May 31, 2011
I’m currently sitting on a JetBlue flight from Orlando to Austin. I just realized that I’ve never been on a plane that is so dark during the day. If I crane my neck I count 17 windows open throughout the entire plane (most of them near the back). I was wondering what why when I realized that the plane needs to be dark so that everyone can watch the seatback televisions.
I don’t know why but it’s a slightly depressing thought that we’ve become so inured to the miracle of flying (and the simple pleasure of looking out the window) that we would rather watch a sitcom than the clouds as seen from above. Yes, it makes the flight go faster (we watched a movie on the way out to Orlando last thursday), but I think we’ve given something up.
Now this is how you run a railroad (or a space program).
“The average price of a full-up NASA Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station is $133 million including inflation, or roughly $115m in today’s dollars, and we have a firm, fixed price contract with NASA for 12 missions. This price includes the costs of the Falcon 9 launch, the Dragon spacecraft, all operations, maintenance and overhead, and all of the work required to integrate with the Space Station. If there are cost overruns, SpaceX will cover the difference. (This concept may be foreign to some traditional government space contractors that seem to believe that cost overruns should be the responsibility of the taxpayer.)”
Open market FTW.
May 26, 2011
History was made in the Himalayas during the past week as three mountaineers became the first to summit Mt. Everest and neighboring Mt. Lhotse during the same day…Their most memorable run was carving symmetrical turns down Everest’s Lhotse Face — which has been done only a few times — as nearby climbers watched in amazement.
“I have a very intense feeling of personal satisfaction right now that we did that”
The ESA approved Skylon Singe Stage to Orbit is moving forward this summer. Exciting stuff, even if the tech is mind-blowingly complex.
The Sabre engines are essentially just rockets, burning hydrogen and oxygen to produce thrust. What’s unique, though, is that at lower altitudes, the engines scavenge oxygen directly out of the air instead of having to carry it. For this to work, the incoming oxygen has to be cooled down to about 200 degrees below zero, even when the Skylon is traveling at such high speeds that the air entering the engine comes in at 2,000 degrees. And it has to happen in 1/100th of a second. The solution has been to feed the air through a complex system of tiny little heat exchanging tubes, which doesn’t seem like it would work, but the ESA says it does. And in any case, the next step is for a prototype Sabre engine to be built, which will show off both the rocket and air-breathing engine modes and the transition between them. If all goes well, it should happen this summer.
Man, you’ve got to hand it to the Japanese.
When they think big, they think big.
May 25, 2011
May 23, 2011
Now this, this is a marriage proposal. Just wow. Watch all the way through to the end.
May 22, 2011
Happy 40th birthday to my brother Ross! Even though we don’t see each other very often it’s great having you as a bro, bro. Welcome to the best decade. So far!
May 21, 2011
Eli Periser on the danger of automated filter bubbles. Very interesting TED talk on how our preconceived worldviews are being unknowingly reinforced by technology.
May 20, 2011
Some things I want to figure out (just a random list so I can come back to it):
1. basic motor control
2. relay switching to control motor
3. photosensor/phototransistor control of relay and motor
5. control all via arduino
6. gear connections to motor
I’m seeing a pretty heavy emphasis on motor control and making things move (rather than digital logic and non-visible control/execution elements). I just finished Dustyn Roberts’ excellent book Making Things Move, which gives a great overview of the hardware required for mechanical manipulation of physical objects (as well as some aspects of Arduino/computer control). Physical computing is much more interesting to me than the non-physical stuff, but I’m still very much on step one of the whole electronics thing (well, maybe step two, but sometimes I take two steps backward. Step Zero?).
Anyway, the six things above are some elements I would like to figure out during my Year of Electronics. If anyone has any knowledge of them I would be happy to buy you lunch in exchange for a tutoring session.
Friend Catriona sends these pictures of an amazing wine cellar. Hit the link for more pictures. Wow.
May 19, 2011
May 18, 2011
“In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of “higher education” to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.” Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of “shovel ready” jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.”
Mike Rowe’s testimony before Congress on the growing skills gap. You can tell by his pacing and writing that he’s used to speaking to an audience.
There’s a related and wonderful book called Shopcraft as Soulcraft here. Highly recommended.
h/t Barry for the link.