The world is to end in 2012 – only it isn’t

If you ever needed anymore proof that many people are far too gullible then look no further than this story in the herald today: http://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainmehttp://www.nzherald.co.nz/entertainment/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10603764nt/news/article.cfm?c_id=1501119&objectid=10603764

For the past 30 years, business leaders, former government officials and scientists have been secretly working on a plan to save humanity from destruction when the Earth collides with another planet on 21 December 2012.

They have set up a covert Institute for Human Continuity which has now agreed to go public and warn the world that there is a 94 per cent probability of “cataclysmic forces” destroying our planet in three years’ time.

Its website offers survival kits and encourages people to sign up for a lottery to decide who will be among the lucky few chosen to be saved.

You are probably thinking that this is an elaborate hoax – you would be right. But hundreds of people have apparently been taken in by the nonsense put out by Sony Pictures as part of a “viral marketing” campaign for its film 2012, set for release next month.

Nasa is taking the issue so seriously that an astronomer at the agency has spoken out to condemn the use of the hoax website, which claims the world is going to end in 2012.

David Morrison said he had received more than 1,000 enquiries from members of the public who were concerned that Nasa scientists were involved in a conspiracy to deny that they were tracking the movements of Nibiru, a hitherto undiscovered planet on a collision course with Earth.

Dr Morrison, a distinguished scientist at Nasa’s Astrobiology Institute, said that the marketing behind the film, distributed by Columbia Pictures, was making some people so scared that he feared they could harm themselves.

“They’ve created a completely fake scientific website. It looks very slick. It talks about this organisation having existed for 30 years and it consists of international scientists and business people and government officials having concluded that there is a 94 per cent chance of the Earth being destroyed in 2012 – and it’s all made up, it’s pure fiction. But obviously some people are treating it seriously,” Dr Morrison told The Independent.

“I’ve even had cases of teenagers writing to me saying they are contemplating suicide because they don’t want to see the world end. I think when you lie on the internet and scare children in order to make a buck, that is ethically wrong,” he said.

There is nothing on the website instituteforhumancontinuity.org to indicate it is a hoax. It states that scientists are tracking a “planet X” on the fringes of the Solar System and mixes real scientific phenomena with complete fiction, such as a simulation of planet X’s near-Earth trajectory.

The website urges people to sign up to a lottery guaranteeing every person of the planet an equal chance of survival in 2012 with the offer of a place in one of the Institute for Human Continuity’s “safe havens”. Only a small Sony Pictures copyright notice at the bottom of the screen and a link to the film’s own website give any hint that this is a purely fictional website.

Dr Morrison said the idea of a mystery planet called Nibiru dates back 30 years to fictional books about supposed predictions of ancient Summerian astrologers. It was taken up by others linking a 2012 planetary collision with the end of the Mayan calender. Interest in the idea has resurfaced in the lead-up to the film’s release, Dr Morrison said. “It is too bad, but there is no law against lying on the internet or anywhere else except in a court of law.”

Vikki Luya, Sony’s publicity director, said: “It is very clear that this site is connected to a fictional movie. This can readily be seen in the logos on the site, including the Sony Pictures Digital copyright line and the reference to the ‘2012 Movie Experience’. It is also evident in the user-generated videos, as well as the numerous online references to this marketing campaign.”

Dumbarses.

Android Blog Reader Application – Honours Assignment

One of my papers this semester is focused on Google Android Mobile Operating System.

The brief for my final assignment is:

Your task is to write any application you like. The are no restrictions on what your application can do but it should show of the capabilities of the platform and be well written.

Marks will be awarded for interesting applications that make good use of the Android platform.

Make sure your application works on the emulator but I will also test it on a real device.

For this assignment I decided to create a Blog Reader that reads the RSS XML feeds off blogs to display them in a Android Application.
I have spent around three days coding this assignment. I will not release the code until after the assignment has been marked, however here are some screen shots of the work

My Application Sitting in the Android Application Menu on my phone
My Application Sitting in the Android Application Menu on my phone
The application's home screen
The applications home screen
Adding a new blog feed into the application
Adding a new blog feed into the application
Viewing a list of blogs
Viewing a list of blogs
Removing a blog feed
Removing a blog feed
Viewing a list of blog posts
Viewing a list of blog posts
Viewing list of blog posts
Viewing list of blog posts
Viewing single post
Viewing single post

Division in the Greenpeace Ranks. BBQs are Evil.

Last Saturday Greenpeace held a BBQ outside The Warehouse in Newmarket to raise awareness of the Sign On Campaign. This event has spawned a very interesting debate in the greenpeace ranks over the use of meat because cows omit so much greenhouse gasses.

A selection of comments from the blog (http://www.signon.org.nz/blog/keisha-rhys-push-cut-price-bangers-500-raised#comment)

This is repulsive. The UN panel on climate change has reported that meat production contributes more to global climate change than the entire transportation industry combined, and here in NZ agriculture is responsible for almost one half of our total emmissions. And here these people are selling beef in an effort to raise money to combat climate change? Ridiculous

Note that we used organic sausages for Darby’s Barbie, meaning there’s zero chance they were feed on palm kernel supplements, because there is no such thing as organic palm kernel. Any supplementary feed given to those cows would have been organic maize, hay or sileage.
Greenpeace is not, and never will be, anti-farming. As you point out, it’s not the farming, it’s how we’re farming.

I think you guys are being a little melodramatic here are you not? We need to change our ways to fight climate change but we don’t all need to be cave dwelling vegans

In normal circumstances yes, we’d use vegetarian food for a Greenpeace activity or event, but this was, quite strategically, a traditional Kiwi sausage sizzle. With the Sign On campaign the important thing is for us to reach out to all Kiwis, not just our usual soy-sausage munching friends, so we decided we needed to keep Saturday’s event as traditional as possible.

Save the whales, but kill the cows! This is complete hypocrisy 100%.
Where’s your integrity Greenpeace? Killing cows, whether organic or not, is far from peace.

Greenies at war, very funny. Read the full thing, check out the passion in the comments. ROFLOL

Higgs Boson will travel back in time to stop the LHC creating it

The Wired Twitter account describes this idea as the “Best. Theory. Ever.” I would tend to agree.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/13/science/space/13lhc.html?_r=3

More than a year after an explosion of sparks, soot and frigid helium shut it down, the world’s biggest and most expensive physics experiment, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is poised to start up again. In December, if all goes well, protons will start smashing together in an underground racetrack outside Geneva in a search for forces and particles that reigned during the first trillionth of a second of the Big Bang.

Then it will be time to test one of the most bizarre and revolutionary theories in science. I’m not talking about extra dimensions of space-time, dark matter or even black holes that eat the Earth. No, I’m talking about the notion that the troubled collider is being sabotaged by its own future. A pair of otherwise distinguished physicists have suggested that the hypothesized Higgs boson, which physicists hope to produce with the collider, might be so abhorrent to nature that its creation would ripple backward through time and stop the collider before it could make one, like a time traveler who goes back in time to kill his grandfather.

Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, put this idea forward in a series of papers with titles like “Test of Effect From Future in Large Hadron Collider: a Proposal” and “Search for Future Influence From LHC,” posted on the physics Web site arXiv.org in the last year and a half.

According to the so-called Standard Model that rules almost all physics, the Higgs is responsible for imbuing other elementary particles with mass.

“It must be our prediction that all Higgs producing machines shall have bad luck,” Dr. Nielsen said in an e-mail message. In an unpublished essay, Dr. Nielson said of the theory, “Well, one could even almost say that we have a model for God.” It is their guess, he went on, “that He rather hates Higgs particles, and attempts to avoid them.”

Why God destroy the so called God Particle? It is something that could potentially hypothetically prove the existance of God, without blind reglious faith.

This malign influence from the future, they argue, could explain why the United States Superconducting Supercollider, also designed to find the Higgs, was canceled in 1993 after billions of dollars had already been spent, an event so unlikely that Dr. Nielsen calls it an “anti-miracle.”

You might think that the appearance of this theory is further proof that people have had ample time — perhaps too much time — to think about what will come out of the collider, which has been 15 years and $9 billion in the making.

Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Ninomiya started laying out their case for doom in the spring of 2008. It was later that fall, of course, after the CERN collider was turned on, that a connection between two magnets vaporized, shutting down the collider for more than a year.

Dr. Nielsen called that “a funny thing that could make us to believe in the theory of ours.”

Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Ninomiya have proposed a kind of test: that CERN engage in a game of chance, a “card-drawing” exercise using perhaps a random-number generator, in order to discern bad luck from the future. If the outcome was sufficiently unlikely, say drawing the one spade in a deck with 100 million hearts, the machine would either not run at all, or only at low energies unlikely to find the Higgs.

Sure, it’s crazy, and CERN should not and is not about to mortgage its investment to a coin toss. The theory was greeted on some blogs with comparisons to Harry Potter. But craziness has a fine history in a physics that talks routinely about cats being dead and alive at the same time and about anti-gravity puffing out the universe.

As Niels Bohr, Dr. Nielsen’s late countryman and one of the founders of quantum theory, once told a colleague: “We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question that divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct.”

Dr. Nielsen is well-qualified in this tradition. He is known in physics as one of the founders of string theory and a deep and original thinker, “one of those extremely smart people that is willing to chase crazy ideas pretty far,” in the words of Sean Carroll, a Caltech physicist and author of a coming book about time, “From Eternity to Here.”

Another of Dr. Nielsen’s projects is an effort to show how the universe as we know it, with all its apparent regularity, could arise from pure randomness, a subject he calls “random dynamics.”

Dr. Nielsen admits that he and Dr. Ninomiya’s new theory smacks of time travel, a longtime interest, which has become a respectable research subject in recent years. While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear. If we knew, presumably, we wouldn’t be trying to make one.

We always assume that the past influences the future. But that is not necessarily true in the physics of Newton or Einstein. According to physicists, all you really need to know, mathematically, to describe what happens to an apple or the 100 billion galaxies of the universe over all time are the laws that describe how things change and a statement of where things start. The latter are the so-called boundary conditions — the apple five feet over your head, or the Big Bang.

The equations work just as well, Dr. Nielsen and others point out, if the boundary conditions specify a condition in the future (the apple on your head) instead of in the past, as long as the fundamental laws of physics are reversible, which most physicists believe they are.

“For those of us who believe in physics,” Einstein once wrote to a friend, “this separation between past, present and future is only an illusion.”

I have edited out about half the article, so go and read the full thing at the NY Times, but interesting stuff. So can we conclude that Time Travel is real? Or at least now a realistic theory?

Vatican Museum to hold exhibition on Galileo

The TVNZ midday news just reported that the Vatican Museum is to open an exhibition on Galileo and 400 years since his observations showing the earth is round and we orbit around the sun. This has to be one of the most ironic news storys I have heard in a long time. It is the equivalent of the US Army Museum holding an exhibition on why the Viet Cong won the Vietnam War.

The Associated Press reports: http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5gVhVS3vYYvAwfSrJIEVG0lZK7mLAD9BAAQA80

VATICAN CITY — Rudimentary telescopes, celestial globes and original manuscripts by Galileo are going on view at the Vatican Museums as part of an exhibit marking the 400th anniversary of the astronomer’s first celestial observations.

“Astrum 2009: Astronomy and Instruments” traces the history of astronomy through its tools, from a 3rd century A.D. globe of the zodiac to the increasingly complicated telescopes used in more recent times to gaze at the stars.

At a briefing to launch the exhibit Tuesday, Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, the Vatican’s top culture official, declined to revisit the Church’s 17th century condemnation of Galileo for his discovery that the Earth revolved around the sun.

Church teaching at the time placed the Earth at the center of the universe.

Rather, Ravasi said that, while it was necessary to have the courage to admit errors when they were made, “I continue to believe that it’s necessary to look more to the future.”

The church denounced Galileo’s theory as dangerous to the faith. Tried as a heretic in 1633 and forced to recant, he was sentenced to life imprisonment, later changed to house arrest.

The ruling helped fuel accusations that the church was hostile to science — a reputation the Vatican has been trying to shed ever since.

In 1992, Pope John Paul II declared that the ruling against Galileo was an error resulting from “tragic mutual incomprehension.”

The exhibit, and other Vatican initiatives to mark the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s telescope and the U.N.-designated International Year of Astronomy, is part of the Vatican’s continuing rehabilitation effort.

One of the highlights of the show is Galileo’s original manuscript of “Sidereus Nuncius,” the 1610 document in which he excitedly recorded his first discoveries after using his telescope.

Tommaso Maccacaro, president of Italy’s national institute of astrophysics, said it was important to look at the instruments not just from a scientific view but from a cultural one as well, since astronomy has had such an impact on the way we perceive ourselves.

“It was astronomical observations that let us understand that Earth (and man) don’t have a privileged position or role in the universe,” he said in his prepared comments to the briefing. “I ask myself what tools will we use in the next 400 years, and I ask what revolutions of understanding they’ll bring about, like resolving the mystery of our apparent cosmic solitude.”

The exhibit opens Friday and runs through Jan. 16.

It is very funny that the Vatican wishes to hold an exhibition on Galileo in order to shred the image that is hostile to science. However at the same time it is not prepared to discuss the treatment of Galileo and would prefer instead to focus on the future.

Welcome to the Future – Windows 7 Professional x64 RTM

Yesterday I managed to get my hands on a copy of Windows 7 Professional through the MSDN Academic Alliance Progamme at Uni.

To avoid messing around with my current Vista install I decided to remove my old 160GB IDE Hard Disk from my old computer and install it into my new system (which isn’t that new anymore), being just out of warrenty I was safe to open the box and put in the hard disk.

First problem, whoever designed the motherboard and case layout in my new system never designed it for people to add stuff into. The IDE socket on the motherboard was located directly below the hard disk install location in the case, so the cable had to twist super tightly to get out from under the hard disk and then plug on a 90 degree angle into it. The second problem was the heat sync on my processor is so large I couldn’t get the drive into the drive bay without having to losen it a little and then reset it. The third problem was cables, the system had all the cables nicely cable tied down, however they had been placed into position so well that you couldn’t get to the spare power cables, once I had cut away some of the cable ties the mess of cables the required a number of unpluggings and rewirings so I could get enough slack on all the cables to get everything plugged in. Because of all this a ten minute job turned into a hour and a half of frustration.

Once this was completed I booted back into Vista and partitioned the newly installed 160GB drive into a 120GB partition for Windows 7 and a 40GB partition for installing Ubuntu 9.10 later this month. Once this was set in went the Windows 7 DVD. The installation of Windows 7 took less than 30 minutes and was incredabily straight forward. Easily the simplest installation of Windows I have ever done.

On a whole Windows 7 can be summed up in one word. Smooth. It is what Vista should have been. There are only minor differences in UI between the two operating systems, but those differents make a big difference in user experience. Gone is the quick launch bar, instead you can have programs always in the task bar, even if they are not running. The names of programs have vanished replaced with large icons. The sidebar is gone, you can now put gadgets anywhere on your screen. Windows Media Centre also has support for Freeview, which is great, no messing about with codecs and Media Portal. Windows Aero and animations are incredabily fast and crisp. So far I am very impressed.

The chart below shows my system rating on Windows 7. The values have increased slighty from Vista. (Vista scores in brackets).

Component Details Subscore Base score
Processor AMD Phenom(tm) 9600 Quad-Core Processor 6.9 (5.9)
3.5
Determined by lowest subscore
Memory (RAM) 4.00 GB 5.9 (5.9)
Graphics ATI Radeon HD 3400 Series 3.5 (3.5)
Gaming graphics 1919 MB Total available graphics memory 5.1 (3.9)
Primary hard disk 87GB Free (112GB Total) 5.3 (5.9)
Windows 7 Professional

The key things to note regarding the different scores are:

Processor – Vista is only 32 bit, Windows 7 is 64

Memory – Vista is only 32 bit therefore only has access to 3GB of RAM, Windows 7 has access to the full 4GB

Graphics – Aero doesn’t seem to take advantage of crossfire, so my system is always limited here. It is not a big feature anyway so I typically ignore this.

Gaming Graphics – This is the score that matters much more. For some reason on Windows 7 the score is a lot higher than Vista. The first reason for this is Windows 7 is giving crossfire 512mb more memory than Vista. I can only guess the second reason is newer graphic card drivers in Windows 7.

Primary hard disk – The decrease in score here is caused by using a older IDE drive compared to my primary Vista hard disk being SATA.

National confirm they have no backbone

As fast as I ask will National have the guts to move to a flat tax system they rule it out.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/2958390/No-flat-tax-PM

The Government will not introduce a flat tax system despite Treasury advice in support of one, Prime Minister John Key says.

The working group and Treasury were working on similar ides and the Government would consider a wide range of issues, he said.

Cabinet will discuss all those issues but “there’s not going to be a flat tax system”.

So what is the point in getting Treasury to consider all options and issues but ruling out one of the best ideas before cabinet has discussed it? A flat tax system is not some big scary monster, it is a simple system that just makes sense.

“We also need to make sure we put together a system that isn’t regressive and that is fair,” he said.

Finance Minister Bill English said the tax working group and Treasury were looking at “all sorts of models” but the Government was “certainly not considering a flat tax”.

Those looking at the tax system were told to “rule nothing out” and “by the looks of it they’re doing a pretty thorough job”, Mr English said.

So Treasury is not to rule anything out, but National can before even discussing it. And they want a fair system, but the most fair system of them all a flat tax system is rule out. Is National doing some double speak here?

Labour deputy leader Annette King said her party was opposed to a flat tax because it raised questions about what other taxes would have to be raised to cover expenses.

“But I have to ask every time Treasury puts out a suggestion they are working on, it is knocked back either by Mr English or by Mr Key.

“Why are they wasting taxpayers’ money with Treasury officers working away on policies they don’t intend to implement and they rule out every time they are announced?”

Labour have hit the issue on the head here. They may not support it, but at least they have the sense to wait and see what the all the issued considered are. This is a very bad move by National, they are trying to stop debate on a potentially controversial topic, but by doing so they are opening a can of worms and will piss off their more right-wing supporters (and probably Act as well).

Will National have the guts to move NZ to a flat tax system?

The Herald reports that Treasury is considering a flat tax rate to close the income gap between Australia and New Zealand (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=10602938)

Finance Minister Bill English had a unique opportunity to reform the tax system, Treasury said.

Two options were a flat tax rate or cuts to taxes on dividends, interest and profit, papers obtained by Radio New Zealand under the Official Information Act showed.

GST, land tax and capital gains tax would be increased to fund the changes.

A flat income tax system just makes sense. The current system does not encourage people to earn more because the more you earn the more you will lose through tax. A flat tax system is fair to all, and is simple, this will cut out a huge amount of compliant costs and IR3 returns and other useless bureaucracy.

Secondly, the sooner a capital gains tax is introduced the better. This system would be simple and just make sense.

New Moon == New Earth?

The news that NASA’s impact with the moon failed to create the huge dust cloud that was predicted has left me wondering if that is evidence that the moon is a lot younger than previous thought. And if this is true then could it also hold that the earth is also a lot younger than the commonly held thought.

Now first I will give a disclaimer I am no moon or space expert, I only hold a passing interest in the subject, and I am happy to be corrected or proved wrong on any scientific information I present below.

Until this morning the view was that the moon was covered in a huge amount of dust (and potentially ice) built up over many millions of years by collisions with space objects (comets and the like), so like the sand on a beach covers the real surface sometimes to metres deep, the moon dust acted like sand and covered the real surface of the moon by many metres of dust.

However the failure to kick up this dust may suggest a few things.

  • The moon is not as old as we expected and therefore there is a lot less dust on the planet.
  • The dust on the moon is a lot stronger than we expected, therefore the chemical bonds and electrostatic bonds between each piece of dust is much stronger than we expected and therefore there was less of a dust storm (a lot like how mud is a lot more sticky than dry dirt)
  • That the ice inside the dust made the dust a lot more sticky than we were expecting.
  • Although the moon collects dust over time there may have been much bigger collisions in the past that have kicked a lot of this dust back into space, so while the moon acts as a giant vacuum cleaner stopping things hitting earth, it may every so often get its own bag emptied with a huge collision.
  • The dust on the moon accumulates much slower than we expected, this could mean there have been less collisions with the moon in the past then what we see today.

My personal preference is for the first idea to hold true, that would give creationists a much stronger leg to stand on if they can show the moon is a lot younger than we thought it was, however, at the same time I am very interested in if any my other ideas hold water. NASA will hopefully reveal some more info on what happened and while the dust cloud didn’t arrive as expected in the next few days, I am hoping it is exciting rather than just another typically NASA we stuffed up moment like has happened plenty of times before.