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Shami Chatterjee
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Shami Chatterjee

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Since we have both the Pope and the Higgs boson in the news, here's something for the physics geeks:

After the conclusion of the conclave, Pope Francis puts on his papal regalia and prepares for the formal ceremonies, including addressing the cardinals at St. Peters. As he's heading up the stairs, the Higgs particle appears, seemingly waiting for Pope Francis to open the ornate doors. "I'm sorry, Higgs, but this service is for cardinals only," admonishes the Holy See. "But Pope Francis," Higgs replies, "without me there is no mass!"

(As seen on Metafilter.)
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salut
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When cultural imperialism bites back: Asked a Beijing local where the nearest subway stop was, and got detailed directions to the nearest Subway. Ha.
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Mostly language, I think - eventually I had to draw a train on a napkin so that the clerk at Subway could point me to the subway.
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Gorgeous clip compiled from Cassini and Voyager images.
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A challenging article by Robert Zubrin (author of the much-loved book "The Case for Mars"). Hard to disagree with his bottom line, harsh as it is:

"[T]o set an infinite value on the life of an astronaut is to set both the goals of the space exploration effort and the needs of the rest of humanity at naught. [...] The many billions being spent on the human spaceflight program are not being spent for the safety of the astronauts; they could stay safe if they stayed home.The money is being spent to open the space frontier. Human spaceflight vehicles are not amusement park rides. They are daring ships of exploration that need to sail in harm’s way if they are to accomplish a mission critical to the human future. That mission needs to come first."
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Reminds me of the song "Columbia" by Echo's Children:
"As a people and a nation, we have paid a price to learn
That in any exploration there are some who don't return;
We are neither fools nor cowards to be shaken now to know
What our founders could have told us twice a hundred years ago."
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More google easter eggs. These work best if you type them (without quotes) at the google home page, and they do require a relatively modern browser.
"let it snow"
"askew"
"do a barrel roll"
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Bonus nerd points to Google for these: "answer to life the universe and everything" "number of horns on a unicorn" or "once in a blue moon"
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(If you have the slightest fear of flying, skip this post. Seriously.)

As expected, the primary cause of the Air France flight 447 crash was human error. But there's a deeper question here about our reliance on sophisticated instrumentation.

"The crash raises the disturbing possibility that aviation may well long be plagued by a subtler menace, one that ironically springs from the never-ending quest to make flying safer. [...] When trouble suddenly springs up and the computer decides that it can no longer cope—on a dark night, perhaps, in turbulence, far from land—the humans might find themselves with a very incomplete notion of what's going on. They'll wonder: What instruments are reliable, and which can't be trusted? What's the most pressing threat? What's going on? Unfortunately, the vast majority of pilots will have little experience in finding the answers."

(To be fair, if the controls had been returned to the autopilot at any point after the avionics came back online, it is very likely that the flight would have been just fine. Technical glitch + unprepared pilots + panic = no happy endings.)
Two years after the Airbus 330 plunged into the Atlantic Ocean, Air France 447's flight-data recorders finally turned up. The revelations from the pilot transcript paint a surprising picture of chaos ...
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Research in human factors - particularly in the areas of situational awareness and expert-novice decision-making have reached many of the conclusions that this incident illustrates. It is interesting that by the time the Captain arrived and managed to recognize the real problem, time had run out.
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Have him in circles
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A very good read about space travel and the two flavors of soothsaying, doubt and delirium. Dates back to 2006, but still spot-on.

"... If computer companies had stopped innovating in 1978, your desk might still sport a hundred-pound IBM 5110. If communications companies had stopped innovating in 1973, you might still be schlepping a two-pound, nine-inch-long cell phone. And if in 1968 the U.S. space industry had stopped developing bigger and better rockets to launch humans beyond the Moon, we'd never have surpassed the Saturn V rocket.

Oops!

Sorry about that. We haven't surpassed the Saturn V. ..."
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woaw
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A shining example of how NOT to write a helpful error message...
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There you go, exceeding parameters again. *tsk*
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What will you do with your extra second this weekend?
Yes, a leap second is coming this Saturday, the first since 2008. Clocks will (should) go 23:59:59, 23:59:60, 0:00:00 in ticking over to Sunday.
THE LEAP SECOND. When should we introduce Leap second in UTC ? On 31 December 2008, the last minute of the day has lasted 61 seconds. Why ? leap second : see last last Bulletin C [ TAI - UTC ] [ Offse...
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I'm going to use my extra second to watch the movie Inception.
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Other than the bit about the pulsar "orbiting" only 22.8 light years from the sun (we wish!), I think this came out not too badly. (22.8 or 22,800 - what's three orders of magnitude among friends?)
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Cheerful news to start the new year with? Hmmm, we appear to be all out of good news. How about an apocalyptic story instead?
Well, this is a bad way to start the year. Over the past 48 hours, news has broken in India of the existence of at least 12 patients infe...
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Sometimes you just need to blow some $%#%$ up.
Do you like explosions? Of course you do. I feel stupid for even asking such a preposterous question. Here you go. Happy Holidays, The Old Spice Man
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Have him in circles
7,615 people
Pavan Desikan's profile photo
Martijn Roelandse's profile photo
Luis Fernando Franco's profile photo
Rob Holmes's profile photo
Roland Hjerppe's profile photo
Geoffrey Ackerman's profile photo
Vladimir Elie's profile photo
William Mauritzen's profile photo
pierre-olivier Siegel's profile photo
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Astronomer, currently at Cornell University.
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Astronomer, currently at Cornell University.
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