Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Samsung Plants Keyloggers On Laptops
"Mohammed Hassan writes in Network World that he found a keylogger program installed on his brand-new laptop — not once, but twice. After initial denials, Samsung has admitted they did this, saying it was to 'monitor the performance of the machine and to find out how it is being used.' As Hassan says, 'In other words, Samsung wanted to gather usage data without obtaining consent from laptop owners.' Three PR officers from Samsung have so far refused comment."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A Sun Made Out Of Bananas

I was cruising the information superhighway today, and came across some random article about neat science facts.  I usually treat these with quite a bit of skepticism, as they generally take a single basic fact and ignore everything else in order to derive something which is "neat".  This one didn't disappoint.  The first fact caught my eye:
If the Sun were made of bananas, it would be just as hot

The Sun is hot, as the more astute of you will have noticed. It is hot because its enormous weight – about a billion billion billion tons – creates vast gravity, putting its core under colossal pressure. Just as a bicycle pump gets warm when you pump it, the pressure increases the temperature. Enormous pressure leads to enormous temperature.

If, instead of hydrogen, you got a billion billion billion tons of bananas and hung it in space, it would create just as much pressure, and therefore just as high a temperature. So it would make very little difference to the heat whether you made the Sun out of hydrogen, or bananas, or patio furniture.
As I said above, this has a nugget of truth, i.e., massive objects will compress themselves and increase in temperature.  There is no doubt about this, indeed much of the Earth's heat is left over from it coalescing and the residual effects.  However, it ignored the fact that the heat would quickly (in astronomical time scales) dissipate and the object would cool down.  Nuclear fusion is what sustains a star's heat for billions of years.

Luckily my fellow pedantic internet nerds corrected this oversight and the following was added:
Edit: this might be a little confusing. The heat caused by the internal pressure would be similar to that of our Sun. However, if it's not made of hydrogen, the fusion reaction that keeps it going wouldn't get under way: so a banana Sun would rapidly cool down from its initial heat rather than burning for billions of years. Thanks to people who pointed this out.
That being said, I felt the desire to go one step further in my pedantry.  I knew bananas are mostly water, which is mostly hydrogen.  I wondered if the sun would be able to undergo fusion if it were made out of bananas.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet I knew within seconds that a banana is about 70% water and 30% carbohydrates.  I'm going to assume the peel is about the same in makeup as the insides (or that our banana sun would be peeled).  We all know that water is H2O, but what are carbohydrates?  I looked up which carbohydrates are in a banana, and then looked up what those carbohydrates are made of.  If I knew anything about organic chemistry, I would have known that they all have roughly the same ratio of 1 C : 2 H : 1 O.  Now that I knew the chemical ratios I had to figure out what the ratios were by mass.  Hydrogen has a mass of about 1 amu, carbon 12 amu, and oxygen 16 amu.  Which means that water is 11.1% hydrogen by mass, 88.9% oxygen.  Carbohydrates are 40.0% carbon, 6.7% hydrogen, and 53.3% oxygen, by mass.

By the powers of math, we find that the final make up of our banana sun would be 9.78% H, 78.22% O, 12.00% C.  Oxygen and carbon can fuse, but our sun isn't massive enough to make it happen.  So only the 10% hydrogen could fuse.  In addition, the oxygen and carbon would settle in the core possibly preventing hydrogen fusion in the outer layers.  I don't know enough about stellar evolution to say for sure what the result would be.  But, I'd guess that today we'd have something pretty similar to a white dwarf.

While the banana sun would likely be rather bright today, and still qualify as a star, it is unlikely that it would have given off enough heat for life to form on Earth.  I suppose you should thank your lucky stars that a sea of free electrons and protons will form hydrogen atoms and not bananas (well at least not for a very long time).

As an epilogue I'll answer how many bananas one would need to equal the Sun's mass.  Google tells us that a single banana is 125 grams, and Google's wonderful calculator makes short work of the calculation:
1.6 x 1031 or 16,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bananas.  You're gonna need a bigger boat.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Self-Referential Aptitude Test

I've seen this a few times before, but never bothered with it because I figured it would be crazy.  Well it was pretty crazy, but only took an hour or two.

You can stop reading here if you want to try it in its default state, however, I'd like to clarify some ambiguity.

Several times, the test asks about the answer to a different question.  When it asks this, it is asking about the letter choice (ie A, B, C, D, E), not the actual answer.  There is one exception to this, when it asks about the number of consonants, it is asking about the actual answers, not the choices.

Also, the last question is a bit of an opinion, but the correct answer should be clear based on the other answers.

Answers plus routes to answer are here:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Japanese Nuclear Plants

Pretty good discussion of what is happening with the Japanese nuclear plants that were affected by the recent earthquake.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

You might be a winter camper if......

"You might be a WinterCamper if……You like to go winter camping to catch up on your sleep."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Police Use Licensing Laws to Do End-Run Around Constitution
Inspectors for "health and safety" purposes don't need warrants and police have learned that by inviting fellow government officials to join them, they can conduct armed, warrantless searches under the guise of routine "health and safety" inspections.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Judge Allows Subpoenas For GeoHot YouTube Viewers, Blog Visitors
"Stepping up Sony's lawsuit against PS3 jailbreak developer George Hotz, this Thursday a judge approved multiple subpoenas which seek logs of all viewers and commenters to his YouTube video, visitors to his blog and website, and all information associated with his Twitter account."

Leave a Message, Go To Jail
"A man in Weare, New Hampshire was charged with felony wiretapping for recording the police during a traffic stop — based on a cell phone call he made as an officer approached his vehicle. From the article: Police considered it wiretapping because the call was being recorded by a voice mail service without the officer's consent."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Soldier in Leaks Case Jailed in Cell Naked, Lawyer Says
A lawyer for Pfc. Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accused of leaking secret government files to WikiLeaks, has complained that his client was stripped and left naked in his cell for seven hours on Wednesday.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Richest 400 Taxpayers Are Taxed At A Lower Rate Than A $29,000-A-Year Worker
According to calculations by Whitehouse’s office -- which match our own -- when you include Social Security and Medicare taxes, the effective tax rate for the wealthiest 400 Americans would have been 16.72 percent in 2007; the tax rate for a worker earning $29,000 a year would have been 16.79 percent.