Category Archives: Uncategorized

State of the World Index

There are a great many indices that attempt to measure aspects of the world, and quite a few consolidated indices (like the HDI) that create measures out of a number of other indices.

Graph

I thought that it might be a fun project to put together a single index that produces a single number for the “state of the world”.

It won’t necessarily mean anything, but it would be amusing to track over time.

I can do the programming work, but I could really use help figuring out which indices to include, and how to weight them. Opinions please!

A few possibilities can be found here:

Wheel plans, lock-in and VW

The basic layout of vehicles on the road (in North America, anyhow) is amazingly homogenous. Think about it: there are cars with four wheels, motorcycles with two, and trucks with anywhere from four to twenty-plus wheels (in two varieties – attached and detached cabs).

The last time I saw a three-wheeled T-Rex, it looked so outlandishly exotic, that a crowd gathered around it (the owner had parked it on the sidewalk outside a store). You don’t usually see that even with exotic Italian supercars.

There’s actually a lot of experimentation with wheel plans (i.e. the vehicle equivalent of room plans in a home), but we don’t see it much on a day-to-day basis. Continue reading

Faster 3D Printing

One of the drawbacks with current 3D printing technology is the slow rate at which objects are built up in layers from hot plastic thread. The process of printing objects of any significant size can take hours.

Using a technique similar to airbrushes may speed things up. If the source material is in a fine powdered form instead of a solid thread, and is pushed through the print head (or nozzle in this case) under pressure, then it is simply a matter of determining a way to accrete the plastic into a solid object. Continue reading

Computational Area Networks

There’s an asymmetry in the data center, and it might be an opportunity for somebody to build a new product line (hint, hint: HP, Dell).

There are plenty of products that consist of a box filled with storage devices – we call them SANs (storage area networks). They’re essentially what allows big data to exist, by packing large amounts of storage into a relatively small space.

So why not do something with CPUs (central processing units) that replicates the idea behind the SAN? Continue reading

Moving past passwords

Under lock and key - Flickr Creative Commons - JanetR3

Under lock and key – Flickr Creative Commons – JanetR3

The problem isn’t anything new, really – most people have hundreds of accounts on different websites.

The username is usually their email address, and the password…well the password tends to be the same on all of the sites, and it is usually eight characters or less.

It is simply too hard for most people to memorize passwords much longer than that.

So they use something simple like “12345678”, and the next thing they know, they’ve been well and truly pwnz0red.

Continue reading

What’s wrong with the Dreamliner?

In case you haven’t heard, Boeing has been having battery troubles with its new flagship Dreamliner aircraft. The batteries have occasionally been catching fire, and the planes are now grounded until they determine what the issue is.

Hopefully they’ve figured this out already, but there’s one big difference between their on-the-ground tests, and a live flight – the passengers.

I wonder if they’ve tried plugging in a couple of hundred randomly selected laptops into the passenger , and seeing what happens to the electrical system then?

Sounds silly? What if one (or half a dozen) of them has a bad battery, or an electrical short circuit?

The Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook – Conclusion

This is the final post in the Mars Colony Administrator’s Handbook series. For part one, please see here.

A brief word about science: I’ve avoided discussing planetary science in this series, because it has been covered so well, in so many other places. The traditional vision of a trip to Mars, in the guise of a 1980’s US/USSR joint mission, revolved heavily around the idea of sending a small group of people, for a relatively short period of time, with largely scientific objectives. This is completely different from the various colonization concepts that have circulated in recent years. Regardless of why people go to Mars though, a lot of serious scientific work will be done. The advantages of having a large number of people present, along with a well-equipped laboratory, are immense. We cannot conceive yet of the discoveries that will result. Continue reading

Better turnstiles

Turnstiles for directing people in a single direction are a useful but klunky invention. I always approach them with great caution, especially when carrying a laptop bag over my shoulder.

It occurs to me that we could get the same effect with greater ease of use (and less tangled straps).

Picture the kind of hanging flaps used to keep cold in a walk-in refrigerator.

Now make them out of some kind of smart material.

When touched or pushed from one side, they become flexible, allowing people to pass through. Otherwise they would be set to be hard, preventing passage in the other direction.

Smart turnstile, with touch sensitive hanging strips

Smart turnstile, with touch sensitive hanging strips

The material could be transparent, or could have a no-entry sign imprinted on one side of it.

The material cost would likely be significantly lower than traditional turnstiles.

Entry only possible from one direction

Entry only possible from one direction