Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cure For Honey Bee Colony Collapse?

Anne has been keeping bees for a few years now.

In our first year we got two hives - a crazy, productive hive and a more sedate, ordered hive - we dubbed the crazy hive "The Loony Lefties" and the ordered hive "The Righteous Sisters" based on their behaviour and location.

The Righteous Sisters didn't survive the first winter and we lost both hives in the second winter - we believe because they were weakened by a parasite that has infected bees in Europe and America. It is like a bees' tick, the Varroa mite.

Last year, bee colonies began to mysteriously decline - they described it as honey bee colony depopulation syndrome and it seems that this, too, is the work of a parasite.

ScienceDaily (2009-04-14) have published an article on a discovery and cure in Europe that offers some hope: For the first time, scientists have isolated a parasite from professional apiaries suffering from honey bee colony depopulation syndrome. They then went on to treat the infection with complete success.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bohemian Rhapsody on old computer hardware

Another Slashdot article that led to someone who has a lot of talent and a lot of time on their hands.

Using the sounds of old hardware, oscilloscopes, printers, floppy drives, someone has made an arrangement of Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen..... utterly spectacular.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Lessons from the Outlaw Josey Wales

The Outlaw Josey Wales was made in 1976. I am pretty sure that my father took me to see this film - he loved Westerns and Clint Eastwood who starred in and directed the film. It is a true classic.

A colleague of mine has the phrase "Endeavor to Persevere" as a more or less permanent status on his IM. It is a good rallying cry - but has a certain irony to it.

Chief Lone Waite explains to Josey Wales how the Indians were invited to Washington. They told of how their land had been stolen and their people were dying and "When we finished, he shook our hands and said: 'endeavor to persevere'.

They stood us in a line [...] They took our pictures and the newspaper said: 'Indians vow to endeavor to persevere'.

We thought about this, 'endeavor to persevere', for a long time and when we had thought about it long enough we declared war on the Union."

The clip from the movie is available on YouTube

Thursday, April 16, 2009

James Bond data center

Another Slashdot article led me to this cool video.

The introduction: "Data centers are boring and NOCs are doubly so. But this one sure beats all of them."

Your mood and where you live

It is pretty well known that some extreme climates have an influence on your mood. For example in Sweden and Iceland this is linked to the lack of sunlight in the winter months.

An article today in Slashdot led me to this news story that suggests a more subtle relationship between where you live and your mood.

There are a few obvious examples of bad places to live, but what if the place is ostensibly beautiful with mountains and streams (you have to watch an advert before the news story) but you end up feeling really bummed out most of the time?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Chinese and US Electrical grid

I wrote here about a massive security breach in the World Bank that was reportedly the result of hackers from an IP block in China.

Recently articles have surfaced reporting that hackers have hacked into the US electrical grid and have been able to disrupt power in some cases.

A security blogger: Bruce Schneier writes an interesting piece on this in which he suggests that all of the articles with these claims have no substance, only supposition. While hacker communities all over the world (including China) are driven by similar motives to hack and sell the fruit of their exploits, the real threat to our infrastructure is the more random internet beasts - like worms and viruses. Even though these don't target specific systems they can randomly cause enough harm on enough machines to take down the 911 emergency service lines in an area.

He has an interesting take on the Chinese government-sponsored hacker theory too. While not ignoring the fact that the Chinese military may recruit and even turn a blind eye to the hackers there, he is more concerned that they are motivated like any other hacker groups are, by their own need for conquest and their greed.

He suggests: "If anything, the fact that these groups aren't being run by the Chinese government makes the problem worse. Without central political coordination, they're likely to take more risks, do more stupid things and generally ignore the political fallout of their actions."

Restoring faith...

OK, so New York and New Yorkers are known to be bad-ass, uncaring and selfish and if I got lost in New York, the last thing I would expect, would be to be helped by a stranger.

So you can imagine how cool it is to find this story about Tweenbots in New York.

The author, Kacie Kinzer explains:
Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter. Rolling at a constant speed, in a straight line, Tweenbots have a destination displayed on a flag, and rely on people they meet to read this flag and to aim them in the right direction to reach their goal.

Given their extreme vulnerability, the vastness of city space, the dangers posed by traffic, suspicion of terrorism, and the possibility that no one would be interested in helping a lost little robot, I initially conceived the Tweenbots as disposable creatures which were more likely to struggle and die in the city than to reach their destination. Because I built them with minimal technology, I had no way of tracking the Tweenbot’s progress, and so I set out on the first test with a video camera hidden in my purse. I placed the Tweenbot down on the sidewalk, and walked far enough away that I would not be observed as the Tweenbot––a smiling 10-inch tall cardboard missionary––bumped along towards his inevitable fate.

The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers. Every time the robot got caught under a park bench, ground futilely against a curb, or became trapped in a pothole, some passerby would always rescue it and send it toward its goal. Never once was a Tweenbot lost or damaged. Often, people would ignore the instructions to aim the Tweenbot in the “right” direction, if that direction meant sending the robot into a perilous situation. One man turned the robot back in the direction from which it had just come, saying out loud to the Tweenbot, "You can’t go that way, it’s toward the road.”

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Playing for change

I am posting two viral videos in one sitting.

Actually while I was watching this video I was reminded of the other.

This one is a really cool idea... a collaborative effort by a recording artist who travelled around the world to record different people singing and performing the song "Stand by me".

Really quite astonishing.

Where the hell is Matt

I came across this last year and it is quite enchanting.

His web site describes this as follows:

Matt is a 32-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. Matt achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he'd saved to wander around Asia until it ran out. He made this site so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he is.

A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt an idea. They were standing around taking pictures in Hanoi, and his friend said "Hey, why don't you stand over there and do that dance. I'll record it." He was referring to a particular dance Matt does. It's actually the only dance Matt does. He does it badly. Anyway, this turned out to be a very good idea.

So here is Matt doing his thing:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Old school photography

A friend forwarded me an article from Wired that describes how John Coffer, who lives in a rural cabin in New York state, makes a living taking pictures using technology that was around during the American Civil war.

His pictures have become popular in the art-house circuit now which has mystified him.

"Coffer's chosen technique is called wet plate because the photographic plate must stay wet throughout the process of shooting and developing. The plate is coated with collodion -- a flammable, light-sensitive potion historically used to seal wounds -- and then dipped in silver nitrate solution."

While it's still wet, Coffer slips the plate into a lightproof plate holder. He carries the plate to the camera, removes the dark slide protecting the plate from light, and shoots the photo by removing the lens cap for about five seconds. The scene and focus must be determined before the plate is brought to the camera. No last-minute adjustments are possible.

Film photography is all but dead in the USA. Members of our camera club are gradually moving to digital and, although you hear people getting into photography express an interest in learning how to use film for the sake of the art, I can't imagine that it will be long before you can't buy film any more.

It is interesting that an old art form like this has generated so much interest.  It almost feels more like someone has discovered an artist who does unusal etchings than a photographer.  The process that he goes to (all home grown) really does justify that conclusion - this is really old school and wonderfully inventive.

Some of his images are really beautiful.... the camera body that he uses is also home-made!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Working with Animals

Our daughter has just landed a job working with animals.

Not sure how comfortable I am with this but I suppose photographically this has to be a very cool place.