Coffee, Julie?

Pretty neat: Coffee Joulies

Coffee Joulies are miniature thermodynamic heat storage devices. They cool your coffee by absorbing excess thermal energy when it is too hot. This energy is stored inside the Joulies. When your coffee reaches the right temperature, the Joulies slowly release this stored energy, keeping your coffee at the right temperature.

From their kickstarter page:

This amazing feat of thermodynamics happens thanks to a special non-toxic material sealed within the polished stainless steel shell. This material is designed to melt at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and absorbs a lot of energy as it melts. This is how Joulies cool your coffee down three times faster than normal. Once it reaches this temperature, the special material begins to solidify again, releasing the energy it stored when it melted. This is how Joulies keep your coffee warm twice as long.

The better insulated your cup, the better Coffee Joulies work. Simply using a lid goes a long way. This is because less heat is lost to the environment, and more is stored within the Joulies themselves.

That energy is, of course, the enthalpy of fusion. Think of an ice cube: the ice absorbs energy as it melts, maintaining the same temperature but cooling the beverage down. What these people have done is use a material that melts at a convenient temperature for hot beverages and that takes advantage of the reverse process that happens in the freezer — the transition back to a solid, releasing that energy, at the melting point.

The site doesn’t specify the material, but the various forms of paraffin wax have melting points around 140 ºF with large heat capacities and enthalpies. Which would be pretty much what you want to use.

(The bit about the lid and/or insulation keeping things warm works without the Joulies, too)

Econ 101: Let's Watch Star Wars!

Overthinking It: The Economics of Death Star Planet Destruction

War in general makes poor economic sense. Thousands of lives are lost and millions of man-hours are spent producing things that will break, explode or be exploded. Even the shittiest factory in the world at least produces crappy T-shirts. It may produce them at a higher cost than would justify the operation of the factory, but at least at the end of the day there’s some shirts.

The strategic calculus of the Death Star, on the other hand, may be more rewarding.

One of the more effective negotiation tactics, from a game theory perspective, is to convince your opponent that you’re crazy enough to do something stupid.

It's Why Men Like to Barbecue

Men Will Cook If Danger Is Involved. -Rita Rudner.

Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories: Cooking hot dogs via electrocution

Disclaimerzilla: While we could give you lots of warnings about all the different dangers involved and how to possibly skirt them, the simple truth is that this just isn’t safe. If you are foolish enough to attempt this, you will have to deal with pointy things, raw electricity out of the wall, hot steam, and the possibility of fire. If that isn’t enough, and you succeed, you are still faced with the possibility of having to eat a hot dog. In summary: do not, under any circumstances, cook hot dogs this way.

Note: the LEDs are not edible.

h/t to J

In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream, "Eureka!"

Put two objects of unequal density on a balance, such that the scale reads that they have equal mass. Then evacuate the air.

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Lesson: air creates buoyancy, too. The larger object displaces more air, so it actually has more mass, but also has slightly more buoyancy.

h/t to michel

Predictions Are Easy for Predictable Systems

A scant four months ago I made a prediction of what would happen if gas prices rose significantly.

[T]he same people who cried “Socialism!” every time the Obama administration tried something (other than tax cuts for high-income people) to jump-start the economy will wail for government intervention to lower the price of gas.

They will do this without recognizing any irony.

I just read this, originating from the blog, so it’s Boehner’s position — Running on Empty: Obama Administration Does Nothing to Address Skyrocketing Gas Prices

I hereby claim success. It didn’t even take until $4 a gallon.

It’s also funny how they claim that Obama’s policies are the cause and in the same breath observe that this oil-price spike happened in 2008 for the same reasons as the current spike. That would seem to violate causality.

Water Doesn't Put Out This Fire

Fire ants assemble into living waterproof rafts

What happens when you dump 8,000 fire ants into a tray of water? Nathan Mlot from the Georgia Institute of Technology wanted to find out. Mlot scooped the ants into a beaker, swirled it around to roll them into a ball, and decanted them into a half-filled tray.

Two can
a toucan but

You can’t
an ant

(sorry; I seem to have contracted poetry. A case of bad poetry.)


Here’s the repeated attempts to push the ant-raft into the water

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That Would be a "No"

Can a complete novice become a golf pro with 10,000 hours of practice?

This is a matter of getting the premise wrong. This is the idea:

A Star is Made

“I think the most general claim here,” Ericsson says of his work, “is that a lot of people believe there are some inherent limits they were born with. But there is surprisingly little hard evidence that anyone could attain any kind of exceptional performance without spending a lot of time perfecting it.” This is not to say that all people have equal potential. Michael Jordan, even if he hadn’t spent countless hours in the gym, would still have been a better basketball player than most of us. But without those hours in the gym, he would never have become the player he was.

So the mistaken premise is that since world-class practitioners put in a lot of work at their craft, putting in a lot of work will make you world-class. As the logician reminds us, universal affirmatives can only be partially converted. The idea behind the 10,000 hour “rule” is that it gets you to your best, i.e. it’s a local maximum.