Tag: arsenic

Would you have sex with an arsenic based lifeform?

Strapped for cash organisation NASA claims that research it funded will, er, fundamentally change the shape of biology textbooks to come.

There is a rather unlovely place in America called Mono Lake (pictured)  and boffins fiddling around in the water claim to have discovered a micro-organism that uses arsenic rather than phosphorous to reproduce.

Said Ed Weller, NASA’s associate administrator in Washington: “As we pursue our efforts to seek signs of life in the solar system, we have to think more broadly, more diversely and consider life as we do not know it.” 

It is unclear why NASA wants to seek signs of life in the solar system when we already know there is life on earth. Even in the toxic Mono Lake, apparently. The real question is whether there is intelligence on earth.

Arsenic has long been known to one of the mammalian species on the planet to be a good way to do away with mammalians-you-don’t-like.

Famous victims of arsenic poisoning – it’s not always clear whether they were done in by it or not – include Napoleon Bonaparte, Simon Bolivar, Francesco I de’Medici, and Charles Francis Hall (who he? Ed).

According to an encyclopaedia called Wikipedia, systems of arsenic poisoning begin with headaches, confusion and drowsiness. Sounds like a bad hangover, but worse is to come before you croak.

The poisoning was particularly popular with the Borgias, a dynasty that seemed to be interested in bumping off rivals. Thank goodness the Renaissance was followed by the Enlightenment, meaning that now in the 21st century we are all rational creatures and that.

NASA says that carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus (sic) and what it calls sulfur (sic) are the basic building block of earthlingy things. So to find a micro-organism on earth that uses arsenic – no it’s not called assnic – rather than phosphorous, first extracted from wee, no not the Wii, is a real find.

I can’t remember the 1950s science fiction author who first postulated that there could be silicon based life as well as carbon based life in the universe. If only he hadn’t written it. It’s resulted in Intel, surely the biggest Borg of all time in our solar system. Borg is unrelated to the Borgias.

The NASA report is here.  

iPad display is a bastard screen size

We know that Apple is using its own PA Semi processor in the iPad that drowned out all other news yesterday, but now we’re beginning to see the other elements involved in the Apple pie.

We don’t know which semiconductor company is fabbing out the PA Semi in Mr Jobs’ machine, but it’s probably, probably TSMC. Maybe Paddy Power should open a book on which fab is making the chip. We wonder what the yields are like. We note that two ex-CTOs of ATI – one of them pictured here, works for Apple now but when we took the snap worked for “someone else“. Wonder what the yields are like? Raj ain’t gonna say.

They’d have some clue what’s going on, but Apple has inserted a device next to their heart that would fibrillate like hell if they opened their mouths or even tried a bit of semaphore, never mind talk to their old chums. So feel safe Apple, feel safe.

Now DisplaySearch, the market research firm that knows about these things, has come up with its ideas on the display used in St. Jobs’ glory and wonder.

It has a 9.7-inch 1024×768 LED backlit in plane switching (IPS) TFT LCD display. Apple chose it because it uses IPS and has a wide viewing angle.

Apple has also claimed, says DisplaySearch, that it has the largest capacitive multitouch displays with thousands of sensors.

But the display is not a wide aspect ratio screen – it’s unique in having an aspect ratio of 4:3. Ninety nine percent of notebook PCs use wide displays and it’s hard to find an LCD TV with anything other than a 16:9 display.

DisplaySearch believes that Apple chose a middle ground between the need for books, magazines, newspapers, video and gaming.

In old fashioned British printing terms, it is a “bastard size”.

Oh, it’s arsenic and mercury free – one of the benefits of LED backlights. Wonder who is fabbing out the screen for Apple.

Doubtless, iSuppli will sooner or later get its mitts on one of the posh e-readers Apple is flogging and rip it to bits – revealing the component cost isn’t very much at all. The DisplaySearch bog is here.