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Tech Smorgasbord Archives - 13

RF Cafe University"Factoids," "Kirt's Cogitations," and "Tech Topics Smorgasbord" are all manifestations of my ranting on various subjects relevant (usually) to the overall RF Cafe theme. All may be accessed on these pages:

 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37

LE GO Stats

(source: Lego.com)

More than 400 million children and adults will play with LEGO bricks this year.

• On sale in more than 130 countries

• A column of about ≈40 billion LEGO bricks would reach the moon

• ≈7 LEGO sets are sold each second

• ≈19 billion LEGO elements are made/yr

• Laid end to end, the number of LEGO bricks sold in a year would reach more than five times round the world

• There are ≈62 LEGO bricks for every person on earth

• The world's children spend 5 billion hours/yr playing with LEGOs

• LEGO Group is the world's largest tire manufacturer, with ≈306 million tires/yr

•  ≈400 billion LEGO elements have been manufactured since 1949




In February 2004, a unique Morse Code for '@' was introduced:

- - • - •


It is the first addition to the alphabet since World War I.

The addition was to satisfy the need to exchange e-mail addresses. The '@' character in Morse code is a combination of the letters 'a' and 'C', possibly to mimic the look of an '@' (the 'a' inside the 'C').

This actually created a combination that is significantly longer than what Hams had been using to transmit email addresses. Previously, '@' was spelled out as 'at', ·- - (Dit-Dah Dah).

The latter "at" is 11 beats long while it takes a 17 beats to produce the special '@' code.


Break-Even for Solar Cells

(source: IEEE Spectrum)

A recent study examined how long an array of multicrystalline-silicon solar cells must be in operation in order to break even relative to the energy needed to manufacture them and their subsystems.

City Years
Phoenix 1.6
Johannesburg, SA 1.8
Madrid, Spain 1.9
Adelaide, Australia 2.1
NY City, USA 2.6
São Paolo, Brazil 2.6
Freiburg, Germany 2.9
Tokyo, Japan 3.2
Moscow, Russia 3.2
Santiago, Chilie 3.6



Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs

Peer Ratings (5=highest)

(source: US New & World Report)

Schools whose highest degree is a Bachelor's or Master's.

1  Harvey Mudd College

    (CA) 4.5  (tie)

1  Rose-Hulman Inst. of

    Tech. (IN) 4.5  (tie)

3  Cooper Union (NY) 4.2

4  Cal Poly–San Luis

    Obispo 4.0


Schools whose highest degree is a Ph.D.

1  Massachusetts Inst. of

    Technology 4.9

2  Stanford University

    (CA) 4.7  (tie)

2 University of CA –

   Berkeley 4.7  (tie)


China Now Rivals the U.S. in Technology Competitiveness

The Georgia Institute of Technology recently released an assessment that suggests the U.S. has lost the lead it has held in technology competitiveness since WWII. The new leader? China.Click to view chart

A couple quotes: "When you take China's low-cost manufacturing and focus on technology, then combine them with the increasing emphasis on research and development, the result ultimately won't leave much room for other countries." "The future clearly doesn't look good for the United States." "It's like being 40 years old and playing basketball against a competitor who's only 12 years old, but is already at your height."

Hmmm... I'd say it's more because we've been passing the ball to the other side, or allowing the other players to steal the ball.



The Case of the Missing Mass

Last fall, the scientific news media reported that the standard kilogram mass, "Le Grand K," kept at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) in Sevres, France since the 1880s, seems to be missing a few atoms - about 50 μg worth. Nobody knows where they went. Several "exact" copies of the standard mass throughout the world agree much more closely with each other than with the sample from which they were originally compared. To avoid such nuisances, physicists have been lobbying for a new standard that is defined by a countable number of atoms in a kilogram of pure silicon, or on a current flow. Maybe scientists are pursuing the wrong phenomenon: Suppose all the other standards somehow gained an equal amount of mass? Is France's indomitable Inspector Clouseau on the case?


Too Audibly Green?

(source: Scientific American)

Sometimes you just cannot win. Believe it or not, there is an organized group of sight-impaired pedestrians lobbying Toyota and other electric/hybrid car makers to add "inoffensive noise generators" to their products. The complaint is that such vehicles are so quiet that they cannot be heard sufficiently well to prevent being stepped out in front of. Pity the engineers tasked with deciding what type of noise would be universally inoffensive. My solution: Put dog whistles on them and provide the endangered walkers with a pet canine trained to respond to the sound.




Leave it to bureaucrats to find a way to justify their existence


Congress to Introduce Bill to Protect Blind People From Hybrid Cars


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