random toons

Monday, January 29, 2007

Saturn's Hyperion: A Moon with Odd Craters

What lies at the bottom of Hyperion's strange craters? Nobody knows. The robot Cassini spacecraft now orbiting Saturn swooped past the sponge-textured moon and took an image of unprecedented detail. That image, shown above in false color, shows a remarkable world strewn with strange craters and a generally odd surface. The slight differences in color likely show differences in surface composition. At the bottom of most craters lies some type of unknown dark material. Inspection of the image shows bright features indicating that the dark material might be only tens of meters thick in some places. Hyperion is about 250 kilometers across, rotates chaotically, and has a density so low that it might house a vast system of caverns inside.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Indian recovery vehicle experiment

The Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE) is an Indian experimental spacecraft which was launched at 03:53 GMT on January 10, 2007 from Sriharikota by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO). The launch was conducted using the PSLV C7 rocket, along with three other satellites. It remained in orbit for 12 days before re-entering the Earth's atmosphere and splashing down into the Bay of Bengal at 04:16 GMT on January 22.

The SRE 1 was designed to demonstrate the capability to recover an orbiting space capsule, and the technology of an orbiting platform for performing experiments in microgravity conditions. It was also intended to test reusable Thermal Protection System, navigation, guidance and control, hypersonic aero-thermodynamics, management of communication blackout, deceleration and flotation system and recovery operations.
During its stay in orbit, the following two experiments on board SRE 1 were successfully conducted under microgravity conditions.
  • One of the experiments was related to the study of metal melting and crystallisation under microgravity conditions.
  • The second experiment was intended to study the synthesis of nano-crystals under microgravity conditions. This experiment can help in designing better biomaterials having closest proximity with natural biological products.

echoes from the edge..

V838 Monocerotis - A star near the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy, about 20,000 light-years from our sun.

A sudden outburst was detected in January 2002, since then this star has taken the center of the astronomical stage. Still, the light emitted echoes across the pre-existing cosmic dust around V838 illuminatig even more distant regions.

The above image of swirls of dust surrounding the star was recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope in September 2006. The top-bottom, and the left-right extremeties of the picture span about 14 light years of masive distance. Astronomers expect the expanding echoes to continue to light up the dusty environs of V838 Mon for atleast the rest of the decade.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sharapova stays cool to crush Rodionova

Top seed Maria Sharapova made up for her marathon opening victory with a 6-0 6-3 drubbing of fellow Russian Anastassia Rodionova in the Australian Open second round on Thursday.
Sharapova, who was within two points of defeat by Frenchwoman Camille Pin in searing midday heat on Tuesday, looked much more comfortable on a cooler evening and clinched victory in 58 minutes.

The 24-year-old Rodionova, world number 100, raised her game in the second set but, struggling with a thigh injury that required treatment, she was powerless to stop Sharapova from beating her for the third time in three meetings.
Sharapova, 19, will play Italian Tathiana Garbin, the 30th seed, in the third round.

Colliding White Dwarfs Could Create a Supergiant Star

Of all the stars in our galaxy, two classes, known as hydrogen-deficient and R Coronae Borealis are extremely rare. Only a few dozen have been discovered in our entire galaxy. And unlike most of the stars out there, they have almost no hydrogen. Instead, they have abnormally high quantities of a rare isotope of oxygen.

Where could be the origin for these bizarre objects? An international team of astronomers think that colliding white dwarf stars are to blame.

A white dwarf is the fate that awaits our Sun. After it uses up its hydrogen fuel, the star moves onto helium, ballooning up to become a red giant. But once it runs out of helium fuel, it doesn’t have the mass to move up the chain to carbon. Instead it collapses back down to a small dim object, called a white dwarf. Over the course of the next 25 billion years or so, it slowly cools down to the ambient temperature of the Universe.

But if two white dwarfs collide, they could create a new cloud of gas hot enough to start up nuclear reactions again. Two dead stars get another shot at nuclear fusion, briefly becoming a supergiant star again.

Microsoft’s High-tech EToilet: Flush It off

At the CES, Microsoft presented a new high-tech toilet dubbed Microsoft e-toilet that boasts allows the users to surf web and monitor personal hygiene at the same time. Now this is what I can term as “ toilet ergonomics”. This may find some use with people who are having a very hectic schedule.

The e-toilet comes with a 21-inch flat touch screen installed on its lid and a wide range of features. It makes you manage your phone calls and even stores data for you. And, don’t worry about that lid getting wet as it’s quite durable and is waterproof too. Just a touch of a button helps you manage your long song lists.

Giving your toilet a techno savvy look, this device will definitely make the crowd(mostly visitors to your e- toilet) get envy of you. I am off to grab one for myself. Priced at $499.

Cosmic Epic Unfolds in Infrared

High resolution image from the Hubble Space Telescope

This majestic view taken by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope tells an untold story of life and death in the Eagle nebula, an industrious star-making factory located 7,000 light-years away in the Serpens constellation. The image shows the region's entire network of turbulent clouds and newborn stars in infrared light.

The color green denotes cooler towers and fields of dust, including the three famous space pillars, dubbed the "Pillars of Creation," which were photographed by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope in 1995 (see inset). But it is the color red that speaks of the drama taking place in this region. Red represents hotter dust thought to have been warmed by the explosion of a massive star about 8,000 to 9,000 years ago. Since light from the Eagle nebula takes 7,000 years to reach us, this "supernova" explosion would have appeared as an oddly bright star in our skies about 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.

According to astronomers' estimations, the explosion's blast wave would have spread outward and toppled the three pillars about 6,000 years ago (which means we wouldn't witness the destruction for another 1,000 years or so). The blast wave would have crumbled the mighty towers, exposing newborn stars that were buried inside, and triggering the birth of new ones.

The pillars of the Eagle nebula were originally sculpted by radiation and wind from about 20 or so massive stars hidden from view in the upper left portion of the image. The radiation and wind blew dust away, carving out a hollow cavity (center) and leaving only the densest nuggets of dust and gas (tops of pillars) flanked by columns of lighter dust that lie in shadow (base of pillars). This sculpting process led to the creation of a second generation of stars inside the pillars.

If a star did blow up in this region, it is probably located among the other massive stars in the upper left portion of the image. Its blast wave might have already caused a third generation of stars to spring from the wreckage of the busted pillars.

This image is a composite of infrared light detected by Spitzer's infrared array camera and multiband imaging photometer. Blue is 4.5-micron light; green is 8-micron light; and red is 24-micron light.

Hutch Essar Acquisition

Whatever be the outcome of the tussle to acquire Hutchison Essar, it signals to other global mobile telecom service providers who are absent in the world's fastest growing mobile telecommunication market that there is ample room to enter, atleast inorganically.

Some of the large mobile telecom service providers such as Telefonica SA of Spain, Deutsche Telecom AG of Germany and the French service provider France Telecom are among those missing out on the opportunities that exist in the Indian market, which is growing at more than six million subscribers a month and expected to reach a mobile subscriber base of 348 million by 2010 from the current 143 million.

The acquisition of Hutchison Essar will be India's largest merger and acquisition (M&A) deal. With an expected bid of at least $14 billion for Hutchison Essar, the total value of M&A deals will touch $45 billion. The acquisition will also give the telecommunication sector top slot in the sectoral ranking of the M&A table with deal value of $16 billion and a share of 35 per cent in the total deal value ($45 billion).

If the acquisition of Hutchison Essar goes to Britain's Vodafone Group Plc, it will be the largest cross-border deal involving an overseas firm acquiring a company in India (inbound). Secondly, the acquisition will also swing the balance between inbound and outbound deals (involving Indian companies acquiring companies overseas) in favour of inbound deals at $18 billion vs. outbound at $16 billion. Infact, the deal value will be higher than the acquisition of UK's largest steel company Corus Group Plc, if it ends up with India's Tata Steel Ltd.

Going by the regulatory provisions, Vodafone will have to go with an Indian partner and its stake in the acquired company cannot exceed 74 per cent. Looking at the current stake holding of Hutchison Essar - 67 per cent owned by Hutchison Telecom International Ltd (HTIL), a subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and 33 per cent by domestic diversified Essar Group, the swing vote is in the hands of the later.

India's telecom growth story is particularly interesting as many of the big operators who had earlier exited returned to its shores. These include AT&T Inc., BT Group PLC and Vodafone Group PLC.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Roaring mice

When a thing becomes as common and ubiquitous as the computer mouse has, its potential for further development or upgradation is all too often completely overlooked. (Yeah yeah, optical, wireless, etc but you know what I mean.)

This wasn't the case when mice were still a comparative novelty vis-à-vis keyboards. That was the time when someone decided instead of moving the whole device all over the place in order to roll the ball underneath, why not simply flip it upside-down and just move the ball with a finger or two. And so was born the track-ball, without which lap and other tops would have been as clunky to use today as the older bulky PCs.

The point is, before our tabletops soon vanish into the mists of obsolescence, a lot more can still be done with the mouse. For one thing, where's the sense of having an antediluvian keyboard structure constantly perched in front of the screen when all its alphanumerics can easily be incorporated in qwerty sequence on top of a couple of laser mice -- one for the right hand and one for the left?

It'll not only double the cramped keying-in space currently available on, say, mobiles for instance, but also allow normal keyboard users to continue their two handed inputting. Definitely a vast improvement over single fingered pecking.

Ultimately of course the whole CPU should be moved into mice. Once that happens, all kinds of peripherals would be a cinch. For instance doubling as card modems or hand-scanners would present no problems. Neither would using them as universal remotes for other household devices. And, being the shape most mice are, if they could be connected together by a U-band, they could even function as high fidelity earphones. Who says the mouse can't roar?

Monday, January 8, 2007

murder mystery...

This is a perfect story for a thrilling suspense movie (and it's a true story)!!!

At the 1994 annual awards dinner given for Forensic Science, AAFS President Dr Don Harper Mills astounded his audience with the legal complications of a bizarre death. Here is the story !!!!

On March 23, 1994 the medical examiner viewed the body of Ronald Opus and concluded that he died from a shotgun wound to the head. Mr Opus had jumped from the top of a ten-story building intending to commit suicide. He left a note to the effect indicating his despondency .As he fell past the ninth floor his life was interrupted by a shotgun blast passing through a window, which killed him instantly. Neither the shooter nor the deceased was aware that a safety net had been installed just below the eighth floor level to protect some building workers and that Ronald Opus would not have been able to complete his suicide the way he had planned.

"Ordinarily," Dr Mills continued, "A person, who sets out to commit suicide and ultimately succeeds, even though the mechanism might not be what he intended, is still defined as committing suicide." That Mr. Opus was shot on the way to certain death, but probably would not have been successful because of the safety net, caused the medical examiner to feel that he had a homicide on his hands.

In the room on the ninth floor, where the shotgun blast emanated, was occupied by an elderly man and his wife. They were arguing vigorously and he was threatening her with a shotgun. The man was so upset that when he pulled the trigger he completely missed his wife and the pellets went through the window striking Mr. Opus. When one intends to kill subject "A" but kills subject "B" in the attempt, one is guilty of the murder of subject "B."

When confronted with the murder charge the old man and his wife were both adamant and both said that they thought the shotgun was unloaded. The old man said it was a long-standing habit to threaten his wife with the unloaded shotgun. He had no intention to murder her.

Therefore the killing of Mr. Opus appeared to be an accident; that is, if the gun had been accidentally loaded. The continuing investigation turned up a witness who saw the old couple's son loading the shotgun about six weeks prior to the fatal accident. It transpired that the old lady had cut off her son's financial support and the son, knowing the propensity of his father to use the shotgun threateningly, loaded the gun with the expectation that his father would shoot his mother.

Since the loader of the gun was aware of this, he was guilty of the murder even though he didn't actually pull the trigger. The case now becomes one of murder on the part of the son for the death of Ronald Opus.

Now comes the exquisite twist. Further investigation revealed that the son was, in fact, Ronald Opus. He had become increasingly despondent over the failure of his attempt to engineer his mother's murder. This led him to jump off the ten story building on March 23rd, only to be killed by a shotgun blast passing through the ninth story window. The son had actually murdered himself, so the medical examiner closed the case as a suicide.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

N49 - brightest supernova remnant

Images from the Hubble space Telescope, Spitzer Space Telescope and Chandra X-Ray Observatory combine to make this composite of N49, the brightest supernova remnant which is optically viewable as Large Magellanic Cloud.
The Chandra X-ray image (blue) shows million-degree gas in the center. Much cooler gas at the outer parts of the remnant is seen in the infrared image from Spitzer (red).
Astronomers expected that dust particles were generating most of the infrared emission.
The study of this object indicates that much of the infrared is instead generated in heated gas.
The unique filamentary structure seen in the optical image by Hubble (white and yellow) has long set N49 apart from other supernova remnants, as most appear roughly circular in visible light.

Warne bags 1000, Glenn goes 900

Australian spin wiz Shane Warne reached another milestone in his farewell outing as he grabbed his 1000th international wicket in the fifth and final Ashes Test on Wednesday.

Warne became the second to claim 1000 international wickets as he bowled Monty Panesar leg before wickets during the first innings at Sydney.

The leg-spinner, who is the highest wicket-taker in Test cricket having gotten out 707 batsmen so far, has claimed 293 One-Day International wickets.

Sri Lankan Muttiah Muralitharan was the first to claim 1000 international wickets. The off-spinner, who is the second highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 674 scalps, has captured 1104 international wickets so far.

Australian paceman Glenn McGrath, who is also playing his last Test here, got his 900th international wicket on Tuesday.