Sunday, July 30, 2006

Another case-mod

What video games would have looked like in the 1930s

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.

Quote of the unspecified temporal interval

...Hell, which as every frequent traveler knows, is in Concourse D of O'Hare Airport.
— Dave Barry

Chicago fliers may notice that there is no concourse D at O'Hare...or is there?

Friday, July 28, 2006

More mixed reality

The last 'mixed reality' post was fun so I decided to post a few more.

I did NOT photoshop this last picture, so I'm inclined to believe that there may actually be an MS-Gas.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Getting it right

Once in a while our politicians get something right. In this case I'm referring to the recent House approval of a ban on the confiscation of legally held weapons during a crisis. Interestingly enough, the whole premise of this is to reaffirm a right that was previously delineated in the 2nd amendment. Score one for the bill of rights!

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.

What really happens in lab classes

This is me a couple years back when I was taking a lab class. Notice the oscilloscope my lab partner is trying to use.

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

Beyond old

Technology, unlike people, passes the age when it is considered old on it's way to becoming antique. Let me explain,

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

He's back!

After a brief tour of Japan and a similarly brief tour of my home (back on the farm) I am back at my apartment and back at work.

Now as soon as I get my new 'internet ready' keyboard installed, I'll be blogging again.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Mixed reality

The case mod I posted about the 'turbocharged' PC made me start thinking, what would it be like if we did some more blending of the computers and real life. Here are a few quirky mixes of the virtual and real world.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Quote of the unspecified temporal interval

A commercial aircraft is a vehicle capable of supporting itself aerodynamically and economically at the same time.

— William B. Stout, designer of the Ford Tri-Motor.

Jump if you don’t understand physics

Today’s forehead-slap inducing article comes from a story that started in Scotland where a fake scientist claims to have gathered enormous support for his efforts to solve global warming.

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, 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 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.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Time to hit the air

It takes 12 hours to get from Chicago to Tokyo by 747. I hope they have good movies.

Stay tuned. I'll be back soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Murphy's Technology Laws

Murphy's Technology Law #1 -- You can never tell which way the train went by looking at the track.

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

Attention all passengers

Please remember that some items may have shifted during landing.

Disclaimer: I didn't see this myself, but it appears that something set off the emergency ramp when it shouldn't have. I hope nobody was hurt!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Another Case mod

Since I posted the turbocharged PC I ought to post this picture as well.


If you had a computer in the early 90s you are probably familiar with the 'turbo' button computers used to have. They never seemed to do much, but we always made a point of having the turbo system turned on regardless of whether or not we could see the difference in performance.

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

Be it ever so humble...

Once again I've made it back home from a week of factory work, eating at diners, and sleeping in hotel rooms.

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

We're number one!!

The word numbers are in, and we're number one! O'Hare international airport is, after a brief period in number two, the world's busiest airport.

Of course that's not the only reason it's number one. It also has the most late departures.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival... it ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games; sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other..."

-John Adams

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

Happy Birthday USA

It's the 4th of July, so most everyone reading this probably has the day off. But before you get too involved in today's festivities, be sure to take a moment to remind yourself what you're celebrating.

link found via Mr. Completely

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Just in time for the 4th!

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!