Over, Under, Sideways, Down

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[T]he Pet-Proto, a predecessor to DARPA’s Atlas robot, is confronted with obstacles similar to those robots might face in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC). To maneuver over and around the obstacles, the robot exercises capabilities including autonomous decision-making, dismounted mobility and dexterity. The DARPA Robotics Challenge will test these and other capabilities in a series of tasks that will simulate conditions in a dangerous, degraded, human-engineered environment.

Beer for President

BeerSci: How To Brew A Beer In A Week

A couple of days ago, one of the PopSci.com edit staff asked me if it was possible to brew a beer in time for election day. That’s related to one of the most-often encountered questions I get about homebrewing: How long does it take to make beer? My standard answer is “approximately six weeks,” because here at BeerSci we tend to brew styles that benefit from that schedule, and we have a limited amount of space for non-essential equipment such as giant cylinders of CO2.
But it is entirely possible to brew a beer in seven days …

We'll Do That!

Portal Gun and Magnetic Levitation

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Rhett doesn’t quite get to the point where he explains what’s going on in the video, since the levitation mechanism for the system is only hinted at, but they talk of the coil, so it’s almost certainly a servo-mechanism adjusting the coil current, as Rhett guesses.

Watching this, I was thinking that it would be nest to take one of those globes and cover it with a pattern to make it look like a Beryllium Sphere from Galaxy Quest. Never give up! Never surrender!

Be Choosey

It’s the time of year for the Donors Choose fundraiser drive, a charity I support. As I’ve done in the past, here are some links from fellow physics/astronomy blogs.

Cosmic Variance is promoting the donation page for Empirical Zeal blog.

At Uncertain Principles you might win a signed copy of Chad’s book if you donate

Bad Astronomy also has a donors page.

You can pick a project or simply donate and let Donors Choose pick one.

Them's the Breaks

Dynamics and fracture of Hunter Pence’s bat

If you didn’t see this Monday night, you probably saw a link to it later. It was the bottom of the third with the bases loaded for the Giants. Hunter Pence hit a broken-bat single through the infield that scored two earned runs and one unearned run on a misplay in the outfield. Giants went on to score two more runs in the inning and pretty much buried the Cardinals in the final game of their series.

What was remarkable about the hit was how Pence’s bat behaved.

One thing the author doesn’t analyze, but is important to the outcome, is how the multiple contacts imparted spin to the ball, which you can see in the breakdown — the first contact has the ball coming out with only a little rotation, but it increases with each contact. The result was a trajectory that curved away from the shortstop, who initially had leaned toward third base, only to have the ball go up the middle.

All of this is moot, though. Technically it was a dead ball, because you can only legally strike the ball once with the bat. The batter should have been called out, according to (my reading of) rule 6.05(h) But I’ll give the umps a pass for missing this one. (The Cards, on the other hand, may not be so forgiving)

Once You Pop, You Can't Stop

How to eat a Triceratops

The pulling action and the presence of deep parallel grooves led the team to realise that these marks were probably not indicative of actual eating, but repositioning of the prey. The scientists suggest that the frills were in the way of Tyrannosaurus as it was trying to get at the nutrient-rich neck muscles.

“It’s gruesome, but the easiest way to do this was to pull the head off,” explains Fowler with a grin. The researchers found further evidence to support this idea when they examined the Triceratops occipital condyles — the ball-socket head–neck joint — and found tooth marks there too. Such marks could only have been made if the animal had been decapitated.

Science and Math and Politics

Eight causes of the deficit “fiscal cliff.” Which party is most responsible?

As we approach the US election, mentioning politics is not entirely avoidable. But not blind rhetoric — this has some science and math discussion in it.

[H]ow have we Americans been able to afford the endless trade deficits that propel world development? Simple. Science and technology. Each decade since the 1940s saw new, U.S.-led advances that engendered enough wealth to let us pay for all the stuff pouring out of Asian factories, giving poor workers jobs. Jet planes, rockets, satellites, electronics & transistors & lasers, telecom, pharmaceuticals… and the Internet. How I’d love to see a second “National Debt Clock” showing where we’d be now, if we (the citizens) had charged just a 5% royalty on the fruits of U.S. federal research. We’d be in the black!

The first decade of the 21st Century — the Naughty Oughts — was the first (since the 1940s) that saw no such technological tsunami, making America rich enough to buy from the world. As the internet boom petered out, we could have made sustainable energy our Next Big Thing. It was proposed, and the rate that China and Germany are getting rich off solar and wind is most impressive!

By coincidence, that was also the decade when the Fox War on Science hit full stride. When science became the right’s enemy number one.

If not for that, and Bush cuts on R&D and all the rest, would we have had another renaissance and tech-driven boom by now? I cannot prove might-have-beens. But it is no accident that this failure of the expected decadal innovation wave happened in the wake of an epochal and telling event. When the GOP banished from Capitol Hill all of the advisory panels on sci and tech that had helped Congresses to legislate wisely for 60 years.

The math part is pretty straightforward:

Remember, we paid for Big Bird and the other stuff just fine, under Bill Clinton. If you’re serious about looking for the reasons we’re in a mess… look at what changed.

And the conclusion

The bad news? Unbelievably, in the present election, the citizenry might actually re-hire the gang that did all this to us. Proving that hypnotism and incantations can trump facts — fooling some of the people, all of the time. Enough of the people.

The lesson is simple: do not re-hire the dopes who made the mess. Who committed the first half dozen travesties. If you do, future generations will have you to blame.

Seriously: do not re-hire the dopes who made the mess