Category: Science and Technology

The products of reason. And gadgets.


Why yes, I do believe I will be showing my daughter the cool videos from AuroraMax. Nice to see (a tiny, tiny slice of) my tax dollars at work for something cool.

The Great Red Eye

One the great myths–in the sense of “stories we tell ourselves to understand the world”, not in the sense of “lie to be disproven”–of the Internet is how connectivity and open access to data enables all kinds of things to happen. One of the great myths of science is that sharing data allows for the pool of knowledge to continue… Read more →

As a “face man”, I find this comforting

So, did you see that recent paper in Evolution and Human Behaviour1 about the different ways that men and women evaluate attractiveness in potential long- and short- term partners? You’d remember the title: “More than just a pretty face“. If you didn’t, or don’t want to follow the link, here’s the abstract: Studies of physical attractiveness have long emphasized the… Read more →

Because you can

I was just having a conversation on Friday with someone about a bunch of Google employees who had ordered up a ridiculous amount of silly putty so they could do an experiment with dropping it from a great height. As someone educated in a faculty of engineering, this made tremendous sense to me: I’ve done my own experiments with various… Read more →


I am very, very pleased by the news that the entire Bletchley Park archive–millions of documents–are going to be digitized over the next few years. While I suspect the vast, vast majority of the documents won’t be of interest to me at an individual level, it will be a wonderful resource for researchers, and hobbyists. (And make no mistake, the fact that people all over the world will have access to the archive electronically dramatically alters the potential for both researchers and hobbyists to actually do that.) And those people will comb through the digital information to extract things–both individual documents, and aggregate results–that I would be very interested in. Generally speaking, I’m in favour of digitizing almost every document store, but as a long time cryptogeek, I’ve got a special place in my heart for Bletchley’s history.

Don’t teach it Daisy Bell

Did you see the story about the researchers who are growing computer brains out of organic material? And not just that, but massively parallel computers. Oh, and just for fun, they’ve also ditched that whole binary concept, skipped over trinary, and moved the whole thing on to quaternary logic. If you’re not lucky enough to have access to journals1, you… Read more →

Home Sweet Blasted Clean Void

What you’re looking at there is something called The Local Cavity–although in this case “local” takes on a meaning somewhat larger than in typical conversation. It’s essentially a 300-light-year in diameter hole in space. Maybe ‘hole’ is stretching it a bit, since it’s not so much that it’s empty, as that it’s WAY less full than the average across the… Read more →


If these are really the 10 most absurd scientific papers from last year then published hard science has nothing, absurditywise, on published humanities. (I’d actually be interested in reading the results of “Are full or empty beer bottles sturdier and does their fracture-threshold suffice to break the human skull?”)


Very busy this week on birthday-related activities. Regular schedule to resume soon. In the meantime, here are a couple of cool simulations to play with, since that seems to be something I’m interested in this week. First, a physics tool to simulate cloth as a grid of constrained points. Second, a quite cool fire simulation–I especially like making words and images out of wood and then setting them ablaze.

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada
This work by Chris McLaren is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada.