The Ladder of Abstraction does an amazing, Tuftian job of illustrating the convergence of science, engineering, and intuition that is involved in tackling the difficult problems of today's systems and software. [more inside]
On September 30, 2011 at 11:08am, Derek Deville's Qu8k (pronounced "Quake") launched from the Black Rock Desert in Nevada to an altitude of 121,000' before returning safely to earth. Above 99% of the atmosphere the sky turns black in the middle of the day and the curvature of the earth is clearly visible. Direct video links inside. [more inside]
Science! (autoplaying video) The 42nd season of "Sesame Street," which premiered today, will be including a few new educational categories for preschoolers in its usual mix of lessons and parodies: STEM skills — Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In addition to more scientifically accurate slapstick, characters will try experiments, build bridges and boats, launch rockets and think through problems that require trial and error, observation and data -- all problem areas for America's students. [more inside]
The Knight XV from Conquest Vehicles: For when you absolutely, positively need a luxury ride that can withstand the Apocalypse. With a limited production run of only 100 vehicles, this luxury armored SUV - inspired by the Gurkha military vehicle - costs a paltry $310,000 USD; its nearest competitor, the Dartz Pombron, has no base price listed (estimated cost: $1.5 million USD). [more inside]
In February 2011, every teacher in Providence, Rhode Island was pink slipped. Not all 1,926 of them got fired, of course, but with the district facing a $40 million deficit, anything is possible. The district says it needs flexibility, just in case. Every school district in the United States faces its own version of what’s happening in Providence. However, “IMAGINATION: Creating the Future of Education and Work” is focused not on how we got here but rather how we can move forward from here immediately even as the education system continues to struggle. [more inside]
Saturday August 27 Bill Nye dedicated a solar noon clock he designed. The clock is embedded in the facade of Rhodes Hall. At Solar Noon, when the Sun culminates, that is, reaches its highest point in the sky, the sun-shaped feature will light up. It is the marrying of mechanical and electrical engineering with astronomy. What could be better?
Heritage Documentation Programs is part of the National Park service and administers the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) - the United States government's oldest historic preservation program - Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) and Cultural Resources Geographic Information Systems (CRGIS) [more inside]
Sticks is a Flash game where you use some minor engineering skills to make a dude rich. [more inside]
Waaah, quadrotors will take over the world. Waaah, quadrotors will kill us all. Here's what your quadrotor is really like. (Also here's what your quadrotor is really like with Yakety Sax played over it.)
Kevin Kelly describes how a clock designed to run for 10,000 years will function and the efforts behind its creation and building.
To the aficianado, a clicky keyboard is the only keyboard. For PC users, nothing is better than an IBM Model M. For Apple lovers, it never got better than the Apple Extended Keyboard II. [more inside]
The NIST Digital Archives is an online collection of scientific instruments from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. But even the experts don't always know what it is they've got, and they'd like your help. Any idea what you're supposed to do with Eight Dials Set in a Wooden Frame? How about Metal Instrument in Wood Case?
Law enforcement authorities are in awe of the new wave of narco "supersubs" that are being found in the jungles of Colombia. [more inside]
Ever made an indie action film and needed something for that epic glass-break scene? How about the blackest black you can find? Want to adjust your boots so that they are mud repellant? Inventables has everything you need - for the budding inventor, busy set designer, or Q in training.
For a number of years now work has been proceding in order to bring to the crudely conceived idea of a transmission that would not only supply inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but would also be capable of automaticaly synchronizing cardinal grammeters. Such an instrument is the turbo encabulator. [more inside]
Stephen Biesty is an award-winning British illustrator famous for his bestselling "Incredible" series of engineering art books: Incredible Cross-Sections, Incredible Explosions, Incredible Body, and many more. A master draftsman, Biesty does not use computers or even rulers in composing his intricate and imaginative drawings, relying on nothing more than pen and ink, watercolor, and a steady hand. Over the years, he's adapted his work to many other mediums, including pop-up books, educational games (video), interactive history sites, and animation. You can view much of his work in the zoomable galleries on his professional page, or click inside for a full listing of direct links to high-resolution, desktop-quality copies from his and other sites, including several with written commentary from collaborator Richard Platt [site, .mp3 chat]. [more inside]
The dream of Icarus has been one shared by many throughout history. University of Toronto Engineering students made history this week when they successfully flew a human-powered aircraft with flapping wings continuously. The flight of the Snowbird is beautiful to watch. [more inside]
Canadian Jiffy Jeep Crews can completely disassemble and reassemble a Willys Jeep in less than four minutes.
The internet is full of answers, and some of them might even be true. For almost 20 years, the the Newton BBS has been a source of answers to science questions that may be accessed directly via the Web
as well as through telnet (no public telnet access any more, sorry). The Newton BBS "Ask A Scientist" archive has answers from 15 science fields, from astronomy to zoology, for a total of more than 20,000 questions answered. This was covered previously, and the site is aimed at teachers and students from grades K-12, so io9's Ask a Physicist questions (with answers from Dr. Dave Goldberg) might be more engaging. See also: MIT's Ask An Engineer.
John Billes—whose extracurricular exploits as an undergraduate at UT Austin brought us iPhone-controlled dance floor lights, R/C cars, and yes, even full-size automobiles—has created the KegMate—a keg-mounted, Arduino-controlled data-logging suite with an iPad-based user interface—in his spare time, while working at Yelp.
Colin Berry's Spinout is a a touching, tragic story about his older brother, Kevin. Kevin competed in--and very nearly won--the All-American Soap Box Derby, but lost to Bobby Lange, the son of ski-boot magnate and engineer Robert Lange Sr.. [more inside]
iPhone 4's reception woes, wherein bridging the area where the metal bands meet (affectionately dubbed "the spot") results in a dramatic loss in signal strength, have been widely covered in the media over the past few weeks. Apple acknowledged the concerns publicly with a letter to customers where they concluded that the issue was not with the phone, but rather that they were being too generous in the way the software communicated signal quality as bars. After an update to iOS, the bars are in fact different but the problems persist. Most recently, Consumer Reports stated it was unable to recommend iPhone 4 because of the significant design flaw, despite listing it as the highest rated overall smartphone they've tested to date. The latest wrinkle in the story has been an open letter to Steve Jobs from Chuck Schumer, yes -- United States Senator from New York Chuck Schumer, in which he questions the adequacy and transparency of Apple's response to customer concerns. Apple will be holding a press conference at 10AM tomorrow in San Francisco to address the matter. [more inside]
Take a swim in the Infinity Pool, at the Marina Bay Sands Sky Park. The Sky Park has rooftop restaurants, nightclubs, gardens, trees, plants, and a public observatory with 360-degree views of the Singapore skyline. The Infinity Pool is the world's longest elevated swimming pool, with a 475-foot vanishing edge, 200 meters (55 stories) above the ground.
Star forts from above (Google Maps links): Alba Iulia, Arad Fortress, Almeida, Bourtrange, Coevorden, Estremoz, Goryōkaku, Naarden, Neuf Brisach, Nicosia, Palmanova, Retranchement, Terezín, Willemstad. More.
Steve Durnin's D-Drive is a fascinating new infinitely-variable transmission that doesn't use friction components or a clutch of any kind. Video of a prototype with detailed explanations is included.
Value engineering (also known as Value Analysis) is an approach to cost-effective product development that seems to have had its heyday in the developed world. However, as this recent student project "Value Engineering Project (Tata Nano)" seems to show, it is still popular in the developing world. Comparing this definition of Carlos Ghosn's now famous phrase "Frugal Engineering" with VE's seems to imply "new name; same approach" - understandable since Tata are the leading lights of the Indian Value Engineering society. Is it time for a global revival of interest?
Reddit interviews Peter Norvig (reddit discussion) related: Seeds of AI at Google -- how the internet is shaping intelligence and learning and, in turn, the role of human culture in natural selection1,2 and why we are not living in western civilization. (via)
I've never really had a clear understanding of how mechanical computing worked, until today when I watched these US Navy training films from 1953. Part 1 focuses on shafts, gears, cams and differentials. Part 2 explains mechanical component solvers, integrators and multipliers. More information about ship gun fire-control systems here.
For 36 years, engineering students from colleges across North America (and beyond) have aspired to succeed at winter's most prestigious, most arduous, most ridiculous challenge - to build and ride the world's fastest sled . . . made of concrete. Tomorrow, if you're in the greater Hamilton Ontario area, you can witness the Great Northern Concrete Toboggan Race yourself. Expect to see
- teams of five ride 150 kilo. sleds to speeds above 60 kph
- costumed revelry, not always appropriate for the weather
- exemplary standards of professional decorum
Audiophoolery: Pseudoscience in Consumer Audio. You might think that a science-based field like audio engineering would be immune to the kind of magical thinking we see in other fields. Unfortunately, you would be wrong [...] As a consumerist, it galls me to see people pay thousands of dollars for fancy-looking wire that’s no better than the heavy lamp cord they can buy at any hardware store. Or magic isolation pads and little discs made from exotic hardwood that purport to “improve clarity and reduce listening fatigue,” among other surprising claims. The number of scams based on ignorance of basic audio science grows every day. Via.
So you want to build your own Eiffel Tower. Then you'll need 7,300 tons of iron, 2.5 million rivets, and some blueprints. (You may also need a copyright lawyer.)
Timelapse of the Manhattan Bridge shows the bridge flexing up and down as trains pass over it (SLYT). via
Asian Carp update: since 2003(previously), the inexorable advance of Asian Carp up the Mississippi delta has brought them to within 6 miles of Lake Michigan. These invasive "100-pound Zebra Mussels" suck rivers clean and starve native fish. Asian Carp are now 97% of the fish biomass in the Mississippi delta. The "electric fence" across the canal didn't stop them. The poisoning of the canal won't stop them. Closing the Chicago sewage canal locks is the only way to be sure. But the Army Corps of Engineers have the jurisdiction. Feel safe? [more inside]
A brilliant industrial design (IMO) for a slimline UK power plug. The UK plug is an exceptionally chunky and large lump; a real pain in the computer satchel. This video shows what appears to be a manufacturable design that turns it into an elegant device. SLYT. [more inside]
The simulated brain - "The scientists behind Blue Brain hope to have a virtual human brain functioning in ten years... Dr. Markram began by collecting detailed information about the rat's NCC, down to the level of genes, proteins, molecules and the electrical signals that connect one neuron to another. These complex relationships were then turned into millions of equations, written in software. He then recorded real-world data -- the strength and path of each electrical signal -- directly from rat brains to test the accuracy of the software." Is it possible to digitally simulate a brain accurately? Can it only be analog? And are there quantum effects to be considered? (previously 1 2 3 4) [more inside]
"Algae is the ultimate biological system using sunlight to capture and convert carbon dioxide into fuel... I came up with a notion to trick algae into pumping more [fuel] out." Craig Venter's Synthetic Genomics partners with ExxonMobil in a $600M project to harvest biofuels from genetically engineered algae. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry." [previously] [more inside]
Ten new wind turbine designs. Curious, grotesque, sculptural, beautiful, utilitarian.
Professors Ross W. Boulanger and Dr. James Duncan have put together a Geotechnical Engineering Photo Album, with details of the successes and disasters. The album includes compaction techniques for a highway off-ramp, deep excavation methods, an offshore tank structure, and earthquake hazards of many sorts (mountain landslides, liquefaction damage to ports in Kobe, Japan, surface rupture in Taiwan, and problems with shallow foundations and subsidence in Turkey). (via oi9)
Neurosecurity: security and privacy for neural devices. "An increasing number of neural implantable devices will become available in the near future due to advances in neural engineering. This discipline holds the potential to improve many patients' lives dramatically by offering improved—and in some cases entirely new—forms of rehabilitation for conditions ranging from missing limbs to degenerative cognitive diseases. The use of standard engineering practices, medical trials, and neuroethical evaluations during the design process can create systems that are safe and that follow ethical guidelines; unfortunately, none of these disciplines currently ensure that neural devices are robust against adversarial entities trying to exploit these devices to alter, block, or eavesdrop on neural signals. The authors define 'neurosecurity'—a version of computer science security principles and methods applied to neural engineering—and discuss why neurosecurity should be a critical consideration in the design of future neural devices." [Via Mind Hacks]
What Periodic Videos did for chemistry, Sixty Symbols is doing for physics and engineering. Some behind the scenes action and general scienciness. [more inside]
Imagine nature's most elegant ideas organized by design and engineering function, so you can enter "filter salt from water" and see how mangroves, penguins, and shorebirds desalinate without fossil fuels. That's the idea behind AskNature, the online inspiration source for the biomimicry community. The featured pages are a good starting point. Cross-pollinating biology with design. [more inside]
Cogitate - Manipulate LEGO TECHNIC gears, beams, conveyor belts and motors to complete the ten pre-built puzzles or create your own levels. [In my case - Then watch them crash in a heap when you test them.]
Our project is a fart intensity detector which ranks fart magnitude on a scale from 0-9 according to sound, temperature, and gas concentrations. Two Cornell EE students built a Fart Intensity Detection Station as a final project for Introduction to Microcontroller Programming. [more inside]