News for Nerds - March 18, 2011

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  • Posted by: Dom Testa|
  • 3/18/2011 |
  • 10:00 am
News for Nerds - March 18, 2011

This week: the lost city of Atlantis, a camera that will change who you are, and the lowdown on nerd dating hotspots. But first: aftershocks of a different variety.

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The biggest news story of the year so far has been the devastating earthquake that rocked Japan last week. And rightfully so.

But did you know that the earthquake actually did some cosmic damage as well? It shortened the length of a day by 1.8 microseconds and added more than six inches to the Earth's wobble.

As our friends at National Geographic point out, this doesn't mean that the quake knocked the Earth off its north-south axis, around which the planet revolves. Rather, the event caused a shift in what's known as the 'figure axis,' an imaginary line that balances the world's constantly-shifting mass.

And even though losing 1.8 microseconds won't have any practical implications in our daily lives -- a microsecond is just 1-millionth of a second -- the overall impact of the earthquake could be huge.

For one thing, the change in the Earth's wobble could impact future space missions. Furthermore, the fact that some parts of Japan moved as much as 13 feet (!) is not only an astonishing fact, but might also help scientists better predict massive earthquakes in the future.

It's a sad story, but one that we hope leads to improved science down the road. In the meantime, if you haven't seen photos of the tsunami that followed the earthquake, here's a photo gallery that will blow your mind.

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Some people are more naturally photogenic than others -- I mean, we can't all look like supermodels in every snapshot, right?

Not so fast. One company has developed a camera that takes the concept of 're-touching' your photos to a whole new place.

With the Lumix FX77, Panasonic aims to make us all glamorous with a feature they call 'Beauty Touch.' Using this function, you can add makeup, lipstick and eyeliner to even your pastiest picture. Not enough? You can also whiten teeth,smooth wrinkles, remove bags from under your eyes and even change the overall size of your face and eyes.

One of the project managers for Panasonic says, "According to data we've acquired, around 50 percent of our digital camera clients are not satisfied with the way their faces look in a photograph."

Part of me thinks this is just another example of our laziness and vanity run amok. But then again, there's another part of me that knows that somewhere, someone probably has a trunk full of Polaroid pictures of me with a mustache and a mullet.

Maybe the jury's still out on this one.

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Here's a good headline: Lost City of Atlantis Believed Found Off Coast of Spain.

Over the years, there have been a lot of wild claims about the so-called 'lost city' of Atlantis, and many of them have fallen somewhere between implausible and downright ridiculous. But it looks like this story has legs. There sure seems to be some pretty convincing evidence that Atlantis may really exist.

An international team of archeologists and geologists spent more than two years surveying the site, in mud flats off the coast of Spain, with tools like deep-ground radar, digital mapping and various other underwater technologies. Based on that work, they came up with satellite images that seem to indicate an ancient, multi-ringed city that was most likely wiped out by a powerful tsunami thousands of years ago.

The Greek philosopher Plato wrote about Atlantis as far back as 360 B.C., saying that "in a single day and night... [it] disappeared into the sea." This newly-discovered site seems to corroborate this statement; given that its location is so far inland, it would take a tsunami of historic proportions to wash away a city of such massive size.

"This is the power of tsunamis," says lead researcher Richard Freund. "It's hard to understand that it can wipe out 60 miles inland, and that's pretty much what we're talking about."

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And finally, on a slightly lighter note, Yahoo! has released a list of the top 10 cities to date a nerd. Did your hometown make the cut?

Sunnyvale, California, topped the list -- no real surprise there, since it's right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Also making the list were a handful of cities that are home to top-flight academic institutions like Harvard, M.I.T. and the University of MIchigan.

Locally (for me, anyway), Boulder, Colorado, came in at #7. Boulder has a few claims to nerdy street cred -- a great school in the University of Colorado, but also a huge number of high-tech jobs in everything from computer engineering to space flight. In a similar vein, Columbia, Maryland, came in at #8. Columbia is home to the National Security Agency and Fort Meade Army Base, and it gets special accolades for naming its streets after famous works of art and literature.

Despite being a list about nerds, I'm not sure how scientific this list actually is. It was pulled together by culling data from profiles -- the cities that made the list have the highest number of educated people (as measured by their education in either technical or educational fields).

Nevertheless -- let's hear it for the nerds!

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That's all for this week. By the way... what do you think of the new website? Pretty sharp, eh? If you haven't signed up for the free eNewsletter, please do so now. And don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter, and in the meantime, keep gettin' your nerd on!