an odd sad little story

There’s a whale wandering around the Pacific on his/her own, calling in a voice unlike any other whale’s. Not much info to be had; here’s the whole article by Rhiannon Edward in the Scotsman (the story is from the Dec 11 issue of New Scientist but it’s not in the online version):

A LONE whale with a mysterious voice that matches no other species has been discovered roaming the Pacific, it was revealed yesterday.
The whale has been wandering across the ocean for the past 12 years. Researchers identified it after listening to recordings made by the United States Navy

snapshots from OMSI, aka the screaming museum

triceratops.jpg
contraption.jpg
Top: yours truly scrapes 65-million-year-old matrix away from a Triceratops prorsus bone (femur, I think). That made my day. Bottom: the spousal unit in touch with her inner 12-year-old. That contraption (around and through which, on intricate wire trackways and scaffolds, large metal ball bearings continually drop, roll and loop) is apparently a childhood favourite.

one great idea, two lousy implementations

I’d link to del.icio.us, which is an online bookmarks manager that I’ve been playing with and quite liking, only there’d be no point. It fails to load at least as often as it works. My guess is that their server/s is/are badly overloaded. What good is a bookmark service that works half the time?
Next I’m going to try spurl, which even allows you to interface with del.icio.us (when it’s working, that is). It doesn’t seem to be much more reliable at first glance though. Right now it’s churning away trying to load in the next browser tab, but not getting anywhere. Oh wait — it’s finally loaded. Well, better that than timing out like del.icio.us, but it’s still not much use if I just want to grab a bookmark and move on without having to wait for something else to load.
Dammit, until I played with these things I didn’t even know I wanted an online bookmarks manager. Bah.

i’ve been wondering who would step up

I keep wondering, where is all the alternative energy research and development? I’m far from an expert on the subject, but I can’t help feeling that the West is not pursuing the subject with appropriate vigour. When I visited Kuwait in 2002, it struck me that here was a country with buckets of oil money and not much else — except, you know, wind, tides, sunlight and vast empty spaces. If I were Kuwait, I thought at the time, I’d be working and investing my ass off in order to own energy production once the oil starts to run out.
What brought this to mind was the concurrence of a story about an exhibition of ecofriendly cars in Shanghai (google “Habo Shanghai” after that yahoo link dies) and this entry on WorldChanging about a meeting between Kofi Annan and Lu Yongxiang, the president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences:

…this would be of only passing interest except for the comment from an unnamed Chinese official:
“China will send experts to train local technicians in African countries, and will also host training classes and sponsor African experts to learn in China about agriculture, water power and renewable energies“. (Emphasis mine.)
China is clearly making renewable energy technologies a big part of its thrust to be a global power. Africa and other poor areas are terrific test-beds for Chinese renewable R&D, as system which would not be competitive in western markets can still find eager users. As Chinese renewable technologies get better, expect to see their target audience move from African aid to global consumers.

It seems a bit unscrupulous to be using poor nations as testing grounds, but then if the new tech is provided as aid any benefit it brings is a net plus. The strategy makes sense, and also makes me wonder how the world’s power balance will start to shift once dwindling supplies finally force us all off the fossil fuel teat.

if it can happen, it will happen

Capt John Paul StappCapt John Paul Stapp endures enormous deceleration forces in tests that lead to far reaching improvements in transportation safety, including the adoption of automobile seat belts Murphy’s Law is a wonderful thing, and so is this article about it by Nick T. Spark. Learn why everything you think you know about Murphy’s Law is wrong, and what rocket sleds have to do with it, and how the fearless and deeply human medic who made it popular may, with Ralph Nader’s help, have saved your life.
The article is from the Annals of Improbable Research (which has its own blog) by way of this AIR column in the Guardian. (via Sisyphus Shrugged; scroll down) The photos, which I swiped from the AIR article, belong to Edwards Air Force Base and show Capt John Paul Stapp, who turns out to be rather more interesting than Ed Murphy.

flexcar, schmexcar

What the spousal unit said. Flexcar is aware of the problem, admits it’s a problem, and yet doesn’t fix it (they’ve been around since 1999, and I don’t suppose that this summer is the first one in which the card readers have crapped out). That doesn’t sound like a company that wants my business, which is just as well since they won’t be getting any more of it until they can guarantee me I won’t be left stranded if I park the damn car in the sun.