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Exploding Asteroid Theory Strengthened

Geological evidence found in Ohio and Indiana in recent weeks is strengthening the case to attribute what happened 12,900 years ago in North America — when the end of the last Ice Age unexpectedly turned into a phase of extinction for animals and humans — to a cataclysmic comet or asteroid explosion over top of Canada.

A comet/asteroid theory advanced by Arizona-based geophysicist Allen West in the past two years says that an object from space exploded just above the earth’s surface at that time over modern-day Canada, sparking a massive shock wave and heat-generating event that set large parts of the northern hemisphere ablaze, setting the stage for the extinctions.

Now University of Cincinnati Assistant Professor of Anthropology Ken Tankersley, working in conjunction with Allen West and Indiana Geological Society Research Scientist Nelson R. Schaffer, has verified evidence from sites in Ohio and Indiana — including, locally, Hamilton and Clermont counties in Ohio and Brown County in Indiana — that offers the strongest support yet for the exploding comet/asteroid theory.

Samples of diamonds, gold and silver that have been found in the region have been conclusively sourced through X-ray diffractometry in the lab of UC Professor of Geology Warren Huff back to the diamond fields region of Canada.

The only plausible scenario available now for explaining their presence this far south is the kind of cataclysmic explosive event described by West’s theory. "We believe this is the strongest evidence yet indicating a comet impact in that time period," says Tankersley.

Ironically, Tankersley had gone into the field with West believing he might be able to disprove West’s theory.

Tankersley was familiar through years of work in this area with the diamonds, gold and silver deposits, which at one point could be found in such abundance in this region that the Hopewell Indians who lived here about 2,000 years ago engaged in trade in these items.

Prevailing thought said that these deposits, which are found at a soil depth consistent with the time frame of the comet/asteroid event, had been brought south from the Great Lakes region by glaciers.

"My smoking gun to disprove (West) was going to be the gold, silver and diamonds," Tankersley says. "But what I didn’t know at that point was a conclusion he had reached that he had not yet made public — that the likely point of impact for the comet wasn’t just anywhere over Canada, but located over Canada’s diamond-bearing fields. Instead of becoming the basis for rejecting his hypothesis, these items became the very best evidence to support it."

Additional sourcing work is being done at the sites looking for iridium, micro-meteorites and nano-diamonds that bear the markers of the diamond-field region, which also should have been blasted by the impact into this region.

Much of the work is being done in Sheriden Cave in north-central Ohio’s Wyandot County, a rich repository of material dating back to the Ice Age.

Tankersley first came into contact with West and Schaffer when they were invited guests for interdisciplinary colloquia presented by UC’s Department of Geology this spring.

West presented on his theory that a large comet or asteroid, believed to be more than a mile in diameter, exploded just above the earth at a time when the last Ice Age appeared to be drawing to a close.

The timing attached to this theory of about 12,900 years ago is consistent with the known disappearances in North America of the wooly mammoth population and the first distinct human society to inhabit the continent, known as the Clovis civilization. At that time, climatic history suggests the Ice Age should have been drawing to a close, but a rapid change known as the Younger Dryas event, instead ushered in another 1,300 years of glacial conditions. A cataclysmic explosion consistent with West’s theory would have the potential to create the kind of atmospheric turmoil necessary to produce such conditions.

"The kind of evidence we are finding does suggest that climate change at the end of the last Ice Age was the result of a catastrophic event," Tankersley says.

Currently, Tankersley can be seen in a new documentary airing on the National Geographic channel. The film "Asteroids" is part of that network’s "Naked Science" series.

The new discoveries made working with West and Schaffer will be incorporated into two more specials that Tankersley is currently involved with — one for the PBS series "Nova" and a second for the History Channel that will be filming Tankersley and his UC students in the field this summer. Another documentary, this one being produced by the Discovery Channel and the British public television network Channel 4, will also be following Tankersley and his students later this summer.

As more data continues to be compiled, Tankersley, West and Schaffer will be publishing about this newest twist in the search to explain the history of our planet and its climate.

Climate change is a favorite topic for Tankersley. "The ultimate importance of this kind of work is showing that we can’t control everything," he says. "Our planet has been hit by asteroids many times throughout its history, and when that happens, it does produce climate change."

[Carey Hoffman @ University of Cincinnati]


Meet Golfers From Around The World At Shot Online

Shot Online, a 3-D golf game, developed and served by OnNet, has been chosen as an official game of GNGWC 2008 (Game and Game World Championship 2008) which will be hosted by KIPA and sponsored by KT Corporation.

This year will mark the 3rd GNGWC. A total of 6 countries, including Brazil and Singapore newly added this year, will be holding local contests with the final match being held in Korea in November. Shot Online, an official game of the first year GNGWC 2006, has been very attractive to world wide gamers. Now for the 3rd year of GNGWC, Shot Online is expecting more gamers to enjoy it.

Gamers will feel like they are playing a real golf game on the field with Shot Online, as it has been developed as a full 3D game. Jaesun KIM, a director of OnNet said “our goal when developing the Shot Online was keeping the game within the basic rules of golf, and we are still working to achieve this goal,” showing the intention for Shot Online as a realistic golf game.

Shot Online is being served on the global market through a U.S. branch, while also being served in Japan, Germany, Hong Kong, and Taiwan through various partners. Shot Online is planned to be served in 8 different languages within this year.


Woman Aquires New Accent After Stroke

A woman in southern Ontario is one of the first cases in Canada of a rare neurological syndrome in which a person starts speaking with a different accent, McMaster University researchers report in the July issue of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences.

The puzzling medical phenomenon known as foreign-accent syndrome (FAS) arises from neurological damage, and results in vocal distortions that typically sound like the speaker has a new, "foreign" accent.

This particular case, however, is even more unusual because the English-speaking woman did not acquire an accent that sounds foreign but one that instead sounds like Maritime Canadian English.

The woman, referred to here as Rosemary, was recovering from a stroke two years ago, when her family noticed a change in her speech. They asked medical personnel at the Integrated Stroke Unit of Hamilton General Hospital why their mother was suddenly speaking with what sounded like a Newfoundland accent. It was at that point that the medical team joined forces with researchers in McMaster’s Cognitive Science of Language program to study the case.

"It is a fascinating case because this woman has never visited the Maritimes, nor has she been exposed to anyone with an East Coast accent," says one of the study’s authors, Alexandre Sévigny, associate professor of cognitive science in the Department of Communication Studies & Multimedia at McMaster University. "Her family lineage is Irish and Danish, and neither of her parents ever lived anywhere but in southern Ontario."

Karin Humphreys, the principal investigator in the study, and an assistant professor in McMaster’s Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University, says that while the new accent was apparent to the woman’s family the woman could not detect the changes herself. Despite intensive speech therapy the new accent persists, even two years later.

"Rosemary’s speech is perfectly clear, unlike most stroke victims who have damage to speech-motor areas of the brain," says Humphreys. "You wouldn’t guess that the speech changes are the result of a stroke. Most people meeting her for the first time assume she is from out East. What we are seeing in this case is a change in some of the very precise mechanisms of speech-motor planning in the brain’s circuitry."

Sévigny says Rosemary’s speech after the stroke became slow, and included changes in phonological segments (using "dat" for "that", and "tink" for "think") as well as the opening of some vowels and diphthongs ("greasy" was pronounced "gracey", and "dog" was pronounced to rhyme with "rogue".)

Humphreys says the research makes her wonder whether FAS might be under-reported because doctors rely on family members to alert them to speech changes post-stroke.

[Jane Christmas @ McMaster University]


Happy Fourth of July

Happy Independence Day to those of you who are in the United States.  If you are off work, sit back, relax and enjoy your day.  If you have to work, try to have fun and then relax when you get off work.

If you plan on using firework this year, please make sure you know whether or not they are legal in your state.  If they are legal an you decide to use them, have proper fire safety devices near by.  If they are legal in your state, realize the consequences; 30 days of jail and fines around $500.

Thank you to everyone who is over seas ensuring that we are safe here at home, thank you to their families as well.


Broadband – Is Price Still A Factor?

Despite DSL often times being an option for potential customers at rates in the low $20-something range, it seems that even to this day, cost is a hurdle that is preventing many people from dropping dial-up. This may seem a bit extreme, but I have seen indications of this myself on a number of occasions.

So do you firmly believe that broadband adoption here in the States is where it should be? Well I hate to tell you this, but you would be a bit off. Again and again, we see people looking at the costs and more often than not, dial-up networking is where they end up.

Are these users in areas where broadband is available nuts? I do not think so myself. But by all means hit the comments and share your thoughts on the matter. I have certainly made my perspective clear enough. To me, it is just matter of treating it like a utility. Really, I fail to see how DSL is that expensive where available?

Cars, and Gas Mileage

Earlier today, I wrote about the new Volkswagen that can achieve 282 miles per gallon of fuel. It really is astounding, but then it is not very practical for many. Large families, people who need to carry things, and cross-country travelers will all find the car doesn’t meet their needs.

I have been looking around to see what is going on in several areas, so that when I get a new vehicle in a few months I will be able to get one that will do the job, but not cost at the pump or at the end of the month when the loan payment comes due.

I stumbled on an article that shows exactly what causes so many problems. The article is short, so I’ll simply include it here –

Why Can’t Our Cars Get Better Mileage?

One reason is that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration underestimates the price of gas

In April, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation proposed new CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards that would increase the average efficiency of passenger cars and light trucks by 4.5 percent per year from 2011 to 2015. A lot of people wondered why the federal government wasn’t aiming higher.

One reason became clear when the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the new standards last week. Buried in the 414-page report is a “sensitivity analysis” of the economic costs and benefits that would result from raising fuel economy standards. For this analysis, NHTSA relied on a “high-case” gasoline price of $3.37 per gallon for the years 2011-2015, and a “low-case” scenario of $2.04 per gallon. These prices came from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s “Annual Energy Outlook 2008 Early Release.”

By underestimating gas prices, NHTSA also underestimated consumer demand for fuel-efficient vehicles. And that is one of the factors that led the agency to conclude that it would not be feasible to raise CAFE standards to more than 35.7 mpg for passenger cars by 2015, and 28.6 mpg for light trucks.

NHTSA says it will reconsider its analysis if the Energy Information Administration raises its estimates. For now, though, the price at the pump doesn’t seem to matter.

Well, isn’t that special.

First, it is clear that we have idiots in this division of the government – good thing they aren’t in charge of anything important.

Beyond that, I think the premise that we should blame these idiots for anything other than gross stupidity is wrong.

Why should we expect the government to choose for us what we will accept as good fuel economy? There is no reason why anyone would have to buy a car that doesn’t get better mileage. If the selection at one dealership is not efficient enough, then it should be on to the next, and so on. When the Hummers, Explorers, and Suburbans are left on the lot at the end of the year, the car companies will get the idea.

Another problem is that the manufacturers aren’t doing the best job of building engines that get better mileage. As an example, a certain aftermarket manufacturer, Edelbrock, known for its performance parts for years, is offering a 555 cubic inch engine that can be slapped into a mid-70s Camaro, and driven gingerly, can achieve 25 miles per gallon. This is a 500 horsepower engine, in a 3400 pound car, designed to get good mileage when the owner isn’t shredding the tires, but that, is another story.

If those kind of results can be achieved with such a large engine, and heavy car, why can’t we have lots of 50-60 mile per gallon cars on the road today? Because we, as a nation were complacent.

It’s time to act, and quit being complacent.  Maybe it will take a few thousand of those Volkswagens to be sold, and larger, less efficient cars stay on the dealer’s lot – but if enough don’t accept the less-than-wonderful offerings from all the also complacent manufacturers, things will get better.

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Typhoon Wallpaper Manager

I have been looking for some time for a program that will change my desktop automatically at intervals.  I finally found such a program here .

Download the launcher and it sits in your system tray.  You can download hundreds of wallpapers for free from the site and choose which ones to use, how often to change the wallpaper and other options.  It is a small program and seems to be free of any spyware.  Check it out.


Texas PC Repair Techs – You Might Want To Read This

Still trying to get the actual story on what this Texas law actually means to those that repair PCs for a living, as I seem to be coming up with conflicting reports. Based on things going from one extreme to another, I took it upon myself to locate the law itself for further review. So here is what I was able to find (PDF).

Computer repair or support services should be aware that if they offer to perform investigative
services, such as assisting a customer with solving a computer-related crime, they must be
licensed as investigators. The review of computer data for the purpose of investigating potential
criminal or civil matters is a regulated activity under Chapter 1702 of the Texas Occupations
Code, as is offering to perform such services. Section 1702.102 provides as follows… and so on.

Let’s look at this closely, as like most laws written by people who have no idea what the letters IT actually stand for, tend to write dangerously broad spectrum laws.

“Computer repair or support services should be aware that if they offer to perform investigative
services, such as assisting a customer with solving a computer-related crime, they must be
licensed as investigators

Okay, so let’s join reality for a moment – nearly 90% of the typical residential repairs made are due to malware of various sorts, often times placed there to gather money from advertisers with spyware or fool someone into incurring toll charges (dialers) to the end user without their knowing. Sounds illegal to me. So here is the problem. The law indicates the problem can legally be removed alright. However you will not be able to legally help that same customer prevent the problem from occurring in the future by determining the point of entry. Brilliant, really, brilliant. I realize that most techs repair, patch and hand it back with such sound advice as “stop downloading attachments”. But there are instances where a client needs to know what is happening to create what appears to be an ongoing problem. You know, like when a client continues to have malware installed despite following all of the preventive advice offered. I have seen this happen first hand. Requiring a PI license in a state that is quite stringent with PI education requirements leaves many techs in a really lousy position if the law’s interpretation is taken the wrong way.

From the law enforcement perspective,  I can see the logic in ensuring problems like illegal adult content and the like is handled by someone with a law enforcement background. But considering the fact that IT personnel have plenty of experience explaining where a problem appears to be coming from leaves me wondering where the value of this “law” really is?

I cannot stand “big government” nonsense like this and as far as I am concerned, this is just another instance of killing flies with a machine gun. Am I wrong? Hit the comments, share your perspectives. Also, if you have more familiarity with the Texas law in question, please correct anything I may have missed.

Disclaimer: Because of the nature of this article, please be advised that I am not able to provide any legal advice in this column. This article is merely sharing my discovery and my own perspective.

Random searching, interesting site found.

I was looking around on Viewzi after Chris Pirillo mentioned it on twitter today and usually when I do a search for the first time on a new service I search for “Sleepy Geek”. This one came out kind of interesting because I ended up finding a digg article mentioning Sleepy Geek. Totally unrelated to my site but quite interesting none the less. I think it applies to me :)

Take a look at the result here. If you click through the multiple levels of references you end up with an article from a UK site about tired people spending too much time on techy type stuff.

Interesting read, take a look. Then go to sleep. ‘Cause for crying out loud, this is one of the reason’s you are tired!

Do you like to cruise? New online resource for cruise fans!

People who know my wife Christine and I know that we are huge cruise fans. We have been married for almost 6 years and have had the chance to take two cruises. Our first was our honeymoon in 2002 and was quite a whirlwind, as you can imagine. Our second was when our son was almost 2 years old and was something that we had planned for a long time in advance. We were lucky enough to be taken by my parents with the whole family.

Being the geek that I am, I do a lot of research online. So off I went looking around and stumbled upon CruiseCritic. At the time it was laid out as most sites were and offered some very good information. Today it still looks quite similar (a little outdated) but still has a ton of content. I would recommend anyone to head on over to the forum and chat it up. There are thousands of cruisers in there who are very passionate about their pastime and love to offer their knowledge and opinions on almost anything relating to a cruise vacation.

A new site, and what sparked this article has popped up on the scene. socruise is a new website billing themselves as “your social cruise community”. It seems like they are trying to bring cruisers closer together on the ship as well as on the website. I am curious to see how it will stack up to CruiseCritic however; as they have been around a long time. One of CruiseCritic’s forum sections has over 200 000 threads and over 3.17 million posts. That’s an astronomical number of people posting and it will be hard for any site to chip away at that.

Still, there is another angle to this. I am tempted myself to start posting on socruise none the less. I have a strange feeling that once the core group of posters at CruiseCritic gets wind of socruise, they will bring people over and most will participate in both groups.

Something else to note, given this is a geek blog and a post about cruising… There is something for the geek interested in cruising. Has anyone heard of Geek Cruises? Now known as InSight Cruises they have been putting together cruises for like minded people for years. Started by Neil Bauman and Theresa Mazich in 2000 with their first cruise called Perl Whirl, they are now the place to go and sign in for a cruise.

One day I might be able to convince Christine to head out on one of these. For now, I will take any cruise I can get :) Breakfast at sea, on a private balcony with only the blue ocean in front of me and my wife beside me has to be one of my favorite things.

Happy cruising!