Author Archive | majestic

California, Camelot and Vaccines

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni takes on Robert Kennedy, Jr. and Jim Carrey in the great California vaccine debate:

If you had told me a while back that I’d someday dread, dodge and elect not to return phone calls from a prominent member of the Kennedy dynasty, I would have said you were nuts.

Then Robert Kennedy Jr. started reaching out.

Robert Kennedy Jr. Photo: Daniel Schwen (CC)

Robert Kennedy Jr. Photo: Daniel Schwen (CC)

Not just reaching out, mind you, but volunteering to educate me. To illuminate me. That was his tone of voice, somewhat pitying and vaguely patronizing, the one time we talked at length, after he’d left messages and before he left more.

It was important, he said, that we meet.

If we did, he said, he could correct me.

My error?

I had disparaged the alarmists who claim a connection between vaccines and autism and fill parents with needless fears about immunizing their children.

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Real life ‘Pac-Man’ satellite will clean up space junk

It’s no secret that there’s an awful lot of hazardous space junk in Earth’s orbit, so the Swiss (who else?) are going to use a Pac-Man satellite to clean up orbital debris, per Engadget:

The Swiss aren’t big on littering, and that philosophy apparently applies to space, too. After the nation’s EPFL Center for Space Engineering launched its first satellites (the tiny SwissCubes) into orbit, the very next mission planned was “CleanSpace One” to get them out of orbit. For one, the researchers didn’t want to add to the reams of existing space garbage threatening other satellites and astronauts at speeds of up to 15,000mph. But mainly, they want to test a practical system for cleaning space junk with relatively small targets. After considering various systems, the EPFL has settled on a “Pac-Man” solution that will trap the satellites with a conical net.

The operation will be tricky, because just finding the 4×4-inch satellites is going to be difficult.

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Project Baseline: See Evolution In Action

Sarah Laskow goes behind the ambitious effort to save, store and then plant three million seeds to see evolution in action, for Atlas Obscura:

Not so long ago, the seeds bagged and stuffed into the fridge of Steven Franks’ lab were starting their lives in a field or a meadow or on the side of the road, somewhere along the East Coast. Now they are destined for a seed bank in Colorado, where they may be taking a very long nap, of 10, 20, even 50 years.

Photo: 3268zauber (CC)

Photo: 3268zauber (CC)

 

Then, warmed up, planted in a bit of soil, they will be brought back to life. They will be raised alongside their descendants, the exact same species of plants, collected from the same exact same spots where these started their lives. Only, most likely, those descendants will be different in some way. Having survived for years out in the world, with the climate changing, they will have evolved in response.

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MasterCard Using Face Recognition Selfies To Approve Purchases

MasterCard credit card

Photo: Håkan Dahlström (CC)

How could this possibly go wrong? Mastercard is taking the “selfie” obsession to new heights with its plan to use facial recognition technology to approve purchases via selfies, as reported by CNN Money:

This fall, MasterCard will start experimenting with a new program: approving online purchases with a facial scan.

At checkout, you’ll be asked to hold up your phone and snap a photo. MasterCard’s thinking? It’s easier than remembering a password.

“The new generation, which is into selfies … I think they’ll find it cool. They’ll embrace it,” said Ajay Bhalla, who’s in charge of coming up with innovative solutions for MasterCard’s security challenges.
This is MasterCard’s way of cutting down fraud.

Currently, customers can set up something called “SecureCode,” which requires a password when shopping online. This stops credit-card-number-stealing hackers from actually using your card on the Web. It was used in 3 billion transactions last year, the company said.

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Researchers Plan for Global Armageddon Threats

Scared that asteroids are going to  destroy Earth? Don’t worry, people are on it, per USA Today:

It’s no ordinary meeting when a bad decision could spell global catastrophe.

For the experts assembled at a conference hall in Italy this spring, the choices were agonizing. A gigantic space rock was bearing down on Earth. If it slammed into the planet, it could damage an area the size of Ireland. But a campaign to push the rock, known as an asteroid, off course could shatter it, possibly widening the devastation, if not done correctly,

In this artist's concept, an astronaut performs a tethering maneuver at an asteroid. The Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) is close by, with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) docked to a habitat in the background. (NASA)

In this artist’s concept, an astronaut performs a tethering maneuver at an asteroid. The Space Exploration Vehicle (SEV) is close by, with the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) docked to a habitat in the background. (NASA)

 

The officials opted to shift the monster’s path, and it prevented unfathomable devastation. There was just one small problem: a chunk of the asteroid broke away and made a beeline for Bangladesh.

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The Americans are coming! Some in a Texas county fear an Obama-led U.S. military invasion

Remember all the fuss about JADE HELM 15? Well some Texans aren’t buying the claims of innocence from the Federal Government, per the Washington Post:

 The office of the Bastrop County Republican Party is in an old lumber mill on Main Street, with peeling brown paint and a sign out front that captures the party’s feelings about the Obama administration: “WISE UP AMERICA!”

640px-Texas_in_United_States.svg

Inside, county Chairman Albert Ellison pulled out a yellow legal pad on which he had handwritten page after page of reasons why many Texans distrust President Obama, including the fact that, “in the minds of some, he was raised by communists and mentored by terrorists.”

So it should come as no surprise, Ellison said, that as the U.S. military prepares to launch one of the largest training exercises in history later this month, many Bastrop residents might suspect a secret Obama plot to spy on them, confiscate their guns and ultimately establish martial law in one of America’s proudly free conservative states.

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The Mystery of Lewis Carroll

The author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which sees its 150th anniversary this year, remains to this day an enigmatic figure. Jenny Woolf explores the joys and struggles of this brilliant, secretive, and complex man, creator of one of the world’s best-loved stories, at Public Domain Review:

When Charles L. Dodgson was born in January 1832, his paternal aunt wrote a letter to his parents, welcoming the “dear little stranger” and begging them to kiss him on her behalf. His clergyman father, already “overdone with delight” whenever he looked at his family, put a notice in The Times to announce the arrival of his much-wanted first son.

Lewis Carroll Self Portrait 1856 circa.jpg

Lewis Carroll Self Portrait, circa 1856.

 

The baby would grow up to become Lewis Carroll, author of two of the most famous children’s books in the world. Mystery, and even controversy, would surround him in later life, but one thing that never changed was his deep attachment to the members of his family, or theirs to him.

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Tech Time Warp of the Week: Before WIRED, There Was the Eccentric Mondo 2000

mondologo

One friend of disinformation, Klint “Klintron” Finley who writes for a legendary tech mag (Wired) writes about another, Ken “RU Sirius” Goffman, the editor of its precursor, Mondo 2000:

When WIRED launched in 1993, few people had seen anything like it. Unlike other computer magazines, it focused on people instead of machines. It was colorful—psychedelic even—at a time when computers were beige boxes made by and for the sort of people that Dilbert was about. But WIRED wasn’t totally alone.

Before WIRED, there was Mondo 2000, a magazine that fused counterculture and technology together into a surreal glossy magazine that first appeared on newsstands in 1989. A typical issue would cover everything from DIY micro-satellites to smart drugs to weird bands like The Residents.

“Mondo 2000 is here to cover the leading edge in hyperculture,” an introduction by editor Ken “R.U. Sirius” Goffman and publisher Allison “Queen Mu” Kennedy announced in the first issue.

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Calcio Storico: The Most Dangerous Game

There’s a sudden rush of interest in a game that’s been played for centuries in Florence, Italy: calcio storico. Sam Borden makes it a photo-filled splash story for the New York Times:

FLORENCE, Italy — Last Tuesday, about 24 hours before he jammed his fingers into another man’s nose, dropped his elbow across another man’s neck and put another man’s feet where one’s ears are supposed to be, Rodrigue Nana considered, just for a moment, the basic notion of fear.

Calcio Storico. Photo: Lorenzo Noccioli (CC)

Calcio Storico. Photo: Lorenzo Noccioli (CC)

“Do you want to know what I am afraid of?” he said, his fingers tracing the meaty scar above his left eyebrow. Nana, a Cameroon-born transplant to Italy, leaned forward, as if to share a secret. “I am afraid of showering.”

He did not laugh. Neither did any of his teammates sitting nearby. This was not a time for joking; Nana and the rest of his team were about to begin their last training session before last Wednesday’s final match of calcio storico, a centuries-old competition that features very few rules and the sort of human wreckage generally associated with the days of the gladiators.

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‘VR is going to yield this staggering orgasm of the new’

Are you excited about Virtual Reality, which is finally available to consumers? Not as excited as John Riccitiello, I’ll wager, who says “VR is going to yield this staggering orgasm of the new,” per Gamesindustry.biz:

Unity CEO John Riccitiello on the company’s role in building a market for VR software, and why he’s no fan of the “sour grapes” offered by the cynics.

Ggn John Riccitiello ea core ips.jpg

John Riccitiello (CC)

 

The entire market for game engines has started to look an awful lot like Unity Technologies. Companies like Epic and Crytek have pushed for more diverse platforms, more open pricing models, and more accessibility for smaller teams, but always two steps behind the pace-setter, behind Unity. Indeed, one gets the feeling that every major player in the market would rattle on about “democratising game development” if David Helgason, Joachim Ante and Nicholas Francis hadn’t adopted it as their mantra a decade ago.

However, Unity’s own trajectory shouldn’t be ignored, either.

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