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11:09:48 PM
  • Antimatter --> fission --> fusion. Gerald Smith has been working toward space propulsion systems that exploit antimatter for a number of years. The Penn State University professor envisions an engine that could transport a manned mission to Mars and back in four months, allowing for a month on the Red Planet. The trick is to use femtograms of antimatter to catalyze fission in U-238, in turn triggering fusion in a deuterium/helium-3 mixture. Unlike the engine of the Starship Enterprise, which burns pure antimatter, Smith's design -- which he calls AIMStar, for Antimatter Initiated Microfusion Starship -- would sip antiprotons at less than a microgram a year.

    Still, a microgram is a lot of antimatter. Together CERN and Fermilab would take a century to produce that much. The stuff costs 65 trillion dollars a gram and, like the hypothetical universal solvent, is devilishly difficult to store and transport.

    Smith and other researchers now believe all these engineering details might yield over the next several decades. In a recent paper in the Journal of Propulsion and Power, Smith and co-authors envision the price of antimatter production dropping by orders of magnitude. Smith's lab has developed a prototype of a supercooled magnetic trap for storing antiprotons. The paper is not online; here is the table of contents for the JPP's Sept.-Oct. edition. See also this article from the Boston Globe.

    For more background, start at the PSU Antimatter site and its list of published papers.

11:33:08 AM
  • updated Lower-level domain names as speech. Recently the possibility has been in the air that trademark owners may begin to go after "infringing" uses of their marks in third-level and lower domain names. Traditionally, and by the design of the domain name system, such names have been used to identify services, particular machines in a network, etc. Examples are maps.yahoo.com, lcs.mit.edu, home-on-the-dome.mit.edu, anu.edu.au, etc.

    Attemting to extend intellectual property "rights" into the very periphery of the network is a staggeringly bad idea. But I have every expectation that trademark holders will make the attempt, and soon. I predict that shenanigans such as the following, though clearly intended for humorous or satirical purposes, will force the hand of the IP lobby. Go to a Net-connected Unix machine and utter "whois -h rs.internic.net microsoft". Result:

      Whois Server Version 1.3
      Domain names in the .com, .net, and .org domains can now be registered
      with many different competing registrars. Go to http://www.internic.net
      for detailed information.
      To single out one record, look it up with "xxx", where xxx is one of the
      of the records displayed above. If the records are the same, look them up
      with "=xxx" to receive a full display for each record.
      >>> Last update of whois database: Thu, 26 Oct 2000 06:47:54 EDT <<<
      The Registry database contains ONLY .COM, .NET, .ORG, .EDU domains and

    Note that you can try this trick with the names of other much-beloved corporate entities, such as for example Verizon, Apple, or AOL.

    Thanks to Bob Clements (who saw the topic on the newsgroup news.admin.net-abuse.email) and John Kristoff (who notes that the NANOG list has been talking about it for a few days). Their emails arrived 8 minutes apart.

    here Note added 2000-10-27, 1:21:53 pm: Michael Best pointed out this Slashpost (by someone whose handle is 'b1t r0t") explaining how you go about seeding the whois database with such bogus names.

    How did they do it? Simple. Whenever you register a nameserver IP address, you have to include a domain name for the nameserver. I think the only thing checked is that the IP address pings and the domain name is part of a real domain.


9:50:11 AM
    Ray Ozzie's Groove
  • Ray Ozzie's Groove. The wraps come off of Groove Networks today and a well-briefed press is all over the story (NYTimes, WSJ, Merc, Globe, TechWeb). Generations ago in Net time, Ray Ozzie invented what became Lotus Notes. Ozzie's three years in deepest stealth mode didn't attract the level of stealth buzz that Linus Torvalds' company Transmeta had -- Ozzie was a programming god for an earlier generation, and many of today's open-source adherents may never have heard of him. Groove shows that Ozzie still has the moves.

    Groove has built a platform for peer-to-peer applications. If you believe the likes of Dan Bricklin (and I do), the conception and implementation are technically deep and well-crafted. Out of the box after a free download, you get a shared whiteboard, instant text and voice messaging, application sharing, file sharing, threaded discussion, free-form drawing, and outlining -- all peer-to-peer and all fully encrypted. A comprehensive API lets you build other p2p apps with ease. It runs on Windows now, and a Linux version is coming. The download page is here.


3:30:31 PM
  • updated Using DNS to fax (almost) anywhere. Last week the roving_reporter wrote about a proposal for mapping telephone numbers into DNS by reversing the digits, separating them with dots, and appending the whole thing to a new TLD. Dennis Moul writes with a lesson in Internet history:

    I thought you might be interested to know that it's already been done, and in fact is rather ancient from an Internet history perspective.

    Back in 1993 Carl Malamud and Marshall Rose created tpc.int as an early email-to-fax gateway that was both elegantly simple and global in scope, using the reversed phone number mapped into DNS for addressing. [Note: tpc stands for "the phone company." -- ed.]

    The project seemed to fade away into early Internet obscurity, but I recently checked the web page and it looks like the project has been restarted with some degree of success. [Note: The current coverage list was last updated in the spring. -- ed.]

    The addressing scheme looked like

    remote-printer.Arlington_Hewes/Room_403@ for a destination fax number of (415) 968-2510. Reversing these numbers is suprisingly hard to do in your head, so they created an additional subdomain to do the reordering transparently behind the scenes, one can use instead: remote-printer.Arlington_Hewes/Room_403@14159682510.iddd.tpc.int

    here Note added 2000-10-23, 10:56:53 pm: D.V. Henkel-Wallace writes:

    I found the opposite more interesting. In the early '90s Henry Minsky wrote webfax, a way of browsing the web by fax machine. Basically you could call a number at his office, type in a URL with the phone keypad and your fax number, and his machine would fax you a copy of the page. The cool thing was it hashed every URL it ever saw, and printed a small number next to each link (the hash code of the link URL). So you could call back and follow a link. A real pain, but it meant you could download that chicken recipe whilst in a hotel in Ulan Bator.

    How quickly the Web forgets. (Or how poorly it records ancient history.) A Google search returns only two hits. One is this archived copy of a 1995 press release about the service, and the other is the current site of Universal Access, the company co-founded by Henry Minsky in 1994. Minsky seems no longer to be associated with UA, and in fact his name does not appear on the UA page; Google explains that the search terms show up solely in links to that page.

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