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Podcasts, webcasts, online video and audio on science and engineering topics.
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Podcasts, webcasts, online video and audio on science and engineering topics.

Footballs Providing Light to Those Without Electricity at Home

This is an update on our previous post: sOccket: Power Through Play. This year, Soccket, 3,000 balls are scheduled to be put into use around the world. The college students (all women, by the way) that came up with this idea (harnessing the kenetic energy created while kicking a football [soccer ball] around to power a batter to use for lighting) are continuing to test and develop the product.

That ball has to be able to survive dusty, wet and harsh conditions and continue to provide power. The new, production version of the football powers a water sterilizer, fan, and provides up to 24 hours of LED light. It also can’t be deflated (a side affect of a design that is able to survive the rough environments, I believe).

I love to see engineers focusing on providing solutions for the billions of people that need simple solutions. Creating the next iPhone innovations is also cool, but the impact of meeting the needs of those largely ignored today, is often even greater.

The sOccket inventors also have a talent for publicity, which is always useful for entrepreneurs.

Related: Water Pump Merry-go-RoundWater and Electricity for AllHigh School Team Developing Clean Water SolutionsSmokeless Stove Uses 80% Less Fuel

Brian Cox – Lecture on Science and Quantum Mechanics

Brian Cox gave a wonderful lecture at the Royal Institution of Great Britain. This is one more great thing the internet makes possible: have great fun while you learn. Enjoy.

With the help of Jonathan Ross, Simon Pegg, Sarah Millican and James May, Brian shows how diamonds – the hardest material in nature – are made up of nothingness; how things can be in an infinite number of places at once; why everything we see or touch in the universe exists; and how a diamond in the heart of London is in communication with the largest diamond in the cosmos.

Related: Quantum Mechanics Made Relatively Simple Podcasts by Hana BetheBrian Cox Particle Physics WebcastPhysicists Observe New Property of Matter

Schematics of Electronic Circuits

Reading circuit diagrams

Schematic diagrams are made up of two things: symbols that represent the components in the circuit, and lines that represent the connections between them.

If a line runs between components, it means that they are connected, period, and it tells you nothing else. The connection can be a wire, a copper trace, a plug-socket connection, a metal chassis, or anything else that electricity will run through without much resistance. Messy details like wire or cable specifications and routing, if they are important for a project, belong elsewhere in its documentation. The length of a line also has nothing to do with the connection’s actual distance in real life. Schematics are drawn (ideally) to be clear and simple, with components and connections arranged on the page to minimize clutter, not to represent how they might be placed on a circuit board.

The video and the article give you a good start on understanding schematics. There are 2 ways to show wires crossing in a schematic (the video shows one, the article shows both). Learning how to read a schematic gives you the ability to go many different directions with your home engineering efforts. Have fun.

Related: Arduino: Open Source Programmable HardwareEZ-Builder Robot Control SoftwareBuilding a Windmill to Generate Electricity by Reading and ExperimentingTeaching Through Tinkering

Bacteria Living Inside Animals Cells

Interesting discussion on the bacteria living inside our cells. For example, many plants have bacteria that get inside the root system and then help fix nitrogen for the plant. Some sea slugs take the chloroplasts from algae they eat and incorporate it themselves, allowing them to get energy from light (photosynthesis): they become photosynthetic slugs.

Adults need science education more than kids do is also a good segment. And I agree strongly that we (as individuals and society) lose a great deal when we fail to help people enjoy learning about science during their whole lives.

I also like the usability of this widget above, where it lets you include the internal links easily into a video.

Related: Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteriaBiologists Identified a New Way in Which Bacteria Hijack Healthy CellsUsing Bacteria to Carry Nanoparticles Into CellsThe Economic Consequences of Investing in Science Education

Cat Goes to the Train Station to Meet Its Owner Each Evening

Graeme, a cat in Melbourne, Australia, walks to the train station with its owner in the morning and then goes off to play (and probably lots of sleep, it is a cat) and then returns in time to meet its owner at the train station after the work day.

The pampered cat cannot get enough of attention, with scores of regulars calling him by name as they stop for a chat and give him a pat on the head. Safety conscious, the sociable moggie is meticulous about using the subway to cross to the city-bound platform, rather than take a dangerous short cut across the tracks.

When the evening peak comes around, Graeme puts on an encore performance, arriving at the opposite platform in time to greet owner Nicole Weinrich as she returns home from work. “He always seems to know which train carriage I am on and will be sitting there behind the yellow line when the doors open, because he is all about safety,” Ms Weinrich said.

But sometimes Graeme can take his desire to be close to his fans a bit too far – he has been known to jump on the train and get off a station or two later. “He doesn’t do it often, but we do worry about that,” Ms Weinrich said.

She said Graeme, believed to be about 12, had roughed it on the street before being saved from the RSPCA’s “death row” six years ago, so his love of people is tempered by his survival instincts.

Related: Cat Rids the Bus (without paying)The Wonderful Life of a CatThe Engineer That Made Your Cat a Photographer

Swarmanoid: Cooperative Robot Networks

Very cool cooperation between robots. It seems more and more research is going on in cooperative robotics. It would seem this would let us have specialized robots for various tasks instead of having to have robots that can do everything (which is very complex and difficult). Plus cooperating robots are just cool. See the Swarmanoid project web site and the overarching Swarmbot site. I look forward to what these scientists and engineers can create for us.

Related: Robots Working Together to Share Talents (2006)Autonomous Helicopters Teach Themselves to FlyUnderwater Robots Collaborate

The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma

They Might be Giants once again provide an enjoyable view into the wonders of science. Previously they published the video, The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas. They published an updated video, a couple years ago, which captures the best current understanding based on the scientific inquiry process: Why Does the Sun Really Shine? (The Sun is a Miasma of Incandescent Plasma).

I really do love, They Might be Giants. Even before their focus on science I enjoyed their music. But they have done wonders with all their recent work. Go Giants. Get their DVD: Here Comes Science.

Related: How Science is Unmasking the Secrets of the Sun (Science magazine, 1974)The problem with hot gas = Test it Out, Experiment by They Might Be GiantsHere Comes Science by They Might Be Giants

Their previous video, The Sun is a Mass of Incandescent Gas, Continue reading

How Algorithms Shape our World

Our modern world is influenced greatly by algorithms. As computing power allowed incredibly complex calculation we have taken advantage of that and used algorithms to find solutions to our desires. Great things are done but we also find ourselves getting into trouble occasionally as we develop these algorithm.

Related: Algorithmic Self-AssemblyComputer Science RevolutionGoogle’s Answer to Filling Jobs Is an AlgorithmWhat are Genetic Algorithms?Google Prediction API

Nice Program on Mexican Free-tailed Bats

Mexican free-tailed bats in the Central Valley, California: the voracious insect-eating species protects the local crops from pests. Bats really are wonderful animals and very beneficial to people. They eat many insects and some also help pollinate some plants. The Mexican free-tailed bats seem to even benefit from human activity (taking advantage of bridge underpasses as homes, for example), but many other bat species are in trouble.

Related: Nectar-Feeding BatsResearchers Work to Protect Bats Against Deadly DiseaseMoth Jams Bat Sonar

Friday Fun: Audio Engagement Ring

Fun, an engagement ring that plays a 20 second audio clip “Shelina, I’ll love you forever. Marry Me!…Shelina, I’ll love you forever. Marry Me!” made by artist and inventor Luke Jerram.

100 lbf/in² of pressure was required to cut the silver ring, using a vibrating diamond stylus. The ring is also a homage to Thomas Edison who made the first sound recording machine – the phonograph in 1877.

Using the ring, I proposed to Shelina in a hot air balloon over Bristol in 2005. We’ve since got married and had 2 children Maya and Nico.

Much better than marketing driven expensive diamonds, in my opinion.

Related: Camera FashionGet Your Own Science ArtLow-Cost Multi-touch Whiteboard Using Wii RemoteCellphone Microscope

Getting Closer to a Universal Translator

I wrote the following to my friend yesterday

> for those that haven’t picked up English, pretty soon Google translate
> will do a decent enough job of imitating a universal translator
> through my cell phone to get by :-)

And today my brother tweeted this video:

Ok, not quite a universal translator yet, but we are moving in the right direction.

Related: Aztec MathHolographic Television on the WayDroid IncredibleLego Mindstorms Robots Solving Sudoku and Rubiks Cube

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