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The Known Universe

21 Dec

Big Dog Robot

20 Mar

Very impressive balance and mobility. A robot from Boston Dynamics.

BBC Richard Feynman Interview

16 Nov

Although I disagree with Richard Feynman’s conclusions on some of the more important questions we can ask, no one can deny he is an interesting and amazing person. I’ve read a few biographical books about him, and they were quite entertaining. Here is a video interview he did for the BBC in 1981.

Although I’ve read a fair amount about him, this was the first time I heard his voice. I noticed he sounds very much like Regis Philbin ๐Ÿ™‚

UPDATE:
Here are a few more BBC video links:

Best seats to survive a plane crash.

21 Jul

Plane wreck

MYTH: It Doesn’t Matter Where You Sit

“It’s like a lottery to pick your seat.”
-Nora Marshall, passenger survival expert, National Transportation Safety Board

“One seat is as safe as the other.”
-Boeing Web site

“It’s an age-old question. There’s just no way to say.”
-Federal Aviation Administration spokesman

“There is no safest seat.”
-airsafe.com

REALITY: It’s Safer In the Back.

The funny thing about all those expert opinions: They’re not really based on hard data about actual airline accidents. A look at real-world crash stats, however, suggests that the farther back you sit, the better your odds of survival. Passengers near the tail of a plane are about 40 percent more likely to survive a crash than those in the first few rows up front.

Popular Mechanics article

Oregon Man Flies 193 Miles In Lawn Chair

11 Jul

I learned about this lawn chair flight from Matt Promise’s blog.

Balloons suspend Kent Couch in a lawn chair as he floats in the skies near Bend, Ore., Saturday, July 7, 2007. Couch, on his way to Idaho, carried a global positioning system device, a two-way radio, a digital camcorder and a cell phone. He also had instruments to measure his altitude and speed and about four plastic bags holding five gallons of water each to act as a ballast, he could turn a spigot, release water and rise.

Couch is the latest American to emulate Larry Walters รขโ‚ฌโ€ who in 1982 rose three miles above Los Angeles in a lawn chair lifted by balloons. Walters had surprised an airline pilot, who radioed the control tower that he had just passed a guy in a lawn chair.

Here is an article on Fox News.

Spider Car

19 Jun

Three months to design, six months to build, $15,000 in parts…

The Real Rain Man

4 May

Who was the game winning pitcher in game three of the 1926 world series? Who were the four people in George Washington’s cabinet? When was Sir Walter Raleigh executed? What day of the week was that? Kim Peek has no trouble answering questions like these and thousands more from memory. He is the person the “Rain Man” character was based on. He reads eight books a day. A page that would normally take three minutes to read takes him eight to ten seconds. He reads the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye and retains 98% of it. The neurologist who originally diagnosed him only gave them five minutes of his time because he was late for a golf game; he said they should put Kim in an institution and forget about him.

Other parts of the series:

Part Two of Five

Part Three of Five

Part Four of Five

Part Five of Five

CFL Mercury Nightmare

30 Apr

I came across a story on slashdot.org regarding one man’s “nightmare” from using a compact fluorescent lightbulb (CFL). I had no idea that CFL’s contained mercury! I did a little more research and found the following links:

CFL Bulbs Have One Hitch: Toxic Mercury
“But the bulbs contain small amounts of mercury, a neurotoxin, and the companies and federal government haven’t come up with effective ways to get Americans to recycle them.”

“Experts agree that it’s not easy for most people to recycle these bulbs. Even cities that have curbside recycling won’t take the bulbs. So people have to take them to a hazardous-waste collection day or a special facility.”

Exposure to Mercury From Fluorescent Light Bulbs
“The diagnosis was mercury poisoning, and an investigation of his environment disclosed that he had been exposed to mercury from broken fluorescent light bulbs.”

I also found some articles that attempted to minimize the risks of CFL’s, but they seemed to be primarily from companies that sell CFL’s. I would advise educating yourself on the pros/cons of CFL’s prior to using them.

While reading some of the articles, I came across Dimethylmercury (not in CFL’s). This nasty neurotoxin was responsible for killing a researcher who accidentally spilled a drop or two on her latex gloved hand! Absorbing a thousandth of a milliliter is fatal.

anybots.com

22 Apr

Ya gotta love robots ๐Ÿ™‚ Trevor Blackwell, the founder and CEO of anybots, worked with Paul Graham on Viaweb which was a pioneering ASP using Lisp which eventually sold to Yahoo! for a nice sum and became Yahoo! Store. Very sharp guy, but I’m quite skeptical that a walking humanoid robot (technically a remotely operated machine since it won’t be autonomous) will be profitable. I hope it is.

Anybots announces the world’s first dynamically balancing walking humanoid robot.

Go to anybots.com for more info.

Inner Life of the Cell

14 Apr

SIGGRAPH award winning animation of the inner life of the cell. To see a version with narration, click the image below, then choose the version appropriate for your internet connection speed:

innerlife_super.jpg