January 2005

Makyoh (Japanese magic mirror)

The Makyoh (Japanese for “magic mirror”) is an ancient art that can be traced back to the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC — 24 AD). They were made of metal, usually with an intricate pattern carved or cast on the back and the front polished to a mirror finish. The front looks like a smooth reflecting surface, but when sunlight or other bright light is reflected onto a wall a glowing pattern emerges. Usually the image seen would be the same as the image on the back of the mirror, often an image of the Budah or other focus for meditation. The art later moved to Japan (especially Kyoto), and after missionaries brought Christianity into Japan in the mid 1500s many mirrors were made with secret images of the Holy Cross or of Christ. Because Christianity was punished at the time, many Christians wore such magic mirror as a secret sign of their faith.

I just received a modern makyoh from the Grand Illusions toy shop, a wonderful site for exotic, clever and scientific toys (and they now accept PayPal). One thing I love about Grand Illusions is that they include videos and articles about how their toys work, including the magic mirror. Much as I respect the secrecy magicians have for their tricks, I much prefer the magic scientists perform — real magic isn’t spoiled when you know the secret, it’s even more amazing.

I’ve posted a few other pictures on my pictures page.

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Photo credit: Matt Yourst

In early November & late January MIT has a little local astronomical phenominon known as MIThenge, when the sun shines directly down the 825-foot infinite corridor that forms the spine of main campus. This year’s convergence starts at around 4:49pm EST for the next few days.

I always loved this little architectural Easter egg when I was a student, but according to the MIT News Office the phenominon is likely by accident rather than design:

Historical data suggests that the solar alignment was not intended by the buildings’ architects, who were more concerned with the view of the Charles River. According to a recent article in Sky & Telescope magazine, the phenomenon was noticed and publicized in the 1970s by Thomas K. Norton, a research affiliate in architecture. Students at the time did some calculations as part of a class project, and posters were put up around campus advertising a “sun set celebration.”

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Homeopathic remedy

This past Sunday I was really sore from dancing for four hours after a two-and-a-half-hour intro-to-yoga class. So a friend of mine offered some homeopathic-remedy pills (Arnica). I followed the directions and took four pills under the tongue, but the next morning I was still sore.

So then I started thinking… homeopathic medicine gets stronger the more you dilute it, right? So that next morning I took just two pills — kinda like taking twice the recommended dose of ibuprophin I figured. Even that didn’t seem to be enough though, so that evening I really pushed it and didn’t take any of the pills. And you know what? The next morning I wasn’t the least bit sore.

After that experience I’m afraid I went overboard, and started not taking all sorts of homeopathic remedies. I didn’t take Belladonna for headaches, took no Allium for my allergies and even avoided Ferrum Phosphoricum to improve my stamina. So far I feel great, but to be honest I’m a little concerned. After all, there are a lot of other homeopathic remedies I’m not taking, and most of them I don’t even know I’m not taking them! Could I be going too far with this? Is better living through lack of chemistry really the answer?

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House-wide VOIP

I just finished hooking up voice over IP so it services all my house phone ports, with the Motorola Voice Terminal hiding in the closet along with the house’s patch panel, DSL modem and firewall router where it belongs. I can’t say it was totally painless, but most of the effort was just gathering the right tools, connectors & knowledge. Useful resources included this general phone wiring primer and this one specifically on how to distribute VoIP throughout a home. Since I was starting kinda from scratch, I also found this basic page on how the heck to use a punch-down tool useful.

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Google gears up for inter-galactic advertising

DocBug ExclusiveGoogle revolutionized the internet. Now it is hoping to do the same with inter-galactic communication.

The company behind the US-based internet search engine looks set to launch a service that turns unused bandwidth into a powerful signal generator capable of sending advertisements to the far reaches of space. Thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable laid during the boom of the late 90s now lies dormant, and this so-called dark fiber capacity is available at a price that industry experts say is ripe for being turned into a giant planet-sized billboard.

Some believe this is the future for Google

Jules Hewlett, senior analyst at a company that talks to reporters about technology, said: “From an intergalactic advertising perspective there is a big appeal in the fact that Google is a search operation — and of course the Google brand is a huge draw.” We’re not sure what he means by this, but he’s very smart so we’ve quoted him anyway.

Though the project is hush-hush, Google spilled the beans about their new project by posting a job advertisement on their website that calls for a “strategic negotiator” to help the company to provide a “global backbone network” — in other words, an Earth-sized Light Bright.

By investing in capacity, Google could reroute packets to certain parts of the world, lighting up the dark fiber to spell out words or even full phrases that would be visible against the darkness of space for light-years.

Although Google is reluctant to talk about its plans, off the record people close to the company have called reports of the plan “mere speculation,” “baseless rumor” and in one case “the biggest load of malarky I’ve heard since The Times reported we were coming out with telephone service.”

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ISWC 2005 Call For Participation

We’ve just posted the Call For Papers for the 9th Annual IEEE International Symposium on Wearable Computers (ISWC 2005), to be held October 18 – 21st in Osaka, Japan. This will be the first ISWC in Asia, and I’m proud to be co-program chair along with Professor Kenji Mase-san from Nagoya University.

Initial submissions for all categories to ISWC 2005 are due on May 8th (just four short months from now) at http://www.iswc.net/ — see the CFP for details on potential topics.

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