Maybe because we're working on an article for June about DIY servers, this caught my eye: a RAID array built from old floppy-disk drives. RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks) makes backup copies of data at the same time as it writes the new data, so if one fails, you're OK. These guys strung together 13 drives for a total of 15 megabytes of safe storage. Awesomely useless. —Mike Haney
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Scientists at Vanderbilt University have found an explanation for the groovy spiral shape of the cochlea, the weird, seashell-looking component of your inner ear. Applied mathematician Daphne Manoussaki and her colleagues discovered that the spiral—which is filled with fluid and has two channels, separated by a membrane—helps to increase the ears sensitivity to low-frequency noise, sometimes by up to 20 decibels. —Martha HarbisonLink
With the worldâ€™s wild fish stocks plummeting, experts say that something must be done to ensure our seafood supply. Are offshore fish farms the solution?
By Osha Gray DavidsonPosted 03.16.2006 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
"Are you ready to see the future?" Vinny Allocca calls out gleefully, his voice rising from the sun-dappled surface of the Hawaiian sea. Allocca has timed his question perfectly. He´s caught me midstride off the deck of the Ho´Okupu, a 32-foot commercial workhorse that belongs to his employer, Randy Cates, a fisherman turned "fish farmer." My only possible answer to Allocca´s question is the affirmative ker-plunk of my scuba fins hitting the water.
This past Sunday the New York Times featured an excellent piece by Dennis Overbye about the film What the Bleep: Down the Rabbit Hole, a sequel to the cult hit of two years ago What the #$%* Do We Know!? Both movies feature a coterie of scientists, philosphers and visionaries who speak with mixed credibility about quantum physics and the possibility that reality could be a mental construct. Overbye clearly thinks this is a bunch of hooey (as does PopSci's own Greg Mone—see for yourself how he ripped the makers of the original film a new one in 2004 here) and his essay makes for really entertaining reading. —Megan Miller
Im a sucker for maps—subway maps, network maps, geographic-features maps. So Ive been wasting a bit of the company time playing with Google Mars, an interactive map of everyones favorite Red Planet. Especially intriguing is the default elevation setting, which helps you grasp the terrain in ways that are difficult to do from satellite images. Clicking on mountains or valleys makes it easier to find your way to Olympus Mons or Valle Marineris (respectively, the highest mountain and largest canyon in the solar system) or any other nifty Martian geologic feature. Also cool: this animated video fly-through of Valle Marineris. —Martha Harbison
When NASAs Stardust capsule flew within 149 miles of the comet Wild 2 in January 2004, its main goal was to collect particle samples from the comets coma—the cloud of frozen dust and gases that trails the comets nucleus. This week, NASA released its initial findings, which have changed scientists perception of how comets form.
Comets have long been thought of as frozen chunks of rock and ice that formed in the cold outer reaches of space. But upon analyzing Stardusts samples, scientists observed that at least 25 percent of the particles retrieved originated from the ultra-hot center of the solar system. This finding suggests that comets are more diverse than previously thought. It also provides new insight into the importance of the X-wind, the magnetic jetstream most likely responsible for carrying high-temperature particles to the outer solar system, where comets form.
NASA is far from finished with the analysis of Stardusts samples (the first space particles successfully returned to Earth since a Russian craft brought back moon rocks in 1976), and the space agency is asking for help from the public to continue the analysis. Check out our April story "Dust Busters" to find out how to help. —John Mahoney
I'm not a gamer, so I've never quite understood all the fuss about the wildly, internationally popular World of Warcraft. But then I found this video on You Tube, and my whole attitude changed. Look at how excited this dude is! It's as if he's celebrating the sudden release of his homeland from a centuries-old tyrannical dictatorship. Or at least like he just scored big in the Lotto Scratch-N-Win. So what really happened? He got to Level 60 in WOW. If it's really that fun, maybe I should start playing.
Tangentially related cool thing: My colleague Martha, who heartily endorses the entertainment value of role-playing games (although not live-action ones—there are lines, apparently), dug up this pretty amazing movie, Illegal Danish - Super Snacks, which was made using the World of Warcraft platform. The movie won a bunch of awards, and you can even download the soundtrack. Can you believe I used to think of videogames as a waste of time?
Got a four- or five-year-old PC laptop youâ€™ve dismissed as useless? Bring it back to life with these tips, then use it as a spare Web and e-mail station in the kitchen or kidsâ€™ room
By Kirk SteersPosted 03.15.2006 at 2:00 am 3 Comments
PC RevivalCost: $0-$260 Easy | | | | | Hard
Start by checking the health of your hardware with a free diagnostic program such as #1-Tufftest (tufftest.com).
If the motherboard or screen is shot, forget it. Replacing either one is more expensive and more hassle than buying a new system.
Lost your user manual? Try the manufacturer´s Web site.
Check eBay or craigslist.org for used replacement parts.
Ready for an intergalactic adventure? Take this virtual flight over Mariner Valley, Mars's version of the Grand Canyon, a geological feature as deep as Mt. Everest and as wide as the distance from New York to Los Angeles. Kind of makes Earth's biggest dry river bed seem a bit less "Grand," doesn't it?
Rockets burn for mere minutes. This engine runs for years, sending probes to Neptune at 10,000 miles an hour
By Michael MoyerPosted 03.15.2006 at 2:00 am 1 Comment
NASA's Ion Engine
1. Charge the Fuel
Xenon is an inert gas, seemingly useless for rocketry. Before it´s used as fuel, the engine must convert it into an electrically charged gas, also called a plasma. An electron emitter fires electrons at the xenon gas. When an electron hits a xenon atom, it strips off an additional electron from the atom´s shell to create a positively charged xenon ion.