WOW! signals radio telescopes detect from nearby microwave ovens

Tuesday, 21 April, 2015

Image by Katie Mack

So, a series of mysterious radio signals, or fast radio bursts, from beyond the galaxy, that some radio telescopes have been detecting since 2001, that appeared to be adhering to a pattern of some sort, may not be artificial after all (but who knows, the universe is one weird place), if the above image is anything to go by.

This coming to light after certain other strange signals, referred to as perytons, being radio pulses suspected of being terrestrial in origin, were finally identified by Emily Petroff, of the Swinburne University of Technology, as being energy discharges from microwave ovens in a kitchen at the radio telescope facility:

One clue Petroff had was that all recorded perytons were observed during daylight, and indeed during business hours. When the observatory at Parkes installed a radio frequency interference (RFI) monitor, it picked up signals coinciding with some perytons detected by the famous dish. This confirmed the local nature of the events and indicated the signal was also occurring at frequencies beyond what the radio telescope can detect.

(Above image by Katie Mack)

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A list of the… best disturbing novels

Tuesday, 21 April, 2015

Richard Eyre’s 2006 film, Notes on a Scandal, starring Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, could certainly be classified as disturbing, but the book of the same name, by Zoë Heller, upon which the movie is based, is, by all accounts, even more so.

Novels that invite you inside the minds of dangerous obsessives, unaware of their own toxic natures, always leave me very unsettled when done well. I wasn’t expecting that the narrator of Zoë Heller’s Notes on a Scandal to be quite as malign as she is, and the hatred lurking inside what she thinks is love for her beautiful young teacher colleague left me rattled for days.

It is one of twelve novels deemed by The Guardian to be most disturbing, a list that also includes “American Psycho”, “Blood Meridian”, and “Beside the Sea”.

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Pickpocket warnings alert pickpockets to the location of your wallet

Tuesday, 21 April, 2015

James Freedman, who describes himself as the only honest pickpocket you’ll ever meet, has a few tips for evading what police call stealth theft, (login required to read article) and they’re the sorts of things most people may not think of.

For instance, when a lot of people see a sign advising them that pickpockets may be active in the vicinity, they tend to tap their pocket to check their wallet is still there. All that serves to do though is alert any lurking stealth thief to the location of said item.

Also, drivers licences should be kept separate from credit cards. That’s like a double whammy, not only does a pickpocket stand to score credit cards, but also all manner of personal information that your licence bears.

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Use reusable shopping bags? Enjoy junk food? I thought so…

Tuesday, 21 April, 2015

There’s a whole psychology to using reuseable shopping bags, as opposed to their single shot plastic counterparts, that I was unaware of, despite being a reuseable user myself.

Such people, it seems, are not only more likely to buy organic versions of their usual foodstuffs, since they’re trying to be a little more environmentally conscious, but they also tend to load up on the junk food, snacks, ice cream, chocolate bars, and the like.

It was clear that shoppers who brought their own bags were more likely to replace nonorganic versions of goods like milk with organic versions. So one green action led to another. But those same people were also more likely to buy foods like ice cream, chips, candy bars, and cookies. They weren’t replacing other items with junk food, as they did with organic food. They were just adding it to their carts.

Apparently this desire to indulge comes down to the feeling among reuseable bag users that they are doing the right thing, and feel they deserve a reward. As I say, this was all news to me.

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“Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, the second teaser/trailer

Monday, 20 April, 2015

Behold, the second teaser for the new “Star Wars” film, The Force Awakens. I’d say it’s aimed more at fans of the original movies, with its nostalgic overtones, the Mark Hamill voice over, and a brief appearance by Han Solo and Chewbacca.

Feel like weighing into the discussion as to what Luke Skywalker means when he says his father has the force, rather than had it? Hmm.

I suspect the arrival of the first trailer, as opposed to the two teasers we’ve seen so far, is going to be quite the event, whenever that happens.

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Motion sickness, a side effect of travelling by driverless car?

Monday, 20 April, 2015

Most of us travelling by way of driverless cars, when the day arrives that is, will have to be content with looking out the window, watching the world go by, rather than reading, working, or watching movies, as motion sickness may be more pronounced in autonomous vehicles:

“Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles,” Sivak said. “The reason is that the three main factors contributing to motion sickness – conflict between vestibular (balance) and visual inputs, inability to anticipate the direction of motion and lack of control over the direction of motion – are elevated in self-driving vehicles.

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Office dress codes now extend to trackies, fancy trackies, that is

Monday, 20 April, 2015

Sweatpants, or, depending on where you live, trackies, are apparently now acceptable as office wear, in some places at least. We’re not talking about any old trackie here though, but rather “fancy” such items, the cost of which can stretch up into the three figure range.

On retail websites and in-store displays, models and mannequins are now shown wearing the pants with dress shoes, blazers, and cardigans. The men’s sweatpant, it appears, has not only graduated from the couch to post-gym lunch, but also to the office.

Would this… trend extend to the top end of town, I wonder? That I’d have to see, if so.

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Your mission should you accept it, speak only if spoken to for a week

Monday, 20 April, 2015

This might, I say again, might make for an intriguing personal challenge… if maybe you live alone, and likewise work by yourself from home… not talk to anyone for an entire week, unless they talk to you first. Not talking first also means there can be no instigating of communication via the likes of texting or email either.

Unless you also live on a deserted island, I think it’d prove incredibly difficult, to say the least:

I ride the train to work in San Francisco every day. I habitually say good morning to all the people in my neighborhood along my walk and politely say excuse me as I squeeze like a Tetris piece between other commuters on packed train cars. This week was different. I felt more closed off from neighbors; I couldn’t initiate conversation. I could wave, but that’s kind of awkward to do when you’re passing someone that is about eight inches away. It gives off more of a “talk to the hand” vibe than a cordial “howdy.” The commute was awkward every day of this experiment.

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A spoonful of wasabi may one day be the medicine going down

Friday, 17 April, 2015

Wasabi in dish, photo by Taku Kumabe

Wasabi is a condiment I love to hate. It must be consumed in just the right quantity to be appreciated. Despite the not-so-pleasant sensations it is capable of causing though, a recent in-depth analysis of its chemical structure may help in bringing about new medicines that will alleivate pain.

It’s not the onion’s fault you’re crying. The wasabi isn’t to blame for jolting your sinuses. And don’t curse the hipsters outside the bar for the burning cough you got walking through their cloud of cigarette smoke. Those things are actually all your fault. Or rather, those uncomfortable sensations all trace back to special proteins on neurons inside your body. Those wee tangles are why you cry, cough, sting, itch, swell up, or burn whenever you encounter something noxious.

(Photo by Taku Kumabe)

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When movie recommendations become new job recommendations

Friday, 17 April, 2015

Netflix, an online movie download service, recently arrived in Australia. While its impact on cinema attendances, if any, remains to be seen, the workplace may be another matter.

And, no, I’m not talking about people watching movies, or TV shows, from their laptops when they’re supposed to be working, but rather the Netflix algorithm that recommends films for viewers based on, presumably, things like past downloads and search histories.

Seemingly this technology has been adapted, and will somehow bring employees who appear to be considering jumping ship, to the attention of management.

For example, it sifts through years worth of HR data, ranging from time between promotions, time at current job, and number of job functions. It then combines that with job posting data from sites like Indeed.com to gauge the market demand rate for certain employees. Based on that, Workday can come up with the employees at risk of leaving and how much it would take to replace them.

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