08/13/14

RIP Robin Williams, You will be missed.


robinwilliams

07/23/14

3 Great Mechanical Achievements and Their Modern-Day Successors

When humans first chiseled the wheel or learned to make fire, they probably didn't know the depth of their accomplishment. Through the goggles of time, we can see how these achievements have changed the face of humankind. Now we keep an eye on these things, predicting the outcomes of current astounding technological feats.

Integrated Circuit and Quantum Computer

In one of the original "Star Trek" episodes, Bones leaves a piece of equipment on a very impressionable planet. He is chastised by Kirk and Spock because this culture will take apart the device and learn about the one piece of technology that changed the Star Trek world and led to space travel. Our one piece of world-changing technology is the integrated circuit. The integrated circuit is a series of transistors, resistors and capacitors in a circuit to perform some operation. Specifically, it is the transistor, which replaced the vacuum tube, that is the most astounding.

Essentially, a transistor is a switch that goes from on to off. This simple switch is the basis for the central processing unit of a computer. Processor speed is distinguished by the rapidity that the transistors can toggle from the zero position to the one position. Since the beginning of the transistor, scientists have tried to make the toggle speed faster. Now the quantum switch seems to be a possibility. Since quantum leaps happen instantaneously, a computer using a quantum processor would be several orders of magnitude faster than our fastest computers.

 

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Internal Combustion and Hydrogen Engine

The internal combustion engine is touted by The Atlantic as one of the 50 greatest engineering achievements of the modern age. Like the Internet years later, the combustion engine placed into automobiles transformed our culture, making the world smaller. The auto allowed us to sprawl without worrying for our jobs or our families. We are always a car ride away.

Automobiles have taken a special place in our society. No longer simply functional, the auto is our safety and our luxury. Now, we're in a position to move away from fossil-fueled cars toward renewable energy cars. On the horizon is the hydrogen engine. Still an internal combustion engine, the hydrogen engine uses canisters of hydrogen gas that react with oxygen to produce energy (and the byproduct water).

O-ring and Nano-Everything

Who would think that a ring of rubber would change the world? Yet that is what the o-ring did when it was invented in 1936 by Niels Christensen. Primarily an elastomer seal, o-rings are used in everything from the space shuttle to heart valves. Almost anything that needs to direct the flow of fluids has uses an o-ring.

Nanotechnology is the next big step in the o-ring's future. Because it sits at the perimeter of a moving fluid, the o-ring is the perfect substrate for microscopic devices that can measure blood flow, change the shape of the ring or ionize the fluid. If nanotechnology is the way of the future, the o-ring is where is will live.

07/18/14

How Teachers Thinks Homework is Done...

Vs. how we really do it....

 

how_homework_is_done

07/5/14

Autonomous Cars: The Countdown Continues

Self-driving cars are coming. Currently four states — California, Florida Michigan, and Nevada — have passed legislation that enables companies to test their self-driving car technology on the roads. The Washington D.C. DMV published its regulations for autonomous vehicles in April, which are expected to take effect this month barring any objections.

Google unveiled a prototype of its self-driving car on May 27 and plans to use its home state of California as a testing ground. John Simpson, director of the taxpayer advocacy group Consumer Watchdog, recently told the LA Times he's urging the California DMV to postpone the September 16 start date of its regulations by 18 months. The groups believes more testing and public scrutiny is necessary to ensure the safety of the state's 25 million licensed drivers.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson via Wikimedia Commons

A February Harris Interactive poll found that 88 percent of Americans would not feel safe in a self-driving car. But that reality isn't slowing down Google and others who want this futuristic technology to become reality for everyday drivers.

How It All Works

The "face" on Google's self-driving car (the headlights are the eyes and a radar apparatus the nose) is the first thing people will notice about its tiny exterior. But the fact there are absolutely no driver controls, such as a steering wheel and brake pedal, on the interior is what has many consumers worried.

A LIDAR (light detection and ranging) sensor called a Velodyne HDL-64E is mounted to the top of the vehicle. It provides a detailed map of the roads and surrounding environment, right down to potholes and road cones. Google Street View Cars have driven (and continue to drive) virtually every road in the U.S. and several European countries to create these detailed maps, despite lawsuits alleging the company has been simultaneously spying on residents.

There are four radars attached to the front and rear bumpers to detect the speed of cars in front of and behind the vehicle. A video camera is mounted where the rear-view mirror would otherwise be located. It detects the presence of pedestrians, other cars, and even deer running across the street. A GPS unit supplements all the aforementioned technology for further accuracy and safety.

A central computer located near the rear axle of the car then processes all of this information to determine and control steering, acceleration, and braking.

Advantages Outweigh Potential Dangers?

A widely circulated video of Morgan Hill, Calif. resident Steve Mahan "driving" a Google self-driving car to Taco Bell in 2012 was significant because he's 95 percent blind. Not only would driverless cars be a boon for 21 million legally blind Americans, they would also give elderly drivers whose reaction times have diminished more options when researching cars in a few years.

Cab drivers would likely balk at the idea of driverless technology, as drunken drivers would be able to get inebriated and still get home legally without paying a hefty fare. Elliot Garbus, of Intel's Automotive Solutions Division, told USA Today that 95 percent of auto accidents are caused by human error. Google reported in August of 2012 that its test vehicles had successfully driven 300,000 miles without even a fender-bender.

Autonomous cars would also be a blow to municipalities that rely on revenue from speeding tickets. Google reported in May that its self-driving cars have never received a moving violation in any state.

There is no definitive answer as to when consumers will be able to head to a dealership and buy an autonomous car of their own. But based on Google's persistence and diligence, it will likely be sooner rather than later.

07/4/14

Happy & Safe Fourth Everyone

800px-Fourth_of_July_Cake

06/24/14

Use Unix or Die

unix_bomb

06/6/14

Why Travel Should Top Your To Do List

Most people look forward to traveling to new, exciting destinations, but few realize that such adventures can also promote better physical health. Travel may even contribute to a longer life, according to the Global Coalition on Aging.

A poll by the U.S. Travel Association revealed women who vacation every six years or less had a dramatically higher risk of heart attack compared to those who vacationed at least twice a year. The men who participated in the poll and reported not making time to escape their day-to-day life at least once a year were found to have a 20 percent greater risk of early death.

Travel offers nearly endless benefits to the body and the mind

The benefits of travel don’t stop there. The Global Coalition found the majority of travelers experience a significant reduction in stress within just a day or two of their vacation, and 90 percent of travelers generally have a more positive outlook on life.

Traveling can even help create better relationships by bringing couples closer together and building memories that last a life time. If you’re single, you’ll have more opportunities to meet others while traveling. You’ll blend in better with the locals and get a better sense of the culture and what it’s like to live there, expanding your mind. Don’t put off travel just because you don’t have someone to go with; consider it a self-confidence boosting adventure.

 

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Increasing your happiness level

Whether experiencing a different culture, foods, or new activities, travel also offers countless opportunities to learn something new. Any new experience can increase happiness levels. When traveling, you don’t have to look for ways to reinvent your day and break away from the mundane, it naturally happens.

Tools to make it happen

If you don’t happen to be independently wealthy, finances may be holding you back from enjoying your travel dreams. Saving for your next trip can be made much easier using Mint.com’s vacation budgeting tool to help you figure out how much money you’ll need for your vacation. It allows you to track finances on your smartphone and can even give you updates to let you know how close you are to accomplishing your goal. It also provides a projected date when you’ll be able to afford it for added motivation.

Once you arrive at your destination, the Travel Budget & Expense Tracker app for iPhone and Android helps you save money while you’re there. You can create categories and keep track of how much you’re spending, while the app does all the rest. It’s a great time saver that will also allow you to relax and enjoy your travels.

Preventing identity theft

One of the downsides to traveling is that your risk of identity theft goes up. Before heading out to your destination, it's recommended that you invest in services to protect against fraud in order to decrease your chances of having that fabulous vacation ruined before it’s even begun. If a thief steals your credit cards or other personal information, like a driver’s license, your identity could be stolen, which can be financially devastating.

When you’re out and about, be sure to take extra precautions to protect your wallet and purse. You should also be cautious with your smartphone. With so much information in one little gadget, it could also give a would-be thief access to personal and financial date in just seconds.

05/15/14

Jasper, Siri's Little Step Brother...

04/9/14

The State of Artificial Intelligence

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04/7/14

Some Basic Concepts in Image Steganography

(Note: I am by no means an expert on this matter, I am simply expressing my personal experience with the subject. For more information Wikipedia Steganography or Google would be a good start)

Steganography is the art of hiding message in such way that no one beside the intended receiver will find (if done correctly). This is by no means a new idea, the history of Steganography can be traced back to the 15 century. For our purposes, I am going to discuss Steganography in the general sense in the computer world, mostly done in Images, but not limited to them. For this example I am only going to consider 256 gray and colored images for simplicity of example, this can be done however with other images and data as well.

How information is stored?

Any computer data today consists of bits of data, 0 or a 1. A bunch of them constitute a byte, which is normally 4 bits. The length of a bit depends on a number of things such as implementation, system, usage and other factors. An image is usually stored as one of two options:

1. Black & White (Grayscale)
2. RGB colors (Normal)

In both cases the image is built from pixels, or a dot in a 2 dimensional array that has a certain value. In case of option 1 it would be on a scale from 0-255, 0 being black. For option 2 there aren three values that constitute one color as output, Red - Green - Blue, each with the same scale of values from 0 - 255, 0 being black. So if we have a Grayscale image with all values equal to 255, we will end up with a white image.

How to hide?

So lets say we have the following image (Grayscale) stored in memory:

basic_image

This would give us an empty 4 X 4 pixel white image. Keep in mind that any of these cell blocks is actually stored in memory as 255 = 11111111 in binary. Now you would agree that the character ‘A’ is equivalent to 65 in ascii which in binary is equal to 01000001. You would also agree that if we change one of these cell values to 254 it would be unnoticeable to the naked eye.

The ‘Magic’ bit...

We are going to store the individual values of A’s binary representation in the least significant bits of the image values. This means we would go over the cell or pixels of the image and change only the last bit of the value, changing the color by only 1. The cells of an image are numbered as follow:

cell_numbers

In order for to be stored in memory we will used the first 8 bits, changing the values in the LSB to match to ‘A’. The result will still be a seemabliy white page, stored in memory like this:

image_with_info

Color and Extraction

The same idea we applied to this example could be applied to an RGB file or any other data type. One could also encrypt the message hidden so even if it is found by anti-Steganography software it would be useless. Based on how you hide the memory you would also need an extraction code. For our example we would simply need to extract and concatenate the first 8 LSB and convert them back to a character, which would give us ‘A’. In other cases, like in RGB images, you will need to figure out how the information is hidden. RGB adds 3 dimensions and can get complicated really fast. All that is another topic all together for another time.