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All-electric cars to hit market by '10

Friday, April 25, 2008 by Amber

In my line of work, I read a lot of bad news. So, when good news pops up, I get pretty excited.

Case in point: According to LATimes.com, a Norwegian automaker has promised to make and distribute low-priced, all-electric vehicles by the end of next year:

"The battery-powered Think City will be able to travel up to 110 miles on a single charge, with a top speed of about 65 mph, the company said. It will be priced below $25,000."

It is a tiny little thing, much like a Smart car, but it could herald something bigger -- a change in the tide of gasoline-powered cars.

I sleep well at night knowing that my hybrid awaits me for my morning commute, but to not have to rely on $4 gas at all -- with a car that won't take 5 years for an ROI? Now that is good news that I can really get behind.

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Stephen Hawking lectures on life

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Amber

My favorite quote of the day comes from the great Stephen Hawking, who spoke at a lecture on intelligent life in the universe this week at George Washington University:

"Primitive life is very common and intelligent life is fairly rare – some would say it has yet to occur on earth."

In his famed computerized voice, the most brilliant mind of our time showed some comedic chops while addressing the issue of intelligent vs. unintelligent life existing elsewhere in the universe, :

"The discovery of the New World made a profound difference to the old. Just think we wouldn't have had a Big Mac or KFC."

If there was one thing I wasn't expecting to do while reading a report on a recent Stephen Hawking appeareance, it was giggle like a geeky school girl whilst pushing my glasses up on my nose. I hope it made you giggle too.

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Bad news: Jet stream is shifting north

Friday, April 18, 2008 by Amber

Uh oh. Bad news if you live on Earth -- it looks like the jet stream is shifting northward, altering the weather at a faster rate than local environments can adapt to it.

Wait -- some background info: What is the jet stream? It's a band of high winds that sits way above land and basically controls the weather for the U.S. There is more than one jet stream in the world that control different regions' weather, but the one of most interest to us is the same one that makes it about 30 minutes quicker to fly from Boston to London than the other way around (and makes it more turbulent). The higher our northern jet stream shifts upward, the drier the southern and southwestern U.S. becomes (bad news for drought-ravaged regions like Ga.), with the potential for big storms shifting north (bad news for densely populated northeast cities).

Says Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington in Stanford, Calif., "Basically look south of where you are and that's probably a good guess of what your weather may be like in a few decades.''

According to the study, this jet-stream shift may be due directly to global warming and is actually a phenomenon that has been forecast to happen for quite some time based on current warming conditions and trends. And, at a rate of about 18 feet per day (1.25 miles per year), plants just can't keep up with the shift, which could lead to big eco-problems -- in other words, the trees can't adapt quickly enough to their changing environment (evolution just doesn't work *that* fast), thus they are unable to survive.

What can we do to fix it? Well, not much, which is why this news is so bad. We as humans (especially those of my friends who share the U.S. with me) have officially transitioned from prevention to recovery mode, and thus the eco-chant of "reduce, reuse, recycle" (in that order) needs to get louder.

Sorry for being a downer -- I hope you all have a happy Earth Day.

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'Butterfly effect' theorist dies

Thursday, April 17, 2008 by Amber

The league of grand thinkers has lost another member.

Edward Lorenz, the famed meteorologist who came up with the chaos theory -- often known as the "Butterfly Effect," a theory of complete interconnectedness that states that something as small as a butterfly flapping its wings in Asia could, through a climatological domino effect, cause a tornado in Texas -- has died at his home in Cambridge. He was 90.

Though I didn't know his name, this theory has always been one of great interest to me -- one that just innately made sense and changed my thinking on weather and, more grandly, how the world's atmosphere works. R.I.P., Mr. Lorenz.

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'Harry Potter' plagiarism case

by Amber

This story has legs.

In my travels, I came across a fairly interesting and intelligent discussion thread on the whole "Harry Potter" plagiarism business on an unlikely source -- PerezHilton.com! Not that I don't love me some Perez, but to think that some of his readers are actually this interesting and capable of intelligent discussions (some are not, mind you, so watch out for language)...

Check it out if you have a sec -- I'm still behind you, Jo. This case is not going to go away, and the implications of the judge's ruling will have a very strong ripple across the 'net. Whether or not you care about the HP books, you should care about this case.

A crying man does not equal an innocent man.

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New tech 'sees' through clothes

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 by Amber

Holy knickers, Batman!

A new x-ray vision technology out of Britain is touted to see through clothing and detect metallic objects people are trying to hide. Aside from alerting security crews to the wide vareity of under-wire bras, this new tech, called ThruVision T5000, can scan crowds of people in public places (invasion of privacy?) to purportedly thwart terrorist attacks.

I can just see the skeezy people applying for the job of reading the scans -- all in the name of public safety, of course.

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Video-game geeks to wed

Tuesday, April 15, 2008 by Amber

The second in today's apparent series on video games is this story out of N.J.:

A guy reprogrammed his girlfriend's copy of "Bejeweled" so that it would display a ring and a proposal when she hit a certain score. Well, she played, she scored, and then he scored big when she said yes. No word on wedding details, but I'm sure it'll be geek-tastic!

How cool would a Charm City wedding cake be for this couple?

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How to make video games

by Amber

This is a nod to all you hard-core gaming geeks out there that sit in front of double monitors control-room-style and dream of a newer and better RPG to go home to. Why let someone else show you their idea of a great game when you have to smarts to make one yourself?

I know, you can't just quit your job and run back to gaming school, but maybe a quick trip to your local chain bookstore will get your blood pumping -- try picking up a game programming book and teaching yourself how to make your own 3-D world come to life.

Either way, check out this article off Forbes.com to get a handle on the video game industry and how to break into it horizontally.

Just a thought...

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'Harry Potter' lexicon lawsuit begins

Monday, April 14, 2008 by Amber

Steve Van Der Ark -- of a famous and well-known "Harry Potter" web site -- is in court today to defend his apparent right to publish a version of his site in print and sell it. Of course, a copyright lawsuit was filed by Ms. Potter herself, J.K. Rowling, alleging that the content of this site is her intellectual property.

His site, as frequented by me on many occasions to check facts or find clues (yes, I am a fan), is a large online encyclopedia that breaks the series down into categories such has "The Beastiary," "Muggle Studies," "Which Wizard," "A Wizard's Atlas" and "Magic and Magical Theory" -- all strictly based on only the facts presented by Rowling in her books (also called "canon"). This is an important point, as it has made the lexicon a the most reliable site for theorists since the site's inception.

Why should you care? Well, Rowling famously allows her fervent fans (myself included) to post information, essays, stories, etc., based on the 7 "Harry Potter" books online and at no fee. She has said that she openly enjoyed reading the theories on these sites about the books, content and how the series was going to end. In deciding to publish the lexicon's content in a paper book, Van Der Ark is bringing this free-for-all world to a screeching halt by taking her property and trying to sell it for his own profit.

Also, factor into the equation that Rowling has said on multiple occasions that she would like to write an encyclopedia of her famous wizarding world as a way to tell all the stories she started in the series but was unable to finish.

Thus, this one case could bring the entire idea of online fandom (re: "Battlestar Gallactica," "Star Trek" and "Firefly") to a sharp finale where everyone loses -- fans would lose the ability to freely discuss and post stories based on an authors' fictional characters, while the authors would lose credibility and kindness from these most feverish fans.

I'm behind you, J.K. -- fandom is a fun place, and the online world is a great medium, but enough is enough.

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