Dumb political statement of the year

Click to enlarge

The two Kazakh students arrested Wednesday in the Boston Marathon bombing investigation are not accused of being part of the plot to set off the bombs, but questions have arisen about the novelty license plate on the front of the BMW they drove, which bore the words “Terrorista #1.”

Dumb hardly begins to characterize the two spoiled upper class kids here in the US as students – and helping their criminal buddy cover up the murder plot he and his brother concocted.

The world’s smallest movie

…The movie, entitled A Boy and His Atom, was made by precisely placing atoms to form 242 stop-motion frames that were used to create the animation. It is about a character named Atom who befriends a single atom and goes on a playful journey that includes dancing, playing catch and bouncing on a trampoline. It’s not exactly riveting cinema, but that’s not the point.

“Capturing, positioning and shaping atoms to create an original motion picture on the atomic-level is a precise science and entirely novel,” said Andreas Heinrich, Principal Investigator, IBM Research. “At IBM, researchers don’t just read about science, we do it. This movie is a fun way to share the atomic-scale world while opening up a dialogue with students and others on the new frontiers of math and science.”

Developed in 1981 by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM Zürich, the scanning tunneling microscope is based on the principle of quantum tunneling, which is an eye-wateringly confusing concept. Suffice it to say, it works on the fact that in quantum mechanics an electron is only “sort of” in any one place at any one time and may be somewhere else. This allows them to do things that should be impossible, like being on one side of an impenetrable barrier or gap and then show up on the other. It’s as if the electron just tunneled its way through, and hence the term “quantum tunneling.”

It’s in moving atoms that the team at IBM Almaden have made their innovation. The interaction between the probe and the atom is the same that controls chemical reactions. In other words, what makes one atom stick to another. This allows the scanning tunneling microscope to be used as a sort of quantum crane to pick up atoms and move them to exactly where the scientists want them to go.

For making the movie, they used a copper surface with the probe hovering one nanometer away. Atoms were picked up and arranged on the surface using a rather clever positioning method with the scientists listening to the atoms move. Since the microscope can’t move atoms and make images at the same time, the machine was designed to generate feedback noise as the atom moved, so the scientists would know when it shifts from one spot to the next. In this way, the atoms could be repositioned to build up the frames and create the animation.

There’s also blather about Moore’s Law – positioned to serve as a rationale for this clever “commercial”. John C. Dvorak and other curmudgeons long ago debunked that “Law” as self-fulfilling prophecy.

Still – the movie is cute and a clever example of the skill and capabilities of some atomic scientists and where we may go with the promise of this technology.

CERN recreating the world’s first website

To old fogeys like me, it seems like only yesterday that the coolest way to go online was to dial up the AP wire service bulletin board on a 300-baud modem, but it was actually two decades ago that the web as we know it burst onto our world. On Tuesday, it was 20 years ago that the World Wide Web went public, when CERN made the technology behind it available on a royalty-free basis. To mark the occasion, the organization announced that it is recreating the world’s very first website for posterity.

It wasn’t much to look at – just text and hyperlinks – and the subject was the World Wide Web itself, so it wasn’t exactly like finding a treasure trove of LOLcats or a Kirk vs Picard flame war, but the first website did mark a significant jump forward. Flash animation, Java plugins, apps, streaming video and even images and audio were still in the future, but that first site turned the internet from the domain of computer scientists and hobbyists into the information super system that modern society now depends upon.

Invented in 1989 at CERN by Tim Berners-Lee, the web was first designed as a way for physicists around the world to share information. It was by no means the first or only way to share information online, but by making the software to run a web server available for free and then throwing in a basic browser and code library, CERN was able to do for the internet what Henry Ford did for the motor car. It went from the plaything for the few to being the workhorse for the masses…

Unfortunately, like many historic firsts, there wasn’t much incentive to preserve the first website that Berners-Lee hosted on a NeXT computer. After a few years, the site was retired and the URL merely redirected to another site. The NeXT machine that acted as the original web server was still at CERN, but it was a museum piece.

Now, to celebrate 20 years of people typing “WWW,” CERN is bringing the first website back to life. The NeXt machine has been refurbished and the URL has been reactivated as CERN starts a project to collect and preserve the information assets that made up that first foray into our modern digital world.

One of those “old fogies” – I remember getting “onto” this new WWW-thingie as soon as it started up. I’d been online since 1983 – first as a necessity. I wouldn’t receive my sales commissions unless orders were sent online directly to the company’s one online server the other side of the country.

Then, to BBS and communications online. Traveling my sales territory with my Tandy Model 100 laptop computer and 300 baud modem. Which I still have somewhere in the closet next to my study. How far we have come in such a comparatively short period. How welcome and useful it all is, now.

5-year-old kills his 2-year-old sister with “my first rifle”


Police do not anticipate filing charges against the Cumberland County mother of a 5-year-old boy who accidentally shot and killed his 2-year-old sister, a Kentucky State Police spokesman said Wednesday.

We don’t see that there was neglect on anyone’s part,” said Trooper Eric Gregory, spokesman for the Columbia post.

Cumberland County Coroner Gary White said Tuesday that the shooting would be ruled accidental.

No neglect with a loaded rifle sitting in the corner?

Caroline Sparks, 2, was pronounced dead Tuesday at Cumberland County Hospital, where she was taken after the 1 p.m. shooting on Lawson’s Bottom Road, White said…

The 5-year-old brother was identified as Christian Sparks in a statement released by Cumberland County Judge-Executive John Phelps Jr…

“The mother was home at the time, cleaning house, and stepped out to empty a mop bucket and heard a pop,” Trooper Gregory said. “She ran back in and found it had happened.”

The gun was a gift to the boy last year, White said. The gun was kept in a corner, and the family did not realize that a shell had been left in it, he said.

The Crickett rifle involved is “not 3 feet long,” Gregory said. It is manufactured by Keystone Sporting Arms, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of single-shot firearms, which advertises the Crickett on its website as “my first rifle.”

“Burkesville is the type of community that when something like this happens, everybody comes together,” Burkesville resident Vickie Temple said. “That’s just how our community is when something tragic happens.”

Something tragic happens – and no one takes responsibility.

Giving a pre-schooler a loaded weapon to play with is a disaster waiting to happen. Failing to supervise that child has nothing to do with responsibility? That he killed his sister with an “unloaded gun” is the icing on the All-American cake of predictable excuses.

I shouldn’t have to expand on this – I think – but, this is no different from the dumb motor vehicle accidents we witness or read about every day. I watched the local news, tonight, about a drunk who crashed her van killing 2 of her 4 passengers. She was 3 times the legal limit for DWI. Dumb enough? But all 4 of her passengers were thrown out of the van because none of them used their seat belts. That’s how 2 were killed. We have regulations which enforce penalties on people who do stupid deadly acts – trying to discourage others from the same. I don’t drive my pickup unless everyone has their seatbelts fastened. That’s my responsibility. My driver’s license.

Guns should have the same level of enforced responsibility. Especially in a society at least as careless with their guns as their cars.