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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Air Force's stealth fighters making final flights



  • Story Highlights
  • F-117 to have informal retirement ceremony Tuesday in Ohio
  • Jets first flew in combat in 1989 in Panama
  • F-117s being mothballed to free up money for F-22 Raptors

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- The world's first attack aircraft to employ stealth technology is slipping quietly into history.

The inky black, angular, radar-evading F-117, which spent 27 years in the Air Force arsenal secretly patrolling hostile skies from Serbia to Iraq, will be put in mothballs next month in Nevada.

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, which manages the F-117 program, will have an informal, private retirement ceremony Tuesday with military leaders, base employees and representatives from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The last F-117s scheduled to fly will leave Holloman on April 21, stop in Palmdale, California, for another retirement ceremony, then arrive on April 22 at their final destination: Tonopah Test Range Airfield in Nevada, where the jet made its first flight in 1981.

The government has no plans to bring the fighter out of retirement, but could do so if necessary.

"I'm happy to hear they are putting it in a place where they could bring it back if they ever needed it," said Brig. Gen. Gregory Feest, the first person to fly an F-117 in combat, during the 1989 invasion of Panama that led to the capture of dictator Manuel Noriega.

The Air Force decided to accelerate the retirement of the F-117s to free up money to modernize the rest of the fleet. The F-117 is being replaced by the F-22 Raptor, which also has stealth technology.

Fifty-nine F-117s were made; 10 were retired in December 2006 and 27 since then, the Air Force said. Seven of the planes have crashed, one in Serbia in 1999.

Stealth technology used on the F-117 was developed in the 1970s to help evade enemy radar. While not invisible to radar, the F-117's shape and coating greatly reduced its detection.

The F-117, a single-seat aircraft, was designed to fly into heavily defended areas undetected and drop its payloads with surgical precision.

A total of 558 pilots have flown the F-117 since it went operational. They dub themselves "bandits," with each given a "bandit number" after their first flight.

Feest, who is Bandit 261, also led the first stealth fighter mission into Iraq during Desert Storm in 1991. He said the fire from surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft guns was so intense that he stopped looking at it to try to ease his fears.

"We knew stealth worked and it would take a lucky shot to hit us, but we knew a lucky shot could hit us at any time," he said.

Incredibly, not one stealth was hit during those missions, he said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

World's Most Incredible Hotel Swimming Pools

Some of the world's most incredible swimming pools are in hotels and resorts. From the serene to the bizarre, here is a list 13 of my favorites from around the world.

1. Crown Towers Hotel: Taipa Island Macau


2. Intercontinental Hotel: Hong Kong


3. Burj Al Arab: Dubai


4. Banyan Tree Hotel: Intendance Bay, Seychelles


5. Golden Nugget Las Vegas. Yes that is a 200,000 gallon shark tank in the middle.


6. Hugh Hefner Sky Villa, Palms Hotel Las Vegas. This suite takes up the entire 52nd floor. The pool cantilevers off the edge of the tower.


7. San Alfonso del Mar, Chile


Giselle Yum - 420 Girl of the Day


420 Girl - Giselle Yum Miss Nude Exotic Islands 2000, Feature Entertainer, Model and 420 Girl, Giselle has many yummies to offer.

Gisselle Yum was born on May 6, 1977 in the Philippine town of Cebu. She emigrated to the U.S. at a young age, blossoming into a wonderfully curvaceous vision of exotic beauty. With a toothy smile, sparkling dark eyes and a plush, lushly curvaceous figure, Gisselle has got a look you won't soon forget.

It doesn't get much better than watching Giselle shedding her clothes in a grow house full of Cannabis. (Full Nudity - 90 Pictures)

Age: 28, Height: 5' 8", Weight: 119, Bust: 35C, Waist: 24, Hips: 34, Hair: Black, Eyes: Black, Birthplace: Philippines, Residence: California, Occupation: Model

Gisselle Yum is a foxy firecracker who brings a real sense of fun and excitement to each of her roles. Gisselle Lynn was born on May 6, 1977 in the Philippine town of Cebu. She emigrated to the U.S. at a young age, blossoming into a wonderfully curvaceous vision of exotic beauty. With a toothy smile, sparkling dark eyes and a plush, lushly curvaceous figure, Gisselle has got a look you won't soon forget.

Stay tuned for Giselle's 420 Interview coming soon!

See MUCH More of Giselle in the Member's Area
http://www.420girls.com/420/index.php?page=join

Indiana Hoosiers Cheerleader Gets Naked (NSFW)

Did you know that not all cheerleaders are your girl-next-door, clean cut, lets meet mom, type of girls? Some cheerleaders like to find that sharper edge in life. They like to party and live a little. One of these cheers for the Indiana Hoosiers. Some leaked photos of this Indiana Hoosiers cheerleader are doing the rounds now. I’ll warn you, they are NSFW.

Blue vs. Red - Russian Hooligan's

http://www.totallycrap.com/videos/videos_blue_vs_red/

This is great just an old fashioned street fight.

Mario Kart Wii Dated For US


Nintendo have announced a release date for Mario Kart Wii for the US: April 27

This looks like Nintendo's Best game yet. I still play the original Mario Kart on the N64 all the time!! Now I can play online, crazy!!

read more | digg story

Skywalker Last Supper Painting Made With 69,550 Star Wars Frames


This is what you get when you capture 69,550 full resolution frames from the six Star Wars movies and combine them with a version of DaVinci's Last Supper on a PC with mosaic-making software and a custom matlab-based algorithm. The 262-megapixel mosaic (24,168 x 10,864 pixels) took two weeks to complete, including 30 hours of computing power and manual retouching for the final version. Avinash Arora, the guy who did it, tells us about the process.

Star Wars Last Supper

starwars5.jpgstarwars4.jpg

starwars1.jpgstarwars3.jpgstarwars2.jpg
luke-skywalker-sample.jpg


Jesús Díaz: What materials did you use for creating this huge thing?
Avinash Arora: The 69,550-image collection I made is from all the movies. Originally I extracted EVERY image using vlc's image output plug-in from Episode IV, and used a photoshop programmed command to delete every 19 frames, and save the 20th. Only after that did I discover AndreaMosaic could do that for me, which saved me a ton of time in the other five movies. As the base, I used Eric Deschamps' Star Wars Last Supper painting done for Giant Magazine.

JD: What kind of computer did you use to do this?
AA: An Asus M2N SLI motherboard with AMD 5400+ X2, eVGA nVidia Geforce 8800GTS 640MB, and 2GB DDR2 Corsair XMS memory.

JD: What about the software?
AA: The original software I used is AndreaMosaic, but I found that the algorithm wasn't really producing the results I wanted. I ended up tinkering with the settings and producing dozens of sample mosaics to view, and I did some research and found out how it worked.

JD: Did you get what wanted at the end? What did you do to improve the quality?
AA: I created my own slightly modified algorithm to include pathlines of the strongest "importance" (or rather color distinction, so I could find pictures that followed the image's contours for every detail) I got more satisfying results. I kept tinkering with this one and made six full-size mosaics, until I finally settled on the last one...

JD: And that was that?
AA: No, I went to work on it by hand after that. I replaced at least a thousand images by hand that looked like they were out of place (my programming isn't perfect), and did some color corrections on others. The entire thing was done when I took sections and pieces from the mosaics I made with AndreaMosaic, my own matlab-based algorithm, and the original image I drew inspiration from, and put it all together in Photoshop (I also discovered that .psd files have a maximum size of 2GB, but luckily .raw files do not.)

JD: How long did it take you, then?
AA: Each movie's image extraction process took about an hour, that was the easy part. Each sample mosaic I made for testing took about 90 minutes. Each full mosaic I made took about 6-8 hours. Once I had the final mosaic and went to work, I'd say I put about 25-30 hours of work into touching up by hand.

The process (not including extracting the images from the movies) took me about two weeks from the time I made the first full mosaic, about a dozen samples, second full mosaic, dozen samples, etc.
During the two weeks I missed all but about two classes, and the day I finished I took an exam for a class I forgot I had...

JD: Geezuss...
AA: Don't worry, I still did well. :-)

JD: How big is the thing?
AA: Each image was about 640x272, but when placed into the mosaic they were shrunken down to 120 pixel wide. Each image is a full-quality jpeg, and they're cut up into folders (because my computer doesn't take too kindly to one folder with 69,550 files in it).

The final resolution of the image 24,168 x 10,864 pixels... 262 megapixels. Unfortunately I couldn't print it at the epic level I wanted to, which would have been a 5x11' composite, not a 3x6', and that would have been a 712-megapixel image. The guy who prints them says his computer is incapable of opening an image that large (which flattened would have been about 3GB... and uncompressed almost 40GB.) [Avinator]

Northrop Grumman's laser system passes second major milestone


Donald Melanson

Last we heard from Northrop Grumman it was making some steady progress towards a weapons-grade laser system, and it now looks like that's even closer to becoming a reality, with the company announcing that the system has passed its second major milestone with flying colors. According to the company, the key "laser chain" component was demonstrated on December 20th, 2007, and actually exceeded all target requirements, including reaching a power of 15.3kW, a good deal above the 12.7kW they were aiming for. That component is just one part of the so-called Joint High-Powered Solid State Laser Phase 3 Program, which is designed to combine eight laser chains for a peak power level of 100kW, otherwise known as the level deemed necessary for weapons-grade laser systems. While there's still no indication as to when that might happen, Northrop Grumman has gone as far to say that, with this latest test, "the hardest part is over," so it looks like it might not be as far off as you might think.


For all you out there who doesn't know who Chris Knight is:





Val Kilmer in REAL GENIUS

One String Willy

World's 8 Weirdest Hotels


Without sacrificing its estate-in-the-country dignity—or all of it, anyway—Giraffe Manor in Langata, Kenya, is arranged so that roaming giraffes can poke their heads into any open window or doorway with impunity and lather guests with their sticky, prehensile tongues.

read more | digg story

slideshow

Guitar Hero on a C64



as an added Bonus

Ethanol from Garbage and old tires

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Ethanol Factory: Coskata vice president Richard Tobey (above) stands before bales of hay, a feedstock that his company’s new technology can efficiently convert into ethanol. He’s holding the centerpiece of that technology, a bioreactor.
Credit: Thomas Chadwick
Multimedia
William Roe, Coskata's president and CEO, and Vinod Khosla, one of the company's main investors, describe the benefits of its technology.
View the process for making biofuels.

As he leads a tour of the labs at Coskata, a startup based in Warrenville, IL, Richard Tobey, the company's vice president of research and development, pauses in front of a pair of clear plastic tubes packed with bundles of white fibers. The tubes are the core of a bioreactor, which is itself the heart of a new tech­nology that Coskata claims can make etha­nol out of wood chips, household garbage, grass, and old tires--indeed, just about any organic material. The bioreactor, Tobey explains, allows the company to combine thermochemical and biological approaches to synthesizing ethanol. Taking advantage of both, he says, makes Coskata's process cheaper and more versatile than either the technologies widely used today to make ethanol from corn or the experimental processes designed to work with sources other than corn.

Tobey's tour begins at the far end of the laboratory in two small rooms full of pipes, throbbing pumps, and pressurized tanks--all used to process synthesis gas (also known as syngas), a mixture of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen. This is the thermo­chemical part of Coskata's process: in a well-known technique called gasi­­fication, a series of chemical reactions carried out at high temperatures can produce syngas from almost any organic material. Ordi­narily, chemical catalysts are then used to convert the syngas into a mixture of alcohols that includes ethanol. But making such a mixture is intrinsically inefficient: the carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen that go into the other alcohols could, in principle, have gone into ethanol instead. So this is where Coskata turns from chemistry to biology, using microbes to convert the syngas to ethanol more efficiently.

Down the hall from the syngas-­processing equipment, Tobey shows off the petri dishes, flasks, and sealed hoods used to develop species of bacteria that eat syngas. The bioreactors sit at the far end of the room. Inside the bioreactors' tubes, syngas is fed directly to the bacteria, which produce a steady stream of ethanol.

Coskata's technology could be a big deal. Today, almost all ethanol made in the United States comes from corn grain; because cultivating corn requires a lot of land, water, and energy, corn-derived ethanol does little to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and can actually cause other environmental damage, such as water pollution. Alternative etha­nol sources, such as switchgrass, wood chips, and municipal waste, would require far fewer resources. But so far, technology for processing such materials has proved very expensive. That's why Coskata's low-cost technique has caught the attention of major investors, including General Motors, which earlier this year announced a partnership with the startup to help deploy its technology on the commercial scale worldwide.

Sipping Ethanol
Combining thermochemical and biological approaches in a hybrid system can make ethanol processing cheaper by increasing yields and allowing the use of inexpensive feedstocks. But Coskata's process has another advantage, too: it's fast. Though others have also developed syngas-fed bioreactors, Tobey says, they have been too slow. That's because the bacteria are suspended in an aqueous culture, and syngas doesn't dissolve easily in water. Coskata's new bioreactor, however, delivers the syngas to the bacteria directly.

The thin fibers packed into the bioreactor serve two functions. First, they act as scaffolding: the bacteria grow in biofilms on the outside of the fibers. Second, they serve as a delivery mechanism for the syngas. Even though each fiber is not much bigger than a human hair, Tobey says, it acts like a tiny plastic straw. The researchers pump syngas down the bores of the hollow fibers, and it diffuses through the fiber walls to reach the bacteria. Water flows around the outside of the fibers, delivering vitamins and amino acids to the bacteria and carrying away the ethanol the bacteria produce. But the water and the syngas, Tobey says, never meet.

Enzymes built from scratch

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Catalyst creativity: Researchers developed a computational technique to build enzymes from scratch. An enzyme called retro-aldolase, a portion of which is shown above, was designed to break carbon-carbon bonds in a non-natural chemical substrate (yellow and white stick model). The gray mesh is the enzyme's active site, its geometry carefully crafted to hold the substrate in place. The orange and green stick models indicate components of the enzyme that are particularly important in prodding the reaction forward.
Credit: Lin Jiang

In a major step forward for computational protein design, scientists have built from scratch a handful of enzymes that successfully catalyze a specific chemical reaction. These proteins have no naturally occurring counterparts, and the reaction--which breaks down a man-made chemical--has no natural catalyst.

"It makes it clear that we can compute a structure that will catalyze a reaction where there was none before," says Frances Arnold, professor of chemical engineering and biochemistry at Caltech, who was not involved in the research. Arnold calls new enzymes the "holy grail" of computational protein design. Designing any protein from scratch is a tall order; engineering a protein that can carry out a given function requires far more sophistication.

David Baker and his colleagues at the University of Washington focused on a reaction that would break certain bonds between carbon atoms. The ability to design enzymes that can break and make carbon-carbon bonds could potentially enable scientists to break down environmental toxins, manufacture drugs, and create new fuels.

As they report in the journal Science, Baker and his group first designed what an ideal active site would look like for the reaction. An active site is a pocket within an enzyme where the catalyzed reaction takes place. In order to do its job, an active site must have precise geometry and chemical makeup, tailored to the reaction it catalyzes. Some components hold the reacting molecules in place, while others participate in the reaction's chemical mechanisms.

Once the researchers computed the active site, they used a newly developed set of algorithms to model proteins that have such a site. Each designed protein was ranked according to its ability to bind the reacting chemicals and hold them in the proper position.

The next step was to actually synthesize the selected proteins. The researchers derived gene sequences for 72 of the designed enzymes, ordered snippets of DNA containing those genes, and used bacteria to turn the genes into proteins. Each protein was then tested for its ability to catalyze the carbon-carbon bond breaking reaction.

Of the 72 proteins selected, 32 successfully helped along the reaction. The most efficient proteins sped up the reaction to 10,000 times the rate without an enzyme.

While that's an impressive feat compared with earlier enzyme design attempts, the synthesized enzymes pale in comparison to naturally occurring ones. "It's not very good at all," says Baker. "Naturally occurring enzymes can increase the rate of reactions by much, much greater amounts"--as much as a quadrillion-fold.

Saving energy in Data Centers

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Monitoring the conditions: This sensor, a prototype developed by the Networked Embedded Computing group at Microsoft Research, is sensitive to heat and humidity. The group envisions using sensors like these to monitor servers in data centers, enabling significant energy savings. The sensors could also be used in homes to manage the energy use of appliances.
Credit: Microsoft Research

Data centers are an increasingly significant source of energy consumption. A recent EPA report to Congress estimated that U.S. servers and data centers used about 61 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in 2006, or 1.5 percent of the total electricity used in the country that year. (See also "Data Centers' Growing Power Demands.") Concern about the amount of energy eaten up by data centers has led to a slew of research in the area, including new work from Microsoft Research's Networked Embedded Computing group, which was showcased last week in Redmond, WA, at Microsoft's TechFest 2008. The work attacks the energy-consumption problem in two ways: new algorithms make it possible to free up servers and put them into sleep mode, and sensors identify which servers would be best to shut down based on the environmental conditions in different parts of the server room. By eliminating hot spots and minimizing the number of active servers, Microsoft researchers say that the system could produce as much as 30 percent in energy savings in data centers.

The sensors, says Feng Zhao, principal researcher and manager of the group, are sensitive to both heat and humidity. They're Web-enabled and can be networked and made compatible with Web services. Zhao says that he envisions the sensors, which are still in prototype form, as "a new kind of scientific instrument" that could be used in a variety of projects. In a data center, the idiosyncrasies of a building and individual servers can have a big effect on how the cooling system functions, and therefore on energy consumption. Cooling, Zhao notes, accounts for about half the energy used in data centers. (He believes that the sensors, which he says could sell for $5 to $10 apiece, could be used in homes as well as in data centers, where they could work in tandem with a Web-based energy-savings application.)

Another aspect of the research, explains Lin Xiao, a researcher with the group, is new algorithms designed to manage loads on the servers in a more energy-efficient way. Traditionally, load-balancing algorithms are used to keep traffic evenly distributed over a set of servers. The Microsoft system, in contrast, distributes the load to free up servers during off-peak times so that those servers can be put into sleep mode. The algorithms are currently designed for connection servers, which are employed with services for which users may log in for sessions of several hours, such as IM services or massively multiplayer online games. Because long sessions are common, shifting loads requires complex planning in order to avoid disconnecting users and other problems with quality of service. Xiao says that the group has developed two types of algorithms: load-forecasting algorithms, which predict a few hours ahead of time how many servers will need to be working, and load-skewing algorithms, which distribute traffic according to the predictions and power down relatively empty servers.

Mashups made easy

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Mashups made easy: Intel researchers have developed a program that lets people with no programming experience use an ordinary Web browser to combine information from various websites into a single mashup. Here, a mashup extracts locations from news headlines and places them on a map.
Credit: Intel
Multimedia
Click here to view a Mash Maker video tutorial.

The Web, for all its usefulness, is still a fairly unorganized collection of information. For years, programmers have been connecting disparate bits of information by making "mashups," websites that combine information from two or more sources, such as Google maps and Craigslist rental listings. But mashup making has remained the domain of geeks who know how to program, or at least highly motivated novices who want to learn.

A new research project from Intel Research, in Berkeley, CA, is trying to take some of the mystery out of crafting a mashup. Called Mash Maker, the project aims to let people use their ordinary Web browsers to combine information from different sites. If, for example, you are looking at apartments on Craigslist, you can easily add information about nearby restaurants from Yelp, a recommendation site, essentially augmenting the data on the Craigslist page. With another few clicks of a button, you can put the apartments and Yelp listings on a Google map, which will also appear within the Craigslist page. The next time you visit the Craigslist page, you can reopen the mashup, and it will automatically use new data from the site.

The idea, says Robert Ennals, is to let people create their own custom-made Web. "Right now, the Web is a collection of islands; each has its own information, but they aren't really interconnected and personalized for you," he says. "We're trying to move to where the Web is a single source of interconnected knowledge, presenting information that you want to see the way you want to see it."

Mash Maker is one of a handful of services and products intended to help the motivated noncoder combine information from different websites. Last year, Microsoft introduced Popfly, a programming environment that makes it simple for nonexperts to build mashups. Yahoo Pipes is another recent project that lets people meld data from myriad sources--for instance, by combining news feeds from Digg and Slashdot that contain the word "software." (See "A More Personalized Internet?") And IBM is leading the effort to bring mashup building to the workplace, with Lotus Mashups, a program that lets people combine data from different business applications. (See "IBM to Release Mashup Software.")

Mash Maker differs mainly in its attempt to use the browser itself as mashup-making tool. Mash Maker is a downloadable program that integrates itself into the Firefox browser (versions for other browsers are planned for the future). Once it's installed, it can be used on a number of different programming levels, explains Ennals. For the average Web user with no interest in building her own mashups, Mash Maker will suggest premade mashups tailored to the sites she visits. For instance, if she goes to Facebook, it might suggest a mashup that would put the profile pictures of her friends on a map. If she goes to Expedia.com, it might suggest a mashup that adds information about legroom for different flights.

The next level of Mash Maker use, Ennals says, is building your own mashup. To do this, you use widgets, or little programs that appear in a side panel within the browser. To build the previously mentioned mashup of Craigslist, Yelp, and Google maps, the user would go to Craigslist, pull up the listings for a particular neighborhood--say, Bernal Heights in San Francisco--and click on the "address" widget. Immediately, address icons appear next to all the listings on the page. Then the user opens another tab in the browser and goes to the Yelp page, where she searches for restaurants in Bernal Heights and selects the "copy" widget. Going back to the Craigslist page, she selects the "paste" widget, and restaurant review icons pop up next to the address icons. To map both the Craigslist and the Yelp information, she selects the icons for the apartments and restaurant ratings she's interested in, then clicks the Google Maps widget in the side panel. The mashup can be saved into Mash Maker's public repository so that others in the community can use it

A little Death Metal

World’s oldest animation, 5,200 years old


Leaping Goat - World's oldest animation

An Italian team of archaeologists unearthed the bowl goblet in the 1970s from a burial site in Iran’s Burnt City, but it was only recently that researchers noticed the images on the bowl tell an animated visual story.

The oldest cartoon character in the world is a goat leaping to get the leaves on a tree.

According to an article in the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies:

The artefact bears five images depicting a wild goat jumping up to eat the leaves of a tree, which the members of the team at that time had not recognised the relationship between the pictures.

Several years later,Iranian archaeologist Dr Mansur Sadjadi, who became later appointed as the new director of the archaeological team working at the Burnt City discovered that the pictures formed a related series.

The bowl has some controversy associated with it. Some researchers claimed the tree on the bowl to be the Assyrian Tree of Life, but the bowl dates to a period before the Assyrian civilization.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Kris’s Archaeological Blog at About.com:

Now this is deeply cool. The Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO) in Iran has made a short film using the images on a bowl from the Burnt City. The Burnt City (Shar-i Sokhta) is a site in Iran that dates to about 2600 BC, and has seen some decades of investigation. The bowl shows five images of a wild goat leaping, and if you put them in a sequence (like a flip book), the wild goat leaps to nip leaves off a tree.

Bugs Bunny has nothing to worry about yet, if you ask me.

6 Things that Resemble the Death Star


It’s a simple shape, a sphere with a concave dish set in the surface. In 1977, the shape was forever linked to the movie Star Wars and is known as the Death Star. In the movie, it was a space station as large as a natural moon that housed the “ultimate weapon”, a planet-destroying laser.

read more | digg story

Naked Woman Bike Proves to World You Have Mommy Issues (NSFW)


Once in a while we come across an invention that's so ludicrously chauvinist, even our testosterone-fueled rants sputter to speechlessness.

read more | digg story

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