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Updated: 2 hours 36 min ago

More worries about Ebola

Sun, 09/14/2014 - 18:44

The Ebola epidemic in West Africa continues to spread with no signs it is slowing down – indeed, just the opposite. Epidemiologists are beginning to get worried – seriously worried.

Some may ask why the United States should play this role. Well, no one country is doing enough. We have the expertise and the personnel to tackle this chall (more)

Some info on API technical writing

Thu, 09/11/2014 - 19:00

Documenting APIs (application programming interfaces) is one of the most difficult tasks for technical writers. But if you have the talent and some programming knowledge, it can be rewarding, both intellectually and financially. Writers who can document code are in high demand and are paid at the high end of the scale.

Sarah Maddox recently gave a talk about documenting APIs to the STC Silicon Valley chapter. She’s posted a lot the material from that talk online alo (more)

Franklin Expedition ship finally found

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 19:53

The big news today wasn’t from Cupertino. It was from much farther north. Much farther.

One of the ships from the lost Franklin Expedition has been found. The announcement was made by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. While admittedly, Harper is a history buff and is known to have a particular soft spot for the Franklin Expedition, the news was big enough to warrant his attention. After all, people have been looking for those ships ever since they went missing more than 170 ye (more)

11 CSS Learning Tools and Resources

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 05:18

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) are one of the web’s most useful technologies. I have a nodding familiarity with CSS – I’ve been using them since 1997 or thereabouts, but the standards keep evolving. So I was glad to see this article from that lists 11 tools and resources for learning CSS. I doubt that I’ll ever use CSS 3d tansforms, but it is nice to know they’re available. For my purposes (tweaking the look and feel of my online help and documentation) the (more)

Facing a Waning Future

Mon, 09/08/2014 - 05:02

It seems that we may lose one of the great observatories – the Lick Observatory, currently run by the University of California. While the observatory’s main telescope, a 91 cm. refractor, has long since been surpassed by far larger telescopes, it still fulfills an important role in training astronomers and testing equipment that will be used on more modern telescopes.

However, the University of California plans on cutting funding for the observatory in 2018, effectively shutting it down. The Daily Californian has a long article (more)

Don’t worry about the holes

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 17:09

There was some buzz recently about strange holes found in the Siberian permafrost – giant craters (80 metres across, 100 metres deep). The most likely explanation was that they were formed by the release or explosion of large pockets of methane. There was some speculation that this could lead to increased global warming, because methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

It turns out that it’s not something we likely need to worry about, as (more)

Rdio worth checking out

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 20:07

I haven’t paid much attention to streaming music services as until recently, most didn’t have much to offer Canadian music fans. I did sign up with Rdio a while back, used it a bit, and forgot about it, until I saw this article on Mobile Syrup. They’ve updated their site, service, and apps (if you want to use them on mobile – I don’t) and now have quite a huge selection of music to offer Canadian listeners. Like most such services, they have (more)

No, Arctic sea ice is not recovering

Wed, 09/03/2014 - 19:38

Debunking an article about climate change in the Daily Mail is something like shooting fish in a barrel, but sometimes it just has to be done. Phil Plait takes on the task this time as he rips the Mail a new one.

David Rose is oftentimes the wielder of that sledgehammer. He’s written error-laden climate articles in the past, like saying that (more)

Battle of the Heavyweight Rockets

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 05:06

Last week, NASA received the go ahead to proceed with development of its Space Launch System, a bloated multi-billion dollar 21st century version of the Saturn V, designed to eventually launch a manned mission to Mars. It’s so expensive that they’ll only be able to afford to launch it once every two or three years, which doesn’t inspire a great deal of confidence. Meanwhile, SpaceX is proceeding to develop a new high-thrust liquid oxygen/methane-based engine that will power its Mars Colonial Transport, an even more powerful rocket that will probably cost one tenth as much (more)

Falcon 9R failure due to faulty sensor

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 18:21

Last week’s explosive failure of a Falcon 9R test rocket was due to a sensor failure in one of the engines. The test vehicle didn’t contain the multiple sensor voting system used in the commercial Falcon 9 rocket.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a statement Tuesday that the cause of the prototype rocket’s demise was a “blocked sensor port.”

Garrett Reisman, who heads SpaceX’s effort to develop a private space taxi for NASA astronauts, said Wednesday th (more)

More on Iceland

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 18:16

The situation in Iceland is getting worrisome. There are signs that magma is moving from the Bárðarbunga volcano to the Askja volcano. This means that both volcanoes could erupt. More information, and even more speculation, in the comments section.

More worrisome is the possibility that deep magma may be forcing its way to the surface and that could lead to a much larger (more)

Complete Feynman physics lectures online

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 06:23

The complete Feynman lectures on physics are now online in a multi-device friendly HTML5 format. The three volumes cover the core of physics and although some topics, like quantum physics, have advanced quite a bit since Feynman gave the original lectures in the 1960s, they are still a landmark publication. Fair warning: to really understand these, you’ll need to know some calculus and algebra – first year university level should (more)

10 tips to become a Wikipedia master

Mon, 08/25/2014 - 05:15

Although Wikipedia may not be a perfectly authoritative source for research, it is still an incredibly useful resource if you’re aware of its limitations. It’s also a very deep resource with many features that most people never touch. Gizmodo has published 10 tips that will help you master Wikipedia. For example, I didn’t know you could do this:

1. Create ebooks and PDFs for offline reading

Wikipedia has a built-in Book Creator tool that you can take advantage of (more)

Iceland bears watching

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 19:31

It seems that one of Iceland’s major volcanoes may be getting ready to erupt. There’s been a lot of seismic activity under Bardardunga, indicating that magma is on the move. This could mean an eruption is imminent, though the scale of such an eruption is difficult to predict. A worst-case scenario isn’t likely but (more)

What’s new in DITA 1.3

Tue, 08/19/2014 - 05:41

DITA keeps evolving. The DITA Technical Committee is hard at work finishing DITA 1.3, which should be finalized sometime next year. They recently presented a webinar outlining what’s new. If you don’t have the time to watch the webinar, you can view the presentation slides {PDF), which are quite detailed.


2014 Hugo Award winners

Sun, 08/17/2014 - 18:20

The winners of the 2014 Hugo Awards have been announced at Loncon3, the World Science Fiction Convention in London, England. In true sfnal fashion, the award ceremony was streamed live over the Internet, and this time there were no glitches due to over-zealous copyright bots.

Ann Leckie won the Best Novel award for Ancillary Justice. It’s obviously the book of the year, as she also won the Nebula Award for it. I am a bit surprised that Robert Jordan didn’t win for his immensely popular Wheel of Time series. I was glad to see Charlie Stross win Best Novella for Equiod, par (more)

More Falcon 9 ocean landing video

Fri, 08/15/2014 - 11:04

There’s video of the Falcon 9 ocean landing after last month’s ORBCOMM launch, this one taken from a chase plane. Unfortunately, the cameraman missed the actual moment of splashdown, but it’s still an impressive video.



Tue, 08/12/2014 - 05:45

We watched an interesting movie on Netflix the other night – Womb. It turned out to be a drama about a woman who bears the clone of her dead lover and what happens as a result. Yes, it was technically SF but the emphasis was on the F, not the S. The acting was excellent (both former Doctor Matt Smith and Eva Green who is in the series Penny Dreadful) and the cinematography superb. It was much, much better than the IMDB rating would indicat (more)

Who is speaking up for Canadian English?

Mon, 08/11/2014 - 08:53

When I was in university, one of the assignments in my linguistics class was to come up with a list of words that were specific to the part of Canada I was from. It was a harder exercise than it might seem. At the time, there was no dictionary of Canadian English to crib from, and there isn’t one now – the last specifically Canadian dictionary, The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, was last published a decade ago.

The Globe and Mail looks at who is keeping track of Cana (more)

Met Museum of Art puts 400K images online

Tue, 08/05/2014 - 11:00

More good news for art fans. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has put 400,000 images of its art online and free for downloading and non-commercial use. Given that the art is now free of copyright, I don’t see why there should be any restrictions on use, but that’s the way they’ve set it up. OpenCulture has more details and some links worth checking out related to the art.

On Friday, The Metropolitan M (more)