Fix it Goo

Posted on November 16, 2010  Comments (0)

5 years of discovery and experimentation culminated in Sugru. It cures at room tempature, is self-adhesive, is flexible, waterproof and dish-washer-proof. Another post on home fixing.

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Fiskars Cuts+More 5-in-1 Multi-Purpose Scissors

Posted on November 12, 2010  Comments (3)

These are some well engineering scissors with all sorts of handy features. Fiskars makes some great products. High-quality blades provide excellent cutting performance on a wide variety of materials. Large, ergonomically sculpted finger and thumb loops provide excellent comfort and control when cutting.

Additional features include a power notch for cutting light rope, wire cutter, twine cutter, pointed awl tip and bottle opener. You can even take the scissors apart and use the titanium-coated blade as a knife. It’s dishwasher safe and includes an innovative sheath with a built-in tape cutter and a ceramic scissors sharpener to keep the blades performing at their best. Ergonomically sculpted handles provide comfortable use and cutting control. Power notch cuts light rope. Wire cutter makes cutting wire without damaging the blades quick and easy.

A pointed awl tip is perfect for piercing small holes in cardboard, leather and more. Bottle opener makes it easy to open bottles. Take-apart design offers a titanium-coated knife that is three times harder than steel for general cutting needs. Dishwasher safe for easy cleaning. The sheath protects blades, sharpens scissors and includes a tape cutter for opening boxes.

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Bronx High School of Nobel Prize for Physics Laureates

Posted on November 10, 2010  Comments (0)

Bronx physics

Bronx Science owes its historic status to the fact that seven future Nobel-prize-winning physicists went through its doors – more than any other high school in the world and more than most countries have ever achieved. The school, which opened in 1938, was founded by the educator Morris Meister, who believed that if a school put bright students together, it would kindle ill-defined but valuable learning processes. The school seems to have proved him right: according to the Bronx laureates, their physics learning took place mainly outside the classroom.

Leon Cooper, who shared the 1972 prize for work on superconductivity, recalls physics lessons as boring, and was far more enchanted by his biology classes, which lured him to stay late after school designing and running experiments “until they threw me out”. Indeed, the school’s basic-physics textbook was written by a certain Charles E Dull, whose work, though widely used in US high schools, lived up to his name. The future particle physicist Melvin Schwartz, who shared the 1988 Nobel gong, once told me his classmates’ excited discussions – not his teacher – were what first awakened his interest in physics.

[today] the school’s most fearsome physics module – Advanced Placement Physics C – is tougher than most college-physics courses. Its dynamic instructor is Ghada Nehmeh, who was born in Lebanon and studied nuclear physics. Diminutive – smaller than most of her students – and scarf-clad, she jumps rapidly from lab table to lab table, helping piece together equipment and analyse results. Famous for being ruthlessly demanding, she tests the students on their first day by assigning them 40 calculus problems, due back the next day. “I’d never seen derivatives before,” says Kezi Cheng, a senior interested in theoretical physics. So Cheng did what most Bronx Science students do – she asked her classmates to give her a crash course on the subject. “They’re always willing to help.”

Sounds like a great place to go to school. The article also has some good anecdotes about how these students learned by seeking knowledge themselves not passively sitting and being lectured to.

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Fixers Collective

Posted on November 9, 2010  Comments (2)

Very cool. I like everything about this idea. I like the reuse (very environmentally friendly). I like the humanity and psychology of connecting with others. I like the tinkering/learning/fixing attitude and behavior. I like the very well done use of the internet to help fund such efforts. I like the exploration of the products and object we use. I like the rejection of a disposable attitude (just throw it away). I like the appropriate technology attitude. I made a donation, you can too (see what projects I am funding).

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Shrink Serving Sizes

Posted on November 8, 2010  Comments (3)

Helping Wally Eat Less

When I was a boy, we were admonished to “clean your plate” because “children are starving.” Many of my friends’ mothers were concerned about the children in China. Since my father had organized food relief to German families after WW II, we cleaned our plates for the children “in Europe.” My friend Larry’s family ate their bit for African children.

Now that I am a full-grown man, this conditioning should be easy to overcome, but it isn’t. Normally I have great willpower and discipline. Alas, that’s not true when it comes to eating my wife’s cooking. Put that great food on my plate and will be gone soon.

I’ve tried “eat less” goals. They don’t work. Delicious food appears on my plate, served by my wife’s loving hands. Somewhere in my subconscious my mother is whispering, “Children are starving in Europe.” My willpower is no match.

What to do? Clearly, admonishing myself to “eat less” does not work. In fact, it’s a recipe (pardon the pun) for frustration. You may have situations like that. You or one of your team members or someone you love has a problem. It seems like willpower or goal setting will solve it. But somehow it never does.

The other part of the systems solution is simplicity itself. Serve Wally using smaller bowls and plates. The plate is full, but there’s less food on it. I can eat everything on my plate to the betterment of those European children and my waistline.

Smaller serving sizes is a good idea. Increasing serving sizes over the last few decades is one of the big problems in the USA’s obesity epidemic. From a problem solving approach another good idea is to look beyond the problem at the larger system (the smaller serving size is a great system solution that is inside the eating problem). In this case for some people a way to deal with an eating problem is to exercise more. By changing the overall system a problem of eating too much can sometimes be changed into not a problem (due to a change outside the system).

Related: Study Shows Weight Loss From Calorie Reduction Not Low Fat or Low CarbStudy Finds Obesity as Teen as Deadly as SmokingEat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Real Time Hologram Projection Getting Closer

Posted on November 6, 2010  Comments (1)

A team led by the University of Arizona professor of Materials Science and Engineering Nasser Peyghambarian has developed a new type of holographic telepresence that allows the projection of a three-dimensional moving image without the need for special eyewear such as 3D glasses or other auxiliary devices.

“Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real-time, anywhere in the world,” said Peyghambarian, who led the research effort.

“Holographic stereography has been capable of providing excellent resolution and depth reproduction on large-scale 3D static images,” the authors wrote, “but has been missing dynamic updating capability until now.”

The prototype device uses a 10-inch screen, but Peyghambarian’s group is already successfully testing a much larger version with a 17-inch screen. The image is recorded using an array of regular cameras, each of which views the object from a different perspective. The more cameras that are used, the more refined the final holographic presentation will appear.

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The Sahara Wasn’t Always a Desert

Posted on November 4, 2010  Comments (1)

Green Sahara

For much of the past 70,000 years, the Sahara has closely resembled the desert it is today. Some 12,000 years ago, however, a wobble in the Earth’s axis and other factors caused Africa’s seasonal monsoons to shift slightly north, bringing new rains to an area nearly the size of the contiguous United States. Lush watersheds stretched across the Sahara, from Egypt to Mauritania, drawing animal life and eventually people.

by some 3,500 years ago the desert had returned. The people vanished.

The twilight of the Green Sahara around 4,500 years ago might have been the perfect time to be hunting at Gobero, said Carlo Giraudi, the team’s geologist. As water sources dried up throughout the region, animals would have been drawn to pocket wetlands, making them easier to kill. Four middens found on the dunes and dated to around that time included hundreds of animal remains, as well as fish bones and clamshells—not usually part of a herder’s diet. “The Green Sahara’s climate was rapidly changing,” said Giraudi, “but just before the lake dried up, the people at Gobero would have thought they were living in a golden period.”

There are many values of science: letting our curious minds learn, giving us cool robots and gadgets and letting us learn about the past (and thus about the ever-changing world we live in).

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Boa Constrictor Gives Birth to Clones

Posted on November 3, 2010  Comments (0)

Snake gives ‘virgin birth’ to extraordinary babies

A female boa constrictor snake has given birth to two litters of extraordinary offspring. Evidence suggests the mother snake has had multiple virgin births, producing 22 baby snakes that have no father. More than that, the genetic make-up of the baby snakes is unlike any previously recorded among vertebrates, the group which includes almost all animals with a backbone.

“All offspring are female. The offspring share only half the mother’s genetic make-up,” he told the BBC.

Humans for example have X or Y sex chromosomes; females have two X chromosomes and males have a combination of an X and a Y chromosome. In place of X and Y, snakes and many other reptiles have Z and W chromosomes.

In all snakes, ZZ produces males and ZW produces females. Bizarrely, all the snakes in these litters were WW. This was further proof that the snakes inherited all their genetic material from their mother, as only females carry the W chromosome.

“Essentially they are half clones of their mother,” says Dr Booth. That is because the baby snakes have inherited two copies of one half of their mother’s chromosomes, including one W chromosome.

More astonishing though, is that no vertebrate animal in which the females carry the odd sex chromosome (in this case the W chromosome) has ever been recorded naturally producing viable WW offspring via a virgin birth.

“For decades WW has been considered non-viable” says Dr Booth. In such species, all known examples of babies that are the product of parthenogenesis are male, carrying a ZZ chromosomal arrangement.

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Home Halloween Engineering: Gaping Hole Costume

Posted on October 28, 2010  Comments (3)

photo of gaping hole Halloween costume by Evan Booth, 2006

This great Halloween costume by Evan Booth shows what a bit of imagination and engineering can do. A projection screen over his stomach displays a live video image of a camera on his back giving the illusion of a gaping hole. Photos via flickr. Very cool. Lets see what costumes Curious Cat readers can come up with.

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Cool 3D Building Projection

Posted on October 27, 2010  Comments (2)

Fun video from Russia showing some great 3D projections.

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Driver Thanks Engineer Who Hit Him on Purpose

Posted on October 23, 2010  Comments (3)

Driver thanks man who hit him on purpose

Driving to a Mariners game, Duane Innes saw a pickup ahead of him drift across lanes of traffic, sideswipe a concrete barrier and continue forward on the inside shoulder at about 40 mph. A manager of Boeing’s F22 fighter-jet program [and engineer by training], Innes dodged the truck, then looked back to see that the driver was slumped over the wheel. He knew a busy intersection was just ahead, and he had to act fast.

“Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,” Innes explained. So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.

Some might say the driver of the truck, 80-year-old Bill Pace, of Bellevue, and anyone Pace’s truck might have slammed into had luck on their side that day. A retiree who volunteers for Special Olympics and organizes food drives, Pace didn’t know it at the time, but he’d had a minor heart attack two days earlier and his circulation was so poor he passed out at the wheel with his foot resting on the accelerator.

Nice story and nice that the article had a tiny bit of science in the story, with another example of good work by an engineer.

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