Goldfishing

"Goldfish Salvation" by Riusuke Fukahori

Just when I think that I've seen everything that could exist in the world of art, I come across something new. Here's something that I wasn't expecting: goldfish painted in layers of resin.

Brew problems

So I started off just researching a few different approaches to some specific authoring and syndication use cases in Drupal and decided to try the core-quick-drupal option for Drush. This failed with a minor error, but it was enough of a problem that I decided to investigate further once I realized that I was still running PHP 5.3.2 on my Mac and that what I really needed to do was update PHP. Previously, I've built out new machines by recompiling PHP, Apache, and MySQL with exactly the settings and flags I wanted so that I could ensure I had exactly what I needed. This time, though, I started looking into package managers to just do this for me. I figured I could always bail and build from scratch if it became necessary, but maybe it would work out great.

So, a little bit of googling later, and I settled on Homebrew. I already had it installed locally, and all I really needed to do was update it. After running brew update I had:

Updating 5ea406c..ea13717
Error: Failed while executing git pull http://github.com/mxcl/homebrew.git master

Ok, so that wasn't what I wanted. Time to figure out how to successfully update homebrew. I figured I could just cd /usr/local and then run git reset --hard FETCH_HEAD. This resulted in a pretty foreboding error:

fatal: 'origin' does not appear to be a git repository
fatal: Could not read from remote repository.

Finally, I found this and added the remote: git remote add origin git://github.com/mxcl/homebrew.git. Now, running git fetch origin gave me the following:

remote: Counting objects: 200, done.
remote: Compressing objects: 100% (92/92), done.
remote: Total 188 (delta 87), reused 177 (delta 76)
Receiving objects: 100% (188/188), 72.16 KiB, done.
Resolving deltas: 100% (87/87), completed with 11 local objects.
From git://github.com/mxcl/homebrew
* [new branch] gh-pages -> origin/gh-pages
* [new branch] go -> origin/go
* [new branch] master -> origin/master
* [new branch] superwip -> origin/superwip

Success!

Proved by now running update: brew update resulting in Already up-to-date.

Ok, now to update PHP...

Amiga

When I was a wee lad my father brought home a computer one day. It was much sleeker than almost everything out there and the claims on the side of the box were almost too good to be true. 4096 colors! A sound processor! A mouse!

I spent many happy hours playing games, writing papers, and constructing my first attempts at code on that machine. It was far ahead of its time and is still regarded with a certain wistfulness in our family. To give you a sense of how far along 1985 was, though, you can now fully emulate an Amiga in your browser.

Arduino Code on a ATtiny Chip

I'm looking forward to trying this. A low-cost option for an Arduino board is exactly what I've been looking for. I built the electronics for a robot costume for my son for Halloween, and while it turned out great, I need to pull the Arduino out to use in other projects.

Fascinating Thread: Ask Metafilter on Bamboo

I don't spend as much time on Metafilter these days as I used to, but I'm occasionally pointed to a thread that I fall in love with. This discussion is pretty interesting, especially since it starts with a fairly innocent question about running bamboo that immediately segues into personal horror stories that drip with backstory.

This tale stood out from the crowd:
Mr. erst and I are currently battling running bamboo in the yard of the house we just bought. The neighbors tell us the previous owners planted it about 5 years ago.

DO NOT PLANT THIS. FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY, DO NOT PLANT THIS STUFF.

It is utterly uncontrollable and invading the neighbor's yards, tunneling under fences and control barriers. The neighbors are not very happy about this.

We try to cut it back, and runners that grow almost a foot a day (and no, I'm not exaggerating) spring up near-daily. We're probably going to wind up hiring someone to come dig it all out. We could spend an hour a day trying to keep the bamboo under control. We've spent hours of our weekends just trying to keep it from spreading AND keep it from growing insanely tall and wide.
Before reading this thread I had no idea that some varieties of bamboo were invasive weeds that can quickly grow to the size of small trees. I just figured bamboo was normal bush-level vegetation that attracted pandas.

Kodak - 31st Nuclear Power

It turns out Kodak had a secret underground nuclear reactor in its headquarters that contained 3.5 pounds of highly enriched uranium. The existence of this reactor was kept secret from state and local authorities for years and the reactor was finally dismantled in 2006.

Kodak used it to check chemicals and other materials for impurities, Filo said. It also was used for tests related to neutron radiography, an imaging technique.

The device was not much larger than a refrigerator and, in the one available photo, looked vaguely like Robby the Robot from a 1950s science fiction movie. To house it, Kodak dug a cavity below the basement level of Building 82, part of the company’s research complex along Lake Avenue.

From Did you know? Kodak Park had a nuclear reactor | Democrat and Chronicle | democratandchronicle.com

Analytic thinking can decrease religious belief

There's a very interesting study relating increased use of analytical thinking with a decrease in religious belief. From the article:

Researchers used problem-solving tasks and subtle experimental priming – including showing participants Rodin’s sculpture The Thinker or asking participants to complete questionnaires in hard-to-read fonts – to successfully produce “analytic” thinking. The researchers, who assessed participants’ belief levels using a variety of self-reported measures, found that religious belief decreased when participants engaged in analytic tasks, compared to participants who engaged in tasks that did not involve analytic thinking.

Relating the way in which we think about things with how we then think about other, unrelated areas is a pretty fascinating concept. Wittgenstein would be pleased.

Project Glass

This is probably coming sooner than you think...

DuckDuckGo

I've been surprisingly pleased with DuckDuckGo. For nearly a decade I've used nothing other than Google. Their results were far beyond anything at the time, but with the recent privacy shenanigans it's time to separate my digital life into discrete chunks. There's no reason why my web browsing, my email service and my searches need to all be funneled into the same company, especially if they're going to be only showing me chunks of results that they think are relevant to me. Let me decide for myself.

So no more Chrome. No more google.com. I'll need to be on Gmail for the foreseeable future, at least until I can find an email solution that allows me to be as blissfully ignorant of spam as Gmail has allowed me to be.

More Physics News - Majorana Particles

I had just posted this other entry on CP violation and was reading up on antineutrinos. Since they don't interact via the electromagnetic force I was puzzled as to how there can even be an anti-particle for something that only interacts via the gravity and weak forces. It turns out that antineutrinos are distinguished from neutrinos by chirality. There's also some serious discussion about neutrinos possibly being Majorana particles which would mean that a neutrino is actually its own antiparticle.

Then just the next day there's news that a Majorana fermions may have been discovered.

In his group's set-up, indium antimonide nanowires are connected to a circuit with a gold contact at one end and a slice of superconductor at the other, and then exposed to a moderately strong magnetic field. Measurements of the electrical conductance of the nanowires showed a peak at zero voltage that is consistent with the formation of a pair of Majorana particles, one at either end of the region of the nanowire in contact with the superconductor. As a sanity check, the group varied the orientation of the magnetic field and checked that the peak came and went as would be expected for Majorana fermions.

Now, it's not entirely clear what these particles would be since the results are so early, but there's some possibility that they might be something from the world of supersymmetry such as a neutralino.

Ze is Back!

Remember what it was like back in 2006? Bush was president, housing prices were going up, up, up, and the financial crisis was still a couple of years in the future. Oh, and the best thing? The Show. Well, guess what, he's bringing it back.

CP Violation

So there's some pretty exciting news coming out of Fermilab:
To witness CP violation, physicists study particles to see if there is any difference in the rate of decay between normal particles and their antiparticles. The accepted theory of elementary particles, the standard model, allows for a low level of CP violation—including that revealed in the discoveries of the 1960s and 2000s—but not enough to explain the prevalence of normal matter. So researchers have been trying to find cases in which CP violation is higher. In November, the LHCb team reported that the decay rates differed by 0.8%—some eight times the amount the standard model is generally expected to allow, and perhaps enough to help explain the origin of matter's prevalence over antimatter.
This sort of difference in decay rates is a pretty difficult thing to measure since it's really a very slight difference, and as the article talks about, it's not entirely clear if this actually violates the Standard Model or not. And, even if it did, it's not totally clear where this would take us. Is the difference due to some essential difference between quarks and antiquarks? Are there differences between electrons and positrons as well? Muons and anti-muons? I won't even get into antineutrinos, since they're neutral particle anyway, and the difference that is coming to light from these experiments is likely due to some sort of electrical charge difference.