and must fight the urge to say so loudly and clearly through the megaphone of the web. For instance, I take no joy in remarking upon electoral politics as the choices available fill me with ennui for more money machine politics at best (Hillary) and World War Three Holocaust at worst (The Donald). And what erudition is to be had there, anyway?  People who think and people who won’t instinctively recognize each other and can’t communicate across the gulf of sentience between them.

I hate shouting across the Grand Canyon–just makes me hoarse.

All this explains (perhaps) why there is little output here.  That and the black depression from the loss of my father, my wife’s father, my job, acquiring pneumonia, acquiring sciatica and a motorcycle racer’s recent suicidal crash into the back of my van have made me less cheerful and unlikely to take delight and inspiration from the beauty in the world around me.

OK, that’s a little bleak.  Here’s a cat picture.

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That’s better.  Not sure she is filed correctly, though.

Look, wonderful things have been happening in our world.  Research in mixed graphene substrates have opened up some exciting avenues for development of smaller, faster, more powerful (and less power-consuming) electronics.  Computer controls are cheaper and more sophisticated than ever, and people are starting to do the theoretical heavy lifting about communications security to make the world’s devices more flexible in response, data more analyzable and who knows what kind of benefits neural network analysis thereof will derive? Augmented reality is in a nascent phase, the infrastructure of AR-ware barely beginning to coalesce from a dark void of ignorance to saleable products, when Real Money will push research to actual utility. Powered exoskeletons are already entering clinical trials for muscle-wasting conditions, and soon will be available for grandmothers, too.  The James Webb telescope will soon make Hubble look like a spyglass. And right here in front of me is a box that lets me communicate with anyone in the world, if I’m smart enough to get them to answer. Even if they don’t, so much of the world’s information is now available to me through this box I may not need their answer…if I’m smart enough to get one myself.  And my magic box is smaller than this:

spock

Well, that seems better.  What? Our time is up?

Thank you, doctor.  See you next week, then?

Aerosmith Could be Better Without Aerosmith July 22, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Music, Video.
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Looking Out My Back Door July 17, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Photography.
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The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi July 17, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words.
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The Water Knife, by Paolo Bacigalupi, is one scary piece of fiction featuring all the violence, desperation and hopelessness that any person should ever be exposed to in fiction.  This tale of the possible future (not actually science fiction, I hasten to point out, just speculating on what happens with the logical extension of our attitude towards water, land, money and each other) where the Colorado continues to dry up and states fight for water rights—to the point of excluding US citizens from moving from one state to another (using guns.  Did I mention the guns?) is pure Bacigalupi in its stark descriptions of privation, threats, torture and murder for profit on a large scale.  Very much not safe for children, as there are gruesome depictions of torture, murder and fairly explicit depictions of sex…and foul language.

That said, the characters are detailed and believable, the action scenes are briskly paced, the villains are monsters and a lot of people fall into the gray areas of morality, mostly driven by fear.  Fear is the main character in this book, touching the lives of everyone except the worst monster (no spoilers).

I like and recommend The Water Knife.  It’s gripping, if you can stand the horror of the world Paolo Bacigalupi creates.  More terrible than The Windup Girl for sure, but no less fascinating.

Link above goes to Amazon, but it should be in your local library or borrowable therefrom by inter-library loan (ask your librarian).

The Daedalus Incident, by Michael Martinez July 8, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Uncategorizable.
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The Daedalus Incident, by Michael Martinez is a strange  mixture of steampunk and, uh, standard science fiction.1 A series of quakes on tectonically-dead Mars has led a number of scientists to risk their lives to understand what is really going on. “The only clues they have stem from the emissions of a mysterious blue radiation, and a 300-year-old journal that is writing itself.”–from Amazon’s site.  As a science geek I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised to find Cherenkov radiation featured as a clue.

Well, the steampunk part is that a parallel universe is bumping up against ours produces Cherenkov radiation..you can see where that could lead.  In the parallel universe, alchemy is used to float wooden ships through the Void between worlds (all inhabited) in a Victorian era that seems to have lasted well into the 21st century.  This puts me in mind of an hilarious game that I never purchased for myself in 1989 when I damned sure should have, Space:1889. And, I swear the whole plot setup in Daedalus Incident is predicated on this ridiculous game, substituting alchemy for Edison’s aether propeller.

Well, there is action and romance in both universes, with villains and heroes (and damsels who take up fencing), loss and redemption—standard action/adventure stuff, the bubblegum of the mind.

Link goes to Amazon, but this is at sfpl.org as well as are the follow-on novels (I think there are four right now).

____________

1 Is there such a thing?

The Red, by Linda Nagata July 7, 2016

Posted by stuffilikenet in Books, Brilliant words.
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The Red, by Linda Nagata held my interest well enough that I also listened to The Trials, the concluding (?) book in this story. Of the two, I think I liked The Red better, since the story arc seemed more complete and satisfying in and of itself.

Lieutenant James Shelley, US Army is part of a Linked Combat Squad which is just what it sounds like: an Army unit with excellent communications in three forms: a radio linkage to each other (GenCom), a video linkage to an overhead drone (an Angel), and a linkage to a handler (Control).  The individual soldier is also equipped with armor and an exoskeleton (either referred to as “armor and bones” or “dead sister”) and an “emotional prosthesis”, a skullcap which keeps mood swings in check.

Nice killing machines, you think? Not so much.  Our hero and his squaddies seem to be nice folks, just regular Joes (and Janes) in a rough business. There’s a bit of backstory for our hero but much less for the other characters, which does keep the narrative as tight as it needs to be, since this is an action tale after all.

This is probably interesting enough setup for several novels-worth of tales, but this particular one deals with a third sci-fi trope that is really interesting.  Shelley is infrequently given to having strong feelings in tactical situations that seem entirely incongruous with known operational parameters—he has hunches, and plays them. 

And they are always right. 

The source of these hunches are the crux of this novel. I must say I found the idea which explains it in the book is the most whimsical possibility I could have imagined, and brings me great delight when I think of it.

Good action, fair character development and a breezy pace (considering) make a good audiobook, competently read.

 

Exciting update: This is part of a trilogy. Great; now I have to listen to another one.

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