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Archive for December, 2008

Technology

Monday, December 29th, 2008

I think it’s somewhat ironic humans could create a bomb that operated using fusion in 1952 but to use it to generate power always seems to be 20 years away. There are so many methods, normally very high tech to attempt to fuse light elements; I was pleasantly surprised when I read this article. From the article “Somebody described it as a thermonuclear diesel engine,” but actually I would call it a thermonuclear steam engine. What an amazingly low tech approach to the problem! The other thing is these guys are talking about producing clean cheap power for a paltry $50 million. That’s million not billion. Compare that to the type of money the government is currently throwing around in the financial markets!

Not that there aren’t people making progress or at least doing experiments with more sophisticated technology. I just think the contrast is pretty amazing when you compare the methods being used in the above approach with this experiment.

Speaking of technology, this is a chart of the difference between how casino machines and electronic voting machines are regulated. I think the chart speaks for itself.

This looks very low tech.

This is a great use of low technology. A professor has produced a set of eyeglasses for the world’s poor. They use water pressure to adjust the thickness of the lenses.

It seems like one of the side effects of technology is it gets easier and easier for someone to get you in trouble for something you did not do. In this link, a group of college students reproduce the license plate of someone they have a grudge against. They tape the plate over their own and drive fast through intersections with speed cameras.

This is kind of slick. If you want to download a youtube video to watch later, put the word kick before the address and there you go.

There isn’t much story accompanying this series of cat rescue pictures. I was left wondering how the cat got in there in the first place.

I’ve never seen a purple squirrel, I never hope to see one…

Speaking of strange creatures, at about 30 seconds into this video, the shark extends its jaws in a manner eerily similar to the alien in the movie of the same name.

What is up with this chicken?

This is just a nice bridge picture.

Here are some very cool nature pictures.

Pushing your face into powdery snow has to be cold, but the results can be very artistic.

And finally, I’m not sure if these are chipmunks or baby squirrels but it’s a cute picture.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

I’ve seen the movie It’s a Wonderful Life a zillion times. I happened to catch the second half of it the other day. In light of recent events, the film took on a whole different meaning. I sat there giggling at the irony. Here is the film online. Today George Bailey would sell balloon mortgages to people who couldn’t afford them and package the loans as derivatives. Instead of $8000, it would be a trillion dollar bailout.  Bank examiners, what a quaint idea! Here is the movie in thirty seconds done by animated bunnies.

If you are not familiar with the Antikythera mechanism, it was a device of astounding technology for it’s time. You have to wonder how it was possible for the technology to disappear. Not just the technology of the way the device worked but the ability to build it. It took over a thousand years before similar gear technology appeared again.  I can’t help but think if it wasn’t lost in time we would be living like the Jetson’s now. This article has some interesting background on the device. Below is a video of a recreation of it and how it worked.

I’m not sure how much faith I have in this story but maybe they invented Swiss watches a lot earlier too. There is nothing like finding one in a 400 year old tomb. It must have been a careless time traveler!

Have you had enough? Check out these stories of eight metal objects. At least the other ‘finds’ were dated to a time when humans were around. These reminded me of a sci-fi story where they would send prisoners back in time so far they wouldn’t be able to influence the future.

I tend to step outside for a minute before I write to clear my head. We got some freezing rain last night. Not enough to damage things and not enough to make it pretty, just enough on top of a small layer of snow to make a really large crunching sound when you walk.  Here is why even looking at this lovely nature picture could improve your memory and attention. Here is another nice nature shot and here are some real ice storm photos.

Besides the sliding track I use to create 3D pictures I wrote about here, I’ve also built a macro lens but I need to redo it to fit my digital camera. Here are some pretty nice do-it-yourself photography tools. I should try the Pringles can tube for my macro.  They mention using a scanner which is how I produced this image. The resulting image is so large, I have yet to see it printed at full resolution. Some day I’d like to see an eight foot tall print of it.

You have to love a silly dog photo.

If you are at work, this next bit contains an image of a woman in a seriously small bikini. It’s some cool gadgets for winter fun. We didn’t have snowball guns when I was a kid.

Prepare to be grossed out in this fascinating look at zombie animals and the parasites that control them.

I have been following the story of Blacklight power for some time now. I’m becoming convinced these people have found a way to generate power in a way that violates the laws of physics as we know them. They have a theory but personally I don’t think it’s correct. Here is some recent news about them. Ha! Maybe it works but it has the side effect of sending metal objects back in time.

Remember Teddy Ruxpin? Check out this robot teddy. The video is not very good. There is something really bizarre about seeing it with its skin off. I’m just waiting for it to grab a gun and start looking for Sarah Conner.

As you watch this video where guys put the equivalent of giant caps on the ends of hammers and slam them into the ground, you have to think, what could possibly go wrong?

And finally, here is your funny cat photo.

Dream Machine

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I read this article about scientists developing a machine that can produce images from your dreams with some skepticism. I guess it’s one of those things you would have to experience to believe. I had the thought if they could do that then why couldn’t they make a machine that allows you to render an image and all you have to do is imagine it.

The biggest full moon of the year occurs on Dec. 12th.

A Dyson sphere is where an advanced civilization has built a sphere completely encompassing a star to optimize solar energy collection. This article is about trying to detect them. If a civilization were advanced enough to actually build one of those things, they might also have the technology to keep even low level infrared energy from escaping.

I posted some wallpaper sources recently. Here is another one which is mostly holiday pet pictures. Then again I can’t read anything there so maybe that is just a section.

As if dressing up your poor animal isn’t bad enough, these people actually painted their cats. I wonder what type of paint you would use given the first thing they would do is try to clean themselves off.

I got a chuckle out of this story about a real life cat burglar who steals fuzzy toys from the neighbors. It reminded me of one a while back where a cat collected gloves and mittens.

This is another one of those collections of fantasy sci-fi like creations.

This is a pretty funny shot.

This one’s just pretty.

I’ve never actually seen lenticular clouds, just pictures. Then again I haven’t spent much time near any large mountains.

And finally, here is a collection of photos of cats sleeping in unusual places.

Wallpapers and Other Pictures

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Every year I design a new holiday card. Some of them are in my galleries. Usually I try to do something in 3D. Last year I didn’t and at least one person mentioned they were disappointed. Here it is getting well into the month and I’m struggling with coming up with a concept. So, I have been looking at a lot of images on the web.

This site has a lot of nice desktop wallpapers. A lot of the recent ones are holiday oriented.

Also, a friend of mine sent me this link to another site that has a lot of free wallpapers.

Here is a nice gallery of snowflake pictures. There is also a chart at the end explaining what type of flakes form under what conditions.

These are just nice creative photos.

Then there is the opposite. From images which are not photoshopped to some that are extremely photoshopped.

These are just being in the right spot at the right moment.

This one is just funny.

Check out this giant storm.

This is a cool shot of the space shuttle lifting off.

Here are some funny tee shirt illustrations.

And finally, yeah you guessed it, a bunch of cute animal pictures.

Creative Video

Friday, December 5th, 2008

I spent my first year in college at an engineering school. It was a tough school and we didn’t have a lot of extra time. One of the things I remember was the guys building tennis ball cannons. Of course we eventually soaked the balls in lighter fluid so they would be flaming tennis balls. Here is a video of some guys playing tennis with flaming tennis balls.

I suppose that wasn’t all that dangerous. It would definitely keep you concentrating on the ball. Here’s something really crazy. At least the guy had the sense to put the liquid oxygen on a long pole before he poured it on the grill.

This video of bioluminescence was particularly striking. I have seen pictures of it before but the motion is really very cool.

You have to wait a bit for the next one to load before you see the motion. It is some guys being creative with stop motion video.

This one is from my friend Matt. It’s a silly dog video. This dog goes charging around in snow well over his head. You wonder how he manages to not run into something. I have never seen a dog move through snow like that.

Check out this image of two guys having lunch in a very high spot.

I thought this piece on the 10 most amazing things the sky can do was interesting.

Some of these are better than others. People make themselves invisible by covering or painting themselves the same as the background.

I’ve been thinking I need a new background for my new monitor but I wanted to create something myself. Here are some free high resolution wallpapers.

This close up of a snowflake was not at all what I expected.

Nature has perfected splitting water. I thought this was clever. If you can’t figure out exactly how plants do it then the next best thing is to extract the molecules from the plants and create cyborgs.

These vintage drawings of what the future would be like are pretty funny.

This is a very in-depth piece on fountains with some incredible pictures.

And finally, this is really silly. It’s a collection of Ninja cat pictures.

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!