Monday, March 30, 2009

From this...

To This...

Build log here

Labels: ,

Dolphin-Inspired Man-Made Fin Works Swimmingly
Lunocet swimmers have already hit about eight miles per hour, almost twice the speed of Michael Phelps at his fastest

The human body does many things well, but swimming isn't one of them. We're embarrassingly inefficient in the water, able to convert just 3 or 4 percent of our energy into forward motion. (Even with swim fins, we're only 10 to 15 percent more efficient.) But a new, dolphin-inspired fin promises to fuel the biggest change in human-powered swimming in decades, putting beyond-Olympian speeds within reach of just about anyone.

Culminating decades of research, engineer and inventor Ted Ciamillo, an inventor and engineer in Athens, Ga., who made his name (and fortune) building high-performance bicycle brakes, created what he has dubbed the Lunocet, a 2.5-pound (1.1-kilogram) monofin made of carbon fiber and fiberglass that attaches to an aluminum foot plate at a precise 30-degree angle. With almost three times the surface area of conventional swim fins, the semiflexible Lunocet provides plenty of propulsion. The key to the 42-inch- (one-meter-) wide fin's speed: its shape and angle, both of which are modeled with scientific precision on a dolphin's tail.

These sprinters of the sea can swim up to 33 miles (53 kilometers) per hour and turn up to 80 percent of their energy into thrust.

"The mechanism functions like a wing to generate a lift force," which is directed forward and turned into thrust, says Frank Fish, a marine biologist at West Chester University of Pennsylvania. "This propulsive mechanism is extremely efficient compared to conventional rigid marine propellers." Fish, a specialist in the swimming morphology of marine mammals, provided Ciamillo with data from CAT scans of dolphins' tails that he used to design his fins, which went on the market last year for $1,800 each.

Lunocet users have already hit about eight miles (13 kilometers) per hour, nearly twice as fast as Olympic Gold Medal swimmer Michael Phelps at his speediest.

Using the Lunocet, some swimmers are close to being able to breach completely out of the water, like whales. Ciamillo envisions a new high-speed, free-diving community of swimmers united around "hydrotouring": long-distance swimming expeditions using Lunocets to cover dozens of miles a day, with participants carrying streamlined, waterproof packs containing only a global positioning system (GPS), satellite phone, and enough food and water for a few nights on shore.

The fin could also have a "profound effect" on the sport of free diving (where divers compete to see who can go the deepest while holding their breath), says Grant Graves, president of the U.S. Apnea Association, the country's leading competitive free diving organization. Its efficiency could let those who dive by holding their breath set depth records by going deeper more quickly. Still, speed isn't everything underwater. "The faster you go, the harder you have to work," since drag increases as the square of velocity, he says. "There's a sweet spot between friction, speed, oxygen consumption and distance."

Another attempt to balance that equation is taking shape in the labs of inventor and entrepreneur Dean Kamen's company, DEKA Research and Development Corp. in Manchester, N.H. The creators of the Segway two-wheel, one-person electric vehicle are working with the Defense Sciences Office of the U.S. military's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the research arm of the U.S. Defense Department, to develop the PowerSwim, a high-efficiency, human-powered propulsion system for combat and reconnaissance swimmers. A fiberglass spar (pole) clamped between the calves holds two oscillating foils of carbon fiber, a wide one at the hips and a narrower one at the feet. A shallow squatting motion makes the foils undulate, creating vortices that push forward against the trailing edge and provide thrust.

This design uses the largest leg muscles instead of just the calves and ankles, says DARPA Defense Sciences PowerSwim Program Manager Lt. Col. John Lowell. Top speed is about 2.5 miles (four kilometers) per hour, which still works with scuba gear, but more important, the PowerSwim is 70 to 75 percent efficient at translating effort into propulsion. "We're getting to the point where its getting harder to imagine getting much better than that," Lowell says. DARPA hopes to have working prototypes ready for military divers to test by the end of the year.

Ciamillo is also planning a demo the Lunocet for the Marine Corps's amphibious unit, and is continually refining the fin's pitch control mechanism, which dictates the angle between fin and feet, in an attempt to improve efficiency and speed. He notes that he won't be patenting the Lunocet's design. "If you're taking ideas from nature," he says, "how can you then go to the patent office and say these are mine?"


Labels: , ,

Molten Iron Throwing

Nuanquan, China, where locals hurl molten iron at a wall. And sometimes, on themselves.

Labels: , ,

This one appeals to the six year old in me, which many who know me claim is barely hidden by the flimsiest of covers (if at all). Here is a parasitic fungus that infects ants. The infected ant wanders away from its nest; the ant then reaches a leaf or another plant part. The fungus makes the ant to bite the leaf so powerfully, it hangs from the leaf until it eventually dies; and then (excited-by-gross-stuff six-year old emerging): the fungus grows an upside down stalk out of the dead ant’s head, releasing spores that fall to the ground. The spores are then picked up by ants that walk over them, causing them to wander away from the nest, bite other leaves… Ad nauseam. Wow.

Briefly, once infected, the ant’s behavior is hijacked to act as a delivery system for the fungus, which is finding a good location to die and infect more ants.

Nevertheless the ants have developed behaviors that protect them from infection. The fungus infects on the ground, so the ants build their nest in the forest canopy. They also forage in the canopy Although the canopy contains less food than the ground, the canopy is safer. Still , there are a few ant trails leading to the ground, where the spores of the horrible head-splitting fungus lurk.

There is an idiom in Hebrew: “avodat nemalim” or Ant’s work. It means a repetitive task that requires precision and takes a long time. Pontoppidian and colleagues have done exactly that: they selected a swath of 1200 m2 in the Thai jungle, and looked under each and every leaf there; how is that for “Ant’s work”? They discovered something quite bizarre: the ants clustered in “graveyards”: there were areas where there were considerably more dead ants. Also, within those graveyards there were even denser clusters.

It is not clear why the dead ants cluster in those graveyards. Is it just a result of the nests’ locations? Or is it yet another fungus-induced modification of the infected ants’ behavior that somehow benefits the fungus? The researchers found some correlation between the graveyards’ locations and microclimatic conditions, but nothing that would immediately explain the existence of graveyards. Those clusters of dead ants with fungi sticking out of their heads are still a mystery.


Labels: , ,

Obama Sides With RIAA, Supports $150,000 Fine per Music Track

The Obama administration for the first time is weighing in on a Recording Industry Association of America file sharing lawsuit and is supporting hefty awards of as much as $150,000 per purloined music track.

The government said the damages range of $750 to $150,000 per violation of the Copyright Act was warranted.

"The remedy of statutory damages for copyright infringement has been the cornerstone of our federal copyright law since 1790, and Congress acted reasonably in crafting the current incarnation of the statutory damages provision," Michelle Bennett, a Department of Justice trial attorney wrote Sunday to a Massachusetts federal judge weighing challenge to the Copyright Act.

The position -- that the Copyright Act's monetary damages are not unconstitutionally excessive -- mirrors the one taken by the Bush administration and should come as no surprise.

Two top lawyers in President Barack Obama's Justice Department are former RIAA lawyers: Donald Verrilli Jr. is the associate deputy attorney general who brought down Grokster and fought to prevent a retrial in the Jammie Thomas case. Then there's the No. 2 in the DOJ, Tom Perrilli. As Verrilli's former boss, Perrilli argued in 2002 that internet service providers should release customer information to the RIAA even without a court subpoena.

Presidential administrations often intervene in lawsuits in which the constitutionality of a federal law is in question. This case concerns a former Boston University student challenging a peer-to-peer file sharing case.

Still, parts of the government's brief sounded as if it was taken from the RIAA's public relations playbook.

"Congress sought to account for both the difficulty of quantifying damages in the context of copyright infringement and the need to deter millions of users of new technology from infringing copyrighted work in an environment where many violators believe that their activities will go unnoticed," Bennett wrote.

The RIAA has sued more than 30,000 individuals for file sharing the last five years. It is winding down the campaign and is lobbying internet service providers to discontinue service to copyright scofflaws.


Obama's first ball drop?

Labels: , ,

explorerkit... (5;19)


Caution, link has an annoying autoplaying video.

Labels: , ,

The anti-Sully....

Pilot who paused to pray in crash-landing sentenced to 10 years in jail

A Tunisian pilot who paused to pray instead of taking emergency measures before crash-landing his plane, killing 16 people, has been sentenced to 10 years in jail by an Italian court along with his co-pilot.

The 2005 crash at sea off Sicily left survivors swimming for their lives, some clinging to a piece of the fuselage that remained floating after the ATR turbo-prop aircraft splintered upon impact.

A fuel-gauge malfunction was partly to blame but prosecutors said the pilot had succumbed to panic, praying out loud instead of following emergency procedures and then opting to crash-land the plane instead trying to reach a nearby airport.


Labels: , ,

No charges, but police can keep the cash

Going 62 in a 50-mph zone, a Jeep barreled west on a slippery, snow-covered Airport Expressway on Valentine’s Day and blew past an Allen County sheriff’s squad car.

One traffic stop later, two men inside the Jeep were outside being patted down by officers. They acted nervous, according to a police report. At one point they looked as if they wanted to fight; at another they looked as if they wanted to flee.

In the Jeep’s back seat, police found more than $26,000 in cash wrapped in a stocking cap.

Though officers held the two men for a short time in squad cars, they were eventually released without charges, save for the driver receiving a citation for driving with a suspended license.

And the money? The police kept it.

Having that much cash is not a crime, but police have the right to seize it if they suspect it has been used or procured through criminal means. Most of the money seized comes from drug cases and can then be used by various law enforcement agencies.

And at least one local agency, the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office, has taken a more aggressive approach in forfeiture cases, with the amount of money in its state seizure fund growing from more than $53,000 in 2004 to more than $105,000 in 2008, according to Allen County’s Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander.

“We’ve gotten a little more aggressive,” said McAlexander, citing better communication with police in how confiscations work locally. “We’ve created a better process.”

In the situation with the $26,000, police seized the money because the driver could not give an adequate reason for having that much money. First, the driver said it was to buy a car, according to the police report. Then, he said it came from working at various jobs. The passenger said he had no clue about the money.

Those factors allowed police to take the money.

“If it’s way, way over and above what a normal person will carry, and if things don’t add up (on how it was acquired), we take the money,” said Lt. Art Barile, head of the sheriff department’s vice and narcotics unit and the Allen County Drug Task Force, a multiagency unit run out of the sheriff’s department.

How often money is confiscated from people not charged with crimes is hard to determine, Barile said, but his best guess for his department is that it happens “maybe 10 percent of the time” his department performs a seizure.

Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards said her office seldom sees forfeitures without criminal charges attached.

Bob Trgovich, assistant U.S. attorney at the local federal court, said it’s not necessarily a rare practice for his office but it does happen, sometimes with more drawn-out cases.

“We had a case a few years ago where members of this conspiracy, over the course of two years, were stopped several times,” he said. “Each time they were stopped, they had large amounts of money.”

Though the processes may differ with each case and whether it’s handled by federal or state prosecutors, people who typically have money seized must file a claim if they want it back. They have to show how they got the money and that it was procured legally. Many don’t even file a claim, according to Trgovich.

“If you find money in a vehicle, and that’s all you find, many times (the people) in the vehicle don’t want to admit it’s theirs,” Trgovich said.

After money is seized by a law enforcement agency, prosecutors in either state or federal court take over a process that determines where the money ends up. Typically, federal prosecutors handle large amounts of money, such as the $26,000 case, which Barile said has been forwarded to federal authorities. Local prosecutors take the cases with smaller amounts of cash, from $1,000 to $4,000, according to Richards.

Depending on the subtleties of the case and what court is involved, the money usually ends up divided among prosecutors and the police agency or agencies responsible for seizing the money. The process can be long and intricate, though.

“It’s a complicated nightmare, actually,” said Auburn Police Chief Martin McCoy, who sometimes is a spokesman for the IMAGE Drug Task Force, made up of officers from Noble, LaGrange, Steuben and DeKalb counties.

In a state seizure case, the arresting agency must show how much money it used in the investigation that led to the seizure. Prosecutors, too, have to show how much money went into the litigation for the seizures.

“You’re supposed to take your law enforcement expenses out of (the seized money), which could be anything from the attorney’s time to write a search warrant, the cost of doing the forfeiture, the court costs, or (drug) buy money for the police department,” Richards said.

In some cases, that money gets funneled back into the respective agencies involved with the seizures, according to Richards, McCoy and Barile.

The money left over after expenses goes to the state’s Common School Fund, which was established in 1851 and has historically been used to provide low-interest loans for school-building projects.

For example, if police seize $5,000 and the department and prosecutor show the investigation and litigation into the case cost $2,000, the two agencies will probably split $2,000 of the money. The remaining $3,000 goes to the Common School Fund.

A federal seizure typically goes quicker, McCoy said, and the Common School Fund is not in play. A police agency can receive up to 75 percent of the money it seizes, according to Barile and McCoy, while prosecutors at the federal level keep the rest.

According to McCoy, his department does not seize a lot of money, and maybe has one case a year that results in the confiscation of more than $5,000. When the Auburn Police Department seizes money, whatever is recouped usually goes into a general fund for the city of Auburn, and the police department does not see that money again.

If the IMAGE Task Force takes the money, it usually gets that cash back. But, he said, it’s not like seizures are in abundance in his jurisdiction.

“We’re not getting rich on seizures, by any means,” he said.


Labels: , , ,

A Note on Semantic Satiation

Charles E. Osgood (Lectures on Language Performance. Springer-Verlag. 1980. p. 25) describes the following phenomenon:

semantic satiation - where rapid seeing/saying repetition of a word, like canoe-canoe-canoe... produces a loss of meaningfulness, but repetition of a nonsense overt response having the same shape, nuka-nuka-nuka...does not.

The phenomenon was discovered by Titchner and his co-workers (see

See 2;20 to 3;00 mark below for a famous example.....


Labels: , ,

How I got my genes deleted

I've had my DNA struck from police records - now it's over to the rest of you 799,999 innocents

Mark Thomas

Until Tuesday I was one of 800,000 innocent people in the UK who had their DNA on the police database. Most of us had a swab sample taken on arrest and our identifiable cell clusters have languished on police files even if charges were dropped or we were found not guilty in court.

In 2003 I was arrested at a protest against the arms dealer BAE Systems and charged with causing £80 worth of damage to a bus. Leaving aside the irony that if any BAE Systems products only caused £80 of damage the purchasers would sue for a refund, seven months later I found myself on trial. After two days I was acquitted on the legal technicality of being innocent. More important, the court found there was no evidence for a crime having been committed in the first place. The experience left me frustrated, with only a 20-minute comedy routine to take away the pain of injustice.

Now before folk howl that I am a champagne anarchist happy to harp on about civil liberties while murderers run free, let me explain my objections. I have no problem with those found guilty of a serious criminal offence being on the database, especially those in prison - it seems small beer that the state holds a tiny amount of their DNA on file when the primary clump of their genes is being held at Her Majesty's pleasure. Likewise those who have served their time: being on the database is the price you pay for having, as the Sweeney would say, "previous". Neither do I object to the police taking my DNA in the first place - but once a person is proven innocent what right and reason do the police have to retain the DNA profile?

In December 2008 all this changed when the European court of human rights ruled that by retaining the DNA of the innocent, the UK government was in breach of Article 8 of the European convention, the right to family and private life. A spirit of optimism filled campaigners as Jacqui Smith had three months to comply with the ruling. However, the one thing we have learnt about Labour home secretaries and civil liberties is that they don't much like liberty. Or civility. Three months passed and nothing changed. So with my lawyer I sent a letter before claim to the Met commissioner, essentially threatening to issue judicial review proceedings unless my DNA was removed.

We based the claim on a number of points. One was the European ruling, another was the fact that police commissioners have the discretion to remove DNA samples in "exceptional circumstances". Not only was there no evidence of the crime I was charged with but my DNA had been hanging around for over five years with no convictions attaching themselves to it. These seemed "exceptional circumstances".

On Tuesday the police replied with one line: "I can confirm that a decision has been made to delete your client's fingerprints and DNA sample and DNA profile." No explanation why.

Victory celebrations, though, might be premature. As the law remains unchanged it leaves the onus on individuals to write to the police seeking removal. Helen Wallace, from the NGO GeneWatch, says she has received "copies of letters from lots of individuals who have not been convicted of any offence who are being refused removal from the database". As Jacqui Smith has dodged the issue it is up to us. There are 799,999 of you out there, mostly pissed off, some eligible for legal aid, and everyone with the motivation to do their bit in rolling back the data state. Go on, write in.


Labels: , , ,

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is based on the children's book of the same name written by author Judi Barrett. A scientist trying to solve world hunger encounters a problem of global proportions in the town of Chewandswallow, as food begins to fall from the sky.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sweet dreams...


Jim Carrey, Sean Penn And Benicio Del Toro Cast As Three Stooges

Farrelly brothers will direct award-winning trio in the film, due in 2010.

Calling Dr. Penn, Dr. Carrey, Dr. del Toro?

In one of the most bizarre casting revelations in recent Hollywood memory, MGM and the Farrelly brothers are closing in on the actors who will become the new Three Stooges. And their choices to play the updated versions of three impetuous nitwits who whack each other over the head with lead pipes? Oscar-wining actors Sean Penn and Benicio del Toro, along with Golden Globe winner Jim Carrey.

According to a report in Variety, the laugh-worthy rumor is actually true: Sean Penn will follow his recent Oscar-winning performance in "Milk" by taking on the role of Larry. The porcupine-haired silent partner in the trio was portrayed for five decades by Larry Fine and became best known for his love of the violin and getting in the middle of the other two Stooges during eye-poke fights. We can only assume that Penn will be bringing back his "Carlito's Way" haircut.

As for the pivotal role of soup-slurping, chrome-domed Curly, it looks like Jim Carrey will be slowly turning, step-by-step and inch-by-inch. Long considered the modern-day master of the sort of physical comedy the Stooges invented, Carrey's work in films like "Liar, Liar" owes a clear debt to Jerome "Curly" Howard. Still, it's hard to imagine an actor that looks less appropriate physically, so expect quite a transformation as Carrey reportedly intends to gain 40 pounds to play the role of the dumbest Stooge.

Finally, the Farrelly brothers are looking to cast Benicio del Toro — last seen in Steven Soderbergh's deadly serious biopic of Cuban revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara — as Moe. The leader of the Stooges, the character was originated by Moe Howard and was marked by the loving brutality (heads in vices, nose tweaks, ear twists, etc.) he'd dole out on his associates.

The Farrellys, makers of such beloved crude films as "There's Something About Mary" and "Shallow Hal," have been trying to reinvent the Stooges for more than a decade. In that time, various rumors have had them doing everything from making the boys into girls to casting Johnny Depp and Russell Crowe. In a late 2007 interview with MTV News, the brothers revealed several key plot points they had in mind for the project.

As for the Stooges themselves, the dimwitted trio starred in nearly 200 shorts and movies from 1930 to Moe and Larry's death in 1975, blazing the way for modern comedy. With help from Curly replacements Shemp, Joe and Curly-Joe, they explored the bromance long before the term was coined, loving and hating each other through numerous adventures that reimagined them as plumbers, soldiers, physicians and all-around numbskulls.

Rather than being a biopic, the Farrellys have said in the past that the film will be a modern-day take on the Stooges, most likely consisting of several short films within the movie. Production is expected to begin in the fall for a 2010 release.



You’re Looking Mighty Sheveled Today

Humor comes from anything, and from anywhere, but we have to have “ammo.”

I look for the inconsistencies in real life. One thing I’ve noticed is that, many words we use regularly, have lost their antecedents. Here are some examples:

When someone looks like they just got up from bed, all rumpled, and wrinkled, we may say they look disheveled, but I never hear of anyone, who looks neat and clean, described as sheveled.

Unkempt is another word with a similar meaning. My mother never told me, “You are certainly looking kempt today.”

How about bedraggled and bewildered? Try telling your sweetie, “You’re lookin’ really draggled and wildered tonight babe!” See how far that gets you.

We reverse our vehicles to go backward, but we do not verse them to go forward.

My son can get distracted, but I have never seen him tracted. And why don’t we appreciate tractions at the office, since we all hate distractions so much?

We hire people to find defects in products, but who finds the fects? Which brings to mind the question, if someone defects when they leave their country, if they go back, are they fecting?

Before we can make a reference to something, do we first have to make a ference?

We can have first runs and reruns, but never first peats followed by repeats.

Bad people may be reprobates, but good people are never probates.

An evil reprobate may debauch, defile or deflower a woman. Does this mean the probate hero bauches, files and flowers her?

We are supposed to inspect what we expect, but where the heck do we find all those pects in the first place? At the dentist we are told to expectorate, so when we drink I guess we are inspectorating?

I’m so distraught. But don’t worry, I’ll be just traught later.

To disemble is to lie, to resemble is to look like, so would sembling be not looking like we aren’t lying?

I hate to interrupt this right now, but feel free to terrupt the discussion in comments.

Subscribe for free if you can’t survive without this stuff. In other words you might vive without it. And I don’t want that on my conscious.


Labels: ,

Teens capture images of space with £56 camera and balloon

Proving that you don't need Google's billions or the BBC weather centre's resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.

Taking atmospheric readings and photographs 20 miles above the ground, the Meteotek team of IES La Bisbal school in Catalonia completed their incredible experiment at the end of February this year.

Building the electronic sensor components from scratch, Gerard Marull Paretas, Sergi Saballs Vila, Marta­ Gasull Morcillo and Jaume Puigmiquel Casamort managed to send their heavy duty £43 latex balloon to the edge of space and take readings of its ascent.

Created by the four students under the guidance of teacher Jordi Fanals Oriol, the budding scientists, all aged 18-19, followed the progress of their balloon using high tech sensors communicating with Google Earth.

Team leader Gerard Marull, 18, said: "We were overwhelmed at our results, especially the photographs, to send our handmade craft to the edge of space is incredible."

Completing their landmark experiment on February, the Meteotek team had to account for a wide variety of variables and rely on a lot of luck.

"The balloon we chose was inflated with helium to just over two metres and weighed just 1500 grams," said Gerard. "It was able to carry the sensor equipment and digital Nikon camera which weighed 1.5kg.

"However, when we launched at 9.10am on that morning the critical point for the experiment was to see if the balloon would make it past 10,000m, or 30,000ft, which is the altitude that commercial airliners fly at."

Due to the changing atmospheric pressures, the helium weather balloon carrying the meteorological equipment was expected to inflate to a maximum of nine and a half metres as it travelled upwards at 270 metres-per-minute.

"We took readings as the balloon rose and mapped its progress using Google Earth and the onboard radio receiver," said Gerard.

"At over 100,000ft the balloon lost its inflation and the equipment was returned to the earth.

"We travelled 10km to find the sensors and photographic card, which was still emitting its signal, even though it had been exposed to the most extreme conditions."

The pupils' incredible school science project has already caught the attention of the University of Wyoming in the US.

If your Spanish is up to snuff, their blog has more text and photos.

Labels: , , ,


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Obama zings reporter...(0;20)

Labels: , ,

Driver Led To 100ft Cliff Edge By Sat Nav

A driver has blamed his sat nav for leaving his car teetering on the edge of a cliff after he followed its instructions.

Robert Jones said he trusted his navigational system and continued to follow it when it told him the steep, narrow footpath he was driving on was a road.

Mr Jones, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, now faces court action for driving without due care and attention.

His BMW nearly plunged down a 100ft cliff in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, on Sunday.

He was only stopped from falling after the vehicle rammed into a wire fence.

Police and rescue teams then spent nine hours recovering his car following the incident.

The 43-year-old, who works as a driver, said he relies on his sat nav for his job and described the incident as a "nightmare".

He told the Halifax Evening Courier: "It kept insisting the path was a road, even as it was getting narrower and steeper, so I just trusted it.

"You don't expect to be taken nearly over a cliff."

Mr Jones added: "I guess I'm just lucky the car didn't slip all the way over the edge."

The drama attracted crowds of onlookers in the picturesque market town that borders the Pennines.

One said: "It's like something off the Italian Job, but what a waste of police time.

"It's all well and good trusting your sat nav but how about trusting your eyes and when there's not a road in front of you, don't keep driving."

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "Officers received a call at 11.18am on Sunday March 22 reporting that a BMW was hanging off the edge of a cliff off Bacup Road.

"The driver was a 43-year-old man from Doncaster. He has been summonsed to court for driving without due care and attention."


Reminds me of the old joke,..."What's the difference between porcupines and BMW's?"

"On the porcupine, the prick is on the outside."

Labels: , ,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Light and Heat: Giant Fresnel

We all played with magnifying glasses as kids. Lighting leaves on fire, scorching our retinas, and causing a massive downswing in the local insect population. Fond, fond memories.

If you didn’t, may I suggest that you go find one, fool around with it on a sunny day for an hour or so, and then rejoin us. You are missing out.

A few kids were lucky enough to join the big leagues with their big Fresnel lenses. I was one of those much-envied kids. I cannot imagine how a twelve inch square of plastic could bring more joy to anyone. It was instant fire, molten lead, and ant vaporizing. At that scale it ceased to be cruel… the ants simply ceased to be.

Flash forward nearly two decades. I’m hard to impress (though easy to entertain). Fantasticked out by thermite and plasma torches, how could a little magnifying glass impress me? When it’s a very big one. Three feet by four feet. The size of a 60″ TV (funny coincidence there…), this is NOT your childhood playmate.

Welding goggles are a necessity here, not just a madscipunk accessory. Dead men don’t tell tales, and blind men have trouble negotiating traffic.

250 watts/m^2 of insolation is a pretty fair estimate. 12 ft^2 = 1.1 m^2, so nearly 275W of solar fire juice hitting the lens. Part of that total is spectrum that won’t pass through the lens, plus lens losses on the visible band, plus dirt… so an ultraconservative estimate is around 200W coming out the other side. This is concentrated into an area the size of a penny. A very sad and runny penny.

200 watts may not sound like much, but imagine a laser of the same power. The most powerful of the Wicked Lasers caps out at 300 milliwatts… 1000x less powerful. Laser cutters are generally 100W and less. This is serious power.

How does that translate to real live burnination? Melts pennies, brass locks, glass, and even fuses sand. Fusing silica = 1500°C. I’ve even kicked around the idea of a solar fired kiln.

Now that you’re frantically searching craigslist and ebay for big Fresnel lenses, I’m going to let you in on the secret. Rear projection TVs all have lenses equal in size to their display. It’s part of the core design. These are the same TVs that people are throwing away at this very moment, all over the US. The Free section of Craigslist in LA sees at least three of these bad boys a week, often more. Tax rebates, the Superbowl, and Christmas all cause peaks in the dump rate.

Be considerate - if the TV is in working condition, let someone else enjoy it. Also, you’ll probably be expected to dispose of all the RPTV materials if you pick one up, so don’t strip out the screen and leave the heavy CRT-laden base on your benefactor’s curb.

The last tip is to build a frame. This supports the Fresnel and prevents sagging. If the lens sags, it distorts the focus, and prevents you from achieving the highest possible concentrations. I also added a piece of aluminum bar stockto further reduce sag in the center. It blocks a tiny percentage of the light, and really improves the focus.


Labels: , ,

Ventriloquist & Her Rude Monkey (6;18)...(some naughty words)

Labels: , ,

An undersea volcano erupts sending plumes of steam, ash and smoke up to 100 metres into the air, on 18 March 2009 off the coast of Nuku'Alofa, Tonga. The volcano, which is situated approximately six miles off of the main Tongan island of Tongatapu, is one of around 36 undersea volcanoes clustered in the area.


Labels: ,

The Amazing Rusting Aluminum

Unless you are a representative of a national meteorological bureau licensed to carry a barometer (and odds are you’re not), bringing mercury onboard an airplane is strictly forbidden. Why? If it got loose, it could rust the plane to pieces before it had a chance to land. You see, airplanes are made of aluminum, and aluminum is highly unstable.

Wait, isn’t one of the great things about aluminum that, unlike iron, it doesn’t rust? Am I talking about the same aluminum? Yes! Your aluminum pot is made of a highly reactive chemical. It simply has a trick that lets it disguise itself as a corrosion-resistant metal.

When iron rusts, it forms iron oxide—a reddish, powdery substance that quickly flakes off to expose fresh metal, which immediately begins to rust, and so on until your muffler falls off.

But when aluminum rusts, it forms aluminum oxide, an entirely different animal. In crystal form, aluminum oxide is called corundum, sapphire or ruby (depending on the color), and it is among the hardest substances known. If you wanted to design a strong, scratchproof coating to put on a metal, few things other than diamond would be better than aluminum oxide.

By rusting, aluminum is forming a protective coating that’s chemically identical to sapphire—transparent, impervious to air and many chemicals, and able to protect the surface from further rusting: As soon as a microscopically thin layer has formed, the rusting stops. (“Anodized” aluminum has been treated with acid and electricity to force it to grow an extra-thick layer of rust, because the more you have on the surface, the stronger and more scratch-resistant it is.)

This invisible barrier forms so quickly that aluminum seems, even in molten form, to be an inert metal. But this illusion can be shattered with aluminum’s archenemy, mercury.

Applied to aluminum’s surface, mercury will infiltrate the metal and disrupt its protective coating, allowing it to “rust” (in the more destructive sense) continuously by preventing a new layer of oxide from forming. The aluminum I-beam above rusted half away in a few hours, something that would have taken an iron beam years.

I’ve heard that during World War II, commandos were sent deep into German territory to smear mercury paste on aircraft to make them inexplicably fall apart. Whether the story is true or not, the sabotage would have worked. The few-micron-thick layer of aluminum oxide is the only thing holding an airplane together. Think about that the next time you’re flying. Or maybe it’s better if you don’t.


Labels: , ,


No Sunday drive
Being tracked by the Taliban, pelted by rocks -just another trip through Afghanistan

If you're going to take a driving tour of Kandahar, there's no better way to do it than inside an RG-31.

Not that you have any choice.

Sure, it lacks the creature comforts found in the better tour buses -plush seats have been replaced by a canvas bench with a five-point harness, your flak vest, ballistic eyewear and helmet are no substitute for loungewear - but your tour guides are C7- packing soldiers and they know the terrain.

It's not a secret that from the second we leave the base, the Taliban know exactly where we are and will be everywhere we have been five minutes after we leave to interrogate local officials about who we are and what we talked about.

When it comes to things with which to take faint comfort in a war zone, knowing your guys shoot a hell of a lot more accurately than the other guys turns out to be a surprisingly comfortable security blanket.

No one just goes for a drive in Afghanistan without armour and an extensive briefing about where Taliban cells have set up shop today, grim reports about possible suicide bombers scouting locations known to be frequented by coalition soldiers and other matters that security constraints prohibit discussion.

Canadian soldiers don't huddle in compounds, despite the addition of helicopters and unmanned drones to the mission. Getting out to show the colours and inspect things on the ground is part of the daily routine.

On this trip, the soldiers are out to ferry a Corrections Canada official on an inspection of Kandahar's Sarposa Prison and act as force protection for members of the provincial reconstruction team -widely referred to as Canada's ticket out of Afghanistan - as they check on work at Kandahar University, plus a couple of reporters tagging along for the voyage.

It's a daily routine in which the dangers are not overemphasized, just acknowledged.

As the warrant officer in charge of this convoy tells the visitors in peppery military verbal shorthand, "Don't wander off, don't lose sight of us. Anything happens, hit the ground, stay there, listen to what you're told and get back to the vehicle when you're told. If you're not on the vehicle when we leave, we're not [expletive] going looking for you."

OK, maybe it lacks the polish of a $5,000-an-hour corporate speaker, but I'm motivated to follow orders in a way I never am listening to the guys in the power suits.

Of course, the daily routine starts with a trip down Rock Alley, near Camp Nathan Smith, a fortified compound in Kandahar City where the reconstruction team is based, and soon the projectiles are clanging off the side of the RG's hull.

"Woah, did you see that one?" yells one of the soldiers in back, relaxed after taking this trip many times.

"That kid couldn't have been any more than five years old, and he threw a freakin' boulder! It was almost as big as he was."

The kids either give the thumbs up sign or chuck a rock. They bounce harmlessly off the side of the armoured vehicle, and one supposes for the kids tossing them in these dusty streets, it's the Afghan equivalent of free cable.

Gunners who sit in a hatch atop the Light Armoured Vehicle, unlike the closed-in RG-31, laugh in camp as they tell stories about how kids come to the edge of the road and call out to the soldiers, getting them to turn their heads toward them so they can more efficiently peg them in the face with a stone. The story of a medic who suffered a broken nose from a rock tossed by a four-year-old has reached legendary proportions.

The RG-31s and the LAVs are the kings of the road in Kandahar. Bright red-and-white signs plastered to the bumpers of the vehicles warn other traffic to keep back and on this trip, nothing gets closer than 100 metres as the trucks tear through the streets, inches off each others' bumpers.

Every Afghan owns a radio and the International Security Assistance Force buys radio spots on the half-hour cautioning local drivers to give way to the military vehicles and not to creep into the envelope of empty space they carry around them.

That's a very big deal. Jamie Cade, deputy commander of the Canadian contingent in Afghanistan, says the Forces have just finished negotiating compensation with an Afghan family, two of whose children were killed when a Canadian convoy opened up on them with .25-calibre machine guns last year.

"They had pulled over to the side of the road, and as the convoy passed, they pulled back into the road, right in the middle of the convoy, which, unfortunately, is what suicide bombers do," explains Cade.

After meetings with the family, the Canadian Forces paid compensation in cash, livestock, wheat and other goods, as well as expressing their regret, but Cade said the episode illustrates how difficult it is to operate in this country.

"This is a war of counter-insurgency, it's not war like the Second World War when it was about taking and holding territory," he said.

"What we're dealing with here is a Taliban-led insurgency fuelled by money from drugs, but a lot of attacks are instigated by criminals who are not Taliban. That said, it can be difficult to tell who is attacking you because out here, everyone looks the same. There are no uniforms."

Shops and huts fly past, the tall radio antennas scrape off low-hanging telephone lines strung from bundles of dead trees dug into the ground as four vehicles, packed with soldiers, interpreters, government officials and reporters wind their way through Kandahar's dusty streets.

The soldiers' good mood masks a professional caution. Roadside improvised explosive devices, even in busy market areas, are not unknown and drivers give any vehicle parked too near the shoulder a wide berth and a squirt of gas as they pass.

Despite their good mood, they are constantly scanning traffic ahead, at intersections and particularly behind in case a vehicle starts speeding toward us.

At one point, we find ourselves driving through a huge Afghan cemetery, graves stretching out on either side for blocks and bright flags planted into the rocky soil like headstones, a reminder of how cheap life is in this country.

Overlooking it all, and the only person in the vehicle neither smiling nor joking, is the gunner, who sits mid-vehicle silently watching the screen in front of him.

It is connected to the Protector remote weapons pod on the roof -every vehicle in the convoy has one -and they swivel around busily on the vehicles in front of us to scan side streets and traffic front and back.

Each pod is loaded with cameras, both optical and night-vision, a machine gun, rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and other armament. With a joystick manipulated by a brown-gloved fist, the gunner is in command of the defence of the vehicle.

Residents squat by the side of the road and stare indifferently at the Canadian convoy, particularly after the four vehicles head down a side street and discover an unsigned Afghan road construction project has blocked the way with a metre-high berm of gravel on which children play and no one apparently works at clearing.

Armoured vehicles performing three-point turns in series while the others take up fire positions in case this is an ambush of opportunity gets the attention of even the bored Afghans.

As we head back to pick an alternate route the soldiers wave and cheerfully call, "Sorry - we're not from around here."

Another calls out to the driver during the painful three-point turn through loose gravel, "If you get stuck, I'm not getting out to push."


Labels: , ,

80 hot chicks....

Labels: ,

Stun gun shock to head may cause seizures, doctors warn

A police officer who was mistakenly hit in the head by a stun gun suffered seizures, Canadian doctors reported on Monday.

The officer was in his 30s and previously in good health. He was hit by a Taser shot meant for a suspect involved in a police chase, Dr. Richard Wennberg and co-authors from Toronto Western Hospital and the University of Toronto reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"Until now, most reports of Taser-related adverse events have understandably concentrated on cardiac complications associated with shots to the chest," the study's authors said in their case report.

"Our report shows that a Taser shot to the head may result in brain-specific complications. It also suggests that seizure should be added to the list of Taser-related adverse events."

Taser stun guns are manufactured by Taser International Inc. in Scottsdale, Ariz. and are used by law enforcement personnel to incapacitate people with an electric shock.

The stun gun was fired once, sending two barbed darts into the officer's upper back and back of the head, according to police records.

The report didn't specify what police force the man was from.
Not the usual symptoms

After the officer was hit, he collapsed, lost consciousness and was not breathing, the doctors reported.

His eyes rolled upward, he was foaming at the mouth and his arms and legs jerked for about one minute. He was confused for several minutes.

These symptoms distinguish the episode from the usual, short-term incapacitation induced by stun guns, the researchers said.

Wennberg said stun guns pack about the same jolt used to induce seizures in electroshock therapy, which is used to treat severe depression.

A neurological assessment of the patient diagnosed mild traumatic brain injury and post-concussion syndrome related to the head impact from the Taser shot or falling to the ground during the seizure.

The patient has not had any more seizures since the incident more than one year ago.

He continues to have symptoms of anxiety, difficulties concentrating, irritability, dizziness and persistent headaches, the researchers said in describing his treatment.
Company warns of seizure risk

Taser International warns that stun guns should not target the head.

"We do, both in training and warnings, make mention that the head should not be targeted," spokesman Peter Holran said in a statement to the Canadian Press.

"Taser International is aware of a few incidents during training in which an officer experienced a seizure following a hit by a Taser device."

Those incidents were not written up in medical reports. But the company's document Product Warnings: Law Enforcement clearly warns against targeting sensitive areas such as the head and further states that the risk of a seizure "may be heightened if electrical stimuli or current passes through the head region."

The company said it did not receive an advance copy of the case report, and will review it.


Labels: ,

Man sues OLG over $43M slot 'mistake'

A Wasaga Beach retiree is suing the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation for a total of $45.9 million after he claims he won big on a slot machine only to be offered a few free buffet dinners.

Pawel Kusznirewicz served the OLG with a statement of claim today for a trip to the Georgian Downs slots last December that left him feeling like a “persona non grata” and out a $42.9 million win.

When the lights and sirens went off on the two-penny slot, named the Buccaneer, the Polish immigrant thought he had won millions - he even got chest pains and thought he was about to have a heart attack. One OLG staffer told him he’d have to go to the winner’s circle to collect but other officials told him the machine had malfunctioned and there’d be no cash.

“I’m very frustrated because you see that big money and then you get nothing,” Kusznirewicz told the Sun today. “For $42 million, a four person buffet? You got to be kidding.”

The OLG has vowed to defend the action saying the machine really did malfunction and the Buccaneer only pays out a maximum jackpot of $9,025.

“Bottom line is the machine malfunctioned, this was not a winning play, the machine goes nowhere close to those astronomical figures that are being quoted,” OLG spokesman Allison Sparkes said, adding there was an error message on the screen.

“A loose analogy would be if you went to your bank machine and deposited $1,000 and an error message appeared and your receipt came out saying you actually deposited $1 million, you don’t get to keep the $1 million because the machine malfunctioned.

“You certainly wouldn’t expect the banks to give you the money because of a technical error.”

In his statement of claim Kusznirewicz, 55, states he attended the Innisfil casino with his wife Halina on Dec. 8 and began playing the Buccaneer. After 20 minutes and $60 worth of playing, the Buccaneer began making sounds and flashing its lights, indicating a win, the statement claims.

“The prize won by Kusznirewicz, as shown on the video screen of the Buccaneer slot machine, was $42.9 million,” the claim states.

All the statements in his claim have yet to be proven in court.

Casino staff told Kusznirewicz he would not be paid because of a malfunction.

Kusznirewicz claims there was no indication the machine was broken and OLG staff couldn’t point him to any proof. Staff took photos of the machine and then turned it off.

One supervisor gave him a business card for two then four free meals at the casino’s buffet. Kusznirewicz says he didn’t take them up on the buffet meals.

The statement asks the OLG to pay $42.9 million along with $1 million in general damages, $1 million in aggravated damages, $1 million in punitive or exemplary damages and costs.

Kusznirewicz’s lawyer Bryan McPhadden said his client was lured into the casino under the promise of potentially winning the dream only to have it turn quickly into a nightmare once he won.

“Under the circumstances OLG should pay the amount it indicated he had won,” McPhadden said. “OLG wants people to play for the fantasy and when the dream comes true they pull it away.”

The OLG vowed to defend the action saying they followed the rules of the province’s slot machine regulator, the Alchohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario. Any wins caused by a malfunction are void, the corporation maintained, adding that warning is posted on each slot machine.

Lisa Murray, a spokesman for the AGCO, said a final investigator’s report on the machine should be released soon.

“There was a malfunction,” Murray said, adding the commission subsequently checked similar machines in the province. “This is the only time it has ever happened for a jackpot for a large prize like this ... It was a blip, it was an abnormality that happened.

“It’s an electronic device so from time to time there will be a malfunction that will occur.”

The AGCO sets the standards for how the machines must be operated before they are introduced and check them quarterly, she said.


Labels: , ,

Steve, don't eat it was recently sent to me via email by a friend who knows I enjoy posting odd stuff like this.

Steve eats stuff loosely categorized as food, and is still walking around. Slightly disgusting, slightly NSFW, Worth a lazy 30 minutes to read.

Go here.

Labels: , ,

Is Air-Drumming Now a Crime?

Metal fan’s air-drumming vid yanked from YouTube for copyright infringement.

I am a huge fan of Suffocation and have been air-drumming this song since the early 90’s. I put a video of me doing it on YouTube and it quickly gained over 3.5 million views. Thousands (millions?) of people have discovered Suffocation’s music because of this video.

Today I noticed that the video has been taken down by YouTube because of a copyright infringement claim by WMG. My guess is the audio was detected by a software program and the video was automatically removed without manual review.

I’m proud of the video. And I’ve heard that the band likes it too. I think it’s in the label’s best interest to keep this video online. If they hired someone to make a music video for this song, it probably wouldn’t have received so many views.

My idea: Either (1) give me a license to use the song, or (2) I am happy to sign away the rights to this video to the band/label/whoever, at no cost. Consider it your music video.

I’m just a fan. I also consider myself the director and performer in what is arguably the most popular death metal music video in history! Lets keep it online. If you know anyone involved with WMG, Roadrunner Records, Suffocation, or the music industry in general, please forward this page to them.

Philip Kaplan


There was a link to the band's most popular video here, but I refuse to post it up and get them more page views.

Labels: , , ,

Wow. Sandal Surfing at highway speeds...(1:10)

Labels: , ,

New Terminator trailer.. looks good...

Terminator: Salvation hits on May 21st


Saturday, March 21, 2009

It'll be a while until the next big update...getting off a long work stretch and currently posting from my Iphone from a cabin on the coast here in Long Beach, Wa.
Back to society in 3 days. With pics.


Sunday, March 15, 2009