Archive for: January, 2008

Zombies for Romney!

Jan 31 2008 Published by under [Politics]

My friend Personal Demon (h/t) forwarded this image of a Romney supporter, from Yahoo! News photos:

Yes, the dead have risen and they're voting Republican! (PD said in his email that he's a mean, mean man.  I have to agree with him!)

Any suggested slogans for zombie supporters of Romney?

Update: Since the original link to the photo has broken (damn Yahoo!), PD managed to find a smaller archived version:


From now on, I copy all pics I use through links, so this doesn't happen again...

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Y: The Last Man comes to an end... (update)

Jan 30 2008 Published by under Entertainment

CNN reminded me that the comic series Y: The Last Man is coming to an end; the final issue is released this week. For those not in the know, Y is the story of a plague that wipes out, in a heartbeat, all male mammals on Earth: with the exception of one young man named Yorick and his pet monkey Ampersand. Faced with a world in chaos completely run by women (note: the chaos comes from 3 billion people dying, not from the fact that the world is run by women; don't write me angry comments), Yorick ventures out in search of his girlfriend, who was in Australia at the time of the 'event'. Though it may sound like an opportunity for cheesy and wacky sexual hijinks, the story is actually quite serious and at times downright poetic. A few images and metaphors over the course of the series have blown my mind, as have a number of the plot twists. Unlike many, many comic series, Y is a story completely thought out: the issues I've read so far (up through #58) carried with them implications and consequences that were initiated all the way in issue #1.

It's worth mentioning that CNN also reports that Brian K. Vaughn, the writer of Y, is now writing for Lost, whose season premiere is tonight. Knowing that Brian is penning some of the stories makes me eager to watch the show again!

Update: Whoops, the season premiere of Lost is tomorrow night; tonight is apparently the last season's finale again.

5 responses so far

Sound as a fire extinguisher?

Jan 30 2008 Published by under Physics, Science news

A friend of mine forwarded me a link (h/t "JakeRyker") about extinguishing fire with sound waves that appeared in Scientific American. As noted in the article, it has been known since experiments by John Tyndall in 1857 that flames could be extinguished by sound, but evidently the exact mechanism is still somewhat elusive. This is not necessarily surprising; combustion is a complicated physical and chemical process. What is more surprising, though, is that the author of the article and the researchers suggest that sound might be used as a fire extinguisher to put out significant flames. A few observations below the fold...

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2 responses so far

Graham Masterton's Tengu

Jan 28 2008 Published by under Horror

I'm reading a number of books by Graham Masterton these days, in anticipation of writing a 'horror masters' post on his work. I had to 'break radio silence', though, and rave about one of his early books that I just finished over the weekend: Tengu. It's currently out of print, though copies can be found through Amazon, and it's well worth a read. I found the book riveting from it's shocking and horrifying beginning to its explosive ending...

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Long-range optical communication... how much would you pay?

Jan 27 2008 Published by under Optics

There's a lot of interest in both industry and the military in developing free-space optical communications systems.  The basic idea is to use a laser to transmit signals at optical frequencies over distances ranging from a few kilometers to hundreds of kilometers.  Potential advantages of such a scheme are the high bandwidth of communications, meaning lots of information can be transmitted very fast, and the highly directional nature of the signal, making it highly secure.  Disadvantages of such a scheme include the requirement of direct line of sight between transmitter and receiver, and more significantly the distortion induced in the beam by atmospheric turbulence.

Does one really need a laser to make a viable optical communications system, however?  I saw one talk at Photonics West, one of the best talks I've seen in a while, which demonstrates pretty convincingly that you do not...

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3 responses so far

Seth Pfefferle's Stickman

Jan 25 2008 Published by under Horror

Nowadays, I tend to be pretty picky when it comes to reading horror fiction.  Much of the work out there is shoddy, even exploitative, and completely bereft of scares.  I've consequently kept my focus primarily on established authors and a rare few unknowns that look promising.

This wasn't always the case: when I was in my teens, I would indiscriminately snatch anything off the bookshelves that had the word 'horror' on the binding.   Most of the time I was sorely disappointed, but every once in a while I found something nice.

One of the books I discovered back then is Stickman, by Seth Pfefferle.  I dug it out of my collection a couple of nights ago and gave it a reread, and it still holds up pretty well, even though I first read it as a teen in 1987!

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Is it natural, or is it designed?

Jan 23 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?, General science

Creationist quack/hack Ray Comfort has a blog, and he recently argued that the Bible is a science text, and in fact is better than science (h/t Pharyngula). My main response to such drivel is that if the Bible is better than science, than surely Ray, or a more science-minded creationist compatriot, will use the Bible to answer some of the troubling questions about the universe, such as the exact mass of the Higgs boson, the exact nature of dark matter (mass, spin, and relation to ordinary matter, please) or at the very least the grand unification energy at which the fundamental forces all become one and the same.

While we're waiting for an answer, I was thinking about another creationist canard repeated often: that it is 'obvious' that life is designed, because designed things are so obviously different than natural things.

This argument, while compelling to the fundamentalists, is flawed for one big reason: people have inferred or suspected design numerous times throughout history, only to later be refuted by scientific observation. I thought I'd put together a brief photo-essay of some examples...

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Cloverfield leaves viewers spewing!

Jan 23 2008 Published by under Entertainment, Horror

Thanks to the 'shaky-cam' filming method of Cloverfield, apparently a significant number of viewers have been getting sick during the film:

Scary movies are supposed to leave patrons feeling a bit scared and jittery, but the newest horror flick is leaving Oklahoma City-area moviegoers with a different feeling -- nausea.


Some moviegoers across Oklahoma City have gone so far to complain to theater managers, forcing some to refund tickets or offer other compensation.

"I heard a few people kind of whining about it," said moviegoer Thomas Dozier. "They were talking about, like, 'I have got to get out of here.' Everyone around me was freaking out."


But for those with a sensitive stomach, precautions might be warranted."Take Dramamine, and you'll be fine," said Hastings.

Here's an even easier bit of advice for queasy Cloverfield  viewers: close your eyes.  You're not actually moving while the movie is playing, unlike on a roller coaster, so you can simply shut your eyes for a few moments during a slow spot in the film to let your brain settle down.  This is the same advice you'll get on many virtual reality rides at amusement parks.

8 responses so far

Some random tips on scientific public speaking

Jan 22 2008 Published by under Optics, Physics

I'm currently in San Jose, at Photonics West, the biggest optics meeting of the SPIE (Society of Photographic Instrumentation Engineers, originally.) I'm only here briefly, and pretty burned out on meetings for the moment. I did see some nice talks that I'll blog about over the next couple of days.

One session the SPIE provided for students was advice on giving scientific presentations, which is indeed an art and there are plenty of people who never quite figure it out. I thought I'd provide a list of a few of the insights and 'tricks' I've learned about giving scientific talks at meetings, which will hopefully help someone down the line:

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4 responses so far

My "Cloverfield" Review (sans spoilers)

Jan 19 2008 Published by under Entertainment, Horror

The girlfriend and I just got back a little while ago from seeing Cloverfield and, this being a horror blog among other things, I thought I would give my impressions of the film (along with probably half the blogosphere).

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5 responses so far

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