Europe’s Laser-Powered Space Data Highway Passes Early Test

A European satellite beamed images to Earth on Friday using new laser-based communications technology, opening the way for uninterrupted and near-instantaneous viewing of natural disasters being sent to governments and relief agencies.

The images were a test of a 450 million euro ($562 million) space data highway being constructed. Called European Data Relay Satellite (EDRS), it will allow faster and more secure transmission of large amounts of data, such as pictures and radar images, to and from Earth. It is seen as particularly useful for monitoring flood and earthquake damage in real time.

"Currently, a satellite downloads the data that it acquires whenever it is within view of one of four ground stations on Earth," Josef Aschbacher, head of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation Program Planning & Coordination Service, told Reuters ahead of Friday’s transmission. "That means there can be periods of 45 to 90 minutes from the visibility of one station to another."

Once completed, EDRS will do away with such blind spots by using two satellites — to be launched in 2015 and 2016 and equipped with laser technology — to send data to and from Earth or between satellites at a rate of 1.8 Gigabits per second. That is about equivalent to sending all the data that could be printed in a one-meter-long (3.3-foot-long) shelf of books in one second.

Data and Spot

It has been a pretty horrible 48 hours with freak storms hitting Brisbane again and another upset stomach so another quick one just scraping in under my deadline - this is probably the closest yet ;)

It’s cool I’ve got a bunch of time tomorrow to get some illustration done!!!

This is a single survey, which you can access any time with a google account. I will send out a few reminders at timed intervals, so you can update your data if you choose to participate. You can change and update your responses at any time.

Here, you can record detailed information about your successes and failures in germinating the Paw Paw seeds. I will compile the data in order to provide a statistical analysis of the best germination and growing conditions for this plant across temperate zones.

Please use SI Units in your responses (metres, centimetres, millilitres, etc.)

Please consider sending a donation to (through paypal) to support the project costs

The Paw Paw Project Survey is up!

If you received seeds, please consider participating.

If you are interested in receiving free Paw Paw seeds, write to me at I am particularly interested in recruiting more project participants from Europe and Asia.


Animated bar graph of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor on organ


Computer Simulated Hummingbird

A study to understand the controlled flight of a hummingbird discovered that the physics are similar to insects - via Nerdist:

The team who simulated the wing beats of the birds — a pair of mechanical engineers from Vanderbilt University and a biologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — first needed data. So they placed nine dabs of non-toxic paint on a female ruby-throated hummingbird’s wing and tracked their motion as the bird hovered with four cameras running at 1,00 frames per second.

Then the team produced the most detailed simulation to date of hummingbird flight. Using super-computers at the National Science Foundation’s Extreme Science and Engineering Discovery Environment (XSEDE) and Vanderbilt’s Advanced Computing Center for Research and Education, they simulated the thousands of tiny vortices in the air around the hummingbird’s wing to find out how it was keeping itself in the air. The result is mesmerizing, and informative.

… This lift-generating upstroke is why the hummingbird flies more like an insect. Many larger birds only use a downstroke to generate lift. On the upstroke they retract their wings to minimize drag. Dragonflies and other insects that hover, dart from place to place, and annoyingly dodge your hands use the same technique as the hummingbird. And though the hummingbirds are typically larger than these insects, the birds are able to keep their upstrokes surprisingly efficient — hummingbird upstrokes produce 30 percent less lift but use 30 percent less energy, making it as efficient as the downstroke, the team estimates.

More at Nerdist here

Researchers at Indiana University have released another study examining the ways people perceive same-sex relationships. The latest findings show that straight people are generally okay with LGBT folks, but still have a problem with public displays of affection between same-sex couples.

The research looked at both straight and queer people’s acceptance of LGBT people in two main categories: “formal rights,” like marriage equality and hospital visitations, and “informal privileges,” like being able to hold hands or kiss in public. Here are some of the key takeaways about how straight people view same-sex relationships:

  • Straight people are overall accepting of legal rights like visiting a same-sex partner in the hospital, sharing health insurance, and taking family leave to take care of a same-sex partner
  • But fewer straight people are okay with same-sex couples actually getting married, so perhaps some are only okay with the above in the context of civil unions or other legal, non-marriage relationships
  • And across the board, straight people believe that PDA is less acceptable between queer couples than between different-sex couples, including holding hands, kissing on the cheek and making out. Not surprisingly, straight men were more OK with two women kissing in public than two men (hey, male gaze), but overall still viewed queer PDA as more icky than straight PDA. 

Straight and queer people alike were surveyed, but queer folks’ responses are less exciting, as we tend to support our own formal and informal rights pretty consistently. However, it is worth noting a substantial number of LGBT people said that same-sex (their own) public affection was less acceptable than that of straight people — internalized homophobia, anyone?

Here’s another important point from Mari’s writeup at Autostraddle:

As with all sociological studies, this data should be taken with a bit of a critical eye. First, while the study is just now being published, the survey data was collected back in 2010, a time when gay marriage was legal in only six states. So, while this data may have reflected attitudes then, it’s possible and even likely there have been some shifts in that period. Secondly, this study relied on presenting written scenarios in a survey, and it’s possible that being actually confronted with an amorous queer couple may elicit different reactions from people. Regardless, it appears that the queer community has a ways to go in gaining the same degree of social acceptance for our relationships that straight people enjoy. Psychology says that exposure is one of the best ways to break down discomforts. We all clearly need to spend more time sucking face in public. You know, for the greater good.

Thoughts? Opinions? Agreements or disagreements?

Here’s a visualization, via Twitter, of national conversation about “Ferguson” last night. These are only the tweets that are geotagged, which comprises a very small percentage of total tweets sent. Twitter says there were 3.5 million tweets sent last night mentioning “Ferguson”.

Conversation bubbled for most of the evening, and then, around the time of the grand jury announcement, it exploded. 

We’ll have live coverage of America’s reaction to the Ferguson grand jury decision throughout the day.

New* Data Knit Edition 2 Scarf

This digital design scarf motif by J.Donaldson is machine knit pixel to stitch, bringing binaries and bespoke together in an ultra modern accessory with 8bit style.

Shown here in white, light blue, navy blue and dark gray, scarves measure 45x17cm (57”x7”) and are Oeko-Tex 100 certified acrylic.

Buy with Bitcoin

Each scarf is made to order. Please allow 4-6 weeks delivery.