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Charles Thacker 1943/02/26 – 2017/06/12

The pioneering personal computer designer Charles Thacker, a co-inventor of Ethernet, has died at the age of 74 in nearby Palo Alto. In 1972, just like personal computers of today, his Xerox Alta did not require a remote serial monitor since its tilt and swivel portrait screen was mapped directly to its hardware internals, it boasted a GUI supported directly by its OS, a three button mouse, and a detachable keyboard.

Charles Thacker based some, but not all, of the features of the Xerox Alta, on a computer system developed by Douglas Engelbart and demonstrated in 1968. These feature can be seen in a video (including interactively) called The Mother of a Demos. See below.


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Charles P. Thacker, an electrical engineer who played an early, central role in some of the most important ideas in personal computing and computer networking, died on Monday at his home in Palo Alto, Calif. He was 74.

His daughter Christine Thacker said the cause was complications of esophageal cancer.

In the 1970s, Mr. Thacker was part of a group that designed the first modern personal computer, the Alto, working out of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, known as PARC.

More here (obit.): https://goo.gl/ZZ4TtV


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In this short one-minute commercial, Xerox introduces its vision for the office of the future. Years ahead of its time, the 1972 Xerox Alto featured Ethernet networking, a full page display, a mouse, laser printing, e-mail, and a windows-based user interface. Although it's high price limited sales, the Alto was a groundbreaking invention and the inspiration for the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Video (YT ~1min): https://goo.gl/AkxJp6


The Xerox Alto and Charles Thacker's engineering were in part inspired by the earlier 1968 demo of the NLS by Douglas Engelbart.

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The Alto was conceived in 1972 in a memo written by Butler Lampson, inspired by the oN-Line System (NLS) developed by Douglas Engelbart, and Dustin Lindberg at SRI International (SRI). It was designed mostly by Charles P. Thacker. Industrial Design and manufacturing was sub-contracted to Xerox, whose Special Programs Group team included Doug Stewart as Program Manager, Abbey Silverstone Operations, Bob Nishimura, Industrial Designer. An initial run of 30 units was produced by Xerox El Segundo (Special Programs Group), working with John Ellenby at PARC and Doug Stewart and Abbey Silverstone at El Segundo, who were responsible for re-designing the Alto's electronics. Due to the success of the pilot run, the team went on to produce approximately 2,000 units over the next ten years.

Xerox Alto (Wikip): https://goo.gl/WKdyPS


Talking of Douglas Engelbart and the inspirational NLS...


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On December 9th, 1968 Doug Engelbart appeared on stage at the Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco to give his slated presentation, titled "A Research Center for Augmenting Human Intellect." He and his team spent the next 90 minutes not only telling about their work, but demonstrating it live to a spellbound audience that filled the hall.

Instead of standing at a podium, Doug was seated at a custom designed console, where he drove the presentation through their NLS computer residing 30 miles away in his research lab at Stanford Research Institute (SRI), onto a large projection screen overhead, flipping seamlessly between his presentation outline and live demo of features, while members of his research lab video teleconferenced in from SRI in shared screen mode to demonstrate more of the system.

More here: https://goo.gl/FNUWxP


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Video: The Mother of All Demos (Internet Archive): https://goo.gl/JWH1Mf


Image: https://goo.gl/2skVz1
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Daphnis

Daphnis, the wavemaker moon, an inner satellite of Saturn, has its orbit in one of the gaps in the rings of Saturn called the Keeler Gap. In fact Daphnis helps keep the Keeler gap clear, as it and its gravity, sweep through like a broom creating leading and following waves on the inner and outer edges respectively, of the A ring adjacent to the Keeler gap. Since its orbit is slightly inclined to the rings, however, some of the displaced material moves perpendicular to them creating a series of up to ~1500 metre (~1 mile) high spires (https://goo.gl/nwoZ9S and https://goo.gl/0U9utk) along the wavy edge that Daphnis creates. These however, pale in comparison to the vertical structures in the Cassini Division between the B and A rings which may be as high as ~2500 metres (~1.6 miles) high (https://goo.gl/DqJ4aV and https://goo.gl/6zKmDh).


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Daphnis (5 miles or 8 kilometers across) orbits within the 42-kilometer (26-mile) wide Keeler Gap. Cassini's viewing angle causes the gap to appear narrower than it actually is, due to foreshortening.

More here: https://goo.gl/TIi4jQ


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Daphnis orbits within the Keeler gap in Saturn's rings. As it orbits, it creates gravitational ripples on the edges of the gap as ring particles are attracted toward the moon and then fall back down toward the ring. The waves made by the moon in the inner edge of the gap precede it in orbit, while those on the outer edge lag behind it, due to the differences in relative orbital speed. In a photograph taken on January 18, 2017, a tendril of ring particles can be seen to extend toward the moon; according to JPL, "this may have resulted from a moment when Daphnis drew a packet of material out of the ring, and now that packet is spreading itself out.

Daphnis (Wikip): https://goo.gl/voP5sJ


This image is but one of the spectacular images in a series published by The Atlantic to mark the end of the Cassini mission in September.

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This September, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will take its final measurements and images as it plunges into Saturn’s atmosphere at 77,000 miles per hour, burning up high above the cloud tops. Launched in 1997, Cassini traveled 2.2 billion miles in seven years to reach Saturn and enter orbit. Over the past 13 years, Cassini’s instruments have returned countless priceless scientific observations and hundreds of thousands of images of the Saturnian system—its atmosphere, its 60+ moons, its vast rings, and much more. Gathered here are 40 of the most amazing images sent to us from Cassini, as we prepare for this epic mission to come to an end in just a few months.

More here (article): https://goo.gl/JmQEcr

Image originally by JPL/NASA can be found in the article immediately above.
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Cheap eBook

For US Amazon/Kindle users there is an opportunity today to get +Ed Yong's I Contain Multitudes on the cheap.
You can get +Ed Yong's ebook, I Contain Multitudes, for only $1.99 today. That's a great deal for a great book! (this price may be US only :( )
http://amzn.to/2s8AwGx
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Pavlov's Dogs Science Stories

In the first episode of Series 5 of Science Stories from BBC Radio 4, Naomi Alderman explains and explores the real story of Nobel Laureate, Ivan Pavlov and his dogs. It seems that it might be very different from what we have been conditioned to think. It is likely that a mistranslation from the original Russian text led to 'conditioned response' rather than 'conditional response' being recorded in English as the intent of his work. Naomi contends that in reality his work did not involve bells and automatic reactions, but was about cleverly finding a way of measuring the existence, duration and intensity of thought itself, by carefully measuring saliva in dogs as a proxy.

Perhaps Pavlov should have been given the No Bell Prize in 1904.

Say Pavlov and most people think of bells ringing and dogs salivating. Ivan Pavlov is firmly associated in many people's minds with the idea that animals and, to some extent humans, automatically respond to certain stimuli. Internal thought processes are over-rated. But, as Naomi Alderman's story of selectively drooling dogs reveals, our Pavlovian response to Pavlov himself, is often wrong. For starters, he never used bells. Using metronomes and harmoniums, he noticed that dogs could distinguish between beats played at different speeds and identify individual notes from an A minor chord. He trained dogs to recognize precise time intervals: to expect food in precisely half an hour, for example. He wanted to understand how dogs learn and treated the brain as a black box because he had no way of getting inside it. He analysed what he could, principally the arrival of saliva; but he never thought free will was an illusion. In fact, he said "it would be stupid to reject the subjective world".

Listen here (stream, download MP3, podcast): https://goo.gl/kHBL9d

Ivan Pavlov (Wikip): https://goo.gl/i4dGcb

Image: PD https://goo.gl/0TjNB1
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Baron Caterpillar
via u/spicedpumpkins

This picture was identified as a Common Baron Caterpillar (Euthalia aconthea gurda) taken in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on one of its favourite foods, a mango leaf. The Baron Caterpillar is a master of camouflage!

The 5th instar caterpillar is medium green, and the yellowish-white dorsal stripe loses the earlier purple-brown spots along the edge of the stripe. The branched spines appear almost like a bird's feather, with the secondary spines arranged neatly perpendicular to the main spine. It reaches a mature length of about 45mm before shortening and adopting its pre-pupation pose.

More here: https://goo.gl/t0Rgxc

Baron Caterpillar seen from another angle: https://goo.gl/pNX9Ng

Image: by Wohin Auswandern https://goo.gl/uob8dQ
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Who Me?

I'm sharing this mostly for the cute owl animation below that is, sadly, too big for G+. I believe that this animation features a captive grey barn owl.

Cute Animation: https://goo.gl/PJTaw8

Science payload for those who haven't already seen how they do this...

Related post: https://goo.gl/sMM1xM

270º Swivel

Image: https://goo.gl/Owaaeg
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Heavy and Falcon

It must be rather nice to have a day job that is in some respects a continuation of one of your childhood hobbies. So it is with Oliver Braun (I think it is he), one of the founders of Buzz Medialabs in Bad Saulgau near Lake Constance in Southern Germany. When Oliver wanted detailed and accurate SpaceX models, and none were available for purchase, he used his childhood skills with Revell plastic kits and Radio Control models but enhanced by his day job, and with the help of a cofounder, just made his own.

At the time of his posting he had not heard back from +SpaceX about a licensing agreement.


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I have looked into all kinds of 3D printing methods and finally found that SLA (stereo lithography) printing will give the results I want. I was looking for smooth and flush surfaces but also mechanical accuracy and tolerances that would allow to assemble the whole thing. In that scale, you cannot really print it in one go.

So while I was developing the 3D model for it for over half a year I was saving the money to buy the printer and materials and around 2 months ago, I was finally able to purchase it (Formlabs Form 2) and let the whole thing materialize. Having built a lot of Revell plastic models and also RC models, I already had some experience in finishing the parts and make it look nice. In fact around 90% of all the work that has gone into this has been 3D model development, reference materials research and then the post work of parts, painting, assembly, etc. Printing the parts is just the bridge between having the 3D model and have the parts materialize.

The pics in the post show the first prototypes of the models, both the 1:72 scale F9 and FH and also the 1:144 F9. The larger models stand almost one meter tall. The smaller scale F9 is half the size, accordingly. In theory, I could manufacture a lot more of these, since the build procedures and parts are tested and ready to go, however, I am not able to sell these models officially, as I don't have a license from SpaceX. Also, I cannot share the print files at this point as I am still improving different things and also, everything has been engineered to work exclusively with the Form 2 printer. Traditional FDM will not work with this. I hope you don't get mad at me because of that, but I thought I'd share it anyways! I hope you like it :)

A little more here (Reddit post): https://goo.gl/P9ttrh

Image by Buzz Medialabs: https://goo.gl/2dWNtC
From: https://goo.gl/GSqhPJ
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Collapsible Wings

I must have been four or five years old when I first noticed that a ladybird was capable of flight. I distinctly remember the visceral shock I received, despite knowing the nursery rhyme, but not understanding what it implied, that something so plodding, small, and beautiful could somehow suddenly grow larger, sprout fluttery black wings and erratically fly home.

It was some years later that I wondered how ladybirds managed to put their wings away again, without damaging them, as I watched a specimen land, perfectly close its red and black-spotted hemispherical casing, leaving wing-tips protruding at first, as if by mistake, and then shuffle dance until even these narrow wing remainders were safely inside the protective casing.

But, until now, decades later, it has at least partially eluded mankind as to how exactly this feat was accomplished. Despite some earlier efforts to uncover the secret, it was not until someone thought of a way of safely replacing one of the elytra with a transparent prosthetic forewing and then using the latest video technology elucidate the clever loose-hinged origami-like folding, flexible yet rigid wing veins with cross-sections like back-to-back metal retractable tape-measures, and slippery, guiding micro-spicules.


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With the help of high-speed cameras, CT scanners and some nail-art supplies, scientists in Japan have managed to catch a glimpse of the elaborate way that ladybugs fold their wings to tuck them away.

The research could have implications for everything from aeronautics to umbrellas.

The study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explored how ladybugs can have wings strong enough to fly with, but quickly collapsible so they can be tucked out of the way.

More here (article): https://goo.gl/RcKzrL


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Ladybugs are highly mobile insects that can switch between walking and flying with ease and speed because they can quickly deploy and collapse their wings. To reveal the folding mechanism and structure, the researchers constructed a transparent artificial elytron from ultraviolet light-cured resin—often applied in nail art—using a silicon impression of an elytron they removed from a seven-spot ladybug, and transplanted it to replace the missing forewing. This method revealed the detailed wing-folding mechanism occurring under the elytra.

Video (YT ~3 mins.): https://goo.gl/Phqcbg



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Hindwings in ladybird beetles successfully achieve compatibility between the deformability (instability) required for wing folding and strength property (stability) required for flying. This study demonstrates how ladybird beetles address these two conflicting requirements by an unprecedented technique using artificial wings. Our results, which clarify the detailed wing-folding process and reveal the supporting structures, provide indispensable initial knowledge for revealing this naturally evolved optimization system.

Investigating the characteristics in the venations and crease patterns revealed in this study could provide an innovative designing method, enabling the integration of structural stability and deformability, and thus could have a considerable impact on engineering science.

More here (Paper – Early Edition (Open)): https://goo.gl/w3elGA
NB more videos and diagrams.


Image: https://goo.gl/GWHvp3
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Croissant Maths
by +Chalkdust

Ironically, in France, where taste, fragrance and mouthfeel still trump mere visual impression, the oil and hardened fat versions of croissants, must, by law, be signaled as such by being always curved into a crescent, while the genuine croissant au beurre may be curved, slightly-curved, or straight.

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The recipe to create the best croissant requires a cooling step after the first folding, so that the butter inside gets chilled again, ready for the next folding. The baker then stretches the dough into a rectangle and folds it into thirds, pretty much like he or she did in the previous step. By the time of the second folding, there are 9 layers of butter between 10 layers of dough… and then again, cooling down, stretching and folding, and again (and for some bakers, again). The recipe for a croissant usually takes hours!

More here (Maths article): https://goo.gl/AF5LB8


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Why is a croissant shaped that way, anyway? The first truth is that they are not, necessarily. As veteran visitors to Parisian bakeries know, the superior, all-butter croissants are already commonly articulated as straight pastries—or, at least, as gently sloping ones—while the inferior oil or margarine ones must, by law, be neatly turned in. This sometimes leads those who expect clarity and logic, rather than complexity and self-cancelling entrapment, from French laws to think that the straight croissants are all butter and the curved ones are reliably not. The truth is that a butter croissant can be any shape it chooses, on the general atavistic aristocratic principle that, butter being better, it creates its own realm of privilege.

More here (Cultural article): https://goo.gl/3Pprs9


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The birth of the croissant itself–that is, its adaptation from the plainer form of Kipferl, before the invention of viennoiseries–can be dated to at least 1839 (some say 1838) when an Austrian artillery officer, August Zang, founded a Viennese bakery ("Boulangerie Viennoise") at 92, rue de Richelieu in Paris. This bakery, which served Viennese specialities including the Kipferl and the Vienna loaf, quickly became popular and inspired French imitators (and the concept, if not the term, of viennoiserie, a 20th-century term for supposedly Vienna-style pastries). The French version of the Kipferl was named for its crescent (croissant) shape and has become an identifiable shape across the world.

Croissant (Wikip): https://goo.gl/GfIouF


Image: by SKopp https://goo.gl/4HSDod
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Primary Mirror JWST

Like some giant, golden space-butterfly, one wing of the Primary Mirror for the highly-advanced James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is shown open in this picture, and another nearly so, as it is readied for the system's final cryogenic test before the planned launch of the JWST next year (2018).

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To ensure the telescope's optics will operate at its frigid destination 1 million miles out in space, it must complete tests at cryogenic temperatures in a vacuum. The biggest and final cryogenic-vacuum test occurs in Johnson's Chamber A, the same vacuum chamber where Apollo spacecraft were tested. This test is critical in that it will verify the performance of the whole telescope as a system end-to-end at its extremely cold operating temperatures. Subsequently, the telescope will continue on its journey to Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems in Redondo Beach, California, for final assembly and testing with the spacecraft bus and sunshield prior to launch in 2018.

More here: https://goo.gl/ZDr92T

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This video shows in-depth what will happen when James Webb Space Telescope deploys after launch. For more information, see this description on our website:
Video (YT ~5 mins.): https://goo.gl/Bms2Cx

Image (NASA/Chris Gunn): https://goo.gl/81GCQP
Explanatory text: https://goo.gl/jSCTq4
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