Build / Engineering

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Kudos to Lindsey for recommending this. I had watched it before he said something, but I was surprised that I had not posted it on this blog because…

I.

LOVE.

THIS.

TALK.

I’m not this obsessive when I get interested in something. Like Adam though, I never feel I know have or done enough.

MythBusters co-host Adam Savage gives a fast-paced presentation on personal obsessions. Savage explains how his fascination with dodo bird skeletons eventually led to his designing of an exact bronze-cast replica of the titular statue from the 1941 Humphrey Bogart movie, “The Maltese Falcon.”

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Space Ship One Fifty years ago today, John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth. For some reason, Alan Shepard, Jr. being the first American in space did not impress me as a kid. Going up and coming back down did not count. Achieving orbit was realer space. Glenn was the American response to Yuri Gagarin being the first human to orbit the Earth on 12 April 1961.

Well. To me Glenn was the hero.

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Stephen Hawking missed his 70th birthday party this past weekend. He was not feeling well. There has been quite a bit floating around the Internet about how he as survived decades after getting an estimated months to live. Even Intel talked up how they are working on a way to help him speak faster.

Speaking late Sunday on the sidelines of a conference celebrating Hawking’s 70th birthday in the English city of Cambridge, Intel Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner said his company had a team in England to explore ways to help the celebrity scientist communicate more quickly.

There is a job available assisting him with the computer.

Given research into thought powered devices, I would really like to see a cyborg Stephen Hawking controlling things digitally. There are some cool bio feedback techniques to control cursors and pick out items from a screen. From what I understand, picking out the word he wants with where he looks from choices is getting slower from missing. Bypassing the eyes which used to be fast and going straight to the brain through electrodes could be very cool.

The problem is… Electrodes are invasive, often heal very slowly, and get infections. Too bad helmets which read our brain waves a la Macross proved much less effective. (Accuracy is paramount and anything sitting on a head is likely to miss.)

p5rn7vb

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I was sequestered in a war room for a month during which the Japanese earthquake and tsunami happened as well as the meltdown of the nuclear power plant at Fukushima. We projected on the wall video of the stories over and over.

It just occurred to me each of the Empedocles classical elements (air, fire, earth, and water) have threatened a nuclear power plant this year. True, only the one event resulted in a melt down. Still, it is interesting how a bit of everything has been a problem.

  • Air: “A nuclear power plant in Alabama that lost power after violent thunderstorms and tornadoes on Wednesday will be down for days and possibly weeks but the backup power systems worked as designed to prevent a partial meltdown like the disaster in Japan.”
  • Fire: “A raging wildfire in Los Alamos on Monday briefly entered the property of the nation’s preeminent nuclear facility, Los Alamos National Laboratory, a vast complex that houses research laboratories and a plutonium facility.”
  • Earth: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. (Okay technically, seawater from the tsunami is what caused the worst problems.)
  • Water: “The head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has been dispatched to a nuclear power plant in Fort Calhoun, Neb., where a berm collapsed Sunday…. The breach allowed Missouri River flood waters to reach containment buildings and transformers and forcing the shutdown of electrical power.”

Before you ask, no, the classical elements are not fighting back against the modern elements (Uranium and Plutonium).

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The Trojan Nuclear Plant on the Banks of the Columbia River Is Under Construction by Portland General Electric Environmentalists Strongly Oppose the Project 05/1973

Trojan Nuclear Plant from the U.S. National Archives

The New York Times article “Nuclear Agency Tells a Concerned Congress That U.S. Industry Remains Safe” had a curious statement from Gregory Jaczko, of the chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, in front of Congress.

“U.S. nuclear facilities remain safe,” Mr. Jaczko told two House Energy and Commerce subcommittees, which had originally planned to consider his agency’s budget for the coming fiscal year at the hearing. “We will continue to work to maintain that level of protection.” Reactors are designed to meet the challenges of “the most severe natural phenomena historically reported,” he said. For earthquakes, that means any that occur within 200 miles of the reactor, and a margin of error, he said.

Jaczko sounds similar to the planning the Japanese did. Earlier I read a Wired Science article, Japan Quake Epicenter Was in Unexpected Location, which said the Japanese looked to patterns in the past to determine the future. Therefore they expected a strong earthquake in the south where the Phillipine plate is overdue for a massive event.

Japan has been expecting and preparing for the “big one” for more than 30 years. But the magnitude-9.0 temblor that struck March 11 — the world’s fourth biggest quake since 1900 — wasn’t the catastrophe the island nation had in mind. The epicenter of the quake was about 80 miles east of the city of Sendai, in a strip of ocean crust previously thought unlikely to be capable of unleashing such energy. “This area has a long history of earthquakes, but [the Sendai earthquake] doesn’t fit the pattern,” says Harold Tobin, a marine geophysicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “The expectation was high for a 7.5, but that’s a hundred times smaller than a 9.0.”

It sounds to me like, if in the United States the most powerful earthquake in the area of a nuclear reactor was a 7.5 magnitude event, then a 9.0 could surprise those running it. Given a 9.0 is a hundred times more powerful and a broken reactor so dangerous, I would hope the preparedness is for the larger even where seemingly unlikely.

The Haiti quake was “expected“. However the Chilean, both New Zealand, and the Sendai earthquakes have all sounded unexpected. Of course, living on the Ring of Fire, how can any earthquake be unexpected?

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This will make paintball fun again. :D

Guardian Unlimited | Science | Now you see it, now you don’t: cloaking device is not just sci-fi

It’s been the curse of the USS Enterprise and the Klingons’ favoured weapon. But back on Earth, mathematicians claim to have worked out how to make a cloaking device to render objects invisible.

An outline for the device is described in a scientific paper published today in which the authors reveal how objects placed close to a material called a superlens appear to vanish.

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These people can help you out! How to Build a Container City I ran across this briefly while flipping channels. Very interesting. I mean, people live in trailers which are really fairly similar. However, I am guess these are very upscale and hundreds of pounds per unit.

Who wants to starve out the enemy? Break down his defenses! Mmmmm… a 300 pounder! Watching this show on siege engines reminds me of two favorite things from my life.

The first, and best was the week my aunt and uncle let us come stay for a week in England. By far, that was my favorite vacation. Castles, museums, and trains filled our days there.

The second memory is the many hours spent playing Dungeons & Dragons. Towards the end, I doscovered a kind Risk variant calle Greyhawk Wars that was awesome. I never really got a chance to integrate it into our normal game. :(

NOVA Online | Secrets of Lost Empires | Medieval Siege | NOVA Builds a Trebuchet

Like medieval military engineers did before them, the NOVA crew fine-tunes its attack using trial-and-error. Neel believes that if the sling is shortened, it will add arc to the stone’s flight and give it more distance.

His hypothesis proves right: The next launch travels the right distance but lands a few feet to the wall’s right. They shift the giant trebuchet just one inch to the left. This time they are on line but just overshoot the wall. They pull the sling in six inches and this time, it hits its mark.

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From Baylor University’s web site

Q: What is the difference between Mechanical Engineers and Civil Engineers?
A: Mechanical Engineers build weapons, Civil Engineers build targets.

The graduate with a Science degree asks, “Why does it work?”
The graduate with an Engineering degree asks, “How does it work?”
The graduate with an Accounting degree asks, “How much will it cost?”
The graduate with an Arts degree asks, “Do you want fries with that?”

To the optimist, the glass is half full.
To the pessimist, the glass is half empty.
To the engineer, the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

Q: How do you drive an engineer completely insane?
A: Tie him to a chair, stand in front of him, and fold up a road map the wrong way.

Q: When
does a person decide to become an engineer?
A: When he realizes he doesn’t have the charisma to be an undertaker.

Q: What do engineers use for birth control?
A: Their personalities.

Q: How can you tell an extroverted engineer?
A: When he talks to you, he looks at your shoes instead of his own.

Q: Why did the engineers cross the road?
A: Because they looked in the file, and that’s what they did last year.

There was an engineer who had an exceptional gift for fixing all things mechanical. After serving his company loyally for over 30 years, he happily retired. Several years later his company contacted him regarding a seemingly impossible problem they were having with one of their multi-million dollar machines. They had tried everything and everyone else to get the machine fixed, but to no avail. In desperation, they called on the retired engineer who had solved so many of their problems in the past.

The engineer reluctantly took the challenge. He spent a day studying the huge machine. At the end of the day he marked an “x” in chalk on a particular component of the machine and proudly stated, “This is where your problem is.” The part was replaced and the machine worked perfectly again.

The company received a bill for $50,000 from the engineer for his services. They demanded an itemized accounting of his charges. The engineer responded briefly:

One chalk mark………………$1
Knowing where to put it………$49,999

It was paid in full and the engineer retired in peace.

A programmer had been missing from work for over a week when finally someone noticed and called the cops. They went round to his flat and broke down the door. They found him dead in the still running shower with an empty bottle of shampoo next to his body. Apparently he’d been washing his hair.

The instructions on the bottle said:

1. Wet hair
2. Apply shampoo
3. Lather
4. Rinse
5. Repeat

Now playing: The Crystal MethodComing Back (The Light’s Southern Grit Mix)