Geek stuff

A worldwide effort by the Event Horizon Telescope has produced the first false-colour image of a black hole.

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Watching the Jeremy Brett adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes story “The Golden Pince Nez” left me wondering about some of the specific changes made between the story and the ITV Granada TV series, specifically the role of Holmes’ brother Mycroft. An idle Google search about the substitution of snuff for tobacco ash in the story […]

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Of course, the Columbia and Challenger accidents have reminded us we need to be ever vigilant. Despite more than two years of careful work to prevent foam shedding from the shuttle’s main tank, my STS-114 mission lost a large piece of foam on ascent, in a circumstance very similar to what happened to Columbia on […]

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One big surprise from Michael Leinbach and Jonathan Ward’s Bringing Columbia Home: The Untold Story of a Lost Space Shuttle and Her Crew is the claim that people at NASA hadn’t anticipated the catastrophic loss of a Shuttle during reentry. That despite of the delicacy of the thermal protective tiles and the fatal consequences expected […]

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Today I received Bathsheba‘s Tetrabox: a 3d-printed steel sculpture which is also a puzzle held together with magnets. At a minimum, it has what I think of as ‘tips forward‘ and ‘tips around‘ solutions. For the first, all three of the asymmetrical pieces have their extended tips pointing toward the one symmetrical piece, allowing the […]

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De-anonymization is an important topic for anyone working with sensitive data, whether in the context of academic research, IT system design, or otherwise. I remember a talk during a Massey Grand Rounds panel where a medical researcher explained how she could pick herself out from an ‘anonymous’ database of Ontarians, on the basis that her […]

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One of my main strategies for organizing information is to create databases for subjects of interest. I’m using the term in the broad Wikipedia sense of “an organized collection of data, stored and accessed electronically” here, and it includes everything from a single folder where PDF versions of all the references cited in a particular […]

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LOX and RP-1 never burn absolutely clean, and there is always a bit of free carbon in the exhaust, which produces a luminous flame. So when you’re looking at TV and see a liftoff from Cape Kennedy—or from Baikonur for that matter—and the exhaust flame is very bright, you can be sure the propellants are […]

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