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Play a game to save lives; what an excellent approach. This was a solution put together by the Cancer Research UK team, after their exposure to GameJam, a project based on the concept of using games to translate/process data. Figuring out what kind of game would draw people in, to make them want to play, was not that difficult. Figuring out how to map that game space to the data set in a meaningful way, that would present the data to the players as game challenges, and collect their responses as statistically significant paths through the data to the best solutions, was noticeably more difficult. The brainstorming must have been intense, and the results are amazing; thanks to Scientific American for the heads up on this one!

The Solar storm slamming into the upper atmosphere is creating some amazing aurora viewing conditions tonight. These displays will be visible as far south as Virginia according to Accuweather. They put together a very nice map showing what kind of viewing conditions you will have in the US and Canada which you can see at that link. Of course, it may also disrupt the power grid and interfere with satellite communications, but the solar flare is causing an amazing visual display across the northern sky. If you live in any of the places marked as fair or good viewing, head outside and look to the sky.

If you are into science in any form, or any kind of educational software, Scientific Linux is your best choice. It is put together by the folks at Fermilab in collaboration with the team at CERN, and you would be hard pressed to find a better group of pure scientists on the planet. It has install distro’s, which is where the real power is; the packages you install will determine what all it can do. Right out of the box it comes with Apache installed and ready to run, like any good variant of Enterprise Linux, and it uses the openafs file system, making it fully compatible with most education and research facilities. To start with I recommend going for the Live CD or Live DVD, which you can run right off the disk, without touching your currently installed operating system. That will give you the opportunity to get familiar with the operating system before you decide to install it, as well as give you a collection of office, programming, internet, and multimedia software. If you have an older system you want to install it to, it has the option of using icewm as your desktop rather thane Gnome or KDE, which need a lot more RAM. It is built on top of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which is an incredibly stable environment. And if you think it is missing some important software, one of the kinds of tool sets it has are things that allow you to install it, install whatever additional software packages you like, and then make your own Live CD, Live DVD, or boot-able memory stick from it, using things like revisor, livecd-tools, or liveusb-creator. The latest version, 6.5, was just released and is ready to be run.

I actually took some time off the other week, and besides attending NADWCon I spent a bit of time at the National Aquarium while hanging out in Baltimore. One of the more interesting exhibits was the Jellyfish section, which had quite a selection of types. As I remembered from swimming in the ocean, Jellyfish are not real good at orienting to the local up and down, which should be a bit of a plus for surviving in space (or any other zero G environment).

Jellyfish at National Aquarium
Jellyfish at National Aquarium

The folks over at Academic Earth believe everyone deserves a world-class education, so they have put together a collection of free online courses from the top schools on the planet, including Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Not content to stop there, they have also put together a wonderful little collection of short educational videos they refer to as Electives, designed to tweak your curiosity, engage your attention, and encourage you to seek out more information. The example I am embedding here is from a true literary classic, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book named for the temperature at which books burn. I will be ransacking this excellent site for months and years to come taking advantage of the resources freely on offer, and I urge you to do the same. Thanks to the folks at Worlds Without End for the heads up on this one.

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They are a little pricy at 1.35 million dollars each baseline (options cost you more), but in the first month they went on sale they took orders for 3,000 of them. Called the Kuratas after their designer, Kogoro Kurata, when you order yours from their web page you can even have it customized with the various weapons systems they offer. They have been out for about a year now, and they do have a disclaimer on their home page that these are sold as works of art, not as combat mechas. Thanks to Rocket News 24 for the heads up on this one.