The Big Think

June 10, 2009

That Ain’t Right

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 10:19 pm

Check out this cool mirror:


Notice anything weird? It’s not just that it’s reflecting the image from the book 90 degrees off, but it’s that the words are read left-to-right. Like I said. That just ain’t right.

For more neato mirrors, go here.

Yeah, but Can You Hear Me NOW?

Filed under: Audio,Science — jasony @ 12:17 pm

Scientists create an acoustic black hole using a Bose Einstein condensate.

I do so love being a geek.

Good News Everyone!

Filed under: Movies — jasony @ 12:16 pm

Futurama is coming back!

Call Fire the Nanny

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:35 am

I lament how today’s America is far less free than the country of my youth. Replacing it is not a 1984ish totalitarian dictatorship, but what Alexis de Tocqueville called the ‘soft tyranny’ of what Mark Levin sees as a 21st century ‘nanny state’. We so feared a Stalin or Hitler that we ignored endless assaults on our liberty by idealistic home-grown statists and the seductive narcotic of ever more government goodies buying our acquiescence. What makes Americans’ surrender to statism so shameful is that we freely chose this course in direct contravention of our founding principles.

Almost half of all U.S. income is taxed today which means we have lost about half our economic freedom. With record government spending and soaring debt, we are set to lose a lot more. And to think the Boston Tea Party was waged over a three-cent-a-pound tax on tea. Government regulations on business cost us well over $1 trillion a year in higher consumer prices, and there are exactly 26,911 government words policing the sale of a head of cabbage.

In recent years, obsessive-compulsive environmental regulations halted a Massachusetts town from using fireworks on Independence Day since an ‘endangered’ bird’s nest was found near it. News flash: on July 4 we celebrate independence from a tyrannical government. Yet George III never taxed, regulated, or policed us remotely as much as Washington, D.C. does today. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says “Every aspect of our lives must be subjected to an inventory”.

Everywhere rules and paperwork mushroom as nit-picking bureaucrats grow in numbers and power. As a buddy bemoaned, the increasingly shrill message of the establishment is “Sit down – and shut up”. No wonder so many Americans feel frustrated and impotent.

Read the whole thing.

June 9, 2009

GM Woes

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 9:54 am

Just 42% of current owners likely to buy a GM product again. Count me as one of them, Count me as one of the abstainers! (sorry about that, I got muddled while typing and only caught it just now). I currently own a Chevy S10 (1992 vintage) but will be replacing it with a Toyota Tacoma. Why? Partly because of the Taco’s good repair history, and partly because I don’t know if GM will even be around for the 10-15 years that I hope to own the car. Why would I spend thousands of dollars on a product if I didn’t think the company would be around over the life of the product to support it? I’m not alone.

And here’s the kicker. I could get a similar GM-made replacement to the Tacoma for several thousand dollars less than what I’ll be shelling out. So in this case voting with my dollars is costing me more, but I’m still doing it. I predict that the US government will continue to dump billions of taxpayer dollars into revivifying GM (the “sunk cost” fallacy) only to ultimately pull the plug.

Your government at work!

June 8, 2009

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 8:04 am

This seems like good news.

June 5, 2009


Filed under: Quoth — jasony @ 9:56 pm

Freedom is a terrible gift, and the theory behind all dictatorships is that “the people” do not want freedom. They want bread and circuses. They want workman’s compensation and fringe benefits and TV. Give up your free will, give up your freedom to make choices, listen to the expert, and you will have three cars in your garage, steak on the table, and you will no longer have to suffer the agony of choice.

Madeline L’Engle, Walking on Water, p103

h/t Sean

King Gandalf

Filed under: Uncategorized — jasony @ 9:08 pm

Ian Mckellan plays King Lear. And you can watch the whole thing online!

Don’t miss the interview with Sir Ian himself, especially don’t miss MILK LIVERED MAN!

Interview with The Man

Filed under: Maker,Science — jasony @ 8:28 pm

PopSci interviews Dean Kamen.

“I take vacations all the time,” he says. “Vacations from the Slingshot to work on the Stirling, vacations from the Stirling to work on the prosthetic arm, vacations from any of that for FIRST. But if you mean going to some island and lying on the beach all day doing nothing, no, I have never done that. If you could point to one thing I’m working on that is not so important that I can spare to waste a week, well then, I’ll go on vacation. But you see, those are the projects that I’ve already given up. What’s left — these are too important to waste even a minute.”

Time. It’s the only thing Kamen fears running out of. It’s why he can’t take a day off. It’s why he can’t stop working until he is too exhausted to think. It’s why, only in the wee hours of the night, after too much wine and too little sleep, will Kamen the preacher, the salesman, the uncompromising moralist finally take a vacation from the hard sell. In the comfort of his hexagonal wine cellar, with its redwood panels and thousands of aging vintages, Kamen turns into an ordinary man, with fears unconquered and dreams unrealized and an almost obsessive awareness of his own mortality, heightened by the recent loss of his father to cancer.

“Other people have peace because I think maybe they just don’t think about it — the ticking clock. But it’s always there with me. I know that I have this finite amount of time, and there’s so much to do, so much in this world that needs fixing,” he says. “What if I don’t have time to finish all this before . . .” The London Symphony (playing the Moody Blues) fills the silence of a long pause. “I can’t cheat death,” he says finally. He begins to talk with his hands. “I’m not a religious man,” Kamen says, “but I have a kind of faith. Faith that these kids will be able to finish what we’ve started.”

Kamen has no trouble justifying his relentlessness. Every spring, he sees the thousands of kids massing at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, home to the FIRST championships, and thinks, One of these kids is going to cure cancer someday. “We’re playing with the laws of large numbers here,” he says. “You’ve got to look at the probability of outcomes.” In fact, the formula is pretty simple: The more problem-solvers you have, the more problems they will solve.

Read the whole interview with the guy who Sean jokingly calls my man-crush.

Your Hooray! Zone

Filed under: Education — jasony @ 8:15 pm

Lifehacker on finding the work that you love.


Weirdly Interesting

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 7:03 pm

School lunches from around the world.

June 4, 2009

Mad Scientist Extraordinaire

Filed under: Education,Mad Science,Politics,Science — jasony @ 8:32 pm

Theo Grey, on why dangerous science at home may be the savior of science education.

Sports, especially at the high school level, are extremely dangerous. So many children are injured on a regular basis that you don’t even hear about it. Many of these injuries are relatively minor, just a broken bone or perhaps a torn ligament that puts the child in a cast for a few months. But a substantial number cause permanent disability and death.

This carnage could easily be avoided by switching to video football. Graphics are very realistic these days; students could study tackles from all angles in complete safety. Gymnastics students could do their routines on a Wii Fit board, and video screens are readily available for exercise bicycles, eliminating open-road bicycle riding, a major killer of children.

You know I’m kidding. No one can seriously deny the value of actual physical education and exercise, and unfortunately, no matter how safe you try to make it, accidents, including bad accidents, happen. That’s part of life.

But this is precisely what has happened to science education. Precisely. Virtually all experiments involving chemicals more dangerous that cabbage juice have been eliminated from the curriculum. And, yes, they have been replaced by elaborate video simulations that let you choose which of two beakers to mix together, then show you what happens.

This is all very safe, but there is a price to pay: death and misery for millions. And this time I’m not kidding. We have turned science, which should be the most exciting, the most engaging, the most relevant hour of the school day, into a deathly boring series of lectures and video games. Is it any wonder kids would rather become accountants, when chartered accountancy is made to seem like a more exciting profession than science?

Read the whole thing.

When students enter a science classroom, they should see things they cannot imagine in their wildest dreams.


Filed under: Mad Science — jasony @ 8:13 pm

Solid mercury castings. Cool! Literally.

Current Reading

Filed under: Current Reading — jasony @ 12:15 am

Watchmen. Just finished it tonight. Finally I can watch the trailers for the movie.

June 3, 2009

Sam Maloof, 1916-2009

Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 9:07 am

Master Woodworker Sam Maloof passes away. Rob Johnstone has a remembrance.

June 2, 2009

Reason Enough to Own a Pond

Filed under: Humor and Fun — jasony @ 9:39 pm

Just to have this sculpture.

Filed under: Science — jasony @ 7:16 am

Six beautiful cloud pictures.

June 1, 2009


Filed under: Woodworking — jasony @ 9:57 am

After years of being frustrated with my finishes on my woodworking projects, I finally broke down and bought an HVLP spray gun. HVLP stands for “high volume, low pressure” and, while it looks like a standard automotive spray gun, these things put out far less paint while doing so at a very low pressure. the result is more like a re-loadable spray paint can that can spray whatever can be thinned to a water-consistency (dye, stain, finish, etc). Automotive guns put out much more paint and you have to deal with a lot more over spray and paint-bounceback.

The gun only cost me $25 at Woodcraft after a coupon. They’ve come down significantly in the past few years (several years ago I went to a woodworking show in Houston and saw guns there for several hundred dollars. All hail globalization!). It’s probably not the highest quality gun (the paint can is plastic), but it’ll do the job for me. Works nice with the big air compressor I inherited from Erin’s uncle when he passed away a few years ago.

I just tried out the gun to spray a shellac/denatured alcohol topcoat on Erin’s file cabinet and I’m reasonably happy with the results. I had to mess with the pressure and other adjustment knobs to get a decent finish, and even now it’s slightly splattery (very fine splats of finish). I think they’ll sand out as I do further coats. I imagine I’ll get better as I do more of this.

It’ll be nice to not have to hand-finish everything from now on. I could have definitely used this gun on the entertainment center. That was a huge finishing job that took weeks.

Take the High Road

Filed under: Hobbies — jasony @ 6:01 am

Hiking across Scotland. With pictures. And sheep!

Up to our Ears

Filed under: Politics — jasony @ 5:55 am

The national debt reaches $668,621 per household.

(hey, look, I can link!)

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