Archive for March, 2011

Homeland Security Says They Could Strip Search Every Airline Passenger If They Wanted To

23 Mar
Michael Scott points us to Bob Barr highlighting how Homeland Security, in its defense of airport scanners and patdowns, has said that, if it chose to do so, it could strip search every airline passenger, without any 4th Amendment scrutiny. I guess it's only out of their own kindness that they've chosen not to do so. Of course, this raises some pretty key Constitutional questions. If the TSA can strip search anyone with no reason at all, then does the 4th Amendment really exist? Yes, courts have said that the basic scanning of airline passengers is Constitutional, but it does not appear to have set any real limits on that scanning. And that's part of the reason why security theater at the airports just keeps ratcheting up. But at some point, shouldn't we step back and ask if such a scenario, in which everyone who flies is first strip searched, could possibly match with what the framers of the Constitution meant when they said:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
It's more than a bit troubling that we keep seeing more and more chipping away at the Constitution, as people (including judges and politicians) make excuses about how it's effectively "okay this time, because..." where the "because" can and will be stretched, twisted and distorted to the point that the original Constitutional keystones no longer really exist.

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A piece of 50 million-year-old preserved lizard skin reveals how ancient animals looked [Paleontology]

23 Mar
Using new infrared light techniques, scientists have at last been able to analyze the chemical composition of a piece of lizard skin, preserved for millions of years in dry rock. So what did these reptiles look like in pre-human times? More »

99 Yarn Bombed Trees by KnittaPlease

23 Mar

Last week we shared images of awesome yarn bombed potholes in Paris — little did we know that some yarn bombing was happening right now in the US! From now until March 25, a 'Knitted Wonderland' is colorfully on display in Austin, Texas.

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A Dog House Heated and Cooled Using Geothermal Energy DogEden

23 Mar


How great is this dog house? Not only does it take into account environmental concerns in terms of materials and performance, but it's built around dogs' desire to dig holes and live in dens. Find out more about this clever house for your pooch after the jump.

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Page Speed for Chrome, and in 40 languages!

22 Mar
Webmaster Level: All

This article is cross-posted on the Google Code Blog.

Today we’re launching the most requested feature for Page Speed, Page Speed for Chrome. Now Google Chrome users can get Page Speed performance suggestions to make their sites faster, right inside the Chrome browser. We would like to thank all our users for your great feedback and support since we launched. We’re humbled that 1.4 M unique users are using the Page Speed extension and finding it useful to help with their web performance diagnosis.

Google Chrome support has always been high on our priority list but we wanted to get it right. It was critical that the same engine that powers the Page Speed Add-On for Firefox be used here as well. So we first built the Page Speed SDK, which we then integrated into the Chrome extension.

Page Speed for Chrome retains the same core features as the Firefox add-on. In addition, there are two major improvements appearing in this version first. We’ve improved scoring and suggestion ordering to help web developers focus on higher-potential optimizations first. Plus, because making the web faster is a global initiative, Page Speed now supports displaying localized rule results in 40 languages! These improvements are part of the Page Speed SDK, so they will also appear in the next release of our Firefox add-on as well.

If your site serves different content based on the browser’s user agent, you now have a good method for page performance analysis as seen by different browsers, with Page Speed coverage for Firefox and Chrome through the extensions, and Internet Explorer via, which integrates the Page Speed SDK.

We’d love to hear from you, as always. Please try Page Speed for Chrome, and give us feedback on our mailing list about additional functionality you’d like to see. Stay tuned for updates to Page Speed for Chrome that take advantage of exciting new technologies such as Native Client.

By Matthew Steele and Richard Rabbat, Page Speed Team

Help Make Better Map of Global Light Pollution

22 Mar

You can help build the best global map of light pollution, the uniquely modern problem that has stolen starlight from most of the urbanized world.

From March 22 through April 6, the GLOBE at Night website will collect the public’s measurements of the night sky. Anyone can participate by comparing their local view of specific constellations with magnitude charts on the site. The event is in its sixth year, and organizers hope to surpass the 17,800 observations they collected in 2010.

“With half of the world’s population now living in cities, many urban dwellers have never experienced the wonderment of pristinely dark skies and maybe never will,” says the GLOBE at Night. “This loss, caused by light pollution, is a concern on many fronts: safety, energy conservation, cost, health and effects on wildlife, as well as our ability to view the stars.”

Baby sea turtles attracted by artificial light. (NIH)

Light pollution is caused by stray artificial light from sources that are too bright, poorly aimed or both. Similar to how sunlight makes the sky glow blue, artificial light scatters in the atmosphere to create a dull glow that obscures stars and celestial objects. Airborne pollutants exacerbate the problem.

Aside from the loss of stars from view, light pollution has more quantifiably dangerous sides. One model of Los Angeles suggests it destroys about 7 percent of smog-eating chemicals that build up in the dark, leading to a 5 percent jump in wheeze-inducing ozone pollution during the day. Other studies show artificial light can thwart animal migrations and negatively impact human health.

Satellites can assess artificial brightness from space, but the view is very different from the ground. By crowdsourcing measurements, GLOBE at Night aims to both create the most accurate map of how light pollution hides the stars and raise awareness of the problem. They also hope to spark a push for local artificial light ordinances, such as those passed in Flagstaff, Arizona, and other municipalities.

People living north of the equator can access the organization’s app to report night-sky conditions between March 22 and April 4. In the southern hemisphere, the window of opportunity is March 24 through April 6.

Images: 1) Historic and anticipated increases in artificial night sky brightness in the United States./NIH. 2) Worldwide measurements of light pollution submitted by 17,800 participants in 2010./GLOBE at Night.

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Facebook’s New Realtime Analytics System: HBase to Process 20 Billion Events Per Day

22 Mar

Facebook did it again. They've built another system capable of doing something useful with ginormous streams of realtime data. Last time we saw Facebook release their New Real-Time Messaging System: HBase To Store 135+ Billion Messages A Month. This time it's a realtime analytics system handling over 20 billion events per day (200,000 events per second) with a lag of less than 30 seconds

Alex Himel, Engineering Manager at Facebook, explains what they've built (video) and the scale required:

Social plugins have become an important and growing source of traffic for millions of websites over the past year. We released a new version of Insights for Websites last week to give site owners better analytics on how people interact with their content and to help them optimize their websites in real time. To accomplish this, we had to engineer a system that could process over 20 billion events per day (200,000 events per second) with a lag of less than 30 seconds. 

Alex does an excellent job with the presentation. Highly recommended. But let's take a little deeper look at what's going on...


Prop-Driven ‘Rail Zeppelin’ Is Many Kinds of Awesome

22 Mar

Time again for an outrageous pre-war German vehicle design. You’ve already seen the Nazi rocket plane built to nuke New York from orbit. The propeller-driven aluminum train Schienenzeppelin is miles tamer but every bit as magnificent. And unlike the Amerika Bomber, it really ran — at 140 mph in 1931!

The concept and execution of Schienenzeppelin (“Rail Zeppelin”) predated the Nazis by years. Like quantum physics, Bauhaus architecture and Marlene Dietrich, it was a product of the Weimar Republic. All the Nazis contributed was the loco’s eventual dismantling to turn its aluminum into Messerschmitts.

Conceived and built in 1930 by the German rail company Deutsche Reichsbahn, the Schienenzeppelin was a design alternative to the streamlined steam locomotives of its day. It was a slick and relatively lightweight at 20 tons, running on but two axles and powered by a 46-liter BMW V-12.

The same engine was later used to power the light bombers of the Luftwaffe. The engine sent 600 horsepower to a massive ash propeller, tilted seven degrees to produce downforce. It was one of those designs that would shock and delight even in these times, when aluminum is used not for Bauhaus trains but for high-revving V-8s and computers from the near future.

Originally good for 120 mph — on par with the fastest streamlined steam locomotives — the Schienenzeppelin topped out at a magnificent 140 mph in the summer of 1931. It was a record that stood for 23 years and was never surpassed by a gasoline-powered locomotive.

Unfortunately, the train never made it into production. Problems with propeller safety (!) and reliability kept it from attaining mass production. The prototype that set the speed record was dismantled in 1939 on the eve of World War II.

But it does make one wonder at an alternative rail network, one where later evolutions of the Schienenzeppelin scream across the land, rat-tat-tatting like fighter planes, blurred silver bullets toying with the speed of sound.

This post was written by Peter Orosz and originally published by Jalopnik.

Photos: Wikimedia Commons


China cuts off phone calls if word ‘protest’ is used

22 Mar
The Chinese government is monitoring phone conversations and automatically cutting the call when forbidden words are used


Historically Hardcore

22 Mar

These made me laugh so much that I had to share.

Historically Hardcore

Created by artist Jenny Burrows and copywriter Matt Kappler during school for their portfolios, these fake ads for a famous museum are spot on awesome. And well done. Unfortunately, that major museum was not a fan. Jenny had to change the text at the bottom to read “Museums” and change the logo. You can read all about that here.

Historically Hardcore

Historically Hardcore

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© 2011 Design Milk | Posted by Jaime in Art | Permalink | 2 comments