Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Website Design, Smart Writing Techniques, and a Ranting Lemming

Sometimes inspiration strikes, but it's aim is a little off. The Lemming was - inspired? - yesterday afternoon, and created a horror from the pits of 1990's websites:

'Kids, Don't Try This At Home:' An Affront to Aesthetics

I doubt that any company actually committed so many blunders in one place, but you've probably seen something like this:

Visit us again: 
brand-new website
coming soon!

Later, after the frenzy had passed, the Lemming realized that something like that didn't really belong on a 'business' blog. Not in that post, anyway:
Normally, the Lemming would have a micro-review of something helpful, interesting, or strange. That's not going to happen today.

Instead, the Lemming's going to rant about website design, SEO as an exercise in common sense, and why being clever isn't always being smart.

Website Design: The K*I*S*S Principle

The Lemming likes bright colors, loves to tinker with digital doodads, and thinks splash pages look cool. But the Lemming wouldn't design a financial consultant's webpage with a bright yellow background, navigation buttons that play excerpts from the 1812 Overture's cannon section, and an animated splash page displaying trout fishing in the Yukon. Remember, the Lemming likes bright colors, and has nothing against fish. Or the Yukon.

But those features violate the K*I*S*S principle. Actually, the yellow background doesn't - it's just a poor color choice for a 'serious' website, and that's getting in the psychology end of design.

Odds are pretty good that you've heard of K*I*S*S:


And, no, the Lemming is not calling you stupid. The acronym KIS doesn't spell anything - and that's another topic.

Basically, the idea of K*I*S*S is that if something isn't needed in a website: it should be left out. That doesn't mean that websites should be dull. If something's (really) needed, to focus a reader's attention: it's needed.

SEO isn't Complicated

The Lemming's been over this before. The 'secrets' of SEO aren't secret. They're also pretty simple:
  • Don't hire an SEO 'expert'
    • Unless your supervisor insists
      • Those five-martini lunches - - -
  • Remember that search engines read text
    • Not pictures
  • Write
    • Clearly
    • As briefly as possible
    • Using the simplest words possible
      • Your readers are smart
        • That's not the issue
      • If you're writing about houses
        • Write "house"
        • Don't write
          • Condominium
          • Domicile
          • Habitation
          • Whatever
          • Unless that's what you're writing about
            • Or you're pretty sure that's what your audience will look for
  • Your 11th grade English teacher was right
    • Tell your readers what you're writing about in
      • The headline
      • The first sentence
    • Odds are, your readers are looking for facts
      • Not fluff
  • Use bulletized lists
    • Like this one
    • Where possible
  • Put the important information in text
    • Not pictures
      • Okay: not entirely in pictures
  • Being 'clever' isn't being smart
    • Maybe keyword-rich gibberish in white text on a page's white background is 'clever'
      • The Lemming's yet to encounter someone who says that's a good idea and
        • Earns money from results
        • Has some experience with
          • Web design
          • Marketing
That's it for today. The Lemming plans to be back Friday, with - let's see, what does the Lemming's weekly schedule say Friday's post topic is - - - Right: The Lemming will post about "Whatever."

Vaguely-related posts:

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Tale of Two Mars Probes

"Next Stop Mars! Huge NASA Rover Launches Toward Red Planet"
Mike Wall, (November 26, 2011 )

"NASA has launched its next Mars rover, kicking off a long-awaited mission to investigate whether the Red Planet could ever have hosted microbial life.

"The car-size Curiosity rover blasted off atop its Atlas 5 rocket today (Nov. 26) at 10:02 a.m. EST (1502 GMT), streaking into a cloudy sky above Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here. The huge robot's next stop is Mars, though the 354-million-mile (570-million-kilometer) journey will take 8 1/2 months...."

"...NASA began planning Curiosity's mission — which is officially known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) — back in 2003. The rover was originally scheduled to blast off in 2009, but it wasn't ready in time.

"Launch windows for Mars-bound spacecraft are based on favorable alignments between Earth and the Red Planet, and they open up just once every two years. So the MSL team had to wait until 2011...."

One thing about the Curiosity Mars rover: The thing is big. Curiosity's heat shield is bigger than the ones used on Apollo missions. (June 20, 2009)

A tip of the Lemming's hat to for a pretty good, mercifully brief, explanation of launch windows. Orbital mechanics, and performance limits of today's spaceships, explain why Russia's Phobos/Fobos-Grunt mission had a launch date so close to Curiosity's.

Phobos/Fobos-Grunt: a Little Good News

"Russia 'makes first contact' with stranded Mars probe"
AFP (November 24, 2011)

"Russia on Thursday announced its scientists had for the first time made contact with its stranded Mars probe Phobos-Grunt, a day after the European Space Agency said it had received a signal.

" 'A signal from the probe has been received and some telemetry data. At the moment our specialists are working on this information,' the Interfax news agency quoted Russian space agency spokesman Alexei Kuznetsov as saying.

"Interfax said the signal was received at a Russian station at the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Thursday afternoon.

"The European Space Agency said its ground station in Perth, Australia made contact with the probe at 2025 GMT on Tuesday, the first sign of life from Phobos-Grunt since it got stuck in Earth orbit after launch on November 9.

"Russian officials had cautioned earlier this week that the chances were very small of saving the mission, which would require reprogramming the probe to send it off on its trajectory to Mars before the window for its journey closes...."

That's better news than what the Lemming had been fearing, about Fobos-Grunt. It still looks like Russia's current Mars probe doesn't have all that much of a chance at getting to its destination. Which is definitely not good news for folks in the Russian space program.

Elsewhere, the Lemming ran into news about a Yankee imperialist warmonger plot to foil the noble Russian endeavor. At least, that's what some folks believe.

Here's a rather calm news item about that flashback from the Cold War:

Not Exactly Nostalgia

"­Did US 'climate weapon' knock-out Russian probe?"
RT (November 24, 2011)

"Russian space experts are struggling to decode fresh telemetry signals received from the stricken Phobos-Grunt probe. Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that America's ionosphere research site in Alaska caused the spacecraft's failure. ..."

"...Meanwhile, a retired Russian general believes that the glitch which prevented Phobos-Grunt from carrying out its space mission was caused by American radar sites in Alaska.

"General-Lieutenant Nikolay Rodionov, who used to command the country's ballistic missile early warning system, told Interfax that 'the powerful electromagnetic radiation of those sites may have affected the control system of the interplanetary probe.'

"The general was apparently referring to the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) site located in Gakona, Alaska. The facility's stated purpose is the study of the ionosphere and its use for communication. But several popular conspiracy theories say it is developing a superweapon with potential to cause natural disasters on a global scale, including earthquakes, climate change and reversal of the magnetic poles...."

The Lemming remembers the 'good old days:' when folks upset by Yankee imperialists, commie plots, and conspiracies to fluoridate water, were a staple in the news. In some circles, that sort of thing never seems to get old - and that's another topic.

Seriously? Let's Look at Getting to Mars

Bottom line, one Mars probe seems to be off to a pretty good start. Another: not so much. The Lemming would like to see both get to Mars - particularly since Fobos-Grunt might have sent back a soil sample.

Well, maybe two years from now - - -

Related posts:
Other posts, about

Friday, November 25, 2011

Faster Than the Speed of Light: Maybe

"How Many Neutrinos Does It Take to Screw Up Einstein?"
Adam Mann, Wired Science (November 18, 2011)

"Results from a second experiment uphold the observation that neutrinos are moving faster than the speed of light. The OPERA collaboration, which first reported the superluminal neutrinos in September, has rerun the experiment and detected 20 new neutrinos breaking Einstein's theoretical limit.

"The findings are heartening to anyone hoping to see a major physics revolution in their lifetime. But scientists, as ever, are being cautious, and it will take an independent replication of the results by another team to even begin convincing many of them....

"...Neutrinos are subatomic particles with hardly any mass that are able to fly through most matter as if it weren't there. Despite their negligible mass, if they were somehow able to exceed the speed-of-light limit set by Einstein's theory of special relativity, it would present a major head-scratcher to modern physicists...."

Universal Speed Limit: Maybe

Quite a few observations made more sense, when Albert Einstein's math showed how the universe works when really large amounts of mass and/or energy are concerned. Or really small amounts. It wasn't that Newtonian physics was "wrong," quite. What Einstein's work did was provide a mathematical model that fit the way some extreme situations work.

The speed of light being a limit comes from what happens when an object is speeded up. Accelerating the object pumps energy into it, energy is equivalent to mass, and as the object approaches the speed of light - the added mass/energy would approach an infinitely large value. There's a sort or reverse-ski-slope curve that goes along with some explanations, and that's almost another topic.

There's a not-entirely-technical discussion of speed of light and all that online. Several, actually, including:

Physics, Statistics, and the News

"...In their first experiment, the OPERA team used statistical analysis to show this situation was unlikely, but other scientists were not completely persuaded. The new experiment produced neutrinos in bunches over just three nanoseconds, far shorter than the faster-than-light anomaly. The results were the same: Neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than the speed of light. The findings were robust enough that members of the OPERA collaboration who had refused to sign on to the first paper were now willing to put their name on the new one....

"...Tommaso Dorigo, a physicist at CERN, noted on his blog that there are still other possible sources of error. For instance, the OPERA collaboration's clock might not have a fine enough resolution..."

By Monday, the Lemming noticed mainstream news picking up the story, sort of:
What's happening is that scientists who didn't do the original experiments are pointing out possible errors: inaccurate/imprecise observations; unjustified assumptions in how the observations were analyzed; maybe even errors in the math.

My guess is that some of the objections have a bit of NIH ("Not Invented Here") behind them, but that's just human nature. It'd be unusual, to say the least, if data and conclusions like what OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus) published were greeted with a sort of triumphal ticker-tape parade.

That Wired article got it right:

Replicable Results

"...Ultimately, the only thing that would convince many in the field is if another team upholds the findings in an independent experiment. Plunkett, co-spokesperson for the Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) experiment at Fermilab, says that his collaboration expects to have results checking the OPERA findings in the spring of 2012."

There's a big difference between some crackpot claiming to have produced gem-quality diamonds from coleslaw: and the same crackpot publishing details of a replicable process for doing the same thing. Although I'd expect the person to file with the Patent office, and retain an attorney before publishing anything. More topics.

The point is that science is at least partly about doing something: and showing how the same thing can be done again. Ideally, by someone who isn't connected with the folks who did the first experiment.

That's what Fermilab will be trying to do.

The CERN facilities, by the way, produced neutrinos that OPERA picked up at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy. If CERN sounds familiar, that's the outfit with the Large Hadron Collider: the research tool that some folks said would destroy us all. The Lemming got quite a few posts out of the serious and silly sides of the LHC stories.

Back to OPERA, neutrinos, and physics: If the neutrinos were traveling faster than light, it's not by all that much. Researchers are debating over numbers of nanoseconds. That's a whole lot shorter than the blink of an eye.

Does the Lemming 'believe' that neutrinos have been traveling faster than light? That's the wrong question, sort of. The Lemming thinks that:
  • OPERA has come up with some fascinating results
  • Fermilab will be trying to do the same thing
    • Other labs, too
      • Most likely
  • Physicists without labs like CERN or Fermilab are
    • Sensibly raising points to study
    • Not-so-sensibly applying the NIH principle
We may know more in 2012. and "2012" is yet another topic.

Somewhat-related posts:

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Thanksgiving, Cartoons, and a Look at the Lemming

If you're in America: Happy Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving isn't until tomorrow: but odds are pretty good that you'll be doing something holiday-related tomorrow. So, the Lemming figured that getting holiday greetings in 24 hours early might be prudent.

Happy Day-Before-Thanksgiving-Day: or, not

If you're not in America, that first paragraph may have been a complete waste of time.

With that in mind, the Lemming cobbled together a list of previous posts - some almost related to cartoon design, or something else. Actually, the Lemming wound up with three lists. A few about Thanksgiving and other holidays snuck in, too.

"Snuck in??" "Sneaked in?" Never mind.

The Lemming introduced two turkeys last year, in another blog:
Somehow, they seem to have survived. And appear to be involved in a vast conspiracy to change America's eating habits. Particularly the habit of eating turkey around this time each year.

Beware the Gobblers?

Before someone stockpiles survival rations and cranberry sauce, and warns the neighbors that turkeys are controlling our minds - the Lemming categorically states that to the best of the Lemming's knowledge: no turkeys have conspired to make humans think eating meat is bad, or much of anything else. They're turkeys.

Come to think of it, that assurance, coming from an outsized, bipedal, flannel-wearing Lemming, may not be all that reassuring. After all, the Lemming may be part of the conspiracy!

Or, not. The Lemming's posted about this sort of thing before. If, for some unguessable reason, you're interested, check out the posts in "Conspiracy theories and how to not sound crazy," under "Vaguely-related posts."

One that didn't make the list is:

Art, Humor, and a Lemming With a Deadline

"I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."
Douglas Adams (English humorist & science fiction novelist (1952 - 2001))


Unlike Douglas Adams, the Lemming doesn't love deadlines. The Lemming doesn't even like deadlines. However, the Lemming thinks deadlines are a great help to the creative process.

There's nothing quite like seeing a clock inexorably changing its numbers: registering the hours, minutes, and seconds left before something absolutely must be ready for posting. There are quite a few things that are more pleasant: but not many that prod the imagination more effectively.

Without a deadline, the Lemming might have tinkered with that cartoon indefinitely: and might not have come up with anything better. With a deadline, at least there's something to show today.


Humor is nothing to laugh at. No, that's not what the Lemming meant. Try again: Humor is very serious. Wrong again. Time for a quote or two:

"Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious."
Peter Ustinov (English actor & author (1921 - 2004))

"The wit makes fun of other persons; the satirist makes fun of the world; the humorist makes fun of himself."
James Thurber (US author, cartoonist, humorist, & satirist (1894 - 1961))


The Lemming takes art seriously, but not fanatically.

This is where the Lemming could start discussing the esoteric end of art.

Like the Golden:
  • Ratio
  • Rectangle
  • Section
  • Whatever
It's one of those interesting mathematical relationships that, like logarithmic spirals, crop up at a crazy range of scales. And that's another topic.

But that deadline is approaching, fast. There's time for a couple more quotes, a picture, and not much else.

"Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere."
G. K. Chesterton
(English author & mystery novelist (1874 - 1936))

There's a lot to that, in the Lemming's opinion: What gets left out of a picture is at least as important as what gets put in. Distractions - well, they distract.

The Lemming, trying to figure out what to do for this year's Thanksgiving cartoon. (November 22, 2011)


"In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous."
(Greek critic, philosopher, physicist, & zoologist (384 BC - 322 BC))

Vaguely-related posts:

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemming Tracks: "password" As a Password?!

"25 Worst Internet Passwords"
Technology, (November 20, 2011)

"If 'password' is your password, chances are you've been the victim of a hack attack.

" 'Password' is the least successful, according to SplashData's annual list of worst Internet passwords.

"The list, notes, is somewhat predictable. Sequences of adjacent numbers or letters on the keyboard, such as 'qwerty' and '123456,' and popular names...."

Here's's complete list:
  1. password
  2. 123456
  3. 12345678
  4. qwerty
  5. abc123
  6. monkey
  7. 1234567
  8. letmein
  9. trustno1
  10. dragon
  11. baseball
  12. 111111
  13. iloveyou
  14. master
  15. sunshine
  16. ashley
  17. bailey
  18. passw0rd
  19. shadow
  20. 123123
  21. 654321
  22. superman
  23. qazwsx
  24. michael
  25. football

A Mild Rant By the Lemming

No pressure, but the Lemming strongly suggests that, if anybody out there is still using "password" as a password: CHANGE IT! Unless, of course, whoever uses "password" or "123456" as a password wants to get hacked. Why anyone would want that is a mystery to the Lemming. Normal human psychology is convoluted enough: never mind the non-Euclidean terrain of a mind seeking unwanted intrusions.

Mind you, SplashData / has compiled a list of abysmally bad passwords: not, the Lemming sincerely hopes, common passwords. After the high-profile hacks and access hassles of the last year: surely there aren't all that many folks out there who still use "password" as their password.

Still, you never know.

Strong Passwords

Absolute security may be impossible, but using pretty good passwords isn't. Lemming put a short list of resources at the end of this post, but as far as online security goes: You're on your own. This is the usual disclaimer: the Lemming assumes no responsibility for loss of data resulting from reading this post; unexpected weight loss may occur; not for internal use.

Okay, that's out of the way.

The University of Texas, Austin, had what seems to be a fairly common (and common-sense, in the Lemming's opinion) approach to making a password: use UPPER CASE and lower case letters; add numbers and punctuation marks in no particular sequence; more of the usual stuff. Some of which may not be allowed by the system you're using - again, in the Lemming's opinion.

A surprising number of companies are catching up to the Information Age: and that's another topic.

Finally, the U. of Texas, Austin, page has a piece of excellent advice that the Lemming can't recall reading elsewhere:

"...Make your password easy to type quickly. This will make it harder for someone looking over your shoulder to steal it...."
(Information Technology Services, University of Texas, Austin)

Related posts:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Gaylord: A Car, Another Car, a Company, a Town, and a Block of Wax

The Lemming recently learned that wax gets shipped by the gaylord. When someone asks for a gaylord of wax, they want an 11 pound slab of the stuff.

A pallet holds 200 gaylords, or 2,200 pounds of wax. That's a lot of wax. Probably more than you'll buy during a shopping trip to the local hobby shop.

The Lemming learned about that sort of gaylord while doing some analysis for Spiral Light Candle, and that's an example of shameless self-promotion. Also another topic.

After the Lemming got through crunching numbers about wax, candles, and related matters, an important question remained unanswered: What else does "gaylord" mean? Well, maybe not an "important" question: but an interesting one. From the Lemming's point of view.

After a little nosing around, the Lemming discovered that "gaylord" can mean quite a few things, including:Those discordant dates for Gaylord cars aren't as daft as they may seem. The American Automobiles website says that the Gaylord Motor Car Company made roadsters and grand touring cars, starting about 1910. Then, in the '50s, Gaylord Car Ltd. made a two door coupe. Different folks were involved in the two companies: no big surprise, considering the decades separating them.

Allegedly-related posts:

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

St. Paul, Minnesota, and The Curious Case of the Cherished Carousel

The Lemming had planned to write about what happened to St. Paul's Town Square Park. It used to be a remarkable indoor park area - occasionally used for social gatherings like high school proms. Alas! The fate of St. Paul's downtown Town Square Park remains a mystery. To the Lemming, anyway.

In sharp contrast, the fate of Cafesjian's Carousel, once of the Minnesota State Fair grounds, and briefly in residence at Town Square, was in the hands of folks who know how to tell a story.

A tip of the Lemming's hat to Our Fair Carousel, Inc., the not-for-profit owner and operator of Cafesjian's Carousel.

Who's carousel? As the Lemming hinted, there's quite a story about that.

Cafesjian's Carousel

Oddly enough, someone named Austin McFadden paid to have Cafesjian's Carousel built. The Lemming guessed that someone decided that "Cafesjian's Carousel" sounded cooler than, say, "McFadden's Merry-Go-Round." The Lemming was wrong. More about that later.

Cafesjian's Carousel/ has a nicely-done website about the St. Paul cultural landmark.


"Cafesjian's Carousel--History"
Our Fair Carousel

"A State Fair Tradition... Back in 1914, an enterprising man named Austin McFadden paid the Philadelphia Toboggan Company $8,500 to build a carousel, bring it to St. Paul, and assemble it on the grounds of the Minnesota State Fair. He ran it as a concession for many years, after which it passed into the hands of other families.

"Each year during the fair, Minnesota families would ride the carousel. Parents brought their children, grandparents rode with grandchildren, young people rode with friends and sweethearts, and over the years the carousel wove itself into the stories of thousands of families.

"Most of those families, perhaps believing that the State Fair owned the carousel, took for granted that 'their' carousel would be at the fair forever. That was not to be.

"Slated for Auction... In 1988, Minnesota carousel fans were shocked to learn that the privately-owned carousel had been put up for sale. By the time the story hit the newspapers on November 11, twenty horses and a chariot were on a truck headed for a December 10 auction in New York. According to the story, the carousel's owners had tried unsuccessfully to find someone to buy the carousel and keep it intact...."

There's more on that page, about what it took to keep the carousel in Minnesota, and in one piece. Not that "twenty horses and a chariot" are exactly one piece. "Intact" was a good choice of words, in the Lemming's opinion.

The Curious Case of the Cherished Carousel Continues

"...Operating at St. Paul's Town Square... The carousel moved into a new home at Town Square Park, an enclosed city park on the top level of a building in the heart of downtown St. Paul. The building housed a variety of stores and restaurants, and for about two years, business at the carousel was good...."
("Cafesjian's Carousel--History," Our Fair Carousel)

From another page on the website:

"In 1990, the carousel opened in an enclosed city park on the top level of Town Square in downtown St. Paul. (Note escalators in the foreground and shops on the level below the carousel.) Initially a shopping center, Town Square soon began to evolve into an office building, drawing few carousel visitors. By 1993, slow business at the carousel forced Our Fair Carousel to seek a new location."
("Town Square Larger View," Our Fair Carousel)

A Four-Season Indoor Carousel: Closing?!

"...By 1993, however, downtown retail business was in decline and Town Square itself was beginning a transition from retail to office space...."
("Cafesjian's Carousel--History," Our Fair Carousel)

Even the best merry-go-round needs people who want to go around merrily. And have time to do so. That transition from urban shopping area to buildings with 'office space for lease' in the windows was not good for Cafesjian's Carousel.

It's probably difficult to feel like a merry-go-round ride, when you're on coffee beak and worried about downsizing. And that's another topic, probably for another blog.

The Curious Case of the Cherished Carousel Concludes: For Now

"...New Home in Como Park... In spring 2000, Cafesjian's Carousel opened in a new, $1.1 million copper-roofed pavilion in Como Park. When the carousel is in operation, eight 14-by-14-foot garage-style doors can be opened in various configurations to suit the weather. Just outside the doors..."
("Cafesjian's Carousel--History," Our Fair Carousel)

The Lemming's glad that folks with the skills and level of interest it takes to work out arrangements for Cafesjian's Carousel. Moving that twenty-horse piece of Minnesota history across town, and having a place to set it up at the end of the trip, was a big job.

So was bringing it back to the way it looked in 1914. And that's another story:

Cafesjian's Carousel: Cool Name, and More

As the Lemming said, the carousel that Mr. McFadden paid a toboggan company to build didn't get its name on coolness alone. Back to Our Fair Carousel's website:

"Our Major Benefactor..."
Our Fair Carousel
"Cafesjian's Carousel is named for Gerard L. Cafesjian, who has contributed more than $1.2 million to its purchase, restoration and operation. Mr. Cafesjian was an executive with West Publishing Company; he is now retired and lives in Florida....

"...'I believe something special happens on a merry-go-round,' he said. 'The music, the magic and the movement combine to create a one-of-a-kind experience. When we preserve the carousel we also preserve that joy and hope--that happiness--for the entire community, for years to come.'..."

A sincere tip of the Lemming's hat to Gerard L. Cafesjian.

The Lemming Sounds Off

Folks like Mr. Cafesjian, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and others, are part of why the Lemming doesn't mind living in a world where a great many people have a great deal more money than the Lemming.

The Lemming thinks it's easier for a wealthy individual to decide that an old carousel is worth restoring, than it would be for some collection of bureaucrats.

Then there's Cousteau, who decided that Earth's oceans were more than just water, salt, and seaweed.

The Lemming's also run into self-important boors with more money than sense: but like everybody else, they buy food, clothing, and other necessities. Some of them pay a staff to carry out their crazy orders. That's where folks like the Lemming sometimes get their paychecks. And that's yet another topic.

St. Paul's Town Square: Closed Since 2001

"St. Paul's Town Square Park will be shuttered by year's end; The indoor downtown park that has hosted proms, weddings and noontime concerts has fallen to budget cuts.(NEWS)"
Joe Kimball, Star Tribune, via Highbeam Research (December 22, 2000)

"With little fanfare, downtown St. Paul's indoor Town Square Park will close at the end of the year, a victim of budget cuts.

"Closing signs had not yet been posted Thursday in the city-run park that has hosted band concerts, weddings, corporate events and lunch-hour naps for 20 years.

"By late next week, however,a gate is expected to be installed at the top of the escalators that come up from the skyway level, eliminating access to the 26,000 square feet of gurgling fountains and plants and trees that thrive under a canopy of windows...."

All that the Lemming has been able to learn about what happened to that outsized indoor facility is this caption: "The Town Square courtyard has been reopened in early 2003, but as a rentable space for events, owned by a private company." ("Town Square Complex," Fotki)

What the name of that rental company is, and whether the indoor park is still in use, seems to be one of the more jealously-guarded secrets in St. Paul. There's a hotel adjacent to the old Town Square Park, but they're remarkably reticent. 'Nuff said.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Phobos/Fobos-Grunt: Good News, Bad News, and Really Bad News

Updated 4:35 p.m. (November 14, 2011)

Mars Mission Most Likely a No-Go

"Russian Mars probe is likely lost, officials say"
Deutsche Welle (November 14, 2011)

"Russian officials have declared their country's Mars Phobos-Grunt probe, launched last Wednesday, as 'lost.' The mission was meant to head to a Martian moon, retrieve soil samples and then return to Earth by 2015.

" 'All attempts to obtain telemetric information from the Phobos-Grunt probe and activate its command system have failed,' quoted an unnamed Russian space sector source, as reported by the Interfax news agency. 'The probe must be considered lost.'..."

"...Popovkin brushed aside suggestions that if the probe indeed crashed to Earth, it would cause damage over a populated area.

" 'There are 7.5 metric tons of fuel in the aluminum tanks on board. We have no doubts that they will explode [and destroy the probe] upon re-entry,' Popovkin said. 'It is highly unlikely that its parts would reach Earth.'..."

That last bit, about bits and pieces of the Fobos-Grunt probe not reaching Earth's surface, strikes the Lemming as being a tad optimistic. Granted, we're almost certainly looking at a translation - and subtleties can get 'lost in translation' quite easily.

Still Trying: On a Deadline

"Russia Still Trying to Contact Stranded Mars Moon Probe"
Mike Wall, (November 14, 2011)

"Russian engineers are still trying to communicate with a wayward Mars moon probe, and they have until early December to fix the spacecraft and send it on its way, according to news reports...."

"Aborted Mars probe jeopardizes Russia's long-range space program"
Military commentator Konstantin Bogdanov, RIA Novosti (November 12, 2011)

"...Analysts are in no mood to exaggerate the situation with the spacecraft but note that its problems are more serious than an ordinary technical mishap. Russia's long range space program will now depend on Federal Space Agency efforts to reach the proper conclusions regarding the Phobos-Grunt incident...."

As the Lemming pointed out earlier, what's happening to Phobos/Fobos-Grunt is not good news for folks in Russia's space program.
First, the good news.

ROSCOSMOS, via BBCRussia's Phobos-Grunt mission, that should be spelled "Fobos-Grunt," to the Martian moon Phobos had a successful launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome and is in Earth orbit.

The massive robot spaceship carries China's Yinghuo-1 Mars orbiter; a landing module that's designed to land of Phobos, scoop up a soil sample, and send the sample back to Earth; and The Planetary Society's LIFE experiment. More about that last, later.

Now, the bad news.

Something went wrong. Fobos-Grunt stopped communicating with Russia's ground control.

It's still holding its orientation, staying pointed in one direction, but Fobos-Grunt is in trouble. Its orbit only goes out about 345 kilometers (214 miles) from Earth's surface. The air up there is really thin, but it's not a perfect vacuum. Eventually it'll slow Fobos-Grunt down enough to drop more than a dozen tons of spaceship somewhere on Earth.

Russia's Phobos/Fobos-Grunt: It Could be Worse

"Stricken Mars probe stays silent"
Jonathan Amos, BBC (November 12, 2011)

"Efforts are continuing to try to regain control of the Russian Mars mission that is stuck circling the Earth.

"The Phobos-Grunt spacecraft was put in orbit on Wednesday, but failed to fire the engine that was designed to take it on to the Red Planet.

"Engineers have been using tracking stations around the globe in an attempt to talk to the probe and diagnose its problems - but without success.

"Europe has offered Russia its assistance.

"The European Space Agency Spacecraft Operations Centre (Esoc) in Darmstadt, Germany, is now involved in trying to establish a link, using its antennas in French Guiana, the Canary Islands and on the Spanish mainland.

"The US space agency (Nasa) has also offered to do anything that might bring the wayward craft under full control...."

This is not good news for Fobos-Grunt, the Russian space program, or whoever gets fingered in the blame game that's almost sure to come. Still, as the Lemming said earlier, it could be worse. Back to the BBC:

"...Michael Murphy from Dayton, Ohio, posted on Friday: 'I just observed a pass of Phobos-Grunt and the Zenit second stage.

" 'The rocket body was tumbling slowly, and the probe itself appeared to be very steady as it passed.

" 'I did not get good timing information, but the probe was definitely steady. I saw no other objects along the track the probe followed,' he told the Phobos-Grunt thread on the SeeSat-L website...."

There is good news there. Michael Murphy spotted Fobos-Grunt, its rocket booster: but didn't see any debris nearby. Whatever went wrong, Russia's Mars ship is still pretty much in one piece.

Something with the tonnage of a largish truck waiting to fall back to Earth isn't good news. But, true to journalistic tradition, there's worse news:

Unsymmetrical Dimethylhydrazine! Nitrogen Tetroxide!! Radioactive Cobalt-57!!!

To be fair, this Discovery op-ed didn't use exclamation marks, and did point out that:
  • The chemicals with big names would "vaporize" long before impact
  • There's only "a small quantity" of cobalt-57 involved
"Toxic Russian Mars Probe Heads Back to Earth"
Analysis by Ian O'Neill, Discovery News (November 11, 2011)

"It's hard to believe that only last week we were getting excited for Russia's first interplanetary mission in 15 years to launch. By now, we should be happy in the knowledge that the ambitious -- and awesome -- mission is powering through space, toward the Martian moon Phobos.

"The reality is that we are now discussing uncontrolled reentry scenarios.

"As if that wasn't enough bad news, we are looking at an uncontrolled toxic reentry scenario. Phobos-Grunt -- correctly written 'Fobos-Grunt,' meaning 'Phobos-Soil' or 'Phobos-Ground' -- is fully-laden with unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide; that's ten tons of fuel and oxidizer. The probe itself weighs-in at only three tons...."

"...The majority of the fuel will likely vaporize during reentry, but everyone will be hoping for a splash-down in an ocean (which covers two-thirds of Earth, fortunately), as the wreckage will still be hazardous. There's also a small quantity of radioactive cobalt-57 in one of the science missions housed in the probe -- a fact that will most likely cause a media frenzy.

"It is for these reasons that the Russian media is dubbing Phobos-Grunt 'Most toxic falling satellite ever.'..."

While astronomers around the world are collecting data on the Fobos-Grunt orbit, and working out where it's likely to hit, Russia's higher-ups are doing their job. Sort of:

"...As we await the inevitable reentry of Phobos-Grunt, it would appear the Russian authorities are looking for someone to blame after a string of mission failures. According to a (translated) Interfax bulletin, an anonymous (expert) source indicated this may force reform in the Russian space agency, Roscosmos. Also, 'a number of positions of responsible persons' could face jail time...."
(Discovery News)

Meanwhile, back on Fobos-Grunt, there's a whole lot of hardware that probably won't get used. And some little critters sent by The Planetary Society:

Tardigrades to Mars

"...Not only was the mission designed to land and scoop-up some regolith (dust and rock) from Phobos' surface, returning it to Earth for analysis, it is also carrying a fascinating Planetary Society experiment called the Living Interplanetary Flight Experiment, or 'LIFE.'

"LIFE is composed of many different types of bacteria to small organisms that seem to tolerate the space environment pretty well. Tardigrades -- known as water bears -- were also a part of the payload.

"What was the point of sending microscopic organisms to a Martian moon?

"In an effort to understand how life appeared on Earth, the experiment would have put the hypothesis of 'panspermia' to the test. Panspermia is a proposed mechanism by with life may 'hop' from one planetary body to the next -- meteorites slamming into Mars, say, ejecting many tons of debris into space. Should any organisms be 'hitching a ride' on the debris, could they (or at least their genetic information) survive the interplanetary journey, and atmospheric entry, to spawn life on another world?..."
(Discovery News)

Depending on who's involved, what's happening to the Phobos/Fobos-Grunt mission is an embarrassment, a disappointment, or a life-changing disaster.

It's not easy, getting a ship to Mars. Besides the rigors of a long trip through interplanetary space, and working with new technologies, there's good old-fashioned human error:

Mixing Yards and Meters: Oops

"Metric mishap caused loss of NASA orbiter"
CNN (September 30, 1999)

"NASA lost a 125 million Mars orbiter because a Lockheed Martin engineering team used English units of measurement while the agencys [sic!] team used the more conventional metric system for a key spacecraft operation, according to a review finding released Thursday.

"The units mismatch prevented navigation information from transferring between the Mars Climate Orbiter spacecraft team in at Lockheed Martin in Denver and the flight team at NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

"Lockheed Martin helped build, develop and operate the spacecraft for NASA. Its engineers provided navigation commands for Climate Orbiters thrusters in English units although NASA has been using the metric system predominantly since at least 1990.

"No one is pointing fingers at Lockheed Martin, said Tom Gavin, the JPL administrator to whom all project managers report.

"This is an endtoend process problem, he said. A single error like this should not have caused the loss of Climate Orbiter. Something went wrong in our system processes in checks and balances that we have that should have caught this and fixed it.

"The finding came from an internal review panel at JPL that reported the cause to Gavin on Wednesday. The group included about 10 navigation specialists, many of whom recently retired from JPL...."

As HAL said, in the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey," "It can only be attributable to human error."


Not likely. Tardigrades are tiny critters, maybe a millimeter long, fascinating for researchers: but not smart.

The Lemming's posted about sounding crazy before. Recently:Now, posts about falling spaceships, Mars, and all that:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eleven; and Why is Six Afraid of Seven?

Earlier today, the Lemming promised - or threatened - to come up with another post. This is it.

Today is November 11, 2011. In other words, it's the 11th day of the 11th month of the 11th year after the year 2000: which is when the Y2K bug didn't bring civilization to its knees.

The number 11 is, of course, just simply fraught with purport, import, and significance: to say nothing of meaning, nuance, and overtone. Like, it's the number that keeps 10 from running into 12. Which reminds the Lemming of this bit of wisdom: "Why is six afraid of seven? Because seven ate nine!"

A Wikipedia article (not one of its best) reveals this astounding fact: 11 "is the first number which cannot be counted with a human's eight fingers and two thumbs additively." Amazing! If you're on Earth, see if you can find a human and verify this claim. Or, not. Come to think of it, you probably are human, and can try the experiment yourself.

The number 11 is trebly significant since it appears three times in the title of "11 11 11."

And 11 11 11 is the date on which another motion picture is released. Or escaped, depending on your point of view:

"Movies opening 11/11"
Minneapolis Star-Tribune (November 5, 2011)

"...Immortals (R) A mortal man is chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against a ruthless king. With Luke Evans, Henry Cavill and Mickey Rourke...."

There's more about "Immortals" (2011) at the IMDB website:

"...Eons after the Gods won their mythic struggle against the Titans, a new evil threatens the land. Mad with power, King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) has declared war against humanity. Amassing a bloodthirsty army of soldiers disfigured by his own hand, Hyperion has scorched Greece in search of the legendary Epirus Bow, a weapon of unimaginable power forged in the heavens by Ares. Only he who possesses this bow can...."

Somehow, the Lemming will restrain the urge to spend several hours and dollars for the privilege of viewing that cinematographic work at the local theater. Now, if a re-release of "My Neighbor Totoro" (1988) was playing - - - and that's another topic.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Lemming Tracks: Armistice/National/Poppy/Rembrance/Veterans Day

Today is Armistice Day, National Day, Poppy Day, Rembrance Day, Veterans Day, or just another day in November: depending on where you live, and how you see the world. I'm an America citizen, so many folks I know call it Veterans Day.

I think it's a significant day, for a variety of reasons, and have posted about that sort of thing before. Several times:I may be back with another post today, or not. Here in the non-virtual world, I've had quite a few distractions. And that's another topic.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Minneapolis Skyways: Warm Winter Walking

"Minneapolis Skyway System"

"The Minneapolis Skyway System is an interlinked collection of enclosed pedestrian footbridges that connects various buildings in Downtown Minneapolis enabling people to walk in a climate-controlled environment. The extensive system is renowned as the largest continuous system in the world,[1] and is compared to the underground cities of Houston, Texas, and Canadian cold-weather cities Toronto and Montreal.[2]

"The system forms a network of climate-controlled, pedestrian walkways that link sixty-nine full city blocks over seven miles (11 km).[3]..."

From the Lemming's point of view, Minneapolis is 'down south,' and that's almost another topic.

The Minneapolis skyway system makes sense here in Minnesota, where words like "winter" and "cold" have a different meaning than they do in, say, San Diego. Or Brazilia.

St. Paul, Minnesota, across the river from Minneapolis, has a skyway system, too. And, until 2001, had an indoor city park. And that is another topic. As the Wikipedia article said, cities that have enclosed and climate-controlled pedestrian areas aren't all that uncommon. Not in North America, anyway.

One of the Wikipedia map links still works, but another fell victim to website 'improvements' since it was posted. After a little nosing around, the Lemming found two useful maps on the Minneapolis city website. ( Since there's no telling how long those URLs will be useful, the Lemming archived both maps on a stable website:
The City of Minneapolis holds copyright on both those maps - and those links and archived copies are used without permission. More of the usual disclaimer: this discussion of Minneapolis skyways; display of image(s); links; and use of the letter M; are not intended to imply endorsement, or any other sort of connection, with the City of Minneapolis.

And, while the Lemming is thinking of it:
  • Observe traffic rules
  • Not for internal use
  • Drive safely
  • Recycle
Almost-related posts:

Monday, November 7, 2011

Lemming Tracks: Oklahoma Earthquake, "Unexplained Increase," and Sounding Crazy

You've probably heard about it by now: Oklahoma, a central-USA state, had a major earthquake on Saturday. Apparently nobody's been killed, or seriously injured.

Generally speaking, what happens in Oklahoma doesn't make the national news in this country. The big weekend quake, on the other hand, is news. International news:

Oklahoma Earthquake: Unusually Strong

"Fourteen homes damaged in record earthquake in Oklahoma"
Steve Olafson, Reuters (November 6, 2011)

"Fourteen homes were damaged late on Saturday in the largest earthquake to hit Oklahoma on record, emergency management officials said on Sunday.

"The 5.6-magnitude earthquake's epicenter, located 44 miles east of Oklahoma City, was felt as far away as Wisconsin and South Carolina, but there were no serious injuries, officials said. The Oklahoma health department reported two minor injuries, neither requiring hospitalization.

"The largest earthquake previously recorded in Oklahoma was a 5.5-magnitude tremor in 1952, according to the Geological Survey...."

So, what's the big deal? Fourteen homes damaged is important: for folks living in those buildings; and probably their friends, relatives, and neighbors. But it's not exactly earth-shaking news.

Well, actually, it was: literally. But the Lemming meant that it wasn't the sort of thing that's likely to affect folks living on another continent. Or even another state.

Being literal again, this Oklahoma quake was felt in another state. Several, actually, besides Wisconsin and South Carolina.

Quake Felt From Illinois to Texas

"Oklahoma's largest quake in decades buckles highway; rattles residents"
CNN (November 6, 2011)

"Central Oklahoma continued to experience dozens of aftershocks Sunday, nearly 24 hours since the state's strongest earthquake since 1952 was felt throughout the region.

"More than ten aftershocks measuring at east 3.0 magnitude were reported Sunday, in the hours after a 5.6-magnitude earthquake took residents by surprise Saturday night. The temblor rattled homes and structures, causing belongings to scatter in houses and sending strident, booming sounds through the area....

"...The 5.6-magnitude quake struck four miles east of Sparks in Lincoln County at 11:53 p.m. ET Saturday.

"It hit struck the same area where a 4.7-magnitude quake struck just hours earlier -- at 3:12 a.m. ET Saturday.

"By 8 a.m. Sunday, geologists had recorded more than 30 aftershocks.

"The strongest quake previously reported was of magnitude 5.5 on April 9, 1952, according to the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

"According to The Oklahoman newspaper, the weekend's tremors were reportedly felt as far away as Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas....

An earthquake being felt over several Midwestern states isn't all that odd. From what the Lemming's read, the central part of the North American continent acts more like one big piece of rock than the west coast.

That's because the Midwest doesn't have the west coast's wealth of more-or-less active fault lines. Shaking on one of the coastal fragments doesn't travel too well across that fractured terrain. Toward the center of the continent, the effect is more like hitting a gong: vibrations travel hundreds of miles. At least, that's what the Lemming's gathered is the case.

Back to the Oklahoma earthquake, and what's happening deep below the Sooner state:

Ancient Crack in the World: REACTIVATED!

"...The quakes happened near the location of a 4.7-magnitude quake last year near the Wilzetta fault, also known as the Seminole uplift, [state geological survey seismologist] Holland said....

"...At least one person was taken to a hospital in Prague with minor injuries, he [Lincoln County emergency services' Aaron Bennett] said.

"The man hit his head against a wall when he tripped and fell while trying to run out of his house, Bennett said....

"...'We know that this is an old fault, now reactivated, interacting with the North American plate and generating pressure,' said Holland...."

Okay, now this is starting to get interesting. The Wilzetta fault, that ancient crack in the world, has been - - - REACTIVATED! That must mean that someone - or SOME - THING reactivated it!!!

Sure, the Lemming realizes that Earth is a tectonically active planet, and that there's a huge mess of churning forces at work inside this 8,000-mile-wide sphere we call home. But that sort of common-sense approach seems so - commonsensical. Let's see what the fevered imagination of a Lemming can come up with:


"Oklahoma Hit With 10 Aftershocks Following 5.6-Magnitude Earthquake"
Associated Press, via (November 6, 2011)

"...The magnitude 5.6 earthquake and its aftershocks still had residents rattled Sunday. No injuries were reported, and aside from a buckled highway and the collapse of a tower on the St. Gregory's University administration building, neither was any major damage. But the weekend earthquakes were among the strongest yet in a state that has seen a dramatic, unexplained increase in seismic activity.

"Oklahoma typically had about 50 earthquakes a year until 2009. Then the number spiked, and 1,047 quakes shook the state last year, prompting researchers to install seismographs in the area...."

This is more like it! 'Deeply buried' in an Associated Press news item, the SHOCKING TRUTH!!! DRAMATIC, UNEXPLAINED INCREASE in SEISMIC ACTIVITY!!!!!

Remember: if you're going to sound like a crazy person in print, you should use ALL CAPS and TOO MANY EXCLAMATION MARKS!!!!!!! Screwball font choices help, too.

The Lemming's Mind: Off the Leash

Influenced, perhaps, by daylight saving time-induced jet lag, an autumnal cold/sore throat, and several cups of coffee, the Lemming's mind slipped out of its leash while writing this post. More about that in another blog:

Meanwhile, Back in the Real World - - -

A bit more seriously, the Lemming is very glad that nobody got killed - or even seriously hurt. As far as the Lemming knows, anyway. There's been a fair amount of property damage, and city planners should probably start re-evaluating building codes: and that's almost another topic.

The "unexplained" increase in earthquake activity may be a statistical fluke. Or it could be part of the process North America is going through, rebounding from the weight of the last major continental glaciation. Or maybe it's 'earthquake season,' part of a natural cycle we haven't found out about yet.

Part of the fun in science is that we don't know everything there is to know about how things work. It's the Lemming's opinions that the little regularities that humanity has noticed over the last few centuries may not be quite all there is to the laws of nature.

And that is another topic.

Related posts:
More, about the last 4,500,000,000 or so years:

Bright Lights of Broadway: On Another Planet?

"Alien City Lights Could Signal E.T. Planets"
Charles Q. Choi, Astrobiology Magazine, via (November 4, 2011)

"Astronauts in orbit around the Earth often gaze down on a world lit at night by city lights. Now researchers suggest that scientists could detect alien civilizations from similarly bright lights.

"Science fiction has long imagined entire planets covered with cities. Examples include galactic capitols such as Coruscant from the 'Star Wars' films and Trantor from sci-fi legend Isaac Asimov's 'Foundation' books.

"Assuming that aliens need light to see at night much as we do, theoretical astrophysicist Abraham Loeb at Harvard University and astronomer Edwin Turner at Princeton University reasoned that extraterrestrial civilizations would switch on city lights during the hours of darkness on their world...."

This might be worth trying: and requires fewer assumptions than SETI (Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence) techniques that won't work if folks out there aren't:
  • Actively trying to contact us
  • Use radio waves for communication
  • Make the same choices we do, for
    • Frequency
    • Message encoding
The article does point out that the 'city lights' search wouldn't work if ET is nocturnal.

On the other hand, someone said that we may be looking too close to other stars for people:

"...Another possibility involves looking for alien cities far away from the habitable zones of the closest stars, in their equivalents of Kuiper Belts. They would reflect less starlight since they are farther out, so any artificial light we detected from them would be more discernible. In that case, we could detect them with existing satellites if the nighttime lights were as bright as Earth's, Loeb said...."

The Lemming thinks another drawback to a 'city lights' search is what may be an explanation for why we haven't picked up any verifiable radio signals yet. Here in America, and elsewhere, we're starting to try limiting how much energy we waste by lighting up the sky. Downward-facing lights and other energy-saving techniques might cut down the chances that we'd see the bright lights of Broadway - on another planet.

Still, this 'city lights' idea is a step in the right direction - in the Lemming's opinion. What would make the most sense, if folks are serious about finding people elsewhere in the universe, would probably involve looking for what a large civilization couldn't help but produce:
  • Sources of heat that don't have an obviously natural source
  • Emissions anywhere along the spectrum
    • With narrow frequencies
      • That don't correspond to what elements emit when they're heated
Essentially, we'd be 'listening' for the equivalent of equipment in a factory, rush-hour traffic, or a garage band practicing. Impossible? Not in the Lemming's opinion. Unlikely? That's the 64-dollar question.

Sort-of-related posts:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Hello Kitty! Three A330 Airliners Raise Air Travel Cuteness Levels

"Even More Photos of EVA Air's Three New 'Hello Kitty' Airplanes"
JetSetCD, jaunted (November 2, 2011)

"Last week, in a frenzy of excitement, we broke the news (for English-language press, at least) that Taiwan's EVA Air would celebrate their 20th Anniversary by bringing back the old, immensely successful Hello Kitty-painted airplane. Instead of only one as before, however, there'd be three A330s, each with a unique paintjob and the full treatment of Hello Kitty-ization on the inside and out.

"That alone was awesome news, and now we have more. Although the Hello Kitty plane routes only operate from Taipei-Taoyuan International to Tokyo, Fukuoka, Hokkaido, Seoul and Hong Kong, EVA Air has just begun long-haul flights from New York-JFK to Taipei...."

(EVA Air, via jaunted, used w/o permission)

These "Hello Kitty" airliners may not be everyone's cup of tea: but the Lemming's hat is off to EVA Air for raising the cuteness quotient of air travel. The jaunted article's photo gallery has more (adorable?) photos and renderings of the Hello Kitty planes. Including a look at the interiors.

One of the interior renderings is really, really pink. With Hello Kitty artwork on the headrests that are so sweet, EVA Air may want to consider warning passengers with diabetes to pack extra meds.

Did the Lemming mention that these are cute airliners? Extremely cute?


Allegedly-related posts:

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Earthquake Data Inspires Techie Art

"Catastrophe Becomes Art With 3D Printing"
Sarah Mitroff, Geek Tech, blog, PCWorld (November 1, 2011)

"It's been almost eight months since the massive 9.0 Tōhoku earthquake hit Japan, leaving devastation in its wake. In an attempt to extract art and beauty out of that terrible event, British artist Luke Jerram has created a 3D-printed sculpture of the seismogram (the read-out from a seismometer) from that earthquake.

"Called the 'Tōhoku Japanese Earthquake Sculpture,' the piece is 11 inches long by seven inches wide and is made of frosted beige-yellow rings. Jerram constructed the piece by taking the design from a nine minute span of seismometer data from the earthquake and creating a 3D image with a computer aided design program. Then he printed the design using a rapid prototyping machine...."

(Photo and sculpture by Luke Jerram, via Wired, used w/o permission)

It's remarkable, what folks can do these days. The sort of information technology Luke Jerram used to create this sculpture is, the Lemming has read, generally used to make parts for in-development gadgets and machines like automobile engines. Not exactly 'artsy' stuff.

The Wired post is a nice-enough piece, giving the writer's impression of the sculpture. There's also a link to photos and a video on the sculptor's website. (

What the Lemming didn't find in the Wired article - or the page that the link leads to - was anything about what that warm beige material was. Some sort of synthetic, presumably: but that's guesswork on the Lemming's part.

As far as the Lemming's concerned, it's an attractive piece of art - and an intriguing application of modeling technologies.

The Tōhoku earthquake is what some folks are calling 東日本大震災 - that huge earthquake that hit parts of eastern Japan back in March. Maybe you read about it: The Fukushima power plant was international news for quite a while after the quake and tsunami, and other places didn't fare too well either.

Vaguely-related posts:
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