Technology

Send your name to Mars, be discovered by aliens…

NASA has recently gone all gung ho with plans to examine, terraform and eventually massacre populate our solar system’s much publicised and enigmatic red rock, the planet Mars.

Mars: As seen from the Hubble Telescope.

In an attempt to gain the support and interest of today’s youth, as well as the media, NASA have resorted to using social media to reach the masses. As a result, a variety of Twitter accounts now exist so one can follow the journey of astronauts in space, the launching of new rockets and satellites, and be privy to the latest discoveries and developments regarding the deepest reaches of space.

In an added attempt to further spur interest in this newest of space races, NASA are giving individuals the option to add their names to a list that will be placed on a chip and sent off to Mars on NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Rover in 2011. In other words, this is your infinitesimally small chance of being discovered by aliens and inviting yourself to be anal probed becoming a part of human space exploration history. Besides, registering lets you download this “cool and ultra exclusive certificate”:

 

Hans Haupt's NASA Certificate of Participation

  • To add your name to the list and, as NASA likes to remind you, ‘become a part of history’ *rolls eyes*, click here.
  • To follow the progress of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Rover on Twitter, click here.
  • For more about NASA’s attempts to reach Mars, click here and here.
  • To learn how to make a smashing ‘Little Green Man from Mars’, click here.

If you are curious to know more about the fourth planet from the Sun, read on, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Mars is the fourth planet from the Sun in the Solar System. The planet is named after Mars, the Roman god of war. It is also referred to as the "Red Planet" because of its reddish appearance, due to iron oxide prevalent on its surface.

Mars is a terrestrial planet with a thin atmosphere, having surface features reminiscent both of the impact craters of the Moon and the volcanoes, valleys, deserts and polar ice caps of Earth. It is the site of Olympus Mons, the highest known mountain in the Solar System, and of Valles Marineris, the largest canyon.

In addition to its geographical features, Mars’ rotational period and seasonal cycles are likewise similar to those of Earth.

Still, of all the planets in the Solar System other than Earth, Mars is the most likely to harbour liquid water, and perhaps life. Radar data from Mars Express and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have revealed the presence of large quantities of water ice both at the poles (July 2005) and at mid-latitudes (November 2008). The Phoenix Mars Lander directly sampled water ice in shallow Martian soil on July 31, 2008.

Mars is currently host to three functional orbiting spacecraft: Mars Odyssey, Mars Express, and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. With the exception of Earth, this is more than any planet in the Solar System. The surface is also home to the two Mars Exploration Rovers (Spirit and Opportunity) and several inert landers and rovers, both successful and unsuccessful. The Phoenix lander recently completed its mission on the surface. Geological evidence gathered by these and preceding missions suggests that Mars previously had large-scale water coverage, while observations also indicate that small geyser-like water flows have occurred during the past decade. Observations by NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor show evidence that parts of the southern polar ice cap have been receding.

Mars can be seen from Earth with the naked eye. Its apparent magnitude reaches −2.9, a brightness surpassed only by Venus, the Moon, and the Sun, although most of the time Jupiter will appear brighter to the naked eye than Mars.

 Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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E3 2009: Nintendo and Sony Press Conferences

E3 2009 
It is once again that time of year. The time of year when not only does yours truly become another year older, but also a time when the entire video games industry goes into a frenzy of elusive reveals, shocking announcements and mind blowing revelations. It is a dream of mine to one day attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles. Consequently, that dream may, hopefully, be closer than I realise but more on that later.

This has been the first year that I have managed to stream and successfully watch all three E3 press briefings from Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony. Yesterday was Nintendo and Sony’s chance to shine, given how Microsoft blew everyone away. So, how were the other conferences?

E3 Nintendo 2009

Oh my guava! Nintendo never stood a chance! For a company which has always been proud of innovation and catering for children, this was most probably one of the most boring conferences I have ever seen. Not just mind numbing, but also completely lacklustre. What happened to the spark that Nintendo used to always have? The energy and playful youthfulness? Instead there were just ‘suits’, talking in monotonous tones and droning on about sequel after sequel after sequel *yawn*. What happened Nintendo?

The following constitutes the main and most exciting Nintendo announcements:

  • Facebook photo uploads for the DSi
  • Wii Remote Plus – adding precision and functions which should have been there from the start
  • New Wii Titles: Super Mario Wii, Metroid Prime M, Wii Sports Resort (successor to Wii Sports), Super Mario Galaxy 2
  • New DS titles: Kingdom Hearts, Golden Sun, COP: The Recruit, Mario VS Donkey Kong,
  • Biggest announcement: Wii Vitality Sensor

Okay, so let us get something straight. The biggest and best announcement for Nintendo’s E3 showing, which will apparently usher in a new era of game play, was… a heart rate monitor?! Are you kidding me? Seriously? Seriously! Nintendo, what the heck? I can just imagine what it will be like:

“Hey, who is up for some Wii? Let’s play. Oh, but wait, before we do, let’s check our ‘vitals’ to see if we’re healthy enough. You can never take your health too seriously you know, what with Ronald McDonald and all”. Alternatively, “I’m  sorry little Johnny, but you can’t play Wii anymore. The Wii Vitality sensor says your heart might explode if you do”. Oh yeah, fun times – The Wii Vitality: Every obese child’s worst nightmare!

Granted, if you are a devout Nintendo fan you would most likely have enjoyed the press conference, especially the announcement of the new Metroid and Mario games. Granted some of the announced games do look good, but only less than a handful are exclusive to the Wii. The rest can be found on other more capable consoles. In the end, I stand by my opinion that Nintendo’s conference was the most uninspiring of the three. Better luck next time!

After Nintendo’s dismal showing, anything Sony did would have been great. Thankfully, Sony didn’t disappoint.

E3 Sony 2009Last night, just as the Sony press conference started, we had a power outage. Turns out that one of the ‘phases’ from the municipality blew out. Thankfully we have a three ‘phase’ house, so we switched the main power over to one of the other ‘phases’. As a result, and after an hour of mild *cough* cursing, I finally managed to watch the show.

Sony’s conference was great. From the fantastic club beat, before the show started, to the announcement of over 364 new games, over the three available Sony platforms, I was left feeling pleasantly surprised. In truth, Sony did a good job of making the show as flashy as possible. Even so, it paled in comparison to Microsoft’s E3 press event, which featured celebrities, exclusive announcements and technology that is truly revolutionary.

The following constitutes the main and most exciting Sony announcements:

  • PSP-Go officially announced: $250, 50% smaller, 40% lighter, Bluetooth, 16GB internal memory, Memory Stick Micro support, slide form factor, no UMD drive
  • Most notable PSP game announcements: Resident Evil, Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, Gran Turismo
  • Most notable PS3 game announcements: God of War 3, Agent (new Rockstar franchise), Final Fantasy XIII, Final Fantasy XIV Online, Gran Turismo 5, MAG (256 players online), The Last Guardian (New ICO game), Modnation,
  • Most surprising announcement: Playstation Motion Controller

The big trend this year was ‘motion control’. Ironic, considering how Nintendo introduced and commercialised motion controls with the Wii while, at the time, both Sony and Microsoft shrugged it off as a ‘gimmick’. Two years later and each of the gaming industries titans now have motion controls of some kind. Go figure!

Sony’s new motion controller resembles a Wii-mote with one major difference… a colour changing golf ball like protrusion on the top. Furthermore, the new controller uses the Playstation eye for motion capture, similar to Microsoft’s Project Natal. In essence, Sony’s motion controller is a mild mix of both the Nintendo Wii-motes and Microsoft’s Project Natal (but no where near as sophisticated). However, and in my opinion, I do believe that Microsoft’s Project Natal is the true evolution of game play mechanics and will emerge as the victor in this battle for motion control supremacy. Just think of what Tom Cruise could do in Minority Report, using just his hands, face and voice – that is Project Natal!

The conferences this year were great. Microsoft completely stole the show, allowing Sony to take a respectable second place while poor Nintendo struggles to learn from past, and current, E3 blunders. Since this has all been about E3 and you all know how it is a dream of mine to go, and since my birthday is in a few days, I thought that I may answer the statement that I have been alluding to.

Next year I will be turning 25, which is a quarter of a century and halfway to fifty. Consequently, for my 25th Birthday, my father has agreed to send me to tour the states for a month or two, as well as to attend E3 (I almost screamed when he told me, I am so excited). The best part? I get to take someone with me to enjoy the experience! How cool is that? Well, when it happens, you can be sure that I will blog and Tweet every moment of it!

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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E3 2009: Microsoft’s Press Conference

Electronic Entertainment Exposition 2009

It is once again that time of year. The time of year when not only does yours truly become another year older, but also a time when the entire video games industry goes into a frenzy of elusive reveals, shocking announcements and mind blowing revelations. It is a dream of mine to one day attend the Electronic Entertainment Exposition (E3) in Los Angeles. Consequently, that dream may, hopefully, be closer than I realise but more on that in another post.

Microsoft's E3 Press Briefing 2009 For the very first time I managed to stream and successfully watch the entire Microsoft E3 press briefing. All two hours of it. How was it? Absolutely mind blowing! Eurogamer’s Ellie Gibson managed to sum it up perfectly: “E3 2009 may not have officially kicked off yet, but it’s already been a show to remember. After all, it’s not every day you get to see the likes of James Cameron, Paul McCartney and Pele chatting about videogames. Nor is it every day you get to have a conversation with a virtual 10 year-old or play Burnout with an imaginary steering wheel” (Project Natal Hands-on, Eurogamer, 2009). Yes, it was that good!

The following constitutes the main and most exciting announcements (For the full press release, please click here):

  • Facebook integration
  • Twitter integration
  • Last.FM integration
  • Xbox Live Video is now Zune Video On-demand: all content is 1080p (full HD) with 5.1 surround and is streamed (no queues or downloads)
  • Avatar Marketplace: buy new clothes and props for your Avatar as well as Avatar “unlockables” via achievements.
  • Most notable game announcements: Beatles Rock Band, Crackdown 2, Forza 3, Splinter Cell Conviction, Alan Wake, Metal Gear Rising, Halo 3 ODST and Halo Reach.
  • Most surprising/awesome announcement: ‘Project Natal’ – You are the controller via facial recognition, voice recognition and full body motion capture. Think Minority Report like functionality, for all games and all of the time. Simply incredible!

In all honesty, the Microsoft E3 press briefing was astounding. Short of announcing a successor to the Xbox 360, no one could have suspected the true capabilities of ‘Project Natal’. This is truly an evolution in video game play. The Nintendo Wii came close, but from what I have seen, ‘Project Natal’ blows it out of the water!

Here is an excerpt from an IGN article by Scott Lowe (full article here) )with impressions of the Microsoft E3 press briefing demo of ‘Project Natal’:

“Surprisingly, Microsoft not only unveiled the initial details of Project Natal to the media today, they also demoed the product live and in person. Members of the development team demonstrated two tech demos — a painting game and a kickball-style game. The painting game essentially has players using virtual cans of paint to splash on a canvas and create images. The painting game really showed the technology’s ability to detect arching movements and swift, but subtle hand motions. The kickball scenario, on the other hand, displayed how the camera could intelligently detect a player’s arms, legs, and head’s orientation and velocity in 3-D space. For the kickball game, the player swatted, kicked, and headbutted kickballs to knock down distant objects. What was impressive about both demos was the speed and efficiency of the device. As far as we could tell, there was little or no lag between a player’s motion and the in-game reaction. Equally impressive was how effectively the camera detected the precise angle of a player’s thrusts, jabs, and kicks, and how accurate the subsequent in-game representation was” (Scott Lowe, IGN 2009).

Microsoft Xbox – ‘Project Natal’ Product Featurette

 

There is so much more to discuss about ‘Project Natal’ that I will dedicate an entire post to this revolutionary form of game play in the near future. However, if you cannot wait to learn more, check out these videos:

Tonight is Sony’s conference and tomorrow is Nintendo’s. Microsoft have undoubtedly set the bar high and only time will tell if the other video game giants will be able to compete or outdo the competition.

Until the next time “Milieunairs”!

 

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Spray on ‘Vaginal Nano Condom’… Say what?

Okay, I have become addicted to Twitter. I believe it is a fantastic way to help aid in my constant quest for knowledge, perhaps of the useless and nonsensical variety, but not always, which, you have to admit, is usually of the best kind. As truth be told, I am a shameless social media whore… and I love it!

Through the people I follow and those who follow me, I have been introduced to a multitude of social and new media websites which I never knew existed. Furthermore, these website may have a direct correlation to my future studies within the field of communication. Thus, I am thankful that a service like Twitter exists, even if only to bring a smile to my face, courtesy of, for example, Darth Vader.

Over the course of the last few days I have come across a lot of great information. Information I care to share with others and which I do through both Twitter and Facebook. However, I would also like to share the same kind of information with you, the Milieu Pal. My dilemma, however, is how to do this without my blog turning into just another one of those which regurgitates information from the web. Then again… should that not be alright? After all I would be writing about that which has caught my interest. I have thought about doing a weekly post entitled “A week in Links” but that may prove ineffective for the media savvy among you, as well as potentially tedious for yours truly *fondly reminisces back to the days of Music Monday (I reckon I will be bringing this back), Tabloid Tuesday and Freakology Friday (Almost brought this back for this post, since today is Friday and the topic rather relevant)*! I am currently undecided as to what to do. When I eventually figure it out, you will be the first to know. Now on to the reason for this post!

BioCROSS Medical - Vaginal Foam Condom Just imagine this. You are with your girlfriend, everything is going as planned. You have let her dine on chocolate, strawberries, whatever gets her on, and have enjoyed a half a bottle of Champaign, all the while being serenaded by Barry Manilow’s seductive voice. You know the time is right, so you whisper softly into her ear “I’m going to fill you up, like never before, with my Silver Nano-Particle foam”. Say what?!

BlueCROSS Bio Medical is a Chinese corporation who have developed a ‘nano particle foam condom’. All you have to do is squirt the stuff into your nearest vagina, until full and foaming at the lips, and presto… you are good to go! Apparently once the foam has been squirted into the vagina “it forms a physical membrane preventing conception and protecting against infection” (H-Plus, 2009). Furthermore, the spray is said to use a “polyvinyl alcohol resin as its base material, infused with nano-silver, providing both a spermicide and antiseptic lubricant that helps prevents sexually transmitted diseases” (H-Plus, 2009).

So what do you think? Are you ready for the next step in the evolution of contraceptives? Only time will tell if this method of contraception is effective. Hopefully it is otherwise, as you read this, I would imagine that several thousand unplanned Chinese pregnancies are underway.

[via Crunchgear, via H-Plus, via BioCross Medical]

Until the next time Milieu Pals!
 

Omegle – Talk to strangers… anonymously?!

Since I am now addicted to Twitter, almost as much as Facebook, I am privy to a variety of information from potentially unlimited sources. Consequently, it was through Veronica Belmont that I was introduced to Omegle.

“Omegle is brand-new service for meeting new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick another user at random and let you have a one-on-one chat with each other. Chats are completely anonymous, although there is nothing to stop you from revealing personal details if you would like” (Omegle, 2009)

Naturally, being the Internet junkie that I am, I tried out the service the moment I had Internet access. Honestly, it feels like the good old days when instant messaging was just kicking off and people were experimenting with the web and IRC chat rooms. Remember that? Ultimately, Omegle is a very cool utility, but one that will no doubt be used for seedy and lewd internet chats – you all know what I am talking about here, and you know, that when I say I know that everyone has done it at least once, that I speak the truth.

Subsequently, below is one of the more amusing transcripts of my time with Omegle, one I knew would eventually take place, and thus had to share, since we know that the web is often littered with deviant miscreants (present company excluded, of course *smirk*):

 Omegle

Talk to strangers!

1334 users online

Connecting to server…

Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.

You’re now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!

Stranger: heya

You: hi

Stranger: how is it hanging?

You: Where it should 😉

Stranger: im a little to the left

You: Oh alright, a kink is different. You may be regarded as somewhat unique

Stranger: i have been told this a couple times….

Stranger: once by your mother

Stranger: she didnt seem to mind thou

You: I am glad she was able to provide some comfort to your disability

Stranger: she didnt move alot thou why is that?

You: Isn’t it obvious? She could barely feel a thing

You: People do not move when they are not excited.

Stranger: hmm maybee i should have shown my boobs more….  

You: Perhaps that could have worked.

You: Everybody loves a little nipple now and again

Stranger: only a little?

You: Yes, less nipple = more boob  

Stranger: ahh sounds like fun

You: Not as much fun as Poke-her though

Stranger: pingas?

You: Guash man, get it right.

Stranger: so this omegle thing 4chan is havinging its way huh?

You: It does appear that way, does it not? It certainly has had its way with me… I feel degraded…

Stranger: did it touch you in a bad spot?

You: Not as bad as I thought it would be… got used to it after a while.

Stranger: you know we are getting a kick out of it right?

You: I am black and blue all over now… so I would have to agree.

Stranger: so i take it we lost the game……

You: Just by an inch… maybe two

Stranger: FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

Your conversational partner has disconnected.

Contrary to the above waste of time ‘chat’, I did manage to have a rather interesting conversation with a very charming and well educated girl from Alaska, who is currently in her first year of studying ‘International Studies’. No name or contact details though, which is somewhat frustrating, but a pleasant experience none the less.

So if you have the time and you really have nothing better to do, then why not head over to www.omegle.com and have a random time wasting chat with some random stranger. Why not, other than time, what have you got to lose?

Until the next time Milieu Pals!