Friday, September 5, 2008


I'm going to start off politics-free today. Go figure.
I keep meaning to share this, but I've totally forgotten about it until now.

United States researchers have finally figured out the trick to invisibility. The article, for all of you linkophobes:

Scientists at the University of California in Berkeley have engineered a material that can bend visible light around objects. This development could soon result in technology that can render tanks, ships and troops invisible to the eye.

Results of the US military-funded research are expected to appear in the scientific journals Science and Nature this week.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, this breakthrough follows earlier work undertaken at the Imperial College in London that achieved similar results with microwaves. Like light, these are a form of electromagnetic radiation, but their longer wave-length makes them far easier to manipulate. Achieving the same effect with visible light is a big advance.

The head of research, Professor Xiang Zhang, said in the case of invisibility cloaks or shields, the material would need to curve light waves completely around the object like a river flowing around a rock.

In essence, an observer looking at the cloaked object would then see light from behind it, making it seem to disappear.

Substances capable of achieving such feats are known as metamaterials, which get their electromagnetic properties from their structural mix, rather than directly inheriting those of the substances composing them.

They have the power to grab electromagnetic radiation and deflect it smoothly. No such material occurs naturally and it's only very recently that molecular engineering has advanced sufficiently to give scientists the opportunity to create them.

Not since Project Rainbow, when in October 1943 the US Navy rendered the destroyer escort USS Eldridge invisible to human observers for a brief period, has such a breakthrough in light-refraction stealth technology been made. Of course, that last bit's complete nonsense.

Cool, huh?

Are you tired of my politics talk yet? (Although I hear a resounding chorus of "yes" out there, too bad. Go write your own blog or something.)

First, is, as of this moment, giving Barack Obama a 71.8% chance of winning November's election. More specifically, in Nate Silver's enigmatic formula (of combining current polls and voting trends), followed by 10,000 computer simulations, Obama wins the election 7180 times, winning 310.6 electoral votes, and 50.2% of the electoral vote. (Note - many people read this last number as a "virtual tie," but remember, the electoral college is what matters, not the final percentage. As we all remember from the 2000 election, a candidate can lose the popular vote while still winning the election - and according to Silver, there's a 4.84% chance this will happen to Obama, and a 3.83% chance this will happen to McCain.) More can be found on the method here. This is obviously good news for Democratic voters - preconvention numbers showed his chances at just over 50%. Of course, we have yet to take into consideration any possible "bounce" from the RNC, but my (nonpartisan) guess is that we won't see much of one (maybe a point or two), mainly because the "big speakers" McCain, Palin, and Giuliani really spoke more to the GOP base rather than doing anything to swing undecideds into their camp. We should know for sure the effect these speeches have had by Monday, I think.

Yesterday was a day of unfortunately placed headlines and screen captures. If I may:




Look Ma, no Photoshop!

So McCain gave his acceptance speech last night - blah, blah, blah, Republican talking points, all rhetoric, no policy. (Although I DID learn that he was a POW back in Vietnam. Did you know that? I had no idea.)
It was very "huh?" for all of us watching on television. He appeared to give his speech, yet again, in front of another green backdrop - which, as you may remember, got him in trouble while he clinched the Republican nomination a couple months ago. The audience was left to wonder - even Karl Rove mentioned it on Fox.
But as the camera panned out, the backdrop began to make more sense - or did it?


What is that building, and what relevance does it have to McCain's acceptance speech?
A bit of digging by the folks over at Talking Points Memo may have solved the mystery. Could it possibly be?
Yes, the building was (quoted from TPM):

"actually the main building on the campus of the Walter Reed Middle School in North Hollywood, California...several readers have suggested that perhaps one of the tech geeks charged with setting up the audio/visual bells and whistles for the evening was tasked with getting pictures of Walter Reed Army Medical Center but goofed and got this instead. At first I thought, No, that's ridiculous. This is a major political party with big time professionals putting this together. Nothing is left to chance. I mean, is this the RNC or a scene out Spinal Tap or Waiting for Guffman? I still have a bit of a hard time believing they're quite that incompetent. But when you figure in what appears to be the utter lack of any logic for this school being behind McCain and the fact that it has 'Walter Reed' in its name, I'm really not sure you can discount this possibility.

(ed.note: Special bonus snark: That's not stock photo keyword searching we can believe in.)"

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