A drone shield for the new “Star Wars” film… should the force fail

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

With “leaks” such as this seemingly taking place every five minutes, it’s short wonder producers of the new Star Wars film want drone shields established over outside filming locations, to prevent those who can’t wait for its release, taking a peep at its production.

Anyone else have the feeling that the whole story will be spoiled long before it ever reaches cinemas?

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The Garden of Eden this poison garden is not

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

The Poison Garden, located in Alnwick, in the north of England, is just that… it contains all manner of plants that pose some sort of hazard to people and other living creatures:

Because of the plants’ dangerous qualities, visitors to the Poison Garden are prohibited from smelling, touching or tasting any of them. Still, even with guidelines in place, visitors can fall victim to the plants. This past summer, seven people reportedly fainted from inhaling toxic fumes while walking through the garden. “People think we’re being overdramatic when we talk about [not smelling the plants], but I’ve seen the health and safety reports,” the duchess says.

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Tracing the origins of storytelling back to… ancient campfires

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Sitting around campfires in the evenings, after a day of hunting, collecting, or farming, allowed our ancient ancestors the opportunity to talk about matters that were not quite so vital to day-to-day survival, and this is when storytelling began to emerge and develop.

A study of evening campfire conversations by the Ju/’hoan people of Namibia and Botswana suggests that by extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and tell stories, rather than merely focus on mundane topics.

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A sign language that defies our understanding of their development

Tuesday, 30 September, 2014

Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language, or ABSL, is a form of sign language that has emerged in recent years among the deaf inhabitants of a village in a region of Israel’s Negev Desert. What is particularly fascinating to linguists here however is the structure of the language, which differs somewhat from many others:

ABSL provides fodder for researchers who reject the idea that there’s a genetic basis for the similarities found across languages. Instead, they argue, languages share certain properties because they all have to solve similar problems of communication under similar pressures, pressures that reflect the limits of human abilities to learn, remember, produce, and perceive information. The challenge, then, is to explain why ABSL is an outlier – if duality of patterning is the optimal solution to the problem of creating a large but manageable collection of words, why hasn’t ABSL made use of it?

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“2001: A Space Odyssey”, the animated cut

Monday, 29 September, 2014

There are some people who feel 2001: A Space Odyssey is a little too drawn out for their taste. Possibly then this sixty second animated version, by 1A4 STUDIO, may be more to their liking…

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The actual value of advice can be only be appreciated in hindsight…

Monday, 29 September, 2014

If I was asked to write a letter to my decade or two younger self, offering a little wisdom – and if I could be so… audacious, a tip or two as to when to turn, say, right rather than, say, left – I’m not sure I’d know where to begin.

That’s of course not correct, but put it this way, I’d have a lot to say to my youthful self. Anyway, it’s a premise that was recently put to seven Australian writers including Mark Dapin, Amanda Hooton, and Charlotte Wood. Then there’s this astute observation from Anna Funder:

At the beginning of anything important – writing a book, starting a friendship – it’s a case of imagining something that doesn’t yet exist and calling it into being: with desire, curiosity, knee-quaking trust in its future. When I think about you, starting out at university and feeling like you’re starting out in your real life, that’s how I see you. Know this: reality – the world’s and your own private path – will far outstrip what you could ever have imagined. You’re not as lost as you feel, though possibly you’ll never feel as found as you’d like.

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Bitcoins, very secure unless perhaps you adhere to Moores’ Law

Monday, 29 September, 2014

Say what you will about Bitcoins, but they are certainly secure. Seemingly it would take many billions of years to break through their private key encryption. However there is a caveat, under Moores’ Law computing power is supposed to double every two years, so that colossal time span stands to be substantially reduced. Maybe.

Assuming computing speed doubles every year (Moore’s law says 2 years, but we’ll err on the side of caution), then in 59 years it’ll only take 1.13 years. So your coins are safe for the next 60 years without a change to the algorithms used to protect the blockchain. However, I would expect the algorithms to be changed long before it’s feasible to break the protection they provide.

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A coffee that tastes like stout beer? There’s Irish Coffee for you…

Monday, 29 September, 2014

I don’t usually say a whole lot about certain of the larger, global, coffee chain franchises, mainly because I’ve only ever been to one of them once, but news that some Starbucks cafes in the US have devised a coffee brew that resembles the taste of stout beer, or popular Irish beverage Guinness, naturally caught my eye.

The stout-beer-like taste is achieved by adding caramel and a stout flavored sauce to the coffee. So far reaction to the new brew seems to be mixed… maybe we should just let coffee be coffee, and stout beer be stout beer?

Comparisons to Irish stout are seemingly inevitable, and the chain’s marketing materials say that the flavor was inspired by the “rise of craft beers.” So how does it taste? “Like Guinness with cream it in,” one customer writes. “Yuck,” offers another. There’s no word on when, or if, the drink will go wide, but in the meantime, it sounds like this one would go perfectly with an extra shot of cold-brew coffee whiskey.

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Why take the tube when you can sprint between the stations?

Friday, 26 September, 2014

Is it possible to jump off the tube at Mansion House station, along the Circle and District lines of the London Underground, and rejoin the same train at Cannon Street station, by sprinting, at street level, between the two stations, that are a couple of hundred metres apart? Assuming there are no delays and the like, that is.

Find out for yourself.

We used to talk about this sort of thing, given some of the Underground stations are pretty close to each other, but they were always thought experiment sort of discussions.

Via Digg Video.

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Now that we’ve lived our best years, let’s bow out at 75

Friday, 26 September, 2014

Ezekiel Emanuel, writing for The Atlantic, thinks age seventy-five would be about a good time for him to make an exit from this life.

But here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.

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