Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015

Science Fair Projects

http://freshscience.org.au/2013/low-cost-jet-ventilation-a-breath-of-fresh-air
Raymond Wang from St. George's high school in Vancouver has won the world's largest high school science fair. His project was to provide fresh air to airline passengers while sharing a minimum of germs from other passengers.

This is Raymond's second science fair project that went international. The first was in 2012 (grade 8), when he generated electricity from the impact of raindrops.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ready for Bed

Swiss researchers say that screen time before bed makes it hard to sleep. It's not just that reading and thinking gets your mind wound up (though I am sure that's part of it.) Exposing yourself to light messes with the body's melatonin production. Having a low level of melatonin keeps your body in daytime mode and keeps you from being ready to sleep.

The new research shows that light from laptop screens, cellphones or tablets causes more disruption of melatonin than other lights. I don't see any mention of what the control lighting is: incandescent? CFL? LED? television?

http://methanestudios.com/category/prints/page/2?item=6462Teenagers, already susceptible to confused sleep cycles, are especially affected.

My first thought: profitable app opportunity. Second thought: the app world is way ahead of me. From the comments:
"As for apps that filter blue light, I would recommend f.lux for OSX, iOS (iPhone/iPad) , Windows, and Linux, and Twilight or Lux for Android. I have tried others, but those are the best." -Andy

Saturday, May 16, 2015

All Fish are Cold-Blooded

http://www.anglingfish.net/opah/Except when they aren't. Biology teachers everywhere, adjust to the new reality.

The opah fish makes use of counter-flow heat exchange in the blood vessels coming from its gills to keep its internal temperature high. That keeps its muscles warm and lets it swim fast in the cold, deep water where it lives.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring 2015 Bridge Contest

Shooshten the Barbarian defeats Destructo-Bridge of Death II!
Do not learn bridge architecture from the Destructo-Bridge of Death II.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Little Airline Attempt at Green Redemption

This is an interesting claim that it takes more energy to drive than to fly. No doubt the devil is in the details. And not all the details are clearly stated.

http://www.popularmechanics.com/cars/a9913/how-much-dirtier-is-driving-compared-to-flying-16365688/
For example, I doubt if the associated costs of air travel are included: driving to the airport, building an airport and parking lot, handling baggage, training airline staff. Should the energy of manufacture of cars and airplanes be included? I am making it awfully complex, but pretty clearly the details favor the car.

It is also based on the average types of trips taken. Cars log most of their miles on short trips with single occupants. This is a worst-case scenario for cars (ridiculously so for airplanes. No-one flies to the corner store. Hardly anyone flies an airplane solo.) The conclusion that airplanes are a more efficient means of doing a car's transportation doesn't follow.

Even so, the progress is evocative. It prompts some interesting questions. How long does a trip need to be to make a plane more efficient? What if the car had two occupants? ...three? ...five? ...seven? How long can the trend continue?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Driving Faster, Better

Skip barber's race school is famous and has been since the 80's.

What I Learned:
1. Making time on a track is about how fast you do the straights. How fast you do the straights is about how fast you exit the corner (and enter the next corner.)
2. Go through corners fast by picking the right line. The right line makes your rear tires travel in a constant-radius arc, touching at the turn-in, apex and track-out. Precise placement counts.
3. I usually turn in too early. If you are going to make an error, it is better turn in late. (Better because it gives you more margin, so more options.) This surprised me.
4. Brake late. Brake hard. Keep braking into the turn, easing off as you get into the turn.

Some of these things you can practice on the street or in a parking lot: precise position, choosing a line within your lane, late braking, getting on the throttle and doing it all smoothly, so the net acceleration is constant in magnitude, so that your passenger doesn't spill his drink. If you want to know how your car will behave at its limit, go to a race school or an autocross. I know of two on the island.

You can't learn car control on the street. It's not because your skill or natural talent is too low. It is because if you are driving at 98% (or 80%) and a dog runs onto the road, or you hit gravel, or a tourist stops erratically in front of you, the crash that will happen is out of your control. There is nothing you can do but wreck that car, or kill that dog, or worse. Courage is about accepting worthwhile risks that are within your control. Approaching vehicle limits on public streets fails on both counts.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Go Play

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/14/theres-never-been-a-safer-time-to-be-a-kid-in-america/
They say parents these days are awfully protective, awfully afraid to take risks. Maybe we can relax a little.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Design: Generating Creative Ideos

David Kelley thinks everyone is creative, at least until the creativity is driven out. He teaches a course in creativity at Stanford University in the heart of the most famously creative city in the most creative industry in the most creative country. Peter Robinson interviews him on Uncommon Knowledge.
Kelley's 5 steps in the creative process (The video gives more detail at 12 minutes.)
  1. Empathize – bias for action: immerse yourself in the situation to be studied and see it from the typical user's perspective.
  2. Define – Explicitly define the problem to be solved, then iteratively re-define at as your project progresses.
  3. Ideate – with fluency and flexibility. Fluency says the way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas and flexibility says make them different from one another. Find your ideas from talking to users and experts, looking at other ideas and at the state-of-the-art.
  4. Prototype – make something physical that lets people experience your idea.
  5. Test – Put your prototype in front of your ultimate judges and see what they think. Take their suggestions and make it better.
More details in his book, his free 80-minute course or his YouTube videos.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why You Need to Understand Statistics

While this is "honest" in the sense of not being fraud, it is not honest in the sense of giving you the truth. If your skill in logic and statistics is weak, you will certainly walk away believing a falsehood. I'm not sure that is accidental.
More likely, it's a battle: an epic struggle between universities and student. You, to get their education and degree. They to get your money. Their side seems more sophisticated.
http://www.sodahead.com/united-states/us-v-joe-bruno-indictment-why-are-so-many-politicians-untrustworthy/question-240690/?link=ibaf&q=&imgurl=http://terrystuff.files.wordpress.com/2008/02/lawyers.gif
 Once upon a time, we marketed law schools with a printed brochure or two. That changed with the advent of the new century and the internet. Now marketing is pervasive: web pages, emails, blog posts, and forums.

With increased marketing, some educators began to worry about how we presented ourselves to students. As a sometime social scientist, I was particularly concerned about the way in which some law schools reported median salaries without disclosing the number of graduates supplying that information. A school could report that it had employment information from 99% of its graduates, that 60% were in private practice, and that the median salary for those private practitioners was $120,000. Nowhere did the reader learn that only 45% of the graduates reported salary information.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Smarter Every Day at the Motocross Track

There are some really good YouTube video sites. My favorite science channel must be Smarter Every Day. In 3-8 minutes, Destin finds some interesting thing to describe and investigate. His giddy enthusiasm, unfailing wonder and wholesome, humble southern demeanor make it awesome*.
(Having a $100,000 camera that shoots 250,000 frames per second doesn't hurt, either.)
Here is Destin investigating angular momentum at the motocross track.
*Destin-approved vocabulary

Having watched every video, here is my annotated list of Smarter Every Day episodes.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

How is Work?

Have you heard of TED talks? Do you know people who won't shut up about TED talks. Well, you're right they can be overplayed and the moments of genius seem to be in decline. Even so, there are gems. Cringing awkward storytelling mixed with crisp insight: here is my favorite from six years ago.

If you want to know more about Mike Rowe and the state of work in North America, go here. For more stories, go here.

What's so bad about work, anyway? John Calvin got it right five hundred years ago. Work is only secondarily that stuff we do to put food on the table. “Follow your passions”, “Do what you love and the money will follow”: that's the third priority, at best. No, work is how we serve one another and a practical way to show love.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Are There Moral Facts?

Compare
Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.
Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.
http://www.cartoonstock.com/directory/r/right_and_wrong.asp
With
-Copying homework assignments is wrong.
-Cursing in school is inappropriate behavior.
-All men are created equal.
One of them must be wrong.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Two Views of Intelligence

http://ronalvesteffer.com/5-ways-to-work-smart-not-hard/
Do you think you're a natural at science? ...math? ...English? Sorry to hear that.
The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort or acquirable skills, not fixed ability, they can be remedied by perseverance. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The European Founding

(Formerly known as the "dark ages*" )
"We dismiss the achievements of our ancestors and fall short of them.They (the medievals) honored their ancestors and surpassed them" Anthony Esolen, 2015

*They were called "dark" because those who called themselves "the enlightenment" and their enthusiasts thought the dark ages were a time of ignorance, insularity and stagnation. The last 40 years of historical scholarship show that is not true. The remaining justification for calling them "dark" is that they are poorly recorded. They are poorly recorded because the enlightenment "scholars" destroyed their manuscripts.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Brain Research


http://teenagebrain.blogspot.ca/

Humans grow, various parts at various rates. The brain is most difficult. It starts biggest and finishes last, which means it is still in full development in the late teens when the body looks pretty much fully grown.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"I Don't Know How You'll Survive When Our Genes Are Gone."


http://favim.com/image/33772/
The epic scale of the lyrics to the Big Bang Theory is no accident. The whole show is  a metaphor for the creation of the human race from Cro-Magnon and Neanderthal. You see, recent research on the Neanderthal genome suggests interbreeding.

The genes for red hair and pale skin didn't match well enough to show a correlation, but I found a correlation for genes linked to other traits. There's a gene cluster linked to advanced mathematics skills, information processing, logic, analytical intelligence, concentration skills, obsession–compulsion and Asperger's syndrome. That cluster correlates very strongly.
and the bad news:
The hybridization was successful in the Stone Age, but the environment has changed. I found that modern culture selects for socialization but against the Neanderthal traits for mathematics and intelligence, ... I don't know how you'll survive when our genes are gone."
Feb'15 Apparently Asians got two helpings of Neanderthal genes.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Visiting Ceres in March

Not as dramatic as landing on a comet, but a first, just the same. In two months, NASA will orbit Ceres, the largest dwarf planet in the asteroid belt. The same craft has already orbited Vesta, the second largest. That will make it the first craft to orbit two celestial bodies. Plus, ion propulsion (Apr'15).
Doubleplus: 7 other space highlights expected this year
(May'15) Electromagnetic drives are tested and appear to work,  Puzzling though, do they violate Newton's third law?