Saturday, March 29, 2008

We have merely nodded to fear. Now we must shake its filthy hand.

Men's Vogue (who knew there was such a thing?) has an article about the world of "freight dog" pilots and their wacky cargo (the author was also briefly featured on NPR).

Delta airlines has a big hit with their new, sassy safety video (starring "Deltalina"), and even released it on YouTube. Is finger-wagging universally understood? On Seinfeld there was no question about what it meant.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Security, and moon dust

Two unrelated things: there are fewer sky marshals than you think. I haven't seen one on a flight for a long time. I would rather have sky marshal than a pilot who's supposed to be flying the landing approach discharge his gun (Wired has a funny picture, the Associated Press has pictures of the bullet hole, and Bruce Schneier has a post about something even scarier :). But, Mythbusters busted the following idea:
Boyd said Saturday's incident could have been much worse.

"At that altitude, you puncture the skin of an airplane, it's going to go down. They were very lucky," Boyd said.
But certainly a plane that's miles off course and unresponsive near Hawaii would certainly attract a military escort, wouldn't it?
“Air shuttle 1002, I've been trying to contact you for the last 90 to 100 miles. I understand you've passed Hilo. I'm going to turn you back to the northeast bound to get you back to the Hilo airport. Is there some kind of emergency situation going on?”...

None of Hawaii Air National Guard's F-15s was alerted, said Capt. Jeff Hickman, spokesman for the Guard.

In fact, the Guard has not responded to any calls for emergency scrambles for civilian flights in Hawaii since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Changing subjects to something less scary, NASA studied why moon dust smells funny in space but not on earth:
Moondust on Earth has been "pacified." All of the samples brought back by Apollo astronauts have been in contact with moist, oxygen-rich air. Any smelly chemical reactions (or evaporations) ended long ago.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Astronauts took special "thermos" containers to the moon to hold the samples in vacuum. But the jagged edges of the dust unexpectedly cut the seals of the containers, allowing oxygen and water vapor to sneak in during the 3-day trip back to Earth. No one can say how much the dust was altered by that exposure.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Books and eyes

Bob Stein was Thursday evening's keynote speaker at the library's "Future of the Book" colloquium. Stein's co-director of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and was in the digital publishing world from the beginning, and I still use pieces of an ancient CD-ROM from his Voyager publishing company called Defending human attributes in the age of the machine containing video and full text of three of Don Norman's books, including The design of everyday things.

Turning the tables on him, Yvonne Rogers and Frances Aldrich published the results of a usability study of the CD-ROM titled "In Search of Clickable Dons - Learning about HCI Through Interacting with Norman's CD-ROM". More recently, there is a couple paragraphs about how the "Nasty Norman" has turned into the "Nice Norman".

In his keynote talk, Stein also talked about working with Alan Kay. That reminded me that there is a March 2007 TED talk by Kay available now.

Speaking of user interfaces, a Slashdot item reminded me of eye tracking. Using eye tracking to replace a pointing device like a mouse is an idea that occurs to everyone, but it isn't as easy as it sounds. Some of the best eye tracking data comes from the world of newspaper publishing. Check out these these two short videos tracking webpage viewing, and a heatmap (and explanation).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

HAL as a fish

Honda has a 30 second advertisement in which piranha are talking to a car. But why do they sound like HAL from 2001? Not that I'm complaining, just curious.

The crab is also interesting.

Go here and then click on "WATCH THE VIDEOS". The site lets you download the ads as .mov files, which is also sort of odd. Not that I'm complaining.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Danger! Will Robinson

CBS has full episodes of "classic" television shows for you to watch, including the original Star Trek (three seasons), Hawaii Five-0 (one season), MacGyver (one season), the Twilight Zone (two seasons), and Melrose Place (one season). Melrose Place? How did that get in there?

"Where no man has gone before" still creeps me out especially the glowing eyes. It was supposed to be the first episode but the network execs thought it was too much? So it ended up the third episode. Something like that. But it was the "NO KILL I" episode that had me hiding behind the neighbor's living room chair in 1967.

If you don't consider those "classic", TVLand has some full episodes of the Andy Griffith Show, the Beverley Hillbillies, and Gunsmoke.

NBC has Miami Vice (but I can't find the infamous "Glades" episode), the A Team, and Alfred Hitchcock for your vintage viewing pleasure.

ABC is a little light on the classics, unless you consider My So-Called Life classic :)

AOL has full episodes of Lost in Space (ugh), Alias Smith and Jones, the Bob Newhart Show (now there's a classic), and clips from Iconoclasts, which isn't old enough to be classic, but I though the episode of Sean Penn and Jon Krakauer in Alaska talking about making the Into the Wild movie was good.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Microclimates in cube-land

The people who brought you the Aeron chair (Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting description in Blink) have a personal climate device based on Peltier technology. Interesting short video here.

You can use the same technology to keep your "can of creamy corn soup" warm.

On a more serious subject -- James Oberg reviews a book about the Soviet's copy of the United State's space shuttle in "Copying NASA's mistakes".

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Some ways to spend your tax refund

As the Apollo astronauts get older, more stuff comes up for auction. Some of it is fairly affordable (like signed panoramic photographs, check out these Quicktime VR views) or Cernan's famous picture of the "full earth".

If you want to go retro, pick up a Chesley Bonestell print, like this famous one.

I don't get it, but some of them have taken up painting, like Alan Bean (he signed a book for me at the Tamsen Munger gallery) and Michael Collins, who seems to like painting fish. I was really impressed with what he had to say in the documentary In the Shadow of the Moon. That movie was not at all what I expected.

I also don't really get autograph collecting, but if you do, watch out for autopens.

I would rather get the Apollo 14 scoop used on the moon (minimum bid of $125k, expected to go for at least a quarter million dollars), the Apollo 17 water gun used on the moon to rehydrate food, a Saturn rocket model signed by Wernher von Braun, or gingerbread cookies that are well into their fourth decade.

Some of the Apollo astronauts got into ESP or religion, a topic for another day :)

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The Times of New York

By popular demand, the picture of Mike Wallace (and link to the original article) is here. I doubt that he is a member of the Society for Barefoot Living (sounds vaguely creepy), jogs sans shoes or has even read The Barefoot Home.

Enough already about feet. More interesting is an article in the NYT Magazine about single sex education in grade school. Here's a quote:
The boys like being on their own, they say, because girls don’t appreciate their jokes and think boys are too messy, and are also scared of snakes. The walls of the boys’ classroom are painted blue, the light bulbs emit a cool white light and the thermostat is set to 69 degrees. In the girls’ room, by contrast, the walls are yellow, the light bulbs emit a warm yellow light and the temperature is kept six degrees warmer, as per the instructions of Leonard Sax, a family physician turned author and advocate who this May will quit his medical practice to devote himself full time to promoting single-sex public education.