Swimming in syrup is as easy as water

"The fluid looked like snot. I don't know how to describe it any more poetically."

It's a question that has taxed generations of the finest minds in physics: do humans swim slower in syrup than in water? And since you ask, the answer's no. Scientists have filled a swimming pool with a syrupy mixture and proved it. [...]

The most troublesome part of the experiment was getting permission to do it in the first place. Cussler and Gettelfinger had to obtain 22 separate kinds of approval, including persuading the local authorities that it was okay to put their syrup down the drain afterwards. [...]

While it might sound like a trivial question, the principle is actually fundamental. Isaac Newton and his contemporary Christiaan Huygens argued the toss over it back in the 17th century while Newton was writing his Principia Mathematica, which sets out many of the laws of physics. Newton thought that an object's speed through a fluid would depend on its viscosity, whereas Huygens thought it would not. In the end, Newton included both versions in his text.

Hamstrung by their lack of access to guar gum or competitive swimmers, Newton's and Huygens' work was mainly theoretical. Cussler's demonstration shows that Huygens was right, at least for human-sized projectiles.

The reason, explains Cussler, is that while you experience more "viscous drag" (basically friction from your movement through the fluid) as the water gets thicker, you generate more forwards force from every stroke. The two effects cancel each other out.

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Da Vinci ____

Not only is The DaVinci Code not very good, it's being accused of extensive plagarism. But oops, Dan Brown sued first. (Brown's previous book also sounds like a real winner: the NSA are the good guys, and the EFF are trying to hax0r them with w0rms! painful summary, longer review.)
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Die Pongmechanik!

Pongmechanik: a mechanical version of Pong! The surprising thing here is that it's not microprocessor-controlled: they built it using relays. Photos, Quicktime, translation.
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Sky Captain in the Shell

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow:

    See it immediately. The plot is... well, kind of dumb, and loaded with holes and nonsense, but it's so very, very pretty. The giant robots, ray guns, and amphibian amazon fighter pilots left me not caring so much about the plot. It's dense: there's so much going on in the background that I felt like the scenery was going by too fast, I kept wanting to just stop and look around. The look of the movie reminded me of the kind of look that photo-comics often have (a good example is this classic Mister X cover and poster, of which I was constantly reminded.)

    There were also hints at a very odd backstory; the world in which this movie is set differs from ours in a whole lot of ways that I kept wanting to know more about. I guess "wait, how did we get from A to B?" was kind of a running theme in my head while I was watching it; e.g., a number of the plot holes might not have been so gaping if there was more exposition about them.

    It was emulating the style of the old serials, yet it felt like it should have been multiple episodes; like a 20 part series had been condensed into one movie, leaving out a whole lot.

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence:

    See it immediately. (But see it second.) I am a huge, huge fan of the first Ghost in the Shell; it's one of my favorite movies, and by far my favorite anime. (For the record, I think almost all anime is crap, but there are a dozen or so true gems in there.)

    Well, now it's my second favorite. The sequel is just mind-blowingly good.

    Again I have to use the word dense. Except this time not only visually, but plot-wise as well. The level of detail in every frame is just astounding; through the whole movie I kept wanting to pause and single-step it, because there's just so much going on. On the surface, the plot is a detective story ("why are robots going nuts and killing people?") but that's just an excuse for a pair of cops to spend the movie talking about the nature of humanity (oh, and also blowing things up. Blowing things up real good.) It covers a lot of the same ground as the first GITS as well as Blade Runner, but covers it very well.

    I really hope that when the DVD comes out, they have good voice actors for the dubbed version, because I felt like I missed half the movie by having to read the subtitles. With a movie this dense, you need more bandwidth; I wanted to be looking and listening at the same time instead of having to split my visual attention between the dialog and the pictures.

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DNA Lounge: Wherein photos are presented.

Photos of tonight's Psyclon Nine + Terrorfakt + Manufactura show are up now. Marshall showed me his little wee-wee. He's so gosh darned transgressive.
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recent books

  • Science Fiction: The Best of 2003, edited by Karen Haber & Jonathan Strahan

      I enjoyed just about every story in this comp, which is a really good hit rate. Actually the only one I didn't like was the Le Guin story; all the others were great. I especially liked "A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman, and "The Cookie Monster" by Vernor Vinge.
  • Singularity Sky and its loose sequel Iron Sunrise, by Charlie Stross

      (Hi autopope!) Really entertaining space-opera where our heroes are running around trying to prevent interplanetary wars while avoiding the wrath of a post-human godlike intelligence who likes to smash planets whenever someone comes close to violating causality. Both books are packed with cool ideas. And also there's a morally ambiguous party clown.
  • RedRobe by John Courtenay Grimwood

      Anti-hero assassin killing for the church in space. I didn't like this one very much; it was just kind of ugly and bleak all the way through. By far the most interesting character was an AI-powered handgun, but the gun doesn't get much screen time. I preferred his previous book, ReMix.
  • The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

      This was crap. It was mostly a mystery, and it wasn't very mysterious. It felt like it was written to be a TV series or something, with each chapter having a contrived cliffhanger, ending on a note like, "they gazed with shock at the words that were revealed!" and then you get to find out what those words were two pages into the next chapter.

      I suppose it would have been more suspenseful if I hadn't already known the legends about the Merovingians and Templars and the Grail bloodline and all that, but even already knowing all about the "surprise", I expected a more interesting story. I guessed every twist except the identity of Dr. Mabuse "The Teacher", and by then I didn't really care.

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SHOW TUNES 1, FUNDAMENTALISTS 0.

"I am shaking. I don't know what comes over me at times like this. I only know that I cannot stay silent. I wish that I had my ukulele with me."
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mark your calendars

If you were me, you would be giving strong consideration to attending the following shows. Arrows indicate "highly recommended."

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Tackhead, Tino Corp

The Tackhead show last night was fantastic! I was hesitant about going, since I only have two of their albums (Tackhead Tape Time from 1987, which I like, and Friendly as a Hand Grenade from 1989, which, eh) but exoskeleton and joeradio talked with such reverence about previous shows they'd seen back in the Jurassic, I figured I had to go. And they were right: they were definitely one of the tightest bands I've ever seen (which you'd expect, once you know the resumés of the people involved.) It was not an "industrial" show by any stretch; they were mostly a funk band. If you have the chance, do not miss them.

The opener was Tino Corp (the current project of Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto) who, to my great shame, I hadn't gotten around to seeing live until last night. They, also, were a lot of fun. It was really interesting watching the division of labor between the two guys: Dangers had a pile of gear on which he was doing the basic beats, and Stokes was layering on top of that with what was, as far as I can tell, the Emergency Broadcast Network Video Sampler! Great stuff.

Musically, Tino Corp was doing stuff that was much like the later Meat Beat (Subliminal Sandwich, etc.) I pretty much lost interest in MBM after 99% (I liked them when they were an industrial rap band, not when they got all ambient stoner dubby) but I've seen them many times (as MBM) in their later period, and they've always put on a great show.

Also of note was that the sound system at The Independent is very good; it's so much better than it was when it was Justice League or Kennel Club.

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ATM keypads

I assumed that ATM keypads were just plugged into the PS/2 port. Apparently not!

The ATM keypad:

If that seems like a lot of trouble over a numeric keypad, you haven't cracked open an ATM lately. The modern "PIN entry device" is a physically and logically self contained tamper-resistant unit that encrypts a PIN within milliseconds of its entry, and within centimeters of the customer's fingertips. The plaintext PIN never leaves the unit, never travels over the bank network, isn't even available to the ATM's processor: malicious code running on a fully compromised Windows-based ATM machine might be able to access the cash dispenser and spit out twenties, but in theory it couldn't obtain a customer's unencrypted ATM code.
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Current Music: Logiq -- Elation ♬