Monthly Archives: July 2016

Greenland, pt. 2 – Airports.

Kangerlussuaq. Probably the strangest international airport in the world. First off, try pronouncing it properly. Hardly slips off the tongue now does it? I had trouble with it too.

Next there’s its geographic and demographic strangeness…

Have you ever seen an international hub airport with a local population of just 500 folks? Not 500,000 – 500! Well, now I have :).

And have you ever seen an airport where for domestic flights there are no security checks whatsoever?! In you stroll, you check in, hand over your luggage, and then you can go walkabout – wherever, including back outside the airport! When your plane’s due you walk to it from wherever you are with no security hassle. A dream!

Ok. Here’s the answer to question No. 2:

Greenland is a very rocky country, and a very glacial one. So building an airport – where you need a good stretch of flat land for the runway itself plus no rockiness in the near vicinity to get in the way of airplanes’ coming in to land and taking off – is no easy task. They did find one spot however that was deemed suitable – Kangerlussuaq: a freak bit of flat bedrock sufficiently far away from the nearest cliffs. The only problem: the runway is a mere 2.8km long!

Read on: Nuuk and Ilulissat

Welcome to Greenland!

By some quirk of fate I often fly across the North Atlantic. Europe-America-Europe; sometimes Asia-America-Europe; sometimes other, more exotic combinations. Example: sometimes I get to fly over Greenland. Sometimes this is at night – so nothing to report there. Other times it’s by day, but the weather’s typically polar and the visibility’s poor. But just sometimes, very occasionally, I get lucky: jetting over Greenland when it’s sunny and panoramic…

One such time for example was in July 2012: Crazy trip, crazy plane, crazy nice weather.

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Fast forward to July 2016, and it’s crazy nice weather again up over the big green white land. But this time I wasn’t just flying over, I was to land and then stay a few days. Hurray!

Read on: inside, deeper, more and more …

Flickr photostream

Instagram photostream

Uh-oh Cyber-News: The Future’s Arrived, and Malware Back from the Dead.

As always for this ‘column‘, I’ll be giving you a round-up of some of the most eek recent items of cybersecurity news, which might not have made the headlines but which are no less eek for that. And as usual, it’s all mostly bad news. There are still a few reasons to be optimistic though – but only a few. Eek!

Uh-oh Cyber-News Item No. 1: The Future’s Arrived.

news-1A screenshot from Blade Runner

Many authors like to fantasize about how things will be in the future. Often, science fiction writers come up with deep philosophical reflections upon man and his place in the Universe. There’s Russia’s Strugatsky brothers, there’s Philip K. Dick, and there’s Arthur C. Clarke (plus his ‘translator’ to the silver screen Stanley Kubrick), for example. And very often such deep philosophical reflection is rather bleak and scary.

Other times, the reflection is a little less deep and philosophical, but no less likely to one day lead to reality – in fact, oftentimes more so. This is where I make appearances!…

So. Back in the first decade of this century, during my presentations your humble servant liked to tell fun ‘scare’ stories about what could happen in the future. Example: a coffeemaker launches a DDoS attack on the fridge, while the microwave works out the factory PINs of the juicer so it can then show text-adverts on its digital display.

Fast forward less than a decade and such ‘sci-fi’ is coming true…

Read on: Computer worms rising from the dead…

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Days 3-5: Stars + Music = Starmus.

The Starmus-ship Enterprise journeyed further – for a third, fourth and fifth day! Yes, five full days for one single conference – and me present for (almost) every presentation (of the first three days): a first for me.

I’ve grouped the last three days into one post as five posts on one conference would be a little OTT… and anyway, the last three days were slightly less jaw-droppingly intergalactic than the first two. They were still really something however, including several Starmus ‘star’ moments, including this one:

Stephen Hawking.

This clever chap hardly needs an introduction. He started out by telling us a Brief History of Time His Life. Of course, you can read all about that on Wikipedia, but it’s a lot better from the horse’s mouth. Actually, not from the horses’ mouth, and not from his own, but from software that scans his eyes and selects the required words to make sentences. This, plus the synthesized words over the sound system really made an impression. What a guy! An amazing character. Huge respect.

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Read on: Check out these views!…

Starmus – Day 2: Saturn’s Remarkable Rings and Rats’ Remarkable Memory.

Starmus is a quantumly stellar conference! I can’t remember a conference where I went to every presentation, from beginning to end, but I did here (well, almost). Thoroughly interesting, lively, engaging, stimulating. In short: out of this world – just like most topics spoken about.

All righty. Here’s my quick synopsis of all the speeches of day two:

Brian Schmidt.

The American-Australian astrophysicist. Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011. Thought-provoking presentation about dark matter, of which, he reckons, a large proportion of the Universe is made up, but which we can see with neither the naked, trained, nor micro-/telescope-assisted eye. Also told us about dark energy (sounds like a sub-genre of techno:), which, though also completely unknown and unseen, is “hypothesized to permeate all of space”! (- Wiki).

Galaxies rotate, the Universe expands: it’s as if there’s dark (unknown) matter and energy at play. Even though we can’t see it, it’s thought it makes up… 95% of the contents of the Universe! In other words, all that we can see around us only makes up 5% of what’s really there – 5% of the matter and energy of the Universe. EH?!?!!

Read on: Jokers, scientists and astronauts…

Starmus – Day 1: A Big Bang for the Brain!

Hola folks!

Still on Tenerife – today at the Starmus Festival. Hardly your usual festival, Starmus combines astrophysics, fundamental physics and music. Never heard of it? Well, I hadn’t until this year, but here I am speaking at it already!

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Briefly, this is a conference where the coolest, most distinguished scientists in the world give formal presentations and also speak plenty informally on the sidelines – about the stars, the cosmos and the microcosm, or whatever else is their particular niche they’ve devoted their lives to.

Talk about big names: Stephen Hawking, probably the world’s leading star of science, a physicist-cosmologist who has scientific theories named after him; Brian May – the guitarist from Queen – and also an astrophysicist; Brian Eno – ambient music pioneer, Roxy Music member, U2 producer and thought leader; the astronaut Alexey Leonov, Hero of the USSR and the first man to walk in space; and many more…

Read on: Big Bang and multiverse bubbles…

Volazycano!

Back on Tenerife. Terrific! And since we’d scheduled in a full day to acclimatize before the business part of the trip, it was high time to get behind the wheel and off around those hairpins and up them volcanoes. Naturally!

Now, normally to get to the top of a volcano your need to trek, climb and clamber up it, sometimes for several days (Kilimanjaro, for example). There are a few exceptions, one being Mount Etna, which can be scaled via first a ski-lift then specially equipped buses. Another is Mount Teide on Tenerife. This one’s for reeeaaal lazy tourists.

Read on: A gentle touch from altitude sickness…