Archive for November 14th, 2007

Mixed Feelings II

On the one hand, this really is just about the height of excess.� On the other hand, I have to admit that having, essentially, a giant house that happens to be able to fly across the Atlantic would be pretty cool…

On Monday, a Saudi billionaire, Prince Walid bin Talal, placed an order with Airbus for his new private plane, the A380. That superjumbo will be the largest private jet on the planet. No hard figures were mentioned, but the asking price for an A380, which weighs 200 tons more than a Boeing 747 and has a floor space of about 6,000 square feet, is around $300 million. That is for the raw plane itself, hull, wings, engines, etc. — nothing to distinguish its interior from the hold of a cargo plane. But even unfurnished, the purchase of this Airbus offers some interesting numbers to think about.

For instance, the average-size house in America — about 2,300 square feet — would cost $106,812,000 at the price per square foot that Prince Walid paid. Even in California, this is a lot. Or think of it a different way. According to recent figures, a Manhattan apartment costs, on average, $1,013 a square foot. (Somehow that’s depressing enough in its own right.) At that rate, the prince’s $300 million would buy an apartment just under 300,000 square feet in size, a little more than six football fields. Throw in another $100 million or more to finish the interior of the plane to princely standards, and you’re talking real money.

All this, and what you get is a plane parked on the tarmac. When Airbus describes the fuel consumption of the A380 — reportedly lower than that of a 747 — it says that it’s better “than a small car,” per passenger. But keep your eye on the “per passenger” number. Airbus assumes that the plane will be carrying 555 passengers. Prince Walid likes to travel with an entourage of 50. It’s safe to say that fuel consumption per passenger on these princely voyages will be astronomical — and, in terms of the prince’s pocketbook, inconsequential.

Insane. I reckon that’s enough space for a video arcade, a gym, a bowling alley, and a screening room, in addition to living quarters. Maybe a swimming pool too, although I’m not entirely sure that that would be practical.

5 comments November 14th, 2007 at 08:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness

Mixed Feelings I

On the one hand, kinda cool. On the other hand, kinda terrifying…

College and high school students are helping MIT scientists develop an open source development kit for biological systems that could do for cells what Linux has done for computers.

As part of the International Genetically Engineered Machines competition held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last week, Peking University students created tiny assembly lines out of bacteria. Their entry, “Towards a Self-Differentiated Bacterial Assembly Line,” won them the grand prize among 50 teams from around the world.

“Biology is going to be able to make the things that we want,” said Tom Knight, an MIT engineer and co-founder of iGEM. “And when that happens, the economics of production are going to change dramatically. It doesn’t take a billion-dollar [facility] to make stuff. It takes a hundred-dollar incubator.”

…Knight and his colleagues Randy Rettberg and Drew Endy, who created the contest in 2004, want to make biological systems easy to build by applying the tools of computer science and engineering: using standard parts and modular design to simplify complex systems. The goal is to create “genetic Legos” that could produce any chemical, from ethanol to pharmaceuticals.


All of the teams contributed standardized DNA snippets, or BioBricks, to the Registry of Standard Biological Parts. One of the best new BioBricks was the Melbourne team’s gas-vesicles code. It results “in buoyancy chambers that can be booted up inside any bacteria,” Endy said. In other words, the BioBrick allows researchers to make floating bacteria at will. It could be used for harvesting bacteria that have generated a product, like biofuel.


New BioBricks are continually added to the thousands that already exist in the registry. The goal is to create an “Open Microbe,” an “open source chassis for assembling biological systems,” Knight said.

A consortium of universities will release the first draft of the BioBrick Public License in 2008. It will allow anyone to use the biological parts — essentially a cellular dev kit — for free.

Knight believes the collegiate competitors of today will be the Packards, Wozniaks and Bells of tomorrow.

“The last century was dominated by engineering based upon the scientific principles that come out of physics,” Knight said. “This century will be dominated by the engineering that comes out of biology and biochemistry.”

What could possibly go wrong?

November 14th, 2007 at 06:11pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Coolness,Science,Technology

Final Zenith Photoblogging

Last batch of Zenith photos… for now.

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Random taillight!

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Jumbo Juicer!

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Creepy Mannequin Head Of Death! Gah!

November 14th, 2007 at 11:42am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Liberal Media Bias Strikes Again!

Why don’t the media talk about the 3 Iraqi civilians that the Blackwater mercenaries guards shot lawfully?

Why do they hate America?

November 14th, 2007 at 07:55am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Iraq,Republicans,War

Wednesday Why-I-Love-The-Weekly-World-News Blogging

Weekly World News uncovers another shocker!

(By Mike Foster)

Abraham Lincoln was a woman – and the discovery of a secret cache of 43 photographs shot by famed Lincoln photographer Matthew Brady proves it!


“Although President Lincoln was known as ‘Honest Abe,’ it turns out she fibbed about one thing to the American people – her gender,” says [Jessica] Durbeen, author of the upcoming book, Lady Lincoln.

While the theory may sound preposterous, Durbeen cites some striking evidence that our 16th President was a woman in disguise, including:

o The discovery of a birth certificate for a baby girl named Abigail Lincoln, born in Hardin County, Ky., on Feb. 12, 1809 – the same place and date as President Lincoln.

o New medical evidence that Lincoln suffered from Marfan’s syndrome, a disorder that can make women unusually tall and gaunt, with long, gangling limbs and big hands.

o A jar of glue used by actors to apply fake beards, found among Lincoln’s personal effects at the Smithsonian Museum – along with a dozen sanitary napkins.

o A long-missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth, in which the presidential assassin rails against “the White House lover who spurned me.” (See: “Was assassin John Wilkes Booth Abe’s lover?” on page 6.)


Durbeen says she embarked upon her investigation after happening upon a tattered old Confederate pamphlet that charged that the Yankee leader was really female.

“At first, I thought it was just wartime propaganda, but then I took a closer look at a photo of Lincoln and realized the beard does look bogus,” the Lexington historian says.


Durbeen believes that Marfan’s syndrome stretched young Abigail Lincoln to her eye-popping height of 6-foot-4 and gave her a mannish physique.

“Between that and Abigail’s tomboy nature, it was perhaps inevitable that she would come to dress as a boy and in time insist upon being called ‘Abe,'” Durbeen says.

“Passing herself off as a young man, she went on to work in ‘macho’ jobs such as rail-splitter and surveyor – even enlisting as a volunteer in the Black Hawk Indian War.”


She also argues that Lincoln was the mother, not the father, of six children and that homely First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln was a man posing as a woman.

“Take a look at a photo of Mary Todd Lincoln and you’ll be convinced,” Durbeen says.

I wish there was an easy way to share the photos accompanying the story. My favorite caption: “IF THEY ONLY KNEW: Lincoln often wore a top hat to hide her long locks – as shown in this battlefield photo.”

November 14th, 2007 at 07:43am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Weekly World News

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