Gongol.com Archives: February 2011
Brian Gongol


February 26, 2011

Threats and Hazards The planet faces massive danger from electrical storms in the next couple of years
The Sun is expected to enter a period of intensified activity that could produce huge solar storms in 2012 and 2013. And we really haven't done much to make our electrical grids (and everything that relies upon them) sufficiently robust to withstand the risk.

Aviation News Space Shuttle Discovery blasts off for the last time
And it's carrying a humanoid robot that will be used to handle routine maintenance tasks on board the International Space Station -- which, if it works, will be a smart move: Why waste valuable human time on routine nonsense when a machine could do it instead? (Which is, by the way, exactly why we should be excited about the success of IBM's natural-language computer on "Jeopardy!".

Computers and the Internet Four things you should never share on Facebook
As a species, we're really playing with fire when we get access to tools of global communication without thoughtful training on how to use it properly

News Eastern Nebraska's getting a new overlaid area code
Even local calls will now require dialing the full area code

Iowa It would be delightful to see electric cars being manufactured in Iowa...
...but it's not a pleasant thing to hear that government agencies -- right down to the city level -- are giving away money to make it happen. If a business isn't going to succeed without subsidies, then those subsidies ought to come with a direct financial reward for the taxpayers whose money is risked upon them. And if people then recognize that as nothing more than partial state ownership of the firm, which has an unpleasantly socialist ring to it, then they should see why government shouldn't be in the direct-subsidies business at all.

Agriculture China's current drought is its worst in 60 years
Once again, it's clear that we need to find more and better ways to store larger crop surpluses in the good years so that there's plenty to rely upon in the bad years. Just imagine how bad things would be if it weren't a drought causing crop shortages in China, but another volcanic eruption like Tambora

Computers and the Internet An interactive map of Twitter users in the countries where major protests are taking place
And on a related subject: How a country could be disconnected from the Internet. It's highly unlikely that it could happen in the United States, but that hasn't stopped Senator Joe Lieberman from proposing a kill switch to make it possible.

Computers and the Internet Long overdue, but much-welcomed: An Android OS upgrade for US Cellular customers

Science and Technology A ship to carry 18,000,000 flat-screen televisions
Shipping line Maersk has signed a deal to buy at least ten ships roughly the size of four end-to-end football fields, that will travel at about 20 mph but use 20% less fuel than their predecessors. Pretty remarkable engineering.

Humor and Good News Who's crazier: Muammar Qaddafi or Charlie Sheen?
Moreover, who can tell their rants apart?

Science and Technology Flipper goes fishing
(Video) Some dolphins in Australia have learned to go fishing in water that's much too shallow for them to swim in normally. They weren't created this way -- it's a learned behavior. The reality of evolutionary progress is far more interesting than any creation myth.

Humor and Good News How to make your own (ugly) Cadbury's Creme Eggs
Easter's most decadent treat, now available 365 days a year

News A helpful online guide to the Irish political parties
A very clever little chart depicts the major differences among the five leading parties in a highly digestible format. A great use of technology in the public interest.

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