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now that’s what i call a car - the auroran sunset

The aptera electric three-wheeled car. Source:

A beautiful design, sensible mileage, decent performance, all the latest safety tricks, enough space and few nice innovations. Forget that Lambourghini I always wanted, give me one of these!

“Aptera has two innovative models that are almost production-ready at $30,000 and below: for next year, the all-electric, 120-mile-range Typ-1 e that we drove; and, by 2009, the range-extended series gasoline Typ-1 h, which Aptera says will hit 300 mpg. A more conventional third model, called "Project X" or perhaps Typ-2, is now in the design phase, with plans for a four-wheeled chassis and seating up for to five passengers.”

The linked page has a video test drive and a look around the factory. The car will be limited to California to start with, but Aptera reckon that they are profitable based on the orders they have already received.

Interior - driving console of the Aptera. Source:

related material
fuel inefficient cars, a worldwide disgrace
Transportable fuels

the web address for the article above is




reviewing the ‘new’ windows xp operating system - the auroran sunset

“I have finally decided to take the plunge. Last night I upgraded my Vista desktop machine to Windows XP, and this afternoon I will be doing the same to my laptop. [...]”

“Well, here there appears to be no contest. Windows XP is both faster and far more responsive. I no longer have the obligatory 1-minute system lock that happens whenever I log onto Vista, instead I can run applications as soon as I can click their icons. Not only that, but the applications start snappily too, rather than all waiting in some "I'm still starting up the OS" queue for 30 seconds or so before all starting at once. In addition, I have noticed that when performing complex tasks such as viewing large images, or updating large spreadsheets, instead of the whole operating system locking down for several seconds, it now just locks down the application I am working on, allowing me to <gasp> Alt-Tab to another application and work on that. I am thrilled that Microsoft decided to add preemptive multitasking to their operating system, and for this reason alone I would strongly urge you to upgrade to XP. With the amount of multi-core processors around today using a multitasking operating system like XP makes a world of difference. [...]”

“All I can say is "wow!" You can see that a lot of work has gone into making XP more reliable than its predecessor. The random program crashes, and hangs appear to be a thing of the past.”

And much more...

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Vista is going down so badly that the computer manufacturer Dell, amongst others, has reverted to offering Windows XP on their systems instead of Vista.

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“In an effort to respond to feedback the company is hearing from its customers and partners, Microsoft is extending availability of Windows XP editions among original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and retail channels for an additional five months to June 30, 2008. In addition, the company will continue to offer Windows XP Starter Edition in emerging markets where it is currently available for the rapidly growing class of hardware-constrained ultra-low cost PCs until June 30, 2010.” [Quoted from]

end note

  1. Because Vista is a more recent operating system than XP, an up-grade should be changing from XP to Vista. However, because Vista has so many user problems, this writer regards returning to XP from Vista as being an upgrade.

the web address for the article above is"

‘robots, not immigration’

“ "R not I," quipped one fellow who grew up in Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan’s four main islands. That is, "robots, not immigration." The average Japanese would rather have his bedpan changed by an iron creature comprised of nuts and bolts than by a Chinese or Filipino nurse, he explained.

“The country sees robots doing the type of work that Japanese describe as the three Ks (translated as three Ds in English): kiken (dangerous), kitanai (dirty) and kitsui (demanding).

“Robotics solved a major industrial problem. "Japan has no visa category in place for low-skilled workers," notes Jessie Wilson of CLSA, an investment bank, in a report this year. "To manufacturers needing extra hands, robots were a gift from heaven." According to the International Federation of Robotics, Japan bought 37,000 robots in 2006, between three and four times more than its nearest rivals, America, Germany and South Korea.! ”

“Honda remains a player: its robot, Asimo, can carry books and serve drinks. In July Mitsubishi showed off androids called Wakamaru that work as receptionists. Standing three feet tall, they recognise faces and have a 10,000-word vocabulary (as well as an off-putting, perpetually perplexed expression). Subaru built a robot that clears landmines.

“At the 2007 International Robot Exhibition in Tokyo, which began late last month, Kokoro, a Japanese manufacturer, showed off a robot for training dentists, which it developed with Nippon Dental University. As student dentists drill into its teeth, replete with sensors, the robot yelps "ouch!" when the work is not up to par. But the robot would really squeal if the dentist accidentally leaned in so much that he or she accidentally pressed upon the robot’s breasts.”

the web address for the article above is"

in development - uavs to recharge on enemy power lines

A unmanned airial vehicle hanging from a cable, simulating charging from a power line. Credit: Aviation week/ “This article first appeared in Aviation Week's DTI. Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) are effective battlefield surveillance platforms. But they suffer from limited battery power, which affects their range and their sensors' effectiveness, often making them expendable.”

“Lind works with aircraft morphing technology and runs a facility called the Center for Morphing Control. One goal of the PLUS program is to create a small UAV that seems to disappear by morphing into a shape that doesn't look out of place on a power line. So Marshall and McKinley asked Lind to join their efforts in 2006.

“ "He made a small UAV look like a Coke can," Marshall recalls.

“The first prototype flights are expected in 2008.”

the web address for the article above is"

robots become more human

“The researchers stationed a 2-foot-tall robot called QRIO (pronounced "curio"), and developed by Sony, in a classroom of a dozen toddlers aged between 18 months and two years.

“QRIO stayed in the middle of the room using its sensors to avoid bumping the kids or the walls. It was initially programmed to giggle when the kids touched its head, to occasionally sit down, and to lie down when its batteries died. A human operator could also make the robot turn its gaze towards a child or wave as they went away. "We expected that after a few hours, the magic was going to fade," Movellan says. "That's what has been found with earlier robots." But, in fact, the kids warmed to the robot over several weeks, eventually interacting with QRIO in much the same way they did with other toddlers.”

The orginal paper in .pdf format.

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“The researchers found that the key to Qrio’s popularity was its ability to move and respond to the children in a way that was closely timed to the activity around it.” [Quoted from]

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QRIO Movies - Many interesting movies from SONY's QRIO - eighteen in all.

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Another robot, RUBI, who can express emotions with its eyes and eye brows and ‘hair’ that changes colour, is placed with children to learn communication.

RUBI, robot communicating with children. Image credit: MPLab, USCD

the web address for the article above is"

‘brainbow’ brain nerve staining
Short slideshow available here.

Stained brain cells. Image credit: HarvardScience

“By activating multiple fluorescent proteins in neurons, neuroscientists at Harvard University are imaging the brain and nervous system as never before, rendering their cells in a riotous spray of colors dubbed a "Brainbow." ”

“ By permitting visual resolution of individual brightly colored neurons, this increase should greatly help scientists in charting the circuitry of the brain and nervous system."In the same way that a television monitor mixes red, green, and blue to depict a wide array of colors, the combination of three or more fluorescent proteins in neurons can generate many different hues," [...]

This is a step to making programs that imitate brain sub-functions possible.

the web address for the article above is"

that mighty mouse..... [from press release]

“Animal behavior studies later demonstrated that the PEPCK-Cmus mice are seven times more active in their home cages than controls; in addition, the mice were also markedly more aggressive. "The enhanced level of activity noted in the PEPCK-Cmus mice extends well beyond two years of age; this is considered old-age for mice," the researchers said.”

“The technique used to create the animal model [means animal ‘type’] reported in our study is not appropriate for application to humans. The ethical implications are such that this approach should not be used in humans, [n]or is it technically possible at this time to efficiently introduce genes into human skeletal muscle, in order to mimic the effect seen in our mice" said Hanson. "Any attempt to tamper with the metabolic processes in human muscle will surely do more harm than good. We believe that this mouse model will provide important insights into the impact of prolonged exercise on the development of cancer in the animal, the effect of diet and exercise on longevity and will increase our knowledge of the factors that regulate energy metabolism in skeletal muscle.”

the web address for the article above is"

comet flares - now naked eye visible in northern hemisphere - xavier

Sky chart showing the position of Comet Holmes (17P). Image credit: Sky & Telescope
Sky chart showing the position of Comet Holmes (17P). Image credit: Sky & Telescope

“17P/Holmes: An all-night comet visible to the naked eye
This comet is in super outburst, having brightened by many magnitudes on the night of October 24. It is currently (as of 17:00 UT October 24) in Perseus at magnitude 2.8 (and brightening!). Look for a nearly stellar coma in the telescope. It appears as a new star in Perseus to the naked eye. How long this outburst will last is anyone's guess, but according to Gary W. Kronk's Cometography 17P was discovered during a similar outburst in November of 1892. During that outburst it was a naked-eye object for several weeks.” [Quoted from]

the web address for the article above is"

magnificent flying machines

One of the most beautiful aircraft ever built, the Vulcan bomber was grounded by the UK government as being too expensive to maintain, after over thirty years of public service.

However, one still lives, restored by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust. The restoration cost £6.5 million, donated by about 20,000 people worldwide. There is a video from the BBC of the restored Vulcan XH558 test flight made recently at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. For our readers we have a video over 8 minutes long of Vulcan XH558 flying at Biggin Hill in 1992.

Then, there is the worlds largest passenger aircraft - airliner, the Airbus A380. This two-minute video gives some idea of its relative size, and its interiors, furnishings and equipment (with Singapore Airlines, anyway).

the web address for the article above is

franklin’s panegyric to the microscope - the auroran sunset

“That admirable Instrument the MICROSCOPE has opened to us of these latter Ages, a World utterly unknown to the Ancients. There are very few Substances, in which it does not shew something curious and unexpected; but for the Sake of such Readers as are unacquainted with that Instrument, I shall set down some of the most remarkably entertaining Objects, upon which actual Observations have been made.

“1. The Globules of the Blood, which are computed to be almost a two thousandth Part of an Inch in Diameter, each consisting of six small Globules, each of which again probably consists of six smaller, and so on. The Circulation of the Blood is to be seen very distinctly in the Tail of a small Fish, the Web of the Foot of a Frog, etc. and the Globules to split and divide, before they can enter the smallest Vessels.

“2. The Bones of all Creatures, sliced extremely thin, afford an entertaining Object for the Microscope, consisting of innumerable Perforations, and Ramifications, disposed in an endless Variety of Forms.

“3. The Flesh of all Land and Sea Animals dried, and cut into very thin Slices, gives a beautiful View of the various Fibres, and their Convolutions. The Brain, the spinal Marrow, and even the Hairs of Animals, exhibit different Curiosities.

“4. The human Skin, by the Help of the Microscope, is found to be covered over with an infinite Number of Scales lying over one another, as in fishes; and it is probably the same in other Animals. It has been computed that a Grain of Sand will cover two hundred of these Scales.

“5. All Sorts of Feathers, especially those of the Peacock, afford a surprizing View in the Microscope. It is supposed that a single Feather contains no less than a Million of different Parts.

“6. Flies are found by the Microscope to be produced from Eggs laid by the Mothers, from whence they are hatched in the Form of Maggots, or small Worms, which are afterwards transformed into Aurelias, and these into perfect Flies. This is the Process most of the winged Insects go through in their Production. They have a great Number of Eyes fixed to their Heads, so that they see on all Sides around them, without turning their Heads or Eyes. A common Fly is supposed to have eight thousand, and a great Drone Fly no less than fourteen thousand Eyes, with a distinct optic Nerve to each; and each Eye appears through the Microscope, tho' magnified many hundred thousand Times, more exactly shaped, and more curiously polished, than human Art could finish an Object as large as the whole Cluster, containing seven thousand distinct ones. The Wings of Flies, especially of the Moth and Butterfly Kind, are found to be contrived with admirable Art, to answer their Use, and with inimitable Beauty and Ornament. The Dust, which sticks to the Fingers, when we handle them, is found to be Feathers; each of which has its Quill and vane Parts as compleat as that of a Fowl or a Goose, and are inserted in the Film of the Wing, with the utmost Regularity of Arrangement. With the Microscope, the Stings of Moths and Bees appear to be Instruments finished to the highest Perfection; their Points, and saw-like Teeth, being perfectly polished and sharp; whereas the Edge of a Razor appears like that of a Butcher's Cleaver, and the Point of a Lancet like an iron Spike just come from the Anvil.

“7. By the Help of the Microscope the innumerable and inconceivably minute Animalcules in various Fluids are discovered, of the Existence of which we have no Reason to suppose any Mortal had the least Suspicion, till last Century. In the Melt of a single Cod-fish ten Times more living Creatures are contained, than the Inhabitants of Europe, Asia, Africa and America, taking it for granted, that all Parts of the World are as well peopled as Holland, which is very far from being the Case. Of a certain Species some are discovered so extremely minute, that it has been computed, three Millions of them, or three Times the Number of the Inhabitants of London and Westminster, would not equal the Bulk of a Grain of Sand. Of Animalcules, some Species resemble Tadpoles, Serpents or Eels, others are of a roundish or oval Form, others of very curiously turned and various Shapes; but in general they are extremely vigorous and lively, and almost constantly in Motion. Animalcules are to be found (besides those in the Bodies of Animals) in the Infusions of Pepper, Senna, Pinks, Roses, Jessamin, Tea, Rasberry Stalks, Fennel, Sage, Melons, sour Grapes, Wheat, Hay, Straw, and almost all vegetable Substances; in the Water, that is in the Shells of Oysters, Cockles and other Shell-fish, in the Foulness upon our Teeth, and those of other Animals, in our Skins when affected with certain Diseases; in Vinegar, and Paste, and so on infinitely. In each of these Substances, when exposed to the Air some Time, Multitudes of living Creatures, beyond the Reach of Numbers, are discovered, of which many Hundreds of Species are already known, as different from one another as those of the largest Animals, and very probably there are many more yet unknown. As it is certain, that in the above mentioned Fluids few or no Animalcules are to be found, when covered from the Air, but when open to the Access of the Air, their Numbers are beyond reckoning; it is hardly to be doubted, but that either the Air is replete with infinite Multitudes of living Creatures too small for Sight, which come and deposite their Eggs in Places proper for the Nutrition of the Young, or that their Eggs are floating every where in the Air, and falling promiscuously every where, only those are hatched, or come to Perfection, which fall upon Places fitted for them, and the other perish. However it is, the countless Numbers of those living Creatures, the Profusion of Life every where to be observed is above Measure astonishing, and shews the Maker to be an infinite Being.

“8. By the Help of the Microscope, we find that the Scales of almost every different Fish are different from those of others, in internal Texture; and that all of them are wrought with surprising Art and Beauty.

“9. By Means of this noble Instrument we find, that the Seeds of almost all Manner of Vegetables contain in them the Stamina of the future Plant or Tree, and that their Production from the Seed, and their Growth to Maturity is only the Swelling and Enlarging of the Stamina by the Addition of nutritious Juices. It is probable the Manner of Production and Growth of Animals is analogous to this. The Fertility of some Plants is almost beyond Belief. One particularly is said by Naturalists to produce annually a Million of Seeds from one. The Farina of Flowers is found by the Help of the Microscope to be a regular organized Body, and not a meer Dust, as it appears to the naked Eye, and is reasonably supposed to be necessary to Fertility in Plants and Trees.

“10. By the Microscope have been discovered many singular Properties of that most unaccountable of all Creatures the Polype, which is found at the Bottom of Ditches, and standing Waters; whose Manner of Production, Feeding and Digestion, are different from those of all other Animals. The young ones come out of the Sides of the old, like Buds and Branches from Trees, and at length drop off perfect Polypes. They do not seem to be of different Sexes. They take in Worms, and other Sustenance, by Means of a Sett of long Arms or Antennae, which surround their Mouths, and after keeping them some Time in their Stomachs, throw them out again the same Way. The Animal's Body consists of a single Cavity, like a Tube or Gut, and what is wonderful, and almost beyond Belief, is that it will live and feed after it is turned inside out, and even when cut into a great many Pieces, each several Piece becomes a compleat Polype. They are infested with a Kind of Vermin, as are almost all Animals from the largest down to Bees and other Insects. These Vermin of the Body of a Polype, after which, if it be cleared of them, it shall have the devoured Parts grow up again, and become as compleat as ever. Some Polypes have around their Mouths a Sort of Plume, which they whirl round, and making with it an Eddy in the Water, draw in their Prey, and devour it.

“11. By the Microscope it is found, that neither the Wood, the Bark, the Root, the Leaves, the Fruit, nor even the Pith of the meanest Vegetable is a Mass of crude or indigested Matter; but that every different Species is different in its internal Structure, and all curiously and delicately wrought. A Bit of Cork, cut extremely thin, a Slice of Oak or Fir, or a Bit of Elder Pith, in the Microscope, are so many curious Pieces of Mosaic Work. Even a Bit of Charcoal or burnt Wood appears with the Microscope an admirable Object.

“12. By this Instrument it is found, that what we call Mouldiness upon Flesh, Leather, or other Substances, is no other than a great Number of extremely small, but perfect Plants, having Stalks and Tops like Mushrooms, and sometimes an Appearance of Leaves. The Seeds of these minute Plants must, in all Probability, be diffused universally through the Air, and falling upon Substances fit for their Growth, spring up in astonishing Profusion. There is, in short, no End of microscopic Objects. A Sprig of Moss, with the Help of that Instrument, is found to be a regular Plant, consisting of a Root, a Stock, Branches, Leaves, etc. and Naturalists tell us, there are some Hundreds of different Species of it. A Bit of Spunge before the Microscope is a curious Piece of Net-work. Every different chymical Salt has its Parts differently figured. A Leaf of a common stinging Nettle, the Beard of a wild Oat, the Surfaces of some Pebble-stones, a Flake of Snow, a few Grains of Sand, or almost any natural Thing, with this Instrument exhibit exquisite Beauties; while, on the contrary, most delicate Works of Art, can by no Means bear its Examination; but degenerate before it into Masses of Irregularity and Deformity.”

Poor Richard’s Almanack, 1751 [pp1263-68, Franklin: Writings]

Franklin: Writings by Benjamin Franklin, with  J. A. Lemay, editor

Franklin: Writings
by Benjamin Franklin
[with J. A. Lemay, editor]

Library of America, 1987, hbk
ISBN-10: 0940450291/ISBN-13: 978-0940450295


the web address for the article above is

matter state, predicted in 1946, now manufactured

“In theory, positronium atoms - electron-positron pairs - should also be able to pair up to form molecules, just as two hydrogen atoms form H2. Because the mass of a positron is just 1/1836 that of a proton, positronium molecules are much lighter than hydrogen.

“But Ps2 is peculiar stuff. Rather than being two well-defined atoms stuck together, the four particles "do a merry dance around each other in a fuzzy, lump-less soup", says physicist Clifford Surko of the University of California in San Diego.” [Quoted from]

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“Di-positronium, as the new molecule is known, was predicted to exist in 1946 but has remained elusive to science.

“Now, a US team has created thousands of the molecules by merging electrons with their antimatter equivalent: positrons.”

“ "The difference in the power available from a gamma-ray laser compared to a normal laser is the same as the difference between a nuclear explosion and a chemical explosion," said Dr David Cassidy of the University of California, Riverside, and one of the authors of the paper.”

“As a result, there is a huge interest in the technology from the military as well as energy researchers who believe the lasers could be used to kick-start nuclear fusion in a reactor.” [Quoted from]


the web address for the article above is

light pollution - once the night sky was dark

World map of night-time light pollution. Credit:
World map of night-time light pollution. Credit:

Because of poor streetlamp design, as well as the use of high-powered floodlights to supposedly provide greater security, the world at night no longer is dark.

“The problem of light pollution is an unintended consequence of poorly designed outdoor lighting fixtures and ill-conceived lighting practices in the later part of the 20th century. Rather than direct light towards the ground where it is required, many lighting fixtures allow excessive amounts of light to spill sideways and up into the night sky. This causes the artificial sky glow that hangs over populated regions that in turn washes out humanity's greatest natural wonder -- our view of the Universe. For the first time in history, inhabitants of major cities are being cut-off from the beauty of the night sky.

“It has been estimated that 30% of all US outdoor lighting is directed skyward as waste light at an annual cost of $1.5 billion dollars in wasted electricity, energy that required the burning of 6 million tons of coal to produce in the first place. Waste light is wasted energy that serves no useful purpose and needlessly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.” [Quoted from]

Los Angeles, California at night, 1908 and 1988. Credit:
Los Angeles, California, at night, 1908 and 1988. Credit:

“Astronomers require observations of extremely faint objects that can be made only with large telescopes at sites free of air pollution and urban sky glow. For example, scientists interested in how the universe was formed may study the light of galaxies and quasars at enormous distances from Earth. These images offer information about faraway corners of the universe, helping us understand how our own world was formed. Yet, after traveling countless lightyears, the light from these objects can be lost at the very end of its journey in the glare of our own sky.

“Space-based telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, offer one way around the problem. However, large telescopes on the ground will always be used, if only because they are accessible and cost much less to build and operate. Our experience over the past decades has shown that rather than decreasing, our need for ground-based telescopes, even in an age of telescopes in space, has greatly increased. But only if they can be protected from the encroaching light pollution.

“Reducing light pollution is not difficult. It just makes sense, but it does require that we understand the issues and that public officials and citizens be aware of the problem and act to counter it. On an individual level, people can help reduce much sky glow by using lighting only when necessary and by choosing well shielded lighting fixtures.” [Quoted from]

better street lighting

The usual way to reduce streetlight pollution is to install lamps that do not spill light upwards and outwards. Alin Tolea gives examples of good and bad street lamps.

Bad, light-polluting street lights.
Bad, light-polluting street lights - left to right: 30-50%, 30%, 30%, 75% pollution.
The two central lamps make sideways light pollution.

Good, non-light polluting street lamps
Good, non-light polluting street lamps.
The right lamp has an receded bulb, so only makes 5% pollution.


However, the winner of the 2007 Next Generation Design competition,, suggests using lunar-resonant streetlights, which shine more or less, depending on how much natural moonlight is occuring. Lunar-resonance is where streetlights respond to “ambient moonlight, dimming and brightening each month as the moon cycles through its phases.”

Lunar-resonant street lighting - new moon and full moon. Credit:
Lunar-resonant street lighting - new moon and full moon. Credit:

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Lights Out San Francisco, a citywide energy conservation event, will be held on Oct. 20, 2007.

the web address for the article above is

£300 million synchroton and programming applied to read closed scrolls and other fragile documents

        Light Source synchrotron
Diamond Light Source synchrotron
based at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, Oxfordshire, UK [Credit: DLS Ltd]

“[...] a technique that uses a powerful X-ray source to create a three-dimensional image of an iron-inked document.

“The team then applies a computer algorithm to separate the image into the different layers of parchment, in effect using the program to unroll the scroll.”

computer-generated dead sea scroll, 'unrolled' using Diamond Sychronotron. Credit: Graham Davies and Tim Wess
Credit: Graham Davies and Tim Wess

the web address for the article above is

neat frog pictures

A flash slideshow of 14 images.
Thumbnail image from frog slideshow. The slides in the thumbnail array with this symbol Icon on frog slideshow thumbnail image. will change as you view them.

The eye of a frog at rest, showing its nictitating membrane. Credit:
The eye of a frog at rest, showing its nictitating membrane.
This third eyelid allows the frog to keep a weather eye when asleep or resting,
as well as providing further camouflage at other times.
Credit: Nature Conservancy Magazine

Beavers and manatees use their inner, nictitating membranes as a barrier to reduce inflammation when they go swimming. Seals peal back their nictitating membranes when swimming, but slide them over their eyes when on land, in order to clean off sand and other muck. Aard-varks [Dutch: earth-pigs] use them to shield their eyes from their termite prey. Birds of prey use them to protect their eyes from their chicks when feeding them. For polar bears, the nictitating membranes are protection against snow blindness. [Source: The Eye, pp. 124-125]

end note: Derivation of the word nictate, which is confused with nictate, and vice versa. From nictare [Latin] - to wink.

the web address for the article above is

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