OK, one - make that two - final tributes to the Applemeister, and then let the world move on to the next iconic genius. Here are clips from Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on the night after news of Steve Jobs' death (succumbed to pancreatic cancer). As you might expect, there was a mix of humor and serious gratitude. Both hosts have done numerous skits over the years where they make fun of Apple products, their users, and Jobs, while also begging on-air for early samples of the next big thing. I'm a firm believer in the notion that nobody is irreplaceable, at least on an all-of-humankind scale. Isaac Newton, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Galileo Galilei contributed mightily, but each was followed by another. It's time to let the venerable Mr. Jobs rest in peace. Every person leaves his mark on the people around him, and the rare few leave a mark on the world. Who will be the next tech wonder? It isn't likely to be this <more>
In the news recently was restoration to operational condition a Tunny code-breaking machine from the World War II era. It is part of the collection of calculating machines on display at the UK's National Museum of Computing, located in the renowned Blechley Park complex. Tunnys were used to decipher messages generated on the Lorenz SZ42 enciphering machines and sent from Hitler to his generals. Work was at a fever pitch in the days running up to the D-Day invasion. Keep in mind that the computers did not crack the code, they were for rapid deciphering of the volumes of messages sent daily. Restoration work on Tunny was performed by a team led by computer conservationists John Pether and John Whetter. "As far as I know there were no original circuit diagrams left. All we had was a few circuit elements drawn up from memory by engineers who worked on the original," per Mr. Pether. One of the original electrical designers, Sid Broadhurst, reportedly left an envelope filled <more>
"55 year old Maurice Johnston lives in Boston, by way of Cleveland. He has a Masters Degree in Plasma Physics from Dartmouth College, and a masters in Electrical Engineering and acoustics from Purdue University. He's worked over 10 years at Lockheed Aerospace & Aerodyne Research Corp. Maurice has taught in Science and physics, and took care of both his parents in their time of need." Maurice has also been out of work for many months and is currently living on the streets of Boston. He moved there on the promise of a job which, upon arrival, he discovered it had been given to someone else. Despite having had a huge amount of media coverage - including Time, and many other online publications (including, now, RFCafe.com) - there is no indication that Maurice is employed yet. Maurice is suffering from the same horrible economy that is similarly affecting many people. He is an extremely likeable person judging from the interview, so why, after all this coverage, is the good man still on the <more>
8/16/2011"Should Math Be Taught in Schools?" That was the question posed to a group of Miss USA contestants featured in this video. The responses offered will surprise you... or maybe not. Every year at beauty pageants, at least one answer to the pool of questions will elicit a rambling, nonsensical, usually politically correct reply where you find yourself embarrassed for the poor lass (disclaimer: I never watch them). In these days of instant video postings, if you screw up, the whole world will know within hours. Probably the most memorable example of late was the during the 2007 Miss Teen USA contest where the question, "Recent polls have shown at 1/5 of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?" Miss South Carolina's answer: "I... personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so, because, um, some people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, <more>
If you have never watched the Red Green show on PBS, you don't know what you've missed. It is a veritable treasure trove of How-To and Do-It-Yourself instructional videos. Possum Lodge's grand pooh-bah, the Doctor of Duct Tape (aka duck tape for the ignorant), Red Green has produced a seemingly endless collection of useful project shorts that cover just about every topic. The featured video has a Possum Lodge expert answer a viewer's question about Boolean Logic in his new car's fuel injection system. You can't get this kind of education at some fancy university. Another one shown is a prime example of how a bit of redneck ingenuity allows the dedicated tinkerer to easily and cheaply convert manually operated car windows to electric power. As Red aptly asks, "Ever notice how winding your window down by hand makes you look lower-middle-class?" I won't spoil the surprise by telling you how he does it. <more>
There are a few realms remaining where America's lead has not been surrendered to the world; among them are military and aerospace systems. The technological prowess applied to these tactical and strategic systems are the most advanced anywhere. Yes, there are areas where other countries have the lead, but despite the best efforts of some of our scumbag politicians, overall our advantage is unquestionable. It has never been so that if you are nice to everybody, then everybody will be nice to you. Any country or bloc that lets down its guard will eventually be attacked and dominated by an aggressor. Sorry, it's just the way it is on Planet Earth. That said, I am glad to see promotions (call it propaganda if you like) for systems like Northrop Grumman's AN/AAQ-37 Distributed Aperture System (DAS) for airborne platforms like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. It assimilates data from a wide array of sensors spread across the aircraft structure to generate a comprehensive <more>
We have been treated to videos of superconductor levitation for many years, so watching a super-cooled object float above a magnet is nothing new. The novel factor in this demonstration is an effect called quantum flux tube formation (Trekkies must love that term) where the properties of the superconductor are such that rather than completely repelling the magnetic filed, which is the norm for superconductors, portals are created through the material where flux line clusters actually retain the puck. In the other demos, you see a small puck levitating over a large magnet. Here, it is the opposite. Rather than being constrained by the magnetic wrapping around the perimeter of the puck and pretty much locking it in place, this structure allows the supercooled puck to move around within the field. It can run along a track impeded only by air <more>
It's about time for another episode of "Will It Blend?" Überblender maker Blendtec has created an Internet sensation with their series of "Will It Blend?" videos, where the white-lab-coat-wearing engineer Tom demonstrates the brute power of his company's blenders by reducing household items to a small pile of dust and chips. Last year sometime I posted a video of the iPhone 4 being blended, and now we get to see whether an iPad 2 will meet a similar fate. Whereas in the past, a simple video of the DTB (device to blend) being dropped into the blender and being decimated sufficed for entertainment, now Blendtec is making more of a full-scale production. In this video, a faux Steve Jobs does the introduction and takes pleasure in admonishing Tom that the iPad can never be blended simply because it will not fit into the glass blender thingy. Will the iPad 2 blend? You'll have watch to find out.
The news is replete with references to carbon nanotubes, and deservingly so since they are in the process of revolutionizing many technologies and allowing the creation of new ones. If you do not really have an understanding of just what carbon nanotubes are, this excerpt form the TV show Nova does a good job of introducing them. Carbon nanotubes are rolled-up sheets of graphene, which is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon atoms. To date, carbon nanotubes have been used to create the world's smallest radio, transistors, frequency mixers, superconductors, and much more. As you can see from the dates on some of the articles, carbon nanotubes have been around for over a decade. The reason for a seemingly overnight interest in them is the discovery in 2004 by two Russian scientists of an amazingly low-tech method for creating graphene on a large scale. All it took was some pencil 'lead' and a piece of Scotch tape. If you want to see more on nanotubes, there are plenty of other videos listed on the page linked to with the thumbnail.
Well, somebody has finally done it - a 3D Smith Chart applet that plots the entire reflection coefficient and impedance planes. Specifically, Andrei Muller (who contacted me) and cohorts done it. "The 3D Smith chart demo version has 3 planes: normalized impedance plane, reflection plane and 3D Smith chart. One may draw the impedance and get the image of it on the reflection coefficient's plane or on the 3D Smith chart. On the 3D Smith chart one can rotate it and play with the constant r,x, and abs(z) circles. The 3D Smith chart includes both extended reflection and impedance planes." It will take a bit of experimentation to figure out exactly what is going on in 3D after years of using the standard 2D version we are all familiar with. Andrei says that for now, there is no plan to extend the functionality beyond plotting of S-parameters, but he and his co-developers are open to working with someone that is interested in integrating the concept into a commercial application. It is copyrighted so permission is required.
A 3-D Smith Chart Based on the Riemann Sphere for Active and Passive Microwave Circuits
June 2011 IEEE Microwave and Wireless Components Letters:
When it comes to Star Wars hysteria, there is no concept of what is a reasonable limit to the extent to which someone will go to develop yet another novel application of some feature of the epic film series. I'm glad to suffer their eccentric, yet entertaining, endeavors. This video demonstrates how just about anything can be made into a musical instrument. The film maker used two vintage floppy disk drives to perform a virtuoso performance of the Imperial March music from Star Wars. If you are old enough to have used those floppy drives, you well remember the electromechanical clacking and humming sounds emanating from the bowels of the device. If you worked in an open office area (the pre-cubicle days), you can attest to how that sound violated laws of physics by travelling extraordinary distances to reach your ear. Anyway, grab the light saber from the back of the desk drawer and enjoy the ingenuity of the video.
If you recall back when 3D printers first started making the news, they were rather crude, cobbled-together machines that laid down successive layers of plastic polymer material by a nozzle driven in the x,y, and z axes. Then, the structure was cured with radiant heat or microwaves. New generation 3D printers are capable of much more intricate form factors that include integrated, moving parts. Resolution is fine enough that round surfaces can be fabricated. This video shows an adjustable wrench being made. Its sliding jaw half and worm gear are "printed in one step while the main body is being made - pretty slick. You might be surprised to see what the finished part looks like before being removed from the machine. Having such a capability greatly increases the likelihood of first-time success with manufacturing prototypes. These printers are to mechanical engineers what we electrical types have in the way of printed circuit board etching machines that use a high-speed milling bit to cut controlled impedance microstrip substrates.