Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New idea - windmills in the jet stream

[See previous new idea]

Windmills in the Sky

From the article:Also:In the United States, the largest nuclear power plant is at Palo Verde, producing nearly 4 gigawatts (ref). Each FEG is producing approximately 20 megawatts. With just 40 FEG clusters you could produce enough electricity to supply all of America's electricity needs.

See also AltEng.

Two New Ideas in bikes

[See previous new idea]

The push is on to eliminate the derailleur:See also Electromoto bike and electric bike #2.

Sexual Networks

The title of this article alone is provocative:From the article:If you went to high school, you realize how complicated a high school's partnerships can be. It seems amazing that a map is possible. Having made the map, some of the findings are fascinating.

It makes you wonder if, one day, an entire city's population could be mapped, or the world's.

What if you did a world-wide map like this of every interaction that occurs between people. That is, if two people ever interact with one another, it is recorded and mapped. For example, you read this post. You and I have interacted at some level, and that is recorded and mapped. If we could make such a map, it would be interesting to know who is the most influential person on the planet. Who are the top-100 most influential people?

See also Smoking and sex.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

New idea - Doors better than Star Trek

[See previous new idea]

Is this possible?

High-Tech Door Better than Star Trek

According to the article:There's a good photo of the door at that link.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Makes me smile - A very different way to think about housing

[See previous]

This page made me smile when I opened it. You will be amazed as you look at this catalog of houses:

Tumbleweed tiny house company

It really is a different way to look at housing.

This truck may be a close relative:

EarthRoamer Xpedition Vehicles

DIY - Mozzarella Cheese Recipe

[See previous]

Here's something to try on a rainy weekend:

Mozzarella Cheese Recipe

From the page: "Although Italian in origin, this classic string cheese is famed for its use in many North American favorites such as pizza. It is not really a hard cheese as it is never pressed. It is actually categorized as a fresh cheese. This is because it is never aged. You can eat the cheese the same day you make it."

OK, when you read the recipe you will see that it is not trivial. But it is still one form of cheese that you can make in a single day, which is rare.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

Equity Is Altering Spending Habits and View of Debt - Los Angeles Times

From the article:Also:You are a fool if Alan Greenspan is wrong when he says that people are investing in houses as if they are a one-way bet, not allowing for the risk of price falls and that “history had not dealt kindly” with investors who kept ignoring risks. If Greenspan is right, then there will be lots of people underwater in their mortgages, and that could be ugly.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

A fascinating and public bet on the price of oil

Two prominent people have made a very public bet on the price of oil -- whether it will go up or down in the next 5 years. Each of them has a theory on what will happen to the price of oil over time, and we will find out which theory wins.

On one side is Matthew Simmons, who believes very strongly in "peak oil". He believes that, in the near future, the oil fields in Saudi Arabia will begin to go dry and that the price of oil will explode. He believes it will hit $200 a barrel in the very near future.

On the other side is John Tierney of the NY Times. Like me, John believes that Peak oil will be a non-event. As oil becomes more expensive, other technologies will compete with oil on price and naturally replace oil in our economy

As you will see when you read Peak oil will be a non-event and the Alteng blog, I am definitely on John's side in this bet. It will be very interesting to see who wins.

John's position in the bet comes from his past experience with an economist named Julian Simon, who placed a very public bet on the price of metals in the 1980s. Here's an account of that bet from the article:If you look at Alteng blog, you will find that there are dozens of technologies that compete with oil, and those technologies will begin replacing oil in the near future.

See also the Alteng blog and Peak oil will be a non-event.

Friday, August 26, 2005

DIY - electric lawnmower

[See previous]

Tired of paying high gas prices every time you mow the lawn? Here is one solution for the do-it-yourselfer:

Converting a gas lawnmower to solar charged electric power

new idea - the elimination of sleep

[See previous]

New Drug May Help Sleep-Deprived Brain: "Then, the monkeys were kept awake for 30-36 hours. That's the equivalent of about three days for a human, according to a Wake Forest news release.

The sleepy monkeys did much worse on the computer tests than they had before. When they received CX717, they performed better than ever.

'CX717 administered to sleep-deprived monkeys produced a striking removal of the behavioral impairment and returned performance to above-normal levels even though animals remained sleep-deprived,' write the researchers."

What is dust?

What is dust? This question arrived in the email box today. It's an interesting question. There are at least 7 things that contribute to the dust you see in your home:
  1. Dirt particles. If you live on a dirt road that kicks up dust every time a car drives by, this is a lot more obvious. In rural settings you may see a lot more dirt dust in the house than in urban settings.
  2. Soot particles. From cars, factories, power plants, cooking, etc.
  3. Textile fibers. From clothes, carpets, blankets. AKA lint.
  4. Paper dust. If you pull a kleenex out of the box and the sun hits it just right, you can see a cloud of dust that comes off the kleenex. The same sort of thing can happen from paper towels, toilet paper, printer paper, newspaper, etc.
  5. Human and pet detritus. Hair, dandruff, flaked off skin, etc.
  6. Insect detritus. For example, lots of spiders leave a dragline everywhere they go. Dead insect bodies. Etc.
  7. Pollen particles. From plants. Certain times of year there can be so much pollen in the air that it is visible when it settles on cars and roads.
Find a dust bunny under your bed and look at it with a magnifying glass or a microscope. Ew.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


With America's obesity rate reaching nearly 25 Percent, it is time for something new.

I spoke with a friend of mine who managed to lose 50 pounds since January of this year. Obviously he knows something about weight loss, so I asked him to share his secret. His advice is incredibly simple. Anyone can do this, and it is absolutely free:
  1. Go to This is a site that lets you track everything you eat. Set up an account and then track EVERYTHING you eat. It takes about 20 minutes to learn your way around the site, and from there it is easy. You can also track your daily exercise (walks, bicycle rides, lawn mowing, whatever).

    It will ask you what sort of lifestyle you have when you set up your account, and he recommends "sedentary".

    His contention is that if you cannot get yourself disciplined enough to track what you are eating, then you also won't be disciplined enough to control your eating. Therefore you will not succeed at losing weight, so you can just give up and stop worrying about it. Accept your obesity and be happy about it.

    OK, that's harsh. But it is true. So go sign up on and get yourself together enough to track what you eat every day. Force yourself to do it until it becomes a habit.

  2. His second contention is that, as soon as you start tracking what you eat, you will be appalled at how much you are eating. You will be so appalled that you will begin to eat less. Simply by making yourself aware of how much you eat, you will act on that awareness and start cutting back.

    He also contends that you will know that if you eat something, you have to write it down in FitDay, and that acts as a deterrent.

  3. Decide what you want your weight to be. Let's say you weigh 200 pounds and you want to weigh 170. Multiply 170 by 12. That's 2,040. That's the maximum number of calories you should eat each day. His contention is that you won't be able to eat more than that once you get down to your target weight, so you might as well get used to it now. If you can't get used to it, then you won't be able to keep the weight off, so you can just give up and stop worrying about it. Accept your obesity and be happy about it.
That's it! It's an easy, straightforward way to lose weight. It all hinges on self-discipline, and if you can just get into the habit of going to FitDay or someplace like it every day, the discipline is a lot easier.

Start losing those excess pounds today!

See also, How Dieting Works and this post (which says that by losing weight your net worth will go up).

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Makes me smile

[See previous]

This video of a robot getting up off the ground is so realistic that it amazes me. How long before humanoid robots are doing Olympic level gymnastics?

R Daneel in action

See also this ASIMO ad.

Helpful - Nice backrounder on HDCP

[See previous]

You might be wondering what HDCP is and why you should care. HDCP is a technology designed to prevent HD content from being copied when it is sent to an HDTV or a monitor. If you are purchasing an HDTV or monitor right now, you want to make sure it has HDCP inside. This paper provides a nice, easy-to-understand explanation of the technology and what you need to look for:

On Windows Vista, DRM, and new monitors

Saturday, August 20, 2005

DIY - high speed photography

[See previous]

Have you ever seen those high-speed photographs of balloons popping or bullets shattering lightbulbs? Here's a site that shows you how to do it yourself.

High-Speed photography

Click on the topics in the left-hand list. Some of the photos are amazing.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Things people do with their time

Lego Lovers Unite in Arlington

Viking ship built with 15 million ice cream sticks

Pavement drawings - The 3-D illusions like this one truly are remarkable.

Elvis Shrine Made From Post-It Notes

DIY - "Secret" Hollow Book

"Secret" Hollow Book - How to

Scroll down to follow through the complete instructions.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New idea - Physics processor

[see previous]

Any PC today that is set up for serious gaming has a high-power CPU along with a high-power GPU on the graphics card. In many cases the GPU is more powerful than the CPU in terms of raw mathematical horsepower.

This article describes a new architecture for handling physics computations in games. It uses a separate hardware physics processor:

AGEIA Technology

The physics processor deals with everything from collision detection to the physics of hair and clothing simulation.

In the future, will your machine have a CPU, a GPU and a PPU?

From the article: "AGEIA physX Processor is the world's first physics processor, an entirely new category of technology that promises to transform gaming. By offloading software physics processing from the CPU and GPU, AGEIA's physX Processor completes the triangle of game function, graphics and interactive real-time environments from physics computing, balancing the load of these processing tasks and enabling incredible realism in tomorrow's games.

AGEIA physX Processor Architecture has been designed to enable radical acceleration of:See also The Dream Machine.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Two articles on Google

Both of these are interesting:See also The google machine and More on Google.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Hard to believe but true...

[See previous]

In the September 2005 issue of Money magazine: "Your chances of being rich go up when your weight goes down. Ohio State University research has found that white adults who reduced their body mass index (BMI) score by 10 points saw their net worth rise by about $12,000."

Let's assume that this is true. Why might it occur? Money magazine offers no theories, but it seems like there are several possible explanations. One might be that there is prejudice against overweight people in American society. Another might be that people who are losing weight are healthier/happier, and that results in less sick time, more optimism or something along those lines. Another explanation: maybe if you have formerly been eating too much, but are able to discipline yourself enough to control your eating, that discipline spills over into other parts of your life and has beneficial side effects. Other thoughts?

See also How to make a million dollars and The mind of a millionaire.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Fun facts - the human brain and senses

[See previous]

There are dozens of fun facts in here:

Brain Facts and Figures

I was wanting to understand how our eyes compare to digital cameras. The page indicates that we have about 120 million black-and-white sensors on our retinas and about 5 million color sensors. That would imply that we have 120 megapixel cameras for our eyes. The 5 megapixel color resolution is misleading because we use most of those color pixels to focus on a small part of the image. Then we flick our line of sight around and construct a much larger high-resolution color image from little bits of pieces.

The page also indicates that the human brain has about 100 billion neurons. The most powerful personal computers today have about 0.4 billion transistors in the CPU. So we are a factor of 250 or so away. Within 15 years we will have processors with 100 billion transistors. It could be argued that a neuron is much more powerful than a transistor. In that case, we are 30 years away to having the full processing power of a human brain in a desktop PC.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

Pacific Rim nations pushing ahead of U.S. in engineering: "'Our ability to innovate in this country is diminishing. If you look at the number of patents, they are shifting now to other places. Scientific papers that are published, citations - we are clearly losing ground in terms of the competitive stance we've had,' said Don Giddens, the dean of the College of Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology, which ranks among the nation's top five engineering schools."

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

A credible plan to take down the Internet: "At stake is the exploitation of flaws affecting the once-invincible Cisco router hardware, which currently carries most of the Internet's traffic on a daily basis. Once a working exploit for the Cisco IOS Shellcode is available on the Internet, it'll be only a matter of days before someone finds a way to craft it into a network worm. And then it's going to be a rough ride for everyone who uses the Internet. Unless, of course, the forces of Good prevail."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Dream Machine, 2005

Every year, Maximum PC magazine puts together its "Dream Machine". It's the most powerful PC that you can build with off-the-shelf components. This year's machine has quite impressive specs, including:Over a billion transistors in all. The machine costs almost $13,000 when you include the case, power supply, dual monitors and speakers.

You read the article and you think, "My God, this is an insane amount of computing power and disk space! Who could possibly need such a machine?!" But then you look back at the first Dream Machine that they built in 1996. That machine had:They didn't even have a "3D graphics card" in it, because 3D graphics cards didn't exist yet.

At the time, just 9 years ago, that was an insanely expensive ass-kicking machine. Today this 9-year-old Dream Machine is so pathetic that it would be unusable. 32 MB of RAM??? You could not even launch the OS in that.

Even coming up to the year 2000 Dream Machine, you find:That cost $12,000. $12,000! Today a $500 desktop PC at Best Buy beats that.

So... Between 1996 and 2005 -- just 9 years -- disk space increased by a factor of 1,000. RAM increased by a factor of 250. CPU clock speed incleased by a factor of 11, there are 4 cores instead of 1 and the number of transistors went up by a factor of 150. And now we have incredibly powerful graphics cards holding 300 million transistors -- a technology that did not even exist 9 years ago in the normal PC marketplace.

Project out 10 years from now, to 2015. It is quite likely that the $13,000 "Dream Machine" of 2005 will seem pathetic and unusable. You won't even be able to buy a machine like this because it is so pathetic. The 2015 Dream Machine will have:Who knows what the graphics cards in 2015 will be doing.

Will the machine in 2015 contain a vision processing card??? That is the huge question I have. 3D graphics accelerator cards like we see today did not even exist in 1996 as far as the Dream Machine was concerned. Will we see vision processing cards arise from nothing and explode in power like that? Or will it take ten years more?

What will the robots in 2015 be able to do?

And what will the Dream Machines in 2025 look like? I don't think we can imagine it.

See Robotic Nation and Robots in 2015 for a discussion.

$5,000 minivans in China

Last month we discussed very inexpensive cars that may one day be available at a place like Wal-Mart. Here is the harbinger of that, made by GM and priced at $5,000:

G.M. Thrives in China With Small, Thrifty Vans

From the article: "In this obscure corner of southern China, General Motors seems to have hit on a hot new formula: $5,000 minivans that get 43 miles to the gallon in city driving. That combination of advantages has captivated Chinese buyers, propelling G.M. into the leading spot in this nascent car market."

See Cheap electric cars from China for a description.

New idea - reusing shuttle parts

[See previous]

What is interesting about this site is that it uses existing shuttle parts (external tank, SRBs) to create a completely different launch system for both cargo and manned vehicles. The cost of launch goes down quite a bit in the process:


From the siteThe only fly in the ointment is that the Shuttle was supposed to launch both people and cargo into orbit at a much lower cost. It didn't work out that way in reality. Assuming that this idea doesn't suffer from the same delusions, it is a very interesting reconfiguration of existing pieces.

See also Crew Exploration Vehicle.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

New idea - glowing bulbs

[See previous]

The idea is so simple once you see it that your why-didn't-I-think-of-that circuit nearly shorts out from the overload:

Terrorist-Proof Lighting Illuminates Without Power

From the article: The gist of the idea is, "Let's paint bulbs with glow-in-the-dark paint so that they glow after you turn them off." What could be simpler than that? In this case, it would appear that they are mixing the glow-phosphor into the light-phosphor that is already present inside the fluorescent tube -- a nuance that is even more brilliant. It's not the sort of bulb you would want in a bedroom probably, but in any sort of office or industrial environment it would be perfect.

Monday, August 08, 2005

The mind of a millionaire

This started with one of those uncomfortable airport "experiences", where you end up spending 12 hours on the ground because the airport system is not working. In this case, the problem was a huge line of thunderstorms that stood between where I was and where I was heading.

So I was trapped in the airport, and fortunately it had a used book store. One of the books on the shelf was "The Millionaire Mind" by Thomas Stanley. Stanley is best known as the author of "The Millionaire Next Door."

The jacket cover says, "In the 1996 best-seller The Millionaire Next Door, written by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley, one of contemporary America's most firmly held beliefs was shattered. According to Dr. Stanley, wealthy individuals do not all belong to an elite group of highly educated and exceedingly lucky people who often inherit their money and spend it on lavish purchases and pampered lifestyles. The Millionaire Next Door showed us that a significant number of America's wealthy are far more likely to work hard, save diligently, and live well below their means."

"The Millionaire Mind" is a book that tries to understand how these millionaires think. Stanley was trying to find "people who were actually wealthy, as opposed to those who had big homes with big mortgages but low net worth." He took a nationwide sampling of people like this, sent them questionnaires, and then compiled the trends in his book.

I am not yet done with the book, but even in chapter 1, some of the trends he explores are fascinating. Here, in no particular order, are some of those trends:It's an interesting book with LOTS of tidbits like that.

I think that one of the key messages that you might carry away from the book, if you are striving to be a millionaire, is this: if you find that you are a hard-working, non-gambling, generally frugal person who does not need a flashy car/house/haircut, and so on, you may be onto something. You are headed, generally, down a path that many millionaires have followed. Simply be persistent. Read books like this one and The Millionaire Next Door, study them for lessons you can apply to your own life, and look at the world around you for opportunities. How to make a million dollars is one good starting point.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

New idea - balance sensations in games

[See previous]

Remote-Controlled Humans: "The most persuasive commercial applications of Maeda's GVS device will most likely be in gaming; researchers put together a crude virtual racing game to demonstrate how GVS heightened the perception of centrifugal force as users watch the car wind its way around the track on a video screen. Manabu Sakurai, NTT's marketing manager, says the company is currently investigating whether or not gamers would be interested in the device. Flight simulators are another area of interest."

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Fun fact

[See previous]

Bad to the Last Drop: "In 2004, Americans, on average, drank 24 gallons of bottled water, making it second only to carbonated soft drinks in popularity. Furthermore, consumption of bottled water is growing more quickly than that of soft drinks and has more than doubled in the past decade. This year, Americans will spend around $9.8 billion on bottled water, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation. "

Friday, August 05, 2005

The cheapest cell phone service

Let's say that you are looking to find the least expensive cell phone service in America. For example, say you want to have a cell phone strictly for "emergency purposes", so you aren't going to use it much if at all on a month to month basis. Or let's say that you want to have a phone that you do not plan to use very much -- say 20 or 30 minutes a month.

I've looked around, and as best I can tell I think that Virgin Mobile is the cheapest way to go. Virgin has a pay-as-you-go cell phone service. Here's how it works:
  1. You have to buy a phone from Virgin. The cheapest one you can get right now is a Nokia phone available at Wal-Mart (or the Virgin site) for $39.

  2. You have to buy a "top-up card" to put minutes on the phone (or you can use a credit card through the web site). The cheapest top-up card is $20, and you must top-up every 90 days even if you don't use the phone.

  3. If you use the phone, you pay 25 cents per minute for the first 10 minutes every day, and then 10 cents per minute after that. There are no long-distance or roaming fees with Virgin.
For a zero-usage phone, you will be paying $20 every 90 days to keep your number active. If you use the phone for 20 minutes a month at the rate of a minute or two every other day, you'll pay 25 cents a minute, so you will actually use the $20 that you put on the phone. In other words, whether you use the phone for 0 minutes per month or 20 minutes per month, it costs the same.

If you assume that the phone lasts 24 months, and it costs $39, you are paying $1.63 per month for the phone. $20 divided by 3 months works out to $6.67 per month. So that means that it costs $8.30 per month for cell phone coverage using Virgin.

My question is this: Does anyone know of a less expensive way to get low-usage cell phone service in the United States?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Makes me smile

[See previous]

Since I have three sons, a friend mailed this link to me today:

A Mother's Duty: Preparing Boys for Girls

It offers an amusing look at the differences between the sexes, especially as teenagers. From the audio: "My sons have a total of four emotional gears: Happy, sad, mad and hungry. My daughter's emotional landscape, on the other hand, is like a tempest..."

Monday, August 01, 2005

Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion car

3d model of the Dymaxion car

From the article: It is 20 feet long but weighs less than 1,000 pounds... That is amazing when you consider that the Mini Cooper weighs 2,500 pounds and, at 8 feet long, is one of the smallest cars on the road. The 30 to 50 MPG rating is also interesting for a vehicle that big. A modern engine in a hybrid configuration could double that, or more.

As hard to believe as it is, the car really did exist:There was also a Dymaxion house, made of aluminum, and you can find an excellent site dedicated to it here. Short movies of it are available here. It weighed only 3,000 pounds.

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