In vantablackest night

In dark arts and sciences news, a group of researchers in England have created the coolest and most unnecessarily dark substance ever.

The material, known as Vantablack (Very Amazing New and Totally Awesome black), was described by patrons at the Optics Express kiosk at the mall as “really blackety-black”.  It works by taking really thin carbon drinking straws and gluing them to aluminum foil.  Light gets stuck between the tiny straws and is absorbed.*

Vantablack is so dark that the human eye cannot understand what it is seeing, and wanders off in search of simpler colors to look at, like periwinkle and burnt sienna.  It absorbs 99.965% of the light that hits it, setting a new world record for the blackest thing.  The previous record was set by Jack Black and Black Manta at a Clint Black/Black Eyed Peas concert in Blacksburg, Virginia in 2002.

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One in a row

Today at work I got an e-mail inviting me to “the first in a series of lunch sessions on Concurrency”.  I will not be attending.  It seems to me that if they were really serious about Concurrency, all the sessions would happen at the same time.

Fortune favors the believer

My fortune cookie with dinner said, “The eyes believe themselves; the ears believe other people.”

Upon further review, it turns out the nose believes in life after love, the fingertips believe the children are our future, and the tongue believes in Crystal Light, because I believe in me.

Yep, I’m a believer. Not a trace of doubt in my mind.


During a recent brief hospital stay, my mother casually mentioned to me that one of her nurses recognized her from a brief hospital stay a few months earlier.  (She’s doing well, thank you.)

She and I were both surprised by this.  My mother is not a frequent visitor to the hospital, a place that does quite a lot of business.  It’s not out of the question, of course.  I, for example, only see my mother at Christmas, but I recognize her on sight almost every time.  And there are blackjack dealers in Vegas who recognize me every year when I go out on vacation, despite the fact that they see upwards of 100,000 players in between, and I’m not the kind of high-roller that gets noticed.

But it got me thinking about how being recognized on sight is a mixed bag.  Sometimes you want to go where (almost) everybody knows your name, and they’re (usually) glad you came.  Other times not so much.  For example:  Continue reading

Universal service

In cosmic connectivity news, a hotspot of powerful, ultrahigh-energy particles may help scientists answer a century-old question: can we get a decent wi-fi signal in Ursa Major?

Gordon Thomson, of the University of Utah, worked with a team of scientists to capture 72 cosmic rays over a period of five years.  The signals were captured by the Telescope Array cosmic ray observatory, an isolated pavillion with a solar panel on the roof next to a telephone pole (above).  (Disclaimer: Based on the lack of reference points, this might just be an uncomfortable lounge chair.)

Thomson is the co-principle investigator for the Telescope Array observatory.  “Our main principle is ‘No findings, no grant money’.  Our co-principle is ‘Don’t be too specific.’  That’s where I come in.  I make sure that our findings are vague enough that they can’t be contradicted.”

Asked to describe his findings, Thomson said, “All we see is a blob in the sky, and inside this blob there is all sorts of stuff — various types of objects.”  He added,  “Now we know where to look,” referring to the blob of stuff and objects.  Continue reading

Cold caller in a pickle

A telemarketer for some outfit that calls me a lot at home while I’m at work just told me, “You’re harder to get to than the last pickle in a pickle jar.”   And then tried to ask me for money.   Possibly to buy a fork.   Or maybe to pay for finger lengthening surgery.

I explained to her that if you pour out the pickle juice, you can turn the jar upside down, and the pickle will just fall into your hand.

Good deed for the day: done!

Disclaimer: Don’t pour pickle juice down the drain.   It will combine with all the bacon grease down there and result in global warming.

Editor’s Note: When I searched online for a picture of a “pickle jar”, I got the image above.  I believe it is a pickle urn, in case your pickle drowns in brine before you can get to it, and you want to keep its ashes on the mantle as a tribute.