Monthly Archives: April 2007

a cat walks onto a bus…

No, it’s not the first line of a bad joke.  According to the Daily Mail:

Bus drivers have nicknamed a white cat Macavity after it has started using the No 331 several mornings a week.

The feline, which has a purple collar, gets onto the busy Walsall to Wolverhampton bus at the same stop most mornings – he then jumps off at the next stop 400m down the road, near a fish and chip shop.

I don’t quite get the nickname, but the rest of it is oddly fascinating.  I can totally imagine Kahlua getting on the Number 11 and heading over to a diner.

in which I get to say ‘spelunking’ and ‘microbots’ and ‘Mars’

Cool (from

A Mars-orbiting satellite recently spotted seven dark spots near the planet’s equator that scientists think could be entrances to underground caves.


The researchers hope the discovery will lead to more focused spelunking on Mars.

A project here on Earth aims to refine the visual and infrared techniques  THEMIS used to find the Martian caves and to also develop robots that can one day enter the caverns and explore them.


The researchers are also considering other robotic design possibilities, including the deployment of several miniature robots together into a cave.

“You could throw out an array of microbots in a birdshot approach over an area where you think there is a cave,” Wynne told . The microbots could then use sonar or some other method to confirm the presence of a cave and pinpoint its location.

Wow.  I mean, caves on Mars, detected by microbots scanning for their heat signature.  Just wow.

TGV gets even faster (and maybe comes to California)

Oh, can we please order about a dozen of these?

A French high-speed train, with a souped-up engine and wheels, breaks the world speed record near Grigny, eastern France, Tuesday, April 3, 2007, reaching 574.8 kph (357.2 mph). The black and chrome train with three double-decker cars, named the V150, bettered the previous record of 515.3 (320.2 mph), set in 1990 by the French fast train. However, it fell short of the ultimate record set by Japan’s non-conventional magnetically levitated train, which sped to 581 kph (361 mph) in 2003.

More at the Houston Chronicle.  To save you the math, 350 mph gets one from San Diego to San Francisco in an hour and a half, an order of magnitude faster than Amtrak currently manages.   And that’s not just wishful thinking, either:

Hours before the run, Transport Minister Dominique Perben received a delegation from California, which is studying prospects for a high-speed line from Sacramento to San Diego, via San Francisco and Los Angeles.

There’s still a long way to go, but perhaps by the time Ben wants to explore California on his own, he’ll be able to go by (really fast) train.

just taking a stroll

Think Progress paints a slightly different picture than John McCain would like:

Sen. John McCain strolled briefly through an open-air market in Baghdad today in an effort to prove that Americans are “not getting the full picture” of what’s going on in Iraq.

NBC’s Nightly News provided further details about McCain’s one-hour guided tour. He was accompanied by “100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead.” Still photographs provided by the military to NBC News seemed to show McCain wearing a bulletproof vest during his visit.

McCain recently claimed that there “are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods, today.” In a press conference after his Baghdad tour, McCain told a reporter that his visit to the market today was proof that you could indeed “walk freely” in some areas of Baghdad.

I’m so glad to see that the security situation has improved so dramatically.  I’ll be sure to visit Baghdad for my next vacation, provided I can hire my security force in time.