Sunday, July 30, 2006
I've never had much of a desire to buy a console video game system, but something like this might actually make me want one. It reminds me quite a bit of the way furniture and appliances looked before injection molding became a low cost alternative to more traditional construction techniques. Of course, if all appliances were made like this, you certainly couldn't buy a TV at Walmart for $60. Plastic appliances are so much cheaper because it's easier to run an injection molder than it is to employ a shop full of carpenters. Still, I like seeing appliances that have some visual appeal.
Friday, July 28, 2006
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I'm not going to turn this into a long discussion about gun control and constitutional law, but I think it's very positive that such a large number of congresspeople can appreciate an individuals right to the means of self defense. What I don't like is that time actually has to be spent on bills that simply confirm the rights that should already be fairly clear-cut. Of course as long as some politicians and law enforcement officials fail to take heed of the constitution ( *cough* *New Orleans* *ahem* ) I suppose this type of thing is necessary.
Below is another, almost identicle oscilloscope, and something else we wish had been availible in lab class.
I'm told that this is not a photoshop job and that someone actually set up a tetris game on an oscilloscope. Lab TAs beware!
Wednesday, July 26, 2006
I recently found this snippet over at Modern Mechanicx via Make. It's a brief description of how to turn a victrola into a grinder. When I first saw this I thought to myself 'who in the world would ruin a perfectly good antique by doing this to it!?' Then it dawned on me, when that was originally printed, the victrola technology was just old, not an antique.
Most of the magazines that provide the material at M.M. look like they're from the 1950s or before. 78 rpm disc based phonographs had been around since before WW I (pre 1914). That particular model looks like it was produced sometime in the 1920s. It's entirely mechanical, with a spring driven motor (wound by a hand crank) and a purely mechanical speaker horn (no wires, no electricity)
Some years later, this type of machine was replaced with electric tone arms, electric speakers, and electric motors to turn the table. Not too many years after that, 45 rpm records came on the scene, eventually followed by 33 &1/3 high fidelity systems. These made the old mechanical 78 players seem outdated and old.
Putting a needle on a record started seeming quaint and charming to most people after the cassette tape and compact disc became a normal part of everyday life. In a sense, once the technology had become sufficiently outdated it went from outdated to antique.
So why am I paying so much attention to a clipping about an old record player? I happen to have a similar device in my apartment.
It's quite a treat for me to play old discs on the machine. This recording, which I made with an ordinary microphone, can't capture the fullness of the sound the player creates, but it does at least capture some of the simple charm of listening to an old Record. Here's the Savoy Shout as performed by the Luis Russell & His Orchestra.
I certainly wouldn't dream of turning that into a grinder!
Who knows what technology will be looked at fondly in a few decades?!
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Let’s bypass the debate about whether or not global warming exists (junk science abounds on both sides of this argument ) and take a moment to look at the article.
Hans Peter Niesward, from the Department of Gravitationsphysik at the ISA in Munich, says we can stop global warming in one fell swoop — or, more accurately, in one big jump.
The slightly disheveled professor states his case on WorldJumpDay.org, an Internet site created to recruit 600,000,000 people to jump simultaneously on July 20 at 11:39:13 GMT in an effort to shift Earth's position.
Niesward claims that on this day "Earth occupies one of the most fragile positions in its orbits for the last 100 years." According to the site, the shift in orbit will "stop global warming, extend daytime hours and create a more homogeneous climate."
Only three paragraphs into the article, anyone with a high school level of physics comprehension should be staring at 3 or 4 red flags. Just to be clear, here are the most obvious problems.
Insignificant mass: The mass of Earth is approximately 1.3*10^25 lbs. Even if all 600,000,000 people weighed 300 lbs each, their total weight would be 1.8*10^11, which is 0.0000000000014% of the mass of Earth. That will hardly make a difference and certainly not enough to shift the earth’s orbit by an amount you could accurately measure.
Directional force: If you have people all around the world jump at the same time, the force of people jumping on one side will mostly cancel the force of people jumping on the other side.
Zero net gain: Even if you could get a huge mass of people on one side of the earth to jump at the same time and cause the earth to move slightly, it would go right back to it’s original position the second everyone came crashing back down. That’s the way gravity and Newtonian physics work.
Longer days: If you do move the path of Earth’s orbit slightly further from the sun, it wouldn’t change the length of the day, because that’s determined by the earth’s rotation around its own axis, not it’s orbit around the sun. It appears that this jumping scheme is being confused with the “everyone drive your car east and stop the world from turning” myth.
If you noticed any one of those flaws, it should come as no surprise when the article points out that Professor Niesward is neither a professor nor a scientist. For that matter, he’s not even a Niesward. He’s really an artist and performer.
You can debate whether this is an experiment in flash mobs and internet myths or simply a way to draw attention to the theory of global warming. What I think is more important is what’s buried a little deeper in this article.
Members of the online environmental site treehugger.com have been debating not only the physical possibility of the jump's promise but the morality of its outcome.
Some believe it's risky to alter Earth's orbit, while others fear the jump will make the Gregorian calendar obsolete because of the length of Earth's new orbit. Others doubt the ability of the world's population to synchronize an event like this.
In other words, though some people are obviously questioning the principle of the jump, others have accepted the theory enough to actually begin debating whether it’s moral or not. Now without having looked into many online discussions about this, I can’t say that everyone talking about this really believes in the theory, but it certainly seems as though some people really have accepted the possibility that this will work.
With a supposed 599,000,000 jumpers enlisted already, one has to wonder what the world would be like if the power of the internet could be harnessed for education rather than spreading junk science.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
Saturday, July 15, 2006
Thursday, July 13, 2006
Murphy's Technology Law #2 -- Logic is a systematic method of coming to the wrong conclusion with confidence.
Murphy's Technology Law #3 -- Technology is dominated by those who manage what they do not understand.
Murphy's Technology Law #4 -- If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
Murphy's Technology Law #5 -- All great discoveries are made by mistake.
Murphy's Technology Law #6 -- Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.
Murphy's Technology Law #7 -- All's well that ends... period.
Murphy's Technology Law #8 -- A meeting is an event at which minutes are kept and hours are lost.
Murphy's Technology Law #9 -- The first myth of management is that it exists.
Murphy's Technology Law #10 -- A failure will not appear until a unit has passed final inspection.
Murphy's Technology Law #11 -- New systems generate new problems.
Murphy's Technology Law #12 -- Any given program, when running, is obsolete.
Murphy's Technology Law #13 -- A computer makes as many mistakes in two seconds as 20 men working 20 years make.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Sunday, July 09, 2006
Today's post features a computer that really does have a turbocharger, but of a different sort. The modern computer doesn't really need this little bit of automotive equipment, but with a little work, a turbocharger (really little more than a glorified fan) can be turned into a cooling system for high speed (often overclocked) computers.
There more pictures of the computer here and a link to the construction information.
I really don't think I'd want to do this myself, but it's kindof a neat, if quirky, way to setup your computer.
found via Make
Friday, July 07, 2006
I'd like to apologize to my regular readers for not posting more often, but lately it's been a challenge to find time that's not taken up by my job or social life. Up until recently it's been difficult to say 'regular readers' without laughing to myself, so making time during the day to write posts is usually not something I consider. Maybe I'll do more posts in the near future, but for the next two weeks I expect to be on the road and pretty busy. Updates will follow as availible.
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I didn't go to a fireworks display last night because I had a really wonderful show from the balcony of my apartment. From about noon until after I fell asleep the air was absolutly filled with the sound of fireworks.
The quality and variety of pyrotechnics was quite impressive.
I shot those in less than a couple of minutes. There were so many people using fireworks there was hardly a moment of silence. It's hard to capture in words, so I recorded a brief MP3. That was just after dark, and it only got more intense after that.
It was a great way to end the holiday!
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
Sunday, July 02, 2006
If you haven't seen it already, Wired has a nice little collection of links about fireworks. There are photography tips, technical information on high tech displays, even a DIY section for those of you who have steady nerves and little need for all your digits. Go check it out!