Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Amazing Science Archive

As someone who is interested in science, and science experiments, labwork and demonstrations, I am pleased to find that Popular Science magazine has placed their articles into a searchable archive.
One of my favorite authors of these articles is Kenneth M.
Swezey. He used to set up the experiments, get volunteers to perform them, take photos and write it all up in the many articles he authored over the years. He also collected these articles into several books: "After Dinner Science," "Science Magic," and "Chemistry Magic." I happen to own these three books; I've had them since I was a young kid, and they're among my most prized possessions. Now this same information is available to people who don't own the books (they're long out of print, but still covered by Copyright). Check out the archive, and start searching for cool things like "spinthariscope," "X-rays," "Chlorine," "Magnesiun," and whatever else you seek.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Our Soylent Green Future?

I find it both fascinating and appalling when I go out onto the Web and read about what this century has in store for us: On one hand, we face increasing climate chaos, possible drought or hurricanes, the rising probability of a massive earthquake in California, the end of cheap energy and along with it affordable food. We hear dire predictions of the mess that consumer culture will make of the planet as it spreads to developing nations. What if everyone in China DOES want to drive a car? What if the banks fail? What if my retirement savings disappears? Oh, and don't forget the global pandemic threat! Bird flu, swine flu, dog or cat flu - it's just a matter of time before a really nasty bug appears, and circles the globe before we can do anything to stop it.
On the other hand, technological progress on many fronts continues to accelerate. Nanotechnology, a mastery over matter, and the ability to program molecules at will, is getting ever greater traction in labs around the globe, and despite the hype of its early days may deliver, in the areas of medicine and energy, quite soon. Even artificial intelligence, whose painfully slow development caused a generation of disappointment, is finally beginning to appear - in your cell phone! A world of highly-efficient solar energy farms, or solar satellites beaming energy to receiving antennas on the ground; super-medicine that can repair the damages of the aging process as easily as swallowing a capsule of nanobots; unlimited, healthful food, synthesized on the spot from an unending stream of component molecules, using templates based on the world's finest organic ingredients and culinary practices.
Will my retirement years look like something out of Soylent Green? Or will I simply not retire, but find fulfilling work that is not driven by the need to make a buck, but to serve humanity, while learning and creating, following my own unending and ever-changing interests? Will I finally learn to play the piano?
Should I be getting involved in a local "transition plan" that seeks to avoid financial and human catastrophe in my local area? Should I plant a vegetable garden? Should I abandon the house I live in, and move into an RV? Should I head to the countryside, where at least the farmers' markets may still have food? And what about my kids? Should the two I have in college continue to pursue their degrees, or will their education be rendered useless by technological or social change? What is the prudent course?
I'm trying to formulate one for myself and
my family. Starting with the extrememly short-term, and working outward to a rest-of-my-life planning process, I'm trying to cover my bases.
First, the home disaster kit, with food and water for three or more days for my family. Then I'll put together a bug-out kit, which is something like a set of camping supplies, again with plenty of food and water, that we can take with us if we have to get out of town. This might be needed if (when) the "big one" hits, and our neighborhoods go up in flames, fueled by large quantities of natural gas escaping from the gas mains.
I'm also thinking of dropping off simple one-sheet disaster planning leaflets around my neighborhood, to try to get others to prepare. I don't want to be the only one with food and water, surrounded by several hundred families who don't!
I'm starting to take these steps toward Hacking the Future!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Science Tee

stroboptics shop
Hey, I made this shirt and offer it for sale at Cafe Press. You should get one now!

Personal Portable 3D Printer

Personal Portable 3D Printer
A new 3D printer is coming onto the market. Apparently it's a breeze to operate, and only costs $1500.

If we couple this technology with vision technology that allows you to import physical objects into the software - scanning technology, if you will - then we have a system that can reproduce objects.

Imagine the carnival novelty: get a 3D portrait in thermoplastic. Remember those vacuum form machines at fairs? They'd manufacture a novelty idem for you in real time, using automated machinery. This would do that one a step better, by allowing you to create from physical input. Of course, you could still print out novelty items: License plate frames, eyeglass frames, toys, models and so on.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Manna not From Heaven

Manna is the name of a management program that debuted on May 17, 2010, according to this fictionalization from Marshall Brain.
Manna debuts in a fast food restaurant. All the employees wear wireless headsets, and Manna resides on a PC under the former manager's desk. Manna replaced the manager and his assistants. All day long, Manna issues voice commands through the headsets, and the wearer performs the tasks, then says, "ok." Each task is simple, like, "Walk toward the trash receptacle. Open the cabinet. Remove the trash bin." and so on.
Manna saves Burger-G $250 million in its first year. Soon, all businesses that can, are running Manna. Manna organizes the workers at a superstore so that they never even see each other. All to boost productivity.
Thus, these minimum wage earners become the eyes, ears, and hands of the robotic future.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Science Carnival

I volunteered to be the chair for the PTA's math and science night. Since last year's Art Festival was so successful when it was done on a Saturday, we moved our math and science night to a Saturday too.
My motivation for volunteering was that I really dig this hands-on science stuff. I even have a website devoted to it but I really don't seem to make enough time to do much of it these days. Well, this sort of forces my hand!
I have a long list of activities I am busily getting ready. Part of the work involves digging equipment out from storage, and refurbishing it. For example, I have a Van de Graaf generator that I bought on Ebay several years ago. When I first used it, it worked great. Scarily great, in fact. But the rubber belt soon self destructed, and the thing has been sitting in its box ever since.
So, not being able to track down a manufacturer for the machine, I am making a belt. My first attempt wasn't that good: I pieced a belt together from several strips of latex rubber. But the machine kept discharging every time one of the joints went across the rollers. So now I am attempting to make a new belt from a bicycle inner tube. At least this belt will only have one joint. I'll report on how it works, as well as updating the progress on all the other activities I have planned, including the solar marshmallow roaster.