Reefcasting The Google Chromecast

Google Chromecast bite pic.jpg

If you want to watch Netflix and YouTube on your television, you have a few options -  video game console, Blu ray player, smart TV, Apple TV, or Roku Box. Google has developed an alternative that is both more affordable and easier to set up  The Google Chromecast lets any iOS or Android device, as well as any computer running the Google Chrome browser, control video streaming on your television. For $35, it's a steal. Check out my video review below!

#ScienceLooksGood: The Superhero Shuffle


This is one of my favorite books of all time! The Physics of Superheroes is a fun read that uses known comic examples to explain properties of physics.  For example, Kakalios talks about how force, mass, and acceleration would come into play if Superman is actually able to jump over tall buildings in a single bound!

The author, Jim Kakalios, served as a science consultant for the new Spiderman movie. In the YouTube video below, he talks about the gig and exactly how he created the "decay algorithm" used in the film. Check it out!




As you can see, Jim is also a strong proponent of making science for everyone and avoiding complicated jargon and other mess that makes science hard to understand. I respect the man and I hope that my blog has a similar effect.

A Boy, a Man, and a VHS Player

Check out the hilarious video below of a filmmaker who left a video for himself 20 years ago. He obviously takes some editing liberties, but he's allowed to since he's talking to himself!

I never had a camcorder as a kid, but this is something I definitely would have done. I did, however, own a VHS player, and would often record my favorite shows and movies of the time. I was talking to my mom the other day and she still has her dedicated VHS rewinder, which I remember using especially for avoiding the extra charge that Blockbhster would penalize you for if your returned tape was not fully rewound.

Spaaaaace: Voyager Leaves the Solar System

Image from NASA. Not the best impression to send to another species

Licking, eating, and drinking. This is one of the images inside of Voyager 1, a spacecraft launched by NASA in 1977. NASA has received confirmation that Voyager has reached the edge of the solar system, becoming the first man made object to do so.

Voyager's primary missions of analyzing the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the early 80s. In the 90s, Voyager pointed itself back towards earth and captured the now famous Pale Blue Dot photo, showing our planet in all of us nothingness amongst the vastness of space. How many electronic devices do have that still work after all of that time? Who knows what Voyager will accomplish next?

Voyager is well prepared for anything interesting that it may bump into. Wonder how we will communicate? By using science that any space fearing civilization would need to know. For example, the plaque adorning the spacecraft can be translated in the following way:

The key to translating the plaque lies in understanding the breakdown of the most common element in the universe - hydrogen. This element is illustrated in the left-hand corner of the plaque in schematic form showing the hyperfine transition of neutral atomic hydrogen. Anyone from a scientifically educated civilization having enough knowledge of hydrogen would be able to translate the message

All of the other information, including greetings in multiple languages and scenes from Earth, is encoded on 12-inch gold-plated copper discs. As described, "each record is encased in a protective aluminum jacket, together with a cartridge and a needle. Instructions, in symbolic language, explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The 115 images are encoded in analog form. The remainder of the record is in audio, designed to be played at 16-2/3 revolutions per second. "

If we launched a probe now, would it contain a giant iPod? And would that iPod travel so far that it becomes reprogrammed by another species and eventually becomes self aware? That's exactly what happened with the Voyager spacecraft in Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Check out the film clip below of Captain Kirk making the discovery:

The Wall

One of the big discussions in the tech community has always been having an open source environment where anything goes, versus a closed environment where only filtered content is available. This discussion has recently manifested in the smartphone wars, with the open Google Android operating system vs the closed Apple iOS ("the walled garden"). TechCrunch has a great article covering the success of closed systems, stating that "the walled garden has won".

Giving all that power and control to Amazon, Apple, Google and Intel in exchange for security may ultimately be a reasonable and necessary tradeoff — but that kind of centralization of control still makes me more than a little uneasy.

Geeks hate control. We have the smarts, and we'd rather monitor and moderate ourselves. But that's just not going to work for the other 90% of the population.

My dream is that technology is regarded as an essential part of our society, which goes beyond people buying iPhones. Having a curated experience helps people of all generations to feel comfortable with technology without drowning in nonstop choices. People need a nudge in the right direction, just like they do with supermarket circulars, Amazon recommendations, and film reviews. It's the reason why it's easy to buy an iOS device and get the full experience by following the recommendations.

Part of it is a power play. The more open the environment, the more us geeks are in control. Because there are a sea of choices, we are the ones that hold the key to making sense of it all. In a closed environment such as iOS, people are fed suggestions based on what Apple highlights on the site, as well as "top 10" lists. Even though these can be gamed, people are not going to use something if it doesn't work for them. This is the benefit of the closed model - it is heavy on suggesting things to do, but it doesn't force the user to agree. Essentially, it reduces that amount of choices that the average person has to make.

Here's to the success of the wall - the more people engaged by tech, the more tech will be able to innovate. Let's keep the snowball rolling!