Archive: June 14, 2003

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Saturday,  06/14/03  06:57 PM

Wow, this was the biggest gap since I began blogging at the start of the year!  Between traveling to Northern California and to San Diego, I was, er, gone.  Also busy.  And blogging from the road is still too hard.  (Too bad it isn't like sending an email :)  Anyway, here's what's happening...

Artists rendering
(click for larger picture)

The oldest human skulls to date have been found.  They are dated to be 160,000 years old, and were found in a village named Herto in Ethiopia.  This would be when natural selection of humans began; unnatural selection started later, about 10,000 years ago...  (The picture at right is an artist's rendering of what early man might have looked like - good looking guy, eh?)

NYTimes: Schools try integration by income, not race.  Of course there is correlation between income and race, but this is an encouraging trend.  [ Later - crap, the article has slid behind the Times paywall.  Now it costs $2.95 to read.  What bunk! ] This article was linked from this post y Philip Greenspun: "So the taxpayers of Cambridge could afford to charter Boeing 747s to fly kids to and from Korea every month, enroll them at the most expensive boarding schools in that nation, and still end up spending less than we're spending now."

Check out this great article on Sun's website about writing for the web.  Key points:

  • 79% of users scan the page instead of reading word-for-word
  • Reading from computer screens is 25% slower than from paper
  • Web content should have 50% of the word count of its paper equivalent

Very interesting...  Also, the article recommends not using terms which are specific to the web; things like "click here" or "follow this link".  I don't know about that...

For you blogging connoisseurs, Tom Coates ponders permalinks...

Scoble links Vonage, a new phone service which offers unlimited calling within the U.S. for $40/month, over the Internet.  You essentially use your broadband connection as a gateway, and they have drops around the country from which they make local calls directly.  Seems like we're going to hear more about these guys, this really makes sense.

This week's Carnival of the Vanities was Overtaken by Events.  I haven't check all of it out, yet, there are quite a few repeaters.  The Monty Python theme is definitely new, however.  As always a fun way to meet new blogs.

Philips has introduced a mirror which is also a TV (kind of a picture in picture).  Very cool, every bathroom should have one.  (And probably will, in ten years :)

Last week I had a great hallway conversation with some friends; given the progress with cell phones and PDAs over the past ten years, "what cool personal electronics will be introduced in the next ten years?"

My own suggestion - a handheld device which displays a bunch of medical information about you; heart rate, blood pressure, etc.  Maybe even dynamically monitors calorie intake.

And to prove that you really can find anything on the 'net, Japanese cocktail weenie art.  I am not making this up.


Sam Barros and Powerlabs

Saturday,  06/14/03  07:43 PM

Have you ever checked out Sam Barros and PowerlabsThis is such a cool site.  Every once in a while someone links one of his experiments from Slashdot, and it reminds me how cool it really is.

The most recent experiments involved using a Dremel router to spin CDs beyond their structural limit.  "A high speed rotating CD Rom is a bomb ready to explode and will send razor sharp plastic shrapnel in all directions when least expected."

If you're thinking this guy would make a fun neighbor, then you would really like his experiments with homemade cannons.  "The culminating point of this project was loading 30 grams of a potassium bromate/sugar/sulfur pyrotechnic mixture into the cannon with a 200 grams nitrocellulose hexanitrate propellant charge, and ramming the golf ball into it with a tight fitting cotton sabot."  He shot the golf ball over 6 miles.  Come to think of it, he wouldn't have to be your neighbor.

But if he was your neighbor, you'd want to be friendly, because he also has investigated rail guns.  The picture at right shows Sam with his latest rendition.  Basically he was able to get a working rail gun built in his garage, and he has the videos to prove it.  "RailGuns are by far the most spectacular type of electromagnetic accelerators ever developed. They hold the record for fastest object accelerated of a significant mass..."

Oh, yeah, Sam is 18, a freshman at Michigan Tech.  Whew.


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