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Brian Oxley
Works at ThoughtWorks
Attended Rice University
Lives in Houston, TX
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Brian Oxley

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My weekend Wikipedia improvement project. The linked image is a map of the world in which eight octants of the globe are projected onto Reuleaux triangles, published by Leonardo da Vinci in 1514. But that's not the oldest known instance of this shape: it also appears in Gothic church windows from the late 13th or early 14th century. Which makes it seem a little odd that it was named after a 19th-century mechanical engineer, but I guess that's just Stigler's law of eponymy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stigler%27s_law_of_eponymy) in action again.
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The speeds of stars on circular orbits have been measured around both spiral and elliptical galaxies. Without dark matter, the speeds should decrease with distance from the galaxy, at different rates for the two galaxy types. Instead, the dark matter appears to conspire to keep the speeds steady ...
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Brian Oxley

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Brian Koberlein originally shared to Our Universe:
 
Hungry Like The Wolf

A Wolf-Rayet star is an old massive star on its way to becoming a supernova. They are old massive stars on their way to becoming supernovae. They are distinguished by extremely strong stellar winds and their spectral lines tend to show they are rich in helium, but don’t contain much hydrogen. It’s generally been thought that the lack of hydrogen in Wolf-Rayet stars is due to the strong solar winds pushing away the light element, but a new paper in MNRAS finds evidence of an alternative method, which is the capture of hydrogen by a companion star.

The paper looks at a star known as NaSt1, since it was discovered in 1963 by Jason Nassau and Charles Stephenson. As a result it’s been given the nickname “Nasty 1.” When the team measured the speed of the outer layers of the star, they found it was moving much more slowly than outer layers of other dying stars, such as Eta Carinae. In fact the speed is too slow to cause hydrogen to escape from the star, so the solar wind idea doesn’t work in this case. But this star also has a binary companion, which could capture the hydrogen of the Wolf-Rayet star.

The basic idea is that as the Wolf-Rayet star reached the end of its life it swelled significantly. Most of the outer layer of the star would be hydrogen, since it is lighter than other elements. The companion star could then capture the outer hydrogen envelope, stripping the Wolf-Rayet star of hydrogen. Since about 70% of large stars are part of a binary system, this could be a common way for Wolf-Rayet stars to form.

What’s fascinating about this discovery is the fact that a binary system like this isn’t particularly stable on an astronomical time scale, so it’s a pretty rare find. The two stars could soon merge, triggering a supernova explosion, or the capture of hydrogen by the companion may trigger an x-ray burst. Either way, things are going to get pretty interesting for these stars in the near future.

Paper: Jon Mauerhan, et al. Multiwavelength observations of NaSt1 (WR 122): equatorial mass loss and X-rays from an interacting Wolf–Rayet binary. MNRAS 450 (3): 2551-2563 (2015)
A Wolf-Rayet star nicknamed "Nasty 1" is having its hydrogen stolen by a companion star.
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Global map of wind velocities. Grab the globe with your mouse to position it however you like.
Date |. Data |. Scale |. Source |. Control | Now « – ‹ – › – » ⊕Grid□ – ▷. Mode | Air – Ocean. Height | Sfc – 1000 – 850 – 700 – 500 – 250 – 70 – 10 hPa. Overlay | Wind – Temp – RH – WPD. Overlay | TPW – TCW – MSLP – MI – None. Animate | Currents – Waves. Overlay | Currents – Waves ...
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I come from fields of fractured ice ...
Here's another lovely bit of physics poetry. Last week it was John Updike on neutrinos. This week it is Scottish mathematican and physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, who is most famous for his theory of electromagnetic radiation (commonly known as Maxwell's equations).
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Astronomers have spent decades trying to determine the oddball behavior of an aging star nicknamed "Nasty 1" residing in our Milky Way galaxy. Looking at the star using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers had expected to see a bipolar outflow of twin lobes of gas from the star. The astronomers were surprised, however, to find a pancake-shaped disk of gas encircling the star. The vast disk is nearly 1,000 times the diameter of our solar sys...
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Brian Oxley

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Paul Frampton educated speculation.
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Tests on Mars have confirmed success of a repair to the autonomous focusing capability of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover.
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The Machine: a desperate gamble

Hewlett-Packard was once at the cutting edge of technology.  Now they make most of their money selling servers, printers, and ink... and business keeps getting worse.  They've shed 40,000 employees since 2012.   Soon they'll split in two: one company that sells printers and PCs, and one that sells servers and information technology services.  

The second company will do something risky but interesting.   They're trying to build a new kind of computer that uses chips based on memristors rather than transistors, and uses optical fibers rather than wires to communicate between chips.  It could make computers much faster and more powerful.  But nobody knows if it will really work.

The picture shows memristors on a silicon wafer.  But what's a memristor?   Quoting the MIT Technology Review:

Perfecting the memristor is crucial if HP is to deliver on that striking potential. That work is centered in a small lab, one floor below the offices of HP’s founders, where Stanley Williams made a breakthrough about a decade ago.

Williams had joined HP in 1995 after David Packard decided the company should do more basic research. He came to focus on trying to use organic molecules to make smaller, cheaper replacements for silicon transistors (see “Computing After Silicon,” September/October 1999). After a few years, he could make devices with the right kind of switchlike behavior by sandwiching molecules called rotaxanes between platinum electrodes. But their performance was maddeningly erratic. It took years more work before Williams realized that the molecules were actually irrelevant and that he had stumbled into a major discovery. The switching effect came from a layer of titanium, used like glue to stick the rotaxane layer to the electrodes. More surprising, versions of the devices built around that material fulfilled a prediction made in 1971 of a completely new kind of basic electronic device. When Leon Chua, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, predicted the existence of this device, engineering orthodoxy held that all electronic circuits had to be built from just three basic elements: capacitors, resistors, and inductors. Chua calculated that there should be a fourth; it was he who named it the memristor, or resistor with memory. The device’s essential property is that its electrical resistance—a measure of how much it inhibits the flow of electrons—can be altered by applying a voltage. That resistance, a kind of memory of the voltage the device experienced in the past, can be used to encode data.

HP’s latest manifestation of the component is simple: just a stack of thin films of titanium dioxide a few nanometers thick, sandwiched between two electrodes. Some of the layers in the stack conduct electricity; others are insulators because they are depleted of oxygen atoms, giving the device as a whole high electrical resistance. Applying the right amount of voltage pushes oxygen atoms from a conducting layer into an insulating one, permitting current to pass more easily. Research scientist Jean Paul Strachan demonstrates this by using his mouse to click a button marked “1” on his computer screen. That causes a narrow stream of oxygen atoms to flow briefly inside one layer of titanium dioxide in a memristor on a nearby silicon wafer. “We just created a bridge that electrons can travel through,” says Strachan. Numbers on his screen indicate that the electrical resistance of the device has dropped by a factor of a thousand. When he clicks a button marked “0,” the oxygen atoms retreat and the device’s resistance soars back up again. The resistance can be switched like that in just picoseconds, about a thousand times faster than the basic elements of DRAM and using a fraction of the energy. And crucially, the resistance remains fixed even after the voltage is turned off.

Getting this to really work has not been easy!  On top of that, they're trying to use silicon photonics to communicate between chips - another technology that doesn't quite work yet.

Still, I like the idea of this company going down in a blaze of glory, trying to do something revolutionary, instead of playing it safe and dying a slow death.

Do not go gentle into that good night.

For more, see these:

• Tom Simonite, Machine dreams, MIT Technology Review, 21April 2015, http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/536786/machine-dreams/

• Sebastian Anthony, HP reveals more details about The Machine: Linux++ OS coming 2015, prototype in 2016, ExtremeTech, 16 December 2014, http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/196003-hp-reveals-more-details-about-the-machine-linux-os-coming-2015-prototype-in-2016

For the physics of memristors, see:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memristor
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In his circles
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Education
  • Rice University
    Physics, Music, 1987 - 1991
  • Trinity University
    Physics, Music, 1985 - 1987
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binkley
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It's just me.
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Best wife ever. Two wonderful sons. Full Moria armor set.
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Occupation
Principal Consultant
Employment
  • ThoughtWorks
    Principal Consultant, present
  • Macquarie Offshore Services
    Sr. Manager, 2013 - 2015
    IT Manager
  • Macquarie Group Limited
    Sr. Manager, 2010 - 2013
    Java Architect
  • ThoughtWorks
    Open Sourcerer, 2003 - 2004
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  • JPMorgan Chase & Co.
    Sr. Associate, 2006 - 2010
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Currently
Houston, TX
Previously
Makati, Philippines - Three Rivers, TX - Boston, MA - San Antonio, TX
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xkcd: Bracket
xkcd.com

Warning: this comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humor (which may be unsuitable for

A Casual Stroll through The Shire, Part 1 | LOTRO Players
lotroplayers.com

The Tolkien Professor Corey Olsen comes out of the starter area and starts Gryfflet, his hobbit burglar, on a tour of The Shire where he dea

Mars Rover's Laser-Zapping Instrument Gets Sharper Vision
www.jpl.nasa.gov

Tests on Mars have confirmed success of a repair to the autonomous focusing capability of the Chemistry and Camera (ChemCam) instrument on N

Physics Buzz: Physics in Verse: Maxwell's "I come from fields of fractur...
physicsbuzz.physicscentral.com

Here's another lovely bit of physics poetry. Last week it was John Updike on neutrinos. This week it is Scottish mathematican and physicist,

Returns on Investments
rememberingattention.blogspot.com

If I buy groceries and provide a recipe, the teens can make dinner. In this case, the mushroom bisque from Cook's Illustrated, and roasted p

Wide GOP field has party leaders anxious about ’16 - The Washington Post
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Officials fear a long primary battle will pull candidates to the right and drain their funds before the fall election.

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The merger of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxy won't happen for another 4 billion years, but the recent discovery of a massive halo of hot

Generating compiler back ends at the snap of a finger | Lambda the Ultimate
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Ramsey and Dias have a series of papers about making it ever easier to generate compiler backends, and the claim is that they produce decent

Morgan Group to build apartments atop Whole Foods Market in Houston's Mi...
www.bizjournals.com

The company developing the apartments also has a community on the very next block.

German president: make English the language of EU | World news | The Gua...
www.theguardian.com

Joachim Gauck says Europe needs Britain's democratic traditions, political courage and sober-mindedness

Houston's Rice University Business Plan Competition grand prize winner K...
www.bizjournals.com

The Rice Business Plan Competition gave out roughly $1.5 million to companies from around the world. The largest business plan competition i

Best Colonization target in outer solar system is Titan
nextbigfuture.com

Titan is suggested as a target for colonization, because it is the only moon in the Solar System to have a dense atmosphere and is rich in c

gotofail and a defence of purists | Lockstep
lockstep.com.au

gotofail and a defence of purists. Stephen Wilson, Wed 26 Feb 2014 - 1 Comment. 'The widely publicised and very serious "gotofail" bug in iO

Steve Yegge's Next Big Language Revisited
lebo.io

Steve Yegge's Next Big Language Revisited. March 2 2015. Tweet submit to reddit submit to Hacker News. Good old Steve Yegge. For several yea

Thai Pop-Up Dinner in Houston by New York Chef Hong Thaimee
blogs.houstonpress.com

New York Chef Hong Thaimee has come to Houston to present two nights of a pop-up dinner featuring her take on Thai food.

Four Tips for Managing Performance in Agile Teams
www.jrothman.com

I've been talking with clients recently about their man…

How Singapore Became an Entrepreneurial Hub
hbr.org

Things are heating up in the former “Singa-bore.”

Great food
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Top job
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reviewed 4 weeks ago
One of our favorite places in the Philippines. The staff was excellent, lacked for nothing. The nearby national parks are grand. Well recommended. Do note this is a "green" resort. Hot water is solar-heated, which may provide a surprise for your morning shower. We look forward to staying here again.
Public - 5 months ago
reviewed 5 months ago
Some of the best customer service I've had in a long time. They had similar products to what I wanted but not exactly. So they looked up the number of a competitor, wrote it down, and offered to call.
Quality: ExcellentAppeal: ExcellentService: Excellent
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reviewed 2 years ago
25 reviews
Map
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Great environment, excellent staff, competitive pricing.
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reviewed a year ago
First class traditional men's business clothing. You pay for quality.
Quality: ExcellentAppeal: ExcellentService: Excellent
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reviewed 2 years ago