More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, March 2, 2004
Important Stuff.

The DARPA Grand Challenge

The million dollar robot race is getting ready to take off! The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is sponsoring an unmanned offroad vehicle race, from Barstow, CA to Las Vegas, NV.


Here are the details:

Simple Math

Need a quick million dollars? You've already missed the deadline for the DARPA Grand Challenge. Instead, all you have to do is solve a math problem. You can pick any problem from a list of seven. In fact, if you're greedy you can solve all seven and make $7,000,000.

If you're not sure where to start, try the P vs. NP problem. I'd like to know the answer to that one. Be careful if you pick the proof of the Riemann hypothesis. You don't get paid if you disprove the theory.

Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks is a moving, deeply satisfying movie, in case you haven't seen it.

There are two Rovers driving around Mars taking pictures, digging holes, and grinding rocks. The photos they wire back to earth are black and white images, usually filtered at a certain wavelength or color band.

I was messing around with Photo Mud (beta version) combining the images into color images. It was pretty hard to do until I wrote a command for it. They I composed about 60 or 70 color images from Mars, in living color. Actually it's considered false color, but most are reasonably close to real color photos.


Here are the details and a lot of color photos from Mars:

For some reason, I was expecting the Sun to look red from Mars, but it's more of a light yellow.

If you plan a trip to Mars to verify the color in these photos, I don't recommending Microsoft's Explorapedia for your celestial computations. They have the Earth spinning in the wrong direction.;EN-US;Q131109

Political Dirt

Kerry stopped a law to close a loophole giving an insurer millions of dollars from "the Big Dig." The insurance company got Millions, and gave Kerry about $48,000 directly and indirectly.

Edwards made millions of dollars suing doctors. That makes me mad. He has also received a LOT of money (more than half his campaign donations, according to some) from trial lawyers, and legal firms and people. But I suppose that's better than illegal firms and infirm people.

Incidentally, the Senate Democrats blocked a cap on medical malpractice suits a few days ago. It's no wonder drugs are cheaper in Canada -- they don't have to pay all the lawyers.

Bush? Too numerous to mention. I was going to recommend Alfred E. Newman President, but now goes to a Warner Brothers site and it won't let me in without Flash, which I refuse to load.

I was about to think that there's nobody to vote for, until I found this site:

There are a bunch of people running for President, after all. Bill Wyatt got 10% of the vote in the Republican Primary in Oklahoma, and I had never heard of him.

Of course, Clark won in Oklahoma and promptly gave up.

I kind of like the American Party. I went to their candidate's link, and it was missing. Then I went the Party Platform, and that link was broken too. That's my kind of government!

It's hard to tell what any of the presidential candidates stand for. The news reports cover the campaign strategies like a football game. According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, from January 1 to the New Hampshire primaries only 17 percent of news stories focused on issues or proposals, while 71 percent examined polls or strategy.

When the candidates get around to discussing governmental issues, they're extremely vague, they change their mind a lot, and they use tricky language. Come to think of it, that's what the President does too. Maybe it's a job requirement.

Need a bigger engine?

Russian Navy

Here's an interesting story about the Russian military, in Pravda. Pravda is almost controlled by the Russian government, so this is the official point of view.

In other news, Russia is demanding that the U.S. put a stop to Opium Production in Afghanistan. Since the opium crackdown in Afghanistan by the Taliban in 2001, the country has gone from very little opium production to the world's number one producer.

Stupid Patents and the U.S. Patent Office seem to have decided that Patriot has the rights to Intel's chip technology on systems that run faster than 120 mhz. Patriot started suing people, but not Intel. Instead, Patriot sued Intel's customers. Those chickens!

Just for good luck, Intel sued Patriot. Then Patriot countersued Intel. The lawyers are really making money on this one.

I got the impression that Patriot Scientific might be a little more litigation oriented than technically oriented when I went to their site and read, "Use of this site indicates you accept the Terms of Use." The Terms of Use are big, too!

Patriot Scientific used to actually produce goods and services, but now they're primarily in the business of suing people. Patriot boss Jeff said that their product revenues are now "negligible."

Amazon made a big deal out of the patent they got on 1-click shopping. They sued Barnes and Noble, and won. Now Amazon might be regretting the way the expanded the envelope on software patents. Soverain is suing Amazon now, claiming the rights to Amazon's shopping cart software.,39020369,39147408,00.htm

The funny thing is, Soverain didn't develop the patents. They bought them at a bankruptcy sale last December.

Soverain claims to sell software, but I sure wouldn't buy anything from them.

Model Airplane News

Model airplanes have been getting more advanced, kind of like everything else in the world. Now you can get a relatively small radio controlled plane that can hover and climb straight up.


This one has a 57-inch wingspan, weighs less than 6 lbs., and is powered by a .46 cubic inch engine.

The plane is very maneuverable, but if you want to break 200 mph you might be interested in a jet. You can get a true turbojet engine on a model plane.

This is a "turbojet trainer," radio controlled jet powered plane capable of 200 mph. It weighs about 20 lbs. and has a 66-inch wingspan.

Fedex Delivers

A Fedex MD10 lost a wing panel over Fort Worth last month. It was flying along and a 7x2-foot panel on the upper side of the left wing landed in an apartment complex parking lot. I guess it absolutely had to be there.

In December, NASA lost a small 585 lb. piece of a Gulfstream II in the Banana River in Florida. It fell off the plane at 13,000'. The Gulfstream II had special thrust-reversers in place to simulate shuttle landings and train crews, and one of them dropped off the plane.

Terrorists are Everywhere!

Last November there was an anti-war protest at Drake University in Iowa. Last month, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force issued subpoenas for Wendy, Elton, Patti, and Brian, among others, to appear for questioning under a grand jury. They attended an organization meeting for the protest. Drake University was also presented with a subpoena, along with a gag order that prevented university officials from talking about it.

Actually, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (or anybody else, for that matter) has not owned up to the subpoenas, but they were served by a local sheriff's deputy who works for the task force.

This all became national news, I guess because it sounded like some of the stuff that the FBI got in trouble over during the Vietnam War. Then the subpoenas were dropped. Finally, the gag order was dropped. Now everybody is living happily ever after. Except maybe those protesters around the country who didn't get their story in the national news.

In a separate investigation, the U.S. Attorney General subpoenaed hundreds of abortion records from six major hospitals. Some judges allowed it (Manhattan), some rejected it (Chicago). Lots of people didn't like it.

But it's OK. Things are different now. The First Amendment isn't so important, because terrorists are everywhere. Even the Secretary of Education has to contend with a terrorist organization (the NEA).

Computer Optics

Computers are really fast. 3 gigahertz, the processor speed of this computer I'm using, means that there is a CPU cycle 3,000,000,000 times every second. That's about 600 times faster than the original IBM PC.

Another way to look at it is if one CPU cycle was one second instead of 1/3 of 1 billionth of a second, it would take 95 years to do what today's computers do in one second.

At modern PC speeds, physics starts interfering with logic. The electrons don't like to be started and stopped that fast, and the signals attenuate or weaken as they progress down a copper wire.

Light, on the other hand, doesn't seem to mind started or stopping. It's just harder to transfer electrical impulses into light fast enough and cheaply enough.

Intel announced a breakthrough in optical communications that may allow optical fibers to be used inside PC motherboards and/or chip packages. The new optical communications don't outperform copper, but it looks like they will before too long. They use infrared light because it passes through the silicon chips.,1282,62257,00.html

There's a lot about this I don't understand, so anything I said about this could be wrong.

Convenient Amnesia

The U.S. Secretary of Defense said he doesn't remember hearing that Iraq could launch weapons of mass destruction on 45 minutes notice. That's odd. It was in newspaper headlines, on TV, and it's still in this statement by British Government. It was even on the internet, so it has to be true.

According to the British government, "Iraq's military forces are able to use chemical and biological weapons, with command, control and logistical arrangements in place. The Iraqi military are able to deploy these weapons within 45 minutes of a decision to do so."

Creative Accounting

President Bush has reduced the federal budget deficit by about $50,000,000,000. How? Easy. He left out the part about Iraq and Afghanistan. That's too controversial for the President as well as Congress, so they're going to add it after the election.,13319,FL_money_021104,00.html

Unhappy with the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs? Change the definition. The White House was considering moving McDonalds and fast food restaurants into the manufacturing class. I think they gave up on this idea, though.,0,7767423.story?coll=ny-business-headlines

Don't like having a recession on your watch? Revise history. Bush's Council of Economic Advisors decided the last recession didn't start in March, 2001, even though that's what the data clearly shows. They decided, without much reason other than it being an election year, that the recession started six months earlier when Clinton was President. That's just plain stupid. But Reagan also tried, unsuccessfully, to change some recession dates.

Medical statistics make you look bad? Just take out the parts you don't like. The Department of Health and Human Services got caught creatively editing a report showing racial disparities in health care. They said they've fixed it now.

Windows 2000 Source Code

Microsoft lost a copy of the source code to Windows 2000. Then that copy reproduce a whole bunch, and its offspring have been wondering around the internet ever since.

There are not a lot of secret things in the source code, but having the source makes it a lot easier for someone to write a trojan and attach it to a legitimate and necessary Windows .dll or other file. Microsoft has been chasing down copies of the source code ever since it got out.

Modern Diamond Mining

What's a diamond worth? Whatever you can get someone to pay for it. Diamonds are valuable because they used to be rare. Now with efficient mining operations they're common, but the "gem-quality" diamonds are still rare enough to be valuable. The price of diamonds is supported by the De Beers cartel, who controls the majority of the worldwide diamond production.

It's been possible to synthesize diamonds for a long time, but now they've gotten better and cheaper. Now you can get "flawless" synthesized diamonds that cannot be distinguished from natural diamonds by most gemologists and almost all retail diamond purchasers. Two companies make diamonds like this so far, priced about 1/3 less than traditional diamonds: Gemesis and Apollo.

Some people prefer these diamonds because in Africa and some other places, the diamond business causes war, slavery, and other bad things associated with money.

Interplanetary Roadside Assistance

Shortly after the Mars Rover "Spirit" landed on Mars, its computer crashed. It wouldn't boot, and kept trying to reboot. Here's a good article about what happened and how it was fixed.

Wireless USB

USB ports are those handy slots on your computer where you can plug in printers, scanners, digital cameras, keyboards, mice, and small thermonuclear reactors. USB is smaller and faster than the old parallel and serial connections. What could be better? USB without the wires, of course.

HP, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, Philips, Samsung, and Agere have formed the Wireless USB Promoter Group. It's coming soon (months or years, not weeks) to a computer near you at 480 Mbps (or so).

Keyless Lock Jamming

A few weeks ago, a whole lot of keyless vehicle entry devices quit working in Las Vegas. It was probably cause by some kind of military electronics warfare being tested north of town.

It's been known to happen around aircraft carrier ports, too.

I think that's pretty interesting. Some people are afraid of being fried by electromagnetic waves, but I don't see how it could hurt you unless you're close to the transmitter.

Water Treatment

A guy named Tony wants to build a big, 1,650 cow dairy in Indiana. There was a public hearing about the potential water pollution.

Barbara, from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, was showing how dangerous cow manure can be. She took a drop of cow manure, put it into a jar, and showed that even though the water looks clear, it can still contain cow manure.

Then Tony took the jar and drank the water, manure and all. That's funny!

Good News and Bad News

The good news, at least for detainees in prison in Guantanamo, Cuba, is that some of them get to go to trial. The bad news? Even if they're acquitted, they may not be released.

Pilot Reports

When airliners fly across the Atlantic, every 10° longitude or so they report the current wind direction, speed, and air temperature. That way everybody always knows what to expect when they cross the Atlantic, at least those that fly at those altitudes.

Ford has automated this idea and put it in cars. They are putting some sensors on some test vehicles that radio the current vehicle speed, road temperature, whether anti-lock brakes or wipers have been activated, and general information like that. A central traffic computer gathers the data and can tell people what the current road conditions are, in real time.


I've read several times that the anti-spam law won't do any good because it won't stop overseas spammers. This shows that to be an invalid argument -- there is 8 times more spam sent from within the U.S. than any other country in the world.

The reason the anti-spam law isn't working is because the U.S. Department of Justice will not enforce it. I haven't been able to find one single arrest from the "Can-Spam" act. But you can do your part. Forward all your spam to the FTC at They ignore it, of course, but they asked for spam to be sent there.


The European Space Agency plans to launch a rocket in French Guyana, fly a spacecraft to the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, and land on the comet in 2014.

The launch was supposed to have happened already, but there were a few delays. The latest delay resulted when someone noticed a small piece of foam insulation missing from the main fuel tank.

      hires_34766  hi-res

TSA Fines

The TSA is going to start fining people bigtime for forgetting about scissors, knives, and hand grenades that they inadvertently carry onto airplanes.

The fines go up to $10,000. The amount you get fined depends on what you carry on and your attitude. That attitude part is pretty scary for me -- I could end up in Guantanamo!

Someone should tell the FBI about this. An FBI agent was arrested in Hong Kong last month for "accidentally" carrying his 15 rounds of ammunition on a flight from New York.,4057,8716728%255E1702,00.html

Pictures of Today!

Hoag's Object

      2002-21-a-full_jpg  hi-res

NGC 4319

      2002-23-a-full_jpg  hi-res

Helix Nebula

      2003-11-a-1280  hi-res

"Black Eye" or "Evil Eye" galaxy

      2004-04-a-full_jpg  hi-res

A cabin in the snow, near Independence Pass, Colorado.

      IMG_2576      IMG_2578

Mountains east of Hoosier Pass, Colorado.

      PICT1637      PICT1654      PICT1660

Quandary Peak


On top.


This is actually pretty small.


Big Horns


Legal Notice

(-) 2004, no rights deserved. Unauthorized duplication, distribution, decryption, and reverse engineering of this fine piece of tripe is OK with me.

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