These items are an archive of past Topical Smorgasbord items that have appeared on the RF Cafe homepage. In keeping with the "cafe" genre, these tidbits of information are truly a smorgasbord of topics. They all pertain to topics that are related to the general engineering and science theme of RF Cafe. Note: There is also a huge collection of my 'Factoids' (aka 'Kirt's Cogitations') that might interest you as well.
A Logic Named Joe -
The Internet Foretold?
As a long-time Paul Harvey fan, I used to listen to his radio news broadcasts and especially looked forward to his "The Rest of the Story" pieces. It was a challenge to listen and try to figure out who or what the alluded-to person, place, or thing at the end of the the story would be. In honor of the recently departed Mr. Harvey, this week's Smorgasbord is fashioned after his trademarked style. An article in the September 2011 Smithsonian magazine inspired the research.
Born in 1791, the son of a New England Calvinist pastor, Sam was one of three surviving children out of eleven born to the same mother. Early
in life he developed an interest in writing, drawing, and painting. His talent became obvious to all who would witness his efforts. The family's
strong religious principles were reflected prominently in his writings and artwork, but rather than follow in his father's footsteps as a minister,
Sam's passion for art led him on a journey to find a place of acceptance amongst professional practitioners of the craft. His father's influence
on him was not limited, however, to just Heavenly endeavors. You see, Sam's father practiced a side vocation as a geographer, involving precision
instruments of measurement and copious amounts of detailed note taking <more>
Afghanistan's Buried Riches - Rare Earths & More.
Have you heard about this? I hadn't. If you think the only goal in Afghanistan is to stamp out the Taliban, think again. An article in the October 2011 issue of Scientific American details the extensive mineral surveys that have been carried out there in the last year or so. Afghanistan is home to what may be the largest cache of rare earth elements in the world, with a potential to replace China as the largest extractor (~90%) of those atoms that lie in the lanthanide and actinide regions of the periodic table - the two rows that are typically pulled out of the chart. China, you may have heard, is severely restricting the export of rare earths - wanting to keep it for themselves - thereby triggering a near panic. Prices are rising so alarmingly that reopening mines in the U.S. has once again become profitable in spite of the crippling regulations that years ago closed down operations here (huge loss of jobs and tax revenue) and forced us to become reliant on offshore supplies - just like what is happening today with oil and gas, BTW. There are a lot more than rare earth elements available, though. According to a map published with the article, there are equally large reserves of copper, lithium, tin, lead, zinc, gold, silver, tungsten, <more>
It's that time of year again when balmy summer days are yielding to chilly autumn evenings, the kids are back in school, coats are on the racks in stores, and the college rankings are being published. U.S. New & World Report just released their findings of top colleges for 2010. You don't even need to read the article to guess that Harvard, Princeton, and Yale occupy the top three spots overall. The owners and editors (and their families and social circles) are affiliated with those institutions, so of course they will rank highest. You and I are more interested in the engineering school rankings - where real educations are had. MIT is in the #1 spot, followed by Stanford and UofC-Berkeley. Cornell and Purdue tie for #9. My alma matter, University of Vermont, places at an embarrassing #82 for overall ranking. It could have been worse, though; UofNC-Charlotte came in dead last. According to USN&WR, while the national unemployment rate hit 9.8% in 2010, it was only 5.4% among those with bachelor's degrees. Also, those with at least a Bachelor's degree earned on average 75% more in their lifetimes than those with only a HS diploma. Results are based on peer assessment surveys.
Mechanical clocks have been around for about a thousand years, and are thought to have had their origins in China in the form of water clocks. From there, mercury-driven escapement mechanisms were developed that greatly reduced the size and improved accuracy. Pendulum- and spring-driven escapements further reduced the volume requirement to where pocket and wristwatches were possible (via spring, not pendulum) by the end of the 19th century. Exact dates and names are hard to verify. Electronic clocks using crystals and then nuclear clocks using hyperfine transitions of atoms pushed accuracy and stability into the quantum mechanical realm. Fine clocks all, but none of them will last forever. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos aims to change that with his 10,000 Year Clock, saying, "In the year 4000, you'll go see this clock and you'll wonder, 'Why on Earth did they build this?'" Currently being assembled deep inside a Texas mountain, the Long Now Foundation and its team of designers and builders have made incredible progress. Few people are able to dedicate their lives to such a solitary task, in such a challenging environment. Read through the descriptions and watch the videos of how this project is being executed. It is utterly amazing!
"This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.
Had this been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed where to go in your area for additional instructions." Do you remember back
when you would be watching All in the Family and suddenly a shrill tone constituted of a combination of 853 and 960 Hz sinewaves would
blast through the television's speakers, accompanied by these bars flashed onto the screen? It was implemented in 1963 as a means of alerting
citizens to current or potential critical events like a pack of Ruskie ICBMs flying over the North Pole, an invasion force landing on American
shores, or a mile-wide tornado ripping a path through the Badlands of South Dakota. "The Emergency Broadcast System was established to provide
the President of the United States with an expeditious method of communicating with the American public in the event of war, threat of war,
or grave national crisis," so goes the official line. The EBS, successor to CONELRAD, could be used for national or local emergencies.
Radio and TV stations were required to broadcast the test at least once per week. When an actual emergency did occur, a teletype message was
sent to affected areas that was specially coded to trip an audible alarm in the studios. Broadcasters then initiated a procedure to interrupt
the current show, play the, <more>
Electronics Weekly just published the results of their UK 2011 Salary Survey. A sample size was 1,160 engineering professionals found that in 2011 the average yearly salary for someone working on the UK electronics industry was £44,161 ($67,739). Evidently the average electronics worker looks like this: Male, aged 47, earns £44,000, had an increase of 2.6% in his last pay review, and is expecting a 2.2% increase next time, works in the South East for a firm with 1,331 employees and has worked there just under 9 years, has worked in the industry for 17 years, works in design / development engineering for a company in the aerospace / military / security sector, keeps an eye on the jobs market, and uses a mobile phone with Internet access.
You probably read recently of the San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART - good acronym, as in Simpson) shutting down cellphone service in order to thwart a rumored attempt to organize a flash mob attack. 1st Amendment groups have sued BART over the action. Also in the news has been the government's plan for being able to shut down the Internet in the event of a national emergency (defined as whatever they need it to mean). We already know that Big Brother has the capability to universally control both wired and wireless phone service. OnStar-equipped vehicles have been shut down remotely by law enforcement. It all seems very Orwellian, but it began before the publication of "1984" (in 1949). Did George just dream up the book's theme of total government control and a lemming populace, or did it come from astute observations of past behavior that was projected into the future? On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the FCC issued a "Notice to All Amateur Licensees" that began thusly: "All amateur licensees are hereby notified that the Commission has ordered the immediate suspension of all amateur radio operation in the continental United States, its territories, and possessions." <more>