28 June 2008

Still a softie for science

As "positively parodied" by a recent xkcd strip, here's 60 seconds for science. Turn on your speakers...

(sigh) I certainly am a nerd. Oh, here is the xkcd strip:

Click here for the big one.

Have a good weekend,

23 June 2008

A few shorts

Hello -

Thanks for sharing your viewpoints on the previous post, which actually became a subject of Scott Kirsner's column in the Monday The Boston Globe.

So, dear readers, I've been busy, busy, busy. Interesting and complicated projects are afoot at work, including the end of six months of preparation for a six-hour "event" that I hope to be able to talk about soon.

Also, J-Fav and I have been preparing for the arrival of our second child in a few months. (Truth be told, Safiri and hubby have done most of the heavy lifting so far. This was a weekend of IKEA furniture assembly; and learning from our fine tongue-in-cheek academic friends that "the difference between commas and semicolons is that commas are for short pauses and semicolons are for long ones.")

Here, then, are a few shorts:

Winner, this week's subject line of earnest but inscrutable e-mail
"Subj: Final Reminder: Self-service Password Resets Over the Phone Webinar"

I thought it was a headline about an aggressive self-service password. "Resets" is a noun!

Serial Number Marketing
I agree with Seth Godin's stance that serial numbers should have some product-marketing consideration given to them; e.g., don't use O and (zero) in the same SN.

A Project: Cool Epoxy-Encapsulated Night Light
As if by tremendous cosmic coincidence, the last 40 hours I spent at work trying to encapsulate a 1" x 1" circuit board in a rectangular prism of clear epoxy has been met with a fun project in Make magazine: "Cosmic Night Light: Make a glittering LED constellation jammed in resin - with no soldering!"

By the way, I've been using this stuff from MG Chemical to pot our PCB. My results have been difficult to predict: sometimes it cures wonderfully, sometimes 5% on the bottom fails to cure. Anyone have experience with this?

Some Brainstorming Sessions Actually Use Mind Maps?
Check out this photo, which I think is from Steve Jurvetson's flickr thing.

Matt Brackett: Artist's Work Now at the DeCordova
Enjoyed the paintings of Matt Brackett. Check out his use of light in "Bedtime Story" and "Preparations at Dusk."


17 June 2008

Video - More female engineering undergrads

Hi -

Undergrad engineering courses are notoriously male-dominated. Folks have offered a number of theories for why this occurs, and there are several organizations that are trying to increase the participation of women in the engineering disciplines.

I am curious of what you female readers think of a new approach to sharing the excitement and "non-geekiness" of engineering by women. "The Nerd Girls" - a group of Tufts University engineering majors - has produced a video (and website, and Facebook / MySpace groups) to break the stereotypes. (See below)

From one Newsweek article, "...Which may be one reason that many of these tech-friendly women are working their pumps so hard. They're trying to break down stereotypes by being as proud of their sexuality as they are of their geekiness. "Just because I get dressed up Saturday night, that doesn't mean I won't do better [than a guy] on a test on Monday," says Nerd Girl Sanchez. Turning geek into chic isn't always easy. It took Google's Spertus, who is 39, years before she could proclaim herself girl and geek in the same breath. But it happened when she won the award for "Sexiest Geek Alive," a now annual pageant that began in 2000 as a spoof of People magazine's "Sexiest Man Alive." Spertus beat out the men in her competition, and at her crowning, she paraded onstage in a corset made out of a circuit board and a high-slit skirt with a slide rule strapped to her leg. Still, some women worry that being too sexy could hurt them"

Have they found a good formula? I don't have a position on this approach other than an open mind - I'm just curious if you think that high school girls will click with this message. If so, great! If not, what's an alternative method?

-g, wondering what Grace Hopper and Ada Lovelace would say

16 June 2008

Free TXT answers to short questions

Want free answers to Google-able questions texted to your cellphone?

On TiVoCast, The New York Times's David Pogue demonstrated ChaCha. Just call 1-800-2ChaCha on your cell phone & ask your question at the beep. A real, live, human guide will research it and text the answer to you in a few minutes.

I thought I'd try it out just for fun. It's free! (Except, of course, for whatever you're charged for receiving text messages.)


ps Question 1: "What's a good recipe for roast chicken?" (Asked at 9.28 pm. Answered 9.37pm.)

pps Question 2: "What's the wavelength for red of a helium neon laser, in nanometers?" (Asked at 9.30 pm. Answered 9:46pm: "632.8 nm...")

10 June 2008

Scientific Treasures on Auction Block at Christie's

...including a 1543 book by Copernicus. Calling it just a "book" is a vast understatement, but I'll leave it to the article to explain.

"Among Scientific Treasures, a Gem," by Dennis Overbye in The New York Times.


05 June 2008

Is it a game?

In ARGs, fiction pokes into reality - to advertise or entertain

C|Net reporter Daniel Terdiman recently received a package - with the tracking number scratched out - that contained, "a sticker with the words 'Scientific Anarchy Now' and 'Holomove;' a photocopy of a memorandum purportedly from Los Alamos National Lab dated January 30, 1985, regarding the termination of a scientist named Eugene Gough; and lastly, and most disconcertingly, a cut-open package of Emergen-C vitamin C powder." (article)

Sure, go ahead and Google "holomove," or visit their website purporting to have made a holographic video display whose images can physically interact with nearby objects. There's even a (mock) press conference, complete with a demonstration video showing an optical bench and several charmingly but very incorrect details that suggest no optical engineer ever provided input to the Californian PR firm that's believed to have concocted this whole thing. (No, we don't mount mirrors with alligator clips, and through-hole PC boards went out in the 90s.)

This kind of reminds me of Actuality's 3-D display experiments, but - as J-Fav points out - without the weird lab coats.

There are Wikis and web posts of people finding puzzles hidden within the site. There is even a "blog" from a company employee, over, what, a year?, with video posts and everything.

There's the fake VC firm affiliated with Holomove. A recruiting puzzle, too.

What's this teasing for? Who knows. But I think "augmented reality" games and advertisements have the potential to be a deceptively (or consentually) engaging way of getting attention from its observers and participants. Recall EA's "Majestic" video game that faxed and e-mailed its players. A recent Nine Inch Nails album was teased using data on USB sticks that were placed in various restrooms at concert sites. (You can learn more on Wikipedia, or at ARGNet.)

Food for thought, for marketing or for entertainment.

(tip to JohnFP)


ps Reminds me a bit of the 2003 MIT Mystery Hunt alternate-reality kickoff, though J-Fav will razz me for posting that...