Monday, May 18, 2015

Science Fair Projects
Raymond Wang from St. George's high school in Vancouver has won the world's largest high school science fair. His project was to provide fresh air to airline passengers while sharing a minimum of germs from other passengers.

This is Raymond's second science fair project that went international. The first was in 2012 (grade 8), when he generated electricity from the impact of raindrops.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ready for Bed

Swiss researchers say that screen time before bed makes it hard to sleep. It's not just that reading and thinking gets your mind wound up (though I am sure that's part of it.) Exposing yourself to light messes with the body's melatonin production. Having a low level of melatonin keeps your body in daytime mode and keeps you from being ready to sleep.

The new research shows that light from laptop screens, cellphones or tablets causes more disruption of melatonin than other lights. I don't see any mention of what the control lighting is: incandescent? CFL? LED? television?, already susceptible to confused sleep cycles, are especially affected.

My first thought: profitable app opportunity. Second thought: the app world is way ahead of me. From the comments:
"As for apps that filter blue light, I would recommend f.lux for OSX, iOS (iPhone/iPad) , Windows, and Linux, and Twilight or Lux for Android. I have tried others, but those are the best." -Andy

Saturday, May 16, 2015

All Fish are Cold-Blooded when they aren't. Biology teachers everywhere, adjust to the new reality.

The opah fish makes use of counter-flow heat exchange in the blood vessels coming from its gills to keep its internal temperature high. That keeps its muscles warm and lets it swim fast in the cold, deep water where it lives.

(July'15) It's not that warm. The opah keeps its temperature 4-5
°C above water temperature.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spring 2015 Bridge Contest

Shooshten the Barbarian defeats Destructo-Bridge of Death II!
Do not learn bridge architecture from the Destructo-Bridge of Death II.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Little Airline Attempt at Green Redemption

This is an interesting claim that it takes more energy to drive than to fly. No doubt the devil is in the details. And not all the details are clearly stated.
For example, I doubt if the associated costs of air travel are included: driving to the airport, building an airport and parking lot, handling baggage, training airline staff. Should the energy of manufacture of cars and airplanes be included? I am making it awfully complex, but pretty clearly the details favor the car.

It is also based on the average types of trips taken. Cars log most of their miles on short trips with single occupants. This is a worst-case scenario for cars (ridiculously so for airplanes. No-one flies to the corner store. Hardly anyone flies an airplane solo.) The conclusion that airplanes are a more efficient means of doing a car's transportation doesn't follow.

Even so, the progress is evocative. It prompts some interesting questions. How long does a trip need to be to make a plane more efficient? What if the car had two occupants? ...three? ...five? How long can the trend continue?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Driving Faster, Better

Skip barber's race school is famous and has been since the 80's.

What I Learned:
1. Making time on a track is about how fast you do the straights. How fast you do the straights is about how fast you exit the corner (and enter the next corner.)
2. Go through corners fast by picking the right line. The right line makes your rear tires travel in a constant-radius arc, touching at the turn-in, apex and track-out. Precise placement counts.
3. I usually turn in too early. If you are going to make an error, it is better turn in late. (Better because it gives you more margin, so more options.) This surprised me.
4. Brake late. Brake hard. Keep braking into the turn, easing off as you get into the turn.

Some of these things you can practice on the street or in a parking lot: precise position, choosing a line within your lane, late braking, getting on the throttle and doing it all smoothly, so the net acceleration is constant in magnitude, so that your passenger doesn't spill his drink. If you want to know how your car will behave at its limit, go to a race school or an autocross. I know of two on the island.

You can't learn car control on the street. It's not because your skill or natural talent is too low. It is because if you are driving at 98% (or 80%) and a dog runs onto the road, or you hit gravel, or a tourist stops erratically in front of you, the crash that will happen is out of your control. There is nothing you can do but wreck that car, or kill that dog, or worse. Courage is about accepting worthwhile risks that are within your control. Approaching vehicle limits on public streets fails on both counts.