We're a little miffed to not be on the 600-strong invite list to Larry Page's wedding, which is going down this weekend on Sir Richard Branson's private Caribbean island (he's got to have a Dr. No-ish clandestine research lab there, right?) What with all the love we give to the exploits of Google and Sir Richard, you'd think they'd be in a position to reciprocate.
Page, who along with co-founder Sergey Brin is worth in the neighborhood of $18.5 billion, will be flying his star studded guest list—Bill & HIllary, Bono (of course)—out to
Skull Island Sir Richard's place on private jets. Where they will certainly proceed to get wasted, stuff themselves w/ endangered species, pull pranks on the android butlers, swim with dolphins...no, no, I'm sure it will be quite a lovely and dignified weekend. Nothing against these guys and we wish them all the best. We're just a little jealous. —John Mahoney
(Image: Joe DeVito)
This doesn't look like the work of a company that has its stock trading at more than $600 a share. Google had a decorate-your-cube contest, and the work of the two winning departments shows that the company clearly isn't short of creative folk. Most workers would probably just arrange their used, discarded coffee cups in a new way.
But Google's Data team turned their space into a real-life version of the pixelated but charming world of Super Mario Brothers, and the Analytics department went with a Jumanji theme. Apparently that group had a motion sensor box that set off a tiger's roar when someone walked past. This is what comes out of your data and analytics departments? Wow.—Gregory Mone
Entranced by the giant pink bunny and Badlands Guardian? If you haven't yet tired of the strange-images-in-Google Earth meme, check out Map of Strange. The site charts weird images, collecting and tagging them for your viewing pleasure. Though selections are occasionally downright lame ("The angle of this makes it look like this Ferry is falling over!"), embedded voting lets users nix the worst, and the gems (like the icebreaker at left, or Cheney's pixelated house) make it a more-than-worthy procrastination tool.—Abby Seiff
The CIA might be watching everyone else, but self-described mad scientist and disruptive technologist Virgil Griffith is monitoring the organization's behavior, too. He's also watching the Vatican, the Turkish Treasury, the BBC, Reuters, and countless companies, politicians and individuals. Griffith developed a program called the Wikiscanner that can track the origins of suspicious edits within Wikipedia, the popular online, community-compiled encyclopedia.
The program has traced 297 edits of entries covering subjects ranging from Iran's president to the Argentine navy to CIA computers. It discovered that a Vatican computer removed a reference to the involvement of Irish political leader Gerry Adams in a double murder. And the little political digs it turns up—Democrats subly ripping Rush limbaugh, for example—are pure entertainment. Griffith says his technology specializes in "creating minor public relations disasters, one company at a time." For a sample of some of his best coups, check out Wikiscanner here. —Gregory Mone
Humor's an integral part of social interaction; knock-knock jokes, well they're a start. As robotics has grown more complex over the years, a number of researchers have begun tackling the sociability part of the equation: No small matter if robots and humans are to someday regularly interact with one another. Most recently, engineers at the University of Cincinnati developed a software program that "gets" jokes. Lame jokes, to be sure, but a nevertheless impressive step for artificial intelligence. By giving the program a basic level of English and training it to recognize homonyms, the developers created a 'bot that could search through its knowledge database and recognize something meant to be funny.
So, what does the robot like?
Who is there?
Dismay not be a funny joke
Could 'bots someday replace comedians? Seems unlikely, though frankly this one's already funnier than Gallagher—Abby Seiff
Read more here.
Hard to make, and even harder to contain, antimatter has been accepted as yet another of the universe's many strange features for a while now, but scientists would still like to confirm that the stuff really is the exact opposite of the particles that comprise our world. Unfortunately, keeping it around long enough to observe its properties requires large, expensive facilities. Otherwise the antimatter crashes into normal matter, and the two opposites annihilate each other after a trillionth of a second.
But now Japanese physicist Masaki Hori is trying to contain these shy particles in a box the size of an office trash bin. The key is that Hori plans to use radiofrequency waves instead of magnetic fields, which require serious equipment to generate. His name for the device - superconducting radiofrequency quadrupole trap - probably won't enter the vernacular, but the chance to inexpensively study these strange particles could lead to some truly wild findings. Hori is essentially trying to prove the idea - predicted by a common physics theorem - that a Bizzaro universe constructed entirely of antimatter would be indistinguishable from our own. Naturally, though, he's starting small. He hopes to mash a collection of antimatter particles together to create new atoms. A mirror universe wouldn't quite fit in that box.—Gregory Mone
The Segway Enthusiasts Group of America announced today that it will disband after a period of inactivity and an absence of candidates for its board of directors. Apparently the dorky-looking “human-transporter,” which travels at a heart-thumping max speed of 12 mph and costs upward of $5,000, isn’t garnering a whole lot of enthusiasm anymore. Ya think?
The glut of joke possibilities here just blew the fuses in my brain for a second.
Segway spokeswoman Carla Vallone told reporters that the group’s demise is not an indicator that the company itself is failing—in fact, she says sales have grown 50 percent annually since 2002. That’s pretty massive growth, right? So where are these hordes of Segway riders, and why don’t they want to join the Segway fan club? Are they so nerdy they can’t even manage social interactions with each other? Or are they all sequestered in some secret, underground, Mountain View-based programmer lair? I’m imagining a buzzing rabbit-warren of corridors, built just wide enough for two Segways to pass concurrently, silent but for the clacking of keyboards and the hum of human-transporter traffic… —Megan Miller
Don’t get your spurs and six-shooter ready for a visit to the Old West, but scientists at the Technion Institute in Israel have made some theoretical headway towards a time machine. Physicist Amos Ori has been in the time travel business for a few years now – we published a primer on his ideas here – but now he says that he’s developed a theoretical model showing that future generations could one day travel to the past.
He hasn’t actually designed a machine, and stresses that he’s not even sure that developing a technology with the necessary qualities, which include the ability to massively bend and twist spacetime, is possible. Instead, he’s been busy trying to prove time travel would be possible in the first place. And now he says he has shown that the laws that govern the way things work in the universe would allow something to warp spacetime in such a way that someone could travel along a seemingly straight line and end up back in time.
The catch – and this is why the Old West visit is out of the question – is that even if someone does develop a machine with these cosmos-bending qualities, he’ll need a similar one at his destination. That future genius won't be able to travel back any farther than the date on which the first machine was created. If this seems lame compared to visiting dinosaurs or a frontier saloon, see the movie Primer. It's grounded in good physics, and is a great example of all the madness and mayhem that could ensue with short hops through the timescape.—Gregory Mone
(Image credit: James Jean)
A cloud of Internet buzz is forming around an as-yet-unnamed JJ Abrams film (the project currently has the working-title "Cloverfield") concerned with monsters destroying New York City. Details are scarce, although the rumors declare it's either a new Godzilla film, a Gears of War film, an alien-invasion film or (I'll freely admit, I'm hoping for this last one), a Cthulhu film. (Lovecraft fans will be cheered to hear that another Cthulhu film is set to be released sometime this fall.)
Of course, no hep flick worth its celluloid would launch without a viral marketing scheme— in this case a series of websites with puzzles, videos of various stripes on YouTube and loads of other stuff that will make you feel like an utter schmuck if you spend too much time on it. So watch the trailer, futz around on the sites if you must, and try to ignore the hype until the actual film comes out. Cthulhu fhtagn! —Martha Harbison
As the iPhone launch day fiasco unfolds, we thought we'd take a moment to share our own tale of getting our hands on a phone. As the world's largest consumer electronics magazine, you'd think we'd be able to get a review unit from Apple, yes? Well, no. Herr Jobs decided to seed just a handful of iPhones into the hands of high-profile journalists at daily newspapers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today.
We contacted Apple back in April to try to secure an iPhone for review, but got no response. So senior editor Mike Haney sent this email on June 11:
> Hey [Apple employee's name withheld here]
> Just wondering what the going bribe is to be among the pubs to get
> a review phone on the 29th? Do we have to arm-wrestle the punks at
> Gizmodo? Name our first-born Steve?
> As always, any help is appreciated. We’ll be covering it
> extensively on PopSci.com right away and likely have editorial
> coverage in What’s New or H2.0 as soon as we can.
Hi Mike, I hope my email finds you well and enjoying your day.
Thanks for your interest in iPhone.
I am forwarding your request to my colleague [name withheld] for her
records. She'll capture your request, and will get back to you if
we're able to accommodate. We don't know the availability of loaners
at this time. Please feel free to follow up with her directly. She
can be reached at [number] and or [email].
You may find pictures and information about the products on the Apple
Press Info website located at http://www.apple.com/pr/. We appreciate
your interest in the product.
We never heard back from [name withheld], so we placed a few more frantic phone calls. No answer. So, our alternative strategy? Dispatch far-flung staff members to tiny stores in the boonies.
Associate Web editor John Mahoney—who is on vacation visiting family in Indiana—is currently in line at an AT&T store near Indianapolis.
Marketing director Pete Michalsky is reclining in a folding chair outside a strip mall in Connecticut. He sent this dispatch:
On 6/29/07 4:05 PM, pete.michalsky wrote:
> Megan - on line now. The crowd is polite, but they started lining up here in
> Stamford @ 12 noon, so they're restless. Store manager's coming out making
> announcements every 20 minutes or so. Only one phone per. Everything,
> including service selection and # porting being done on iTunes. More updates
> What fun! Do you have a lawn chair?
All 2-fiddy sitting in a chair at a strip mall. Livin the dream...
Staff photographer John Carnett is at an AT&T store in Philadelphia (notice a pattern here? PopSci officially feels that anyone waiting outside an Apple store at this moment is a total schmuck). He sent this report:
I went to a brand new AT&T store in Philadelphia at 12 Noon today—It was very remote so I figured I'd have no trouble getting one. I pulled in the lot and I see three very sort of rough-looking guys on a blanket. I see a topless bar across the street and then it all becomes very clear—they tell me they got the idea at 1 AM... They were not APPLE fans, they just figured they would sell them to someone, or sell the slot in line. Then I talked to this guy in a white van who started screaming about the fact that he has three months to go on his contract. I expect to have an iPhone and a cold beer by 8 pm. Wish me luck!
So, there you have it. Three men, 9 hours or so of paid salary time between them... three semi-functional but widely-coveted gadgets to show for the effort. The question remains: what should we do with the iPhones once we get 'em? Tell us in the comments. —Megan Miller