The miscellaneous ramblings and thoughts of Dan G. Switzer, II

17-Year-Old High School Student Creates Nuclear Fusion...

I found this pretty remarkable. A 17-year high school student, Thiago Olson, from Michigan has created nuclear fusion in his parent's basement—using a machine he built with some help from his father. He apparently is the 18th amateur in the world to actual generate nuclear fusion.

Pretty damn impressive. I was too busy fiddling around with my Amiga 1000 at 17 to actually do anything truly remarkable. :)

Picture: The Sunset From Mars...

This isn't a new picture, but I just came across it. This was taken from the Mars Rover "Spirit" on May 19th, 2005. It's pretty amazing when you realize you're looking at a sunset from a planet other than Earth.

Sunset on Mars: A Moment Frozen in Time
Click here to view full image (85 kb)

I find the picture simply stunning.

Chimpanzee Plays Ms. Pac-Man

I came across this video this morning and it's pretty interesting. The chimpanzee appears to have enough motorskills to get the basics down. His/her reaction seems a little slow, but it does appear that the chimp has the basic fundementals down. I found this fascinating at least.

Chimpanzee Plays Ms. Pac-Man

It's amazing what you can do w/some Coke & Menthos...

What happens when you combine 200 liters of Diet Coke and over 500 Mentos mints? It's amazing and completely insane. Watch the video

MD5 Collision Attack Code Released

I missed this on Slashdot (since I rarely read it anymore,) but thanks to Cameron's blog post I caught this piece of news. The first code has been released that shows how to find collisions in the MD5 algorithm. Essentially this means two completely different source files can be salted to produce the same string. In a nutshell, if you're relying on an MD5 hash to gaurentee the integrity of a file, you have problems—especially if you're relying on it producing unique, secure hash strings.

For a good layman explanation of the problem and the exploit, Magnus Daum & Stefan Lucks have published a really good article over at CITS titled Attacking Hash Functions by Poisoned Messages "The Story of Alice and her Boss".

Air Force testing new transparent armor...

I was reading this article earlier today. Pretty cool stuff. Wright-Patterson is about 15-20 minutes from the house I grew up in. It's the home of Hangar 18—where the Aliens from the Roswell crash were supposedly held. Anyway, this is pretty cool. Make sure to click the link to read the entire article.

10/17/2005 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFPN) -- Engineers here are testing a new kind of transparent armor -- stronger and lighter than traditional materials -- that could stop armor-piercing weapons from penetrating vehicle windows.

The Air Force Research Laboratory's materials and manufacturing directorate is testing aluminum oxynitride -- ALONtm -- as a replacement for the traditional multi-layered glass transparencies now used in existing ground and air armored vehicles.

The test is being done in conjunction with the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., and University of Dayton Research Institute, Ohio.

ALONtm is a ceramic compound with a high compressive strength and durability. When polished, it is the premier transparent armor for use in armored vehicles, said. 1st Lt. Joseph La Monica, transparent armor sub-direction lead

"The substance itself is light years ahead of glass," he said, adding that it offers "higher performance and lighter weight."

Traditional transparent armor is thick layers of bonded glass. The new armor combines the transparent ALONtm piece as a strike plate, a middle section of glass and a polymer backing. Each layer is visibly thinner than the traditional layers.

ALONtm is virtually scratch resistant, offers substantial impact resistance, and provides better durability and protection against armor piercing threats, at roughly half the weight and half the thickness of traditional glass transparent armor, said the lieutenant.

... more ...

Pictures From SpaceShipOne's First Flight...

My Grandmother sent me a link to some really great photographs of SpaceShipOne's First Flight into Space. For those of you who haven't been folloing this story, this is the first private venture to achieve reaching space—which is pretty damn remarkable.

Kudos to Michael Melvill for being the first private citizen to become an astronaut.

Mexican Gov't Releases UFO Video

It seems the Mexican Air Force has released a video of what they describe as a UFO. The video was apparently shot well doing routine checks for drug traffickers.

Articles with Videos

Mexican Air Force Pilots Film 11 UFOs
Mexico Releases Video Of Objects Surrounding Military Plane
U.F.O. Close Encounter


Interesting reading fact...

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Smarter and Stinkier...

A recent test by researchers in Austrilia indicates that creatine—a natural compound found in muscle tissue—when digested appears to not only boost athletic performance, but it can also boost memory and intelligence. The most common side effect is that appears increase body odor.

"Creatine supplementation gave a significant measurable boost to brain power."

The researchers found that subjects' ability to remember long numbers improved from a number length of approximately seven digits, to an average of 8.5.

Dr Rae believes that the creatine increases the amount of energy available to the brain for computational tasks, improving general mental ability.

-- clip --

The supplement [creatine] is also notorious for creating an unpleasant odour in the vicinity of the taker.

Watch for Mars on 8/27/2003

My grandpa sent me this information. It seems Mars and Earth will become closer together on August 27, 2003 than they have in recorded history.

The relationship in space between Earth and Mars is never exactly repeated either. Each planet orbits the Sun on its own elliptical path, and those paths actually rotate through space over thousands of years.

The result, in late August, will be a proximity that hasn't occurred for 73,000 years, according to a calculation made by Jean Meeus and first reported by SPACE.com in November. Interestingly, even closer passes are in store for our descendents.


Prior to the 1988 close pass, the two planets were even closer in 1971, just 34.9 million miles (56.2 million kilometers) apart. The 2003 approach is less than 1 percent closer than the one in 1971, Standish points out.

"So it's not like you're going to see something gigantic in the sky," he said. "It’s not like Mars is going to look like the Moon or anything."

Mars will appear strikingly brilliant, however. It will be about as bright as Jupiter ever gets. It will shine like a beacon in its characteristic red or orange, in stark contrast to most of the other planets and stars, which exhibit little color.

James Patten's Audiopad/Physical UI Models

Audiopad was invented by two Media Lab graduate students at MIT, James Patten and Ben Recht. To quote James' website:

Audiopad has a matrix of antenna elements which track the positions of electronically tagged objects on a tabletop surface. Software translates the position information into music and graphical feedback on the tabletop. Each object represents either a musical track or a microphone.

The demo is pretty cool. Make sure to watch the second part of it, that's the part where they really show off how it works. It's an interesting user interface (UI) that they've developed as well. Make sure to check out the videos on both the Audiopad and as well as the generic video which shows off some of the different implementations of the physical model UI elements he's working on.


Quantum Cryptography Over Fiber...

ZDNet posted an interesting article on using quantum cryptography over fiber networks. I've been quite fascinated with the idea of using quantum physics in regards to networking ever since talking with Robi about a wifi network he had some dealing with that used the quantum physics idea of "entanglement". Entanglement is even talked about within quantum teleportation. It's all very interesting reading...

Over the next few years, Elliott and others in the field may turn the information-security business on its ear. Quantum cryptography could make the secret codes that protect data transmissions far more difficult to decipher—an important feature for financial-services companies, telecom carriers, and governments. Quantum cryptography may also quickly alert systems administrators to the presence of cybersnoops, whether they be hackers, fraudsters, or corporate spies.

TMS: Unlocking Savant Intellectual Abilities

Robi posted a cool entry about Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. His quotes come from FuturePundit.com, but I'd go read what Robi has to say. It's all very cool. Here's a quote:

Allan Snyder, director of Centre for the Mind at the University of Sydney is using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to slow down or speed up various parts of the brain and by doing so appears to be able to unlock savant intellectual abilities dormant in many minds.

As remarkable as the cat-drawing lesson was, it was just a hint of Snyder's work and its implications for the study of cognition. He has used TMS dozens of times on university students, measuring its effect on their ability to draw, to proofread and to perform difficult mathematical functions like identifying prime numbers by sight. Hooked up to the machine, 40 percent of test subjects exhibited extraordinary, and newfound, mental skills. That Snyder was able to induce these remarkable feats in a controlled, repeatable experiment is more than just a great party trick; it's a breakthrough that may lead to a revolution in the way we understand the limits of our own intelligence -- and the functioning of the human brain in general.

Baby teeth could provide stem cells

Just like the primordial tissue from which all organs arise, the stem cells in baby teeth can transform themselves into nerve and fat cells in laboratory dishes, investigators said. In the future, stem cells plucked from a child's discarded molar could be frozen in cell banks to benefit its donor for decades.