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Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell has been at 6 events

HostFollowersTitleDateGuestsLinks
Hubble Space Telescope7,304,528As the Dawn Spacecraft approaches the dwarf planet Ceres in a matter of months, it's difficult to forget the amount of teamwork and collaboration that took place in order for amazing feats like this to be accomplished.  As of right now, the @104933578966497599647 has the highest resolution image of Ceres, but that's all about to change as Dawn arrives and gives us all a completely new perspective of the largest object in the asteroid belt. In fact, the images taken by Hubble have been highly instrumental in the planning phases of getting Dawn to Ceres, as well as Vesta. To continue in the spirit of collaboration, this week's #HubbleHangout  will be with those involved in imaging Ceres with Hubble as well as members of the @114633249213698877766 team! Please join @111723545767173542935 Dr @108702399358372466505 and @109479143173251353583, who will be on location at @113315419190905475766 with @116038520278283994894 as we discuss the long journey Dawn has made to get to Ceres. Joining them as well is @103847012358973381717 and @117488895129265120574 who worked on getting the gorgeous view from Hubble.  Bring your questions and comments and we'll read them on air throughout the hangout! Read more here: _Hubble Images of Asteroids Help Astronomers Prepare for Spacecraft Visit_ http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2007/27/ _Dawn Snaps Its Best-Yet Image of Dwarf Planet Ceres_ http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-414 *Special Note* Our own Dr. @102121416925306649659 has been nominated for a Listener Choice Award for an audio segment on Exploring Exoplanets released last July. Please show your support for the #JWST mission by listening to his segment here http://academicminute.org/2014/07/jason-kalirai-johns-hopkins-university-exploring-exoplanets/ and voting here:  http://academicminute.org/2014/11/listener_choice_award/ #Space   #Astronomy   #Hubble   #Ceres   #Dawn  Hubble And Dawn Collaborate To See Ceres2014-12-11 19:00:00240  
Pamela L. Gay88,019Join us to talk with Moon pioneers @100178094478432687792 and @101857647439433066235  and find out how they're engaging students -- and heading to the Moon! Overview A global team of scientists and engineers are all working toward constructing missions to land on, travel across, and send video back from the Moon. With this new Google Hangout on Air series, we will introduce you to the men and women behind each of these planned missions and bring you all the latest developments from the +Google Lunar XPRIZE .Google Lunar XPRIZE Team Hangout 005: Rockets and Students ENGAGE!2014-05-28 03:00:4824  
STEM Women on G+180,009Join us for a STEM Women HOA as we speak to Dr.  @103389452828130864950 on how men can help with the issues of gender inequality in STEM fields. Yonatan is the Chief Architect of Google+ and also has a PhD in Physics with a strong engineering background. He is a passionate advocate of gender equality in STEM, and will talk to us about what we can do to encourage women in STEM. This HOA will be hosted by Dr @108510686109338749229   and Dr @110756968351492254645  , and you can tune in on Sunday March 2nd at 12.30 PM Pacific/ 8.30PM GMT. The hangout will be available for viewing on our YouTube channel(http://www.youtube.com/stemwomen) after the event. Follow us on Twitter @stemwomen and on www.stemwomen.netSTEM Women: How Men Can Help with Dr Yonatan Zunger2014-03-02 21:30:0099  
CosmoQuest42,746YouTube link Part 8 http://youtu.be/Qe9WqjEwAFU *TL;DR. +Pamela Gay & +Nicole Gugliucci will bring you a whole slew of guests, science, and fun during this 24-hour long fundraiser for CosmoQuest! http://cosmoquest.org/blog/donate/?title=donate Event links for... Part 1: https://plus.google.com/events/c8hipsag07ngda5h3r06bqbprv8 Part 2: https://plus.google.com/events/cglasd846s15n0n7sqdvs9nol3o Part 3: https://plus.google.com/events/c7ntqnrh01rejv3smtq9dmmub4o Part 4: https://plus.google.com/events/cagts10npsub757psnh1e4mbj0g Part 5: https://plus.google.com/events/cchro36b2mlth0nv27ftgm1elqo Part 6: https://plus.google.com/events/c3lu15j2t9p2o3tc0hv11ubjuu0 Faced with governmental funding cuts to science education and research, the CosmoQuest Virtual Research Facility (CosmoQuest.org) at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville has decided to go old school with a twist: On June 15-16, +Pamela Gay & +Nicole Gugliucci  are hosting a telethon using Google Hangout on Air – A Hangout-a-thon – to raise money to support public engagement in science.   The Hangout-a-thon will start on June 15 at noon Eastern (GMT – 5).  Over the weekend, they will host numerous guests, ranging from scientists who will do science demos, creatives who can unite science and art/music, and researchers who will discuss citizen science and address science education from the perspective of research and metrics. Each segment will be released after the event as a stand-alone YouTube video on the AstrosphereVids channel, thus creating a library of content while raising money for future programs.  Planning for this Hangout-a-thon was triggered by the cuts created by sequestration, and by the current White House plans to transition education out of NASA. If the President's current budget is passed, all the funding programs CosmoQuest relies on for will be zeroed (see http://bit.ly/11m5XYg) and the project will be defunded. Rather than accept that fate, CosmoQuest is working to raise the funds needed to keep their programs going, to build new citizen science programs for researchers that don't otherwise have the means to accomplish their projects, and to contract, as they are able, extraordinary people laid off by these cuts at other institutions to keep doing great things through CosmoQuest. (Links to essays on these cuts are listed below).   CosmoQuest wants to make sure astronomy education survives and remains strong. While one team, and one telethon can't fix everything, they hope this event can raise awareness, while protected one small corner of astronomy research and education. #hangoutathon  The CosmoQuest 24 Hour Hangout-A-Thon - Main Event Page2013-06-15 18:00:00317  
California Science Center372,193*UPDATE*: Our Exclusive CNN and Google+/YouTube Live stream has ended, however Endeavour will continue moving through Sunday to our Pavilion at @115807408325651692080.  HUGE, HUGE thanks to our friends at CNN and  @101560853443212199687 and @115229808208707341778 for making it happen!  Share your photo of Endeavour as it travels through 12 miles of Los Angeles. You can see everyone's LIVE photos here even if you can't make it in person. *To join in and participate in our official Party Mode Event* (http://youtu.be/W9hCcfbXmRI) you need to first RSVP 'Yes' for this Event and don't forget to add the California Science Center into your Circles if you haven't already. Make sure you also download the Google+ App for your iPhone or Android. Using the G+ App, you can post your pictures of the Endeavour Transportation in real time while it is driven through LA! If you have an Android here's what to do - http://youtu.be/uwMdqxJznMs . If you have an iPhone open the app, tap 'Events', and choose the Endeavour event that you RSVP'd to. Then simply just tap the camera icon at the bottom of the Event. It will be amazing to see everyone's perspective of the shuttle on LA streets, so we're excited to see your photos! We'll even be resharing some of our favorites! Even if you're not local, you can still see all the Live Party Mode pictures streaming on this Event Page during the Event in real time as they're being shared! *Schedule* (LAPD Press Release - http://lapdonline.org/newsroom/news_view/52101) _OFFICIAL VIEWING SITE_: Forum in Inglewood 8a-10a. Free parking at nearby Hollywood Park Race Track starting 4am. NO overnight camping allowed, but arrive early _OFFICIAL VIEWING SITE_: Crenshaw & MLK Blvd 1p-2p for brief show produced by @msdebbieallen(Twitter Handle). Arrive early, space limited. _BEST OFFICIAL VIEWING SITE_: Exposition Park after 6:30p. Viewing site walk-in entrance: Vermont & 39th. Gates open 5:30p. Ride Expo Line! _*Click the "website" link below and you can see the planned travel route for Endeavour on the ground!*_ @115229808208707341778 clip courtesy of @103089560873692764799, we look forward to their 3D documentary!  @107217929772272758573 did a great look into it http://www.nbclosangeles.com/on-air/as-seen-on/173619561.htmlSpot the Shuttle! Share your photos of Endeavour in LA!2012-10-12 07:00:00833  
Fraser Cain980,485To celebrate the landing of NASA's Curiosity Rover - the Mars Science Laboratory - we'll be running a special live hangout.  In conjunction with @106911959181067745693. We'll have all your favorite space/astronomy journalists on hand to discuss the mission in depth, and celebrate the landing live, when it happens. Join Fraser Cain, @109036978092446954908, @108952536790629690817 and @102887292457967781591 for this special event. Over the course of this 4-hour Google+ Hangout on Air, we'll interview members of the Curiosity team live in the hangout, as well as other special guests from the @111419948721791453320 and the @108759765804984663877. @109479143173251353583 and @107051665537162034944 will be on location at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to interview members of the engineering team, and show you what it's like to be at NASA during this amazing moment. We'll update this event as we lock down more of the guests and participants. See you there! You can follow the hashtag #marshangout   (this will replace our regular Sunday night @100902337165997768522)Google+ Hangout - Curiosity Landing Coverage2012-08-06 05:00:004850  

Shared Circles including Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell

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Activity

Average numbers for the latest posts (max. 50 posts, posted within the last 4 weeks)

5
comments per post
2
reshares per post
12
+1's per post

830
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Top posts in the last 50 posts

Most comments: 18

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2015-11-07 04:23:44 (18 comments; 1 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

Where Are the Smartphone Driver Deaths?

Following up on a random thought I had when driving to work today ... the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and smartphone penetration has steadily risen in the US ever since. And we all believe that smartphones dangerously distract drivers. So, if we look at the data, we should naïvely expect to see a spike in traffic accidents; it should start in 2007 and rise as smartphone penetration rises.

But we don't -- or anyway, I think we don't. While I wasn't able to quickly find good statistics on non-fatal crashes from the NHTSA -- instead, these are traffic fatality rates from Wikipedia, the closest approximation I could scare up on short notice -- the limited data I can find show no such thing. Instead, we see a slow decline in fatality rates, continuing a trend begun in earlier years.

Now, this is obviously... more »

Most reshares: 10

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2016-01-29 02:35:57 (4 comments; 10 reshares; 25 +1s)Open 

Thirty years ago, Bob Ebeling tried to stop the Challenger's launch -- and, as we know, failed. He still blames himself.

Damn, this story is heartbreaking. I know how wrong he is ... but I know just where he's coming from, too. I'd probably do exactly the same.

Most plusones: 32

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2015-10-21 16:39:12 (0 comments; 5 reshares; 32 +1s)Open 

“People claiming that Back To The Future prophecies are not being fulfilled, don't realize we are in the alternate timeline.”

(Let's assume that prophesies and a GOP candidate is enough to make this on topic about making fun of religions)

Latest 50 posts

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2016-02-08 14:03:33 (15 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

We all have to go sometime. Personally, I'm hoping to be killed, and preferably eaten, by a tiger. But being killed by a meteorite would be cool, too. Even if I'd no longer be the first.

We all have to go sometime. Personally, I'm hoping to be killed, and preferably eaten, by a tiger. But being killed by a meteorite would be cool, too. Even if I'd no longer be the first.___

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2016-02-04 18:05:02 (4 comments; 1 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

This app is by +Tobias Thierer​, and it's awesome. It includes Cardboard support for that real 3-D immersive feel, too. It's the next best thing to being there!

Mars View improves rover path management

Mars View, a new Android app for viewing the images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover, is improving rapidly as it’s in an early stage of development:

https://plus.google.com/+PaoloAmoroso/posts/1uH8qTVigQa

What’s new
Version 0.2.0, released on January 31, 2016, features redesigned location movement and path visibility controls.

You can now move to a different location by double tapping the corresponding billboard that indicates the Sol number (e.g. “Sol 22”, the labels referencing the martian days into Curiosity’s mission). A new button with a stop marker and path segments icon lets you toggle the visibility of the rover path on or off.

Also, image tile blending is enabled by default for a more realistic look of panoramas.

Tips
If you have the triple tap to zoom accessibility gesture enabled turn it off under Accessibility > Magnification gestures in the Android system settings. It interferes with the new Mars View double tap navigation gesture but the developer, +Tobias Thierer, is going to implement a different gesture (long tapping a billboard) in an upcoming version.

Screenshot
The rover path with the Sol billboards in Mars View on my Android 6 phone.

#Curiosity #Android #Cardboard___This app is by +Tobias Thierer​, and it's awesome. It includes Cardboard support for that real 3-D immersive feel, too. It's the next best thing to being there!

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2016-01-30 22:04:57 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 10 +1s)Open 

Just in time for the franchise's 50th anniversary, the original USS Enterprise -- the one used to film the 79[*] original episodes -- is getting a long-needed makeover, courtesy of the Smithsonian. She's a gorgeous bird, and I can't wait to see her in her fully restored glory.

--
[*] Or 78, depending on your definitions. This is one of the few perennial geekdom arguments in which I have no stake. :-)

Just in time for the franchise's 50th anniversary, the original USS Enterprise -- the one used to film the 79[*] original episodes -- is getting a long-needed makeover, courtesy of the Smithsonian. She's a gorgeous bird, and I can't wait to see her in her fully restored glory.

--
[*] Or 78, depending on your definitions. This is one of the few perennial geekdom arguments in which I have no stake. :-)___

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2016-01-30 20:35:43 (9 comments; 1 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

A study in contrasts. See, when SpaceX says something like this, they're credible. They might still fail, because space is hard, but they stand a chance of making this happen. They have engineers and expertise and experience; they've actually built hardware and sent it to space. They have money coming in. They know what they're doing and have the resources to execute.

Mars One? The opposite in every way.

I'll be interested to see SpaceX's detailed plan, when it comes. But I'd bet money that it's basically sound, and that they respond to legitimate criticisms (and there will be some) by patching any real flaws.

Mars One? The opposite in every way.

I have the idea that Mars One is basically a cargo-cult Mars mission. It looks and walks and talks like a Mars mission, at least superficially. But their runways are made from bamboo and the... more »

A study in contrasts. See, when SpaceX says something like this, they're credible. They might still fail, because space is hard, but they stand a chance of making this happen. They have engineers and expertise and experience; they've actually built hardware and sent it to space. They have money coming in. They know what they're doing and have the resources to execute.

Mars One? The opposite in every way.

I'll be interested to see SpaceX's detailed plan, when it comes. But I'd bet money that it's basically sound, and that they respond to legitimate criticisms (and there will be some) by patching any real flaws.

Mars One? The opposite in every way.

I have the idea that Mars One is basically a cargo-cult Mars mission. It looks and walks and talks like a Mars mission, at least superficially. But their runways are made from bamboo and the guy in the tower isn't talking to anyone because his radio is all palm fronds.

SpaceX, though ... SpaceX is what the real thing looks like. They might still fail. But they have a real chance. And if they succeed, ours will be a multi-planet species for the first time.___

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2016-01-30 07:37:18 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 5 +1s)Open 

Man, Babylonians were badasses.

Man, Babylonians were badasses.___

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2016-01-29 18:09:23 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Hence why we sterilize spacecraft -- and why, indeed, there's an entire discipline for "planetary protection," as it's called. ("Planetary Protection Officer" is a real +NASA​ job title, one I envy!) Life is awfully tenacious once it gets started -- given the harsh conditions we think it starts in, it kinda has to be.

Researchers placed Antarctic deep-rock fungi in 1.4 cm wide cells on a space station platform called EXPOSE-E, which simulated Mars and extreme space conditions. A large fraction of the spores came active after a year of exposure.

 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3421684/Life-exist-Mars-Antarctic-fungi-survives-Martian-conditions-strapped-outside-space-station.html#ixzz3ybrWlAO3___Hence why we sterilize spacecraft -- and why, indeed, there's an entire discipline for "planetary protection," as it's called. ("Planetary Protection Officer" is a real +NASA​ job title, one I envy!) Life is awfully tenacious once it gets started -- given the harsh conditions we think it starts in, it kinda has to be.

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2016-01-29 02:35:57 (4 comments; 10 reshares; 25 +1s)Open 

Thirty years ago, Bob Ebeling tried to stop the Challenger's launch -- and, as we know, failed. He still blames himself.

Damn, this story is heartbreaking. I know how wrong he is ... but I know just where he's coming from, too. I'd probably do exactly the same.

Thirty years ago, Bob Ebeling tried to stop the Challenger's launch -- and, as we know, failed. He still blames himself.

Damn, this story is heartbreaking. I know how wrong he is ... but I know just where he's coming from, too. I'd probably do exactly the same.___

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2016-01-28 18:06:09 (2 comments; 4 reshares; 27 +1s)Open 

Via +Andres Soolo​.

http://www.gocomics.com/tomtoles/2016/01/28

Tom Toles nails it.___Via +Andres Soolo​.

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2016-01-27 21:21:44 (11 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s)Open 

A rising number of celebrities think the Earth is flat (I am not making this up), that vaccines cause autism, etc. Which makes this mathematical model welcome.

Is it useless? In the sense that it won't convince the celebrities or their followers, yes. But they were fact-proof anyway; that's what conspiracy theories are. And for those of us with our heads screwed on straight, the model is fascinating meanwhile.

A rising number of celebrities think the Earth is flat (I am not making this up), that vaccines cause autism, etc. Which makes this mathematical model welcome.

Is it useless? In the sense that it won't convince the celebrities or their followers, yes. But they were fact-proof anyway; that's what conspiracy theories are. And for those of us with our heads screwed on straight, the model is fascinating meanwhile.___

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2016-01-27 21:14:49 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s)Open 

Wow: this is a huge deal in the world of killer robots that will someday harvest our organs -- I mean, AI. The world of AI. This is at least as big as Deep Blue's win over Kasparov, maybe bigger. (Go is an even harder game for AIs than chess was, though chess is better understood by most Western journalists, so this story won't get the attention it deserves.) Even more so if it can beat the world champion, which we'll be able to see for ourselves soon.

Of course, these advances in computer game-players have been as worthwhile for what they tell us about what intelligence isn't as for what they tell us about what it is. It was once thought that when a computer could beat us at chess, it would be as intelligent as we were, but it turns out not so much. In part this is because we tend to move the goalposts when computers overtake us in some area -- the industry joke is that once it... more »

Wow: this is a huge deal in the world of killer robots that will someday harvest our organs -- I mean, AI. The world of AI. This is at least as big as Deep Blue's win over Kasparov, maybe bigger. (Go is an even harder game for AIs than chess was, though chess is better understood by most Western journalists, so this story won't get the attention it deserves.) Even more so if it can beat the world champion, which we'll be able to see for ourselves soon.

Of course, these advances in computer game-players have been as worthwhile for what they tell us about what intelligence isn't as for what they tell us about what it is. It was once thought that when a computer could beat us at chess, it would be as intelligent as we were, but it turns out not so much. In part this is because we tend to move the goalposts when computers overtake us in some area -- the industry joke is that once it works, it stops being AI -- but there are some good reasons behind the goalpost-moving, too.

And yet, what a fascinating way to explore philosophical ideas: implement them.___

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2016-01-26 03:11:06 (1 comments; 5 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

Stuart Atkinson's birthday card for Opportunity is so much better than mine would have been, so I'm going to let him speak for me.

Stuart Atkinson's birthday card for Opportunity is so much better than mine would have been, so I'm going to let him speak for me.___

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2016-01-23 19:48:12 (1 comments; 9 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

A parachute: what could look simpler? But they're woefully complex. Giant parachutes on other planets are more complex still. We don't really understand them even though we've been using them for nearly half a century, and that's increasingly a problem for our efforts to land larger and larger things on Mars.

So +Mark Adler and his team on the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project are busily trying to figure out how to make them work. The future of Mars exploration, and eventual colonization, might depend on it.

A parachute: what could look simpler? But they're woefully complex. Giant parachutes on other planets are more complex still. We don't really understand them even though we've been using them for nearly half a century, and that's increasingly a problem for our efforts to land larger and larger things on Mars.

So +Mark Adler and his team on the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator project are busily trying to figure out how to make them work. The future of Mars exploration, and eventual colonization, might depend on it.___

2016-01-21 19:05:39 (7 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s)Open 

Digital Time Capsules: a Sketch

Take some information you want to see again in the future, lock it up, and throw away the key. It works because you lock it up badly, on purpose. I'll elaborate.

Physical time capsules work like this: you take some artifacts representing the present day -- say, some newspapers, photographs, letters from members of the community, and so forth -- and bury it. Years later, typically many years later (say, a century), people open it and are, presumably, delighted by glimpsing the past.

I like time capsules; they're innately hopeful, future-oriented. They resonate with me. So how to make a digital version?

You could, of course, just bury flash drives or DVDs or something, as long as you selected media meant to last for a while. Archival DVDs are a thing. But that's not quite what I had in mind.

My idea is to... more »

Digital Time Capsules: a Sketch

Take some information you want to see again in the future, lock it up, and throw away the key. It works because you lock it up badly, on purpose. I'll elaborate.

Physical time capsules work like this: you take some artifacts representing the present day -- say, some newspapers, photographs, letters from members of the community, and so forth -- and bury it. Years later, typically many years later (say, a century), people open it and are, presumably, delighted by glimpsing the past.

I like time capsules; they're innately hopeful, future-oriented. They resonate with me. So how to make a digital version?

You could, of course, just bury flash drives or DVDs or something, as long as you selected media meant to last for a while. Archival DVDs are a thing. But that's not quite what I had in mind.

My idea is to pack all the information you want to preserve into a .zip file or something, and then encrypt it, and of course delete any unencrypted copies. But -- and here's the point -- you deliberately choose a weak encryption key. Not something that can be brute-forced in an hour, or in a week, but maybe in ten or twenty years, however long you want the time capsule to last.[1] Then you start a long-lived computer program to work on the decryption. (It should checkpoint its progress periodically, of course, so it can keep working across power outages or hardware changes.)

If you want to be really forward-thinking, you take into account anticipated improvements in hardware performance over time, factoring that into your chosen key length.

Since you must choose the encryption key more or less randomly, there will be some uncertainty about how long the decryption will actually take. There might be a tiny chance that it would take a day, or a millennium, but most of the time you should be able to say something like "decades." Unlike a physical time capsule, this one will open when it opens.

Could we open it faster, by throwing more computing power at it? Sure, just as you could dig up a physical time capsule early. Time capsules are in part an exercise in patience, with the patience lightly enforced by external means; nothing really stops you from cheating but shame.

But digital time capsules do have a defense against cheating. Publish a strong (SHA-3?) hash of the encrypted file at the start[2], and publish the decryption key (along with the entire encrypted file) once you find it; knowing the decryption algorithm, anyone can verify that it took you about as long as it should have taken to decrypt. That's the digital equivalent of "you cheated by digging it up early!"

There are some theoretical risks, I guess. For instance, SHA-3 might be broken, as so many hash algorithms have been, making cheating possible even years into the experiment. I actually have some ideas about how to mitigate this risk, but they're not the point. We take some risks with anything that involves the future, and that's OK. If the future were guaranteed, we'd lose some of the appeal that time capsules hold for us in the first place.

What could we do with digital time capsules? Leave messages for our kids, to be read only when they're adults. Or force yourself to postpone revisiting memories of a bad breakup. Or just the same things we do with physical time capsules: send a message to the future, with hope.

Sounds like a fun little project, for some weekend soon.

--
[1] Although this is a time estimate -- it's probabilistic -- for reasons I'll go on to explain.

[2] Don't publish the whole encrypted file up front, of course, because then some jerk will use lots of computers to decrypt it early and spoil the whole thing. If you publish just the hash up front, then you can publish the entire encrypted file post-decryption. This is your way to show that you didn't cheat this way: (1) use lots of computers to decrypt the file, (2) re-encrypt with an easier-to-find key, (3) pretend that you found that key.___

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2016-01-20 20:04:32 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

Caltech might have found a tenth planet. (For some reason, the story says "ninth," but ignore that part. They must be anti-Pluto bigots.)

Caltech might have found a tenth planet. (For some reason, the story says "ninth," but ignore that part. They must be anti-Pluto bigots.)___

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2016-01-12 22:13:05 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 17 +1s)Open 

This is a great interview with Adam Steltzner, leader of the team that built the crazy contraption that landed the MSL (Curiosity) rover on Mars, about leadership and his new book. I love that his final sentence works with a capital or lowercase "C."

This is a great interview with Adam Steltzner, leader of the team that built the crazy contraption that landed the MSL (Curiosity) rover on Mars, about leadership and his new book. I love that his final sentence works with a capital or lowercase "C."___

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2016-01-12 21:54:54 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s)Open 

Star Wars + Calvin & Hobbes = awesome.

Star Wars + Calvin & Hobbes = awesome.___

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2016-01-10 08:35:55 (1 comments; 2 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

So here's how BB-8 works, with a very illuminating animation near the bottom.

So here's how BB-8 works, with a very illuminating animation near the bottom.___

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2016-01-07 22:15:15 (6 comments; 1 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

+Planetary Resources​ 3-D prints a spacecraft model from meteorite material, which has to be some kind of geekdom trifecta. :-)

+Planetary Resources​ 3-D prints a spacecraft model from meteorite material, which has to be some kind of geekdom trifecta. :-)___

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2016-01-07 18:42:59 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s)Open 

I've long been fascinated by the observation that there's a world of information around you that you're mostly unaware of. Like, I might be sitting in a carpeted room, and to me it's just carpet. But to a carpet expert sitting in the same room, there's all this stuff he's noticing: this particular carpet was made in 2005 in a factory in northwestern Nigeria, and that was before they switched from natural to synthetic fibers, so you have to me more careful when you clean it, and on and on and on.

Whereas, on my best day, if I even notice the carpet at all, I might get as far as, "Well, it's kinda brown."

And everything around you is like that, all the time, and mostly you don't know it because you're an expert on hardly anything. (Unless you are Sherlock Holmes. And you aren't.)

This guy is clearly an expert on sound. So it... more »

I've long been fascinated by the observation that there's a world of information around you that you're mostly unaware of. Like, I might be sitting in a carpeted room, and to me it's just carpet. But to a carpet expert sitting in the same room, there's all this stuff he's noticing: this particular carpet was made in 2005 in a factory in northwestern Nigeria, and that was before they switched from natural to synthetic fibers, so you have to me more careful when you clean it, and on and on and on.

Whereas, on my best day, if I even notice the carpet at all, I might get as far as, "Well, it's kinda brown."

And everything around you is like that, all the time, and mostly you don't know it because you're an expert on hardly anything. (Unless you are Sherlock Holmes. And you aren't.)

This guy is clearly an expert on sound. So it was fascinating for me to read this piece, about the sound design for The Martian, and get a tiny little glimpse of all the things he knows about, all the things he thinks about, all the tricks of his trade ... all things I perceive at best subconsciously when watching the movie. All the things I'd know if I were an expert on sound, or if I were Sherlock Holmes. Which I'm not.___

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2016-01-06 18:58:25 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

Look, I love the Republic with all my heart, and I'm down with the Rebellion/Resistance until we ruthlessly crush the last shreds of the Empire/First Order beneath our Bantha paws. But even I have to admit that this guy, possibly the finest military strategist in the First Order, is really onto something here.

Let's hope he's roundly ignored. For the good of the Republic.

Look, I love the Republic with all my heart, and I'm down with the Rebellion/Resistance until we ruthlessly crush the last shreds of the Empire/First Order beneath our Bantha paws. But even I have to admit that this guy, possibly the finest military strategist in the First Order, is really onto something here.

Let's hope he's roundly ignored. For the good of the Republic.___

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2016-01-06 18:25:20 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 3 +1s)Open 

<sigh> Back in my day, you had to use your imagination to pretend to be someone like Mark Watney. Kids today don't ... well, actually, this kinda sounds more awesome than that.

<sigh> Back in my day, you had to use your imagination to pretend to be someone like Mark Watney. Kids today don't ... well, actually, this kinda sounds more awesome than that.___

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2016-01-04 04:17:01 (10 comments; 0 reshares; 6 +1s)Open 

I cannot wait to try this myself.

(Currently pinned to the couch by a cat who's deliriously happy to have me home from a short trip. But I couldn't wait to share this!)

Update: Cat exited lap. App is awesome. :-)

Explore Mars in 3D from a rover's eye, including (alpha quality) Cardboard VR support!

My holiday project this year was to code an Android app that lets you view the pictures taken by the Curiosity rover in a 3D environment. Get it from Play Store:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.codepilot.mars

I'd love to hear your feedback so I can further improve the app in future. If you want to try the VR option, gearbest sells cardboard sets for $5: http://www.gearbest.com/virtual-reality/pp_274451.html

Thanks to JPL for building and running the Mars rovers, Malin Space Science Systems for the awesome cameras, Michael Howard for the delightful (closed source) Midnight Planets iOS app that has served as my role model, and to my employer for allowing me to work on this over the holidays.___I cannot wait to try this myself.

(Currently pinned to the couch by a cat who's deliriously happy to have me home from a short trip. But I couldn't wait to share this!)

Update: Cat exited lap. App is awesome. :-)

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2016-01-03 23:41:48 (2 comments; 3 reshares; 13 +1s)Open 

For just $30ish, you can have your 3-D-printed head on a LEGO brick body. Nerdvana!

For just $30ish, you can have your 3-D-printed head on a LEGO brick body. Nerdvana!___

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2016-01-01 00:04:01 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 20 +1s)Open 

I know not what the year 2016 might bring -- except that it will apparently bring Star Trek stamps. Looks like I'll need to take out a second mortgage. And a third. And maybe a fourth.

I know not what the year 2016 might bring -- except that it will apparently bring Star Trek stamps. Looks like I'll need to take out a second mortgage. And a third. And maybe a fourth.___

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2015-12-30 20:15:33 (5 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Thanks to +NASA​, you'll soon be able to explore Mars in virtual reality, with as little as a ~ $20 Google Cardboard setup. (Or with more elaborate and expensive gear, of course.)

This is an interesting and clever way for the space agency to sell its Mars exploration plans: let people "go" there themselves and have the simulated experience of colonizing the place, to build excitement for doing it for real. I wonder if that works, or if it paradoxically will make people less interested (because, say, it tricks the brain into feeling like it's actually been done, or something). I suppose we'll see.

I certainly wish them well with the experiment, of course ... and I'll take this opportunity to remind them that if they're looking for volunteers for the real mission, my wife already knows I'm prepared to drop everything and go. :-)

Thanks to +NASA​, you'll soon be able to explore Mars in virtual reality, with as little as a ~ $20 Google Cardboard setup. (Or with more elaborate and expensive gear, of course.)

This is an interesting and clever way for the space agency to sell its Mars exploration plans: let people "go" there themselves and have the simulated experience of colonizing the place, to build excitement for doing it for real. I wonder if that works, or if it paradoxically will make people less interested (because, say, it tricks the brain into feeling like it's actually been done, or something). I suppose we'll see.

I certainly wish them well with the experiment, of course ... and I'll take this opportunity to remind them that if they're looking for volunteers for the real mission, my wife already knows I'm prepared to drop everything and go. :-)___

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2015-12-18 18:20:37 (8 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

I'm noticing a pattern here. I wonder if it will make any money?

I'm noticing a pattern here. I wonder if it will make any money?___

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2015-12-17 17:18:53 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 4 +1s)Open 

Quick! Beethoven is suffering a series of disasters, and only you can help him put his music sheets in order again!

Super cute, this.

Quick! Beethoven is suffering a series of disasters, and only you can help him put his music sheets in order again!

Super cute, this.___

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2015-12-16 22:24:14 (8 comments; 2 reshares; 23 +1s)Open 

Good news about the NASA budget is historically in short supply. So it's a big deal that they're getting a raise! Their budget for next year will be about $20 billion, a more than$1 billion increase from last year. Pop the champagne corks!

Good news about the NASA budget is historically in short supply. So it's a big deal that they're getting a raise! Their budget for next year will be about $20 billion, a more than$1 billion increase from last year. Pop the champagne corks!___

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2015-12-16 18:28:33 (7 comments; 1 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Mmm, you can practically smell Posner wetting his pants in fear. Folks, "destroying our freedoms in order to save them" is not a winning strategy.

Here's a good heuristic for legal academics: if a threat does not exceed that of the Cold War, which includes "the possible nuclear annihilation of all life on Earth," then the threat is not unprecedented, and you should kindly shut up about restrictions on speech. ___Mmm, you can practically smell Posner wetting his pants in fear. Folks, "destroying our freedoms in order to save them" is not a winning strategy.

2015-12-16 18:16:01 (7 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s)Open 

Just a reminder about why you should never spoil stories, especially Star Wars movies (ahem). This is a thing that actually happened to me.

You don't want to be that guy.

Just a reminder about why you should never spoil stories, especially Star Wars movies (ahem). This is a thing that actually happened to me.

You don't want to be that guy.___

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2015-12-14 20:39:50 (2 comments; 0 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

It's the anniversary of the day humans left the moon for the very last time, at least so far. <sad, heavy sigh>

It's the anniversary of the day humans left the moon for the very last time, at least so far. <sad, heavy sigh>___

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2015-12-09 18:52:00 (10 comments; 3 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

+John Scalzi is absolutely, smashingly right about the fascist bigot who's been leading the GOP polls for months. Every word is an arrow straight into Trump's eye.

It's a pleasure to read a piece that crystallizes what's wrong with this frightening, despicable, un-American, narcissistic clown. Whom I wouldn't care about any more than I care about the Westboro Batshit Baptist Church, if it weren't for the fact that he obviously has mass appeal. His popularity has encouraged and legitimized the worst beliefs in his demented followers -- our fellow citizens, I'm ashamed to reflect.

It hardly needs saying that stirring up anti-Muslim bigotry in America plays directly into the hands of al Qaeda and ISIS; it's part of their strategy to provoke this sort of thing, and Trump is playing his part in it to perfection. Way to go, moron. You're not just a racist... more »

Scalzi has thoughts.

I'm right with him, from start to finish.___+John Scalzi is absolutely, smashingly right about the fascist bigot who's been leading the GOP polls for months. Every word is an arrow straight into Trump's eye.

It's a pleasure to read a piece that crystallizes what's wrong with this frightening, despicable, un-American, narcissistic clown. Whom I wouldn't care about any more than I care about the Westboro Batshit Baptist Church, if it weren't for the fact that he obviously has mass appeal. His popularity has encouraged and legitimized the worst beliefs in his demented followers -- our fellow citizens, I'm ashamed to reflect.

It hardly needs saying that stirring up anti-Muslim bigotry in America plays directly into the hands of al Qaeda and ISIS; it's part of their strategy to provoke this sort of thing, and Trump is playing his part in it to perfection. Way to go, moron. You're not just a racist pig, you're a particularly stupid racist pig.

I'm grateful to +Andy Dillon for bringing this to my attention.

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2015-12-04 18:18:56 (1 comments; 6 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

Here are all the images ever taken from the classic Hasselblad cameras on the Apollo missions -- more than 14,000 of them. These were originally hosted on Flickr, but since bulk-downloading from there is a pain, I've done it for you. Enjoy this priceless treasure!

(This is an update to the collection I previously posted here; Flickr added some images after I did this before, and those images are now included. If you downloaded the previous set, there's a much smaller "patch file" that should just include the images that are new since then.)

I'm going to try to figure out how to upload the images to BitTorrent Sync as well, and I'll add that link in a comment when I have time. So /sub if you want to be notified of that.

Here are all the images ever taken from the classic Hasselblad cameras on the Apollo missions -- more than 14,000 of them. These were originally hosted on Flickr, but since bulk-downloading from there is a pain, I've done it for you. Enjoy this priceless treasure!

(This is an update to the collection I previously posted here; Flickr added some images after I did this before, and those images are now included. If you downloaded the previous set, there's a much smaller "patch file" that should just include the images that are new since then.)

I'm going to try to figure out how to upload the images to BitTorrent Sync as well, and I'll add that link in a comment when I have time. So /sub if you want to be notified of that.___

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2015-11-23 14:19:52 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s)Open 

All 341,805 Cassini images of the Saturn system in a single four-hour video. Your tax dollars at work.

All 341,805 Cassini images of the Saturn system in a single four-hour video. Your tax dollars at work.___

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2015-11-23 07:53:46 (5 comments; 0 reshares; 7 +1s)Open 

Headlines of the recent news stories about a bacon-cancer link should have communicated something like this: if you eat bacon, your lifetime chance of not getting colorectal cancer declines from about 95% to about 94%.

Considering how delicious bacon is, that's a chance I'm willing to take. The alternative is to deny myself a fabulous food, and all the lifetime of pleasure that eating it brings, just so that I can increase my chance of not getting that particular type of cancer from 94% to 95%.

I suppose that if you're absolutely into quantity of life over quality of life, without exception, well, then go ahead and skip the bacon. More for me.

Enjoy your kale.

Headlines of the recent news stories about a bacon-cancer link should have communicated something like this: if you eat bacon, your lifetime chance of not getting colorectal cancer declines from about 95% to about 94%.

Considering how delicious bacon is, that's a chance I'm willing to take. The alternative is to deny myself a fabulous food, and all the lifetime of pleasure that eating it brings, just so that I can increase my chance of not getting that particular type of cancer from 94% to 95%.

I suppose that if you're absolutely into quantity of life over quality of life, without exception, well, then go ahead and skip the bacon. More for me.

Enjoy your kale.___

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2015-11-20 00:42:02 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 11 +1s)Open 

Special and General Relativity, using only the thousand most-common words in English. +Randall Munroe is a very clever fellow.

Special and General Relativity, using only the thousand most-common words in English. +Randall Munroe is a very clever fellow.___

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2015-11-17 18:43:58 (2 comments; 7 reshares; 27 +1s)Open 

I rarely miss cable, but a show like Science Channel's "Secret Space Escapes," which premieres tonight, is one of the few exceptions. It's about real-life things that have gone wrong in space, like the time a Russian resupply ship crashed into the ISS, and how the crews solve those problems under the greatest of pressure.

It connects to one of the things I loved most about driving Mars rovers -- that we'd suddenly have a problem to solve that nobody in history had ever had before, and we'd just work through it and more often than not have a solution by the end of the day. You know those scenes in Star Trek that go like this:

CAPTAIN: Engineer, there's this absolutely new problem you need to solve or we're all dead.

ENGINEER: Nobody has ever had this problem before! I'll need at least ten minutes.

CAPTAIN: You've got... more »

I rarely miss cable, but a show like Science Channel's "Secret Space Escapes," which premieres tonight, is one of the few exceptions. It's about real-life things that have gone wrong in space, like the time a Russian resupply ship crashed into the ISS, and how the crews solve those problems under the greatest of pressure.

It connects to one of the things I loved most about driving Mars rovers -- that we'd suddenly have a problem to solve that nobody in history had ever had before, and we'd just work through it and more often than not have a solution by the end of the day. You know those scenes in Star Trek that go like this:

CAPTAIN: Engineer, there's this absolutely new problem you need to solve or we're all dead.

ENGINEER: Nobody has ever had this problem before! I'll need at least ten minutes.

CAPTAIN: You've got five!

Yeah. Like that. Only these are for real.

Enjoy the show.___

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2015-11-12 10:56:22 (2 comments; 10 reshares; 18 +1s)Open 

Like many of us, Mars's moon Phobos is barely holding it together. Mars's gravity is pulling it apart; in a mere 30-50 million years, it'll shatter.

The article doesn't say, but I bet the fragments will turn into a ring around Mars, much like those around Saturn and several other planets. So if you needed a reason to stay alive for another 50 million years, now you have one.

Like many of us, Mars's moon Phobos is barely holding it together. Mars's gravity is pulling it apart; in a mere 30-50 million years, it'll shatter.

The article doesn't say, but I bet the fragments will turn into a ring around Mars, much like those around Saturn and several other planets. So if you needed a reason to stay alive for another 50 million years, now you have one.___

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2015-11-11 20:42:00 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 9 +1s)Open 

Well, here's a fun idea: furry Mars robots.

Well, here's a fun idea: furry Mars robots.___

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2015-11-07 04:23:44 (18 comments; 1 reshares; 14 +1s)Open 

Where Are the Smartphone Driver Deaths?

Following up on a random thought I had when driving to work today ... the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and smartphone penetration has steadily risen in the US ever since. And we all believe that smartphones dangerously distract drivers. So, if we look at the data, we should naïvely expect to see a spike in traffic accidents; it should start in 2007 and rise as smartphone penetration rises.

But we don't -- or anyway, I think we don't. While I wasn't able to quickly find good statistics on non-fatal crashes from the NHTSA -- instead, these are traffic fatality rates from Wikipedia, the closest approximation I could scare up on short notice -- the limited data I can find show no such thing. Instead, we see a slow decline in fatality rates, continuing a trend begun in earlier years.

Now, this is obviously... more »

Where Are the Smartphone Driver Deaths?

Following up on a random thought I had when driving to work today ... the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and smartphone penetration has steadily risen in the US ever since. And we all believe that smartphones dangerously distract drivers. So, if we look at the data, we should naïvely expect to see a spike in traffic accidents; it should start in 2007 and rise as smartphone penetration rises.

But we don't -- or anyway, I think we don't. While I wasn't able to quickly find good statistics on non-fatal crashes from the NHTSA -- instead, these are traffic fatality rates from Wikipedia, the closest approximation I could scare up on short notice -- the limited data I can find show no such thing. Instead, we see a slow decline in fatality rates, continuing a trend begun in earlier years.

Now, this is obviously back-of-the-envelope analysis at best; I don't pretend otherwise. It might well be, for example, that phone distractions lead to many more crashes, just not fatal ones. (The limited data I could find on non-fatal crashes, though, suggests that overall crash rates are also dropping slowly.) Or that people are driving less. (But the plot for fatalities per 100M miles traveled has the same shape.) Or it might be that the fatality rates due to smartphones are indeed rising, they're just more than offset by some other factor -- safer cars, say. Maybe some sufficiently dedicated student will turn this question into a Ph.D. and we'll all be enlightened.

Meanwhile, here's something to keep in mind about this graph. If indeed it showed a steady increase since 2007, we'd all look at it and say, well, see, smartphones are dangerous to drivers. We wouldn't be likely to probe further, the way we're doing when the results violate our expectations instead of affirming them. That's confirmation bias at work. (If we did the same level of analysis and simply believed what the data tells us, we'd conclude that distracted driving due to smartphones saves drivers' lives. That at least shows what's wrong with superficial analysis.)

My own pet hypothesis, based on practically nothing at all, is this: smartphones simply substitute for other causes of distraction among bad drivers. That is, people who would formerly have been distracted by the radio or an attractive pedestrian or their own passengers are now distracted by their phone instead. It's distractable people who are the problem, in this view, not the means they use to distract themselves. Maybe some enterprising student will make a Ph.D. out of that.

Anyway, I'm going to drive home now -- smartphone firmly in pocket, because I am not an idiot. Y'all do the same, and have a great, safe weekend.___

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2015-11-07 03:06:55 (1 comments; 9 reshares; 15 +1s)Open 

A Last Gift from Ramanujan

Srinivasa Ramanujan is a legend of the mathematics world. The son of a shop clerk in rural India, he taught himself mathematics, primarily out of a book he borrowed from the library. The math that he did started out as rediscovering old results, and then became novel, and ultimately became revolutionary; he is considered to be one of the great minds of mathematical history, someone routinely mentioned in comparison with names like Gauss, Euler, or Einstein.

Ramanujan's work became known beyond his village starting in 1913, when he sent a letter to the British mathematician G. H. Hardy. Ramanujan had been spamming mathematicians with his ideas for a few years, but his early writing in particular tended to be rather impenetrable, of the sort that today I would describe as "proof by proctological extraction:" he would present a result which... more »

A Last Gift from Ramanujan

Srinivasa Ramanujan is a legend of the mathematics world. The son of a shop clerk in rural India, he taught himself mathematics, primarily out of a book he borrowed from the library. The math that he did started out as rediscovering old results, and then became novel, and ultimately became revolutionary; he is considered to be one of the great minds of mathematical history, someone routinely mentioned in comparison with names like Gauss, Euler, or Einstein.

Ramanujan's work became known beyond his village starting in 1913, when he sent a letter to the British mathematician G. H. Hardy. Ramanujan had been spamming mathematicians with his ideas for a few years, but his early writing in particular tended to be rather impenetrable, of the sort that today I would describe as "proof by proctological extraction:" he would present a result which was definitely true, and you could check that it was true, but it was completely incomprehensible how he got it. But by the time he wrote to Hardy, both his clarity and the strength of his results had improved, and Hardy was simply stunned by what he saw. He immediately invited Ramanujan to come visit him in Cambridge, and the two became lifelong friends. 

Alas, his life was very short: Ramanujan died at age 32 of tuberculosis (or possibly of a liver parasite; recent research suggests this may have been his underlying condition), less than six years after his letter to Hardy.

When we talk about people whose early death was a tremendous loss to humanity, there are few people for whom it's as true as Ramanujan, and a recent discovery in his papers has just underlined why.

This discovery ties together two stories separated by centuries: The "1729" story, and the great mystery of Pierre Fermat's last theorem.

The 1729 story comes from a time that Hardy came to visit Ramanujan when he was ill. In Hardy's words: 

"I remember once going to see him when he was ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen. 'No', he replied, 'it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.'"

This has become the famous Ramanujan story (and in fact, 1729 is known to this day as the Hardy-Ramanujan Number), because it's just so ludicrously Ramanujan: he did have the reputation of being the sort of guy to whom you could mention an arbitrary four-digit number, and he would just happen to know (or maybe figure out on the spot) some profound fact about it, because he was just that much of a badass.

The other story is that of Fermat's Last Theorem. Pierre de Fermat was a 17th-century French mathematician, most famous for a theorem he didn't prove. In 1637, he jotted down a note in the margins of a book he had, about a generalization of the Pythagorean Theorem.

From Pythagoras, we know that the legs and hypotenuse of a right triangle are related by a²+b²=c². We also know that there are plenty of sets of integers that satisfy this relationship -- say, 3, 4, and 5. Fermat asked if this was true for higher powers as well: that is, when n>2, are there any integers a, b, and c such that aⁿ+bⁿ=cⁿ? He claimed that the answer was no, and that "he had a truly marvelous proof of this statement which was, unfortunately, too large to fit in this margin."

The consensus of mathematicians ever since is that Pierre de Fermat was full of shit: he had no such proof, and was bluffing.

In fact, this statement -- known as Fermat's Last Theorem, as his notes were only discovered after his death -- wasn't proven until 1995, when Andrew Wiles finally cracked it. Wiles' success was stunning because he didn't use any of the traditional approaches: instead, he took (and significantly extended) a completely unrelated-seeming branch of mathematics, the theory of elliptic curves, and figured out how to solve this. That theory is also at the heart of much of modern cryptography, not to mention several rather unusual bits of physics. (Including my own former field, string theory)


And so these two stories bring us to what just happened. A few months ago, two historians digging through Ramanujan's papers were amused to find the number 1729 on a sheet of paper: not written out as such, but hidden in the very formula which expresses that special property of the number, 9³+10³=12³+1. 

What turned this from a curiosity into a holy-crap moment was when the rest of the page, and the pages that went with it, suddenly made it clear that Ramanujan hadn't come up with 1729 at random: that property was a side effect of him making an attempt at Fermat's Last Theorem.

What Ramanujan was doing was looking at "almost-solutions" of Fermat's equation: equations of the form aⁿ+bⁿ=cⁿ±1. He had developed an entire mechanism of generating triples like these, and was clearly trying to use this to home in on a way to solve the theorem itself. In fact, the method he was using was precisely the method of elliptic curves which Wiles ended up using to successfully crack the theorem most of a century later.

What makes this completely insane is this: Wiles was taking a previously-separate branch of mathematics and applying it to a new problem.

But the theory of elliptic curves wasn't even invented until the 1940's.

Ramanujan was making significant progress towards solving Fermat's Last Theorem, using the mathematical theory which would in fact prove to be the key to solving it, while making up that entire branch of mathematics sort of in passing.

This is why Ramanujan was considered one of the greatest badasses in the history of mathematics. He didn't know about 1729 because his head was full of random facts; he knew about it because, oh yes, he was in the middle of doing yet another thing that might restructure math, but it didn't really solve the big problem he was aiming at so he just forgot about it in his stack of papers.

I shudder to imagine what our world would be like if Ramanujan had lived a longer life. He alone would probably have pushed much of mathematics ahead by 30 or 40 years.


If you want to know more about elliptic curves, Fermat, and how they're related, the linked article tells more, and links to more still. You can also read an outline of Ramanujan's life at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srinivasa_Ramanujan , and about Fermat's Last Theorem (and why it's so important) at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermat%27s_Last_Theorem .___

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2015-11-07 02:33:53 (0 comments; 0 reshares; 1 +1s)Open 

ESA recently tested their upcoming Mars rover -- or anyway, a half-scale model of it. Sounds like they did it right: the drivers were 1000km away and could send commands at most once per hour, which is realistic enough for this egress testing.

Their release of this short video lets you be a backseat rover driver. Enjoy it!

ESA recently tested their upcoming Mars rover -- or anyway, a half-scale model of it. Sounds like they did it right: the drivers were 1000km away and could send commands at most once per hour, which is realistic enough for this egress testing.

Their release of this short video lets you be a backseat rover driver. Enjoy it!___

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2015-11-05 02:56:15 (10 comments; 1 reshares; 26 +1s)Open 

So, this is awesome: shortly, the Voyager spacecraft will have outlasted even the humans who worked on them. I thought it was a big deal when I realized the MER rovers were outlasting the computers we used on the ground to run them -- but this is truly something. And they have miles kilometers to go before they sleep.

As to the article's content, I don't think proficiency in assembly will be nearly as hard to find as Dodd seems to think. Sure, it's not as common as it once was, but it's not so rare as all that. And good coders can, you know, learn stuff. It's part of what makes them good coders.

Admittedly, it will all be complicated by the quirky, custom-built nature of the computers on board (this was the mid-1970s, after all). But it's far from impossible.

So, this is awesome: shortly, the Voyager spacecraft will have outlasted even the humans who worked on them. I thought it was a big deal when I realized the MER rovers were outlasting the computers we used on the ground to run them -- but this is truly something. And they have miles kilometers to go before they sleep.

As to the article's content, I don't think proficiency in assembly will be nearly as hard to find as Dodd seems to think. Sure, it's not as common as it once was, but it's not so rare as all that. And good coders can, you know, learn stuff. It's part of what makes them good coders.

Admittedly, it will all be complicated by the quirky, custom-built nature of the computers on board (this was the mid-1970s, after all). But it's far from impossible.___

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2015-11-04 01:13:48 (1 comments; 1 reshares; 7 +1s)Open 

My beloved Spirit might be gone, but she's not forgotten. She hasn't even stopped helping us make scientific discoveries, as this new research shows.

Gone, in one way. But as this reminds us, she'll be with us for a long, long time.

My beloved Spirit might be gone, but she's not forgotten. She hasn't even stopped helping us make scientific discoveries, as this new research shows.

Gone, in one way. But as this reminds us, she'll be with us for a long, long time.___

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2015-10-30 21:18:18 (2 comments; 8 reshares; 22 +1s)Open 

Oh, my. Cassini sends us some of the most artistic, beautiful images ever taken in this solar system. Here's Enceladus, seen from closer than ever before.

Seriously, Cassini is, like, the Ansel Adams of spacecraft. These are gorgeous.

Oh, my. Cassini sends us some of the most artistic, beautiful images ever taken in this solar system. Here's Enceladus, seen from closer than ever before.

Seriously, Cassini is, like, the Ansel Adams of spacecraft. These are gorgeous.___

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2015-10-21 20:57:34 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 12 +1s)Open 

Funny how the government switches to this "sharing" language when they want Facebook to send them your private information, all without your knowledge or permission. Or a warrant.

When you have a Prince song playing in the background of your YouTube video of your toddler, you're stealing. Stealing! From poor starving artists! How could you? But all the government is doing here is sharing. And we all know sharing is good, even if it leads to your imprisonment.

It's one of those cute little declensions, I suppose: I share, you steal.

Funny how the government switches to this "sharing" language when they want Facebook to send them your private information, all without your knowledge or permission. Or a warrant.

When you have a Prince song playing in the background of your YouTube video of your toddler, you're stealing. Stealing! From poor starving artists! How could you? But all the government is doing here is sharing. And we all know sharing is good, even if it leads to your imprisonment.

It's one of those cute little declensions, I suppose: I share, you steal.___

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2015-10-21 16:39:12 (0 comments; 5 reshares; 32 +1s)Open 

Although the correspondence between Biff and Trump is deliberate: Trump was the writers' model for Future Biff. (Really!)

Via +Asbjørn Grandt​.

“People claiming that Back To The Future prophecies are not being fulfilled, don't realize we are in the alternate timeline.”

(Let's assume that prophesies and a GOP candidate is enough to make this on topic about making fun of religions)___Although the correspondence between Biff and Trump is deliberate: Trump was the writers' model for Future Biff. (Really!)

Via +Asbjørn Grandt​.

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2015-10-21 16:37:00 (0 comments; 1 reshares; 2 +1s)Open 

Fascinating. And a great insight: most of the times I consider myself to have done something really stupid happen when I'm simply not paying attention, such as when I have my keys in one hand and a piece of garbage in the other hand, and I blithely drop my keys into the trash. That's basically in line with the kind of behavior Yonatan describes here -- simply not attending to what your own brain is doing.

When you do fieldwork in artificial intelligence, search, or other fields that require understanding how humans form judgments about things, one of the first things you learn is that it's insanely hard because humans tend to form surprisingly different judgments. "One man's meat is another man's poison" – or to use a somewhat more apt metaphor, "one man's porn is another man's street photography."

(Seriously. Potter Stewart's famous "I know it when I see it" line? Completely, utterly, wrong.) 

So the thing that caught my attention the most about this study is that people do, to a large extent, agree when someone did something stupid. 

The researchers were curious about how people judge stupidity, and so assembled a collection of 180 stories from news, blogs, etc., which described events which might be characterized as stupid, and showed them to 150 people, finding over 90% agreement. This seems like a very strong signal that we do, in fact, have a meaningful built-in "stupid detector:" i.e., whatever it is that we characterize as stupidity, there seems to be broad agreement over it, and we really do know it when we see it. 

Going further, they discovered that there seemed to be a real pattern in things marked as stupid: they fell into three distinct categories. First and foremost, "confident ignorance" – not only the most agreed-upon, but the one rated as stupidest. Second, behavior showing a lack of control, especially due to obsession or addiction. Third, and much weaker than the others, absentmindedness.

If I had to describe the common factor here, it would be cases where people failed to perform a baseline level of cognitive self-monitoring: to realize that they aren't as good at something as they think, to bring their impulses under control, or to pay attention when they needed to. 

That is, stupidity isn't an attribute we give to a lack of cognitive skills, but to a lack of meta-cognitive skills: it's the way we describe the behavior of someone who isn't "thinking about thinking." 

Combined with the robustness of the human stupidity detector, this suggests that we have a very sophisticated built-in cognitive self-monitoring system, and that we can recognize failures of others' self-monitoring very effectively. (Really, more people can spot stupid than can spot unhappy or most other affective states, so our detector for this is really robust) That suggests that this is something our brains consider either very important or (for some reason) anomalously easy. One possibility – and this is just bare conjecture on my part – is that better ability to detect stupidity in others helps us avoid stupidity ourselves.

h/t +rare avis.___Fascinating. And a great insight: most of the times I consider myself to have done something really stupid happen when I'm simply not paying attention, such as when I have my keys in one hand and a piece of garbage in the other hand, and I blithely drop my keys into the trash. That's basically in line with the kind of behavior Yonatan describes here -- simply not attending to what your own brain is doing.

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2015-10-21 05:51:05 (4 comments; 3 reshares; 19 +1s)Open 

She survived a sandstorm that blocked 98% of sunlight, omnipresent killer dust, years more hellish radiation than she was designed for, even failures of her own hardware. What kills her shouldn't be Congressional indecision.

She survived a sandstorm that blocked 98% of sunlight, omnipresent killer dust, years more hellish radiation than she was designed for, even failures of her own hardware. What kills her shouldn't be Congressional indecision.___

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2015-10-13 17:17:36 (1 comments; 0 reshares; 8 +1s)Open 

A JPL intern, Jake Rosenthal, describes to +The Planetary Society what he did this summer: he helped test the prototype caching system for the Mars 2020 rover, the thing that will bring bits of Mars back to Earth. This is a great post that really captures what it's like to have a role on a mission like this. Multiply this intern's experience by thousands, and you've begun to imagine what it takes to make these missions happen.

A JPL intern, Jake Rosenthal, describes to +The Planetary Society what he did this summer: he helped test the prototype caching system for the Mars 2020 rover, the thing that will bring bits of Mars back to Earth. This is a great post that really captures what it's like to have a role on a mission like this. Multiply this intern's experience by thousands, and you've begun to imagine what it takes to make these missions happen.___

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