Hear Alexander Graham Bell

In this age of smart phones, we should honor the smartness of Alexander Graham Bell, who not only invented the telephone but made many other contributions to audio technology by figuring out how to translate sound waves into electronic signals.  Now researchers have discovered and restored the first and only recording of Bell’s voice, dated 1885.  Listen to it after the jump. [Read more...]

Finding the lost texts of classical antiquity?

The writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans helped form our civilization, and their rediscovery sparked the Renaissance.  But many of the writings of the formative thinkers of the classical age have been lost.  We only have one-third of the writings of Aristotle, and they were enough to create Western thought, shaping the very way we reason.  What else did he have to say that has been lost, and what might that do?   The founders of Western drama were the brilliant playwrights Aeschylus and Euripides, both of whom wrote some 90 plays, but only 6 and 19 of their plays, respectively, have survived.  (Go here for what else is missing.)

But archaeologists have discovered a large library from the Roman city of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the volcano that devastated Pompeii.  The hot volcanic ash both preserved the library’s scrolls but also made them impossible to read.  Attempts to unroll them to see what they contain makes them disintegrate.  But now a technology has been developed that may allow us to read them.  So far, the works that have been deciphered are ones we have already,  but who knows what else the library may contain? [Read more...]

We now have a ray gun

The U.S. military is now deploying a weaponized laser.  It isn’t a Buck Rogers-style light pistol or a Star Trek phaser that  looks like a cell phone.  It looks like a telescope.  But it can zap enemies with perfect accuracy.  Its biggest potential, though, is as a defensive weapon.  Not only can it shoot down attacking aircraft and missiles.  Because it goes at the speed of light–since it is light–it can even destroy a mortar round.

Also, whereas conventional artillery pieces can run out of expensive ammunition, the laser weapon can keep firing as long as it has electricity, and each zap costs only 59 cents. [Read more...]

Beware the leap second?

On June 30, an extra second will be added to the Bureau of Standard’s atomic clocks.  This is so that our clocks will align more precisely with the rotation and orbit of the Earth.  The fear is that this will throw off the world’s computers, and, particularly, the programs that run the internet.

Last time this happened, in 2012, it did throw off a number of Unix-based websites.  Google has a fix for its sites, but many people are nervous, though probably not as nervous as they were with the Y2K panic, when 1999 turned into 2000. [Read more...]

Sony will release “The Interview” after all

Sony has backed down from its backing down to North Korean hackers, announcing that it will release “The Interview” simultaneously  on Christmas day in select theaters and on Video on Demand. [Read more...]

North Korean hackers win

We blogged about  the hack of Sony pictures, apparently by North Koreans angry about “The Interview,” a comedy about an attempt to assassinate that country’s dear leader, Kim Jong-un.  The organization that broke into the company’s data released vast amounts of embarrassing information online, including racially charged remarks about President Obama from chief executives, insulting information about how the studio viewed certain stars, and financial details about who makes more than who.  Not to mention entire movies that can now be pirated before their release.

But then the hackers had this to say about the release of the movie on Christmas day:  “The world will be full of fear.  “Remember the 11th of September 2001. We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time. (If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

With this dirrect threat,  many theater chains and distributors cancelled the showings.  Whereupon Sony has killed the movie completely. [Read more...]