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Daisy Stanton
1,441 followers -
A happy, curious mind!
A happy, curious mind!

1,441 followers
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This was old news in 2009 (first broke in 2004), but I can't believe I only heard about it yesterday for the first time.

To trace counterfeiters printing banknotes, "U.S. laser printer manufactures have, in cooperation with the federal government, included special tracking dot systems with their printers, so that every page printed contains hard to see dot patterns encoding the serial number of the printer and the time and date that a given page was printed."

http://viewfromll2.com/2009/11/16/big-brothers-invisible-yellow-dots-using-secret-printer-tracking-data-in-civil-litigation/

Friend at dinner further pointed out that most (a) printers/scanners have software that point-blank refuse to print currency by detecting it as such (cool writeup here: https://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~sjm217/projects/currency/ ), and that (b) it's a very simple dot pattern that allows a massive number of bills to be detected (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EURion_constellation).

Apparently the film industry does this on each film print, too, to trace pirated copies: 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coded_Anti-Piracy
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Wish I could remember who I was just talking about this with:

"The chief problem with our airports is not (pace Larry Summers) that they’re not as sleek and modern as the vast white elephants you’ll find in East Asia. Rather, it is that they are congested, and the reason they are congested is that the federal government doesn’t provide for market-rate pricing for take-off and landing slots. This straightforward reform would greatly increase the productivity, not to mention the pleasantness, of our aviation system. Yet it doesn’t involve spending billions of dollars and cutting ribbons, so politicians are by and large not interested.

That is from Reihan Salam."

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2015/07/infrastructure-words-of-wisdom.html
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Kind of wild to see a Greek Orthodox cathedral being rebuilt in the year 2015. Looks a little different than the construction one sees in Florence...
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Via a fun romp reading about SNOTEL and http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meteor_burst_communication, a physics friend pointed me at this fantastic declassified NSA doc (!!):

https://www.nsa.gov/public_info/_files/cryptologic_quarterly/meteo_burst.pdf

The insane awesomeness of that system aside, this claim caught my eye:  "Nearly three times as many meteors occur in August as in February. This seasonal variation occurs because the earth is tilted more toward the sun in August."  

Can anyone explain why this is?  I can't really puzzle it out. Friend's explanation was that regularly occurring meteor showers have to do with interplanetary orbital debris, usually from comets, that hang out near certain portions of Earth's orbital path around the sun:

http://www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/meteor-shower-basics/

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"Consider blood pressure: It’s usually measured by placing a cuff around a patient’s arm and inflating the cuff until it cuts off blood flow....A tiny Biostamp can’t cut off blood flow. It can, however, measure the pulse at two points, just a centimeter or so apart. With this information, a smartphone can calculate a physiological indicator called pulse-wave velocity, which varies as blood pressure changes. So researchers Tony Banks, SeungMin Lee, and Matt Pharr in Rogers’s group are developing two types of Biostamp pulse detectors. One uses light; it alternately flashes a red and an infrared LED and uses a photodetector to pick up the light reflected from the skin beneath the Biostamp. Because deoxygenated blood absorbs more red light and oxygenated blood absorbs more of the infrared, fluctuations in those levels create a waveform that represents the heartbeat. That’s basically how the newest fitness bands detect a pulse, though the Biostamp version can get a more stable signal because the skin doesn’t shift under it. The other type of pulse detector under development uses piezoelectric strain sensors to monitor the stretching and relaxing of the patch as it reacts to the blood coursing through the vessels under it. In this scheme, greater stretch translates to higher pressure."
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Today on a science documentary a scene flashed by purporting to be an active (ancient) microcontroller under a scanning electron microscope:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qEJeDCU-6dI&t=50m25s

My jaw kind of dropped (wow! you can see the discrete clock pulses!), but ... I'm kind of skeptical of this.  The image is so perfect, and how could subjecting an active circuit to SEM be so nondestructive?  And why can't I find any current YouTube videos of this?  (Killed 10 minutes of my life hunting.  I saw some really crazy stuff, but not what I was looking for.)  Hmmm.

Anyway. That entire documentary is also great, if you're into 1980s documentaries about material science (which you totally should be), despite the COMPLETELY UNWARRANTED heckling from my docu-buddy.
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Aaaaaa, so cool! Did you know that many pubs have beverage hose sockets in an external wall? And that they're used to pipe (among other things) near-frozen CO2 to storage tanks inside?

Ok, you probably did. But I happened to be walking by at exactly the right time. The technician told me he normally does this at 4am, which is why you don't often get to see this. After chatting for a while, he said, "Want to see something cool?", (presumably unplugged the hose and released the pressure valve), and sent plumes of cold CO2 vapor swirling around us.
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CO2 truck
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Reading through the winners of this year's Breakthrough Prize, I was chuffed to see Jennifer Doudna's name among the recipients. In the past couple of years I've read about CRISPR and the genome editing revolution that its understanding has brought about, but hadn't realized that Jennifer Doudna was one of the principal scientists behind it. A Biology professor at UC Berkeley, she is near and dear to my heart: a few years back she was in my earbuds every morning as I banged around making coffee, listening to an introductory Biology course she co-taught on iTunes U. 

(If you're interested, the NYT had a great article about CRISPR earlier this year: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/health/a-powerful-new-way-to-edit-dna.html?_r=0 )
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NASA Ames Open House!
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Mail addressed to previous tenant.
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