The Discovery of Asteroids

August 26, 2010

This is an extraordinary video.  It illustrates the discovery of asteroids in our solar system between 1980 and 2010.  The first time an asteroid is discovered it shown in bright white.  It then becomes green or, if it is an earth orbit-crossing asteroid it becomes red. Those asteroids that closely approach the earth are shown in yellow.  The years and the total number of asteroids are shown at the bottom left of the screen.  As the years pass, the number of asteroids discovered increases rapidly.  This is best seen at full screen.

More than 500,000 asteroids have now been found within the solar system, and thousands of them cross our orbit.  The scientists say that the rate of discovery is not slowing down.

In the video you can see the pattern of discovery follows the Earth around its orbit and most discoveries are made in the region directly opposite the Sun.  The orbital elements were created by Ted Bowell and associates at Arecibo. See this webpage for more info.

I got this video from

Reason #196 Not To Use Facebook

August 26, 2010

Facebook is already the most intrusive software in the world, and Zuckerman is already a billionaire in his mid-20s, but still they want more. Now they want to own the online rights to the word “book”, it seems. To that end they are suing a tiny startup — 2 employees and 20 users — for using the name “Teachbook.”

[T]he Northbrook, Ill.-based company, which provides tools for teachers to manage their classrooms and share lesson plans and other resources, has been thrust into the spotlight by social networking giant Facebook, which sued the start-up for using “book” in its name … Facebook, which was founded in 2004 and has more than 500 million users, filed its trademark infringement lawsuit in U.S. district court in San Jose last week, asserting that the “book” part of its name is “highly distinctive in the context of online communities and networking websites.”

The comments to the original story are fascinating.

Rope Wood Metal Water

August 26, 2010

Seen at False Creek.  Better resolution image here.

The Ending of Privacy As We Know It

August 26, 2010

Earlier this week, I posted about the use of full-body scanners at work on our streets without any warrants and seemingly without any other rules.  Now, thanks to a columnist at Time magazine, we are advised of an equally egregious extension of government anti-privacy activities:

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn’t violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn’t tracking your movements.  That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant …

This case began in 2007, when DEA agents decided to monitor Juan Pineda-Moreno, an Oregon resident who they suspected was growing marijuana. They snuck onto his property in the middle of the night and found his Jeep in his driveway, a few feet from his trailer home. Then they attached a GPS tracking device to the vehicle’s underside. After Pineda-Moreno challenged the DEA’s actions, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled in January that it was all perfectly legal. More disturbingly, a larger group of judges on the circuit, who were subsequently asked to reconsider the ruling, decided this month to let it stand … The courts have long held that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their homes and in the “curtilage,” a fancy legal term for the area around the home. The government’s intrusion on property just a few feet away was clearly in this zone of privacy. The judges veered into offensiveness when they explained why Pineda-Moreno’s driveway was not private. It was open to strangers, they said, such as delivery people and neighborhood children, who could wander across it uninvited.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, who dissented from this month’s decision refusing to reconsider the case, pointed out whose homes are not open to strangers: rich people’s. The court’s ruling, he said, means that people who protect their homes with electric gates, fences and security booths have a large protected zone of privacy around their homes. People who cannot afford such barriers have to put up with the government sneaking around at night …Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. “1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it’s here at last,” he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell’s totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: “Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we’re living in Oceania.”

Luckily other circuit courts have not gone down this path and the matter will quickly end up with the Supremes, I am sure. Perhaps that right-leaning group may save us in the end.