Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkins and trebuchets

Okay, all of you undergraduate and graduate students--have some fun this Halloween and construct a pumpkin tossing trebuchet. Exercise your Medieval sense of competition. Redefine "hurling". Plenty of time to construct a catapult and harvest a few pumpkins. Better than bobbing for apples and Homeland Security approved.

Medieval Siege

Reconstructing Medieval Artillery

The Algorithmic Beauty of the Trebuchet

The Grey Company Trebuchet Page

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Candles at Halloween

Candles at Halloween

"The Chemical History of a Candle"


Michael Faraday


[Thanks to stringer Tim]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Limit on understanding the universe

"Either our ability to know reality has reached a dead end, or this is just another theoretical challenge to overcome, and we're approaching it the wrong way."

"The Riddle of the Unique"

Why is it so hard to build a complete theory of our universe?


Carlos Arturo Serrano Gomez

October 29th, 2008


The scientific method we have been employing to obtain and verify knowledge comes from a hybrid source: it follows the regularities of nature by closely watching its behavior with as little interference as possible, adjusting to its ways and accepting its indifference toward us, but it also follows the logical pathways of the human mind, obeying our criteria for relevance and significance, asking only the questions we are interested in solving. It is neither fully objective nor fully contingent; it's a compromise in-between.

Thus any model of reality will always be an approximation. In most cases this is enough: we can plan the trajectory of a space probe across millions of kilometers, or assemble DNA molecules to perform specific tasks, and succeed in both. Only when studying highly complex systems, such as the weather or global economy, do we need to devise theories of much greater precision.

The current debate over the proper interpretation of quantum events and the way to integrate them with the rest of our physics is one that goes beyond the problem of precision, for below a certain subatomic threshold precision is out of the question, fixed values are replaced by probability functions, and direct observation becomes interference. Either our ability to know reality has reached a dead end, or this is just another theoretical challenge to overcome, and we're approaching it the wrong way.

However, a serious limitation persists. This is the only universe we can observe. Unlike all our other models, which deal in generalities, a theory of the universe must be able to explain the unique. We cannot take a sample of universes and test their average responses; we are confined within this only specimen. Deprived of a larger background, we must proceed from what we can observe from this side of the glass and figure out how the same laws that apply for everyday phenomena could produce a singular event.

This is not only an empirical consideration; it has a cognitive side as well. We are inherently unable to imagine how a mind without our impulses and biases would operate; we would need to delete all our evolutionary conditioning and position ourselves outside of the universe for us to be able to a make complete and detached examination of it. Our present condition can be compared to having only a portion of the contour of a jigsaw piece in a puzzle of unknown extension.

A recent article in Scientific American argues that a theory of the universe appears more acceptable if it treats it as one in a multitude of possible universes. In other words, it becomes easier to handle if it stops treating ours as something unique.

The human mind needs to deal in generalities; it is ill-equipped to understand the singular, and, as this case shows, it will build an abstraction of general properties if necessary in order to better grasp it. For practical purposes, those other universes may be fictional, as there is no possible interaction with them. We and their inhabitants will never meet and compare notes. But by postulating their existence, if only for theoretical convenience, a model as we're used to working with becomes possible. Like imaginary numbers, they help the puzzle look more complete.

This solution is sentenced to be provisional, for the same reasons why we'll have to wait until we find lifeforms in other systems to know whether Darwinian evolution is universal. Another intelligent species, with its own biological and cultural history, may be able to see these same problems from a different angle. They will not be subject to our cognitive defects, but will doubtlessly have some of their own. Helping each other we might postulate theories that are somewhat better suited for describing phenomena that are common to us all, but they will always be incomplete, always an approximation.

A famous short story by Borges makes the case that the map is no match for the territory. Similarly, any model of reality is by definition simpler than the system it simulates, and that's why no mind in this universe will ever conceive a complete theory of it. This fact won't stop scientists from pursuing their passion, though. It is in our nature to keep trying.

Job application...Lucasian professor of mathematics

This is the title page to the English version of Isaac Barrow's Geometrical Lectures, which were originally given in his position as Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University. These lectures contain one of the earliest statements and proofs of what is today known as the fundamental theorem of calculus.

Stephen Hawking will retire next year and a replacement must be found. So, if you think you qualify, then read the application .

"So you want to succeed Stephen Hawking?"


Matin Durrani

Now here’s a job that very few physicists can possibly have a chance of securing.

The University of Cambridge is inviting applications for the position of Lucasian professor of mathematics to succeed Stephen Hawking, who is set to retire next year at the age of 67.

According to the 22 October issue of the Cambridge University Reporter, candidates should be "working on mathematics applied to the physical world, with strong preference for the broad area of theoretical physics". The successful candidate is expected to take up the appointment in October next year.

Quite who will get the job is anyone's guess. Previous Lucasian professors include Paul Dirac, George Stokes, Charles Babbage, George Airy and, most famously, the great Isaac Newton himself.

Hawking has certainly made the job, created in 1663 by the then Cambridge member of parliament Henry Lucas, one of the most well-known academic positions in the world.

If you fancy following in Hawking's footsteps as the next — and 19th — Lucasian professor, applying for the job sounds fairly easy. All you need to do is submit a CV, list of papers, details of current and future research plans and details of two referees. The deadline is 15 December.

But be warned - Hawking may be retiring but will still be hanging around as "emeritus Lucasian professor". Stepping out of his shadow won't be easy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fractals via NOVA

Very good program. Will post the transcript when available.

Would these be considered fractal images?

King Solomon's Mines...a myth challenged

A legendary tale well represented by literature and the cinema and exemplifies what a myth may exaggeration of an actual event or situation. We have been told of the enormous wealth of King Solomon's mines: Diamonds, gold, ivory, silver. The truth of the matter may well be something just as valuable--copper and that is what the following suggests. Stories get embellished to enhance a tale.

"King Solomon's (copper) mines? Deep dig finds confluence of science and the Bible"

October 27th, 2008

Led by Thomas Levy of UC San Diego and Mohammad Najjar of Jordan's Friends of Archaeology, an international team of archaeologists has excavated an ancient copper-production center at Khirbat en-Nahas down to virgin soil, through more than 20 feet of industrial smelting debris, or slag. The 2006 dig has brought up new artifacts and with them a new suite of radiocarbon dates placing the bulk of industrial-scale production at Khirbat en-Nahas in the 10th century BCE – in line with biblical narrative on the legendary rule of David and Solomon. The new data pushes back the archaeological chronology some three centuries earlier than the current scholarly consensus.

The research also documents a spike in metallurgic activity at the site during the 9th century BCE, which may also support the history of the Edomites as related by the Bible.

Khirbat en-Nahas, which means "ruins of copper" in Arabic, is in the lowlands of a desolate, arid region south of the Dead Sea in what was once Edom and is today Jordan's Faynan district. The Hebrew Bible (or Old Testament) identifies the area with the Kingdom of Edom, foe of ancient Israel.

For years, scholars have argued whether the Edomites were sufficiently organized by the 10th to 9th centuries BCE to seriously threaten the neighboring Israelites as a true "kingdom." Between the World Wars, during the "Golden Age" of biblical archaeology, scholars explored, as Levy describes it, with a trowel in one hand and Bible in the other, seeking to fit their Holy Land findings into the sacred story. Based on his 1930s surveys, American archaeologist Nelson Glueck even asserted that he had found King Solomon's mines in Faynan/Edom. By the 1980s, however, Glueck's claim had been largely dismissed. A consensus had emerged that the Bible was heavily edited in the 5th century BCE, long after the supposed events, while British excavations of the Edomite highlands in the 1970s-80s suggested the Iron Age had not even come to Edom until the 7th century BCE.

"Now," said Levy, director of the Levantine Archaeology Lab at UCSD and associate director of the new Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3), "with data from the first large-scale stratified and systematic excavation of a site in the southern Levant to focus specifically on the role of metallurgy in Edom, we have evidence that complex societies were indeed active in 10th and 9th centuries BCE and that brings us back to the debate about the historicity of the Hebrew Bible narratives related to this period."

Khirbat en-Nahas, comprising some 100 ancient buildings including a fortress, is situated in the midst of a large area covered by black slag – more than 24 acres that you can clearly see on Google Earth's satellite imagery. Mining trails and mines abound. The size argues for industrial-scale production at Khirbat en-Nahas, Levy explained. And the depth of the waste at the site, more than 20 feet, he said, provides a "measuring stick" to monitor social and technological change during the Iron Age, which spans around 1200 to 500 BCE, a key period in the histories of ancient Israel and Edom.

The archaeological team, Levy said, used high-precision radiocarbon dating on date seeds, sticks of tamarisk and other woods used for charcoal in smelting (along with Bayesian analysis) to obtain the 10th- and 9th-century BCE dates. The analyses were carried out by Thomas Higham of the University of Oxford.

Additional evidence comes from ancient Egyptian artifacts found at the site. The artifacts, a scarab and an amulet, were in a layer of the excavation associated with a serious disruption in production at the end of the 10th century BCE – possibly tying Khirbat en-Nahas to the well-documented military campaign of Pharaoh Sheshonq I (aka "Shishak" in the Bible) who, following Solomon's death, sought to crush economic activity in the area.

For a comprehensive picture, the researchers marshaled the "the newest and most accurate digital archaeology tools," Levy said: electronic surveying linked to GIS that all but eliminates human error, as well as digital reconstruction of the site in the "StarCAVE," a 3-D virtual environment at UC San Diego's California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

The present findings, Levy noted, support early results he and his colleagues obtained from digs at Khirbat en-Nahas in 2002 and 2004.

"We can't believe everything ancient writings tell us," Levy said. "But this research represents a confluence between the archaeological and scientific data and the Bible."

"Our work also demonstrates methods that are objective and enable researchers to evaluate the data in a dispassionate way. This is especially important for 'historical archaeologies' around the world where sacred texts – whether the Mahabharata in India or the Sagas of Iceland – and the archaeological record are arenas for fierce ideological and cultural debates."

Future research at Khirbat en-Nahas, Levy said, will focus on who actually controlled the copper industry there – Kings David and Solomon or perhaps regional Edomite leaders (who had not been written about in the biblical texts) – and also on the environmental impacts of all this ancient smelting.

Meanwhile, Levy is working with the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in Jordan and other organizations to have Khirbat en-Nahas and the more than 450-square mile ancient mining and metallurgy district declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to protect it from possible mining in the future and preserve "its spectacular desert landscape and rare, ancient character."

University of California - San Diego

King Solomon's Mines [book]

King Solomon's Mines [audio book]

Halloween sky show

NASA data for a spooky sky treat...

Halloween Sky Show

KXTR Classic 1660 Halloween special

Patrick Neas is KXTR's Program Director and Morning Show Host from 6am to10am, Monday through Friday. Patrick has been waking up Kansas City area music lovers for more than ten years with a lively mix of uplifting and inspiring classical music, traffic, news, weather and interviews with creative and artistic personalities. All of this plus Patrick's offbeat observations make for a highly entertaining morning show. Because smart people need morning radio too!

Tune in this Friday for a full day of Halloween related classical music and a reading of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" by Basil Rathbone. All classical music is available online 24 hours a day.

KXTR and click the "listen" icon.

"under the microscope"...venue for women science writers

A new website for female science writers...check it out.

"Website for female science writers built"


Alexander Villafania

October 28th, 2008

Technology giant IBM and women's literary publisher Feminist Press recently switched on a website aimed at encouraging women to write for and about science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The website, Under the Microscope is the online version of Women Writing Science Project of Feminist Press and the National Science Foundation. It was announced at the Feminist Press headquarters in New York, coinciding with the IBM Information On Demand Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Women are encouraged to share their experiences in scientific endeavors and other interests pertaining to matters of technology, engineering and math -- collectively called STEM.

Other science-related stories written by women will also be linked to the site, as well as parental and career tips, and mentoring programs.

Eventually, educational opportunities will also be included, along with an online book club and serialized chapters of Women Writing Science publications.

The site is also intended to be developed into a social networking site where science materials will be created, published and distributed among members.

In a press statement, Feminist Press Executive Director Gloria Jacobs said they intend to make the site a service for women's learning on STEM.

She said the Women Writing Science Project will publish books of biography, fiction, history, career profiles, and how-to-survive guides presenting women as both scientists and as writers about science.

IBM International Foundation President Stanley Litow said their co-development of the website is also a way for IBM to support its own growing female workforce. Out of 400,000 IBM employees worldwide, 20 percent are women.

He said they need to increase the number of female workers in IBM as well.

"One way to realize that goal is to provide young women with role models, mentors and examples so more young women will be inspired and helped to enter exciting technical careers, and projects like the Woman Writing Science will help," he added.

under the microscope

Monday, October 27, 2008

Halloween and the mummies

It is a pity that some of the more familiar classic horror films are not available online...The Mummy, Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, or the Wolfman but here is one related to mummies.

The Mummy Strikes

I. Sparber

Paramount Studios


NOVA--"Hunting the Hidden Dimension"

Being aired this Tuesday evening, October 28th, on most PBS stations is a program on fractals where art and science meet..."Hunting the Hidden Dimension".

Hunting the Hidden Dimension

How ancient the relationship is. Such a relationship embraces epistemology, ontology, metaphysics, theology, mythology, and all the real sciences. It can be a codified or individual interpretation passed on by oral tradition, the written word, visual/auditory transmission, and all characteristics of science. Artistic representation of the cosmos can be primitive and crude or spirited in the latest aesthetic movement of sophistication. Aesthetics and the cosmos can be an intensely personal experience. It can be as simple as connecting the stars and recognizing the constellations or a pristine mathematical formula.

And we cannot strictly limit the aesthetic experience to mathematical or physical explanations/representations but to include the entire visual and auditory spectrum of experiences. Yes, it certainly appears the universe [neutral] to be a "mess", but it is a fine specimen of specific laws of physics--all interacting in the most minute manner. Historical mistakes as you mentioned are true, but day to day advances dispel old notions and revitalized by new notions of a broader sphere of concern. If man lasts long enough, the "mess" may not be so "messy". I really don't want to get into the technical theories and movements of aesthetics, but it is evident that the beauty of the universe is adequately manifested in the visual and auditory--outside Earth and on Earth.

Beyond the potential aesthetics of the mathematics and physics of the universe, there is the problem with visual representations. The question being, how true to reality are those photographs that we see. In the infancy of astronomy, the images were taken by long exposure on photographic glass plates whose emulsion of sensitivity was not necessarily panchromatic. Many of the prints were enhanced in density, contrast, and color. Sometimes for illustrative purposes, the print was at the mercy of many artists. Today we have computer enhanced images. So for those that do experience an aesthetic experience of the cosmos through visual representation, what are they really experiencing? Does it have an ultimate effect on the experiences? How intense is that "pink"? Is it too "dark" or too "light"? Humm...a matter of personal aesthetics I guess. I don't have a problem with what I see for it is pleasing to the eyes--soothing like chocolate ice cream.

"Out of the fire and ashes rise the phoenix". It does boil down to personal interpretations and preferences based on many undefinable things. Defining art is probably limited to movements within a period of history whereas aesthetics is a bit more elusive. The residue from presentation, discussion, and analysis of materials presented in an aesthetics course was that "art" was a matter of "taste". Debate and trends will continue which leads me to a short and true experience from my university days when I took a course on aesthetics. A good course for four months discussing all aspects of aesthetics until numbness set in the students. The professor's summation resulted in a statement that aesthetics was a matter of "taste". Someone from the room [perhaps yours truly] quipped: "Ya,...'good taste' and 'bad taste'". Needless to say the material came full circle and we were transported back to square one. The point...aesthetics is unique and personal.

Aesthetics does abound in the universe. Granted the following are abstract and highly geometric, but nevertheless for some provide an aesthetic experience. The photos are from the Mars Orbiter Camera (MOC) on the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft. [Mars Global Surveyor was launched in November 1996 and has been in the Mars orbit since September 1997. It began its primary mapping mission on March 8th, 1999].

"Carbon Dioxide Landscape"

"Dark Mesas of Aram Chao"

"Dunes in Noachis"

"Exhumed Craters"

"Small Dunes in Hellas"

"South Polar Layers"

"Sulci Gordii"

"Aesthetics and Motivations in Arts and Science"

Bathsheba Grossman

"Chen Ning Yang on Aesthetics and Physics"



"Fractal Geometry"

"gallery: bathsheba grossman"

"Whither Santayana's Aesthetics"

More websites and images on fractals can be found at "Google".

The Fractal Geometry of Nature


Benoit B. Mandelbrot

ISBN: 0716711869

A snowflake--something special

"I find the ideas in the fractals, both as a body of knowledge and as a metaphor, an incredibly important way of looking at the world."--Al Gore.

Oh Hell...cannot forget this guy and location

F.W. Murnau's last German production before leaving for Hollywood is a visually dazzling take on the Faust myth. Pushing the resources of the grand old German studio UFA to the limits, Murnau creates an epic vision of good versus evil as devil Emil Jannings tempts an idealistic aging scholar with youth, power, and romance. The handsome but wan Swedish actor Gosta Ekman plays the made-over Faust as a perfectly shallow scoundrel drunk with youth, and the lovely Camilla Horn (in a part written for Lillian Gish) is the young virgin courted, then cast aside, by Faust. The sheer scale of Murnau's epic and the magnificent play of light, shadow, and mist on his exquisitely designed sets makes this one of the most cinematically ambitious, visually breathtaking, and beautiful classics of the silent era.

Bartolomeo Pagano, the great strongman of the silent screen, returns to the role he played in the 1914 landmark epic Cabiria. Powerful and virtuous Maciste is targeted by the demons below and eventually lured into hell. Once there, however, he regains his strength and takes on an army of rebellious devils single-handed. One of a series of popular "Maciste" films that Pagano starred in, this feature boasts an imaginative visualization of hell and some fine cinematography.

Maciste In Hell

Guido Brignone


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Two from colleague...Corman/Coppola and Romero

Luana Anders

Dimentia 13

Francis Ford Coppola


Judith O'Dea

Night of the Living Dead

George A. Romero


Halloween and two Poe silent films

Basic plot:

An unnamed narrator arrives at the home of reclusive basket case Roderick Usher and his sickly twin sister Madeline. Roderick suffers from extreme sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety and hypochondria. Madeline suffers from a wasting disease, and she eventually dies and is buried in the family crypt within the cavernous mansion. On a stormy night, the narrator and Roderick begin to hear screeching and crashing noises in the house. We learn that cataleptic Madeline had not died when she was buried, and she has returned to confront her mad brother, who in turn dies of fright. The narrator then flees as the cursed house is swallowed by the murky bog.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stratovision...precursor to satellites

Stratovision Engineer, A.A. Nims lowers antennas into place during flight tests of this revolutionary new system of airborne television and FM radio transmission under development by Westinghouse and the Glenn L. Martin Company. Two 15-inch loop antennas are mounted on a 10-foot shaft of aluminum tubing hinged to the under side of the plane and lowered into place, loops down, after takeoff. Manually operated in the converted bomber being used for tests, this equipment will be fully automatic in final Stratovision planes.

May 27th, 1946

"Stratovision...opens the way for nationwide television and FM at reasonable cost by employing airplanes cruising constantly six miles in the air to overcome line-of-sight reception limitations characteristic of these services." What a novel idea to have coast to coast TV and FM transmissions--and costly too. I also wonder about reliability and curtailment of the service during bad weather.


Gothic horror from Horace Walpole

Horace Walpole

Everyone is familiar with Bram Stoker's Dracula and the notorious vampire but there is another tale of vampires and a top Gothic novel--Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto of whom some even consider it to be the first Gothic novel.

The Castle of Otranto [book]

The Castle of Otranto [audio book]

And there are two other individuals that must be mentioned: Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and the works of Edgar Allen Poe. Check the Internet Archives for written texts and audio offerings. Even Project Gutenberg is a good source for the same.

Halloween goodies

The Bat

Crane Wilber


The Lost World

Harry O. Hoyt


The Vampire Bat

Frank R. Strayer


White Zombie

Victor Halperin


And finally, the original l954 Japanese theatrical trailer for Godzilla [Gojira]...not the watered down American version with Raymond Burr. Godzilla and King Kong were two of the most sympathetic creatures imagined.

King Kong and the missing 35mm movie camera

"King Kong": Additional material

Deceased--Robert Furman

Robert Furman
August 21st, 1915 to October 14th, 2008

Associated with nuclear physicists Robert Oppenheimer, Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr and was in charge of the whole Manhattan Project intelligence section. War time "spy vs spy" indeed.

"Robert Furman dies at 93; oversaw WWII nuclear espionage efforts"

After supervising construction of the Pentagon, Furman -- not yet 30 -- was tapped as chief of intelligence on the Manhattan Project, conducting spy missions, recovering uranium, questioning scientist


Matt Schudel

October 25th, 2008

Los Angeles Times

For more than 60 years, Robert Furman lived a quiet suburban life as a businessman with a successful building and contracting company.

The engineer had worked on a large construction project as a young man -- few people knew exactly how large -- and built the U.S. Embassy in Nicaragua and hundreds of other structures.

He was a president of the Rotary Club and the Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase (Md.) Chamber of Commerce and sang baritone in barbershop quartets. He died Oct. 14 of metastatic melanoma at a retirement community in Adamstown, Md., at 93.

It was only in the past few years, as historians and scholars began to knock on his door, that Furman revealed the full extent of his achievements during World War II and his extraordinary life of intrigue.

He was at the center of two of the most remarkable developments of the war: the building of the Pentagon and the development of the atomic bomb. Yet his roles as an engineer and as the point man in an international espionage operation were cloaked in such secrecy that his name did not appear in official documents for decades.

"You could never imagine a man who was more secretive by nature," said Thomas Powers, a historian who first met Furman in the late 1980s when he was working on "Heisenberg's War," a book about German bomb-building efforts in World War II. "He was the guy who actually handled all this stuff. He was extremely young, and he had extraordinary power."

Robert Ralph Furman, born Aug. 21, 1915, in Trenton, N.J., graduated from Princeton University in 1937 with a degree in civil engineering, eventually working for Turner Construction Co. in New York.

A member of the Army Reserve, Furman was activated in December 1940 and assigned to the Washington headquarters of the Quartermaster Corps Construction Division. He was named executive officer to Clarence Renshaw, a captain in charge of construction of a new War Department office building just across the Potomac River from Washington. Furman had a desk outside the office of then-Col. Leslie Groves, Renshaw's boss.

Furman, then a lieutenant, became a key figure in the day-to-day construction operation that began in September 1941. With 13,000 workers toiling round-the-clock, the enormous five-sided building went up quickly. Furman supervised everything from materials to manpower, even dealing with illicit alcohol sales on the night shift. Every fifth day, he was on overnight duty, making a circuit of the entire building on foot.

The Pentagon was completed in 17 months, and in mid-1943, Furman was ready for a new assignment. Groves had been promoted to general and was in charge of the top-secret Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb. He picked the young Furman, now a major, as his chief of intelligence.

"Groves told Furman that he would be responsible for finding out what the Germans were doing and for working with the scientists," historian Robert S. Norris wrote in his 2002 biography of Groves, "Racing for the Bomb."

On his frequent visits to the secret U.S. research site in Los Alamos, N.M., Furman met nuclear scientists Robert Oppenheimer and Hans Bethe. When Nobel Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr was smuggled out of Denmark late in 1943, Furman was his personal handler and quizzed him about German research efforts.

When a long-shot plan to kidnap Werner Heisenberg, Germany's leading physicist, failed, a new spy was brought into the picture and assigned to Furman. Morris "Moe" Berg was a Princeton graduate with a law degree from Columbia University who was fluent in seven languages. He had played 15 years in the major leagues as a catcher with several teams and had taken secret films of Tokyo while on a baseball tour in the 1930s. The films were used to guide American bombers during World War II.

By 1944, Berg had been retired from baseball for five years. He made his way through liberated and neutral parts of Europe, keeping Furman informed of his meetings with scientists across the continent. Furman frequently went to Europe himself, meeting Berg and future CIA chief Allen Dulles on undercover missions. He often wore cheap French suits to remain inconspicuous.

Groves decided that all the uranium in Europe should be in Allied hands -- even uranium stored near the front lines -- and chose Furman to find it. Sometimes under fire from German snipers, Furman recovered vast stores of the element needed for nuclear fission.

When the war in Europe ended in May 1945, Furman was in charge of rounding up Germany's top scientists. U.S. forces quickly detained Heisenberg and nine other scientists and spirited them to England, where they could not defect to the Soviet Union.

Back in the United States in July 1945, Furman visited Los Alamos. He personally escorted more than half of the U.S. supply of enriched uranium to San Francisco, where he boarded the USS Indianapolis, the Navy's fastest cruiser, and took it to the Pacific island of Tinian. Four days after Furman stepped off the Indianapolis with the nuclear material, the ship was torpedoed and sunk. More than 800 U.S. lives were lost; most victims survived the sinking but succumbed over days to sharks or the elements.

The first atomic bombs were assembled on Tinian, and on Aug. 6, 1945, Furman watched the B-29 Enola Gay take off on its fateful trip to Hiroshima, where the first atomic bomb was dropped.

A year later, Furman left the Army and opened Furman Builders Inc. in the Washington suburb of Rockville, Md.

He married in 1952, raised a family and kept his long silence.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Mary Eddy Furman; four children, Martha Keating of Church Creek, Md., Julia Costello of Mokelumne Hill, Calif., David Furman of Kensington, Md., and Serena Furman of Stow, Mass.; a brother; five grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

Close, but no cigar

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Halloween treats...more

Der Golem, wie er in die Welt kam

[The Golem: How He Came Into the World]

Paul Wegene


The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Robert Weine



Tod Browning


"Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives"--YAWN

Hugh Everett III
November 11th, 1930 to July 19th, 1982

Yawn. "Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives"...better than Sominex. Hugh Everett III's contribution to theoretical physics was minimally obligatory and I suppose the purpose was to discuss relationships [father/son] rather than discuss science.

Hugh Everett III


"Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives"...NOVA offering

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Tales of Tomorrow"..."Frankenstein"

A live television production [l952] of Frankenstein from the anthology series Tales of Tomorrow. Certainly short of philosophical content and strong on action. It is amusing to see Lon Chaney Jr.


Lon Chaney Jr. as The Monster
John Newland as Victor Frankenstein


Monday, October 20, 2008

"Doctor Atomic"

"Those who most long for peace now pour their lives on war."
Kitty Oppenheimer [played by Sasha Cooke]

Okay, opera is not for car crashes, no superheroes fighting a city's evil elements, no computer graphic images but it does have tragedy and much introspection and I suspect that the current production of "Doctor Atomic" is dripping with personal angst...existential dilemmas--annihilation of thousands of humans.

"The Terror and Attraction of Science, Put to Song"

Orionid meteor shower

Short notice, but tomorrow morning [Tuesday, October 21st] will offer the Orionid meteor shower--harbinger to the November Leonid meteor shower.

If you wake up before sunrise on Tuesday, Oct. 21st, set aside 15 minutes or so to watch the sky around Orion. You might see some meteors. The annual Orionid meteor shower, caused by dusty debris from Halley's Comet, is peaking today and tomorrow. Little was expected of this year's display because a bright Moon is hanging in the pre-dawn sky, causing an interfering glare. Surprisingly, however, sky watchers on Oct. 20th witnessed 15 or more Orionids per hour, many of them brighter than first magnitude stars. If this stronger-than-expected display spills into Tuesday, you might be glad to wake up

More information including a map...

McCain & Obama on technology issues

PC World has offered a summation on the policies of technology issues between presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. There is a lot of rhetoric and "pie in the sky" positioning but I think the bottom line for either one when he becomes president is to begin to resolve the global economic crisis and end the conflict in the Near East. Nevertheless, here is the article.

"Where the US Presidential Candidates Stand on Tech Issues"


Grant Gross

October 20th, 2008

PC World Communications, Inc.

The 2008 presidential election gives CIOs and other IT executives a choice of two major-party candidates who are interested in technology-related issues. While the U.S. economy and the war in Iraq have dominated the debate between Republican nominee Senator John McCain and Democratic nominee Senator Barack Obama, they have also hit on such IT hot buttons as telecommunications and tech jobs.

Both senators bring tech experience to the race, although the experience is significantly different. Obama has had relatively little legislative experience related to technology, but he's a self-described text-messaging addict who released a lengthy tech policy paper last November. McCain admits he doesn't spend much time with computing devices, saying he relies on his wife's help with computers. But he's also a long-time member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, the panel that debates and votes on much of the tech-related legislation that goes through the Senate.

Here's a look at the candidates' stances on five issues of interest to the nation's IT leaders: telecommunications, national security, privacy, IT jobs and innovation.


Net neutrality: Obama has long supported the passage of Net neutrality laws or rules. "A key reason the Internet has been such a success is because it is the most open network in history," his tech paper says.

McCain opposes a Net neutrality law, saying broadband carriers need to recoup their investments. However, his tech policy paper says he would focus on allowing broadband customers access to the Web content and applications of their choice. Instead of a law, the best way to guard against unfair practices is "an open marketplace with a variety of consumer choices."

Rural broadband deployment: Obama calls for policies to encourage next-generation broadband deployment, including to rural areas and inner cities. He supports government programs to bring broadband to schools, libraries and hospitals, and called for public/private partnerships to help roll it out in areas without service.

McCain would encourage private investment in broadband service. In 2005, he split from many other Republicans by authoring legislation that would prohibit states from outlawing municipal broadband projects.

Competition in the wireless spectrum: Obama has called for a review of existing uses of the wireless spectrum, and he wants government agencies to come up with "smarter, more efficient and more imaginative use" of the spectrum they control.

McCain has long advocated and voted for putting more spectrum in the hands of mobile phone carriers and broadband providers. In recent years, he pushed for a nationwide voice and data network for public safety agencies and was a leading voice in the Senate in the effort to get television stations to give up part of their analog spectrum for use by police and fire departments.

National Security

Government surveillance: Both candidates voted for a recent bill to revamp the U.S. government's surveillance programs and bring a controversial National Security Agency program under court oversight. However, Obama opposed the bill's language that would likely give telecom carriers immunity from lawsuits. McCain wanted congressional hearings before granting telecom immunity.


McCain has co-authored several bills, including one in 2000 requiring Web sites to post privacy policies on their use of personal information. He was co-author of the CAN-SPAM Act, a 2003 law setting the rules for sending unsolicited commercial e-mail. He also pushed for rules to set standards for business' protection of personal data. "Americans will fully embrace new technologies...when they are confident that these new advances can be used safely," his Web site says.

Obama wants to restrict how databases containing personal information are used. He'd increase the Federal Trade Commission enforcement budget to fight spam, spyware, phishing and other cybercrime. Obama would also focus on ensuring that electronic health records are secure, his position paper says.

IT Jobs

Outsourcing: Obama wants to end tax breaks for companies that ship U.S. jobs overseas. McCain opposes efforts to restrict U.S. agencies from outsourcing some services.

Math and science education: Both candidates have called for an increased focus on training U.S. students and workers for 21st-century jobs. Both have called for programs that increase the number of students studying math and science. McCain wants more money for retraining U.S. workers. Obama wants to improve U.S. schools' curricula and supply schools with computers and broadband.

H1-B visas: McCain says U.S. workers should have the first chance for high-paying tech jobs, but he has also called for an increase in the number of H-1B foreign-worker visas.

Obama questions the need for more H-1B visas, but he's also called for reform of immigration programs, including ways for immigrants to become permanent residents.


R&D tax credit: Both candidates called for a permanent extension of a frequently expiring R&D tax credit for U.S. companies.

Renewable energy: Obama has made renewable energy a campaign centerpiece. He's called for a government investment of $150 billion over the next decade to encourage development of biofuels, hybrid cars and solar and wind energy. He would double federal science and research funding for clean-energy projects and create a $10-billion-a-year clean-tech venture capital fund.

McCain has said renewable energy sources are a part of the solution needed for U.S. independence on foreign oil, but he's largely focused on pushing for offshore oil drilling.

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