Can the moon landing site become the first extraterrestrial UNESCO World Heritage site?

Apparently NASA is now trying to get the moon landing site, known as Tranquility Base, registered in the National Register of Historic Places. If this succeeds, it might in turn be nominated to the UNESCO World Heritage List, which lists properties ”forming part of the cultural and natural heritage which the World Heritage Committee considers as having outstanding universal value.” In short, it would keep the site safe from human destruction.

The problem with the landing sites on the moon is that while all items left behind (like spacecrafts and the American flag) are the property of the state that sent them there, the sites themselves are not. NASA mentions as an example the famous first foot steps on the moon, and the concept of future tourists wanting to try them out themselves.

As many journalists point out, we are a far way away from tourism on the moon (tourism to space isn’t quite as far away), but why not start planning now? We’re getting there.

The Mary SueGeeks Are Sexy – Washington Post
Picture of Buzz Aldrin at Tranquility Base, by Neil Armstrong. In the public domain.

Experiment of the week #1: The randomness of Swedish krona coin toss

Background

A coin toss is generally regarded as giving a 50 % probability of either outcome – heads or tails. But to what degree does it really work? The sides of the Swedish 1 krona coin differ from eachother, and I would think the head side (featuring a portrait of the king) is heavier. Would this cause this side to land on the ground more often (similar to a buttered toast more often landing with the buttered side)? And to what degree would such an effect be detectable? Would this seriously affect the practice of tossing a coin in Sweden?

Methodology

I use a regular Swedish 1 krona coin, flipping it 200 times in as similar a fashion as possible, noting down the results on a notepad. I estimate a statistical margin of 10 %, so results within 40 – 60 % would be expected if the coin toss really is a good predicter of pure chance. Any results within 100 – 60 % or 0 – 40 % would warrant some further investigation with a larger number of coin tosses.

Results

My results were 102 coin tosses showing heads and 98 showing tails, or in other words exactly 51 % heads and 49 % tails. This is well within the statistical margin (40 – 60 %) and so my results confirm the common idea that a coin toss is a good determiner of 50 / 50 % probability.

Want Microsoft to know everything you do? There’s an OS for that.

Apparantly the upcoming Windows edition isn’t very secure (wait for surprised gasps). Through a feature called Windows SmartScreen, the operating system is to check through all applications the user installs, and send the data back to Microsoft.

The idea behind SmartScreen is to check through programs to avoid viruses and unsafe software – to analyse them online and inform the user if it seems unsafe. That’s good enough, especially seeing as Windows has always been extremely virus prone. However, sending back so huge chunks of information to a centralised system is never good. This is a serious safety concern.

Ofcourse, it’s fairly easy to turn the feature off if you want to. But that only goes for those somewhat tech savvy – they shouldn’t be the only ones enjoying some basic privacy.

Read more at Gizmodo.

Introducing… Experiment of the Week

I have a new project. A pretty freaking awesome project. Every fortnight I am to think up, conduct and report on a loosely scientific experiment. These experiments will sometimes be extremely basic, and they will sometimes be fairly worked through. Some will be based on existing experiments, some will be made up because I thought they would be fun. Most of these are most likely sociological experiments of some kind or another, but I will venture into some (really basic) natural science as well.

The purpose? Threefold:

  1. To practice scientific reasoning and writing.
  2. To force myself into trying lots of cool stuff I think about all the time but never try.
  3. To find out cool stuff about humanity and the universe. It’s a pretty interesting place, after all.

The first experiment should come by the weekend. The plan for this Experiment of the Week project is to keep it going until New Year, otherwise I have failed.

And yes, I know, ”Experiment of the Week” doesn’t quite work when it’s every fortnight. But I need a manageable goal, and ”Experiment of the Fortnight” doesn’t sound as cool. If I get more ideas than expected I might try for every week after all.

One year with Anki

On August 22, 2011, I first downloaded and started using Anki, an amazing (and free!) program for studying just about anything. I’ve primarily used it for my Chinese studies, but I’ve also used it for remembering science constants, math equations, birthdays, geography (at least I tried) and a lot more.

I celebrate the one-year anniversary by downloading the latest beta of Anki 2, the latest version of the program, and so far it looks really promising. It claims to be much smoother and faster, with decks six to nine times smaller in size, but it’s also very slick and overall good looking, with a lot of improvements. I especially enjoy the new statistics page, where you can view graphs over your reviews. I gathered the one-year reviews for my Chinese deck. Apparently I have studied on Anki for 93 % of the days in the past year, which I think is pretty good. The ones missing are generally when I’ve been away from home for several days straight and have missed one or two days. Ever since I got the Anki app on my phone, in the beginning of September last year, that has simplified things quite a lot.

Perspective: How large is a solar flare?

Astronomy is awesome greatly due to its huge size. It is impossible for any human being – a brilliant scientist or a regular Joe alike – to wrap one’s mind around how big space really is, how tiny we humans really are on our little rock in the blackness of cosmos.

A solar flare is a sudden release of large amounts of energy from the Sun, causing what is basically a huge storm pulling up from the Sun surface. Seeing as the Sun is so big itself it is hard to visualise how big a solar flare really is – it looks rather tiny in comparison.

Well, the Earth is fairly tiny in comparison to the Sun to. And a solar flare is huge. Just look at the amazing photoshop above of how tiny Earth would seem in comparison to a striking solar flare.

PP UK Sysadmin Wins OpenDNS Award

Another article I wrote for the Pirate Times: ”PP UK Sysadmin Wins OpenDNS Award”.

Picture is CC BY-NC-SA Anton NordenfurCC BY-NC-SA Pirate Party UK.

Svärmmotioner till PP:s medlemsmöte

Nicholas Miles från Then Piratska Argus har initierat ett riktigt bra projekt, svärmmotioner till Piratpartiets kommande medlemsmöte i oktober. Inför mötet hoppas vi på enorma mängder motioner om sakpolitik, med tanke på den stora aktiviteten vi sett på Breddningsbloggen de senaste månaderna. Miles skriver:

I ett sådant virrvarr av politiskt engagemang är det lätt hänt att det uppstår redundans genom att flera personer skriver överlappande motioner utan varandras vetskap. Förutom det kommer det dessutom bli många timmars läsande för de som deltar på mötet, varför det är extra viktigt att alla motioner är välskrivna, så att vi slipper rösta igenom rena formförändringar. Jag har därför slängt ihop en liten padda jag skulle vilja att alla motionärer postar i.

Ni hittar paddan här. Idén fungerar redan utmärkt – den enda motion jag hunnit skriva klart (om samkönade äktenskap) var redan tagen av någon. Jag håller på med ett par andra motioner som inte har tagits upp ännu, så vi får se om svärmen eller jag hinner först med att få ut någonting fint på dessa områden.

Bild är CC BY-SA Anne Kekki.