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Archive for the 'Energy' Category

HDTV

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

I’m sure if we had waited, the price of a new HD set would have continued to fall but I was tired of squinting at my old Sony monitor. We don’t really have much HD material to watch, just the local stations. This weekend we finally broke down and purchased a 40″ Toshiba HDTV. I had read a number of bad reviews from people who bought a set online only to find the picture quality was disappointing. I wanted to see the set in the store. With an instant manufacturer’s rebate of $100 we ended up spending $750 on it at the local Costco. That is just about what we paid for our first 32″ television many years ago.  I would have gone with a 32″ but they didn’t have many to choose from. It seems huge. I usually write on my smaller computer which had a 19″ LCD display set at 800 x 600. At that resolution, it’s pretty readable but the web has gone wide screen and I found myself scrolling around more and more to see what is out there. My larger machine where I do most of my art had the same size monitor. I usually ran it at 1024 x 768 but it was a CRT and over the years it seemed to get fuzzier. Maybe it’s my eyes. A lot of the tools I use required scrolling through a bunch of icons. Now I’m running at 1360 x 768. The text is large and clear and I can see all my icons without scrolling and my menus are out of the way in my workspace.

One feature some of the new sets have is the 120 Hz refresh rate. I was afraid at 60 Hz this set would flicker when using it as a monitor but it looks good. It is barely noticeably darker in the corners. I had to put the cursor in the corner and point it out for my wife to see it. It does draw a lot more power than the small screen. Last night the power went out and I hooked it up to my battery/inverter. It was drawing 100 watts. Luckily the power wasn’t out for long. I guess I was surprised to realize how many digital channels were out there since I didn’t have a tuner capable of picking them up before. Since a lot of the web uses white backgrounds it can be a little too bright at night.

Speaking of the web, how long before you speak to it and it speaks back? That is one of the things IBM predicts will happen in the next five years. We recently learned an old friend is losing the use of her arms and hands. I was googling voice recognition software and I wondered if it really has improved much.

I played with this tool which allows you to choose colors and then it finds pictures on Flickr that use those colors. I’m not sure how useful it is but it was kind of interesting for a few minutes.

This was cool. I have seen this done before but on a much smaller scale. It’s a video of a fountain with strobe lights where the water appears to be suspended in air or moving backwards.

This is one of those pictures that looks just awesome on my new monitor. It’s a shot of Crater Lake in Oregon with the clouds moving in.

Of course everything looks better on here including this cute cat picture.

This is a collection of wild cat pictures.

Time magazine choose the eight new natural wonders. Too bad the images aren’t larger.

Here are 100 underwater hi-res images.

Also, these images could be larger but they are spectacular solar and lunar eclipse pictures.

I thought this concept of chalk shadows was pretty creative.

I’ve read about this strange creature recently, but this is one of the better sets of pictures of a Raz. That thing is so odd looking!

Now for some odd mice, the computer kind that is.

When Neil Young was young; Sugar Mountain — Live At Canterbury House 1968 is being released today but you can listen to the entire album at NPR.

Christmas and holiday cards for geeks are really geeky. Let me explain that first one for you. In hexadecimal a single digit can have 16 values. That means zero through nine then they start using letters so F is fifteen. In two digit hex the largest number is FF or 255 in decimal. Since colors are described in the amount of the primary colors red, green, and blue FFFFFF is white. The # sign is normally used to indicate the number is in hexadecimal. Hence may all your Christmas be #FFFFFF.

I have linked to some of these liquid magnetic sculpture videos before. This one has some cool towers.

I first ran across the storm cloud image in this collection and then realized there were lots of other nice images there as well. Here is the top level of Neil Paskin’s galleries.

My wife doesn’t care much for blond jokes but I thought this keyboard for blonds was pretty creative.

Turritopsis nutricula is an immortal jellyfish.

Here is another large panoramic image; this one is of Melbourne at night.

I have to say I agree with this guy. The amount of money being thrown at banking bailouts is so huge, solving the climate problems or ending poverty is small change in comparison. To try to stay positive here are a couple interesting articles. This one is about how financing can make solar cost effective. This one is about a new generator that can make use of slow currents for generating electricity.

The song If I only had a brain was stuck in my head after seeing this.

And finally, I didn’t even know red pandas existed. They sure are cute!

Magicians and Pickpockets

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

This article at Scientific American on how magicians and pickpockets trick your brain mentioned a couple of videos. Before you read the article, if you haven’t seen the video where you are supposed to count the number of times a basketball is passed between people wearing white shirts I wrote about it in this post.

I’m pretty sure I’ve linked to another one of the videos they mention before but it’s worth re-posting below.

It’s interesting in the article when they point out simply moving your hand in a curved or straight manner causes a different perception on the part of the viewer.

Of course, it’s nature who presents the grandest illusion of them all. This article is rather strong in physics content but the gist of it is summed up in the ending paragraph. All reality is virtual.

Speaking of physics, apparently there is an annual contest in Delaware to see who can build a device that can throw a pumpkin the farthest. According to this, it will be televised on the Science channel on Thanksgiving. After reading that I’m wondering what they meant by “growing special, aerodynamic pumpkins”.

Could solving the worlds energy needs be as simple as putting giant pipes in the ocean? I guess when it’s that big, it’s not simple.

After reading this article on why McDonald’s fries taste so good, I was reminded of the time I had to make artificial banana flavoring in chemistry. I spilled a little on my notebook and it stunk for months. All that chemistry and we still can’t seem to find frozen food we like.

Time magazine picks the best inventions of 2008. I was amused to see Hulu on the list. I have to admit I have gotten so used to it already I find it frustrating I can’t watch the shows I want at CBS and the Discovery channel sites. Also, I don’t know if it’s my setup or what but it’s not unusual for me to lose my data stream while watching a show online at ABC and have to try to find where I was. It’s funny you have to try to figure out which episode you saw last or want to see next.

On the subject of videos, I had seen some of these amazing animal videos before but not the one of the polar bears playing with dogs. I can’t imagine having a hippo around the house.

I got a chuckle out of this silly cat picture.

I don’t remember any archery at the bowling alley I went to as a kid.

The most dangerous roads in the world look pretty dangerous.

This house would be nice for the solitude but if would be tough when you needed groceries.

Here is a nice collection of beautiful landscape photos.

This rather bizarre article about Tennessee universities’ intention to spend 9.5 million dollars on anti-piracy measures made me wonder if it would just be cheaper for the university to buy content for their students.

These animal pictures are pretty nice, but it’s the landscape shot that really impressed me.

The photos of this Japanese winter light show featuring 4.5 million LEDs just gives you a taste of how cool it would be to actually be there.

And finally, we often joked getting one of those robot vacuum cleaners would scare our cats but obviously this one seems to enjoy it.

Trick Or Treat

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

We used to have over 120 kids come to our door on Halloween. That was years ago. Now I think there are a lot less young kids in town and most of go to the new subdivision. I suppose it’s a lot safer to walk around there. I remember we used to cover a fair amount of ground in the town I grew up in, but we never treated Halloween like this. That’s a business plan!

I saw a picture of a large bottle of soda held up by a tiny piece of tape inspired by gecko feet lately but I didn’t bookmark it and couldn’t find it. People keep mentioning being able to play Spiderman with it but I can just imagine all the practical jokes it might be used for. Here are ten innovations inspired by nature including that one.

This is just funny. It’s so small I’m surprised anyone noticed.

I normally carry a lighter when I’m camping. After watching Bear Grylls use flint and steel on Man vs Wild though it looks remarkably effective. It’s difficult enough to get far enough into the wilderness in Indiana to not be within walking distance of a restaurant. I suppose if I was in a survival situation somewhere where I didn’t know a lot of the plants I would take this guys advice. Around here there are numerous edibles in the wild. There are few I would choose to eat though. Spring beauty and sumac lemonade are quite tasty, as are the morel mushrooms that grow around here.

I’ve heard golden orb weaver spiders are big but I didn’t realize they ate birds. Also speaking of spiders, I’m glad humans  don’t eat their mates.

One of these days carbon dioxide may be considered too valuable to throw away.

Strangely enough, if you use scotch tape in a vacuum it emits X-rays.

For some reason I don’t think this picture of a lion and a zebra is as ‘touching’ as it seems.

Don’t panic but in 1.1 million years we are all going to die, unless we move.

Check out the world’s most relaxing room.

And finally, what is cuter than zoo babies?

The Giant Swing

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

This video of a guy completing a full loop on a giant swing was far more suspenseful than I expected. When he gets close, you are just waiting for him to fall on his head. It’s a victory for kids everywhere.

For obvious reasons, one of my favorite recipe sites is Cooking for Engineers. I recently purchased a new set of steak knives from Costco. At $19.95 I was afraid they would not be very nice but I’m really happy with them. This article about knives reminded me of my neighbor who has a Chinese wife saying that Chinese cooks retire early because of their wrists.

Here is a cool micro photograph.

I’ve written about making gasoline from plant material before but I think this article explains it pretty well for non-scientists.

And finally, yeah it’s a short post but I’ve been wasting a bunch of time on that game I talked about yesterday. Here’s your funny animal picture.

Portal Through Time

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I can’t say I put much stock in his portal to another time story but it makes a really good story. It’s complete with strange lights, weird noises, and ghost horses, not to mention the pebbles from the sky. I used to read stories like that all the time when I was a kid.

There have been a lot of magnetic motor designs and videos out there lately. Here is an open source one.

I was helping my folks set up their wireless network recently. I ran across this article on securing your network. A lot of people don’t bother but with all the things you can get thrown in jail or sued for, you really don’t want strangers on your network.

From my friend Matt, the Heart Attack Grill diet center. My arteries were hardening just from looking at that site. I got a laugh out of the line “The Government Requires Us To Inform You That Our “Nurses” Do Not Actually Have Any Accredited Medical Training”.

How to pay for the 700 billion dollar bailout? Invest 4.5 trillion in clean energy sources, become energy independent, and make 5.5 trillion on it!

Some of these are pretty funny. Here are the 25 weirdest newspaper headlines.

And we have the world’s weirdest wedding customs.

And finally there was a story in the news lately where someone had taught their dog to call 911 and saved them. Here’s a funny picture of a puppy giving CPR.

Light-Bot

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I played this little robot game over the weekend called light-bot. You have to program the robot to step over squares and light them up. You create your program by dragging the symbols onto your programming space. If you aren’t a programmer, I think it gives you a pretty good idea of what programmers do, although it’s a pretty simple programming language. Also the days of trying to keep your program small are long gone. I think it also illustrates a mistake programmers make so often we just call it OBO (off by one).

There are 12 levels. I’m thinking I must have missed something on level 10 because even though I finally solved it, it seemed so much harder than all the other levels. My solution involved re-using a lot of code where the robot did a bunch of useless but not harmful things.

The Keppe motor is another one of those motors where the inventors claim it gets ‘free’ energy. They wanted to get you to fill out a form to see a video so I did a check of YouTube and found these. If they have actually achieved what they claim, they are brilliant but I can’t say they know how to make a good video. The real demonstration of the motor starts about halfway through part two.

You have to wonder given the size of this ancient reef and it’s proximity to Melbourne why no one noticed it before.

This is different. Scientists discover a way to turn recycled plastic bottles into a more valuable type of plastic.

I had a macro lens I built for my old camera but unfortunately it doesn’t fit on my new one. Here is a nice collection of macro photos.

Staying with the photo theme, here are some beautiful pictures from Scotland.

Also, here are some funny photos taken from just the right angle.

And finally, here is your funny animal picture. This one is a little sexier than usual and although it doesn’t really show anything, it may not be appropriate if you are at work.

Ball Lightning

Monday, September 15th, 2008

I read a post today about generating power from ball lightning. I tracked down the site belonging to Dr. Kiril Chukanov here. Dr. Chukanov claims to have developed Quantum Free Energy generators capable of generating clean energy without fuel. There are some interview videos at the site but his accent is pretty heavy so it can be hard to follow at times.

It seems like I saw a movie or TV show recently where someone wanted to fire a gun in space and they ended up putting it in something so it would shoot. Turns out you don’t need oxygen to fire a gun in space.

This is just strange. It’s an article you might expect in the Enquirer but it’s from the Discovery Channel and it is about a girl with X-ray eyes.

Here is a pretty nice animation of how the Large Hadron Collider works.

Speaking of the LHC they are having a contest to give it a better name. I don’t suppose they would go for ‘Smash-o-matic’?

Binaural recording isn’t just using two microphones. It actually models the human head and ears. It’s pretty amazing to hear when you are used to just stereo. Here is an interesting demonstration.

Check out these dramatic pictures of tornadoes. We had the remains of hurricane Ike pass over us yesterday. When the house was creaking and you could hear debris hitting it, you just can’t believe some people would attempt to ride out the real thing.

From the violent to the serene, here is a nice collection of photos of reflections.

This was kind of funny. Someone used photo editing to just remove some elements from different scenes.

No photo editing here. I was just pleased on how our garden has done this year so I took a picture of what I harvested in one day.

A Nice Harvest

A Nice Harvest

I was joking my old van would make a nice tree house if you could get it up in a tree. These guys made a deer stand out of a trailer.

And finally, who would have thought hedge hogs could be so cute?

No Comment

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

I’ve changed the settings on this blog so you have to log in to post a comment. Sorry, I’ve been overrun by spammers lately and I’m tired of dealing with it. You people aren’t real talkative anyway. Maybe I’ll figure out another way to deal with it, but in the meantime, the comments are disabled.

The other day I mentioned Shapeways where you can get 3D models printed into real plastic objects. I spent some time looking over their site recently trying to figure out how it works and coming up with ideas on things to make. There is a gallery of models people have submitted. They are also coming up with simple objects you can modify through their interface and have made but 3D modeling is somewhat complex so I imagine this is difficult for them. Right now the objects you can make that way are pretty limited.

This article at Wired pointed out the plastic isn’t for kids. I hadn’t thought about that. While reading through the forums I ran across this link where a guy made a mold for chocolate monkey heads. He was working in a lab that had a 3D printer and didn’t use Shapeways, but the process would be about the same. I just recently bought one of those FoodSaver systems to preserve the heaping loads of vegetables we are getting and it had occurred to me the vacuum system might come in handy for molding something. He uses it to remove the bubbles from the silicone prior to pouring the mold.

The FoodSaver thing is kind of cool but a little more difficult to operate than I expected. I liked some of the unusual suggestions people had for using it. One was to seal your paint brush instead of cleaning it if you were going to continue painting the same color anyway. They also give you a covered dish which you can use to marinate meat using the vacuum. That didn’t occur to me either.

I was reading about the water cube at the Olympics and how it’s made of this amazing material called ETFE (Ethylene Tetrafluoroethylene). This article talks about how strong, lightweight, and transparent it is. It sounds really great and then at the end they say it’s unlikely to be used in residential projects because the engineering is too sophisticated. It sounds like the perfect material for a home greenhouse. How bad can the engineering be?

I liked this article about building things by shaping trees. I wish I had more room in my yard to try something like it. Plants are really remarkable in their ability to self assemble into useful things. With all the genetic engineering going on you wonder how extreme it could get. I mean you could possibly encode the genes for these things to shape themselves without human guidance.

Imagine two dollar a gallon carbon neutral gasoline produced from garbage and non-food biomass. Given the military is the largest consumer of fuel in the U.S. and the security gains from being able to produce it domestically, I would think they would be highly interested in seeing this technology pushed forward as quickly as possible.

Type a command and this dog will do tricks. Besides the basic stuff I couldn’t think of much to make it do. Be sure to try “kiss”.

And finally, yes another silly cat picture.

Realism

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

This animation is pretty good but something about her mouth still seems off. Maybe it’s just the video compression. One thing that is clear is total realism at video game speeds is not far off. Also it will be extremely cheap not long after it’s achieved. I haven’t done any animation for a while and one of these days I’m going to upgrade my equipment and get back into it.

Speaking of digital art, here is a nice collection. I particularly like the landscapes.

Here is more strange art by an artist named Frank Uyttenhove.

I’ve linked to articles about Valcent before. They are one of the companies planning on producing fuel from algae. Here is a short video about the process. They point out we could meet the energy needs of America by turning one tenth of the state of New Mexico into algae production. It sounds nice but one tenth of New Mexico is still a big area.

Here is yet another story about progress on using sunlight to produce hydrogen.

My mystery story of the day is this one about five strange skulls.

Here is a pair of very nice lightning at sunset pictures.

Check out these pictures of more elaborate sand sculptures.

Here are some pictures of cats in water and includes video of a cat riding the front of a surf board. My cats would never get in water but they seem to be fascinated by it. I suppose it’s the only liquid they experience in their daily life so maybe that has to do with it.

And finally, yes it’s another silly kitten picture.

Wetware

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Every once in a while I read an article that makes me think yeah, we are living in the future. That is the way I felt about this article on a robot with a biological brain. It does make you wonder if in the future, we will have household robots with biological brains that are useful but somewhat unpredictable in their behavior. I suppose it’s not that different than owning a pet.

Offshore drilling is one of those things you would not think would divide up neatly upon party lines. I would think if you live on the ocean or have a vacation home there you would probably be against it. Also if your living depends on tourism or fishing you would be against it as well. Perhaps the government shouldn’t determine our energy policy but there is no real way to avoid its role. When you see evolving technologies such as this one where they have genetically altered bacteria to produce fuel which is compatible with existing pipelines and could be used in gasoline engines, you really wonder if the development can’t be accelerated.

This guy has an interesting view of the future. I can see a lot of those things happening but maybe on a longer time-line. It takes so long for new medical treatments to be approved, if you’re my age you probably won’t have nanobots swimming around your bloodstream. The replicator is a common subject for science fiction. I’m pretty sure someday they will exist but I’m thinking later than 2025.

Here is a follow up on the post I made yesterday on Bigfoot. Turns out one of the guys has been involved in Bigfoot hoaxes before.

This video of a huge propane explosion has some language some might find offensive. Unfortunately when the main blast hits, the person holding the camera understandably moves the shot off center. It’s a pretty dramatic scene though with a very visible shock wave.

This is kind of sad and funny. It’s a coffee cup with the bill of rights printed on it. Add hot coffee and watch your civil liberties disappear.

Smoke pictures are something I have never got around to trying along with high speed water drops. The best ones are at the bottom and aren’t real pictures but computer effects.

And finally, check out these cute guinea pigs.