link dump ? for a change

now that i’m finished frantically trying to put out a raging forest fire with a watering sprinkler (for the moment, anyway), i’ve got the time to post a whole bunch of things that i’ve been reading recently, that make me go everything from “hmmm” to “AARGH! *#%&!!?!”…

first up, in the “AARGH! *#%&!!?!” category, Religious Tefillin Prompts Scare On Plane – the way i see it, a 17-year-old jewish kid was putting on his tefillin (“phylacteries“, for the uninitiated) in preparation for morning prayer, while at the same time, one of the flight attendents, who thought he was a terrorist, diverted the plane, where he was met by clown homeland security and a bomb squad. there’s so many levels of stupid here… my mind boggles… 😐

continuing to boggle my mind, in more ways than one, Slime mold validates efficiency of Tokyo rail network – more evidence (as if we needed it, which apparently we do) that the creationists are wrong… in more ways than one.

which brings me to the fact the following symbol, a full colon followed by a dash::–is called “dog’s bollocks” by typographers (much in the same way that the name for the symbol that represents “the artist formerly known as ‘Prince'” is called “bruce” by typographers: they’ve got to have something brief to call it), according to the Oxford English Dictionary. the interesting part is when someone delves into The Secret History of Typography in the Oxford English Dictionary… it just goes to prove that you can read the dictionary and find vulgar, 60-year-old emoticons. the only thing remaining is to see how long it will be before the L33T kiddies figure it out and start using it themselves…

there’s a rare (she’s been spending all of her free time studying these days) post from moe, about her new birthday present – yes, another dog. we are now, once again, officially a four-dog family. and the new one is obsessed with staring at the cats, in order to try to get them to move… it’s really funny… or frustrating, depending on whether or not lucy’s been at home all day.

and finally, this evening, Man Stuck In No-Man’s Land – a story from right around here… and it’s from the onion. it’s good to see the onion doesn’t ignore the little people… 🙂

Religious Tefillin Prompts Scare On Plane
US Air Flight Destined For Louisville From LaGuardia Diverted To Philly Int’l Airport
Passenger Took Out Religious Device, Prompting Security Response

Jan 21, 2010

A plane from New York’s La Guardia Airport was diverted to Philadelphia after a teenage passenger put on a religious item disrupting the Thursday morning flight.

Authorities say US Airways flight 3079 from LaGuardia to Louisville was diverted to Philadelphia after a 17-year-old male strapped on a “tefillin,” also known as a phylactery, used in the Jewish religion for prayer purposes.

Philadelphia police say a flight attendant had never seen tefillin before, which has two small black boxes with black straps attached to them. The attendant became alarmed and reported it.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) says they were notified of a “disruptive passenger” on the plane and as a result was diverted to Philly.

The Philadelphia International Airport, Philadelphia Police Department and federal authorities immediately went into Emergency Response mode and the plane that departed LaGuardia at 7:25 a.m. landed in Philadelphia at 8:50 a.m.

The teen and his 16-year-old sister were met by Homeland Security and the bomb squad.

“Per standard procedures, TSA and law enforcement personnel met the flight. The disruptive passenger was interviewed, the plane was swept with negative findings,” said the TSA.

Philadelphia Police Chief Inspector Joe Sullivan said the passenger was “completely cooperative.” After being removed from the plane, the teen explained it was a religious device and officers determined it was “harmless” and was of no threat.

The regional jet operated by Chautauqua Airlines under the US Airways name allowed to continue to the gate where the 15 passengers were interviewed by the F.B.I. and other federal authorities. The plane was finally able to depart for Louisville just before noon.

The teen, his sister and three other passengers opted not to take that flight.

No charges have been filed and Chief Inspector Sullivan praised the work of the agencies involved. “We are in a heightened state of alert so it is understandable that the stewardess would become alarmed and the flight crew, again, would err on the side of caution,” he said. “Our emergency response plan worked perfectly.”

Slime mold validates efficiency of Tokyo rail network
By Katherine Harmon, Scientific American
Jan 21, 2010

What do Tokyo commuter-rail designers and the slime mold Physarum polycephalum have in common? The two will build strikingly similar networks.

A Japan-based research team found that if they placed bits of food (oat flakes) around a central Physarum in the same location as 36 outlying cities around Tokyo, the mold created a network connecting the food sources that looked rather like the existing rail system. And when comparable “topographical barriers” were introduced onto the experimental plane, the links were even more similar.

Coincidence? Not at all, concluded the authors of the study, which was led by Atsushi Tero of the Research Institute for Electronic Science at Hokkaido University in Sapporo.

Like the humans behind a constructed network, the organism is interested in saving costs while maximizing utility. In fact, the researchers wrote that this slimy single-celled amoeboid can “find the shortest path through a maze or connect different arrays of food sources in an efficient manner with low total length yet short average minimum distances between pairs of food sources, with a high degree of fault tolerance to accidental disconnection”—and all without the benefit of “centralized control or explicit global information.” In other words, it can build highly efficient connective networks without the help of a planning board.

Far from a one-off biological curiosity, this experiment led the researchers to develop a mathematical algorithm for their model of adaptive network construction, which can be applied to other microbiological problems—and macro technological ones.

“Self-organization, self-optimization and self-repair as it naturally occurs in the slime mold Physarum polycephalum are capabilities that may be required for technological systems such as mobile communication networks or networks of dynamically connected computational devices,” Wolfgang Marwan of the Magdeburg Centre for Systems Biology at Otto von Guericke University in Magdeburg, Germany, wrote in a perspectives piece that accompanies the study, both of which will appear in the January 22 issue of Science.

Marwan called the mathematical model “beautifully useful.” He added that: “It quantitatively mimics phenomena that can be neither captured nor quantified by verbal description alone.” All aboard the slime mold express.