The past seven days have seen some serious action on PPX. First, the three "Labor Day stocks," TRANSF, HIGAS and SUBPC, all closed at POP$0. Then on September 5, Apple announced the iPod Touch, which signaled a payout of POP$100 for the NEWIPOD stock.
Today, an unexpected announcement by the National Snow and Ice Data Center prompted the close of NOICE, with a payout of POP$100. The proposition stated that the stock would pay out if Arctic ice levels dropped to a level below 4.25 million square kilometers before October 15, and according to a new study by the NSIDC, the ice level has now dropped to an unprecedented 4.24 million square kilometers.
The striking thing about this payout is that the stock was trading at only $46.75 at the time of close— meaning that the market believed there was only a 46.75 percent chance that Arctic ice would drop to this new low by October. Thus far, every stock that has closed on PPX has carried a price that reflects an accurate prediction on the part of the market. So what was different about NOICE? Did the politically-charged issue of global warming play into the way traders bought and shorted this stock? Were we all unpleasantly surprised by how rapidly Arctic ice is actually melting? The upshot is that today's news was a rude awakening not only for environmentalists and the scientists working to slow down global warming, but also for all the PPX traders who lost POP$ by shorting this stock. —Megan Miller
By Dave ProchnowPosted 09.11.2007 at 12:19 pm 1 Comment
Here are two bargain-priced products that are worth an extra look:
First up, All Electronics Corp has a digital multimeter that could be a great backup testing tool for the garage, basement, or shop. Its a Craftsman Model No. 82061 (Cat # DMM-61) auto-ranging digital LCD meter. It comes with a carrying case and two 1.5V LR-44 batteries. This meter can measure: AC voltage, DC voltage, resistance, and capacitance. The Craftsman 82061 meter is priced at $10.65.
The second bargain is the Compaq Microcom TravelCard Fast PCMCIA modem from BG Micro (#COM 1176). This 33.6Kbps modem does not include manuals, drivers, or phone line cord, but it only costs ten cents! You can find these extra items from Wired World for $30.42 or TradeMoon for $6. NOTE: Make sure that these other vendors do, in fact, include the manuals, drivers, and phone line cord with the modem. —Dave Prochnow
By Gregory MonePosted 09.11.2007 at 10:21 am 0 Comments
The Cassini spacecraft buzzed past Saturn's moon Iapetus yesterday, coming within 1,000 miles of its surface. The walnut-shaped moon has a band of relatively large mountains running around its equator, and appears two-toned, with one hemisphere bright and the other dark as night. Cassini flew by it in 2004, but it's going to be 100 times closer this time, and scientists hope this final look will help them figure out some of Iapetus's strange features. The results of some of the data gleaned will be presented at a planetary science conference in October.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 09.11.2007 at 10:20 am 4 Comments
Two weeks before Halo 3, arguably the most anticipated game of the year, is due to go on sale, a pair of apparently legitimate copies were posted for auction on eBay. The seller, an Australian, opened the case and snapped a few shots of the cover (seen at left) and the disc itself to prove the items were for real, but the asking price makes you wonder.
Gamers have routinely been commenting not so much on whether this was right or wrong, but why in the world this person would only try to sell it for $125. People are seriously itching to push Master Chief, the hero of the series, through the next phase of the epic game, and would probably pay hundreds of bucks to get an early chance.
According to gaming site IGN.com, Microsoft had no comment on the early release, but you can imagine they're not exactly clapping gleefully.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 09.11.2007 at 10:19 am 0 Comments
Granted, it's not even in beta yet, so this isn't entirely fair, but if SciVee, a new website being billed as the YouTube of science, is really going to reach the people, the presentations will really need to evolve. Right now the site consists of a few video presentations from biologists. The material is interesting, and there's a cool feature that lets you follow along in the actual published paper as the speaker presents his or her work. But the overall effect is really no different than what you'd get if you trained cameras on presenters at a biology conference, then posted the clips on the Web. And that might be part of the point of this site—it gives scientists a new, slightly less formalized way to communicate the ideas in a new paper to their peers. But part of the stated mission is also to reach a wider audience, and to do that these scientists are going to need a different approach. Step One: Getting rid of the powerpoints. It's not too, too hard to get most scientists to sum up their research in layman's terms, but once they get a few of those slides in front of them, they revert to speaking the very technical language of their peers, not the masses. Again, though, it's only in the alpha phase, and it's a great idea. So let's hope it works.—Gregory Mone
The premiere party for the year's best astronaut film brings together moonwalkers, Stephen Colbert and a whole bunch of Tang.
By Abby SeiffPosted 09.11.2007 at 2:00 am 0 Comments
It's not every day that five of the astronauts who walked on the moon and Stephen Colbert are seen chilling in the same room, but that was the scene at the New York premiere of In the Shadow of the Moon, held at the Hayden Planetarium last week. The documentary, directed by David Sington (not Ron Howard, despite the prominent placement of his name in every poster), follows the unfolding of the Apollo missions and the men who made that pipe dream possible.
By Dave ProchnowPosted 09.10.2007 at 4:27 pm 10 Comments
Capturing the most fleeting of moments—like the droplets formed by a splash of water or the ripping plastic from an exploding balloon—used to be expensive propositions. Fancy photo strobes with special voice- or sound-activated switches (called VOX) costing hundreds of dollars were the equipment of choice for high-speed photographers. Not so, anymore. By tapping into the powerful tools housed inside disposable flash cameras, you can build your own high-speed photography system for under $30.
Warning: Before you start working with the flash mechanism from a disposable camera, remove the battery and make sure that the onboard storage capacitor is completely discharged (hold a pair of insulated pliers across the + and - flash terminals and manually trigger the flash).
How to Build a DIY High-Speed Flash System
(1) Disposable flash camera (The Electronic Goldmine #G16329; $1.29 or Fuji Photo Film QuickSnap; $5.99)
(1) Silicon Controlled Rectifier (SCR) sensitive gate 0.8A 400V (Digi-Key #EC103D-ND; .39)
(1) 3.5mm stereo cable (The Electronic Goldmine #G15449; .99)
(1) Cassette tape recorder (scavenged or Memorex MB1055 @ Target; $19.99)
(1) Electret microphone (scavenged or All Electronics #MIKE-75; $2.50)
(2) AA & (2) AAA alkaline batteries
Camera capable of B (bulb) or prolonged (> 2 seconds) exposures
Step 1. The Anatomy of a Flasher.
Remove all of the exterior plastic, film advance system, and shutter assembly from the disposable flash camera. Locate the + and - flash terminals. These terminals are located near the shutter. Use a voltage meter for identifying which terminal is positive (+) and which one is negative (-). Some cameras (e.g., Fuji QuickSnap, as pictured) might require the flash on/off switch to be soldered in the on position.
Step 2. Becoming Flash Trigger-Happy
Snip off one jack of the 3.5mm stereo cable. Prep the snipped end exposing the red, white, and black wires. Solder the cathode pin of the SCR to the negative (-) flash terminal and solder the anode pin of the SCR to the positive (+) flash terminal. Solder the red and white wires from the 3.5mm stereo cable to the SCRs gate pin. Finally, solder the stereo cables black wire to the negative (-) flash terminal (along with the SCR cathode pin).
Step 3. Void the Cassette Recorders Warranty
Remove the cassette tape door from the cassette recorder. Make sure that you have clear and easy access to the cassette recorders write-protection button. This is a small movable finger opposite the record head that determines whether or not a cassette tape can be recorded. This button must be depressed to turn the cassette recorder on in record mode. You will use the record mode for gathering sound and amplifying it enough for triggering the flash.
Step 4. Lights, Cameras, High-Speed Action
Find a darkened location for experimenting with high-speed photography—an area completely devoid of ambient lighting. Mount your camera on a tripod, set the shutter for a bulb or B exposure. Cameras that can deliver timed 1-4 second exposures can also work.
Insert fresh batteries into the disposable flash camera. Plug an inexpensive electret microphone into the recorders MIC input. Plug the jack of the 3.5mm stereo cable into the PHONE output. Hold down the recorders write-protection button and press the recorders red RECORD button. The flash should begin charging. [NOTE: some disposable cameras might require you to depress a flash activation button.] When the amber ready light glows steadily on the back of the disposable camera, the flash is ready to be triggered by sound.
Kill the lights, hold the flash trigger near your subject, open the cameras shutter, and record some high-speed event that is triggered by its noise. Like the pop of a balloon, the kerplunk of water, or the smack of a head slap. Take your pick and take some pix.
There's no traffic or cops at this reporter's dream of a test day
By Sean CaptainPosted 09.10.2007 at 4:14 pm 0 Comments
Ive had the good fortune of trying out several brilliant
cars for Popular Science. But usually on the traffic-choked streets of Manhattan or the congested freeways outside the city. Thats why we metropolitan journalists love Test Days, hosted by the International Motor Press Association (IMPA). Many of the hottest 2008 models were sitting in Pennsylvanias Pocono Downs raceway, with keys in the ignition, just waiting for us.
By Gregory MonePosted 09.10.2007 at 4:06 pm 2 Comments
Enjoy the amazing Planet Earth footage of polar bears, since the incredible animals might be even harder to find in the coming decades. The U.S. Geological Survey announced on Friday that by the year 2050, thinning sea ice in the Arctic will cut the polar population by two-thirds.
The problem is that the bears will lose 42 percent of the territory they roam in the summer, which is when they hunt and breed. Only 16,000 bears remain today, and there won't be any left in Alaska by the century's midpoint.—Gregory Mone
By Gregory MonePosted 09.10.2007 at 1:00 pm 1 Comment
Since Google Earth debuted its new Sky function, which allows users to flip their viewpoints and focus on the heavens from any point on the planet, a few weeks ago, astronomers have already taken to the project.
A UC Berekely professor used it in his introductory astronomy class at the start of school, and scientists have added details about extrasolar planets, gamma ray bursts, and supernovae. Now users can get real-time updates on these dramatic celestial events captured by the SWIFT observatory and Sloan Digital Sky Survey, among others, every 15 minutes.—Gregory Mone