Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Man regrows fingertip

Using a powder made of an extract of dried pig's bladder (no, really), 69-year-old Lee Spievak regrew a fingertip cut off by the propeller of a model airplane:

Mr Spievak re-grew his finger tip. He used a powder - or pixie dust as he sometimes refers to it while telling his story.

Mr Speivak's brother Alan - who was working in the field of regenerative medicine - sent him the powder.

For ten days Mr Spievak put a little on his finger.

"The second time I put it on I already could see growth. Each day it was up further. Finally it closed up and was a finger.

"It took about four weeks before it was sealed."

Now he says he has "complete feeling, complete movement."

It's been known for years that children under 11 who lose a fingertip will regrow it if the wound is left open, but this is the first time the process has been induced in an adult (or in anyone of any age). The scientists behind the "pixie dust" say organ and limb regeneration could be a possibility.

Here's a link to the BBC's article about Spievak's new digit, including a video with images of the finger as it grew back.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Life explained

A bit of wisdom and humor stolen the intertubes:

Life Explained

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Mexican.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat."

"And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge new enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?"

"Afterwards? Well my friend, that's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" asked the Mexican.

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."

And the moral of this story is: Know where you're going in life; you may already be there.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Japanese underground bicycle-parking robot

This thing is made of pure awsomeness.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

You've seen it. I've seen. We've all seen officers of the law breaking the very laws they're employed to enforce. I don't mean theft or murder or anything of that magnitude. I'm talking about officers casually and seemingly epidemically violating traffic and parking codes just because they can.

Who watches the watchers? Not everyone is willing to put up with it, and here's what a couple of folks have done about it:

First is the story of a recent law-school graduate who issued a parking citation to a cop when he became flippant about illegally parking his patrol unit in front of a Japanese restaurant in Portland, Ore.

Stensgaard walked into the restaurant wearing his police uniform, but did not make any arrests or citations. Instead, he turned his attention to the basketball game on television, according to Bryant. When Bryant asked Stensgaard about his vehicle, Stensgaard allegedly acknowledged being in a no-parking zone but asked Bryant, "If someone broke into your house, would you rather have the police be able to park in front of your house or have to park three blocks away and walk there?"

Bryant returned to his seat, and says shortly afterward he watched a restaurant employee hand the officer a plastic bag before he left. Unfortunately for Officer Stensgaard, Bryant had recently passed the Oregon bar exam, and decided to pursue the matter further.

"If he had acknowledged and corrected his error, we could have avoided this whole thing," says Bryant. "But instead, he kept watching basketball and told me he wasn't doing anything wrong."

You can read the entire article here. The cop has been issued a summons and faces up to $540 in fines.

Second is a video shot in New York City by Jimmy Justice, a amateur videographer whose hobby is filming cops breaking the law. Here, he confronts a parking enforcement officer who has parked her police car in front of fire hydrant while eating lunch in a nearby restaurant. While filming he's confronted by a retired NYPD officer who tells him it is illegal to film a police officer "because of the terrrorism."

Riiiight. (Some of the language and the officer's behavior is NSFW.)

Mr. Justice has more than a dozen more similar videos posted on his YouTube channel. I'm glad I haven't gotten on Mr. Justice's bad side. He can be a bit of a jerk when he thinks he's right.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Mountains of the Moon

If you love the Grateful Dead, and I do so love the Grateful Dead, then you're going to love this:

Monday, April 21, 2008

How duct tape saved the Moonbuggy

Apollo 17 Moonbuggy fender repaired with duct tape.

From Science@NASA:

Cernan: "And I hate to say it, but I'm going to have to take some time to try … to get that fender back on. Jack, is the tape under my seat, do you remember?" (He's referring to a roll of ordinary, gray duct tape.)

Schmitt: "Yes."

Cernan: "Okay. I can't say I'm very adept at putting fenders back on. But I sure don't want to start without it. I'm just going to put a couple of pieces of good old-fashioned American gray tape on it...(and) see whether we can't make sure it stays."

In spite of his thick gloves, Cernan managed to unroll and tear off the needed pieces, but moondust foiled his first repair:

Cernan: "…good old-fashioned gray tape doesn't want to stick very well." (At a post flight briefing he explained: "Because there was dust on everything, once you got a piece of tape off the roll, the first thing the tape stuck to was dust; and then it didn't stick to anything else.")

His second attempt succeeded, however. "I am done!" crowed Cernan. "If that fender stays on ... I'd like some sort of mending award." And with that, they were off.

Forklift Driver Training auf Deutsch!


I have an old-time clock sitting on my computer monitor, the kind made out of brass and topped with bells and a little hammer on a wire that blurs when the alarm goes off because it moves so fast. And it ticks.

It runs on a spring that I wind every day, and as it unwinds it ticks, the sound of some hidden cog slowly turning away the seconds. It’s not a subtle tick, but a hard, industrial sort that I will never be able to love hearing as I might the gentle ticking of a grandfather clock or whispering tick of a dust covered mantle clock.

This clock, the one that towers over me as I sit here at my desk, isn’t there to tell me the time, though I do occasionally use it for that. It’s there because of that no-nonsense tick. At best I’m completely unaware of it. When I’m working away and whatever part of my brain it is that approves or disapproves of my current behavior, my conscience, it allows me to become so attentive I can tune out that incessant tick. But, when I’m off task it becomes something awful, a never ceasing reminder that life and opportunity are always slipping away. That ticking becomes a countdown.

The good news is that as long as you can hear the ticking the countdown hasn’t ended yet. And, one cannot continuously sit on the edge of oblivion, staring in the face unblinking, without the occasional day off. Sometimes, I let the clock run to a stop and leave it.

I did that not too long ago and left it unwound for several days. It just sat there not moving, not ticking, not reminding me of what I don’t want to be reminded of, but I couldn’t leave it alone. I thought about putting back in the garage, back in the box I dug it out of, but I need to have that subtle nudge. I wound the clock, set it running again.

It’s late. Time to go to bed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

When galaxies collide

There's one hell of a lot of science going on in this image, but I just thought it was a beautiful photo. Click it to see the full-size version, or click here to visit NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day and get an explanation of all that sciencey stuff.

If you're interested in learning more about astronomy you might find my monthly astronomy column worth reading.

Friday, April 18, 2008

"New" Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy Infocom Game

For a fan of the work of Douglas Adams this is like reading of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls!

Journalist and computer programmer Andy Baio (no relation to Scott) received a copy of the internal network drive from the now-defunct computer game company Infocom, which in the early 1980s produced a text adventure version of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Among the treasure trove were "two playable prototypes" of the sequel to that game: Milliways: The Restaurant at the End of the Universe.

Baio, who is my newest hero, has made one of the playable prototypes available online in a Java version. Here it is! You know where I'll be for the next day or two.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Crank up that old Victrola!

Put on your rockin' shoes!

Maybe we deserve it?

I just posted a reddit about helping the ACLU hold Bush accountable for torturing people. I asked people to do the right thing, take a small step toward ending the pain and suffering, take a little control of their government.

The first comment I got back was the ACLU will send you junk mail. Junk mail?! You bastards won't stop people being tortured to death because of junk mail?! WTF is wrong with you people?!

UPDATE: The same guy who was afraid of junk mail now says we're helpless anyway so why bother? That's what you're supposed to think, folks. Haven't you figured out this game yet? We're supposed to feel afraid and helpless!

Damn, maybe we do deserve this sh*t.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I cannot believe...

No one had this great name! Woo-hoo!