Archive for the 'Tech' Category

See Spot "Run"

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Not sure of the wisdom of advertising that there are two jerks working there.

Keep Them Shutters Rolling, Rawhide!

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Gav shows you how insanely quick the inside of a DSLR camera moves when it takes a picture, by filming it at 10,000 fps.

Camera filmed is a Canon 7D.
This video is a good demonstration of how a rolling shutter works.
Shot with a Phantom Flex at 10,000fps

Where We're Going, We Don't Need Rockets

How We ”Email” Hardware To Space

This is pretty cool. Designing a tool on earth and 3D printing it on the ISS.

On the ISS this type of technology translates to lower costs for experiments, faster design iteration, and a safer, better experience for the crew members, who can use it to replace broken parts or create new tools on demand. But what I’m really excited about is the impact this could have on human space exploration beyond Earth orbit.

When we do set up the first human colonies on the moon, Mars and beyond, we won’t use rockets to bring along everything we need. We’ll build what we need there, when we need it.

That’s pretty much what I thought when I saw the headline. I know that there has been discussion of putting these on ships and boats, so that one can do certain repairs underway without having to carry a lot of different spare parts. If they can be printed, you only have to carry the stock. In space, all of those size and weight pressures are multiplied.

Tommy Can You Hear Me

How speakers make spound

Many cool animated gifs

The Incredible Lightness of Paper

Rohinni’s Lightpaper Is Incredibly Thin, And Printable

In its current state, Lightpaper is manufactured by mixing ink and tiny LEDs together and printing them out on a conductive layer. That object is then sandwiched between two other layers and sealed. The tiny diodes are about the size of a red blood cell, and randomly dispersed on the material. When current runs through the diodes, they light up.

It’ll be interesting to see how people use this if the product becomes widely available.

One Person's Junk is Another's Treasure

When I was on vacation a few weeks back, a friend had related a story to me of a proprietor of an electronics shop who also repaired TVs, but was lamenting that TV repair business has been dropping off, for similar reasons as described by Rhett in The End of the Throwaway Appliance

Why would you repair an appliance if it is just a little bit more to buy a new one? Even if I did spend $100 to fix my washer, who knows – something else might break next week. In too many cases it’s just simpler to buy a new thing than to repair. I think this sucks.

I don’t share Rhett’s optimism that the problem of throwaway electronics can be fixed — his solutions will work, but only a sliver of the population has the technical skills and/or tools to implement them.

(Another reason the TV repairman’s business was dropping off was that it was taking weeks to get parts for one of the popular brands, and nobody is willing to wait weeks to get their TV back, when a new and bigger/better on is available right now.)

I can think of an alternative.

Here is the real problem. I wasn’t exactly sure which part was broken. The control panel costs about $100 and the control board has a price around $120. On a gamble, I could order the control panel (pretty sure that’s where the problem was), but what if I’m wrong? I could possibly return the piece but the whole process could take a significant amount of time.

What if you had ten broken washers, or TVs, or whatever, of the same make and model, or at least had compatible internal parts? They would probably not all have the same problem, so you could swap parts around and get some of them working, either as a diagnosis (you’d then buy the parts you needed) or as a working product. If people are just tossing their old products out, that may require a trip to the landfill or some other disposal site — an enterprising person could offer to haul them away — at no cost to the owner! — and then sell the fixed machines. It’s mainly a matter of how many you could fix and sell in a given amount of time, and having enough space to do the work.

I know back in grad school I’d seen ads saying “we’ll haul away your old washer/dryer”, so I assume that’s what they were doing, but I don’t know if that’s still a thing with the more computerized machines of today. I think that this is a more viable solution to the throwaway appliance — leverage some economy of scale to make it into a refurbished appliance.

I Have Standards, You Know

The Days They Changed the Gauge

US North and South had different rail track gauges. They fixed it pretty much all at once.

I’m glad I ran across this after the update, as this interesting observation was added (quoting from one of the links)

As things turned out, having different gauges was advantageous to the South, since the North could not easily use railroad to move its troops to battle in southern territory during the Civil War. Noting this example, the Finns were careful to ensure that their railroads used a gauge different from the Russian railroads! The rest of Europe adopted a standard gauge, which made things easy for Hitler during World War II: a significant fraction of German troop movements in Europe were accomplished by rail.

Also the note about how the standard gauge was adopted after secession, so there was no opposition from the South. Adoption of standards is usually contains a large dose of politics. If the dissenters aren’t in the room, consensus is easier.

Be Vewwy, Vewwy Quiet

I’m hunting astwonomical objects

Life in the Quiet Zone: West Virginia Town Avoids Electronics for Science

Scientists who use some of the world’s most advanced instruments can’t use a microwave oven to heat their lunch. And then there was the time astronomers were baffled by a mysterious distortion of their data. They had a laugh when they discovered that the errant energy waves were coming from battery-operated fans sold in the facility’s gift shop.

Gren Bank was also the target for a facility to house an alternate master clock for the Navy/DoD, because Robert Byrd wanted it, but that was shot down in the early 90’s.

What's it Like?

What It Felt Like to Test the First Submarine Nuclear Reactor, with substantial quotes from an earlier article

This was of interest to me, owing to my ~5 year stint as an instructor in the nuke program. Some of the details point toward Rickover’s vision; things like realizing that more could be learned by building the test reactor in the same configuration that a sub’s reactor have in a submarine — starting with a prototype in any other configuration would leave too many unknowns when the “operational” configuration was built (making systems more compact invariably introduces new problems), and too much time would be wasted. And the general attitude of over-engineering the reactor — scaling down features is usually far easier than beefing up or adding new ones.

Are You Getting Enough Fiber?

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