Google's Blocking the Translations!

Well, I guess this was bound to happen.

With so many sites making use of Google's translation engine, it seems that they've put a stop to it by blocking any site that tries to mask the Google-ness of the function.  I can certainly change the site so that it points to Google and gives everyone a lovely little IP address with my site page requests, but that's not very elegant.  I know this because I've just spent the last two hours trying various ways to get around this little hiccup with no real success.

No, I think that it's time I invested a little bit of effort and made an alternate site translation plugin for WordPress.  I've already got most of it planned out in my head, and only two areas to research, so hopefully the execution won't take too long.

Once such a plugin is created, I'll post it for everyone to use.  Hopefully it won't take me too long to make such a thing.

Enough Water to Refill the Great Lakes ...

Ross Shelf Ice Sheet

This is a massive ice berg ....

In March of 2000 it was the size of Connecticut when it cracked off the leading edge of Antarctica's Ross Ice Shelf.  Since then it's melted a bit and broken into several pieces as it slowly makes its way away from the continent of ice and penguins.

When you think about how much fresh water is contained in this ice berg, it just makes you wonder how we could better capture this and send it to some African country that hasn't seen rain in the last few years.

Our planet is warming up, there's no denying that.  Whether it's actually because of humanity or not is not truly understood (since we don't have an unpopulated earth to compare this world to), but one thing that is known is the effect of large volumes of fresh water melting in the world's oceans.

As more fresh water melts from the Arctic and Antarctic, the salinity of our oceans decreases.  This is especially noticable in the Atlantic, where the massive currents could come to a complete halt as heavy fresh water interferes with the salt water that's trying to sink as it reaches the northern latitudes such as Iceland and Greenland.

Oddly enough, Global Warming could trigger a Global Cooling in the northern latitudes if the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt were to dramatically shift or halt.  This could trigger a potential temperature drop of 5 to 10 °C (9 to 18 °F) in Europe and some parts of North America.  This would be roughly equivalent to what these continents faced at the end of the last major ice age 20,000 years ago.

This would be devastating to agriculture and could create millions of environmental refugees.

But, of course, this is all speculation built on computer simulations written by very intelligent people with a serious understanding of how the planet works ... right?

There's very little we humans can do to cool the polar caps more in order to build up their glaciers and increase the Earth's albeido, but one thing we can do is find an effective use for the massive blocks of fresh water that are melting in our salt water oceans.  I wonder what it would take to cut some of these huge ice bergs up and transport them to drought-ridden areas of the world.  While it might not be a great idea to just drop the block onto a piece of parched land and let the surrounding villiages come gather as much water and ice as they can carry, I'm sure we can do something to irrigate the lands with this pristine water supply.

And What Platform Do They Run?

Today made for an interesting read in the papers, as many articles related to the Chinese stock market decline were posted and commented on by people around the country.  At one point, an article on The Globe and Mail said:

In addition to the exchange's woes, data providers that carry buy and sell orders to the NYSE failed to keep up with selling programs in place at brokerage houses and institutional investors such as hedge funds. Dow Jones & Co. Inc., which runs the benchmark American index, saw its computers stretched past their limits, with the speed of the decline outpacing the index's ability to track falling stocks.

From a developer's standpoint, this is pretty cool.

The stock exchanges in operation around the world have some of the most sophisticated computer systems on the planet.  Not only are the servers incredibly powerful, but the databases and data pipes in use are so engrossing that I can have wet dreams just thinking about them.

Elaborate data structures.  PIT (Point-in-Time) Databases.  Fat fibre channels transporting gigabytes worth of financial data every second.  I couldn't imagine having the luxury of building one of these systems from the ground up.  It wouldn't matter where my office was ... be it a tiny cubicle shared with someone who never bathed, or an elaborate corner office on the 40th floor of an elaborate sky scraper.  Constructing a system capable of handling the demands of a stock market (espescially the NYSE) would be a worthy challenge.

I remember reading several articles a while ago about this electronic system that was put into place, and it was made to handle more work per second than my employer handles each quarter.  The people that developed the systems in place were incredibly talented and it shows in the background.

So to hear that it slowed down to the point that some organizations had to throw more servers into the fray ... that's just amazing.

In the coming years I'm sure that these systems will be scaled up a bit to handle such market corrections.  Though the question would always remain; just how big of a market change could happen before the systems couldn't keep up again?  Fortunately, this is not a question I will ever need to answer.  It would be an exciting project to work on, though.

New Horizon at Jupiter!

This is pretty exciting.  New Horizon has reached it's closest approach to Jupiter, and now it will accellerate away en route to Pluto and the Kuiper Belt beyond.

One of the many interesting things that this craft photographed was an eruption on the moon Io.  This tiny world is under constant tidal stresses from Jupiter and, because of this, is quite active.  I would love to see the effects of such a massive body like Jupiter causes to the surrounding moons.  The tectonic movements alone would be enough to keep me occupied for days while mentally envisioning the entire process.

At one time I thought that I had been born too early.  We've barely left our own protective atmosphere and know next to nothing about the universe around us.  However, as I see the information from NASA and other great observatories around the world, and as I learn of the theories and posits of various scientific masters, it's clear that this is one of the most exciting times to be in.

We learn more day by day.  And the simplest things can both amuse and excite us.  The things we're learn today will be boring and common knowledge to children in the next few centuries.

Our future generations may find it harder to be impressed by the things we have yet to learn about the universe.

The Elite Environmentally-Friendly Sports Car

I recently enjoyed an episode of the Discovery Channel's Future Car where they discussed Tesla Motors' Electric Roadster.

What a sexy car.  Starting at about $91K USD, these machines look better than a Ferarri and move just as fast.  The best part is the lack of emissions, as these are 100% electric.

Electric cars have been around for quite some time (the first being manufactured by Thomas Davenport in 1830's ... that's right ... almost 200 years ago).  One of the biggest problems with these vehicles was the limited range they offered.  The Tesla Roadster has a range of about 400 km, and can recharge in about 4 hours give or take.  This would be more than adequate for most people's commute to and from work.

Unfortunately, these are way out of my price range.  But while researching which vehicle might provide the best cost of ownership, I just had to include this one and run it through some numbers.  Based on the amount that Reiko and I would likely use a vehicle, and assuming that gas prices remain constant at $1.07 CDN for the next twenty years (not likely), this car would pay for itself through fuel savings in 19 years 9 months.

That almost worth it ... by the time the vehicle pays for itself, it will be a classic :P

Unfortunately, I don't think this will be the car for Reiko and I.  But it's fun to imagine having a sexy little sports car in the driveway that can beat a Porsche off the line.

Time to Buy a Car

For almost five years, I've relied on my feet and public transit to get me from place to place.  This was for several reasons, including a vehicle's return on investment and my environmental responsibilities.  I could never justify owning a vehicle in Vancouver as everything I need is either within walking distance (within 12 km) or easily accessible via public transit.

However, it's time to change this.

In just over a year, Reiko and I will be married and living in Canada.  With two people using a vehicle, the cost of ownership is now a little more in line with what I prefer to see.  Also, in the event that we have children in the first few years of marriage, it would be nice to have a vehicle to get from place to place.  I would never want my Reiko to go through the hassles of bringing a stroller and a child onto a transit vehicle ... it's just way too much trouble.

Over the last few weeks, I've noticed far more ... how should I put this ... "stupid white guys" on transit.  I'm sure we all know the type.  These are the people that have more braun than brain.  They curse more in 30 seconds than Eminem does in an entire album.  They make women uncomfortable with their idiotic come-ons.  And they lower the average intelligence level of the entire bus or train by a solid 50 IQ points.

I can't stand these fools anymore.  Seriously.

In the last few days I've seen these fools get on the bus with the smelliest slices of pizza you could imagine.  They talk with their mouth full, spewing forth explicit language and partially digested globs of filth.

You'll never see anyone but a dumb white guy do this.  I try not to judge people based on their appearance, but seeing these idiots makes me uncomfortable to be caucasian.  I've seen drunken asians and delerious aboriginals carry themselves with more self-respect.

So to that end, I'll be in the market for a decent hybrid car in the next few months.  I'll have to talk it over with Reiko, of course, but having a car here and at the ready will be one less thing we would need to worry about after starting our lives together in Canada.  It would also give me one less thing to actively ignore.

I stopped fighting when I was 12 years old.  It was no longer worth the hassle of getting hauled into the principals office and being sent home after the phone call to my father.  But it's awfully tempting to stoop to the same level as these fools and forcibly evict them from a moving bus.

Planning the Great Adventure

HD 209458b Some good news has come out of NASA this week, where scientists are able to determine the molecules found in the atmospheres of some known exoplanets (worlds outside our own solar system).

This is great news for any young scientists planning on creating an incredibly fast satellite that might be sent off to another solar system in search of habitable worlds.  If we can determine the chemical compositions of atmospheres from light years away, then we can be sure to aim highly advanced space probes in the right direction.

I am consistently impressed by the incredible genius of the people at NASA and observatories around the globe.  Only a few years ago people would have laughed when someone theorized that planets might exist outside of our solar system.  Now we know of 182 that circle nearby stars.  If we can determine the likelyhood of habitable worlds, then we can begin to work on the machines that would let us study these worlds for both life, as well as their viability as a colony site.

That is, of course, assuming that the world in question doesn't already have a sentient species in place.

I believe that we will find sentient life out in the cosmos.  Hopefully they will be just as curious about us as we are of them.  And hopefully we will have learned from our past mistakes with indigenous peoples of this world, before making the same mistakes somewhere in the expanse of space.

Flying Cars only Two Years Away?

This is pretty cool.  I was watching "Future Cars" on Discovery tonight and they happened to have a piece on the SkyCar produced by Moller International.  According to the site, these are darn near ready for production.

This does raise the question, though ... is the general public ready for travel in three dimensions?  I've seen some crazy accidents that were completely avoidable had someone been paying attention.  Could you imagine the blind spots on a vehicle that could navigate not only on the X and Y axis, but the Z as well?

One of the nice things about this vehicle, though, is the sticker price.  These are likely not affordable by the people who buy Porsche and BMW SUV's while being too short to see over the dash.  Then again ... this would be Darwin's theory in practice, right?  Survival of the fittest will quickly weed out the people who do not have spacial awareness. :wink: 

But I am interested to know what kind of licencing will be necessary for this.  I'm sure that we would need to have a basic pilot's licence, but what would we do about air traffic?  Could these even be used in cities that have large airports?

I would love to have one of these, personally.  I'd love nothing more than to fly between Canada and Japan with Reiko (following the coast, considering the 750 mile range) every time we both had some vacation time.  Eventually when we're married, this vehicle would give us the option to either visit her family, or to visit the east coast of Canada where she could take in the sights of Nova Scotia and PEI.

Flying cars have been the stuff of science fiction since Henry Ford introduced the Model-T.  I look forward to what the future brings if the general public will have access to vehicles such as this.

The highway of the sky is about to open.

Canada's Million Dollar Coin

Now this is interesting.  I happened to hear a rumor about the Royal Canadian Mint commissioning a one million dollar coin a few weeks ago, and now it seems that the speculation was true.

According to the article, this almost pure gold coin will weigh in at 100 kilograms (about 220 lbs) and be the size of a large pizza, which I assume means a diameter of approximately 45 cm (18 inches).  This is almost laughable, as there has never been a coin minted on the planet of this size.

Of course this is only for the people that already have it all, and I think it's a great way for the mint to continue turning a profit every year.  There aren't too many crown corporations that can claim this, so it's nice to hear.

I am curious to know how many of these might be made.  If I ever win more than fifty million dollars in the lottery, I might just have one of these made.

Documenting the Coming Century

PBS is currently airing a program called 22nd Century to showcase some possible future technologies, and I really hope that these shows are used in educational settings to foster discussion on technology's role in our social evolution.  The first of three possible pilots was aired in January, and is available for viewing on PBS' site.  Depending on viewer responses, the show with the most positive feedback will be turned into a series.

The first pilot was quite enjoyable.  Some of the most intelligent proponents and opponents were showcased in this episode and they explained their case.  Rodolfo Llinas had the opportunity to discuss some of his incredible work with nanowire bundles being wired directly into brains, Steve Mann had the opportunity to show his wearable computer glasses (the Eyetap), and Bill McKibben  had a chance to discuss some of the concerns that arise when we're too connected.

I must apologize for all the links, but when discussing subjects such as this I can go on and on ...

When I was still a student, the thought of connecting myself directly to a computer was appealing.  Having the ability to quickly access information stored on computers anywhere in the world and make use of that information without the distractions of going to a computer or opening a book would have been a dream come true.  Learning a language in minutes and having the ability to have incredibly complex calculations solved in the space of seconds by sending the question to a computer only to receive the answer moments later would be euphoric.  Just imagine how easy it would be to communicate with any person anywhere on the planet!  Just imagine how simple it would be to instantly tally up the cost of your groceries before getting to the checkout!  The potential uses for this ability is endless.

Exciting, indeed.  But what must we forfeit in return for these benefits?

Over the last few years I've come to learn that humans would not be a very happy lot if everything was perfect.  We thrive in imperfect conditions.  What challenges would we have if everything was automatic?  Would we get bored of life?  How would we regard people who weren't "plugged in"?  Would we consider them sub-human?  Would we even be human ourselves?

I can't claim to have the answers to these questions, and since many of my ideas on the subject are very close to Mr. McKibben's, I'd recommend that people buy his book, Enough.  The arguments are structured a million times better in that book than I could ever hope to write on this site.

I look forward to the future episodes of this new documentary.  Hopefully it will inspire some of our youth to examine the potential benefits and consequences of our increasing dependance on technology.

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