ultranos: kino standing, staring ahead (contemplative)


Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
--"High Flight", John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Godspeed, Neil Armstrong.
ultranos: Actual MIT hack of roadsign. "MASS AVE BRIDGE CLOSED / SUNDAY 04/22/07 6AM-3PM / TO APPEASE GODZILLA" (have you appeased godzilla today?)
1) I seem to have committed Tumblr. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with this thing. Well, actually, I know what one of them will be, because a certain friend is a TERRIBLE INFLUENCE and we apparently enable each other. [tumblr.com profile] 3shotsminimum is the collaborative one (in which we learn what happens when a couple of engineers/gamers have far too much free time on their hands). If I'm not careful, I might end up getting brow-beaten into posing Mass Effect fic bits on there. Among other ridiculous projects. ([tumblr.com profile] ultranos is the personal one I have no idea what to do with yet.)

2) Speaking of ridiculous projects, I seem to be writing a SIK game. Or several SIK games. Possibly also a one-night. I blame "One Night in Bangkok".

3) I went on vacation! I nearly got my speaking privileges revoked in the Museum of Science and Industry, because I am basically a snarky 12-year-old with a job. (Thank you, yarmond, for that description.)

3b) The MSI had a full-scale replica of Curiosity! It's adorable.

4) I am now only one season behind in Dr. Who. I am, however, caught up with Leverage, The Newsroom, and Warehouse 13. I am making progress! It would be easier if I didn't keep getting distracted by ME3 Multiplayer (anyone else play on PC?)

5) I kind of forgot I have an unplayed copy of Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep. That might be a good thing to start soon. I miss bashing things with keys.
ultranos: city at the edge of forever; moon colony with v.small text (where the wild dreams are)
I was born in 1985. Because of this, I did not grow up in a world where it was not possible for an American woman to be an astronaut. Although the Challenger disaster happened when I was less than a year old, I still knew the name of Dr. Sally Ride and dreamed of space. For Career Day in 1st grade, my mother managed to figure out how to make an astronaut costume for me.

It was because of Dr. Ride and women like her that I dreamed of space and found my love in science. I've had a lifelong love affair with the topic. I still go starry-eyed at the prospect of working in aerospace.

There would not be a place for me, or others like me, if women like Dr. Ride had not blazed the trail for us.

Image from Sally Ride Science, July 23, 2012

So thank you, Dr. Sally Ride. May you find immortality among the stars.
ultranos: baby turtles on the shore with text: it's turtles all the way down (science has failed me)
As an explanation to the poll from last post, I have something of a pet peeve when it comes to reading fiction. In this case, I was reading the book Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines (which is about superheroes and the zombie apocalypse) when I came to the more in-depth introduction of the character Stealth, the local Batman expy. It got to describing how intelligent and not-taken-seriously-because-she's-attractive she is when it came to the phrase "got a perfect 4.0 and made the dean's list first semester at MIT". This threw me right out of the novel. Why?

a) MIT uses a 5.0 scale.
b) MIT does not have a dean's list.

and, for the record:

c) MIT does not have Latin honors or honors of any sort. You either graduate or you don't.

This sort of thing keeps happening when I read fiction, and the author is trying to establish how intelligent a character is. And 9 times out of 10, they get the details wrong. (The place isn't a typical college. I could probably write a FAQ on the damn topic.) But as I was grumbling, it occurred to me to wonder if the actual truth was more unbelievable. Would having a character get above a 4.0 seem even more super-special, even though it's what actually happens? Hence, the poll.

So what have I found out? Both are pretty unbelievable. So really, writers should probably just stay away from GPAs.
ultranos: sam and part of the derivation of navier-stokes (controlling the flow of ideas)
Internets, I need a favor from you. I need to collect data for a Very Important Question, pertaining to writing and characterization.

Here is a 2 option poll. Don't look up anything, I need your gut reaction.

Poll #9381 Literary Science!
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 7

What sounds like more unreasonable characterization, in establishing how smart a character is?

View Answers

"perfect 4.0 and valedictorian from MIT"
5 (71.4%)

"perfect 5.0 from MIT"
2 (28.6%)

(I will explain what's going on in a later post.)
ultranos: XKCD: stand back, i'm going to try science (science warning)
I've been meaning to make this post for awhile, but I was waiting until I had the links for it.

Many times in the past year, I've had to try to explain exactly what it is I do. The simplest answer is that I'm a lab tech. (My actual job title is "Technical Assistant".) I work in the Synthetic Neurobiology Group in the MIT Media Lab.

This is roughly the point where I start getting blank looks.

Think of the brain as a computer. A computer processor is made up of millions of tiny transistor circuits that are electrically driven and are used to process all the data we input into it via keyboard, mouse, and all other devices. So, over a decade ago, Dr. Ed Boyden asked a very simple question: if we already use the metaphor of a computer for the brain, why don't we treat the brain like a series of very complex circuits? And if we do that, can we use something less damaging to the structure of the brain, like light, instead of electricity and chemicals?

Actually, Dr. Boyden is the head of my lab, and thus my boss, and was invited to speak at TED this past spring. The following talk explained the field of optogenetics, which is genetically modifying cells to be receptive to light, and what we're doing in the lab, from overcoming fear conditioning to possibly cure PTSD, to restoring visual behavior in blind mice, to possibly stopping epileptic seizures.

My main job in the lab, by the way, is to make a lot of these prototypes needed in these experiments, such as those tiny fiber arrays seen in the video (that thing's about the width of your thumbnail, by the way). They're absolutely fascinating manufacturing and design problems, from weight to material choice to size. It's all pretty exciting stuff, really.
ultranos: XKCD: stand back, i'm going to try science (science warning)
"Sandbender" is a real (jargon) term that's been in use far before the start of the Avatar series. It refers to a person involved in silicon lithography and the physical design of integrated circuits. Unsurprisingly, the term originated at IBM.

That, my friends, is awesome. I am literally learning how to be a sandbender!

Somedays, I actually do love my life.
ultranos: sam and part of the derivation of navier-stokes (controlling the flow of ideas)
Today/tomorrow (March 24, 2010) is Ada Lovelace Day, a day for women in technology and science. Considering what Dreamwidth is to me, I figured this was a fitting platform.

To wit, my interest in Dreamwidth is not fannish, at least, not in the colloquial usage. If my interest is fannish, it is because I am a huge proponent of the open software movement. To me, Dreamwidth represents a direction in open source projects that I hadn't realized, which really points to blindness on my part. In any case, my interest is that of a technologist. But my interest is not the universal interest in the project, and should not be taken as such. I've been around various fandoms long enough to know that, yes, a good percentage of the population is female or identifies as such. It stands to reason then, that a reasonable percentage of the people behind Dreamwidth are also female or identify as such.

So that's why I'm posting this here.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day. It has been said, in many different times and places, in many different ways, that women are discouraged from going into science and technology. Historically, science and technology have been the worlds of men. I hate it, but it's true. We, as a society, now wonder, or at least pay lipservice to the idea, how to get more girls interested in science and math. They wonder why more women don't go into careers in math, science, and engineering. They wonder where the women are in those fields.

It's something of an open secret on where I go to college. I'll end that now: I'm a student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Yes, that MIT. I've spent almost six years here (1.5 were time off, but I stayed around still), and let me tell you some of what I know to be true.

I know brilliant young women who craft working pinball machines for final projects in electrical engineering classes, who dedicate their free time to developing AIs that work as intelligent chat bots, who programmed Pac-Man entirely in hardware. Who work on robots that go in the deep sea or deep space. Who work on sequencing genomes. Who are working on the bleeding-edge of computer chip design, and whose work might be what people mean when they talk about "quantum computing". Who receive grants from the DoE to find alternative energy sources. Who not only understand quantum theory, but breathe it. Who understand more about how your brain works than you do. Who design nuclear power plants. Who see beauty in a mathematical formula akin to that of a sunset.

When I was a freshman, the class of 2007 ring committee caused a bit of a stir. Every graduating undergraduate class at MIT has a class ring, known as the Brass Rat. There are a few standard things, but the design of the Rat is unique to each class. The Class of 2007 was the first year the number of admitted women equaled the number of admitted men. To honor this, the Ring Committee decided to slightly alter the MIT seal.

They changed the blacksmith's gender to that of a woman.

Yes, this caused controversy, but mainly to the tune of whether the committee had the authority to change the official seal on the ring. (And that due to the design of the hammer and anvil, some people claimed it looked like a butter churn) Nevermind the fact that, due to the size of the ring, it was nearly impossible to tell the difference. The fact remains that the 2007 Brass Rat gives a nod to the presence of women in science and technology.

Today is Ada Lovelace Day.

I don't need to find Ada. I see her every day.
ultranos: souji with his head stuck inside a tv (tv is eating my brain)
Things That Make Me Happy (partial list):

-Figuring out the error in my pset on units that make my answers make sense to the correct order of magnitude. This involves literally leaping out of bed and opening MATLAB to do the calculations.

-Tokyo Brass Style playing Studio Ghilbi music. What is Tokyo Brass Style? An all-female swing band who do covers of various anime music. It's just about as awesome as it sounds.

-Second-ever US showing of Summer Wars on campus, with Q&A with the director and producer tonight! And I get to have dinner with the director, Mamoru Hosoda, today! (Okay, so it's pizza, and it's being arranged by one of my professors for his class, but STILL. AWESOME.) I might be a little excited.

--Relatedly, helping map out the timeline(s) from Hosoda's last movie The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and realizing that the theory of time travel is less a "wibbly-wobbly timey-whimy" ball and more of "time travel as a version-control repository". I believe the phrase "time travel is like a git-repo" was used.
ultranos: city at the edge of forever; moon colony with v.small text (where the wild dreams are)
Because as a child, I remember my parents buying me a telescope for my birthday and my father and I on an October night in southeastern Wisconsin trying to see the stars with it for the very first time.

Image source: Astronomy Picture of the Day: July 20, 2009

Because I know people who still dream of space, despite all the setbacks and budget cuts to NASA. Despite seeing professors whose own dreams turned to ash in Challenger. Despite all those who say it's not worth it and we have better things to spend our time and money on.

We still dream of the stars.
ultranos: XKCD comic: god is a sysadmin, file your bug reports (filing a cosmic bug report)
Before that, though, I'm pretty sure someone on SG-1 would have gotten Sam this shirt. Just sayin'.

Now, we interrupt this day for a message from the Department of Science Doesn't Work That Way, Idiot:

NY Times Op-Ed: The End of University As We Know It.

I suspect that some other people will find this equally as mindboggling as I did. Especially the suggestion to abolish departments and create multi-disciplinary groups focused on ill-defined problems under so-broad-they're-useless headings, like "Water" or "Time".

I'm frothing because, hey, Science And Engineering Don't Work That Way, Idiot. (Case in point, my own major, Mechanical Engineering, used to, waaaay Back In The Day, encompass all of engineering. Eventually, people realized This Was Stupid. Now we have Electrical Engineers, and Aerospace Engineers, and Chemical Engineers, etc. This means we can do really cool things because we're specialized and aren't attempting to learn EVERYTHING.) But it's also pretty unfair to the humanities and social science majors, as it's basically saying "your specializations are Worth Nothing".

I may be interpreting that wrong.

But I'll be over here trying not to beat my head into a wall or slip into a homicidal rage.
ultranos: sam and part of the derivation of navier-stokes (controlling the flow of ideas)
The LHC at CERN officially turns on in T minus 5 hours.

This is one of the most exciting things to possibly happen to physics in decades. Scientists are hoping to answer questions about how the universe began, since the effect of the two particles colliding will produce energy levels theoretically not seen since the Big Bang.

Physicists are also hoping that the LHC will produce the Higgs boson, a currently-theoretical particle that, if observed, will confirm predictions and missing links in the Standard Model of Physics (such as how particles acquire mass). This is an important step towards a Grand Unification Theory (a theory unifying 3 of the 4 known fundamental forces in the universe), which is currently the Holy Grail of physics.

For more information on the LHC, check the UK page.
ultranos: sam and part of the derivation of navier-stokes (controlling the flow of ideas)
I know I mentioned to some people (Splash, Trout, and Besyd in particular) at D*C that I had an article from Popular Science about real technologies very close to doing what Iron Man can. I believe I also promised either scanning them or copying them into PDF form.

Before I did that, however, I decided to be clever:

Building the Real Iron Man from the May 2008 issue of Popular Science. Same article, but in their web archives. It's on Raytheon's XOS exoskeleton suit, and it's obviously nowhere near Tony Stark's suit, but hey, we're getting there.
ultranos: cecilia adelhyde holding spell book (oh man the marzelvanes)
Maybe it's all about getting to the apocalypse soon. ([livejournal.com profile] apocalypse_kree just has wonderful timing.) Last week, we were looking outside as the sun was setting, and everything looked distinctly yellow. The sky was this weird yellow-gray. I really wish I had grabbed a camera, because it just looked like we were all so very screwed. (DMark, of course, asked if I had my crowbar handy, just in case the resonance cascade from Half-Life happened. Because, well, it's DMark.)

Today, on MetaFilter, the LHC made the list, with a link to everything you wanted to know about the Large Hadron Collider. And yes, it does address the question of if turning on the LHC will destroy the world as we know it. (Answer: physically no. Hawking radiation causes micro black holes to collapse under their own mass. In the "revolutionizing physics by proving or disproving a deeply-held theory about the existence of the Higgs boson" sense? Hopefully yes.)

The countdown is also awesome in any case.
ultranos: sam and part of the derivation of navier-stokes (controlling the flow of ideas)
Please excuse me while I geek out:


Mars Phoenix Lander Finds ICE ON MARS.

And relays this over Twitter.

Are you ready to celebrate? Well, get ready: We have ICE!!!!! Yes, ICE, *WATER ICE* on Mars! w00t!!! Best day ever!!


ultranos: cecilia adelhyde holding spell book (Default)

Memoranda from the Usual Suspects

Media List:

Currently Watching:
-- Supergirl(hiatus)
--Pitch (hiatus)

Currently Playing:
--[null] (PS3)
--[null] (PS2)
--Fire Emblem: Awakening (3DS)
--[null] (PSP)
--[null] (XBox360)
--Endless Legend (PC)
--Fallout: New Vegas (PC)

Currently Reading:


-The Rook, Daniel O'Malley
-Fortune's Rising, Sara King

-Ratf**ked: The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America's Democracy, David Daley


"So she's good cop, he's bad cop, you're morally-questionable cop, and I'm set-things-on-fire cop."

"Sounds about right."


"WARNING: When attempting to be clever, make sure you not actually just being stupid."


"Did you remember to sacrifice the goat before burning the ISO to the DVD-R?"

"Crap! Um, I've got a charred piece of meat here."

"That's called a steak. That's dinner. What about the sacrifices?"


"I escape through quantum-tunneling. What do I need to roll for that?"


"Why is it called a 'Monkeylord'?"

"Because it looks like a spider."


"I have a moral objection to this problem. It implies microwaving a steak."


"Did you eat the crazy cookies this morning?"


"The GPU goes 4 by 4, hurrah, hurrah."

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