GeekSpeak for 2009-12-05

GeekSpeak in a Holiday Parade!

The Geeks broadcast a show live from the back of a parade truck, during the Downtown Association’s Annual Holiday Parade in Santa Cruz! Parade audience members ask questions in the second half of the show.

We’d like to extend our sincerest thanks to Eric Mack and Joe Weiss from the UCSC Theater Arts Department, for driving the truck and helping with setup. Thanks also to Chip, for helping facilitate GeekSpeak’s involvement in the parade.

What a blast!

Large Hadron Collider sets world energy record

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiment on the French-Swiss border has set a new world record for energy.
The LHC pushed the energy of its particle beams beyond one trillion electron volts, making it the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator.
The previous record was held by the Tevatron particle accelerator in Chicago.
Officials say it is another milestone in the LHC’s drive towards its main scientific tests set for 2010.

LHC Knocked Out by Another Power Failure

The Large Hadron Collider – most puissant particle-punisher ever assembled by the human race – has suffered another major power failure, knocking not only the atomsmasher itself but even its associated websites offline. The machine remains unserviceable at present. However its crucial cryogenics seem to have been unaffected, and no catastrophic damage is thought to have occurred.

Adler planetarium unleashes 2.5 gigapixel image of the galaxy

“If you’re in Chicago, then you might want to head over to the Adler planetarium today, when they unveil an enormous 2.5 billion pixel mosaic of the Galaxy! It’s composed of 800,000 separate Spitzer Space Telescope images (I mean, c’mon, holy Haleakala, eight hundred thousand images!) stitched together. The image was actually released last year, but the ginormous print version is premiering at Adler”

USB: SmartSwipe

SmartSwipe is the new, smarter, more secure way to shop online. The SmartSwipe (by NetSecure Technologies) is the world’s first truly secure personal credit card reader. When you install SmartSwipe, you can swipe your credit card at your home or office computer just like you would in a store. Plug the SmartSwipe into your computer’s USB port, go shopping to your favourite online stores and swipe your credit card – it is that easy. The best part is that you know your credit card information is safe and secure. But, don’t just listen to us – check out this testimonial:

Gboard : Getting Started

Gboard.com has released the Gboard, a shortcut keyboard designed specifically for Gmail users. The device provides 19 different Gmail shortcuts, for tasks such as marking spam or trash, forwarding or replying to e-mails, and adding or removing stars. The unit requires no initial software in order to work, and is color-coded to separate different task categories.

Wingsuits Pushed for Airborne Assaults

Yves Rossy, aka “Jet man” and “Fusion Man,” has grabbed headlines with his jet-powered flights with an 8-foot wing strapped to his back. But he could be joined sometime soon by commandos on an airborne assault.

Last year, Rossy successfully flew 22 miles across the English Channel. Last week’s attempt to cross from Africa to Europe by flying from Morocco to Spain was less successful. Strong winds were against him, and Rossy ended up in the sea three miles short of the coast. Undaunted, the Swiss former military pilot now plans to fly across the Grand Canyon.

Rossy has reportedly refused requests from the military and stated that his powered wing, which cost more than $190,000 to develop, is only for aviation enthusiasts. However, he’s not the only one in the wingsuit business.

The Special Parachute and Logistics Consortium, is a German venture between two companies with expertise in this area. SPELCO produces a variety of parachute systems, helmets, oxygen supplies and other gear and services. But their most eye-catching project is the Gryphon Next Generation Parachute System (PDF, pictured).

This is described as a modular upgrade for parachute systems for use in “high-altitude, high-opening” jump missions, typically carried out by Special Forces. This 6-foot wing gives a glide ratio of 5:1, which means that a drop from 30,000 feet will allow you to glide about 30 miles. The makers estimate that this would take around 15 minutes, giving an average speed of about 60 miles an hour.

World's top World of Warcraft player

That’s an unofficial title, though I think it’s pretty safe to say that “Little Gray” has played more Warcraft than you. A lot more.

Courtesy of Gamepro comes word of the Taiwanese player’s absolutely insane Warcraft accomplishments. In addition to having nabbed every single one of the game’s achievements (minus a brand new one that cropped up in the game’s latest patch), he’s the first player to complete all 986 tasks listed in the game’s Armory. Considering that over 11.5 million people play the game worldwide, that’s one heck of an honor.

Skype's Phone Box Experiment

There is a phone box in the middle of nowhere. Rob’s camping next to it for as long as he can hold out, just so we can see who calls. This is the Phone Box Experiment.

In an attempt to raise awareness of Skype’s cheaper international calls to landlines and mobile phones, The Viral Factory has sent trilingual actor Rob Cavazos, aka Wilderness Man, on a ten day camping trip next to the “most remote phone box in the world,” where he’ll be taking calls from all over the globe. Visitors to the site can ring him up through Skype (or through any phone service) and watch/hear their conversation live.

Cavazos speaks fluent English, Spanish and French. At press time, he’d gotten calls from 28 countries, including Iraq, Kazakhstan and Jordan. As for where exactly he’s located, Cavazos says he’s not sure. “I landed in an airport in the south of Spain and beyond that I don’t know anything. There is nothing around. We’d been driving through a stretch of nothingness.”

Mobile to Mobile Live Sharing: Knocking™

Pretty cool live video iPhone app

Man marries character in a videogame

I now pronounce you husband and what?!

In another sign that the world is about to collapse, multiple blogs are reporting that a fan of the Nintendo DS dating sim Love Plus (you know, the really creepy one) liked his virtual lady so much that he decided to marry her. For real.

Apparently, a Japanese gamer known as ‘Sal9000’ was officially wed to Nene Anegasaki, one of the game’s three virtual girlfriends, in what must have been the weirdest ceremony in the history of ceremonies. We can only assume that Ms. Pac-Man was the maid of honor.

While the two aren’t planning a honeymoon — after all, one of them is a VIDEO GAME — they did hold a small ‘reception’ in Japan for friends, family and the media, indicating that this is most likely little more than the looniest video game publicity stunt we’ve seen in some time. Check out this video recap by Boing Boing, complete with footage of the happy, er, couple:

Google Acquires AppJet, Makers of Etherpad

AppJet Inc., makers of Etherpad, has been acquired by Google. The geeks use Etherpad to plan the show, so we’ll see what happens to us when Etherpad goes offline at the end of March!

Feeding birds 'changes evolution'

European birds called blackcaps follow a different “evolutionary path” if they spend the winter eating food put out for them in UK gardens.
The birds’ natural wintering ground is southern Spain, where they feed on the fruits that grow there.
Researchers describe the impact this well-intentioned activity has had on the birds in Current Biology journal.
Dr Martin Schaefer from the University of Freiburg in Germany led the research.
He and his team found that blackcaps that migrated to the UK for the winter were in the very earliest stages of forming a new species.

Dissection Begins on Famous Brain

“The man who could not remember provided insights for generations to come: his brain, now being dissected and digitally mapped in exquisite detail.

The man, Henry Molaison — known during his lifetime only as H.M., to protect his privacy — lost the ability to form new memories after a brain operation in 1953, and over the next half century he became the most studied patient in brain science.

He consented years ago to donate his brain for study, and last February Dr. Jacopo Annese, an assistant professor of radiology at the University of California, San Diego, traveled across the country and flew back with the brain"

Your iPhone Can Now Swipe Credit Cards

Square is a little plastic magnetic card reader that hooks into the headphone jack of your iPhone or iPod Touch. When you swipe a credit card through the device, it converts the card information into an audio signal, which is then processed by Square’s software application on the device, according to GigaOm. Then, the card information is encrypted and transmitted to Square’s servers via a Wi-Fi or 3G connection for processing. Dorsey says your credit card information is never stored on Square-enabled devices.

Once the transaction is approved, you sign for the purchase on the iPhone screen using your finger. Your receipt can then be e-mailed to you or sent via SMS. But it’s not actually a receipt. What you get instead is a link to a private page on Square’s Website where you can view and save your receipt, according to TechCrunch.

From Pocket to Stage, Music in the Key of iPhone

The Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra’s performance on Thursday used the most unusual of instruments: Apple iPhones amplified by speakers attached to small fingerless gloves.

Sometimes the sounds were otherworldly. Sometimes, they mimicked raindrops, bird songs or freeway traffic. In one piece, two performers blew into their phones to stir virtual wind chimes. In another, the instruments took on personalities based on the pitch, volume and frequency of the notes played — as if the musicians were flirting, teasing and admonishing each other.

Coke Starts the Move to HFC-Free Vending Machines

Coke has officially taken the lead in the ongoing sustainable cola wars with a pledge to cut hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), a potent greenhouse gas, from all vending machines and coolers by 2015. The move comes after years of haranguing by Greenpeace, which has long tried to persuade beverage companies to ditch HFC.

Solar-Powered Plane Takes First Tentative Flight

The flight was nothing more than a short 350-meter hop a meter off the ground, but with the four props spinning under electric motor power, it’s an amazing triumph that marks the beginning of the end of 10 years of work. Solar impulse HB-SIA was, for this short flight, not garnering its energy from the sun—the solar cells are going to be connected up for the next series of trials—but the significance is undiminished, since now the research team knows its vehicle is air-worthy, all it needs is to perfect the solar charging system.