Thursday, July 28, 2005

"IRA vows to end armed campaign"

Let's hope this is for real.

I'm only half Irish, but it makes me feel good when Ireland makes great strides. I hope the IRA is serious about disarmament, and I hope there is a lasting peace throughout Northern Ireland -- at least between the republicans and those loyal to the crown.

Now the British can concentrate on the radical Muslims.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Abandoning your work

This is an interesting article by Scott Carlson in The Chronicle of Higher Education. In it, he talks about the legal and ethical quandries associated with using "orphaned" works, those works of art for which no creator can be found.

An orphan work can be a film, a book, a private letter, a painting, or any other creative work covered by copyright, in which protection, through the complexity of the law, can extend as far back as 1923. A work can become orphaned in any number of ways: For example, an artist can die, and the heirs may not know about the artist's copyrighted work. A company that published a novel might go out of business or fall into the hands of another company that does not maintain publication records. It is particularly hard to figure out who took a photograph, unless the name of the photographer or studio is cited somewhere on the print.

I am all for copyright protections, but big companies wield copyright law as a formidable weapon over the heads of scholars, satirists, and other creative types. Disney and other such organizations are good at such boorish actions, and they shudder to see a copyright lapse into public domain.

I think public domain is a good thing. Evenutally (I think 75 years after the death of the identifiable creator is ample time), all works of art should be fair game for anyone to use, whether it be in marketing campaigns, new works of art, or any other use. In the event of orphaned works, the time limit should be 75 years after the work can be reasonably assumed to have been created. After that, it belongs to everybody.

We all share in the output of humanity. Creative artists should be compensated for their works, but not forever.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Smog Fight Aided by Self-Cleaning Elements"

The future is here.

Self-cleaning materials. Concrete that breaks down pollution. Oh, this is the stuff of science fiction, and I love it! Of course, nanotechnology is the key:

Research in the field has been made possible by the revolution in nanotechnology
— science dedicated to building materials from the molecular level. The catalytic properties of titanium dioxide become active when it is applied in a very thin layer, or in microscopic particles.

A range of self-cleaning products coated with titanium dioxide, including windows and ceramic tiles, are already on the market but the focus has mostly been on their practical value rather than the environmental impact.

In Rome, the Dives in Misericordia church, designed by U.S.-based architect Richard Meier, is made of self-cleaning concrete that helps keep the surface shiny white. In Japan, several modern buildings including the Marunouchi Building in downtown Tokyo, are covered with photocatalytic tiles to reduce discoloring from pollution.

Let's just hope the by-products of such chemical reactions ultimately prove to be benign. If so, as I already said, the future as envisioned in science fiction is already here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Mars Rovers Wheel Onward"

Go rovers!

This is probably the most successful space mission in a very long time. And it has produced some absolutely magnificent images.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

"Poaching making China elephants evolve tuskless"

This is an interesting article. Evolution -- at least in my mind -- has always seemed an indomitable force of adaptation that pretty much happened on its own. Now, it seems that humans can actually influence the process, even if unintentionally.

Actually, now that I think about it, hunters in Texas (and I assume in other parts of North America) have already been influencing evolution. In this state, many hunters who eat venison prefer to shoot "spikes", those deer that grow single-tine antlers with no branches. The thinking goes that such spikes are genetically inferior to other male deer, and that increased taking of such animals will eventually ensure more deer with bigger racks.

Up until reading this article, I always took the spike argument with a grain of salt. I'm not so willing to, anymore.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Claiming a comet for herself

So this woman in Russia, who happens to believe in astrology, is quite upset with NASA for throwing a chunk of metal at her beloved comet. In doing so, she claims that the space agency has caused her anguish, and she wants someone to pay for screwing her up so badly.

Writer Marina Bay claims that by slamming the probe into the comet, Nasa endangered the future of civilisation.


However, even if the comet stays at a safe distance from Earth, Ms Bay's own life, she thinks, will never be the same again.

An amateur astrologist, she believes that any variation in the orbit or the composition of the Tempel comet will certainly affect her own fate.

So Ms Marina's claims to be experiencing "a moral trauma" - which only a payment of $300m (252m euros; £170m) can put right.

This is roughly what Nasa has spent on the experiment so far. [emphasis added]

If -- and I mean IF -- this ever gets to a trial, NASA's best defense would be to question how come she, and nobody else, has a personal claim to a giant ball of rock and ice. After all, I could say that the comet Tempel 1 was actually causing me "moral trauma" in its un-smashed form, and I could have demanded that someone blow it up.

Now, do I get $300 million?

Monday, July 04, 2005

"Scientists marvel at comet collision"

All I can say is, hooray! I'm glad it was a success, because this will teach us more about the universe than simply looking at a comet through a telescope. We need to do more missions like this.

Friday, July 01, 2005