Aug 31, 2010

Wildcat Fantasy Football :o)

Check out the new link at the left.  Wildcat is starting Fantasy Football, this, along with his other entries, are sure to bring a smile to you face.

Science Scene - Private Rocketeering

A team of Danish volunteers has built a rocket capable of carrying a human into space. It’ll launch from a floating platform that the team has also built, which will be towed into the middle of the Baltic Sea by a submarine called Nautilus that the pair built as their last project.
The creators are members of the SomethingAwful web community, and have been posting pictures and answering questions there. In response to one question asking what the chances of the person inside dying are, they replied: “Unlike Columbia we’re not moving at orbital speeds so ‘dying a gruesome death burning up on re-entry’ with our kit has a very low outcome probability.”
The first flight will use a crash dummy.

Aug 30, 2010

Cookifee Cup :o)

I could use one of these today, an early day for me.

Science Scene - Humanoid Pylons?

An architecture and design firm called Choi+Shine has submitted a design for the Icelandic High-Voltage Electrical Pylon International Design Competition which proposes giant human-shaped pylons carrying electricity cables across the country’s landscape.
The enormous figures would only require slight alterations to existing pylon designs, says the firm, which was awarded an honorable mention for its design by the competition’s judging board. It also won an award from the Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture competition.
On their website, the architecture firm said: “Making only minor alterations to well-established steel-framed tower design, we have created a series of towers that are powerful, solemn and variable. These iconic pylon-figures will become monuments in the landscape. Seeing the pylon-figures will become an unforgettable experience, elevating the towers to something more than merely a functional design of necessity.”
The figures can be placed into different poses, with the suggestion that the landscapes could inform the position that the sculpture is placed into. For example, as a power line ascends a hill, the pylons could look as if they’re climbing. The figures could also stretch up to gain increased height over longer spans.
Call it what ever you want, I call it creepy :o)


Aug 28, 2010

Philosophical Phun- Power :o)

Surveys of organizations find that the vast majority of rude and inappropriate behaviors, such as the shouting of profanities, come from the offices of those with the most authority.

Psychologists refer to this as the paradox of power. The very traits that helped leaders accumulate control in the first place all but disappear once they rise to power. Instead of being polite, honest and outgoing, they become impulsive, reckless and rude. In some cases, these new habits can help a leader be more decisive and single-minded, or more likely to make choices that will be profitable regardless of their popularity. One recent study found that overconfident CEOs were more likely to pursue innovation and take their companies in new technological directions. Unchecked, however, these instincts can lead to a big fall.

Recent research indicates it is reassuring to think that the surest way to accumulate power is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A few years ago, Dacher Keltner, a psychologist at the University of California, Berkeley, began interviewing freshmen at a large dorm on the Berkeley campus. He gave them free pizza and a survey, which asked them to provide their first impressions of every other student in the dorm. Mr. Keltner returned at the end of the school year with the same survey and more free pizza. According to the survey, the students at the top of the social hierarchy—they were the most “powerful” and respected—were also the most considerate and outgoing, and scored highest on measures of agreeableness and extroversion. In other words, the nice guys finished first.

Now for the bad news, which concerns what happens when all those nice guys actually get in power. While a little compassion might help us climb the social ladder, once we’re at the top we end up morphing into a very different kind of beast.  According to psychologists, one of the main problems with authority is that it makes us less sympathetic to the concerns and emotions of others. For instance, several studies have found that people in positions of authority are more likely to rely on stereotypes and generalizations when judging other people. 


Aug 27, 2010

Science Scene - Max Headroom

I loved watching this show.  For those who don't know the premise of the 1987-88 series, where every episode begins with the tagline "twenty minutes into the future," here's a quick recap. Investigative reporter Edison Carter works for Network 23 in an undefined cyberpunk future, where all media is ad-supported and ratings rule all. Reporters carry "rifle cameras," gun-shaped video cameras, which are wirelessly linked back to a "controller" in the newsroom. Edison's controller is Theora, who accesses information online - everything from apartment layouts to secret security footage - to help him with investigations.

They're aided in their investigations by a sarcastic AI named Max Headroom, built by geek character Bryce and based on Edison's memories. Sometimes producer Murray (Jeffrey Tambor) helps out, as does Reg, a pirate TV broadcaster known as a "blank" because he's erased his identity from corporate databases.
In the world of Max Headroom, it's illegal for televisions to have an off switch. Terrorists are reality TV stars. And super-fast subliminal advertisements called blipverts have started to blow people up by overstimulating the nervous systems of people who are sedentary and eat too much fat. The series was produced by a British company for American television, and the character Max Headroom also starred in commercials and was a VJ for a shortlived music video show.
There are many reasons to watch this show, from its great writing to its straight-outta-Neuromancer feel, but the best reason is that it's still managed to stay relevant over two decades after it was canceled. And that's because the show got so many predictions right.


Aug 26, 2010

How Do You Deal With A Jerk?

Eight signs of a toxic JERK:

  1. Interrupts
  2. Doesn't take turns
  3. Takes advantage of people who are down
  4. Gloats in victory
  5. Is sullen in defeat
  6. Is not fair
  7. Lacks integrity
  8. Is the kind of person you'll avoid if you possibly can
I am sure we have all come across our own share of Jerks, but how do you deal with them?
  1. Recognize when a person is toxic (this is not just some one having a bad day, it is a person who feels entitled, and they feel justified in taking)
  2. Adjust your expectations (realize they will not act reasonably, they act cooperative and caring only until they get what they want).  They cannot change [man-o-man, have I lived this one]
  3. Hold part of yourself back (do not get emotionally engaged)
  4. Respond to their toxicity by saying "Huh?", "Tell me how this is good for me.", and "Do you really believe what you just said?"  Do not be confrontational, and they will most likely walk away to find someone else to be a toxic bully with.

Aug 25, 2010

Science Scene - Exhaust as Fuel

Scientists have discovered a plant enzyme capable of turning carbon monoxide into propane, which lets us imagine a future where cars could run off their own exhaust.

The microbe Azotobacter vinelandii, found in the roots of many food plants including soy beans, creates the enzyme vanadium nitrogase, which produces ammonia from nitrogen found in the soil.  Scientists fed the enzyme carbon monoxide instead of nitrogen and found that it created short carbon chains, two or three atoms long -- essentially propane.

The scientists think that the enzyme could be modified to produce even longer chains until it ultimately produces gasoline.  If perfected, cars could run partially off of their exhaust or carbon monoxide in the air around them, reducing pollution and cutting down on the oil we use.

While it's being heralded as an amazing discovery, scientists say there's a lot of work left to do.  The enzyme is currently hard to extract and scientists are working on ways to mass produce it.  Lets hope that their efforts bare fruit so to speak :o)


Aug 24, 2010

Science Scene - Mushroom Power

GREEN ISLAND, NY — A packaging material made of mushroom roots and agricultural waste is lowering its energy footprint further with new sterilizing technology.  Ecovative Design, the maker of EcoCradle packaging and Greensulate insulation, creates its products by growing mushroom fibers on waste like cotton seed, wood fiber and buckwheat hulls.

To keep other spores off of the material, Ecovative uses a steam heat process, but with the help of an $180,000 grant from the NSF, it's working on a sterilization treatment made with natural oils that uses significantly less energy.

Ecovative's MycoBond technology already consumes one-tenth the energy used to manufacture foam packaging. The new treatment, made with a mix of cinnamon bark oil, thyme oil, oregano oil and lemongrass oil, lowers its energy needs down to one-fortieth, or about 2.5 percent, of that of foam.

Aug 23, 2010

Afternoon Delight :o)

Nodding off at your desk in the afternoons?

Drink some water - fatigue often is the result of dehydration, especially this time of year.

If that does not work, have a high-energy snack (celery with peanut butter, or a few bites of dark chocolate).

Go for a walk - low intensity walking can raise your energy level by as much as 20%.

Get some sunlight - exposure to sunshine for as little as 30 minutes can boost your energy and mood.

Aug 21, 2010

Dark Roasted Coffee - good and good for you :o)

Dark-Roasted coffee is gentler on the stomach than light-roasted coffee.  People who get heartburn or stomach irritation from most coffees often find dark roasts less bothersome.

Aug 20, 2010

Science Scene - What Bugs You?

The raising of livestock consumes two-thirds of the planet's farmland, and is a major source of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile, tons of edible, sustainable protein swarms all around us, free for the taking. In a new policy paper being considered by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Belgian entomologist Arnold van Huis makes the sensible recommendation that the western world eat more insects.
Farming edible insects like mealworms and crickets would produce far less greenhouse gas -- 10 times less methane and 100 times less nitrous oxide -- than the large mammals we currently farm. Insects are metabolically much more efficient, which makes them far cheaper to feed and raise; and, since they're so biologically different from humans, they are less subject to contagious disease scares like mad cow. They are high in protein and calcium, and, with over 1,000 edible species, offer plenty of delicious variety.
In April, the FAO started a pilot locust-farming project in Laos, where entomophagy is not unheard of, but where it's been in decline under the cultural influence of the West. According to the Guardian, 15,000 household farmers already raise locusts in Thailand, and that expertise can be transferred elsewhere.
While this logically and environmentally makes sense to me, I think going to this food source would be enough to turn me Vegan :o)

Aug 19, 2010

Science Scene - MegaWind Power

Although the technology seems settled, new wind power designs are still being developed, especially as engineers try to extend the generating capacity of turbines. The Aerogenerator X is a new 10 MW wind turbine designed for off-shore use combining the best of horizontal axis and vertical axis designs.

The familiar, three-bladed, horizontal axis turbine is a well established design, but increased stresses as the size of these turbines increases makes it difficult to enlarge them further. Because of the square-cube law, larger wind turbines produce exponentially more power, so there is an incentive to build larger and larger turbines. This led to the innovative design, inspired by the sycamore leaf. [Love it when nature inspires us to new and better things]

Aerogenerator X has a very large swept area, like a horizontal axis turbine. The span of the turbine is 275 meters (over 900 feet). But the Aerogenerator X is also only half the height of an equivalent horizontal axis turbine. And like a vertical axis turbine, the generator and equipment are located at the base. Stresses on the blades are reduced in this configuration, making it easier to design and build something of this size. This also makes maintenance much easier, especially for an offshore turbine.

Project partners also include Rolls-Royce, Shell, BP, EDF, EON, Caterpillar, and the UK government. The first full-scale versions of this turbine are expected to be completed by 2013 or 2014.


Aug 18, 2010

Science Scene - Flush for Power

Here’s a novel way to get a little more out of time spent in the bathroom. An industrial design student at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK, has created a clever power generator that turns falling wastewater into electricity. The HighDro Power is a waterwheel-like turbine that can be incorporated into the pipes of tall buildings to turn one man’s waste into another man’s wattage.
Student Tom Broadbent’s inspiration came when he emptied a bath in a hotel room and it drained quite quickly and with impressive force. He started tinkering around with ideas for harnessing the kinetic energy that accompanies each drained sink or flushed toilet, using rapid prototyping machines and vacuum forming to create the parts. The result: a four-blade turbine that drives a small generator.
Installed in series in a tall building, those generators can return quite a bit of power either to the building itself or to the grid. It’s estimated that HighDro Power can save a seven-storey building more than $1,000 per year in energy costs.
Broadbent has entered the device in the Grand Designs Live show and the Dyson Awards competition, where it very well could rack up some accolades (and some seed cash for a commercial version). If this technology was designed into buildings, we could start making a dent in our energy efficiency goals.  Every little bit helps.


Aug 17, 2010

Philosophical Phun- Real or Memorex :o)

Unfortunately, we’re all vulnerable to the same tendency. There’s now suggestive evidence that our faith in the authentic – especially when the authenticity is supported by effective marketing campaigns – is a deep seated human instinct, which emerges at an extremely early age. Consider a clever experiment led by the psychologists Bruce Hood and Paul Bloom. The scientists tested 43 children between the ages of three and six. The children were shown a “copying machine” – it was actually tachistoscopes that were modified to have flashing lights and buzzers – and told that it could make an exact copy of any object. After the machine was demonstrated for the kids – the scientists “copied” a block and a rubber animal – Hood and Bloom then told the kids that the machine could also duplicate toys. A ‘‘stretchy man’’ was then placed in the box and the illusion repeated. Interestingly, the young children actually preferred the “duplicate” toy and chose it 62 percent of the time. The kids didn’t worry about the “authenticity” of the stretchy man.

But Hood and Bloom didn’t stop there. They also had many of the young kids bring in their “attachment objects,” such as their favorite blanket or stuffed animal. (I still remember losing Johnny, my stuffed penguin, at the tender age of five. Grief.) The scientists then offered to “copy” the object for the kids. Four of the children simply refused – they wouldn’t let their blankie anywhere near that nefarious device. But even those kids who allowed their attachment object to be “copied” almost always refused to see the objects as equivalent. The new duplicate was a bootleg blankie, an ersatz stuffed animal. Even though the children were assured that the objects were identical, they intuitively believed that the copy wasn’t the same. It lacked a history, a bond, a sentimental attachment. It was inauthentic.

The same principle applies to brands. Although we outgrow stuffed animals, we never get beyond the irrational logic of authenticity and essentialism. There are certain things whose value depends largely on their legitimacy. Why? Because the brand has effectively woven itself into into our emotional brains.

I know I feel that way about my Diet Coke, my sixteen year old Standford sweatshirt (purchased when my daughter was very sick and was airlifted to Stanford Medical Center), and my winter robe.  Makes me think of the "What would you do for a Klondike Bar?" commercial and branding.  How about you, is there a brand or item that brings out that kind of passion for you?


Aug 16, 2010

Happy National Joke Day :o)

No doubt about it. Today, will be a fun-filled day, with lots of laughter. To fully participate and enjoy this day, just tell some jokes. You can do it in person, or pass along a few humorous emails. That's easy enough to do. The more jokes you tell, the more fun this day will be. We also encourage you to listen to many jokes today. Everybody is getting into the act, and in order to "tell a joke", someone has to be present to "listen to a joke".

Q: What do you get if you cross a cat with a bottle of vinegar?
A: A sourpuss!

Want to subscribe to a clean joke site, click here :o)

Aug 14, 2010

Science Scene - Cordless Charging

A Virginia company called Evatran has debuted their prototype for an EV charger that works without plugs, cables or a flow of electricity between the vehicle and the charger.

This new charging system doesn't work by magic, but by induction.  To recharge an EV with this system, the vehicle pulls up to the charging station and parks over a floor-mounted parking block.  An adapter fitted to the vehicle and the parking block both contain metal coils that become aligned by magnetic sensors.  The control tower for the charging station converts electricity into the right frequency for the charger and when the coils are aligned, the electricity creates a strong magnetic field in the parking block's coils that induces a flow of electricity in the coils in the vehicle's adapter, which charges the battery.

Induction is what's used in electrical transformers and has been used for charging smaller devices like cell phones and electric toothbrushes, so it was only a matter of time before we saw it used in EV charging.

The company is running a pilot program throughout the year and hopes to commercially release the system next April.  So far, Evatran has been able to achieve an 80 percent efficiency with the induction charging, but hopes to hit 90 percent by the time production units are released.


Aug 13, 2010

Science Scene - Green Plastic, Liquid Wood

A German company called TECNARO is responsible for manufacturing liquid wood. Liquid wood is an innovative material used to make a bioplastic that ismore eco-friendly than petroleum made plastics, which are non-biodegradable and can contain carcinogens and other toxic substances.   The uses for TECNARO's innovative bioplastic could save money, fossil fuels and other natural resources.

Liquid wood, also known as ARBOFORM®, is the ecological, aesthetic alternative to plastics products.  Although Arbo means tree in Latin, making Arboform does not require the destruction of more trees to be made. Instead a byproduct called Lignin from the pulp industry is used.   Lignin is an important ingredient in wood. It is taken out of paper to make it turn white. There is about is about 50 million tones produced per year. So, this excess amount of lignin can be recycled into Arboform instead of wasted.

When lignin is mixed with natural additive such as wax and plant fibers such as flax and hemp it could be made into a strong, non-toxic renewable plastic material. The material can then be melted and injection molded. The end product looks a lot like the plastic used in many household items today or like highly polished wood.  Toys, furniture, coffins, golf tees, shoes and other products have already been made with Arboform. 


Aug 12, 2010

Personal Energy Tips :o)

It’s hard to feel happy when you’re dragging around. Simple tasks seem overwhelming, people seem annoying, and nothing seems fun. If you’re desperate for an immediate boost, try these tips:

1. Go outside into the sunlight
2. Go for a brisk walk
3. Act with energy
4. Listen to your favorite upbeat song
5. Talk to an energetic friend
6. Tackle an item on your to-do list.
7. Clean up
8. Eat -- if you're hungry
Do you have any great short-term energy-boosting strategies?

Aug 11, 2010

Science Scene - Coal and the EPA?

Although it's not getting much attention, the EPA is currently proposing a series of pollution rules for the nation's fleet of coal plants that could end up having an enormous climate impact.

The first thing to note is that coal-fired power plants don't just emit heat-trapping gases that warm the planet. They also emit mercury, which accumulates in fish and may cause developmental problems in young children. They emit sulfur-dioxide, which creates acid rain. They send up nitrogen-dioxide, which helps form ground-level ozone that aggrevates respiratory and cardiovascular problems.

The EPA is currently trying to knuckle down on these side effects. Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to continually update pollution limits to reflect the latest science. The U.S. District Court, for instance, has ordered the EPA to set new mercury standards by the end of next year. As a result, new rules are now coming on smog-forming pollutants, on mercury, on coal ash... None of these regulations have anything to do with climate change per se. But according to industry analysts, many coal plants will have to shut down as a result, and that will affect the carbon picture quite significantly.  Many of those plants are about 50 years old and are already inefficient, pollution investiment is not going to be justifiable..

Francois Broquin, a co-author of reports on coal by Bernstein Research, said the combined rules could push as much as 20 percent of U.S. coal-fired electric generation capacity to retire by 2015. "Obviously that will have an impact," he said.  [Lest you have any doubt, this will have a huge impact on your electricity prices as about 60% of our energy production is coal based]

That's an eye-popping number. If 20 percent of U.S. coal generation gets retired in the next five years, that would lead to a roughly 7 percent decrease in the country's overall carbon emissions. That's already nearly halfway to Obama's pledge at Copenhagen to cut emissions 17 percent by 2020.

The next question, then, is what will replace all those coal plants. Right now, many power companies are leaning toward cleaner natural gas, which is expected to stay cheap thanks to the recent discovery of vast new shale reserves. But some utilities may lean toward renewable sources like solar or wind—or even invest in efficiency, the cheapest power source of all.

It's also worth noting that most of these coming pollution restrictions easily pass cost-benefit analyses. The EPA, for instance, is proposing to cut U.S. mercury emissions by 50 percent. According to its own analysis, the cost of this rule will come to $3.6 billion per year, while the health benefits would amount to $44 billion annually: "These benefits include preventing between 2,000 and 5,200 premature deaths, and about 36,000 asthma attacks a year." Indeed, it's quite possible that these air-quality rules could end up doing even more for public health than the giant health care bill passed earlier this year. That alone should counteract claims that curbing fossil-fuel pollution is somehow unaffordable or not worth doing.  [I find this analysis suspect, since I think the implementation cost to replace 12% of our nations electricity supply is going to cost more than $3.6B per year, but the estimated health care cost, even if inflated by two or three times is astounding]


Aug 10, 2010

Philosophical Phun- Delusion:o)

Of all psychiatric concepts, it is probably delusions that have received the most extensive recent treatment from philosophers. Here the issues straddle philosophy of mind and philosophy of science. Some theorists have raised conceptual difficulties for accounts of delusions, others have sought to frame scientific hypotheses that can explain delusions in terms of information-processing deficits or other subpersonal problems.

Like many other psychological concepts, the concept of delusion has a fairly explicit and self-conscious scientific use and a variety of commonsense uses. There is considerable overlap between some psychiatric uses and some casual employments of “delusion”. But there are clearly everyday occasions when “delusion” merely refers to a belief that seems obviously false or unwarranted to the speaker. I might call you delusional when you announce that you expect to buy a four bedroom house in your neighbourhood for what you can afford to pay, without meaning that your reasoning is symptomatic of a psychotic illness; it is just wishful thinking.

But delusions in a technical sense are manifestations of psychosis. A delusion can be defined as ‘A false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary ….’.

A purely philosophical approach to explaining delusions concentrates on the role the delusion plays in the subject's mental life, as understood in terms of some theories in philosophy of mind. Recent work in this area suggest that the role of the delusion in the subjective mental life of the deluded person that is critical.

You can look at the current political situation [or insert your situation here] and see how such an impassioned position has been established, complete with distortions of the past, half-truths, and partial disclosures to suit the perceived position - that whenever facts are introduced that directly refute the delusion are provided, they are outright discarded and often mocked, because to do otherwise would challenge the mental state of the delusionee.  

Aug 9, 2010

Science Scene - Better than a Bell?

Great white sharks have been around for more than four million years, yet they remain one of the world’s most mysterious animals. Scientists know that the beasts have special organs for sensing electromagnetic fields and that their jaws can snap down with 4,000 pounds of force. But migration patterns, which are critical for conservation efforts, are mostly unknown.

That will change now that marine biologists in Australia can follow the whereabouts of 75 of the man-eaters using radio-transmitter tags and a network of 20 satellite-linked buoys.

It’s not known how far great whites—whose worldwide numbers are estimated to be fewer than 3,500—migrate or if there’s a season when they spend more time near the coast, says Rory McAuley, a senior research scientist with Western Australia’s Department of Fisheries. McAuley hopes that the buoys, along with about 50 sensors on the ocean floor, will also reveal behavior. This information could help authorities better predict the monthly risk at beaches and restrict seasonal shipping routes to protect sharks from boats.

As a bonus, the work could give swimmers a heads-up when a great white is closing in. If a tagged shark swims within approximately a quarter-mile of a coastal buoy, the system sends a text to lifeguards on nearby beaches. Even swimming at top speed, it might take the dangerous fish a couple of minutes to reach shore, possibly enough time for the lifeguards to drop the phone and sunscreen and get folks out of the water.

Aug 7, 2010

Cheeseburger Chill Smoothie :oD

Smoothie chain Jamba Juice hasn't taken so kindly to McDonald's, which launched a line of smoothies last month, treading on its turf. In order to take a punch at the fast food chain's "me too" approach, Jamba Juice created a spoof commercial on YouTube (see video below) introducing a Cheeseburger Chill Smoothie.

In the video, a man playinga ukulele sings about how the chain just loves cheeseburgers and smoothies so it's offering a burger-blended smoothie. The video shows one of the disgusting concoctions being made: an entire cheeseburger (complete with lettuce, tomato and a bun) is jammed into a blender filled with ice and pureed. The resulting brown liquid is then poured into a Jamba Juice cup and topped with mustard and ketchup.

The company's video directs viewers to the Cheeseburger Chill web site which states: "Is Jamba Juice getting into the burger business? NO WAY. But it does seem some burger chains are getting into the smoothie business." Customers who are "in on the joke" can receive a $1 coupon for any Jamba Juice smoothie.


Aug 6, 2010

Calendar Time

Looking for a 2011 calendar?  Click Here to get a WildCat One :o)

Science Scene - VisLabit

A team of Italian engineers is gearing up for a high-tech road rally that should impress even the outside-the-box dreamers over at DARPA: an 8,000-mile journey from Italy to China, with nobody behind the wheel. The three-month convoy will be the longest test of driver-less vehicle ever conducted, taking the cars through twisting mountain passes, Moscow traffic, and harsh Siberian weather before ending up in the sprawling roadways of Shanghai in October.

To follow their progress, click here.

Of course, when we say there's nobody behind the wheel, that's not entirely accurate. The project includes two electric-powered "driverless" vans, each of which will carry two technicians. One of them will always be in the driver seat ready to press the red "oh sh*t!" button and take control should the car's laser scanners, cameras, and software get into a situation that might turn dangerous.

Each van will work in tandem with a manned leader van that will drive ahead and give its driverless counterpart cues on where it's going next. But the driverless vehicle will be responsible for negotiating traffic and responding to the environment and obstacles around it. Only one driverless van and leader vehicle will operate at a time; the other pair will be hauled behind on a truck. The vans require an eight-hour charge after every few hours on the road, so even traveling at speeds between 30-37 miles per hour -- not very fast but not a crawl either -- the going will be very slow.

The transcontinental trek is more of a stress test for driverless technology than a demonstration, and the project leaders concede that the cars will likely need quite a bit of help from humans. But the 100 terabytes of information collected en route will go a long way toward helping the driverless technology maker, VisLab, improve its intelligent systems and artificial vision.

The idea is that someday 100 percent driverless technology could be used to freight cargo across continents autonomously or to reduce troop risk by running driverless military supply convoys, goals more or less congruent with those put forth by DARPA when it created the Urban Challenge several years ago. Of course, there's one more immediate challenge facing the team: Where, exactly, does one charge up a next-gen electric vehicle in the middle of Siberia?

Milano July 20, 2010
Roma July 22, 2010
Parma July 26, 2010
Belgrade July 28, 2010
Kiev Aug 5, 2010
Karkov Aug 9, 2010
Rostov Aug 12, 2010
Moscow Aug 17-19, 2010
Niznij Novgorod Aug 22, 2010
Saratov Aug 26, 2010
Samara Aug 29, 2010
Kazan Sept 1, 2010
Ufa Sept 4, 2010
Celiabinzk Sept 7, 2010
Jekaterinburg Sept 10, 2010
Tjumen Sept 13, 2010
Omsk Sept 17, 2010
Novosibirsk Sept 21, 2010
Kemerovo Sept 24, 2010
Khorgas Oct 5, 2010
Xi’an Oct 21, 2010
Shanghai Oct 28, 2010 


Aug 5, 2010

DEVO Concert Tonight :o)

Latter today, we are headed to the Windy City with friend Doug (Happy Birthday :o) to see Devo.

The concert is at the Chicago Congress Theater.

Built by Fridstein and Company in 1926 for the movie theater chain of Bubliner and Trinz, it is a surviving example of a movie palace. It features ornate exterior and interior design work, in a combination of the Classical Revival and Italian Renaissance styles. It could seat over 2,900 moviegoers, and also has storefronts facing the streets. The theater is currently used as a live music venue. 

As a movie palace originally, even if you double the movie attendance to 6,000, that is still a cozy concert experience.  We have had great luck with Chicago concerts and I am sure this one will keep our string going.

Going to get there a couple of hours before the doors open and get a burger and a beer, or something similar, then head on over.  We will be driving back tonight, so most likely no details until tomorrow.

Aug 4, 2010

Science Scene - Bionic Man?

REX, the Robotic Exoskeleton, is designed to help those usually bound to wheelchairs stand up and walk, and it should be commercially available later this year.

Created by two New Zealanders whose mothers are confined to wheelchairs, REX allow users to self-transfer from chair to the exoskeleton, then control their movements via a joystick and control pad. It runs on a rechargeable battery that lasts about two hours during continuous use and is swappable in instances where the user wishes to move about on his or her feet for longer periods.

At $150,000 USD, REX is by no means inexpensive, but it does offer wheelchair users a practical and (almost) readily available means of getting out of their chairs. Other technology like HULC (which isn't intended for paraplegics anyhow, but rather to enhance strength and performance) are still in testing and could be for awhile. REX will go on sale in Auckland later this year and should be available worldwide by mid-2011.

I am speechless, very coolio, if you have three minutes, watch the video.  This is fricking awesome.

Aug 3, 2010

Bucko's Bucks - Can Money Make You Happy?

Money is surprisingly bad at making us happy. Once we escape the trap of poverty, levels of wealth have an extremely modest impact on levels of happiness, especially in developed countries.

Needless to say, this contradicts one of the central assumptions of modern society, which is that more money equals more pleasure. That’s why we work hard, fret about the stock market and save up for that expensive dinner/watch/phone/car/condo. We’ve been led to believe that dollars are delight in a fungible form.

But the statistical disconnect between money and happiness raises a fascinating question: Why doesn’t money make us happy?
A man who is given a drink of water after being lost in the Mojave Desert may at that moment rate his happiness as eight. A year later, the same drink might induce him to feel no better than a two.  This phenomena is called experience-stretching.

What does experience-stretching have to do with money and happiness? Because money allows us to enjoy the best things in life – we can stay at expensive hotels and eat exquisite sushi and buy the nicest gadgets – we actually decrease our ability to enjoy the mundane joys of everyday life (sunny days, cold beers, and chocolate bars).  And since most of our joys are mundane – we can’t sleep at the Ritz every night – our ability to splurge actually backfires. We try to treat ourselves, but we end up spoiling ourselves.

I say that happiness must come from within, and I can say that I am a happy person.  I absolutely can live with what I see in the mirror.  How about you?


Aug 2, 2010

Science Scene - BeerBot :o)

Let me just start this entry by being clear where I stand on this:

The roboticists at Willow Garage, like the rest of us this summer, are thirsty. But they have the quick-learning PR2 bot to help out. Having mastered other handy tasks, like folding laundry and playing pool, the robot has now learned to fetch beer for its masters.

When the need strikes, a thirsty human simply has to open a web interface, choose his or her preferred brew, and click the "Beer Me" button. The PR2 opens the refrigerator and scans its contents using image recognition software; retrieves a bottle of the correct kind; and brings it to the human. It can optionally open the bottle as well.