April 2021 Archives

Friday, April 30, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Completes Fourth Flight

Posted at 21:33 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Chinese Space Station Begins Orbital Construction

Posted at 14:50 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starship SN15 Medium Altitude Test

FAA approval for the flight has been given and the road closure is scheduled for 13:00 UTC. The weather is not promising, but that didn't stop them launching SN11 in dense fog.

Posted at 14:15 Permalink


Posted at 14:12 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Ultrawhite Paint Transparent to Infrared

Here is the paper: “Ultrawhite BaSO4 Paints and Films for Remarkable Daytime Subambient Radiative Cooling”.

Posted at 13:25 Permalink

CONTEXT: How Do Analogue Hygrometers Work?

Posted at 13:04 Permalink

Thursday, April 29, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Stratolaunch Roc Test Flight

Posted at 14:24 Permalink


Sodium ions absorb light from a sodium vapour lamp, resulting in a black plasma flame. The trick only works with monochromatic sodium light.

Posted at 14:20 Permalink

CONTEXT: Apollo to Venus! The 1967 Bellcomm Manned Flyby Study

In 1967, NASA contractor Bellcomm, Inc., delivered a detailed study and mission plan for a manned flyby mission of Venus to be launched in November of 1973 using modified Apollo hardware and a single Saturn V booster. Here is the 177 page paper, “Manned Venus Flyby”, which I have read and found thoroughly fascinating. A fictional portrayal of this mission was the subject of Gerald Brennan's 2017 novel Island of Clouds.

Posted at 12:45 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Another Sixty Starlink Satellites Delivered to Orbit

Posted at 12:18 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: China Launches First Module of Space Station

Posted at 12:09 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Fourth Flight

Posted at 11:51 Permalink

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: China to Launch First Module of Space Station

The launch is scheduled for 03:20 UTC on 2021-04-29.

Posted at 18:43 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: “Slash Resistant” Portable “Safe”

Posted at 13:31 Permalink


Posted at 11:28 Permalink

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

CONTEXT: Forbidden Colours: Can You See Bluish Yellow?

Here is more about forbidden (or impossible) colours, including crossed-eye fusion pairs which may allow you to perceive bluish yellow and reddish green. Some people appear able to see them, others can't—it worked for me.

What's “crossed-eye fusion”? Here's a guide for how to do it, from the Solar System Live help documents.

Posted at 14:28 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Vacuum Tube Computer, Part 11: Building a 4-bit Decoder for the Instruction Register

Continuing with the vacuum tube re-implementation of the Motorola MC14500 microcontroller, next on the agenda is the decoder which de-multiplexes the four bit instruction code into 16 lines which control the circuitry that executes the instruction. You can think of this as a vacuum tube 74LS154 [PDF].

Posted at 11:52 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starship SN15 Static Fire and Reaction Control System Tests

If these tests are deemed successful, a test flight may occur later this week.

Posted at 11:21 Permalink

Monday, April 26, 2021

CONTEXT: Delta IV / NROL-82 Launch Replay

Posted at 22:02 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Deep Fake Satellite Images

Posted at 14:22 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Internet Archive—Preserving 78 RPM Recordings for Posterity

Posted at 13:03 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Delta IV Heavy / NROL-82 Launch

Posted at 12:26 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Locating Interstellar Communication Nodes Using Gravitational Lensing

Posted at 11:51 Permalink

CONTEXT: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity—Third Flight Video

Posted at 10:49 Permalink

Sunday, April 25, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Completes Third Flight

There is, as yet, no video from this flight.

Update: here are still images from the third flight, taken both from the helicopter's on-board camera and the rover. The video at the end is from the second, up and down, flight. (2021-04-25 19:19 UTC)

Posted at 19:07 Permalink

CONTINUITY: What Happened to 100,000 Hour LED Bulbs?

For more information see the earlier SCANALYZER posts:

Posted at 12:56 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy: The Phoebus Cartel and the Dawn of Planned Obsolescence

Posted at 11:08 Permalink

Saturday, April 24, 2021

CONTEXT: Hubble's (Perfect) Backup Mirror

Posted at 15:54 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Lockheed U-2: 65 Years Old and Still Spying

Posted at 14:09 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Glasgow, Scotland—Subway Expansion, 1896–2021

Posted at 11:15 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Deep Dive—SpaceX Starship: Why Do a Belly Flop, and Why So Close to the Ground?

Posted at 10:53 Permalink

Friday, April 23, 2021

CONTEXT: The Blasting of Blossom Rock

One wonders when the California nutballs who want to tear down dams to “heal nature” will demand this navigation hazard in San Francisco Bay be restored to its pristine, ship-eviscerating glory.

Posted at 14:03 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Installing Linux from 1993 (Slackware 1.01, Kernel 0.99pl12)

Posted at 12:15 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: How Did the ‘Impossible’ Perfect Bridge Deal Happen?

Posted at 11:45 Permalink

Thursday, April 22, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Completes Second Flight

Posted at 15:22 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Empire of Grifters: “Quadro Tracker”

The amazing “Quadro Tracker”—invented by a former used car salesman named Wade L. Quattlebaum—is like Doc Smith’s “object compass”, except with dead ants, it claimed to be able to detect lost golf balls, drugs, weapons, explosives, missing persons, and game animals. Around 1000 units were sold at prices ranging from US$400 to US$8000 each to gullible school districts, law enforcement agencies, and airports, including the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Quadro Corporation, who marketed it between 1993 and 1996 before being shut down by the FBI and its principals indicted for mail fraud, said it worked via “static electricity produced by the body inhaling and exhaling gases into and out of the lung cavity” to “charge the free-floating neutral electrons of the signature card with the major strength of the signal”.

At trial in January 1997, the three principals of the company were acquitted of mail fraud and conspiracy.

Posted at 12:31 Permalink

CONTEXT: Damage to Lunar Orbiting Spacecraft by Ejecta from Lunar Landings

Posted at 11:24 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Stable Planetary Orbits within the Event Horizon of a (Kerr-Newman) Black Hole?

Here is an interesting 2011 paper I'd not previously encountered: “Is there life inside black holes?” by Vyacheslav I. Dokuchaev of the Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Bound inside rotating or charged black holes, there are stable periodic planetary orbits, which neither come out nor terminate at the central singularity. Stable periodic orbits inside black holes exist even for photons. These bound orbits may be defined as orbits of the third kind, following the Chandrasekhar classification of particle orbits in the black hole gravitational field. The existence domain for the third kind orbits is rather spacious, and thus there is place for life inside supermassive black holes in the galactic nuclei. Interiors of the supermassive black holes may be inhabited by civilizations, being invisible from the outside. In principle, one can get information from the interiors of black holes by observing their white hole counterparts.

The author further calculates that within a supermassive black hole, such as exist in the centres of many galaxies, the tidal forces on a planet following such an orbit would not disrupt it or its inhabitants. “We hypothesize that civilizations of the third type (according to Kardashev scale) may live safely inside the supermassive BHs in the galactic nuclei being invisible from the outside.”

Perhaps we don't observe galactic-scale civilisations because once they approach that level of technology they decamp to new homes within supermassive black holes, where their access to energy is unlimited (by exploiting the Penrose process around the central singularity), they can observe the entire future of the external universe and the folly of civilisations still stuck there in an instant, and their activities are protected by the ultimate stealth of an event horizon.

Posted at 10:14 Permalink

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

CONTEXT: Cracking Enigma in 2021

Here is the source code used in the demonstration, including a complete implementation of Enigma in Java.

Posted at 14:00 Permalink

CONTINUITY: HP 9825 Repair Part 5: What Isn't Broken?

Or, “CPU board, we have a problem.”

Posted at 11:30 Permalink

CONTINUITY: 1908—Hero Dog Goes into Business for Himself

Posted at 10:55 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Classical Music Medley Played by a Model Train

Here is more about Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg, Germany.

Posted at 10:27 Permalink

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

CONTEXT: Harvesting Energy from Wind Created by Motorway Traffic

Posted at 14:47 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Lined Up to Land on a Taxiway: Air Canada Flight 759

“Where's this guy goin'? He's on the taxiway.”

Here is more about the incident. “Air Canada has stopped using flight number 759.”

Is “whoa” the most-misspelled four-letter word in the English language?

Posted at 13:02 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Flying Spam: Now Do it on Mars

So, of course you're wondering, “What does it say?” Well, after taking out the skew, perspective projection, thresholding, inverting, scaling up, shifting and multiplying to expand dots to (kind of) squares, you get:

This, in turn, decodes to the URL: https://game.bilibili.com/pcr/1anniversarytocode-h5/

I have no idea what following this link may do to your Social Credit score.

Posted at 10:35 Permalink

Monday, April 19, 2021

CONTINUITY: NASA Ingenuity Mars Helicopter Update

Posted at 20:57 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Bitcoin Miners Increasingly Supported by Transaction Fees

As Bitcoin has matured, the compensation (“reward”) paid to miners for solving a hash and publishing a new block of transactions on the blockchain has steadily fallen following the rule in the original design. The reward Rn for publishing block number n is:

Rn = BTC 50 / 2⌊(n + 1) / 210000)⌋

Thus, the first blocks to be mined received a reward of BTC 50 each, while at the present time (around block number 679750), compensation has fallen to BTC 6.25 per block.

For Bitcoin to be sustainable, the community of miners must continue to find the undertaking profitable. If it becomes a losing proposition, they'll abandon the task and Bitcoin transactions will not be verified and confirmed on a timely basis by a large and diverse enough community of miners to ensure the integrity of transactions.

The idea was that, over time, as the volume of Bitcoin transactions grows, transaction fees paid by users of the currency, while remaining affordable to them, would grow so that miners would continue to find it profitable to clear transactions even as their revenue from coining new Bitcoin continues to fall (eventually to zero, after all Bitcoin has been mined, around the year 2140).

Today I performed an analysis to see what progress is being made toward that goal, and the results are encouraging. I analysed blocks mined in the 24 hour period between 2021-04-18 12:08 UTC (block 679691) and 2021-04-19 12:00 UTC (block 679783), a total of 93 blocks, with a mean time of 15.5 minutes per block (compared to the goal of 10 minutes per block, but note that this period began on a Sunday). The current reward paid to miners for a block was BTC 6.25 for all blocks. When a miner publishes a block, in addition to this standard reward, they collect the transaction fees associated with all transactions they include in the block—the transaction fee is set by users who submit transactions, and miners generally choose the transactions which, based upon their length in bytes and the fee offered, will generate the most revenue for them. Transaction fees for blocks during this period varied from a minimum of zero (two blocks, 679774 and 679779, contained no transactions and thus earned their miners no additional income) to a maximum of BTC 2.864 (block 679703), with a mean value of BTC 1.828.

Thus, for this 24 hour period, transaction fees accounted for 22.6% of the total reward of BTC 751.27 earned by miners, with BTC 581.25 due to the standard reward for mining a block. While transaction fees still account for less than a quarter of miners' revenue, if Bitcoin continues to become a mainstream mechanism for transferring funds and transaction volume grows apace, it seems plausible that transaction fees will eventually provide the majority of income to miners, which will motivate them to continue their essential services as difficulty increases and block rewards decline.

Posted at 19:41 Permalink

CONTINUITY: HP 9825 Repair Part 4: The Processor Reads and Executes ROM Code

Further probing with the logic analyser, correcting its interpretation of bus signals, board swapping with a working machine, and another mysterious release of magic smoke gets closer to the source of the problem(s).

Posted at 13:01 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Ingenuity Helicopter Flies on Mars

Update: (2021-04-1912:05 UTC)

Posted at 11:48 Permalink

Sunday, April 18, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: First Flight of the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter: Live from Mission Control

NASA's Webcast is scheduled to start on 2021-04-19 at 10:15 UTC.

Posted at 20:31 Permalink

CONTINUITY: The High Frontier Documentary Now Available to Stream

The High Frontier, a documentary about the life and work of Gerard K. O'Neill and his vision of the human future in space, is now available on popular streaming services such as iTunes and Google Play. Here is my review of Prof. O'Neill's 1976 book, The High Frontier.

Posted at 20:06 Permalink

CONTINUITY: The 1831 City Bank of New York Robbery

At the time, the vault of the bank was protected only by two warded locks: one on the front door of the bank and one on the vault. There was no night watchman. The locks were defeated by copied keys. The amount stolen was around US$52 million in today's funny money. Here is more about the heist.

Posted at 13:29 Permalink


Next comes the realist phase (“After all, from a purely geometrical point of view a cat is only a tube with a door at the top.”).

— Terry Pratchett, The Unalduterated Cat

Posted at 11:27 Permalink

CONTEXT: NASA to Spend US$2,941,394,557 on SpaceX’s Lunar Starship

If I were inclined toward a cynical, Stygian, and conspiratorial outlook instead of my customary sunny and optimistic disposition, I might interpret this news as follows.

Look, NASA doesn't really want to land on the Moon. If they did, they'd have been working on, you know, landing on the Moon, instead of spending billions on a Lunar Tollbooth which will complicate any missions to the surface but spread that delectable taxpayer (and borrowed, and freshly-printed) money around to the congressional districts and states of the politicians who fund the agency. As Robert Zubrin has observed, “NASA used to spend money to fly missions. Now they fly missions to spend money.” If those pesky politicians should demand they actually land on the Moon, which might get the juices up among the hoi polloi and motivate demands for NASA to actually expand the human presence beyond Earth as opposed to flushing money down the toilet on the Space Launch System (SLS) and other grotesque extravagances, then why not choose the cheapest alternative, one with (under the NASA view of things) the highest technological risk and then, when it inevitably fails, say “We told you so. Now, can we return to our incremental plan for flags and footprints sometime around 2030, or 2040, or, well…when we're ready? And how about a budget bump in the next fiscal year?”

Further, in choosing the SpaceX Starship, they not only get the NASA camel's nose under the SpaceX frenetic incremental refinement development tent, they, by spending less than what they're wasting every year on SLS, its ground support equipment, and Orion (the “deep space exploration vehicle” without a toilet), get the whole NASA camel into the heart of Starship development, sending “hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance”, bury it in paperwork, cripple it by hordes of inspectors, sub-sub administrators for diversity, and all of the other reasons no human has ventured beyond low Earth orbit since 1972.

But this may all backfire on NASA, and that would be just wonderful. If there's one thing we've learned over the years, it's not to bet against SpaceX. (Eric Berger's wonderful book, Liftoff, which chronicles the start-up and hard-scrabble years developing and debugging the Falcon 1, is an excellent look into the driven SpaceX culture.) What if SpaceX takes the three billion, nods to the NASA minions, continues their frenetic development pace, and succeeds? A functioning Super Heavy, reusable tankers, and lunar Starship, all of which are required to deliver on the NASA contract, will render SLS, Orion, Gateway/GLOP/whatever they're calling it, impotent and obsolete, and be able to deliver tens of tonnes of cargo and dozens of paying passengers to the Moon on a monthly schedule, while NASA is still pursuing its plans to send four civil service space cadets on brief excursions “every year or two” at a billion or so a pop.

Well, at least when they get there, they'll be able to stay at Bigelow’s lunar hotel, which will have toilets, even in the economy rooms affordable on NASA per diem.

Posted at 10:40 Permalink

Saturday, April 17, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Flip Clocks: the Non-Digital “Digital” Clock

The way they get the hour to flip exactly when the seconds go from 59 to 00 while allowing sloppy manufacturing and assembly tolerances is very clever.

Posted at 15:42 Permalink

CONTEXT: Emulating Nixie Tubes (or Anything Else) with Programmable LCD Displays

Bet you've never see a nixie tube reboot before!

Posted at 12:38 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Chain Making Machine

Posted at 10:56 Permalink

Friday, April 16, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX: NASA Selects Starship for Human Lunar Landing System

Update: here is the NASA Source Selection Statement [PDF]. (2021-04-16 22:15 UTC)

Update: this is the NASA video announcement of the SpaceX selection for the Artemis Human Landing System. (2021-04-16 23:55 UTC)

Posted at 21:31 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: What Shall We Call the Hill?

Posted at 16:41 Permalink

CONTINUITY: HP 9825 Repair Part 3: Logic Analyser and a 43 Year Old Patent to the Rescue

After going about as far as possible with an oscilloscope (although back in the day we went way deeper into the woods with just a ’scope), it's time to hook up a logic analyser and see what the CPU and memory are doing. Aiding in the process is U.S. Patent 4,075,679 [PDF], granted in February, 1978 and assigned to Hewlett-Packard, whose 606 pages contain, inter alia, a complete commented source code listing of the ROM and extensive logic, circuit, and timing diagrams. How deep was the damage to this vintage machine when its power supply went all berserker?

Posted at 13:42 Permalink

CONTEXT: New Insights in the Search for Planet Nine

Here is the musical composition mentioned in the interview, Planet 9, op. 3, by Eduardo Marturet, in its premiere performance by the Miami Symphony Orchestra on 2021-03-14.

Posted at 12:01 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Lots of Launches Coming Up

There hasn't been an Ariane 5 launch since August, 2020—eight months ago.

Posted at 11:00 Permalink

CONTINUITY: The Story of NASA's Space Tracking Ships

In the early days of missile testing and spaceflight, tracking ships allowed covering gaps where satellites in low Earth orbit were out of range of ground-based tracking and control stations. As satellite communication constellations such as NASA's TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) matured, the need for such ships diminished and now most have been retired.

Many of NASA's early tracking ships were converted from World War II Liberty ships, many built at the Marinship yards in Sausalito, California. Years later, I named my computer hardware company, Marinchip Systems, after this enterprise and, a few years after that, Autodesk, Inc. had its headquarters at 2320 Marinship Way in Sausalito, on the site of the former shipyard.

Posted at 09:58 Permalink

Thursday, April 15, 2021

CONTINUITY: Rocket Lab’s CEO Peter Beck on Neutron, Electron Recovery, and Rocket Lab’s Future

Posted at 14:52 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Wolfram Physics Project: One Year Update

The linked article, “The Wolfram Physics Project: A One-Year Update”, is a long read (13,179 words), but well worth the investment of time. What Stephen Wolfram and his collaborators are attempting is breathtaking in its ambition and, if successful, profound in its implications for our understanding of the fundamentals of physics and perhaps much more.

I've long suspected that our “fundamental theories” such as quantum mechanics and general relativity were effective theories describing emergent phenomena from a much simpler, very different, and in all likelihood discrete underlying substrate, just as the Navier-Stokes equations of fluid mechanics describe behaviour which is entirely the consequence of electromagnetic interactions between molecules at a lower level, which could never be discovered by elaborating models of the emergent phenomenon. The Wolfram Physics Project is exploring very simple models which, they have discovered, manifest emergent phenomena which seem to exhibit properties like relativity and quantum mechanics, providing encouragement they're on the right track.

A vast collection of on-line resources is available at the Wolfram Physics Project Web site, and the book, A Project to Find the Fundamental Theory of Physics, is now available in a Kindle edition which is free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

In the article, I found the brief discussion of the possible applicability of multiway systems to economics fascinating.

A bit like in the natural selection case, the potential idea is to think about in effect modeling every individual event or “transaction” in an economy. The causal graph then gives some kind of generalized supply chain. But what is the effect of all those transactions? The important point is that there’s almost inevitably lots of computational irreducibility. Or, in other words, much like in the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the transactions rapidly start to not be “unwindable” by a computationally bounded agent, but have robust overall “equilibrium” properties, that in the economic case might represent “meaningful value”—so that the robustness of the notion of monetary value might correspond to the robustness with which thermodynamic systems can be characterized as having certain amounts of heat.

This is similar to what I (reluctantly) called “Quantum Economics” in my 1988 paper, “The New Technological Corporation”.

We construct aggregates to approximate the behaviour of large numbers of discrete interactions. Sometimes they are useful, as in thermodynamics. Often they aren't, as with most macroeconometric measures. Wheeler suspects that all our laws of physics describe approximate behaviour of aggregates of observations; that the fundamental quantum event is all that really exists. Most of physics does not attempt to understand why these quantum events occur but simply describes the aggregate behaviour of large numbers of events. As we begin to understand the low-level mechanisms, we will get to the true physics beneath the aggregates. Similarly, in economics we try to predict behaviour of aggregates of individual transactions. Only the transactions are real; all the rest is the work of man. One may not be able to understand what drives the transactions by theorising based upon aggregates.

Parallels exist between markets and quantum mechanics. The electron has no position or momentum until you measure it. When you measure its position, you disturb it, forgoing accuracy in measuring the momentum. A share of General Motors has no price until a buyer and seller exchange it, a discrete event. This transaction/measurement affects the price of subsequent transactions. Prices are undefined until a transaction occurs, whether the purchase of a loaf of bread or the takeover of RCA by GE. Prices in a large liquid market can be predicted quite well since the effect of a single transaction is minuscule; prices in blockbuster transactions can barely be predicted at all. Similarly, you can predict interference fringes to many decimal places but which detector an individual electron will trigger in a dual slit interference experiment is unknowable in principle.

Just as Wolfram argues may be the case for physics, generations of economists have been struggling with effective theories based upon aggregates rather than getting down to the individual transactions, which is the bottom-level reality (what Wolfram calls the “machine code”) that their aggregates and abstractions will never discover.

Posted at 13:12 Permalink

CONTEXT: Brute-Forcing a 256 Bit Encryption Key

But remember:

xkcd: Security

Posted at 10:53 Permalink

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

CONTINUITY: Blockchain as Global, Un-censorable, and Indestructible Library

The book(-let: it's just 104 pages) is Blockchain (Library Futures Series, Book 3).

In 1998, I proposed the “Data Immortality Foundation” to provide for perpetual storage and access to documents and data despite the vicissitudes of time, technology, and coercive governments. Perhaps blockchain technology (not Bitcoin, which would be hideously inefficient for the purpose and prohibitively expensive, but a purpose-built system based upon its fundamental technologies) could provide for a distributed, peer-to-peer, permanent, unalterable, and impossible-to-censor repository for documents and data of all kinds (images, video, sound recordings, raw data from scientific experiments, etc.). Once you have immutable addresses and documents, you can then build a layer on top of it with versioning, citation, and compensation for authors and publishers, and finally realise the dream of Project Xanadu without any central organisation or choke-point where censorship could be applied.

Such a system would, incidentally, make abusive copyrights impotent and obsolete.

Posted at 13:28 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Blue Origin NS-15 New Shepard Suborbital Launch

Launch is scheduled for 15:15 UTC on 2021-04-14, and will be a rehearsal of a launch with customers on board. The Webcast will probably start around 15:00 UTC. These launches are often delayed from the start of the launch window, but rarely scrubbed.

Posted at 12:36 Permalink

CONTINUITY: American Reporters in the Battle of Berlin

Posted at 11:07 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: N1-methylpseudouridine (m1Ψ) in COVID-19 Messenger RNA Vaccines

The paper is “Modifications in an Emergency: The Role of N1-Methylpseudouridine in COVID-19 Vaccines”, also available as PDF.

Here is background on pseudouridine and its appearance in various forms of RNA. It has been found in all three domains of life.

Posted at 09:52 Permalink

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: How Many Ways Can Circles Overlap?

Posted at 19:06 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Jet Powered Trains—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Posted at 11:28 Permalink

CONTEXT: Mining Bitcoin on a Commodore 64

Hey, why not? In 1987, I got a neural network to run on one!

Posted at 10:36 Permalink

CONTINUITY: (Badly) Colouring the Past: Colourisation AIs vs. Reality

Here is the complete thread, with additional examples.

Posted at 09:40 Permalink

Monday, April 12, 2021

CONTEXT: Robin Hanson—Explaining Stylized UFO Facts: Panspermia Siblings, World Government, Moral Ideology, and Complexity Rot

Might millions of years of woke ideology, ever-increasing sclerotic regulation, and pervasive incompetence due to lack of competition explain the seemingly irrational behaviour of aliens responsible for the UFO phenomenon? Also see the earlier post, “UFO Stylized Social Facts”.

I continue to think they're dumber still: “Flying Saucers Explained”.

Posted at 14:30 Permalink

CONTEXT: Toilet Technology: U.S. vs. Europe

“That's OK…there may be blood.”

Posted at 12:56 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: SpaceX’s “Wet” Fleet Gives Up on Catching Falling Fairings

Posted at 12:17 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Asteroid 2021 GW4 Zips Through the Geosynchronous Orbit Belt

Here are the orbital elements of the asteroid and a plot of its orbit courtesy of the JPL Small-Body Database.

Posted at 11:50 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Sixty Years Ago Today—Yuri Gararin is First to Orbit the Earth

The film First Orbit, released in 2011 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the flight of Vostok 1, re-creates the mission with images from the International Space Station following Gagarin's flight path, with original mission audio and subtitles.

Here is a short film about the making of First Orbit.

Posted at 11:21 Permalink

Sunday, April 11, 2021

CONTINUITY: HP 9825 Repair Part 2: Is Our Rare 16-Bit Processor Fried?

In Part 1, the catastrophic failure of the power supply was analysed and repaired, but that didn't fix the computer, indicating damage elsewhere as a result. Now the investigation digs deeper into the circuitry, checking the clock generation and memory access signals from the processor. There's excellent background about Hewlett-Packard's pioneering 16-bit processor built from multiple chips on a hybrid substrate.

Posted at 13:59 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Pigeon Hole Principle: 7 Gorgeous Proofs

Are there two people on the continent of Australia with exactly the same number of hairs?

Posted at 10:49 Permalink

Saturday, April 10, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Great Olive Poisoning of 1919

Posted at 14:56 Permalink

CONTINUITY: The Unbeatable Game from the 1960s: Dr NIM

A plastic and marbles mechanical computer that plays Nim.

Posted at 14:12 Permalink

CONTEXT: Helmholtz Resonance: Moving Things with Sound

You can see an example of vortex separation and the formation of a Kármán vortex street in the WIND computational fluid dynamics model included in Fourmilab's Cellular Automata Laboratory.

Posted at 13:46 Permalink

Friday, April 9, 2021

CONTINUITY: Cold Spot, Planet Nine, and the Axis of Evil: Uncovering the Secrets of the Cosmic Microwave Background

Posted at 14:57 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Close Encounter above Siberia

Posted at 14:33 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Comrades—Save the Mycelium!

Posted at 12:53 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Neuralink: Monkey Mind-Pong

Here is more about Neuralink's brain-machine interface, including Gertrude, the pig with the wired snout.

Posted at 12:18 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: M Equals Two: Soyuz Docks with the ISS

On September 12th, 1966, Gemini 11 rendezvoused and docked with its Agena target vehicle just 94 minutes after liftoff, demonstrating the direct ascent first orbit rendezvous which would used in lunar orbit by Apollo. Commander Pete Conrad exclaimed “M=1!” after accomplishing the first revolution docking, Fifty-five years later, Soyuz has gotten it down to two revolutions, docking with the International Space Station two orbits after launch.

Posted at 11:57 Permalink

Thursday, April 8, 2021

CONTEXT: More on Muons: Brian Keating and Dan Hooper of Fermilab Discuss the g−2 Experiment

Here are how two different kinds of theoretical calculations fit with the experimental results.

Posted at 14:43 Permalink


Here is more about dimethylmercury. Absorption of as little as 0.1 millilitre can be fatal, and the liquid can permeate normal laboratory and surgical gloves within 15 seconds.

Posted at 14:12 Permalink

CONTINUITY: “Census Sixty”—The Univac 1105 at the U.S. Census Bureau

This cheesy propaganda film about the 1960 U.S. census has some nice footage (around nine minutes in) of the UNIVAC 1105 vacuum tube computer used in that census and the FOSDIC microfilm scanner which replaced punching Hollerith cards from the data collected by census takers. The Census Bureau, which was a pioneer in punched card tabulation of data, was later one of the first to replace cards with optical document scanning.

Posted at 12:08 Permalink

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: It's Magnetic Moment of the Muon Day!

Fermilab reports precision measurements which strengthen the case for physics beyond the standard model (anomalous magnetic moment of the muon).

And on the same day, a computational quantum chromodynamics group reports that previous theoretical calculations were incorrect and that a recalculation from first principles is consistent with the experimental results.

Posted at 20:41 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Farewell, Ms. Tree and Ms. Chief

Apparently SpaceX have given up on trying to catch payload fairings before splashdown and will routinely recover from the sea in the future. Having now re-flown a number of fairing halves after they splashed down, that seems a viable strategy for the future.

Posted at 20:18 Permalink

CONTINUITY: IBM System/360: Announced 57 Years Ago Today

Posted at 18:27 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Hewlett-Packard 9825T Repair Part 1: Power Supply

In January, 2021, Curious Marc's 1970s vintage Hewlett-Packard 9825 laboratory computer blew up when a single transistor in the power supply failed with a dead short from emitter to collector which placed 13 volts on the +5 power supply rail. This caused one integrated circuit on one of the boards to literally explode, with less apparent damage elsewhere the way to bet. The diagnosis and repair adventure begins with fixing the power supply.

Posted at 14:41 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Mysteries of the Gaps Between Prime Numbers

Posted at 14:14 Permalink

CONTEXT: User Interface

The Kenworth W900 series of trucks has been in continuous production since 1961.

Posted at 11:20 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: SpaceX Starlink Launch

Launch is scheduled for 16:34 UTC today, 2021-04-07.

Posted at 11:03 Permalink

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

CONTEXT: Age of Stupid—Academic Journals Are Omitting the Titles of Cited Papers

This makes citations almost worthless unless you want to look up every one to see what it's about. The “saving paper” argument is absurd in an age where the vast majority of publication is electronic and actual printed journals go for exorbitant prices. You almost wonder if academics don't want you to check the cited papers.

Posted at 19:54 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Spacecraft Spin Stabilisation—from Explorer 1 to New Horizons

Posted at 19:46 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Vacuum Tube Computer — Adding Skip to the Instruction Register

The skip logic simply forces an instruction of all ones into the instruction register when the SKIP signal is asserted. This is done with four OR gates with cathode follower buffered outputs to drive the instruction register flip flops. The OR gates are built from semiconductor diodes, which is fair enough since “diode OR” has been used in electronic computer logic circuitry from the very beginning: ENIAC used 7200 “crystal diodes” (or “crystal rectifiers”) as they were called at the time.

Posted at 13:38 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity Flight Plans

Posted at 13:20 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Photosynthesis from Infrared Emission by Deep-Sea Hydrothermal Vents

The paper is “An obligately photosynthetic bacterial anaerobefrom a deep-sea hydrothermal vent” [PDF]. Abstract:

The abundance of life on Earth is almost entirely due to biological photosynthesis, which depends on light energy. The source of light in natural habitats has heretofore been thought to be the sun, thus restricting photosynthesis to solar photic environments on the surface of the Earth. If photosynthesis could take place in geothermally illuminated environments, it would increase the diversity of photosynthetic habitats both on Earth and on other worlds that have been proposed to possibly harbor life. Green sulfur bacteria are anaerobes that require light for growth by the oxidation of sulfur compounds to reduce CO2 to organic carbon, and are capable of photosynthetic growth at extremely low light intensities. We describe the isolation and cultivation of a previously unknown green sulfur bacterial species from a deep-sea hydrothermal vent, where the only source of light is geothermal radiation that includes wavelengths absorbed by photosynthetic pigments of this organism.

Posted at 10:44 Permalink

Monday, April 5, 2021

CONTEXT: The Bitcoin Blockchain: A Secure, Worldwide, and Unjammable “Numbers Station”?

Here is more about numbers stations. Of course, you'll want to encrypt any message you embed in a blockchain transaction with, for example, my JavaScrypt.

It appears everybody hasn't yet gotten the message. Here is a numbers station broadcasting in Russian, recorded earlier today (2021-04-05) in Finland.

Posted at 20:03 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Rise and Fall of the CIA's A-12 Spy Plane

The A-12 design, of course, went on to spawn the much more successful SR-71, although neither was ever used for the mission for which they were designed: overflight reconnaissance of the Soviet Union and Red China.

Posted at 12:25 Permalink

CONTINUITY: SpaceX: Starship SN11 Explosion Due to “Relatively Small Methane Leak”

Posted at 12:11 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Darkest Clothing in the World

Invisible is the new black.

Posted at 11:36 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Winning at Cornhole with a US$32,000 Industrial Robot

What is cornhole? Complete source code is available on GitHub,

Posted at 10:57 Permalink

Sunday, April 4, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Future of Heat Pumps Is Underground

I had not heard of heat pump clothes dryers—that sounds like a tremendous idea, also reversible heat pump/air conditioners for electric vehicles.

Posted at 15:12 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Russian Floating Small Nuclear Reactors Now In Service

Rosatom is now offering floating nuclear power plants to other countries.

Posted at 12:06 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Finally! A Bluetooth-Connected Mug

Expensive, and you can't put it in the dishwasher!

Posted at 11:46 Permalink

CONTEXT: Estimating the Probability We Are Living in a Computer Simulation


It is shown that under reasonable assumptions a Drake-style equation can be obtained for the probability that our universe is the result of a deliberate simulation. Evaluating loose bounds for certain terms in the equation shows that the probability is unlikely to be as high as previously reported in the literature, especially in a scenario where the simulations are recursive. Furthermore, we investigate the possibility of eavesdropping from the outside of such a simulation and introduce a general attack that can circumvent attempts at using quantum cryptography inside the simulation, even if the quantum properties of the simulation are genuine.

The authors do note, however, that one potential solution to the Fermi paradox might be that we are in a simulation and the absence of aliens is due to the simulators using a variable level of complexity to reduce the computing power required. If the simulation is confined to Earth, there would be no reason to include intelligent aliens from other planets. Here is a PDF version of the paper.

Posted at 10:46 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Mars Helicopter Ingenuity on the Surface, Getting Ready to Fly

Posted at 10:07 Permalink

Saturday, April 3, 2021

CONTINUITY: Lessons Learned from the Suez Canal Accident

Posted at 21:46 Permalink

CONTEXT: Eric Weinstein: A Revealing Conversation about Geometric Unity

Posted at 19:43 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Prompting Artificial Intelligences: A New Kind of Programming?

Here is more on GPT-3.

Posted at 12:07 Permalink

Friday, April 2, 2021

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: How (and Why) to Raise e to the Power of a Matrix

Posted at 14:26 Permalink

CONTEXT: The Book Even Theodore Dalrymple Couldn't Finish

Here is the book, The Ahuman Manifesto: Activism for the End of the Anthropocene. A brief quote from the volume:

The negative value of the end of anthropocentrism is where the jubilance of the world begins. The everything else that comes at the end of these systems is primarily only really the end of the primacy of one isomorphic functioning mode of knowledge. Difference and proliferation which seethes beneath in a germinal state has the capacity to express when the anthropocentric mode is diminished to one of many ways, historical or majoritarian-hysterical.

The Kindle edition sells for US$ 26.95.

Posted at 12:48 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: Brian Keating: Searching for Lorentz Invariance Violation in the Cosmic Background Radiation

Posted at 11:50 Permalink

CONTEXT: Clouds on Mars after Sunset

Posted at 11:11 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Large Burroughs Alphanumeric Neon Display from the 1960s

Unlike a nixie tube, all of the 15 segments are in the same plane, so you don't get the 3-D effect as the characters change.

Posted at 10:49 Permalink

Thursday, April 1, 2021

CONTEXT: An Engine Block Shredder

I'd call it “The Persuader”.

Posted at 14:56 Permalink

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Rocket Lab: Building a Path to the Moon

Posted at 14:17 Permalink

CONTINUITY: Forgotten World War II Seaside Relics

Posted at 13:26 Permalink

CONTEXT: SpaceX Starship: What Happened in the Fog at Boca Chica?

Posted at 11:33 Permalink

TRACKING WITH CLOSEUPS: The Clever Mechanism in Your Drink Carton

Posted at 11:14 Permalink