Chinese? –It’s Double-Dutch

Take a hundred lines

Take a hundred lines

If in idle moments you’ve ever, as I have, contemplated how cool it would be to try and learn Chinese and how fantastically ‘global’ acquiring said lingo would make you –then you should probably avoid reading this essay by David Moser.

A pretty off-putting read and the more so given that, given Mr. Moser hails from the University of Michigan’s Center [sic] for Chinese Studies, you’d think he’d be extolling the delights of studying Chinese.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll just stick to English, [bad] Spanish and [worse] Irish, after all.
Read and weep:

Italian Tapestries and Monuments

Italian Monuments

Italian Monuments

The Getty Research Institute has just added more than 77,000 high-resolution images of Italian tapestries and monuments to its Open Content Program [sic] of free-use images. The snaps come  from a couple of collections—more than 72,000 of them from the collection Foto Arte Minore: Max Hutzel Photographs of Art and Architecture in Italy. Foto Arte Minore represents the life’s work of photographer and scholar Max Hutzel.

Find the goodies by following this easy-to-remember link here:

Old Moon Rising

Earthrise. Credit NASA/LOIRP

Earthrise. Credit NASA/LOIRP

Here’s an interesting story about how a team of self-styled ‘techno-archaeologists’ at NASA’s Ames Research Center [sic] in Silicon Valley, California, USA are using a combination of old cannibalised Ampeg tape drives and modern image processing in Photoshop to recover moon/earth photos stored on the old tape drives and practically forgotten about for nearly 50 years. The images were originally taken by NASA’s lunar orbiters in 1966 and 1967,

Each satellite would point its dual lens Kodak camera at a target, snap a picture, then develop the photograph. High- and low-resolution photos were then scanned into strips called framelets using something akin to an old fax machine reader

The images were beamed in modulated signals to one of three receiving stations in Australia, Spain, or California, where the pictures–and collateral chatter from the NASA operators–were recorded straight to tape.

Weirdly enough, and thanks to modern image manipulation software, the The Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project, as the snap-happy tinkerers call themselves are able to recreate the original photographs in higher resolution than they have ever been viewed before.

More here:

Venera-ble Space Exploration

Slavs in Spaaaace!

Slavs in Spaaaace!

If you like your space exploration and you like your retro then you might be interested in Don P Mitchell’s Mental Landscape site. Or, more accurately, you might be interested in the section devoted to Soviet exploration of Venus between 1961 and 1985 –AKA the Venera programme. Interesting stuff indeed and a nice remember that the ‘Merkins’ weren’t the only ones “boldly going where no man probe had gone before”

Mental Landscape:

Speed of Light? About 0mph



Everybody knows that light is pretty nippy stuff and, while there are various techniques for bending it or slowing it a bit, pinning it down is a bit more of a challenge. Well, a  team of German boffins led by Georg Heinze at the Institut für Angewandte Physik, Technische Universität  in Darmstadt, Germany have managed to metaphorically nail a beam of light to the table, by freezing it for a whole minute, inside a crystal.

The “simple” [all things are relative!] explanation as to how they did it is as follows:

“..using a quantum interference effect that makes an opaque medium — in this case a crystal — transparent over a narrow range of light spectra (a process called electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT)). The researchers shot a laser through this crystal (a source of light), which sent its atoms into a quantum superposition of two states. A second beam then switched off the first laser, and as a consequence, the transparency. Thus, the researchers collapsed the superposition — and trapped the second laser beam inside…”

Got that? C’mon. Try and keep up. This is primary school stuff!

Anyway, the German eggheads kept the beam of light frozen inside the crystal for a whole minute and were subsequently able to extract information stored within it. You can see where this is going now, can’t you? If scientists can develop such techniques so that data can be stored in lightbeams trapped permanently inside solid media then it’s going to be exciting times ahead for the storage and transmission of digital information.

More [including a link to the original research paper] here:

Fantastic Voyage


Fantastic Voyage

Fantastic Voyage

Another one to file in the “SciFi Threatens to Become Reality” drawer.

Eric Diller and Metin Sitti of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA have built some experimental mini micro-robots, 1mm long, each with a couple of gripping arms. The mini-bots can be controlled  using a magnetic field and the long-term idea is that they could be injected into the human body and used to construct or repair patients from within. No word as yet as to whether Raquel Welch and Stephen Boyd are being coaxed out of retirement and death respectively, to participate.

Brackets? –Who Needs ‘em!

How do you spell "bracket"?

How do you spell “bracket”?

If my own  previous wrestling matches with ActionScript, C, Ruby, Objective-C, JavaScript, et al. over the aeons have taught me one thing it’s that, whilst I do love tinkering with a bit of coding, I’m never going to achieve anywhere near the same level of proficiency with  this Left-Side-of-the-Brain programming stuff, as I can with the Right-Side-of-the-Brain artistic stuff.

Actually, come to think of it, my Right-side wasn’t exactly at the front of the queue when it came to handing out virtuosity either!

Anyway, if you’ve always fancied doing a bit of coding, but can’t tell your functions from your variables, then you might want to check out the list of Visual Programming Languages [with screenshots, natch. We're being visual here] compiled by Eric Hosick on his Interface Vision blog.

Who ever knew there were so many!

Visualise this:

More ‘Out of This World’ Copyright Free Imagery

Spark-plugs in spaaace!Do you see what I did there?!

While, we’re of a retro bent today, here is another source of old copyright free imagery. NASA’s Ames Research Center [sic] has put online a gallery of Artists Impressions, created back in the 70′s to illustrate various concepts that were discussed at various studies into possible future space colonies.

As I’m sure Captain Kirk would be, I am mildly disappointed at the lack of representation of green-skinned alien women in silver bikinis.

Gallery here:


New Old Stock

They're happy, because they're retro!

They’re happy, because they’re retro!

As a general rule, I’d rather eat my own dung [without salt], than look at stock photos. There’s only so many pics of vacuuous models in telephone headsets –failing to look like they can even spell computer, never mind troubleshoot problems with one– that I can take, before the killing rage descends. However, New Old Stock is a copyright/royalty free stock photo site with a difference. The photos are ‘retro’, ie. ‘old’, ie. ‘good’. Because we all know that everything was better in the olden days.

Check it out here: