Vol. 1 / No. 1 — Trolls, Floods, and Leaking Spacesuits

Rock-Star-Level Patent Trolling

Remember last year when Microsoft, RIM, Ericsson, Sony, and Apple all banded together to pay $4.5 Billion at auction for Nortel’s patents? Google didn’t like it then, and they like it less now: Ars Technica reports that the first salvo in what will likely be a nasty patent war has been opened over “an advertisement machine which provides advertisements to a user searching for desired information within a data network.”

And if that isn’t enough to convince you, you can go check out the EFF’s (Electronic Frontier Foundation) explanation of why “The Patent System is Broken”.

The Dirt on Cahokia

National Geographic reports this week that scientists studying sediments around the ancient city of Cahokia have determined that a massive flood around 1200CE may have been responsible for the city’s demise. Bonus points if you knew what Cahokia was without looking it up on wikipedia.



Yes, there was a civilization variously covering most of North America from 800-1500 that today we call the Mississippian culture. Now you know.

Amelia: Will She Lower the Costs of Flying?

A five-year initiative between NASA and the California Polytechnic State University seems to still be on track. It’s CESTOL aircraft (Cruise Efficient, Short Take-Off and Landing) design, nicknamed Ameila (Advanced Model for Extreme Lift and Improved Aeroacoustics) is making the rounds again thanks to an article over at Popular Science. An article over at phys.org from 2010 shows they’ve been working on this for a while. If nothing else, I want to see one of these things fly because it looks so darn cool.



Along similar lines, Wired reports this week that Lockheed Martin has “unveiled” their new “hypersonic successor to the SR-71 Blackbird”. If they get funding, of course. Remember when they used to build it, use it for ten years, then announce a plane’s existence? Guess I’ll hold out hope that the US military already has half a dozen of them in stock.

A Shot at Mars (from India)

“So, we are not in a race with anybody, but I would say we are in a race with ourselves. We need to excel, we need to improve, and we need to bring new services. We need to do it more cost-effectively and deliver it to the target audience in the country, whether it is to the people or the government or other agencies in the country. So that has been the focus of the Indian space programme.” In case you weren’t aware, India has already sent a probe to the moon, and now they’re aiming to orbit mars. BBC’s Asia Business Report interviews Dr. K. Radhakrishnan, chair of the ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) about their successes, failures, and their plans for the future.

In other news Spacex founder, rocket scientist, and all around impressive guy Elon Musk spent some time talking about his hopes for the future of spaceflight with the Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and Shera Global CEO Shervin Pishevar this week at the Dublin Web Summit. SiliconRepublic has the scoop.

On Science Writing

“It never occurred to me to question Petrosky’s claims. Who was I, a mere rookie, to second-guess him, Wright State and media like 60 Minutes?” Over at the Scientific American blog “Cross-Check,” John Horgan writes about the need for journalistic rigor in science reporting.
A Dig Through Old Files Reminds Me Why I’m So Critical of Science.

In Denial

“Before he shoots himself in the chest, he sort of pays homage to concussions, he lays out a magazine, a Sports Illustrated about concussions, he lays out disability files about concussions, and then he shoots himself and says please study my brain.” John Stewart interviews Mark Fainaru-Wada on the Daily Show about his new book on concussions in the NFL: League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth.

Amazon Link: League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions and the Battle for Truth


Back to Earth

“I’m sitting there blind, holding on to the spaceship listening to *ssssss* as my oxygen is hissing out into the universe; as I am attempting with one suit to repressurize the universe, and I’m thinking this is not where I thought I was going to be today.” This week over at Quirks and Quarks there’s a great interview with Canadian astronaut (retired) commander Chris Hadfield about his spacefaring career and his new autobiography, An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

Amazon Link: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything


Obamacare Update

“Ninety-seven per cent of Americans are either left alone or are clear winners, while three per cent are arguably losers. “We have to as a society be able to accept that,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, that’s a shame, but no law in the history of America makes everyone better off.”” With the ACA’s “marketplace” website still plagued by technical problems, Talking Points Memo goes into the plan itself and who the winners and losers are (hint: there aren’t really any losers).

But if you’re determined to vilify the government, get out your tinfoil hats, because the Atlantic Wire has helpfully written a guide to spotting just which members of the government are “reptilians”.

Have a great week.