Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017
Saturday, March 11th, 2017
We examine the possibility that Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs) originate from the activity of extragalactic civilizations. Our analysis shows that beams used for powering large light sails could yield parameters that are consistent with FRBs.
I’m guessing Paul Gilster may have thoughts on this.
Monday, January 30th, 2017
A marvellous story of early twentieth century espionage over the airwaves.
In one proposal, hidden instructions were interspersed within regular, ordinary-looking messages by slightly lengthening the spaces between dots and dashes.
Monday, December 26th, 2016
One might think sending messages to other stars would be a massive, expensive job. No. It isn’t. The Cosmic Call was essentially a crowdfunded hobby project.
Tuesday, December 13th, 2016
This is absolutely fascinating—listen live to radio stations all over the world by rotating our planet in your browser.
There’s something really addictive about eavesdropping on the world’s airwaves like this.
Monday, December 5th, 2016
I always loved the way that Gov.uk styled their radio buttns and checkboxes with nice big visible labels, but it turns out that users never used the label area. And because it’s still so frickin’ hard to style native form elements, custom controls with generated content is the only way to go if you want nice big hit areas.
Saturday, October 29th, 2016
We find that the detected signals have exactly the shape of an ETI signal predicted in the previous publication and are therefore in agreement with this hypothesis.
Friday, September 23rd, 2016
This is rather lovely: explore a network of nodes, each of which contains the audio of a child describing a dream.
Inspired by the concept of an 8th continent to which all children belong, RadioEight is an interactive soundscape dedicated to the hidden world of dreams.
Friday, May 13th, 2016
Ah, how I wish that this were published at a long-lived URL:
The one part of the web that I believe is truly genius, and that keeps standing the test of time, is the URI. The Web gave us a way to point to anything, forever. Everything else about the web has changed and grown to encyclopedic lengths, but URIs have been killing it for decades.
And yet the numbers show we’re hell-bent on screwing all that up with link-shorteners, moving URIs without redirection, and so forth. As always happens in technology we’ve taken a simple idea and found expedient ways to add fragility and complexity to it.
Saturday, November 7th, 2015
We have made a radio reconnaissance of the star KIC 8462852 whose unusual light curves might possibly be due to planet-scale technology of an extraterrestrial civilization.
Nothing to report yet.
Sunday, September 6th, 2015
Tuesday, July 21st, 2015
Sunday, December 14th, 2014
Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
James takes a tour through the English countryside, while venturing into areas of the electromagnetic spectrum that may as well be labelled “Private Property. No Trespassing. Keep Out.”
Thursday, November 27th, 2014
A lovely little science hack: listen to whatever radio station is broadcasting below the position of the International Space Station.
Thursday, October 16th, 2014
A great technique from Heydon for styling radio buttons however you want.
Wednesday, September 10th, 2014
This episode of Click on the BBC World Service does a great job of distilling some of the ideas and themes from this year’s dConstruct.
Two years ago dConstruct’s theme was “Playing with the Future”. Last year it was “Communicating with Machines”. This year’s theme is “Living with the Network”. Click interviews artists, writers, hackers and coders about surveillance, connected devices, big data, and whether the ideals of the internet have been too far corrupted for them ever to be preserved.
Tuesday, July 29th, 2014
Saturday, October 5th, 2013
This gives me a warm fuzzy glow. The Mefites are using Radio Free Earth to find out which stars are receiving the number one hits from their birthdays.
Friday, October 4th, 2013
Radio Free Earth
Back at the first San Francisco Science Hack Day I wanted to do some kind of mashup involving the speed of light and the distance of stars:
I wanted to build a visualisation based on Matt’s brilliant light cone idea, but I found it far too daunting to try to find data in a usable format and come up with a way of drawing a customisable geocentric starmap of our corner of the galaxy. So I put that idea on the back burner…
At this year’s San Francisco Science Hack Day, I came back to that idea. I wanted some kind of mashup that demonstrated the connection between the time that light has travelled from distant stars, and the events that would have been happening on this planet at that moment. So, for example, a star would be labelled with “the battle of Hastings” or “the sack of Rome” or “Columbus’s voyage to America”. To do that, I’d need two datasets; the distance of stars, and the dates of historical events (leaving aside any Gregorian/Julian fuzziness).
For wont of a better hack, Chloe agreed to help me out. We set to work finding a good dataset of stellar objects. It turned out that a lot of the best datasets from NASA were either about our local solar neighbourhood, or else really distant galaxies and stars that are emitting prehistoric light.
The best dataset we could find was the Near Star Catalogue from Uranometria but the most distant star in that collection was only 70 or 80 light years away. That meant that we could only mash it up with historical events from the twentieth century. We figured we could maybe choose important scientific dates from the past 70 or 80 years, but to be honest, we really weren’t feeling it.
We had reached this impasse when it was time for the Science Hack Day planetarium show. It was terrific: we were treated to a panoramic tour of space, beginning with low Earth orbit and expanding all the way out to the cosmic microwave background radiation. At one point, the presenter outlined the reach of Earth’s radiosphere. That’s the distance that ionosphere-penetrating radio and television signals from Earth, travelling at the speed of light, have reached. “It extends about 70 light years out”, said the presenter.
This was perfect! That was exactly the dataset of stars that we had. It was a time for a pivot. Instead of the lofty goal of mapping historical events to the night sky, what if we tried to do something more trivial and fun? We could demonstrate how far classic television shows have travelled. Has Star Trek reached Altair? Is Sirius receiving I Love Lucy yet?
No, not TV shows …music! Now we were onto something. We would show how far the songs of planet Earth had travelled through space and which stars were currently receiving which hits.
Chloe remembered there being an API from Billboard, who have collected data on chart-topping songs since the 1940s. But that API appears to be gone, and the Echonest API doesn’t have chart dates. So instead, Chloe set to work screen-scraping Wikipedia for number one hits of the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s …you get the picture. It was a lot of finding and replacing, but in the end we had a JSON file with every number one for the past 70 years.
Meanwhile, I was putting together the logic. Our list of stars had the distances in parsecs. So I needed to convert the date of a number one hit song into the number of parsecs that song had travelled, and then find the last star that it has passed.
By the end of the first day, the functionality was in place: you could enter a date, and find out what was number one on that date, and which star is just now receiving that song.
After the sleepover (more like a wakeover) in the aquarium, we started to style the interface. I say “we” …Chloe wrote the CSS while I made unhelpful remarks.
For the icing on the cake, Chloe used her previous experience with the Rdio API to add playback of short snippets of each song (when it’s available).
Here’s the (more or less) finished hack:
Basically, it’s a simple mashup of music and space …which is why I spent the whole time thinking “What would Matt do?”
Just keep hitting that button to hear a hit from planet Earth and see which lucky star is currently receiving the signal.*
*I know, I know: the inverse-square law means it’s practically impossible that the signal would be in any state to be received, but hey, it’s a hack.