Thursday, July 27, 2006

Vegan Ultramarathoner Wins Badwater for Second Time in a Row

Leave a credit card on the dashboard of a rental car in Death Valley, and it will melt. A freshly opened can of icy-cold soda turns into a kind of caramelized soup within 11 minutes.

Starting in Badwater in Death Valley and streching 135 miles, the Badwater Ultramarathon is known as "the most demanding and extreme running race offered anywhere on the planet."

The race covers 135 miles, nonstop, from Badwater in Death Valley to the trailhead of Mount Whitney in the Sierras, the highest mountain in the Lower 48. The successful runners cross three mountain ranges with a combined, cumulative vertical ascent and descent of 17,400 feet, which is like a flight of stairs three miles high.

85 contestants from across the world show up in the 123 degree heat for the ultramarathon. "Ultra" because this race is five marathons back-to-back with another three miles tacked on to the end.

Some show up shirtless at the starting line. Others wear anti-radiation suits.
Some have their soles wrapped in duct tape as a second, disposable layer of skin since the heat of the road tends to cook the foot. A medium-rare steak is grilled to 135 degrees.

The winner? Vegan competior Scott Jurek, who also won the Badwater last year.
According to Scott's bio:
On his own journey towards optimal health, Scott began transitioning to a vegetarian whole foods diet in 1997, while competing in several ultra trail races per year. In 1999, he adopted a vegan diet out of further health and environmental concerns. Scott continues to fuel his body on a completely vegan diet while competing in 10-12 ultramarathons per year in addition to his rigorous training schedule. All seven of his consecutive wins at the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run were performed on vegan fuel.

[ Link ]

Telepathy Implant

Scientists are working on a technology to detect speech without talking.

NASA's approach is to record the electrical impulses from your brain to your vocal muscles and convert them into digital speech.
You say the words silently to yourself and the sensor matches the words you would have said and generates the text or speech.

Now imagine combining it with a bone-conduction device that allows you to hear without sound.
If you can have a conversation with another person somewhere else, without speaking, with no sound, and without anyone being able to tell, how is that functionally different from telepathy?

Since it's already converting brain signals to text then to speech, it would be relatively easy to add translation software to the mix for multilingual communication. You could even broadcast silent communication to multiple people who speak different languages and the software could translate it individually for each of them.

I want my telepathic universal translator implant!

[ Link ]

Monday, July 24, 2006

Man-Machine Merger Arriving Sooner Than You Think

NPR has streaming audio of their interview with noted futurists Vernor Vinge and Corey Doctorow on the coming technological Singularity and why a merging between computers, networks, and people may be closer than you might think.

Vinge expands further on the concept in his latest novel Rainbow's End.

[ Link via Accelerating Intelligence News ]

Meditation Found To Increase Brain Size

"People who meditate grow bigger brains than those who don't. Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input. In one area of gray matter, the thickening turns out to be more pronounced in older than in younger people. That's intriguing because those sections of the human cortex, or thinking cap, normally get thinner as we age."

[ Link via Hugg ]

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My New Dream Car: The Tesla Roadster

Long awaited, the Tesla Roadster was unveiled today.
0-60 in 4 seconds (in first gear!)
Top Speed of over 130 mph
100% Electric
250 mile range between charges
135 mpg equivalent
Fully charges in 3.5 hours at home and comes with a convertor to recharge from any standard outlet while on the road.

Plus, it's freaking gorgeous.
Tesla worked in collaboration with Lotus, and the Roadster is based on a modified Lotus Elise platform.

Tesla Motors home page.
More info on Wikipedia.

We at The Viking are accepting donations of Tesla Roadsters for reviews, or just as a reward for a job well done. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Invisibility Cloak Video

Check out this video of an Invisibility Cloak being demonstrated at the University of Tokyo.
The wearer is moving in front of a television screen and colored backgrounds.
Observe that his face is not covered by the wallpaper background displayed on the cloak.
Very impressive. Plus, he has mad dance moves.

The inventor, Susumu Tachi, says he also wants to use the technology to cover walls and give someone the impression that they're actually outside anywhere in the world. Imagine eating breakfast in the rainforest, showering on the top of K2 (whoo, cold water!), and working at your desk in the middle of the Serengeti.
Go here for more information about how it works and what other technologies it could be integrated with, including Augmented Reality, Heads-Mounted Displays, and telepresence.

Here is the project's home page with more videos.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Zero Tolerance for "Feminazis"

I've got to say, I am sick and tired of "feminazis".
No, it's not what you think. I don't mean the people who are accused of being one. I mean the people who think it's a clever label to throw around.

The term was popularized by misogynist ideologue Rush Limbaugh in 1992 in an attempt to vilify feminists and discredit the equal rights movement.
The idea is that women who want to be treated as equals are actually man-hating fascists and that masculinity is under assault and must be defended at all costs.

Surprisingly, I still hear people, male and female, using it as if it's a legitimate label. "Oh, don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those feminazis".

So let's take a look.
On the one hand you have the Nazis, who were a totalitarian government that persecuted minorities, tried to take over the world through military conquest, and slaughtered over 11 million people in the Holocaust.
On the other hand, let's see what the situation of women is in the world today.

  • In many parts of the world it is socially acceptable for men to beat their wives, or even to murder them if they are suspected of being unfaithful.

    In India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, there is a practice of husbands burning their wives to death if her family gets behind on her dowry payments. In 2003, there were 6,208 such deaths officially recorded in India.

    In South Asia, hundreds of women have been permanently mutilated by having sulfuric acid thrown in their faces. These attacks occur for reasons such as spurning a suitor's advances, failing to bear a son, or not being a good cook.

  • Amnesty International estimates that 2 million girls every year are subjected to genital mutilation in Africa and the Middle East. This practice is intended to reduce sexual desire in woman and is usually performed without any anesthesia.

  • Tens of thousands of woman are being systematically raped as part of the conflicts in Africa. Rape is taught as a "weapon of war" to demoralize the enemy.

  • A hundred thousand girls go missing every year in China, where parents are usually allowed only 1 child and only want boys. Frequently female infants are simply left in the woods or thrown out with the garbage to die.

  • On average worldwide, only 9% of countries' national legislators are female. In the U.S. it's 14%.

  • In the U.S., on average women still only make 3/4 what a man would make doing the same job.

  • While women make up over half of the work force, less than 2% of Fortune 500 CEOs are female.

  • Every year in the United States, approximately 3 million women are assaulted by their partner.

  • One in four women in the U.S. will have been assaulted by a spouse or boyfriend during their lives.

  • According to the Center for Disease Control, between one in four and one in six college aged women in the U.S. will be raped during her lifetime.

  • Murder is the leading cause of death, natural or otherwise, for pregnant women in the U.S.

  • The U.S. Department of State and CIA estimate that every year 50,000 women and children are brought to the U.S. against their will as sex slaves. The numbers are much higher in Asia, Africa, and Russia. According to the United Nations, human trafficking generates the most money of any illegal activity in the world after drugs and arms trafficking.

  • Marital rape was not a crime in any state in the U.S. until 1975, and was still not illegal in some states until 1993.

  • There is still no national rape law in the United States. States are left to define the crime however narrowly they wish.

  • Under English law, until May 2005, all an accused rapist had to prove was that they "genuinely" believed there was consent, no matter how unreasonable that belief was. It was only changed last year to require that belief to be both genuine and reasonable.

So take the philosophy that says that women should be treated as people, and should have equal rights regardless of gender, and call them Nazis and pretend like they're the oppressors who must be resisted.
Nope, doesn't seem that clever.
An organized movement of women who want to eradicate all men are a myth. Just because your girlfriend's friend doesn't like you doesn't make her a Nazi.

So I encourage you not to passively encourage people's use of the term. Call them on it.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere".

15 Tips for Longer Life

Forbes has published their 15 Tips for Longer Life list.
Here's the cheat sheet:

  1. Sleep 6 to 7 hours a night (no more, no less)

  2. Be Optimistic

  3. Have More Sex

  4. Rescue a Pet from the Pound

  5. Test for Heart Disease (VAP Blood Test)

  6. Be Rich

  7. Stop Smoking

  8. Don't Get Angry

  9. Eat Your Veggies

  10. Marry Well

  11. Exercise

  12. Laugh Frequently

  13. Lose Weight

  14. Manage Stress

  15. Meditate

If you're interested in Life Extension, I suggest checking out Fantastic Voyage by technology pioneer Ray Kurzweil and Terry Grossman, M.D.
Here's the Reference Guide.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Toyota PM Concept Car

Here's another very interesting concept car, the Toyata PM (for Personal Mobility).
No word yet on top speed or range, but here are some features:

  • Driver-vehicle unity with ergonomic focus: Cabin and seat shape are designed to fit almost like a glove, while integrating the driver's intention with the car's capabilities.

  • Variable "lifelike" posture: The cabin and wheel-suspension structure are separated, allowing the PM to vary its posture according to speed and to facilitate entry and exit.

  • Space input display: A floating virtual display senses driver finger position and shows vehicle data, locations of other PMs and other information.

  • Mobile Networking: PMs can share information as they travel, follow a leader in platoon formation and rendezvous automatically.

The PM configures itself into three positions:

  • Entry/Exit mode - At rest, the cabin is upright and its length is minimized. Because the wheels are independent of one another, the PM can turn in place by turning the left and right rear wheels in opposite directions.

  • City - In stop-and-go travel, the cabin tilts back, which allows it to maneuver through the tight corners of an urban environment.

  • High-speed - On the open road, the wheelbase extends to allow the cabin to recline to its lowest posture to increase stability in high-speed travel.

In-depth info at HowStuffWorks.
Higher-res images at SeriousWheels.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Texas Firefighters Go Vegan

Veggie Fireman
Firemen are known for being big, brave and brawny.

But you won't find these firefighters grilling steaks or ribs on the barbeque.

Instead, you'll see them preparing beans, fresh vegetables and whole grain rice. That's because they're vegans and have given up all animal-based foods.

After one firefighter's cholesterol soared to 344, his team went vegan to support his effort to get his health under control.

"So I went to the doctor, came back and at 196 after 21 days. So i just thought, well shoot, that works," Rae said.

[ Link (with video interview) ]

Aptera 330 mpg Concept Car

This is exactly the kind of thing that I could use for my daily commute. I'm always driving by myself, so I don't need tons of passenger room. Wonder how well it accommodates a 6'4" driver though...

  • 330 mpg diesel/electric hybrid

  • 0-60 mph in 11 seconds

  • 95mph top speed (electronically limited)

  • Less than $20,000

Now throw in a killer sound system and a convertible model and I'm sold!

I hope this makes it to production.

[ Link ]

Monday, July 10, 2006

Telescopic Eye Implant

An eye implant providing up to 3x optical magnification has completed Phase II/III human trials.

Designed for people with Advanced Macular Degeneration, enhancements like this could be available as elective upgrades for healthy eyes in the future.

[ Link ]

Thursday, July 06, 2006

George's Bloody Sunday

The Decider turned 60 today. Now he's ready to rock.

[ Link ]

The Names Change but the Game Stays the Same

You might notice a subtle name change here at the Viking.
A couple weeks ago, Karen spent 10 days in Europe on business, so I ended up spending some time by myself, which in turn led to a good deal of introspection.
One of the thoughts I had was that I'm spending a lot of time anticipating the person I want to be instead of actually being that person.
I said when I restarted this blog that I think it's important to push yourself beyond your comfort zone in order to make progress.
In that spirit, I went vegan last week. I am confident that veganism is the right thing to do. I want to reduce the amount of suffering and death that is required to support my existance. It is also clearly the right thing to do for the environment and it may hold the keys to saving the majority of the human population that is having trouble scraping by on an overtaxed planet.
In the last week I've been surprised at how little difficulty I've encountered, but I was already cooking and eating a lot of vegan meals before. I'm just more consistent now.

On the topic of change, you may also notice this site is now hosted at Blogspot, as my meager storage allocation at my ISP was getting overrun.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006



Accelerando by Charles Stross has been nominated for the Hugo Awards Best Novel of 2005.

The story starts off as a thought-provoking near-future tale involving the rise of wearable computing as a means of intelligence amplification, then the afterburners kick in and the story rockets off into an exploration of transhumanism up to the Singularity and beyond.

Released under the Creative Commons license, Stross made the entire book available as a free download the same time the book went on sale.

Download it, read it, if you like it buy a copy and give it to a friend or add it to your library to read again later.

[ Link ]