Category Archives: Off-Topic

Meet The Amazing Women Who Launched America’s First Rockets | Popular Science

At the end of May 1977, Sylvia and her date sat in a movie theater watching the blockbuster Star Wars. Sylvia was tired, and her mind kept drifting back to a computer program that wasn’t working properly. It was hard to let go of the code and relax; she went over the broken commands again and again. Suddenly a view of the stars filled the screen. It was the splendor of outer space, as imagined by George Lucas, and Sylvia was entranced. She giggled at R2-D2, amused at the difference between robots in movies and those in the lab, and reveled in the quirky characters in the bar scene. Along with everyone else in the theater, she became lost in the story. Later, as they left the dark movie theater for the bright light of day, she felt energized. It was as if she had a secret, shared only by those at JPL. She was about to see the real outer space, a view that needed no special effects from Hollywood.

On August 20, 1977, Voyager 2 sat atop a powerful Titan-Centaur rocket at the launchpad at Cape Canaveral. It was early morning, and those at JPL were full of nervous energy. The women knew this was their one shot at the Grand Tour. The planets wouldn’t align like this again for another three lifetimes.

Meet The Amazing Women Who Launched America’s First Rockets | Popular Science

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

In the 1940s and 50s, when the newly minted Jet Propulsion Laboratory needed quick-thinking mathematicians to calculate velocities and plot trajectories, they didn’t turn to male graduates. Rather, they recruited an elite group of young women who, with only pencil, paper, and mathematical prowess, transformed rocket design, helped bring about the first American satellites, and made the exploration of the solar system possible.

For the first time, Rise of the Rocket Girls tells the stories of these women–known as “human computers”–who broke the boundaries of both gender and science. Based on extensive research and interviews with all the living members of the team, Rise of the Rocket Girls offers a unique perspective on the role of women in science: both where we’ve been, and the far reaches of space to which we’re heading.

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars: Nathalia Holt: 9780316338929: Books

Quantum Moves

Play Quantum Moves and contribute to cutting-edge physics research. Your task is to find clever ways of manipulating and moving atoms. By playing, you help physicists in the epic task of building a real quantum computer. This is your chance to push the boundaries of science!


Physicists are building a quantum computer by studying how people play this odd puzzle game | Digital Trends

What do physicists do when they can’t solve a bunch of complicated problems in quantum mechanics? They give the task to gamers.

Danish physicists and researchers at Aarhus University in Denmark have developed a new video game called Quantum Moves that challenges gamers to race against the clock and solve seemingly simple puzzles. The catch is the game behaves by the strange principles of quantum physics. It may seem easy to balance and carry a mysterious liquid across a 2D map. But this liquid doesn’t respond to movement like your average cup of water. It’s like a petulant and unpredictably viscous child. Move the cursor too quickly and the liquid sloshes out in incredible waves. Move the cursor too slowly and you’re beat by the clock.

Physicists are building a quantum computer by studying how people play this odd puzzle game | Digital Trends is a VPN for credit cards | The Verge

In 2016, it’s remarkably hard to buy something anonymously. Bitcoin would be the easiest way, but most places don’t accept it. Even walking into a store and paying cash, there’s a decent chance you’ll be asked for your name and zip code. Paying online is even harder. Use a credit card or a traditional payment service and the odds are your purchase will end up in an anonymized database, used to target you the next time advertisers want to find someone who’s bought a burrito, a pair of jeans, or a lamp in the last month.

Launching today, a new project called wants to change that. Modeled off password managers, works as the commerce equivalent of a VPN, sitting between you and the larger payment system. When it comes time to pay, drops in a one-time credit card number with no connection to you personally. The charges are still passed along as usual, but as far as the store is concerned, the money’s coming from Like PayPal, it also means you can pay through a debit account instead of a credit card, something that would normally make you far more exposed to fraud. is a VPN for credit cards | The Verge

‘The Black Tapes,’ ‘Lore,’ and the Rise of the Horror Podcast – The Atlantic

… “She called me in, shaking her head, and told me she got some calls from parents about how their kids couldn’t sleep alone in their rooms that weekend,” Bae says. During an annual Halloween tradition called the Hour of Horror, Bae told a class of ninth graders the tale of a toilet with a dark history: If a brave soul ventured to the third-floor restroom and entered the middle of three stalls at exactly 3 p.m., the lights would flicker as “the shadow of a girl on a noose would swing over the stall.” The girl, a victim of bullying, had taken her own life.

Unfortunately, Bae wasn’t able to finish the story. “At the end of every Hour of Horror, I’d say, ‘And there’s one more thing you should know: nothing I said today … is true,’” he says. “But for some reason, the bell rang during one of my answers, and the kids rushed out of the room to start their weekend. With a dawning sense of horror, it struck me: I forgot to tell them it was all made up.” His principal dismissed Bae with “a stern warning to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” but he apparently didn’t take those words to heart. His friend, the indie filmmaker Terry Miles, enticed Bae into the world of podcasting, and the pair now channel tales of the supernatural to 200,000 listeners a month with The Black Tapes. The podcast follows an affable journalist named Alex Reagan as she explores a series of terrifying cases—involving séances, demonic possessions, or apparitions—that have no apparent scientific or rational explanation.

‘The Black Tapes,’ ‘Lore,’ and the Rise of the Horror Podcast – The Atlantic

Not exactly on topic for this website, but the story was too rich to pass up.

Disney’s Animated Film ‘Zootopia’ is a U.S. Propaganda Tool, Chinese Professor Says – China Real Time Report – WSJ

The military-backed People’s Liberation Army Daily on Wednesday ran a commentary titled, “How can a sheep be turned into a ‘crazy’ scapegoat?” The author, a professor at a PLA-backed academy in the eastern city of Nanjing, questioned the plot of Disney’s animated animal film “Zootopia” (known as “Crazy Animal City” in Chinese), which features a sheep as the story’s main antagonist.

The animated film revolves around a rabbit police officer working to track down some disappeared predators with the help of a red fox. In the end — spoiler alert — the two discover that the sheep, who worked as assistant mayor of Zootopia, is the mastermind of the case.

Disney’s Animated Film ‘Zootopia’ is a U.S. Propaganda Tool, Chinese Professor Says – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Netflix Blocking Your VPN? Here’s How To Build Your Own | Lifehacker Australia

Possibly posing even more of a challenge to media companies wishing to shut down VPN use to circumvent geo-blocking is the ability of consumers to build their own personal cloud VPN service. This has become a real possibility thanks to cloud services from companies like Amazon, and open source software such as SoftEther VPN from the University of Tsukuba, Japan.

The first step involves creating a server on Amazon’s cloud service AWS. This can be done for free for a year although data costs will kick in past the first 15 GB. The server can be run in a number of different locations but for the purposes of accessing US services, one of three US locations can be chosen. Installing the SoftEther VPN software requires following relatively simple instructions but getting a neighbourhood techie to do it for you would be better. Once done, connecting to the VPN from a laptop is as easy as putting in the address of the server and entering the username and password created during the installation of the VPN software.

The whole process of setting up a personal VPN takes about 30 minutes (the time it took the author researching this article). This would be slightly longer if setting up accounts on Amazon for the first time. Setting up a VPN this way has the added advantage that it is very unlikely to be blocked by services like Netflix because they are only looking for known VPN service provider Internet addresses.

Netflix Blocking Your VPN? Here’s How To Build Your Own | Lifehacker Australia

My Netflix doesn’t work. Netflix is discovering my VPN and blocking service to the US. One way around this problem is setting up my own VPN service on Amazon’s cloud service.

Zootropolis (Zootopia or Zoomania): Evil packaged as fun

The modern mammal metropolis of Zootropolis is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde, to solve the mystery. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootropolis” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and co-directed by Jared Bush (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”).

Zootropolis – UK Trailer 3 – OFFICIAL Disney | HD – YouTube

I just got done watching Zootropolis with my family over here in Switzerland. We all enjoyed the movie a lot. I admit that I was totally hooked. So what kind of a twisted mind is capable of calling Zootropolis “evil packed as fun?”

After watching a Disney movie, I often ask the following question: How is Disney undermining society? OK, maybe this seems a little bit extreme. But it seems that Disney does this kind of undermining on a regular basis, so I can’t help myself. After Zootropolis was over, I just started to think about what I had just seen. What had Disney done to me this time? Well, one problem is real bad and the other merely bad.

You can be anything you want to be. Judy Hopps (a bunny) wants to be a cop. Never mind that real cops are 5 to 10 times her size, and they’re mostly male. Never mind that she could become a tasty lunch for a predator. She is bound and determined to become a cop. And against all the impossible odds, she survives the police academy. She really, truly becomes a cop. Except police chief Bogo is out to get her. She is given just 48 hours to solve the difficult case of a missing otter.  But this case is much, much bigger than it seems.

The problem here is that you can’t be anything you want to be. Maybe you want to be a pro in the NBA. Maybe you are willing to train much harder than anyone else. It just doesn’t matter unless you already have a number of things to bring to the table. Generally, you either need the right body type or are able to compensate in one way or another. And a lot of this is in the genes. You either have it or not. Training is only going to get you so far. Conceptually, this applies to everything. Do you suck at math? Then maybe math, science and engineering is not for you. If you suck at drawing then maybe art is not for you. Of course, you are free to try but maybe you should try something else.

So one should not be stupid. Focus in areas where you have a natural advantage, or you are naturally good at. Don’t believe the lie that you can become anything you want to be. If you are good at something and train hard, then you can become great. Focusing on areas where you are not so good is probably going to waste a lot of your time. One must always have a plan B in case of failure.

What most people don’t know is that the very next day (after the movie ended) we learn that Judy Hopps was killed by a craz’d predator.

Shakira – Try Everything (Official Video) – YouTube

An even bigger problem with this movie is how it creates a utopian society where the only way it gets out of balance is through an outside force. Initially, predators and prey live together in harmony. But it is one of the prey who seeks to undermine the society by secretly provoking some of the predators. These predators become very aggressive and dangerous because of this provocation by the prey.

The actual undermining of our society is taking place right before our eyes due to the modern liberal view of how societies really work. The modern liberal believes that people are basically good. In Zootropolis we see that predators and prey can live together in harmony – they are both good. The only way things get out of balance for society and the movie is if there is some kind of provocation. By whom? By the good guys, of course. So predators only become aggressive after they are drugged by a team led by one of the prey. Naturally, it is the prey who are the real bad guys.

In real life, you are safe. You are safe from criminals. You are safe from Muslim terrorists. You are safe from nuclear attack. But this safety breaks down because of your actions. It is you who provoke people into becoming criminals. It is you who provoke Muslims into becoming terrorists. And if there is a nuclear war then it will be because of you – the West provokes the other side.

With the rise of Russia and the invasion of Ukraine, one would think that Germany would be focusing heavily on building up its military. No, that would be ridiculous. Germany is too busy inviting over a million Muslim refugees from the Middle East. And why not? Everybody is basically good, and all religions are equal in the sense that non is better or worse than any other. The Russians are good unless provoked by the West, and Muslim refugees are good too.

But what happens when the idea of basic goodness is wrong?

German mom has multicultural encounter with son’s muslim ‘friends’
(“And eight, nine, ten men stormed out of the van, Federal Border Police!”)

The problem affects the entire western world.

If you believe that people are basically good, then you are endangering any country where you exist.

Zootropolis effectively packages the idea that people are basically good. This concept is exceptionally dangerous and evil. It causes a country to lower its guard to the point where it is unable and unwilling to defend itself. Europe barely lifts a finger to protect itself from Russia. Germany invites trouble in the form of Muslim refugees. And the US disarms its military and seeks to disarm its nuclear arsenal.

A Bad Time to Cut U.S. Nuclear Capability – WSJ

It is budget season in Washington, and nuclear-disarmament doves have again morphed into budget hawks. The familiar pitch is also back: Reducing the U.S. nuclear arsenal will ease global tensions, enlighten world leaders and save scarce defense dollars.

A Bad Time to Cut U.S. Nuclear Capability – WSJ

The US has reduced it nuclear arsenal to such a point that it has crossed a red line. It is no longer able to effectively deter Russia and China. And one continues to hear over and over that more nuclear reductions are needed. And this is after they have already crossed the red line. The US is no longer safe. History teaches that if you want peace then prepare for war. Modern liberals teach that if you want peace then prepare for peace.

Unfortunately, it seems that DIsney is pushing an insidious evil wrapped up in a lot of fun.

A Fantasy Sports Wizard’s Winning Formula | WSJ.Money

Albertson is in a completely different league. In between attending business-school classes and cramming for exams, Albertson plays a new high-volume variety of fantasy sports that allows him to compete in hundreds of leagues each day. He may be the most consistently profitable fantasy sports enthusiast in the country. And the reason is that to him, fantasy sports isn’t really about sports. It’s about data. He doesn’t trust his eyes to tell him who the best players are; he only trusts the numbers, which tell him who is overvalued and who is undervalued. Albertson’s strategy is almost literally a formula, and it bears little resemblance to casual fandom. “It’s all about having logical inputs that lead to logical outputs,” he says.

The result of all this evening’s research and effort is that Albertson’s algorithm determined the optimal lineup for a fantasy basketball team. More precisely, on Albertson’s command, it produced hundreds of lineups that collectively represent a diverse portfolio that will, he hopes, generate thousands of dollars in profits by the end of the night’s games, in about six hours.

He doesn’t make money every night, and in fact ends up in the red on a regular basis. But he wins more than he loses, the benchmark all good traders strive to meet. Last year, Albertson took home more than $200,000. This year, he projects his business will make almost a million dollars.

A Fantasy Sports Wizard’s Winning Formula | WSJ.Money June 2014 – WSJ

GAME GOLF Digital Tracking System

GAME GOLF is a small wearable system designed to seamlessly capture and display your golf game in a comprehensive, dynamic interface with stats, trends and information you can actually use.

GAME GOLF captures real game data from the rounds you play, not your shots on the range. You will learn what you’re really doing on the course and quickly see where you can improve. All of your round data is displayed shot-by-shot, hole-by-hole over satellite imagery of the course. See how far you hit each shot with the Club Performance analytics engine and compare your game stats against PGA pros or your weekend golf buddies.

GAME GOLF is the perfect companion for any golfer who wants to know where they can improve their game.

  • Improve Your Game – From tee to green, we analyze your entire round of golf
  • Know Your Distances – See how far you really hit each club and never under-club again
  • See Your Stats – Fairway Accuracy, GIR, Putts Per Hole and more; Real stats at your fingertips
  • Share & Compare with your friends, followers, or even the Pros

Amazon.Com: GAME GOLF Digital Tracking System

Amazon.Com comment:

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful

A Device with Unlimited Potential
By Benjamin Litman on May 8, 2014

I can’t say enough about this product. Most impressive is the company’s commitment to addressing what few flaws the product has. I would recommend (and have recommended) this product to anyone I know who plays golf. I’ve organized my review by category for ready reference. If you don’t believe what I have to say, note that GAME GOLF already has the backing of the PGA of America, Golf Channel, and numerous prominent touring professionals (including Graeme McDowell, Lee Westwood, and Jim Furyk). And it’s already being sold in Apple stores worldwide. That’s heady stuff for a technology startup. But, as its slogan goes, GAME GOLF is, indeed, changing the game.


I won’t say much here, as the GAME GOLF website ([...]) has a handy video explaining the setup (and much more). But I will say that it’s as easy to set up as it is to use. Simply screw the corresponding red tag flush into the handle of each club, complete the online registration, charge the device, and you’re good to go.

*Ease of Use*

“Tag and go” might sound too good to be true, but it is true. After you turn on the device, and the white light (alone) begins to blink, tag the butt end of each club to the bottom of the device at the location of your shot, hit the shot, go to your next shot, and repeat. It’s that simple (you don’t even have to select the course you’re playing; the device figures that out for you). The hard part, at least at first, is remembering to tag. Within a round or two, however, it becomes second nature. Because tagging (which captures both (1) which club you’re hitting and (2) the location from which you’re hitting it–i.e., the two inputs that allow GAME GOLF to compile most every statistic you could ever want) is so critical to performance of the device, the device includes three different indicators of a successful tag. Upon tagging, the device beeps (loud enough for you to hear, but quiet enough to not bother player partners), vibrates, and turns green. If you don’t hear a beep or feel a vibration and are unsure of whether you have tagged, check the device to see if the green light is on. If you tagged, the green light remains on for 60 seconds. Therefore, if you look down and the green light is not on, odds are you forgot to tag–so tag again. As for when to tag, you can do it before or after your shot, as long as you tag at the location of your shot. I have played 22 rounds with the device, and, from the beginning, have tagged as the first move in my pre-shot routine. I pick my club, stand next to the ball, and, while checking out my lie, tag the device. Then I take my practice swing and go. I would advise tagging before you hit, as opposed to after, because the mind is often less attentive after you hit (especially if you hit a bad shot). As for where to place the device, I have found it easiest–and least intrusive–on the outside of my left hip (I’m a righty). I never feel it there (whereas when I placed it closer to my midsection, I would feel it while bending down to read putts, pick up tees, etc.). Note that the device is very sensitive, so if you are wearing a sweater or rain jacket, you don’t need to lift the sweater/jacket before tagging; the tag will go right through your clothing with ease.

*Ease of Editing*

The post-round editing process is fun, if for no other reason than that you get to do what you would do anyway (relive your round), but with images and statistics to confirm your every move. You plug your device into your computer (for now, you cannot plug your device into a tablet or phone), the GAME GOLF transfer software automatically opens, and you click on the button that downloads your round(s) (the device stores up to 9 rounds at a time, making it usable during buddies trips where you leave your computer at home). Once the round has been downloaded (it takes 1-2 minutes), click the view button and you will be taken to the GAME GOLF website. There, you will see your round visually depicted and overlaid onto a Google Earth image of the course you just played. It’s like Shot Tracker on, but better (because you’re seeing the actual hole, not a graphical computerized image of it). You can then edit your round to ensure that all shots were tagged (you can easily add or delete shots, including penalty strokes), and tagged in the right location (you can easily move the location of each shot). Sometimes, the location is off by even more than the advertised standard deviation. But, instead of getting frustrated, just move the location of your shot and remember that, even for the pros, Shot Tracker occasionally gets it wrong. After you have finished editing your round, click “sign your round” and the real fun then begins. The folks at GAME GOLF will take the data from your rounds and populate all the statistics you usually try to track in minuscule writing on your scorecard (fairways hit, greens in regulation, scrambling) and many more. You can also share, and comment on, your round with your friends or with pros.

*Benefits of Use*

The benefits of GAME GOLF are many. Having all of your rounds available electronically in one place (i.e., no more piles of scorecards stuffed in shoeboxes) is a huge convenience. And being able to share your rounds with friends and compare yourself to them (and to professionals) is great fun—and, let’s face it, what all golfers do anyway. As for the “will it make me a better player?” question, I say yes. First, the tagging process (and the knowledge that every shot you hit will be recorded and tracked) adds a certain seriousness to playing that is otherwise absent. With seriousness comes added focus and, typically, better results. Second, the statistics that the product generates will help you better understand how far you actually hit, and therefore should be hitting, each club (the “club performance” graphic is probably the coolest statistic currently provided) and what your tendencies are. Although the statistics currently provided are rather basic (driving distance, fairways hit, greens in regulation, scrambling percentage, putts per round, percentage of 1-putts, 2-putts, 3-putts, and percentage of pars, bogeys, double bogeys, triple bogeys), the genius of the product is that the company can continue to generate all the various more complicated statistics available while never having to change the device itself. That is, unlike many technologies (e.g., the iPhone), you won’t have to keep upgrading your hardware (i.e., the device and the tags)—and spending money–with GAME GOLF. Instead, all of the improvements will be to the software. If you’re not satisfied with the statistics currently provided, remember that it took the PGATour years to develop ShotLink (the professional equivalent of GAME GOLF) and the statistics that the data it collects can generate. In just a few months, GAME GOLF has already added many new statistics that I and other customers have suggested. So just be patient and appreciate how amazing GAME GOLF already is. The company’s commitment to getting better is what ensures that GAME GOLF will fulfill its near-infinite potential.


Although GAME GOLF has GPS built in, it doesn’t display yardages during your round–meaning that you need to carry another device (i.e., one of the many DMDs, or distance-measuring devices) if you want to measure distances. That would be the only change to the hardware I could see in the future (i.e., adding a yardage display to the top of the device), but I also appreciate GAME GOLF’s desire to do what it does best and leave the rest to other products. Google spread itself too thin over the last few years with too many new products, and then realized it was best to scale back to what made it so good. So this is a minor complaint. The only other “flaw” is the current lack of putting and other more advanced statistics. But that, too, is a minor complaint, because more advanced putting statistics are necessary only if you’re good enough to be a professional, and the other more advanced statistics are currently being worked on by the GAME GOLF staff. Again, because they have all the inputs to provide those statistics, it’s just a matter of time before they provide them. One statistic that is currently lacking but that should be very easy to provide is handicap. It is currently an input (i.e., in filling out your user profile, you plug in your handicap), but it should be an output—and will be more accurate—based on your scores and the courses you play (both of which GAME GOLF captures). But when I mentioned this to the GAME GOLF staff, they said they were working on that, too. Again, they know they have room to improve, and they are doing everything in their power to do so. That is all you can ask for in a technology (or any) company.

*Customer Service*

This is the best part of GAME GOLF. Considering how good everything else is, that’s saying a lot. I have NEVER seen a company more responsive to the needs and demands of customers. This was true from the start. I didn’t receive my GAME GOLF before I left for a golf trip to Tucson this February, so the GAME GOLF folk rerouted my device to arrive at my hotel in Tucson. Although, as with many companies these days, there is no phone number to call, their customer-service folk are incredibly responsive via email (and via the user forums on the “support” page of the website). Every single person I’ve dealt with has been a pleasure and has fully answered my questions and concerns.

Amazon.Com: GAME GOLF Digital Tracking System

Three Wise Men | Rabbi Daniel Lapin

I found this article by Rabbi Daniel Lapin very interesting, and I thought I would share it. I’m not a Jew, but I like Rabbi Daniel Lapin a lot. He used to host a show on one of the conservative radio stations in the Seattle area.

What if I told you that you could change how intelligent you are – or your children will be? Perhaps you’re saying, “That’s ridiculous. IQ is immutable and unlikely to be altered by one’s behavior. Or maybe you’re saying, “I don’t know, but if it’s true sign me up!”

However you may have reacted, I hope you’re intrigued enough by this proposition of ancient Jewish wisdom to try it out for size.  I think you’ll be surprised at how precisely it accounts for your experiences in the real world.

We read of three men whose wisdom was admired and whose guidance and leadership was sought: Joseph, Daniel, and Mordechai.  Each withstood alluring attempts to get them to abandon restraint.

Watch Joseph as his employer’s wife, by all accounts a most attractive woman, tries to seduce him.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin | Three Wise Men

Here is a video of Rabbi Daniel Lapin on the Glenn Beck Show. They are discussing the Tower of Babel, and how people are really like stones but leaders wish to remake into bricks.

Bricks or Stones?