The universe is filled with unsolved mysteries and phenomena that we haven't quite figured out how to explain. It's these unanswered questions that drive science and technology forward as people try to work out how the universe operates -- and we need to build more precise and accurate instruments in order to even attempt to determine what's really going on. Here are just a few curiosities in the universe that are worth exploring a bit more.
Artificial satellites are usually expensive instruments that have a limited useful life. Voyager 1 is still going, though, and it's just about to cross into interstellar space. But normally, spacecraft don't have missions that last over three decades. Here are a few space-based telescopes that have either retired recently or are about to wind down.
From early on in the Apple/Samsung dispute, I pointed out that Apple's reaction really seemed to indicate to the world that Samsung's devices were the ones they were most scared of. And, of course, for those looking for alternatives, it was possible that it would act as really, really good advertising for Samsung. It's still early, but there's some anecdotal evidence that the verdict only emphasized that fact even more. Via Mashable, we learn of a post from Enrique Guitierrez, who was in a Starbucks over the weekend and overheard people talking about the verdict -- and they seemed to indicate that it was making them more interested in buying Samsung products:
Guy: "Wait, so what they're saying is, Samsung is the same as Apple?"
Friend: "I know, right? Makes me think twice about how much I paid for my Mac Book"
Not 10 minutes later, a husband and wife, same newspaper:
Husband: "... Samsung's iPad is the same as Apple's iPad, and I paid how much for the Apple one? Honey, I told you they were a ripoff", after looking up the Samsung tablet on his iPhone.
Wife: "Oh wow," looking at the screen, "... that's a lot cheaper. Think we can return it?"
Those aren't the only examples in the post either. He notes that these people don't understand the details, but they seem to have gotten the message that Samsung makes at least an equivalent product for a lot less money... and that's making them a lot more interested in Samsung. Once again, it makes you wonder why Apple didn't just focus on competing in the marketplace, where they had a tremendous brand advantage.
As you may recall, last year Apple sued Samsung over earlier products in the Galaxy line, claiming infringement of all sorts of different rights, among them some broad trade dress registrations involving basic design choices like black borders and rectangles with rounded corners. Amadeo walks through the many notable aesthetic elements of the S3 (including the stark changes from previous Galaxy phones) and compares them to Apple's list of trade dress claims, noting how several aspects of the phone seem designed to counter specific complaints—and the case he makes is pretty compelling. These are just a few examples (bolded portions are quotes from the Apple trade dress complaint):
A rectangular product shape...
... A rectangle needs to have parallel sides; the GSIII sides aren't straight at all. The outmost part is about 1/3rd of the way down, with serious curves leading to the top and bottom. So it's very much not a rectangle, or a rounded rectangle, or even horizontally symmetrical. It's more of an amorphous blob.
...with all four corners uniformly rounded;
Nope. The top and bottom corners are not the same shape. Observe the outlines of the top-left and bottom-left corners. Note how they are different.
The front surface of the product dominated by a screen surface with black borders
Having a giant screen on the front is kind of unavoidable. The only colors available though, are white and dark blue. Neither of those colors are black. The lawyers can sleep easy.
Substantial black borders above and below the screen having roughly equal width
Apple's use of "roughly" is really obnoxious, but just in case they get into minutia (lawyers love minutia!), the top and bottom borders are not the same size. These to-scale measurements show the top bezel is about 16% smaller than the bottom. Also, they're not black!
In the past, some people have argued that this sort of thing is an example of intellectual property doing its job and encouraging innovation, because competitors come up with new and different ways of doing things—but, as we have pointed out, the innovation being encouraged is the wrong kind. Instead of letting market demands dictate what engineers and designers spend their time on, their effort is wasted reinventing the wheel over and over again. The result is often an inferior product that lacks overall vision, as some are saying about the S3, at least aesthetically speaking. If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, what's a horse designed by a committee of lawyers? Some horrific Darwinian accident from the deep ocean, I'd wager.
Intrepid blogger Harry McCracken thought the interviews felt a bit off... and a bit too full of corporate marketing-speak. So he decided to go searching for "freelance travel writer Joan Hess, independent filmmaker Karl Shefelman, and leading real estate CEO Joseph Kolinksi." And he ran into some difficulties:
I was curious to learn more about them. So I Googled around and couldn’t find any references to a travel-writing Joan Hess (one with, as she said, a following on Twitter) or a real-estate CEO Joseph Kolinski.
Of course, some people will claim that this is standard operating procedure and that everyone should assume that anyone in such a video is clearly an actor, rather than a real person speaking off the cuff. But this is a press launch event and the clear implication by Samsung officials is that these were real people and real interviews. If the product really is as great as they say, why not actually trust real people to say that, rather than hiring actors?
Astronomers are constantly discovering new phenomena (or really, really old stuff, depending on how you look at it) all the time. There is simply a lot of stuff in the universe and we're not going to ever finish looking at all of it. A sizable chunk of the cosmos isn't even observable to us. But it's still fascinating to try to catalog everything out there. Here are just a few discoveries keeping astronomers busy these days.