More Junkmail from Bob!

Tuesday, October 9, 2001
Important Stuff.

The Tourist Guy

Over the past several days several people have sent me this picture of a tourist guy on top of the World Trade Center with the airliner just about to crash into it. They discovered the photo on a roll of film in a camera found in the rubble, but the person in the picture is still missing.


Unfortunately (or fortunately), it's a fake. The shadows are wrong, the plane's wrong, and the building is wrong.
But the picture is still pretty neat, at least to a warped person like myself. And the "Tourist Guy" has become really famous, turning up all over the place!

First World Flight

I just read a good book called "First World Flight" by Spencer Lane, who also happens to fly a TBM-700. The book is about General Billy Mitchell and the first flight around the world. The world flight was made by four 2-person planes. Two of the planes made it. Mitchell, who was in trouble with his superiors most of the time, had to sit the flight out even though he planned and managed the project from the start.

The flight itself is a good story, but there's a lot more to the book than that. It has a lot of history about early aviation and the military of the time. There was a lot of research done writing this book, and the book has a lot of interesting facts.

One guy was flying for Poncho Villa in Mexico when Billy Mitchell recruited him just before World War I. Mitchell flew right into Pancho Villa's camp and just about got shot. The recruit was one of the top pilots in World War I and finished the world flight.

Did you ever wonder why Douglas McArther was in the Philippines at the start of World War II? It's because he stole and married General Pershing's girlfriend. Pershing "exiled" them to the Philippines.

Liberty Engines were notoriously unreliable engines used in World War I. Since the War Department had a few thousand left over from the war, those were the engines used any military plane that would fit them, including those on the world flight. They had to replace engines about every 50 hours of use, and that's after essentially overhauling them before they were installed.

An Illegal Number

Sometimes I go off on a harangue about how an individual number cannot be good or evil, like 7 or 666 or 3.141592654. I did run across a number that is illegal, however. It's the world's first illegal prime! In order to avoid "indefinite detainment," be sure and delete this email, overwrite it with random bits, and immediately forget this easy-to-remember number.


Why is this number illegal? It violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that I have been known to criticize on occasion. This prime number is an executable program that decodes DVD data. It doesn't have much of a user interface, it's primarily just the algorithm. But it does run under MSDOS. It does what the Recording Industry is suing people about. But can they prosecute me for having a prime number? According to this law, they can. I would prefer they prosecute cocaine importers instead.

Nano Sat

It costs a lot of money to launch a spacecraft. On the space shuttle it's about $6000 per pound.  "Full service satellites" typically weigh in at a few hundred pounds to a few thousand pounds. Most scientific earth-observing satellites weigh around a ton. A "full service" satellite is one with propulsion, guidance, navigation, hi-band communications, and some extras.

NASA is developing some small "full service" satellites. The ST5 project involves building three small satellites to fly in formation. They'll weigh less than 50 lbs. apiece. They're cylindrical, 17" in diameter and 8" tall, or .000000000000000045642166681641125 x . 00000000000000002147866667371347  light years. It's mainly a project to develop and test new technologies, but they will study the magnetosphere if things go well.

Having 3 satellites fly together is an interesting idea. The redundancy helps overcome systems failures, collision with space particles, and antisatellite missiles.

The ST5 Satellite Constellation, coming to a sky near you in 2003!

The Mousetrapper

John Zuccarini is a hard man to find. There are a few dozen lawsuits pending against him, and he moves around a lot to keep from being served subpoenas and things like that. He's been sued more than 60 times. Among the suers are The Wall Street Journal, Disney, Yahoo and Nicole Kidman.

Here's some of a recent deposition.

Question: What is your current address?
Zuccarini: 957 Bristol Pike, Apartment D-6, Andalusia, Pennsylvania, 19020.
Q: Is that where you currently reside?
Zuccarini: Not necessarily.
Q: Where do you currently reside?
Zuccarini: I don't have - that's my legal address. I really don't have a permanent address at this time.
Q: Where do you currently reside?
Zuccarini: Right now, I am staying at the Millennium Hotel in New York.
Q: In New York?
Zuccarini: Right.
Q: When you are not in New York for a deposition, where do you live? Where have you lived in the past two weeks?
Zuccarini: I have been living in various places.

It goes on like this for quite a while.

John is a major cyber-squatter, and he has a lot of web sites that are misspellings of popular legitimate sites. John's web sites put up some ads or take you to some sites of questionable content. He apparently makes quite a bit of money doing this.

Now the FTC has sued him. They got an injunction against the "mousetrap" ads John produces. Some of his popup ads are pretty severe. Every time you close one it opens another, and sometimes the x in the upper right corner doesn't close the window. But the FTC can't enforce their injunction and restraining order because government lawyers can't find John.,1283,47217,00.html

I think it's pretty funny, although some think tar and feathers might be appropriate attire for Mr. Zuccarini.

Last Thursday the Ig Nobel prizewinners were announced!

In Medicine, Peter got the prize for his paper "Injuries Due to Falling Coconuts."  Here's the abstract.

In Physics, David solved the shower curtain problem of "Why the Shower Curtain Billows Inward."

In Biology, Buck won the award for developing "airtight underwear with a replaceable charcoal filter that removes bad-smelling gases before they escape."

My favorite is the Ig Nobel Award for Technology. John in Australia won the award for patenting a circular transportation facilitation device. A wheel. In 2001. Hats off to John! It's really an "innovation patent," but it counts in my book.

There are lots more. We applaud these pioneers of research!

AOL and Web Bugs

AOL is now using the combination of cookies and web bugs to track people on the web. Here's how it works.

They put a cookie, or a secret code number, on Goerge's hard drive. George browses the web and goes to a site with AOL's ad on it. AOL's ad has a "web bug" that reads George's cookie, and saves the fact that George visited that web site, when, and how often. Pretty soon they have a good profile of George's web browsing habits.

Is it illegal? Not if George agreed to let them track him like that. And, according to the new AOL terms of service, George said it was OK when he clicked the "I agree" button.

AOL said they would never use this information to track an individual's web browsing habits. It's for marketing information only. AOL also said they would never make this information available to anybody else. For now. Unless the user agrees. By clicking and "I agree" button.

Some "privacy advocates" are getting excited about this, but I think most U.S. privacy folks have been more concerned with things like wiretapping and search warrants lately. The problem is, according to some, that once this system is in place and widespread, it will be easy for large companies and governments to exchange data and track anybody's web movements. I don't think they'll be too interested my web movements, so it doesn't bother me a whole lot.

If you don't like this, you can usually use Cookie Pal or something similar to block cookies used by web bugs.

        click here for details

Aurora Oklahomas

Last week the earth was blasted by some Coronal Mass Ejections from the sun. It made some great northern lights. Southern lights, too.

Homeland Security

I heard people talking about Homeland Security on the radio several times. At first I didn't think that a grocery store would have that much problem with security, but then I figured out it was a new political bureaucracy.

Some interviews I heard really make me wonder what's going on here. For example, they were talking about how difficult it will be for the new Secretary of Homeland Security to control the 40 or so government agencies because it's hard to get the government bureaucracies to work together. So they figure ANOTHER bureaucracy will help?

I thought there were lots of people working on the security of the U.S. If the FBI, Department of Defense, CIA, NSA, Police, and the others aren't doing the job, why do we thing a new bunch will do any better? Why not just fix the organizations we already have? If I didn't know better, I might think this was just a publicity stunt.

One guy on the radio (Paul, I think, from the Brookings Institution) was concerned that the new Homeland Security chief, Tom, would have trouble unless he got a big budget and a large staff. He said that Tom needed to be able to hire a lot of people to impress the other bureaucrats that he's got clout. He didn't say whether Tom needed a lot of people to do the job.

Paul also said that Tom needed a fancy car and driver, and not one but two body guards. He also would need an office in the West Wing of the Whitehouse because the Old Executive Office Building is "like Baltimore." I've been to Baltimore and I didn't think it was that bad. They have a nice aquarium there.

Paul said that bureaucrats in Washington will read the tea leaves and if Tom doesn't have all these things he'll never get any cooperation. That kind of thinking really makes me mad. I think Tom should be concerned with doing his job instead of seeing how big an empire he can build or who he can impress.

Do you think maybe Paul is trying to get a job working for Tom?

Pictures of Today!

This picture was taken on the 8.1-meter Gemini North Telescope, on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, on the night of August 13. The Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph is a new telescope system.


Here are some pictures from the top of Buffalo Mountain, near Dillon, Colorado.

        Img_0042.jpg  Serge on Top.

       Img_0037.jpg      Img_0048.jpg

        Img_0052.jpg      Img_0055.jpg

From the Pryor Creek Nature Trail: A tree...


...some leaves in the creek...


...and a wild animal.


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I'm Bob Webster and I can usually be found at
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