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Nov 21, 2010 at 10:54
The news about scientists at CERN trapping antimatter was handled in a very light weight manner by the mainstream press – which is, maybe, one more reason why there is so little of the mainstream press left. The typical few paragraphs from the likes of Business Week (why under financial news?) did little to explain the significance of what has been achieved in Geneva. Additionally, incorrectly, such reports suggested that antimatter has not been created before.
The general public probably understands antimatter as the mysterious content of the bomb placed under the Vatican in Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, stolen with some considerable violence by a mysterious religious body (allegedly persecuted by The Church for its belief in science) from CERN. And, indeed, a few cups of antimatter would be enough to create a massive explosion.
CERN has answered most of the questions that Brown’s fans and critics have raised about antimatter, but the latest twist in capturing antimatter might be seen as...
Nov 21, 2010 at 10:45
After a decade of whipping up novelty cakes for my daughter, Anwyn, I found myself completely out of ideas on what to make for her 14th birthday. Most of the time it’s been fairly easy to come up with a theme for a cake that fits my three basic design drivers:
Something related to an interest or activity of hers that I had not memorialized in pastry before
A design that would be do-able with basic kitchen technology and under 20 hours of work
A cake that would be fun to look at and to make
Unfortunately, I’d already baked up homages to most of her great passions including a swimming pool cake, an edible Hawaiian beach scene, a mini-golf course, a working iPod cake, and several equestrian-related confections. Since she’s recently taken up ballet, I briefly considered making a cake shaped like a dance slipper, but was worried that, given my limited artistic talents, I’d end up with a creation that looked more like a pink mutant hippopotamus with a ribbon in its hair.
Nov 15, 2010 at 12:06
One of the great things about being brought up in London was the availability of the theatre and museums. My days were fortunate: it was safe (at least I thought so!) to travel the streets of the city on my bicycle. Seats in the ‘Gods’ at theatres were all but free – and I fortunately had good eyes then – and the museums were all deliciously welcome places.
One of my favorite museums was, of course, the Science Museum in South Kensington. I spent literally days in the place excited with the explanations and demonstrations of heat, light, sound, electricity, and the applied sciences ranging from coal mines to the life sciences and textiles. I was already a technology freak at age twelve, was witnessing the beginning of the semiconductor age, and knew that I wanted to work for the BBC; thus, the Science Museum was better than any number of books that I could ever have put together.
A few years ago I went back, with my family. What a depressing, cold, unloved place it seemed to have bec...
Nov 7, 2010 at 11:17
We have all gotten used to technology helping us out with the most mundane of tasks. Yet, most of us still have to wander around our house late at night twice a year changing our clocks. (Hopefully only a few actually sit around until 2 AM to make the changes, forward or back, at the official time.) And the next time we get in our vehicles we then have to ponder the unlikely combination of buttons that allow us to change those clocks as well.
But on our computers, first Microsoft, and then Apple, worked out the time changes for us automatically. We may double-check that it has really happened – although that is a bit like checking that the light in your fridge really does extinguish when you close the door – but the guys in Redmond and Cupertino seem to know these dates better than we do.
This last week has been yet one more for confusion in the international airline business. On the weekend of October 9 clocks went forward for the summer in New Zealand and Australia; on October 30 clocks went b...
Nov 7, 2010 at 11:11
It was nearly 10 AM before the family finally piled into the car and headed out for the long trek from Princeton, NJ, to Flushing Meadows, NY, home of the 2010 Fall Maker Faire. I’d had so much fun attending a couple of these DIY extravaganzas at their home port in San Mateo, CA, that I promised I’d share the fun with my family when the Faire came to our part of the country. Nevertheless my heart sunk because, even on a Sunday, hitting the highway late meant we had to wrestle with the congestion that turns both Northern Jersey’s and most of Long Island’s major roads into vast ribbons of near-stationary vehicles. The traffic thickened as we plowed northward but we pressed onward, intent on our mission.
A bit more than two hours later we arrived at the site of the New York Hall of Science (and home of the 1964 NY World’s Fair) where several thousand inventors, artists, amateur scientists and DIY enthusiasts had gathered for the weekend. Although not as big as the Spring event in S...
Nov 1, 2010 at 12:00
Readers will know that I am not much enamored by weak patent claims and am continually surprised by what the US Patent Office will accept – making the market the place where spurious patents have to be fought out, benefiting none except the lawyers involved.
US Patent 5668070 was filed in 1996 and granted in 1997 to two South Korean applicants. It concerns a ceramic material that claims to “absorb” the electric and magnetic fields of RF signals that are likely to cause damage to humans from cell phones and other radiating devices. The material has now been commercialized as the ZEROFON (for cell phones) and the ZEROCOM (for laptop computers). (And that is the last time that the two names will be capitalized here.)
The products are manufactured by BanSeok Zeropa, in a suburb of Seoul, a company that was originally formed as Banseok Co Ltd in 1999. Since then it has formed alliances trying to sell cell phone antennas, amongst other items, formulated using the patented ceramic as well as thes...