Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
Here's an amazing image that shows the earthbound effects of the recent solar storm from APOD.
Credit & Copyright: Stan Richards (NightSkyEvents.com)
Explanation: Last Thursday evening, stars were not the only lights in Iowa skies. Spectacular northern lights also shone from the heavens, extending across the midwestern USA and other locations not often graced with auroral displays. The wide-ranging auroral activity was triggered as a large solar flare - an energetic cloud of particles blasted outward from the Sun a few days earlier - collided with planet Earth's magnetosphere. Alerted to conditions ripe for aurora, photographer Stan Richard recorded this apparition over Saylorville Lake, near Des Moines, Iowa, USA. While the colorful rays seem to end just above the water, they are actually at altitudes of 100 kilometers or more.
Backyard ballistics are just too much fun. Don't miss this awesome page over at Format C: describing the design and fabrication of a fully functional replica of a medieval siege engine. The designer was inspired by this picture from Wikipedia:
And created the replica from the LEGO Technique sets (The Toy of the Century).
Here's a video of the weapon in action:
For those of you interested in more modern LEGO weaponry, check out this project that created a LEGO machine gun that shoots 96 bricks per minute from a 16 round magazine.
I'm not sure where to find more details other than an attribution to "Billy Glenn." But note, you can make ANYTHING with LEGOs.
Here are some other siege weapon links for the hobbyists among you:
Ripcord's Trebuchet Page
Nice Google Video on Large scale Trebuchet models
Sunday, December 17, 2006
Judging by a recent paper from the Journal of Economic Perspectives, it would appear that I stand in good stead if I ever want a job in economics accedemia, and I have my father to thank for it.
And no, it's not just because he was such a great dad and taught me how to fend for myself and all. Not that he didn't help set me on numerous paths of opportunity. He did indeed. But one step would appear to have accrued simply from sticking with the country's naming tradition.
A paper entitled "What's in a Surname? The Effect of Surname Initials on Academic Success" by Liran Einav and Leeat Yariv (of Stanford and Caltech)showed some rather comprehensive data that showed measurable advantage to those with names starting with letters earlier in the Alphabet.
The more elite the selection criteria, the more the bias was evident. Check out the paper.
In retrospect, I can remember that just through the happenstance of my last name, I usually ended up first in or second in line whenever a class was organized, and got to start projects earlier than most. Maybe that sort of things add up. So all you teachers out there, start switching up and be sure to sort from the back of the alphabet half the time, or else suffer the risks and liabilities of unintended alphabetic discrimination.
TechEblog had a pointer to this great video of a robotic puppy that someone had put together using a couple of Nokia 770 PDAs and an educational robotics kit.
The Bioloid educational robotics kits are some of the best in the business, and genuinely useful for some real robot hacking.
All sorts of Robots are possible.
There is even a programming environment with movement training and image processing capabilities accessible through code written in C.
Here's a photo of the expert kit:
I wish they had one of these suckers when I was a little sprout.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Check out the Death and Taxes Poster in this zoomable Flash applet. It's not the easiest interpretation to decipher, but it is packed with visually interesting information, and does attempt to show relative budgets by the circle sizes. (Also note that this just covers the discretionary budget that is voted on, and approved every year, and does not include service on ongoing programs like Social Security).
Here are a couple excerpts related to some of our recent foreign endeavors:
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has collected some amazing images of complex strata of ice at the Martian poles. Check out this image and the story that follows for more details.
"The polar layers are at the top of the image, while the darker materials at the bottom might have been deposited as sand dunes. The Martian ice has mixed with dust to give it the reddish hue. (Click on Image for high-resolution version)"
Astrology has always ranked somewhere behind phrenology and the study of navel lint in my taxonomy of pseudo-science. I even distinctly remember a crushing blow from many years ago (before I was married) when this smoking blond was purchasing some software ahead of me in line at Comp USA. I mean really, how often does THAT happen? I was in proto-nerd heaven, giddy with the prospect that a technically oriented, yet still hot, young lady might find some common ground with someone in the Physics program. And then I noticed that she was purchasing Astrology software. Sigh.
Had I but known that some real actuarial data might actually back up some astrological claims, perhaps I could have mustered the initiative to ask her out, or at least what her sign was. So take heart, all you technical types. Perhaps those hot astrological chics are still within reach. Be sure to check out this press release. "According to Insurancehotline.com, astrological signs are a significant factor in predicting car accidents. "
The study, which looked at 100,000 North American drivers' records from the past six years, puts Libras (born September 23-October 22) followed by Aquarians (January 20-February 18) as the worst offenders for tickets and accidents. Leos (July 23-August 22) and then Geminis (May 21-June 20) were found to be the best overall.
"Now, changing postal codes is far less significant to me than drivers of certain astrological signs," she told Reuters on Wednesday.
Even age, another variable for determining insurance rates, is less of a consideration to Romanov. The cutoff line for being considered a higher risk driver is 24 years of age; 25-year-olds are considered not-high risk. "I'd rather get into a car with a 24-year-old Leo than a 25-year-old Aries," Romanov said. Leos, described along with the study results, are "generous, and comfortable in sharing the roadway. Aries, on the other hand, "have a 'me first' childlike nature that drives Aries into trouble."
"I wasn't believing in it before," said Romanov, "but I would think twice before getting into a car with an Aries."
It's in print. It must be true. Ahem.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
"The prototype of a new solar patrol telescope in New Mexico recorded a tsunami-like shock wave rolling across the visible face of the Sun following a major flare even on Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2006, at 18:28 Universal Time (11:28 MST). The shock wave, known as a Moreton wave, also destroyed or compressed two filaments of cool gas at opposite sides of the solar hemisphere."These large scale 'blast' waves occur infrequently, however, are very powerful. They quickly propagate in a matter of minutes covering the whole Sun, sweeping away filamentary material," said Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam, of the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Sunspot, NM, who is studying these and other phenomena. "It is unusual to see such powerful waves encompassing the whole sun from ground based observatories. Its significance comes from the fact that these waves are occurring near solar minimum, when intense activity is yet to pick up."
Over the course of the last few months, it turns out that one of the most popular posts here on All the Best Bits was the one entitled: A Snowflake Closeup. So in honor of the season, here is some more on snowflake science.
Some folks from Caltech have posted Snowcrystals.com, a great site to learn all things snow related, including a great taxonomy of ice and snow crystals and more snowflake photos than you can shake a candy-cane at.
Posted by Phillip Alvelda at 8:25 AM
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
| Rotor: |
Carbon rod 0.3 mm and 0.5 mm from WES-Technik
Aramid 30 g/m2 fabric from CST, foam tape hinges
72 mm long, 0.08 mm carbon plate, 0.3 mm rod,
1.5 x 0.2 mm tube, brass bearings 0.7 mm from Didel
4 x 8 mm, 11 ohm from Didel (2x)
Plastic gears, module 0.2 from Didel (6.7 : 1)
2.8 x 6 mm, 25 ohm from Shicoh, 0.16 grams
1 x 3.7 V, 30 mAh Didel cell, 0.86 grams
3 channels custom Plantraco 900 MHz radio control
Atmel ATtiny26L with 3 x ESC
Yaw control by differential speed of rotors
Tail motor used for forward horizontal flight
3.3 grams (incl. battery and control)
Up to 1 minute, (0.5 minute continues)
Here's a video of the little copter in action.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
So NASA has this great solar telescope in orbit with a massive ultraviolet telescope aboard.
Monday, December 04, 2006
I realize that most of you are probably not reading this blog to find out more about the wireless or broadcast industries and I generally try to avoid blogging about work. But this is just too good to resist. RCR Wireless, one of the industry's trade rags has just nominated me as a candidate for "Person of the Year."
Aw shucks. I'm already flattered. But it would be even cooler to win. So vote for me at this link!
Sunday, December 03, 2006
The first one I stumbled across was the Sterling Engine issue that several people had managed to acquire, build, and document including a nice video on YouTube.
And check out these other fantastic projects from previous issues: