Laputan Logic
Saturday, December 21, 2002
  Why are men less religious? Apparently for the same reasons that men are more likely to engage in other shortsighted, risky and impulsive behavior "such as assault, robbery, burglary, murder and rape." Hmmmmm. 
Friday, December 20, 2002
  Unplundered ancient Greek temple discovered
Treasure in Kythnos sanctum On one of the least developed Cycladic islands, archaeologists have hit on one of the most coveted prizes of Greek archaeology — the unplundered inner sanctum of an ancient temple replete with offerings in precious metals and luxurious pottery items. A team led by University of Thessaly Associate Professor of archaeology Alexandros Mazarakis-Ainian discovered the treasure chamber in a ruined temple of a female divinity at Vriokastro on Kythnos, on the western fringe of the archipelago. The sanctum — called adyton by the ancient Greeks — was forbidden to all but the priests of the temple and contained sacred statues of the divinity as well as offerings brought by worshippers. These could include precious jewels, gifts donated by dignitaries to enhance their own prestige and spoils of war. “Behind the cella (main hall) of the temple, and on the other side of a wall with a threshold in its middle, where nobody would have expected it, we discovered the adyton,” Mazarakis-Ainian said in an interview published in yesterday’s Vima daily. “On the earthen floor and in the destruction layer covering it, in other words, practically on the surface, we found some 1,500 precious objects.” The opulence is impressive. Finds, which dated mostly from the seventh to the fifth centuries BC — thus defining the life span of the temple — included 70 golden artifacts, 150 in silver, 450 in bronze, 70 terracotta figurines, 50 intact and many smashed vases. The majority of the pottery was painted, and some pieces have been linked to master painters. There was also a small stone bead incised with a boat, dating from Minoan times, which could have been a family heirloom. The temple, which may have belonged to Hera or Aphrodite, was probably destroyed by earthquake.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
How far up into the sky does the biosphere extend? Do microorganisms exist at heights of 40 km and in what quantity? To answer these questions several research institutes in India collaborated on a path-breaking project to send balloon-borne sterile "cryosamplers" into the stratosphere. The programme was led by cosmologist Professor Jayant Narlikar, Director of the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in Pune, with scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Studies contributing their various expertise. Large volumes of air from the stratosphere at heights ranging from 20 to 41km were collected on 21 January 2001. The programme of analysis of samples in the UK was organised by Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University, co-proponent with the late Sir Fred Hoyle of the modern theory of panspermia. This theory states that the Earth was seeded in the past, and is still being seeded, with microorganisms from comets. Last year a team of biologists at Cardiff University's School of Biosciences reported evidence of viable bacteria in air samples at 41km in such quantity that implied a world-wide settling rate of one tonne of bacterial material per day. Although living bacteria were seen they could not be grown in the laboratory. Dr Milton Wainwright of Sheffield University's Department of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, was asked to apply his skills to growing the organisms. Dr Wainwright isolated a fungus and two bacteria from one of the space derived samples collected at 41km. The presence of bacteria in these samples was then independently confirmed. These results are published in this month's issue of a prestigious microbiology journal FEMS Letters (Wainwright et al, 2002), published by Elsevier. The isolated organisms are very similar to known terrestrial varieties. There are however notable differences in their detailed properties, possibly pointing to a different origin. Furthermore, it should be stressed that these microorganisms are not common laboratory contaminants. Dr Wainwright says, however, "Contamination is always a possibility in such studies but the "internal logic" of the findings points strongly to the organisms being isolated in space, at a height of 41km. Of course the results would have been more readily accepted and lauded by critics had we isolated novel organisms, or ones with NASA written on them! However, we can only report what we have found in good faith". The new work of Wainwright et al is consistent with the ideas of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that in fact predict the continuing input onto the Earth of "modern" organisms. In recent years and months there has been a growing body of evidence that can be interpreted as support for the theory of panspermia - e.g. the space survival attributes and general space hardiness of bacteria.
Up draught Wainwright admits that the simplest explanation is that the organisms, found above 99 per cent of the Earth's atmosphere, have terrestrial origins. But, he asks, how did they get up there? Turbulent winds at ground level are certainly capable of sweeping particles up into the atmosphere. But this kind of weather is confined beneath the tropopause, which acts like a lid at about 17,000 metres. Volcanic eruptions can push matter through the tropopause. But there were no such events in the months before the samples were taken, and gravity would be expected to drag any microbes back down in a few days. However, the man-made greenhouse gases called CFCs have been found at similar altitudes, showing that global air currents can pierce the tropopause. Martin Juckes, an atmospheric scientist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, says that air flows upwards at the tropics at about one metre per hour, and may carry material with it. But whether particles as large as microbes could be carried to such heights is not known. Microbes from edge of space revived
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
  Revealing the True Colors of NASA Also just in, this delightful little conspiracy theory about how NASA has been faking the colour of Mars ever since the Viking missions. It seems that the same agency that faked the moon landings has been busily colouring the planet red so as to disguise obvious signs of plant-life. As with any decent con-theory, this one mixes in enough truth with the BS to keep the reader thoroughly titillated:
At about 2:00 P.M. PDT, the first color image from the surface of another planet, Mars, began to emerge on the JPL color video monitors located in many of the surrounding buildings, specifically set up for JPL employees and media personnel to view the Viking images. Gil and Ron Levin sat in the main control room where dozens of video monitors and anxious technicians waited to see this historic first color picture. As the image developed on the monitors, the crowd of scientists, technicians, and media reacted enthusiastically to a scene that would be absolutely unforgettable – Mars in color. The image showed an Arizona-like landscape: blue sky, brownish-red desert soil, and gray rocks with green splotches ... Gil Levin commented to Patricia Straat [his co-Investigator] and his son Ron, ‘Look at that image! It looks like Arizona’ Two hours after the first color image appeared on the monitors, a technician abruptly changed the image from the light-blue sky and Arizona-like landscape to a uniform orange-red sky and landscape. Ron Levin looked in disbelief as the technician went from monitor to monitor making the change. Minutes later, Ron followed him, resetting the colors to their original appearance. Levin and Straat were interrupted when they heard someone being chastised. It was Ron Levin being chewed out by the Viking Project Director himself, James S. Martin, Jr. Gil Levin went immediately and asked, "What is going on?" Martin had caught Ron changing all the color monitors back to their original settings. He warned Ron that if he tried something like that again, he’d be thrown out of JPL for good. The Director then asked a TRW engineer assisting the Biology team, Ron Gilje, to follow Ron Levin around to every color monitor and change it back to the red landscape. "What Gil Levin, Ron and Patricia Straat did not know (even to this writing) is that the order to change the colors came directly from the NASA Administrator himself, Dr. James Fletcher. Months later, Gil Levin sought out the JPL Viking Imaging Team technician who actually made the changes and asked why it was done. The technician responded that he had instructions from the Viking Imaging Team that the Mars sky and landscape should be red and went around to all the monitors ‘tweaking’ them to make it so. As someone who was also at JPL that afternoon, and vividly remembers a similar shock -- when the "Arizona Mars" initially flashed on the JPL monitors was suddenly transformed into a Martian "Red Light District" – I now kick myself for not asking lots more questions. But, it was 1976 -- and we all trusted our Space Agency back then ….
Note: this cock-up on the colours of the first Viking images of the Martian surface really did happen though the process wasn't as quite as crude as "tweaking" the colour monitors.
The Colors of Mars The first two photos of Mars received on 20 July 1976 were followed by a color photograph on the 21st. A lot of people would not forget that first color picture. Mutch tells the tale as well as anyone. During the first day following the early morning lauding of Viking 1 , his team was preoccupied with analysis and release of those first two images, "which, in quality and content, had greatly exceeded our expectations." So much were they concentrating on the black and white pictures, that they were "dismally," to use Mutch's word, "unprepared to reconstruct and analyze the first color picture." Mutch and his colleagues on the imaging team had been working long hours, along with everyone else, during the search for a landing site. Despite enthusiasm, people were tired. Many of the Viking scientists in the upcoming weeks would have to learn to present instant interpretations of their data for the press. For the first color photograph, haste led to processing the Martian sky the wrong color. In a general fashion, Mutch and his team understood that a thorough preflight calibration of the camera's sensitivity to the colors of the spectrum was necessary. They also knew that they would need computer software programs to transform the raw data efficiently into an accurate color representation. "What we failed to appreciate were the many subtle problems which, uncorrected, could produce major changes in color. Furthermore, we had no intimation of the immediate and widespread public interest in the first color products-for example, intuitively corrected color images were shown on television within 30 minutes following receipt of the data on Earth." Although they resisted at first, the lander imaging team was obliged to release the first color prints within 8 hours of having received the image. Instinctive reactions and intuition can lead to mistakes when dealing with an alien world. Here is Tim Mutch's first public reaction to the color photograph:
"Look at that sky-light blue sky-reddish hue. It's a very exciting thing to see this distinct reddish coloration to the surface. These are subtle hues. It's a geological scene, a natural scene. Even in the deserts here on Earth the reds are not crayon reds as painted by a child. This is a surprisingly terrestrial-like desert scene. "
But to borrow Carl Sagan's phrase, to see this picture in terms of deserts on our own planet was an "Earth chauvinism." The photo was of Mars, not of Earth; the sky should have been red. When James A. Pollack of the imaging team told a press conference on July 21 that the Martian sky was pink, he was greeted with some friendly boos and hisses. Sagan, in a way that only he could, chided the newspeople the following day: "The sort of boos given to Jerry Pollack's pronouncement about a pink sky reflects our wish for Mars to be just like the Earth." There were three sensors with blue, green, and red filters in the focal plane of the camera to record the radiance of the scene in blue, green, and red light. The multilayer, interference filters used in the lander cameras (filters that could withstand the rigors of sterilization) have an irregular spectral response. The blue channel, for instance, responds slightly but significantly to light in the infrared portion of the spectrum. The unwanted part of the signal must be subtracted, "so that the absolute radiances at three specific wavelengths in the blue, green and red are represented." Subsequently, color prints were produced by exposing conventional color film to individually modulated beams of blue, green, and red laser light, scanning the film with the same geometry employed in the camera. Before the flight, the cameras had been calibrated and the sensitivity of each sensor-filter combination determined. "Qualitative tests indicated that simple normalization of the voltages for the three color channels was sufficient to produce reasonable color images. In making that judgment our attention was generally directed to saturated colors in the natural scene and test target." When the first color data were received, Mutch's specialists used the same normalization techniques to calibrate the image. "The result was surprising and disquieting. The entire scene, ground and atmosphere alike, was bathed in a reddish glow. Unwilling to commit ourselves publicly to this provocative display, we adjusted the parameters in the calibration program until the sky came out a neutral gray." The soil and rocks demonstrated good contrast, and the colors "seemed reasonable." This was the picture released eight hours later. "But in our chagrin," Mutch recalled, "the sky took on a bluish hue during reconstruction and photo-reproduction. The media representatives were delighted with the Earth-like colors of the scene." While the television and newspaper reporters hurried to get this color print before their respective audiences, continued analysis supported the reality of an orangish tint throughout the scene. The atmospheric coloration was due to the presence of suspended soil particles in the thin air. Mutch recalled: "Several days after the first release, we distributed a second version, this time with the sky reddish. Predictably, newspaper headlines of Martian sky turns from blue to red were followed by accounts of scientific fallibility. We smiled painfully when reporters asked us if the sky would turn green in a subsequent version." Experience with color imaging over the next year indicated that the colors of Mars might vary, but the sky would retain its reddish hue. "In summary," Mutch said, "the color of the Martian scene, perceived by the necessarily abnormal eyes of Viking, is elusive. In response to the inevitable question: `Is that exactly how it would look if I were standing on Mars?' a qualified `yes' is in order."
  Seen on the Televisor screen  
  Nipkow Vision The following images were produced in the late twenties by John Logie Baird using his mechanical "Televisor" system which was based on a Nipkow Disk.
This photo is of Connie King, John Logie Baird's typist and switchboard operator. Taken from a 30 line scanning disk on a Baird Televisor in mid 1929. The original image was neon (orange) colored. The scanning disk is rotating at 750 RPM and scans the subject in the vertical direction. The image on the disk is approximately 1.5 inches high.
Another photo taken from a Baird Televisor. This one of A. F. Birch was taken in September 1929.
These pictures come from Peter Yanczer's excellent Experimental Television site which contains lots of interesting stuff including how to build your own Nipkow disc-based television receiver and "flying spot" camera.  
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
  Santa found living on the South Pole...(wait for it)...OF MARS!!
Mysterious tracks that look like 250-mile long ski or sled trails have been found near the South Pole of Mars. Researchers at the University of Colorado have found the broad, sweeping lines cutting through a section of the southern ice caps of the frigid planet, but haven't a clue what caused them. If the features were on Earth, they would probably be attributed to a long-gone glacier that dragged boulders along its underside and scoured out the grooves. "But there shouldn't be anything but meteorites up there," said planetary scientist Zane Crawford, a graduate student at the University of Colorado who presented the strange features at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union, which ended this week in San Francisco. The long, sweeping grooves follow a broad, shallow valley opening north and turning slightly west from the South Pole. And although they may look like huge sled trails, the grooves are not on steep terrain — which rules out actual snow sports by Martians. The features also appear to be scouring away at the underlying layers, revealing lines and patterns that look a little like a wooden plank sanded down parallel to its grain, explained Crawford. "That region is pretty unique," said Zane Byrne, who processes altimeter data and makes images of the Martian landscape as part of his graduate work at the California Institute of Technology. Another possible cause of the features is powerful winds. In fact, the way that the grooves appear to bear west as they head away from the pole suggests as much, since air currents on Mars and Earth are turned by the planets' spins. Exactly what caused the grooves may not be known until a human geologist makes an old-fashioned field trip to the regions and digs a trench to study the sediments, said Byrne. The images of the mysterious grooves are composed of elevation data, all derived by the Mars Orbiting Laser Altimeter on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. The South Pole itself is not well covered, accounting for the smooth, data-poor region in the upper left of the pictures, Byrne said. In other places, however, the data are so good that differences of just six inches can be detected, enabling scientists to see the seasonal changes in carbon dioxide frost building up and evaporating on the southern Mars-scape, said Crawford.
  Seeing at a distance: Paul Nipkow
nip5.jpg (17522 octets) Graphic of the "disc of Nipkow" in the patent application (1884).
As a student, Paul Nipkow was already thinking about the long-distance transmission of the images. In 1882, he undertook scientific studies at the University of Berlin which he had to give up for financial reasons after the death of his father. In 1884, at the 24 years age, he lodged a patent application for an "electric telescope" and subsequently obtained the first ever patent relating to a television apparatus. In essence, this apparatus consisted of a scanning disc with a series of holes that were arranged into a spiral. The turning disc moved in front of the image to transmit, breaking it up into sequence of electrical signals. The strength of the signal was determined by the brightness of the corresponding part of the image being scanned. After taking early retirement in 1919, Nipkow devoted himself entirely to the improvement of his disc and in 1930 the Siemens company acquired his patent of 1924 on disc synchronization. The Nipkow disc, until the advent of electronic television towards the end of the Thirties, formed the basis of nearly all "mechanical television" systems.
P. Nipkow, "Der Telephotograph und das elektrische Teleskop", 1885.
Here is another diagram of Nipkow's Disc:
And finally, in the tradition of stream-punk-retro: A Proposal for Sending and Receiving Moving-Picture Signals between the Planets Earth and Mars by Means of Electric Telescope.  
Fanciful. Preposterous. Absurd.

October 06, 2002 / October 13, 2002 / October 20, 2002 / October 27, 2002 / November 03, 2002 / November 10, 2002 / November 17, 2002 / November 24, 2002 / December 01, 2002 / December 08, 2002 / December 15, 2002 / December 22, 2002 / December 29, 2002 / January 05, 2003 / January 12, 2003 / January 19, 2003 / January 26, 2003 / February 02, 2003 / February 09, 2003 / February 16, 2003 / March 02, 2003 / March 09, 2003 / March 16, 2003 / March 23, 2003 / March 30, 2003 / April 13, 2003 / April 20, 2003 / April 27, 2003 / May 04, 2003 / May 11, 2003 / May 18, 2003 / May 25, 2003 / June 01, 2003 / June 08, 2003 / June 15, 2003 / June 22, 2003 / June 29, 2003 / July 06, 2003 / July 13, 2003 / July 20, 2003 / July 27, 2003 / August 03, 2003 / August 31, 2003 / September 07, 2003 / September 21, 2003 / September 28, 2003 / October 05, 2003 / October 19, 2003 /

Powered by Blogger