Monthly Archives: October 2008

links for 2008-10-30

MTV Music – huge archive of linkable and embeddable music videos. Finally! MTV does something music-related!

Roanoke Robotics Society and Club – We actually have a Robotics club in little ol’ Roanoke? Very surprising! In fact, they are hosting a robotics competition event at our science museum this Saturday. We’re definitely taking Iris to this!

Terrorist ‘tweets’? US Army warns of Twitter dangers – Microblogging: A platform for Jihadists?

Paris Hilton In Space – “Paris Hilton will be among the passengers on Richard Branson’s first Virgin spaceflight.” OK, this article just made space less cool. We send enough junk into space as it is.

Sarah Palin Cabbage Patch dolls. *Wink*

Fake flier circulating in Hampton Roads, Virginia

A fake flier is circulating in Hampton Roads, Virginia. It encourages Republicans to vote on November 4 and Democrats to vote on November 5:

It’s amazing what people will try to do to mess with the election.

links for 2008-10-24

My auto-posting doodad no longer works. Automation has failed me. *Cry*.

So, here are some hand-cranked, slow-cooked links for today.

X-rays detected from Scotch tape. Incredible. Maybe somebody will exploit this to take a peek inside of Christmas presents.

How the Weird Mars Science Laboratory Floating Sky Crane Works. Very cool video showing the landing procedure of an upcoming Mars mission. GET YOUR ASS TO MARS!

ALIPR – Automatic Photo Tagging and Visual Image Search. Free photo auto-tagging service. I had very mixed results on the few tests I attempted.

Cockroach inspired robot from CWRU’s biorobotics lab. More roachbots are coming. And your sprays will not help you.

Housing prices infographic.

The bursting housing bubble is painfully clear in this graph. I’ve heard some projections that the retraction in housing prices won’t bottom out until 2011.


Obama held a rally here in little ol’ Roanoke on Friday. He is the first major-party presidential candidate since JFK in 1960 to visit Roanoke. So, Kathryn and I took the day off and waited in the cold, wet line with our friend Kelly to witness this historic event. Here is a video showing highlights of our day:

WARNING: The video shows an anti-abortion truck that was parked near the line. Plastered on all sides of the truck is a gruesome image of an aborted fetus, accompanied by the message “Abortion is an ObamaNation”. We’ve seen similar images and statements proudly held by protesters hanging out near the Planned Parenthood facility in town. I was hoping to see more protesters at the rally, but the best we got was two zealots holding signs with biblical quotes, and some McCain/Palin supporters dressed as Joe the Plumber, who we didn’t see but found out about later via CNN:

Despite the cold rain, everybody was in good spirits. When we got inside and Obama finally reached the stage, the crowd went wild. He spoke with his usual eloquence, hitting many of his usual stump speech points. Including his crowd-pleasing pie story. I think the only big new point he made was his accusation that McCain wants to cut Medicare, an accusation based on a Wall Street Journal article.

It was very interesting to experience the Obama visit in person. Kelly thought the crowds swarming around Obama looked like a school of fish, all changing direction simultaneously during a feeding frenzy. We all marveled at the amount of logistical planning, endurance, expense, and show business required by presidential campaigns. And it’s all going to end two weeks from Tuesday. GO VOTE!

(We also took a few photos during Friday’s rally.)

It almost passed the Turing Test

This morning on AOL instant messenger, I got hit with some bizarre messages out of the blue:

kemptcoho: Let's look at the world with respect to theta.

doranchak: ok, let's do that

kemptcoho: what up
kemptcoho: so who is this?

doranchak: i was going to ask you the same thing

kemptcoho: and why am I your fellow prisoner? ha
kemptcoho: and I am Adam...

doranchak: adam who?

kemptcoho: Well now if I give everything away with nothing back then where is the fun?
kemptcoho: remember you sent me a message first...

doranchak: no, i didn't
doranchak: you did

kemptcoho: [06:36] DecayingCoho: Hello, my fellow prisoner!
[06:36] JudgeKaos: what up

What the hell???

So, I start thinking, maybe this was one of those AIM robots. This type of chat robot scrapes messages from blog posts and other online content. The robot then sends one of these messages to a person via AIM. If the person responds, the robot sends the response to some other person on AIM. When THAT person responds, the message is funneled back to the first person. And so it goes, causing all sorts of confusion.

Here’s where I start to wise up on what’s happening:

doranchak: oooh
doranchak: are you a trout bot? (Ed.: A trout bot is a variation of TheGreatHatsby)

kemptcoho: no....

doranchak: prove it :)
doranchak: ahh
doranchak: you're a coho bot
doranchak: my mistake :)

kemptcoho: and one proves they are not a bot how?

doranchak: that's a good existential question

kemptcoho: so you still haven't given me any indication as to who you are...

doranchak: my mommy told me not to talk to strangers

kemptcoho: or where I would know you from and what would prompt you to message me

doranchak: hey, whoever's on the other end of this: look up "coho bots" on wikipedia
doranchak: there's a bot funneling our responses back and forth to each other

kemptcoho: nice so we were put in touch by a bot how wonderful

doranchak: yeah, these bots are annoying, aren't they?

kemptcoho: very much so
kemptcoho: I was wondering why someone just messaged me outta the blue

doranchak: yeah, i was wondering that too

kemptcoho: I figured it was someone from the overnight forums at crackberry

doranchak: did you post "Let's look at the world with respect to theta." somewhere online?
doranchak: the bot scrapes messages like that to fool people into thinking they are talking to real people

kemptcoho: cant say that I did

doranchak: i wonder where it found that message

kemptcoho: so you are a real person?

doranchak: yeah; "kemptcoho" is the bot. it has two chats going on at once: one with me, and one with you. it's taking my messages to it and passing them along to you, and vice-versa.

kemptcoho: one word
kemptcoho: ANNOYING!

doranchak: agreed. :)
doranchak: well, nice chatting with you anyway. have a good day!

What a waste of time. But it was interesting to experience the scam. I think a lot of people get really angry when they experience the bot since it seems like some weirdo is stalking them (this is kind of what I felt at the beginning of the conversation above).

Obama releases new campaign symbol

(thanks, Chris)

Scientists discover breakfast on Mars

“This image from NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander’s Optical Microscope shows a strongly magnetic surface which has scavenged particles from within the microscope enclosure before a sample delivery from the lander’s Robotic Arm. The particles correspond to the larger grains seen in fine orange material that makes up most of the soil at the Phoenix site. They vary in color, but are of similar size, about one-tenth of a millimeter.”

“This image from my breakfast table shows a rounded surface containing scavenged puffs of breakfast product known as Trix. These particles correspond to part of this nutritious and delicious breakfast.”

I am always happy when science and food are brought together for the common good.

VP debate: It had some words in it.

I couldn’t help but follow up my previous Wordle posts with some new Wordles generated from last night’s VP debate transcript.

As John Hodgman said recently on Twitter during the debate broadcast: “Word salad. Word salad. Word salad. I feel like I’m hearing a spam. So to speak.”

Here, enjoy re-living the word salad:




Last night’s debate gave me a headache. I think I have a hangover. And I didn’t even play the debate drinking game. Or Palin Bingo.

They’re small but they’re smart.

It seems appropriate to follow up my previous post on politics with one about insects. We bought one of those Antworks ant habitats recently. It is filled with a NASA-developed transparent gel compound that the ants eat and tunnel through. I thought it’d be fun to make a time lapse video of the ants tunneling their way through our gel. Here it is, with a few small embellishments:

(youtube link)

This is about seven days worth of tunneling compressed to less than a minute of footage. You can see the daylight come and go in the background.

A high-quality version is available if you click the youtube link and click the “watch in high quality” link under the video.

The presidential debate was full of words, part 2

I’m a little late in following up my previous post, but I was curious how last week’s debate Wordle looked like broken down by each candidate.




I wish Wordle had a B.S. detection option. But such a thing would be overworked during election season…

“We’re sorry, this application is not available at the moment due to high levels of bullshit.”