Monthly Archives

July 2014

Cool Stuff, Random

How Teachers Thinks Homework is Done...

July 18, 2014

A brief infographic illustrating how teachers think homework is done vs. how homework is really done. We all remember those times when things are due. Many sleepless nights watching the sun come up. I could never quite figure out if my teachers were never students themselves, or did they have such a bad experience they have to pass it on. I don't know of anyone who has had only school to focus on and nothing else to live for. Homework is really done when the time is up, and not a moment sooner.



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3 Great Mechanical Achievements and Their Modern-Day Successors

July 15, 2014

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.




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.

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Autonomous (Self Driving) Cars: The Countdown Continues

July 5, 2014

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.


Happy & Safe Fourth Everyone

July 4, 2014

I would like to take the time and wish everyone a happy and safe 4th of July. It is a great time to celebrate freedom and independence, not only in the United States, but worldwide as well. Enjoy and remember to celebrate responsibly. And Drink!


Happy Fourth.