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Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch Provokes Bomb Scare

Rob Carr Bomb Threat at Bomb Drill (186 comments)

Actually, the HHG0A was ideal. Sucker the bomb squad in, make them think it's a false alarm and then kill them as they stand around the HHGOA laughing.

Years ago, there was a mass casualty drill at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Near the end of the drill, someone put a large bag in the decon area. I don't know if this was something the Feds did as part of the drill or if someone just left a bag in the wrong place.

Someone attempted to declare an emergency and cordon off the area. By that point, most people were exhausted and sick of the drill--and they simply ignored the cordon. The drill fell apart at that point. They "knew" it wasn't a bomb.

I was cold, soaked from d-con and only wearing a pair of swim trunks when I walked past the suspicious bag. I remember thinking that if someone had wanted to kill a whole lot of EMS, police and fire (even most of the victims were off-duty public safety), a bomb in that bag would have done it. And at that point, I didn't care.

That's exactly the sort of stuff that gets you hurt or killed.

I'm in a new line of work now.

more than 5 years ago

Hydrocarbon Rain Swells Titan's Lakes

Rob Carr Re:Wouldn't it be crazy... (110 comments)

I did a calculation a while back, assuming that the rule of thumb on earth held on Titan: reaction rates drop 50% for 10 degree drop in temperature. Using an estimate for the time required to develop life on Earth, the calc indicated it would be unlikely to have developed on Titan within the lifetime of the universe.

Of course, there are quite a few problems with that analysis:

  1. Different chemical system might make the reaction rate different.
  2. That's a long way to push a law that obviously fails at the freezing temp of water.
  3. If life formed on Earth much sooner than the estimate I used, again the number might be off.

Then again, what would be the information molecule? DNA is a polymer with subunits that can encode information. There aren't a lot of methane-soluble polymers that would make for good information storage.

Then again, maybe I'm not thinking outside the box and something radically different would be used.

Life on Titan is unlikely, but I think we'd be making a big mistake assuming it's impossible.

more than 5 years ago

What Parrots Tell Us About the Evolution of Birds

Rob Carr Re:They could also tell a lot about (62 comments)

  1. Not all environments provide unlimited food at all times. Don't forget, in Australia, parrots are often considered agricultural pests. Until significant farming took place, they didn't have such an availability of food as they do now. Macaws in the Amazon have to eat clay to be able to deal with the toxins in their environment. Picking undigested food out of their poop may provide an advantage, the clay having leached many of the toxins out already.
  2. Many parrots are ground birds (African greys have a digging instinct that's hysterical) or live in such large groups that poop is unavoidable (budgerigars).
  3. Our African greys are fastidious about their poop, although they're surprisingly fond of getting their poop on other birds or humans (my grey targets me--never does it to my wife, of whom she's jealous.
  4. There are significant variations between individual birds, various species,health and possibly even "pecking order" in the flock.

Note: If you own a pet bird, cleanliness of the bird and the bird's environment is very important. In this discussion, I've mixed a combination of wild behaviors with what parrots often instinctively do in captivity. Poop does provide healthy bacteria, but it can also provide a vector for diseases. Except for rare cases like treatment with powerful antibiotics or hand-feeding from day 1, keep all dirt to a minimum to keep your parrot and you healthy.

more than 5 years ago

What Parrots Tell Us About the Evolution of Birds

Rob Carr Re:They could also tell a lot about (62 comments)

Our two African greys don't seem to like regular TV. They may need HD, too.

The cockatoo loves TV. He will watch Barney the dinosaur until my eyes and ears bleed, and hates raptors on Animal Planet. Strangely, he likes Corwin Presents, except for that episode with the anaconda.

He hates the weather channel, too, but he was rescued Hurricane Andrew. Not a fan of big winds.

more than 5 years ago

What Parrots Tell Us About the Evolution of Birds

Rob Carr Re:They could also tell a lot about (62 comments)

Parrots can engage in corporophagia--they eat parrot poop. If they didn't digest the food completely the first time, they'll get it the second. Their guts are short so their food has a short residence time. The things you do for flight!

It's also how they spread good intestinal bacteria among the flock. If we are forced to hand-feed a parrot chick from day one, we mix some of the mother's feces in the formula for the first week or so. Survival rate improves dramatically, although feeding a bird the size of your little fingernail is still iffy (parakeets and bourkes).

If the recent information on termites is correct, sharing feces may be one strategy for forming societies.

Finally, if you really want to get freaked out, read about treating intestinal infections with feces transplants.

more than 5 years ago

Study Concludes "Planet" Was Just Stellar Spots

Rob Carr Re:What tipped them off? (132 comments)

In the 1940s, 61 Cygni was thought to have planets a planet -- then several planets, then none, and now, at least one.It's another example of science correcting itself more than once!

about 6 years ago



Hydrocarbon Rain Swells Titan's Lakes

Rob Carr Rob Carr writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Rob Carr writes "According to the Cassini team, 'Recent images of Titan from NASA's Cassini spacecraft affirm the presence of lakes of liquid hydrocarbons by capturing changes in the lakes brought on by rainfall.' The northern lakes are now larger following a period where hydrocarbon clouds covered their skies. This change adds to the evidence these areas are indeed hydrocarbon lakes. But this discovery raises several more questions: where is the methane in the atmosphere coming from and, how long can this complex hydrocarbon cycle on Titan go on? The new evidence emphasizes the need for another mission to Titan."
Link to Original Source

Rob Carr Rob Carr writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Rob Carr writes "A lot of speculation has been made on what caused astronaut mission specialist Lisa Nowak to break. None of the articles mention one of the worst stressors: the job of astronaut is one of the worst jobs in science. People are willing to pay tens of millions of dollars to be an astronaut, which doesn't give the astronaut much leverage with the employer. Since the beginning of spaceflight, NASA has treated its astronauts poorly even while promoting them as American heroes. The first public break came during the Skylab 4 mission when the astronauts staged a work stoppage because of the inhuman schedules they faced. On the ground, astronauts are hired "at will" and have to do any scut work or lab rat duty they're assigned. The steady strain of humiliation and disrespect can disrupt even the strongest of coping mechanisms. Did "astronaut abuse" set Nowak up for her breakdown? If not corrected, does NASA's treatment of its employees put missions away from Earth (like lunar colonies and manned trips to Mars) at grave risk?"

Rob Carr Rob Carr writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Rob Carr writes "Astronaut Mission Specialist Lisa Nowak allegedly attacked Colleen Shipman, the woman Nowak considered her rival for Space Shuttle pilot William Oefelein's affections. Charged with attempted kidnapping and "...attempted vehicle burglary with battery, destruction of evidence and battery," Nowak was denied bail. I figure either the Sci Fi channel "Battlestar Galactica" marathon pushed her over the edge or she was channeling Nick Nolte when this incident happened."

Rob Carr Rob Carr writes  |  more than 7 years ago

Rob Carr writes "Considered unethical to ever perform again with humans, researcher Mel Slater recreated the Milgram experiment in a immersive virtual environment. Subjects (some of whom could see and hear the computerized woman, others who were only able to read text messages from her) were told that they were interacting with a computer character and told to give increasingly powerful electric shocks when wrong answers were given or the "woman" took too long to respond. The computer program would correspondingly complain and beg as the "shocks" were ramped up, falling apparently unconscious before the last shock. The skin conductance and electrocardiograms of the subjects were monitored. Even though the subjects knew they were only "shocking" a computer program, their bodies reacted with increased stress responses. Several of the ones who could see and hear the woman stopped before reaching the "lethal" voltage, and about half considered stopping the study. The full results of the experimental report can be read online at PLoS One. Already, some (like William Dutton of the Oxford Internet Institute) are asking whether even this sanitized experiment is ethical. The application of these results to video games are obvious, and it's only a matter of time before someone starts using this research to question the effects of violent video games on people."

Rob Carr Rob Carr writes  |  about 8 years ago

Rob Carr writes "Before the European Space Agency SMART-1 spacecraft impacted the Lake of Excellence last night, it continued to acquire data. Some of the last images were of an area of the Moon lit only by Earthshine. The unprocessed images were posted to the ESA web site. In writing up a post on the SMART-1 impact for my blog, I did a quick enhancement of one of the SMART-1 starfinder images. According to the ESA FAQ, 'You may freely use the images you find on our site, as long as it is not for commercial use. You may not modify the images.'

Enhancement of images is a standard part of fact, a standard part of modern digital photography itself. I cannot believe the ESA intended to prevent science from being done with their data, and so I published the original and the enhanced versions of the photograph on my blog. But I wonder: could they demand that I take down the altered image? Is this really in the best interest of scientific research? While my alteration was trivial, amateurs working with the ESA Huygens data were the first to generate topographic maps of Titan. That, too, was a modification of the images and technically against their copyright policy.

I'd be interested in hearing Slashdotters take on this."



Rejected Article: Gaggle Sues Google

Rob Carr Rob Carr writes  |  more than 10 years ago According to articles on the Prague Post and MSN's Money Central, American Blind, AXA, Geico, L.L. Bean, and Louis Vuitton are suing Google over keywords that produce advertisements on a Google search page. The paid advertisements do not change the results of the search, but they do result in advertisements placed on the boarder of the search page. The companies involved in the litigation claim that this is a violation of their trademarks. Since the linking of keywords and advertisements was patented by Yahoo, that organization is suing Google as well.

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