Jul 312013

This problem seems to pop up from time to time, and it’s popped up again: email notifications from PayPal alerting me that o0rders have been placed aren’t all coming through. I’ve gotten several complaints in the last few days of non-fulfillment of orders. So if you order something for download and don’t it within a day or so, just send me an email.

 Posted by at 5:18 am
Jul 302013

A (probably Northrop) artists impression of the M2-21 lifting body gliding in to a landing. As shown here, it turned out to be dangerously prone to rolling, which led to a spectacular crash (which was seen in the opening credits of “The Six Million Dollar Man”). Interestingly, even thought the craft tumbled down the runway, it was structurally intact enough to be rebuilt as the M2-F3, which added a central dorsal stabilizer to increase roll authority.


 Posted by at 11:32 pm
Jul 302013

Coming soon? Already here (so long as your definition of “here” includes Japan or China):

Why robots could soon replace fast food workers demanding higher minimum wage

People are demanding $15/hour to flip burgers, which would seem to be a whole lot of money for a job that requires virtually no skill. Robots can do these jobs *now.* However, do the math:

$15/hr, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year = $31,200. Add in benefits and social security taxes and whatnot, the cost to the company might be on the order of $40,000/year. I have doubts that a multi-functional robotic burger flipper can be procured for that amount, though a robotic noodle bar chef in China is reported to cost only $1500. This price would of course be much higher in the US, but as the cost of humans increases, the cost of robots will decrease, and one of these days entry-level positions, the sort of jobs high schoolers get, will no longer be available to humans.

 Posted by at 10:10 am
Jul 292013

I just caught a commercial for this:

Nokia Lumia 1020

With a 41 megapixel sensor. That’s… kinda big. My Nikon D5000, state of the art 4 years ago, has a 12 megapixels sensor; current versions seem to top out at about 24 megapixels. While smart phones have impressive optics for their size, nothing beats *good* optics such as you get from real cameras, so I gotta wonder if that 41 megapixel sensor is just kinda wasted.

 Posted by at 8:55 pm
Jul 292013

A NASA painting of a 1969-vintage Space Shuttle concept. This was known as the “DC-3” configuration, and was designed – or at least heavily pushed – by Maxime Faget, and was adopted by several McDonnell-Douglas designs. It featured two manned and reusable rocket powered stages, both burning hydrogen & oxygen, both with straight wings. The smaller orbiter would basically “belly flop” into the atmosphere when re-entering. The straight wings would not provide a whole lot of lift, but they would also not be very massive. Thus the vehicles were relatively lightweight, but with restricted crossrange. Both stages also had turbofan engines mounted in the nose for cruise and landing assist.

 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Jul 292013

Meet Hugh Glass, a fur trapper in the early 19th century.

Near the forks of the Grand River in present-day Perkins County, in August 1823, while scouting ahead of his trading partners for game for the expedition’s larder, Glass surprised a grizzly bear mother with her two cubs. Before he could fire his rifle, the bear charged, picked him up, and threw him to the ground. Glass got up, grappled for his knife, and fought back, stabbing the animal repeatedly as the grizzly raked him time and again with her claws.

Glass managed to kill the bear with help from his trapping partners, Fitzgerald and Bridger, but was left badly mauled and unconscious. Henry (who was also with them) became convinced the man would not survive his injuries.

Henry asked for two volunteers to stay with Glass until he died, and then bury him. Bridger (then 19 years old) and Fitzgerald stepped forward, and as the rest of the party moved on, began digging his grave. Later claiming that they were interrupted in the task by an attack by “Arikaree” Indians, the pair grabbed Glass’s rifle, knife, and other equipment, and took flight. Bridger and Fitzgerald incorrectly reported to Henry that Glass had died.

Despite his injuries, Glass regained consciousness. He did so only to find himself abandoned, without weapons or equipment, suffering from a broken leg, the cuts on his back exposing bare ribs, and all his wounds festering. Glass lay mutilated and alone, more than 200 miles (320 km) from the nearest American settlement at Fort Kiowa on the Missouri.

In one of the more remarkable treks known to history, Glass set his own leg, wrapped himself in the bear hide his companions had placed over him as a shroud, and began crawling. To prevent gangrene, Glass laid his wounded back on a rotting log and let the maggots eat the dead flesh.

Deciding that following the Grand River would be too dangerous because of hostile Indians, Glass crawled overland south toward the Cheyenne River. It took him six weeks to reach it.

Glass survived mostly on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he was able to drive two wolves from a downed bison calf, and feast on the meat. Reaching the Cheyenne, he fashioned a crude raft and floated down the river, navigating using the prominent Thunder Butte landmark. Aided by friendly natives who sewed a bear hide to his back to cover the exposed wounds as well as providing him with food and a couple of weapons to defend himself, Glass eventually reached the safety of Fort Kiowa.

After a long recuperation, Glass set out to track down and avenge himself against Bridger and Fitzgerald. When he found Bridger, on the Yellowstone near the mouth of the Bighorn River, Glass spared him, purportedly because of Bridger’s youth. When he found Fitzgerald, he discovered that Fitzgerald had joined the United States Army, Glass purportedly restrained himself because the consequence of killing a U.S. soldier was death. However, he did recover his lost rifle.


 Posted by at 12:35 am
Jul 282013

Swirls in the Afterglow of the Big Bang Could Set Stage for Major Discovery

Scientists have spotted swirling patterns in the radiation lingering from the big bang, the so-called cosmic microwave background (CMB). The observation itself isn’t Earth-shaking, as researchers know that these particular swirls or “B-modes” originated in conventional astrophysics, but the result suggests that scientists are closing in on a much bigger prize: B-modes spawned by gravity waves that rippled through the infant universe. That observation would give them a direct peek into the cosmos’ first fraction of a second and possibly shed light on how it all began.

An interesting article. I remain astounded at what there is to be discovered.

 Posted by at 10:47 pm