Elliott C. Back: Internet & Technology

April Fool’s Day 2008 Collection

Posted in Holiday by Elliott Back on April 1st, 2008.

Last year I wrote a post detailing April Fool’s day pranks in 2007 around the web that was both funny and well received, so this year I’m going to do it again! Let’s start with the worst, political humour:

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The goons at Editorial Cartoonists sure know how to make a point

Next Blizzard Entertainment is porting World of Warcraft to the console with their new title, Molten Core:

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Yeah, it’s for the Atari 2600 console. ROCK ON!

“Blizzard got its start in console gaming, and we’ve always been excited about returning to this arena,” stated Mike Morhaime, CEO and cofounder of Blizzard Entertainment. “Additionally, we’ve wanted to reintroduce the 40-player raid dungeon experience for some time. With World of Warcraft: The Molten Core, we’re able to do both.”

Another treat from Blizzard is the Tauren Marine from Starcraft 2:

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While most tauren were satisfied with their agrarian culture and primitive existence, the Confederacy was able to lure away large numbers of young bulls for a life of adventure and violence along the galactic rim. Other tauren referred to these adventurers as ‘mad cows,’ and they were ostracized from the rest of their kine.

Finally, Blizzard gives a new Class for World of Warcraft, the Bard. Endowed with the power of music, he hits awesome riffs and combos for extra damage!

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A nice touch is the upside down “axe” as guitar

Armed with a trusty axe, killer riffs, and a ton of attitude, the guitar-wielding bard is the second hero class to be introduced in the upcoming Wrath of the Lich King expansion for World of Warcraft. The bard excels both as a solo performer and as part of a solid group lineup, able to front in a number of roles as varied as his musical repertoire.

YouTube did the unthinkable, and Rickrolled everyone who visited one of their featured videos. So, there have been over 3,707,338 visits to Rick Astley-Never Gonna Give You Up so far today:

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Come on, even if you goatse.cx’d them it wouldn’t be that funny

Our friends at Google went nuts today, dropping literally dozens of April fools jokes. Here are the highlights. If you go to Google Documents and create a new document, you can click File, then “New Airplane:”

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This is adorable!

Additionally, there’s an “I’m feeling lucky” button on the Calendar which adds random hot dates to your schedule, archiving of pop-up and scratch and sniff books, Virgle, a manned mars station, and the ability to send GMail email in the future … or the past:

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Our researchers have concluded that allowing each person more than ten pre-dated emails per year would cause people to lose faith in the accuracy of time, thus rendering the feature useless.

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Adsense for real life is hilarious

Adsense for Conversations: “a new type of monetization solution that “puts the ‘context’ in contextual advertising”. Now, in just a few simple steps, you can begin displaying ads that are relevant to the topics you’re discussing — in an unobtrusive screen above your head.”

Computer nerd stuff retailer Think Geek has some skippable April Fool’s Products, including a peeing simulation for the wii, a usb pregnancy test, and caffeine cereal. Yeah, you didn’t miss anything there. On the other hand, the Pirate Bay is moving to Sinai, Egypt. Meanwhile, even the world’s largest criminal computer hackers running the Storm Worm sent out some April 1st spam:

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Yet no 0day for the lulz. Lucky us!

Not surprisingly, Anil Dash gets anal about April Fool’s day jokes, declaring “your April Fool’s Day joke sucks.” He’s right about Techcrunch’s “we’re suing Facebook” joke that just makes Michael Arrington, the founder and editor of the blog, look like a massive jerk.

Those are the big highlights, but for more, please check out Wikipedia’s April 1, 2008 entry. It’s full of more links than I could ever gather, read, or take screenshots of!

13 Things That Make No Sense: My Take

Posted in Science by Elliott Back on November 5th, 2005.

Sixsix has a long article about thirteen things in Science that make no sense, some of which are very interesting open problem. I have some opinion on all of them, so I’ll share it here!

1) The placebo effect: You give a saline or sugar solution to patients to trick them into thinking they receive treatment when they are actually not. The treatment works as planned.

My theory on this is that the human will or belief can affect physicality. If I want it to rain, the chance of rain increases correspondingly to my desire or belief that it will rain. A better way to describe it might be that if I truly believe in an outcome, that outcome has little choice but to actualize itself in the form you’ve set for it.

2) The horizon problem: The universe is 28 billion light years across, but has only been around for 14 billion years. Also, background radiation is uniform throughout the universe. Contradiction.

This is not a problem if you either assume that we do not have the capability to meaure the universe well, and that maybe the thing we think of as the universe is just some localized subspace of something we can’t yet comprehend. This is highly likely. The other explanation is that things are permitted to travel faster than c, the speed of light, which is probably true. There’s no such thing as an absolute limit.

3) Ultra-energetic cosmic rays: There’s a theoretical upper bound to the energy that cosmic rays can have, yet we’ve detected rays above this limit with no apparent source.

To me, this isn’t such a big deal. It’s just a case where the models we’ve built don’t match reality. Happens all the time.

4) Belfast homeopathy results: ultra-dilute solutions of histamine have a measurable effect on human white blood cells, even when there may not actually be any histamine left in the solution!

I should ask my dad about this. He’d be interested. *asks dad* So, my father who is a medical professional says that the community has a high distaste for the subject, much like science thinks UFO watchers and ID proponents are mostly psycho. Personally, from my study of chemistry, I’d have to take that opinion as well. For this to become even semi-legitimate, I’d need to see multiple studies all pointing the same way.

5) Dark Matter: The spin of the universe needs more matter than we have. So much more matter to produce the gravitational effects, that 90% of the universe might be dark matter.

This is unsatisfying. As the article mentions, it might make more sense to modify Newton’s laws over large distances and masses than to speculate that some mysterious dark matter exists.

6) Methane on Mars: The Viking lander detected methane being produced, but future missions could not detect any “organic” molecules needed for life.

Who says life needs organic molecules?

7) Tetraneutrons: It seems neutrons can bind in ways that in the classical model produce absolute chaos.

But then where do Neutron stars come from if Neutrons can’t bind to each other?

8) Planet X: The Pioneer starcraft have been pulled off-trajectory by a large planet.

Scientists have wondered if there’s another body in our solar system far, far out, some Planet X beyond Pluto, but they have never been able to find it. I suggest they keep looking.

9) Dark Energy: The universe is increasing its rate of expansion, still.

Why does the universe have to slow down? Maybe it’s alive, and just starting a big race or something. The universe isn’t tired yet.

10) The Kuiper Cliff: There’s a belt of icy rock, then nothing at all in the vicinity.

The speculation is that a large planet swept the area clean of debris–this is easy if you assume a Planet X.

11) A mysterious signal, received on 1420MHz, a frequency banned on earth.

“It was either a powerful astronomical event – or an advanced alien civilisation beaming out a signal.” Or EM pollution…

12) Constants not so-constant: John Webb analysed some light and found that a fundamental constant alpha had changed over time.

To me, this makes the most sense. It’s counter intuitive in a universe where everything is in a state of change for there to be such a thing as the “constant.” I believe Scientists will eventually find that not only do constants vary over time, but that any particular point they can only be represented by certain probability distributions.

13) Cold fusion: palladium + heavy water = instant energy.

There’s a good reason I will leave a comment here. Cold fusion is probably ridiculous.