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Weekly Flight through the Solar System 4-19-15
Apr 20th 2015
Welcome to the weekly flight through the solar system looking at the current work of our um-manned probes
MESSENGER has completed its 4,000th orbit of Mercury. Starting with its first fly-by on January 14, 2008, the spacecraft reaches this milestone as it is likely months away from the end of its times in orbit of the nearest planet.
Songs which describe themselves incorrectly
Apr 15th 2015
In which Hax channels his seething inner pedantry, and the reader changes the channel.
Music time!
As I understand it, there's always been a strange mantra present which states that Metallica is the only band which is allowed to contain its genre within the name of the band. It occurs to me that, while there are a lot of ska bands guilty of that, at least the description remains valid for them, whereas it is quite tough for Metallica to make the same claim after releasing St. Anger.
A Weekly Flight through the Solar System 3-29-15
Mar 30th 2015
Welcome a a new weekly article on the goings on around our solar system.
As the MESSENGER spacecraft comes to the end of its life, engineers are working hard to extend its limited fuel. MESSENGER's Endgameoutlines plans on how to keep the spacecraft flying for the next few months and how they will be using this low orbit to be taking even more detailed pictures than before. The Messenger team will also be looking for magnetic anomalies and ice in the northern attitudes.
1, 2, 4, 8, 16...
Mar 15th 2015
In which Hax argues with a calculator, and the reader argues with geometry.
If I presented you with the titular sequence and asked you to discern and continue the pattern, implying that a pattern exists of course, you'd have a few options. If you were a mathematician with a particularly bloody mind, you could continue it however you like and point to a corresponding Lagrange polynomial to match your answer1. Alternatively, as a sensible person, you'd probably look for clues about how each number in the sequence changes from the last, and conclude that the simplest pattern is doubling and that the next number is 32. At that point, even if that wasn't what I had in mind, you have every right to be quite proud of your analytical skill because yours works and has high simplicity.
Of course, I'm getting at something here. The method I used to generate those numbers was indeed not a doubling process, at least not directly. It could turn out that what I did was equivalent to doubling, though that would be a claim which needs proving, and it is this article's objective to make abundantly clear the importance of such proof no matter how good the initial guess appears to be.
Bethesda's First Ever E3 Conference!
Feb 16th 2015
Bethesda Softworks has announced that they will be holding their first ever E3 Showcase on Sunday, June 14th, 2015. For those of us who won't be attending live, they will be broadcasting the showcase live on their twitch stream at The question becomes why is this news? Is it the rumors of a Fallout 4 announcement waiting in the wings? Well, anyone who knows me or has listened to any of my shows will be certain that a Fallout 4 confirmation would be reason enough for me to do just about anything, but I believe that this is much more significant than that.
For some time now, many have been speculating that E3 is on the wane, and that the tradeshow is obsolete in the face of new media such as Twitch, Twitter, and other online media outlets. However, E3 still retains a certain cachet amongst gamers, and while companies like Nintendo and Activision are bailing on E3, scaling back on what were traditionally massive PR campaigns and events, it is still an epicenter of gaming news and announcements. Sony and Microsoft both still do multihour showcases at E3, and companies like Ubisoft and EA also host their own dedicated events, featuring never before seen footage, surprise announcements, and big reveals. At last year's E3, EA surprised the public by opening up the Battlefield: Hardline beta live during their own showcase, surprising gamers and causing an immediate rush to grab the limited codes. This proves that despite the doomsayers, a well done E3 event can still generate huge amounts of buzz for a company and its products.
However, not content with having a showcase, Bethesda will be going FIRST. That's right, they don't want to be a part of the pack, instead Bethesda is lacing up their biggest, baddest shit kickers and taking a swing for the fences. A Fallout 4 reveal would be just the thing to (hopefully, please god let it be good!) wow audiences and really build the online/E3 hype for their first ever solo conference. Showing off footage, setting a release date, hell, even just telling us that they have a team thinking about working on Fallout 4 would be enough to get the internet all lathered up at this point considering how tight lipped they've been.
Modern word usage needs to backtrack a decade or two
Feb 15th 2015
In which Hax displays a surprisingly non-existent amount of loyalty to British English, and the reader gives it at most a couple of months before the footnotes start outweighing the articles.
First off, I promise that this has absolutely nothing to do with the whole US/UK thing. I already prefer to write 'center', I don't disagree with writing 'color'1, and American football has just as good a claim to be considered 'football' as Association football (soccer) does2. For reference, David Mitchell's opinion on US use of English sums things up quite well.
Instead, this is about how certain words seem to be used nowadays. What follows is a set of words with their correct usage, their incorrect usage, and the acceptable replacement:
How to choose a keypad code if you never want to change it
Feb 6th 2015
In which Hax promotes the use of combinatorics to justify sloth, and the reader learns about the dark side of forensics.
Fingerprints get everywhere, and they are usually not your friend unless you're doing something illegal or you have a warrant. They're no good as a means of electronic authentication, since the legitimate user's fingerprints inevitably end up elsewhere on and around the very device which uses them as a password1 (this means phones, laptops, etc). Even if the authentication isn't biometric, fingerprints will still betray a password or code if the input device being used to enter the code has that task as its only purpose, and this will be the focus of today's exercise.
It's the stuff of mystery/crime novels and Phoenix Wright; dusting the keypad for fingerprints to find the digits of the code2, as well as possibly gaining information about whether the killer was wearing gloves. This problem is fresh in my mind at the moment, having personally witnessed an electronic keypad which had not had its code changed for so long that the buttons themselves were worn away. Worse still, the code itself only used two unique digits, clearly discernable from a quick glance at the keypad. At this point, the only possible redemption would have been if the code was actually twenty digits long, but alas, it used the standard, meager four.
The Reddit Thread that Enthralls the Internet
Jan 19th 2015
Although many of us don't want to admit it, we love drama. Hearing about other's misfortunes tickles our brain in a way that we find fascinating, which is why soap operas are so popular; drama that doesn't involve us at all.
Well, a Redditor by the name of MyLifeSuxNow (yes, it is a throwaway account) caught his wife and sister-in-law cheating in a four-way, and is live updating the story. It includes a PI, play-by-play, and the emotional roller coaster that he is going through.
It is a sad story, one that I can personally relate to as the victim of infidelity, so I know what MyLifeSuxNow is going through. But, if you want to see some justice served, then sit back, grab some popcorn, and get ready to binge like watching every season of a fascinating show on Netflix.
How to hate on Java properly
Jan 15th 2015
In which Hax attracts inevitable pedantry due to simplified explanations, and the reader loses any remaining respect for Mojang.
Most of the bad-mouthing of Java around the Internet is completely wrong. Here's a sample of what I see on a vaguely frequent basis:
Java is slow.
Why did Doctor Who Series 8 leave me cold?
Jan 7th 2015
Why did Doctor Who Series 8 leave me cold?
It has been almost two months since Doctor Who Series 8 and I feel a bit in the cold by this series and I'm just not sure why. So, let us look at the factors that go into any series of Doctor Who.