|If the Volt looked like Jay Leno's 1916 Owen Magnetic, Government Motors (GM) wouldn't be able to produce them fast enough to satisfy demand rather than having them languish on dealers lots and scheduling a plant shut-down this summer. The "wow" capacity of the Magnetic alone would potentially induce car buyers to charge over to Chevy dealerships and drain their accounts. The Owen Magnetic was one of quite a few turn-of-the-last-century electric and hybrid cars. I have written before about the purely electric cars that were produced by Ford and other companies back in the 1910s and 1920s. They were green when green wasn't cool (*). Women drivers loved them because it was not necessary to hand-crank an engine. The Owen Magnetic is more like a Prius than a Volt from the standpoint of locomotion. It uses a gasoline-powered engine to drive a generator that charges a battery that powers the electric motor. There is no mechanical linkage between the engine and the wheels other than the motor shaft. The Owen Magnetic is more like the Volt than the Prius, though, from the standpoint of price. It was so expensive for the available performance that not many were sold. The Owen Magnetic was unlike either the Prius or the Volt from the standpoint of appearance and luxury. It is beautiful whereas the Prius and Volt are butt-ugly. The Owen Magnetic was plugged in ads as "The Car of a Thousand"...|
Really tall graphic images are evidently in vogue, at least they have been very recently. Last week I featured a timeline graphic of solar system exploration. This week features a timeline graphic honoring the contributions of astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, compliments of RF Cafe visitor Peter Kim et al. Born on January 8, 1942, in Oxford, England, Mr. Hawking was awarded his Ph.D. in 1962. During college years he coxed a rowing team. It was not until a few years later that he was diagnosed with a motor neurone disease, and given 2-3 years to live. By 1968 he was confined to a wheelchair full-time. A lifetime of study and writing on black holes and a unified theory of everything won him many prestigious awards. Perhaps, though, his greatest proclamation is that women are "a complete mystery."
Are you tired of looking at pictures in your workplace that were picked by interior designers for corporate environments? You know the ones I'm referring to: the neo-cubist multidimensional scenes with trapezoid-headed one-eyed people, and rainbow-colored whatever-they-are images that look like a car drove over a group of paint cans at high speed and splattered a nearby canvas. Occasionally a pastoral scene of a meadow with children running hand-in-hand through the wind-blown grass manages to squeak in. Personally, I prefer looking at engraved walnut patent plaques outside engineers' offices to that other "art." There is an alternative. A quick Web search turned up a number of sources for a more reasonable and profession-appropriate alternative. Fine Art America offers a pretty large collection of Engineering Artwork that covers pretty much the entire spectrum of fields (not grass-covered) as subjects. From vintage contraptions like a wood and brass transit, to modern marvels like the James Webb Space Telescope, to conceptual...
|NPR has a nifty timeline out titled, "The Birth of Silicon Valley." Beginning with Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's famous garage workshop in 1938, it progresses through tech world notables like Fred Terman at Stanford's Radio Research Lab, Varian Associates and Lockheed's freshly built complex in Stanford Industrial Park in 1953, and William Shockley's self-named semiconductor research lab in Mountain View. Jack Kirby's integrated circuit breakthrough at Texas Instruments led to Robert Noyce's and Jean Hoerni's production of the first commercial IC at Fairchild Semiconductor in San Jose. In 1968, Noyce and Gordon Moore (of Moore's Law fame) left Fairchild to start a little startup company called Intel. Electronic News (published by Fairchild Publications beginning in 1957) writer Don Hoefler, in an article titled, "Silicon Valley, USA," is unofficially credited with creating and christening the familiar moniker. Today we hear of versions of Silicon Valley all over the world: Zhongguancun, China; Bangalore, India; Daejeon, South Korea; and "Bit Valley" in Tokyo, Japan, to name a few. Surprisingly, there is no recognized equivalent in any European country of the EU as a whole. |
If you think electric cars are a new idea, read on. I saw this article, "The Amazing Collection in Thomas Edison's Garage," on another website (the equivalent of Jay Leno's Garage from a century ago) and thought it was a special report, but then I noticed it was actually a paid promotion. So, I contacted the company, B.R. Howard & Associates, Inc., asking for permission to re-post it in its entirety on RF Cafe. They kindly agreed to it. Per their mission statement: "Our company focuses on the conservation of historic artifacts in accordance with the principles defined in the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works Code of Ethics and Guidelines for Practice." Their portfolio of projects include transportation, industrial, scientific, military, and archeological artifacts. An opportunity to help support the preservation effort is provided. PBS has a web page outlining the history of electric cars which, according to them, first arrived in the early 1800s when Scottish inventor Robert Anderson built the first crude electric carriage powered by non-rechargeable primary cells. Wikipedia sources claim that in the early 1900s, electric cars were preferred by women drivers...
If you enjoy looking at collections of vintage radio equipment, then you will appreciate the fine collection of very unique equipment acquired by the Western Historic Radio Museum in Virginia City, Nevada. The radios have either been restored or were found in good condition because everything I viewed looks almost new. If you partake in the hobby of restoration yourself, you will want to view the "Rebuilding the Hammarlund SP-600" page. It is chock full of pictures and descriptions of the process. Interestingly, it shows how modern electrolytic capacitors were placed inside the metal can of an old capacitor in order to preserve the look and feel of the original chassis. What a great idea! Ham gear dating back to 1909 includes rigs (almost all home-built) with massive receiving transformers (aka "loose couplers") for tuning, and rotary spark gaps. Extensive descriptions are provided for a lot of the displays. The 1915 Spherical Audion Receiver shown in the thumbnail offers in part, "...the circuit is non-regenerative - regeneration became popular in 1916. Also, "dead-turns" (unused sections of tapped inductors) are not grounded - this was commonly done by 1917. Additionally, the spherical audions were being replaced by tubular audiotrons by 1916." Enjoy!
|I present here an empirically derived mathematical paradox in Boolean algebraic terms: (Intelligent = Smart) AND (Intelligent = Stupid). I performed a search on the Internet for graffiti (aka street art) sporting a theme of engineering, science, and mathematics. Fortunately, not a lot of examples were found, but even one exception to a theory destroys its universality. It might be argued by some people that free expression of ideas on any medium is in itself a form of intellectual acumen, but I would counter that when the chosen medium is public or privately owned (by someone else) property and permission is not granted, the act degrades to vandalism. Math geeks seem to have the highest penchant for creating graffiti if you consider the inordinately large ratio of math graffiti versus engineering and science graffiti. Regardless, there does not seem to be very much artistic aptitude in any of these examples. If the cretins insist on marring other people's property, they could at least make it visually appealing... but then that's what makes them cretins. The complementary proof, Unintelligent = Stupid seems self-evident, BTW...|
These pictures will make you appreciate your nice, safe corporately allotted cubicle space. Reminiscent of vintage photos from the building of the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower, workers putting finishing touches to the Anzhaite Long-span Suspension Bridge in Jishou, Hunan, China, walk about and carry out their tasks without any type of safety lanyards attached. Feeding off of a world with an insatiable appetite for "stuff," China's booming economy has funded a large number of incredible feats of engineering, from high speed railways to magnificent buildings to, well, bridges. Such innovation and industry is not new to the Chinese - after all, they built the Great Wall hundreds of years before the birth of Christ. To China's advantage, much of the state-of-the-art technology needed for the expansion was already available and passed on to them by the Western world as part of the conditions for exploiting their cheap labor and very low safety and environmental standards. Wisely, the Communist government has mandated that ever-increasing amounts of design and assembly be performed in-country. Over time, that forced previously closely-held "secrets," both private and military, to be legally (and some illegally) compromised. Many of our critical defense system components now have Made in China stamped on them, often visible only under a microscope.
You probably heard about it but never actually saw any pictures. Well, here they are, the "suicide" nets that were installed on the Foxconn buildings in China. News stories abounded a couple years ago about beleaguered, bored-with-life employees who decided throwing themselves off the roof of the building was better than assembling the same four screws in iPads day after day, for about $1 per hour. The linked story reports some of the conditions that were supposedly motiving the unmotivated to jump. Massive overtime and few days off was a major component, as was being treated "inhumanely, like a machine." The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations et al did the investigations. Per the report: "Crowded workers’ dormitories can sleep up to 24 and are subject to strict rules. One worker told the NGO investigators that he was forced to sign a 'confession letter' after illicitly using a hairdryer. In the letter he wrote: 'It is my fault. I will never blow my hair inside my room. I have done something wrong. I will never do it again.'" Ah, the beauty of Communism - total government control of society and production. It always produces the same results: misery and death. For some reason many in the U.S. seem to yearn for a Maoist system... as long as they are the ones in power or on the receiving end of other people's accomplishments.
|When LEGO blocks were first introduced in their current form in Denmark in the late1940s, founder Godfred Kirk Christiansen could not have imagined how wildy popular his "toy" would become with sculptors. That generations of kids would while away hours at a time building original and predesigned structures per printed instructions were his realized dream, Godfred (may I call him Godfred?) would be in awe over how his creation has been applied from professional and amateur artists. The June 2012 issue of Scientific American has an article titled "Fusion's Missing Pieces" on the current state of nuclear fusion, and with it is a photo of a cut-away view of a tokomak made entirely of LEGOs by Sachiko Akinaga (click thumbnail above for more pics). Do a Google search on "lego art" and be amazed at what is out there. "lego robotics" turns up hundreds of often sophisticated microprocessor-controlled machines. Try it on just about any subject, be it engineering, science, chemistry, mathematics, industry, aerospace, automobiles, architecture, or electronics and be amazed at the skill of people. You might find something that will make a good cover photo for your next PowerPoint presentation (be sure to give attribution to the creator). LEGO is a contraction conceived of by Christiansen from the Danish phrase "leg godt," meaning "play well..."|
Almost exactly two years ago, I featured a quilt made by Sara Schechner that depicted the 26-inch Alvan Clark telescope. A couple months ago, she contacted me about having learned of its appearance on RF Cafe. As it turns out she is the curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments at Harvard University, and she holds a PhD from Harvard. She wrote a book in 1997 titled, "Comets, Popular Culture, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology." It includes an extensive collection of ancient drawings and etchings of astronomical events such as comets, meteors, super novae, and solar system conjunctions, as well as implications of such phenomena in significant world events. Astrologers made a pretty good living in the day by convincing rulers and potentates that they had privileged insight into the significance of such things. Comets, Popular Culture, and the Birth of Modern Cosmology, by Sara Schechner Genuth While reading it, I ran across this etching (right) depicting "Archimedes (c.250 BC) beholding both [planets and comet] in his Jacobs Staff." The first thing that struck me in the image is that the Jacob's Staff looks an awful lot like a log periodic dipole antenna. Compare the rendition to the folded structure shown in the image from a Wikipedia article (below left). The physical size suggests...
What the heck is this? It is a humongously tall poster of the solar system that the BBC website posted showing various benchmarks for human presence in space, both animate and inanimate. It is so tall that 5 separate images are used. It is so tall that it takes 83 Page Down key presses to see the entire graphic set. The scale changes 5 times. According to them, it would take 22 million years of continuous scrolling down to see the end if the graphic was extended to cover the edge of the observable universe. The first communications object on the graphic is the Russian Mars 1M probe at 120 km; launched in 1960, it never reached Mars. Odd that neither Sputnik (7.3 km) nor Echo (1.6 km) appears. The last object on the graphic is Voyager 1, which according to today's news from NASA is that Voyager is transitioning out of the solar system and into interstellar space, a region about 21B km away called the heliopause. A radio signal takes a little over 8 hours to reach us from there. V'Ger was launched in 1977 and provided the first close-up pictures of Jupiter and Saturn. Next stop: The Oort Cloud, in about another 35 years.