Happy Thoughts – August 29, 2015 (Beware the Spider)

Ms. Spee Ider is becoming quite the chunky monkey. That’s probably because we’ve had an onslaught of bright green grasshoppers lately. I just love her black, “thigh-high” stockings. So sexy!

spee iderThis photo was taken yesterday afternoon. She was being quite lazy so I thought it would be a great time to get a really close shot. I don’t think I’ll be getting that close again. She made one move towards me and that was it.

No more closeups like that!

spee ider nomnomnomThis photo was taken a few days ago. Peeked out the door to say hello and apparently she was too busy having bug juice to speak to me. I wonder if she’s getting these things to-go, delivered, or just waiting for happenstance.

Mmmm. Brains. Yummy.



Your home’s dust shares all your dirty little secrets

082615-your dirty secrets 2

Let’s face it. Most of us hate dusting, but it’s a chore that has to be done. Despite our best efforts to keep our homes dust-free, there’s always those little fuzzballs we can’t seem to get to. Damn dustbunnies!

Now here’s something you may not have known. All that dust harbors a veritable cornucopia of bacteria and fungi (microbes), and boy does it have a story to tell! That dust and those microbes can be used to predict where you live, and who you’re living with.

Yup. Sounds like something they could definitely use for a new CSI series…Dust Detectives: CSI

Read on to find out more – Your home’s dust shares all your dirty little secrets.

Robot Ethics (When the shoe is on the other foot)


On the heels of hitchBOT’s demise, Kate Darling, an expert in robot ethics at MIT Media Lab, spoke with Wired’s Katie Collins about humans’ ability to relate emotionally to robots and other objects in an article for Wired.

It’s a great read. Just saying.

And just like that, there’s one more field of study I need to add to my “what to look for next” file – Robot Ethics.

But it also got me to thinking. In modern science fiction, we all know about Asimov’s Laws.

The Three Laws of Robotics by Isaac Asimov clearly state:

1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

I never thought about it the other way around. And were these three laws on Hitchbot’s mind when he met his demise?

Happy Thoughts – August 24, 2015 – Getting outside

no imageI finally left the house yesterday. Decided to go up the street to my sister’s house. They were doing their usual Sunday thing – grilling, drinking beer, everyone coming and going. I managed to spend an entire hour there, in the backyard, inside, hugging my favorite nephews and chatting about their favorite movies and going back to school. It was wonderful, but it was also nice to get back home into the safety of these walls. I figure an hour was pretty damn decent for someone who has hardly been outside at all in months. And thanks to all the lovely shade trees, no sun burn. Phew!

I left my phone at home because I didn’t feel that proof was needed. Plus, who wants to stare at their cellphone or take pics when you’ve got so much going on?

Radiation could be key to finding dark matter

082315-dark matter 1Dark matter has so far eluded detection. It’s either a very crafty creature (like Bigfoot), or it’s just super-duper hard to pin down.

I woke up with one extra energized brain cell this morning – lucky me – so I decided to go ahead and do some digging on the matter (every pun intended). Why not? Writing about dark matter in the dark seems fitting enough.

Currently there are three ways for physicists to try and detect dark matter: Make it, break it, or wait for it. None of these techniques has worked so far. However, physicists are proposing a new way that appears to be based on a combination of the break it and wait for it methods.

Dark matter particles are thought to annihilate into dark radiation when they collide, therefore we should be able to detect the signals from this radiation.

While still hypothetical at best, based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass–energy of the known universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy. Thus, dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe, while dark energy plus dark matter constitute 95.1% of the total mass–energy content of the universe.

Let’s compare this standard model of cosmology to a cup of coffee. I drink mine with one packet of artificial sweetener and a hint of milk (we’ll call this ordinary matter). The coffee grounds are your dark matter, and the water used to brew the coffee is your dark energy. Put them all together and you get the total mass–energy of the known universe. And let me tell you, coffee is pure energy! 😉

Now let’s compare the radiation theory to the brewing process. You have to heat the water and let it flow through the grounds. This process makes the individual grounds of coffee clump together in a way – thus they are closer to each other and you have the “collision” part of the equation. During this process, we begin to smell the sweet aroma of the coffee and see the steam – thus we visually detect signals that the coffee is ready.

Although this is a simplified version, once you start to think about it their proposal seems to make sense. You can find out more about this proposal here – Radiation could be key to finding dark matter.

Image Above: Galaxy cluster Abell 370 with dark matter map. Credit: NASA/ESA/Hubble et al.