Sunday, February 29, 2004

A great Web video by Bugatti

There is a fantastic video available on the 1,000 horsepower W-16 engine that powers the Bugatti Veyron. However, it is not easy to find it and it is not possible to link to it directly. Here's directions on how to get there:Enjoy!

Looking on the bright side...

The article Top Tips For a Healthy Heart contains this bit of good news: Given that heart disease is the #1 killer in America and costs the nation something like $200 billion per year, this means a lot...

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

Hospitals blamed as Superbug deaths soar

From the article:'It can't happen to me' STD perceptions

From the article:

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Two interesting products

The incredible shrinking laptop continues. Pictured above is the "FlipStart", due out later this year. It weighs just under a pound and is a full PC -- 30 GB hard disk, 256 MB RAM, 1,024 x 600 display, runs Windows XP. Click here for details.

Pictured above is a hydrogen retrofit for gasoline-powered cars. The car can switch back and forth between gasoline and hydrogen operation. The advantage is that you can generate the hydrogen in your garage with an electrolysis unit. Still lots of kinks to work out (the cost of the tanks is sky high right now, filling the tanks is tricky and and hydrogen generation is slow, etc.), but it does show that classic "American Tinkering Know-how" is alive and well. Click here for details.

Robotic Cars and Trucks

This page talks about the DARPA Grand Challenge race for robotic cars coming up in March, and also contains links to all the teams that are competing. Looking at the team sites is fascinating if you are into robotics...

Protests in NY

This article from the NY Times discusses plans that different organizations are making to protest at the G.O.P. convention in New York this year. According to the article:The interesting question is, what if it snowballs? What if people from all over the country start heading for NY to take part? Sort of like Woodstock -- it takes on a life of its own. Should be interesting to watch as the date gets closer.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

There's a new way for you to lose all of the money in your bank account: ATM card skimmers

As crimes go, this one is pretty sophisticated. To take money out of your account, a criminal needs two things:To get this information, the criminal builds a device that he can attach to the front of the ATM machine. This device can scan your card as you slide it into the machine and record its data. A typical device might look like this:

The criminal also builds a camera that attaches to the ATM, or mounts a video camera nearby, or in extreme cases simply hangs around the ATM machine himself, and watches you type your PIN number.

The criminal uses the data from your magnetic stripe and writes it onto a new, blank card. Then the criminal walks up to any ATM machine in the world and, using your PIN number, takes as much money as possible out of your account. See this article and this one for more details.

The bottom line: you need to look very closely at any ATM machine before you slide your card in. If the front of the card slot looks flimsy or extended or "taped on", try to rip it off. ATM machines are built like battleships, while card skimmers are not.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Simulating the founding fathers

This article discusses the Pentagon's plan to create a computer simulation of the planet earth. The article says, "The US Army is building a second version of Earth on computer to help it prepare for conflicts around the world."

That's nice. Having a big integrated map of the world is useful. If the map is detailed enough and the data is public domain, it would allow for the creation of a killer version of Flight Simulator. It would also allow people to visit cities around the world without leaving home. But all in all, it's not much different from the maps and GIS databases that already exist in myriad forms.

If we are going to simulate something, here's a subject that would be truly interesting. Why don't we create an accurate simulation of the minds of the founding fathers? George Washington, Ben Franklin, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, etc. -- we would simulate their minds on a computer so that we can "bring them back to life" and talk to them.

How many times have you heard someone say, "What would the founding fathers think of this??!!" Now we would know. We would simply ask the Founding Fathers Simulator. For example:
I have no idea what they would say, but I think the answers would be fascinating. Ask them anything, and you would get an answer framed in the context of the country they were actually envisioning and trying to create in the latter part of the 18th century.

Imagine watching the simulations of the Founding Fathers trying to assimilate today's America. Think about what America was in 1780 or so, and think about what America has become in terms of size, economic impact, global power, etc. Watching their reactions would be fascinating...

Something else to worry about...

[See Previous]

From this book:Given recent history, the first question should be: "Is this information accurate?" For all we know it is a complete fabrication.

Assuming that it is accurate, then these truly are weapons of mass destruction. The second question would be, "What are we going to do about it?" Do we do nothing? Do we apply the doctrine of preemption? Do we try diplomacy? Do we buy them out?

Monday, February 23, 2004

Behind the scenes in tech support

This article in Salon was passed along to me by a friend: "We don't support that". The subtitle is, "We're not here to help fix your computer. We just want to get you off the phone. A tech-support slave tells his hellish tale." If you don't subscribe to Salon, you can painlessly (two clicks and no data to enter) get a "day pass" to read the article.

The author says that he is, "part of the technical-support staff for one of the world's top three computer manufacturers," and in four pages he describes what his life is like. He describes different techniques that tech support staff use to cut calls short: punting, giving and formatting. He talks about hiring and promotion strategies. Etc.

If this is true, Lord help us....

As I read it, I had one question: Would it not be easier and less expensive -- not to mention much better for the reputation of the company and customer goodwill toward it -- for the company to actually train the tech support staff and give them tools so they can do a good job? It sounds like doing a bad job is costing the company a fortune.

Free Light

According to this article: Also:This article mentions: "A FIELD of 1,300 fluorescent tubes light up the night sky - powered solely by the force field from overhead power lines."

This is a well-known phenomenon. One question would be, "can you use the effect in some productive way?" For example, could you power a watch or a mote with the 60-hertz field that now permeates the United States?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Predicting our future

I came across a fascinating article entitled, Economic Possibilities of Our Grandparents, written by Karl Wilderquist. In it, Wildercrist discusses a paper published by John Maynard Keynes in 1930. Keynes' goal was to predict what he thought would happen economically in the future. Looking back at Keynes' work 75 years later is fascinating because Keynes was completely wrong.

According to the article:Think about your own life, and think about life in the United States in general. Are we anywhere near a 15 hour work week? No... actually, we are heading in the opposite direction. We are heading toward a 60-hour work week. See this page for details.


If you publish things on the Web, you are sure to get email about it. And that is a good thing – one of the best features of the Web is instant feedback. As with anything in life, some people agree, and some people disagree.

Some people violently disagree. For example, here's a portion of an email I received a couple months ago:"With the wheat comes some chaff," as they say, and I have learned a great deal from the wheat. Probably the only thing to do with the chaff is to ignore it.

I received some chaff this past week that caught my attention for some reason. Here is a portion of that email:And:The timing of the email meshes with the national debate on gay marriage, and the fact that the Nazi party held a demonstration in Raleigh this week. According to this article, "About 35 people calling themselves America's Nazi party called Jews, blacks and homosexuals the ruin of America during a rally at the old state Capitol in Raleigh." Hatred seems to be on the rise.

The obvious question is, "Will humans ever transcend hatred?" When you look at the bi-directional mayhem between Israel and Palestine, the Sunni vs. Shiite animosity in Iraq, the Christian vs. Muslim friction in France, etc. you could easily come to the conclusion that it may never end. Still, it is nice to dream of the death of racism.

When the "I am a racist" mail arrived, I ended up sending this response:Racism starts as a superstition applied to a group of people. This superstition then morphs into hatred. The hatred leads to words and actions. People dealt with through hatred often reciprocate in kind. Hatred breeds hatred, in other words, and you end up with a mess because of the reverberation.

Is it possible to change the mind of a racist? Is it possible to eliminate racism by talking to racists one at a time? I think so. At least in the U.S., through the efforts of millions of people, things are much better than they once were. There is still a long way to go. It cannot hurt to keep trying.

Something else to worry about...

[See previous]

Dozens burned by lamp
Osama's Navy
More big blackouts likely, experts agree
Spammers exploit high-speed connections, careless users
Great Barrier Reef Faces Major Coral Destruction
Security Efforts Turning Capital Into Armed Camp:

The Cost of Disease

Three or four weeks ago, there was a study that showed that obestity in America is starting to get really expensive in terms of medical costs. There were headlines like this:It's easy to look at something like that and ignore it, especially if you are thin. But think about it this way -- if there are 100 million households in America, $75 billion means that every household in the country is spending $750 to treat obesity. We don't really "feel it" in that way. No one sends us a "national obesity bill" at the end of the year for $750. But we do end up paying that $750 bill for obesity in one way or another -- taxes are higher, and the prices of things we buy are higher (because the company we buy from pays for the health insurance of employees, the cost of health insurance is embedded in the price of the products, and health insurance costs are rising.)

Then about 2 weeks later there was this report: Total costs for back pain are $26 billion, or $260 per household.

So I started to poke around. Here's a chart that shows mortality rates, and therefore shows some of the nation's most common diseases [from the CDC]:

The costs really add up:Right now the U.S. spends a total of about $1.6 trillion per year on healthcare. It is projected to rise to $3.1 trillion by 2012.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Brain Fingerprinting

This is a fascinating article: Brain fingerprints under scrutiny. According to the article:AlsoAnd:It is like a completely new form of polygraph test. The article has several ideas on applications.

The whole headband thing, along with the brainwave part, plus the 100% accuracy, makes it sound like a sci-fi film prop rather than reality -- 100% accurate truth detection on certain types of information. It is very interesting to speculate on where this might take us, especially if it were turned into a low-cost consumer product. Imagine, for example, parents and spouses using this...

I'll call this morning...

Internet Explorer crashed yesterday, and when it did it popped up this friendly dialog:

Anyone know the number I should call?

My son Johnny (age 1) was banging on my keyboard yesterday, and this dialog popped up:

It makes me wonder how many other interesting dailogs are buried in the system.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Something else to worry about...

[See Previous]

This article on E-card hijack spam is written by a person who got a piece of spam email. When he clicked on the link in the email he found that the web page he arrived at is malicious. What this points out is that it is now possible to build ordinary web pages that have destructive intent.

In his analysis, the author found that the web page he arrived at tries to do several different things to his machine:Currently, because of spam and email viruses, we have all become suspicious of email. Any email received today has a fairly high probability of being malicious in some way.

Now we are seeing malicious Web pages. You arrive at an innocent-sounding URL and find it able to cause bad things to happen on your computer. If the trend spreads, it could put a big damper on random surfing.

I wonder if Google has technology in place to detect malicious pages in its index? It would also be nice if Google flagged the pages that link to malicious pages.

Here's the author's advice: "If you're still using Outlook and Internet Explorer, this is a good time to find alternatives (I suggest FireFox and Thunderbird). Crackers and spammers are getting more and more sophisticated, and are finding ways to fool even experienced and skilled computer users."

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Robotic receptionists and marriage counselors

There's a good post this morning on the world's first robotic receptionist, as well as the coming robotic replacements for marriage counselors.

I would have thought that marriage counseling would be one of those professions immune to robots. Apparently not...

The new look for classrooms???

Would education be improved if our classrooms looked like this???

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Something else to worry about #14

[See previous]

Biohazard lurks in bathrooms: Shower curtains awash with potentially harmful bacteria.

From the article:And listen to this:Time to break out the Lysol...

Sunday, February 15, 2004

The Price of Things

The price comparison last week between an ink jet printer cartridge and a microwave oven caught a number of people by surprise. Here's the deal: You can go to BestBuy and purchase an ink jet cartridge for $38.99:

Or you can go to Target and get a Microwave Oven for $28.44:

So think about this: The microwave oven contains a microprocessor, the software for the microprocessor, a keypad/display for the microprocessor and a separate power supply for it. The microwave oven also contains a 700 watt Klystron to generate the microwaves, the waveguides for Klystron and the high-voltage power supply it needs. Then there is the door, the hinges, the latch, the safety interlocks on the latch, the light, all the internal fusing, the metal case, the interior, etc. There's also the process of getting UL listed and so on. A microwave oven weighs 30 pounds and once cost thousands of dollars. Mass production has dropped the price on microwaves significantly in the last decade or two.

By comparison, an ink jet cartridge is a piece of plastic, a couple of dozen jets, a little wiring and some ink. The total cost to manufacture is probably less than a dollar. Yet they sell for $38.99.

When you start to look around, you see that sort of discrepancy in lots of places. To see the discrepancies more clearly, it is helpful to calibrate your "price gauge" with the prices of some common objects from everyday life. Here are a few:

First there is Barbie:

Source: Target

She's down to $2. Closely related to Barbie are Hot Wheel cars. 35 years ago, Hot Wheels cost about a buck. Today if you shop around you can find them for 50 cents. Prices for both toys have fallen considerably over the last 35 years.

Then there's captain's chairs:

Source: Target

Roughly 10 pounds of aluminum and nylon in an ingenious folding package. And don't forget the convenient carrying bag, along with the cupholder. These folding chairs used to run as high as $50 each, and are now down to $7.

There's the aforementioned microwave:

Source: Target

DVD players and VCRs also fall into this category -- they used to cost $1,000 or more 20 years ago, but now they can be had for less than $50.

Mountain bikes are down in the $65 range. In the $100 to $200 range there are electric scooters:

Source: Pep Boys

This one has a 300 watt motor, a good-size battery pack plus charger, wheels, seat, handlebars, headlight and all the trimmings. Not bad for $180.

On the home front you can now buy a washer and dryer -- the pair -- for less than $400:

Source: Fry's

And a 25 cubic foot refrigerator with ice in the door and glass shelves is under $550:

Source: Fry's

It's a miracle when you think about it, and this miracle is the ultimate goal of capitalism when it is working properly -- competition and innovation driving prices down and down and down.

Then you start to look around and see the counter-examples, like ink jet cartridges, and you are left scratching your head. If a microwave oven costs $29, then an ink cartridge should cost $1.25 by now.

Or compare this game to a microwave:

Source: Target

A Cranium game is made up of some cardboard, some paper cards. There is absolutely nothing to it when you compare it to a microwave. For that matter, there is nothing to it when you compare it to a Hot Wheel car. It should cost 50 cents.

What about this:

Source: Target

1.7 ounces of Olay Regenerist. Olay describes it like this:I will admit that I went to look at the ingredient label to see if gold or some other exotic metal was listed there. Here's the manifest:When you start to decode this list, you realize there is nothing exotic. For example, the main ingredient is Cyclopentasiloxane. Look it up and you find that it is available from a dozen chemical companies. GE Silicones describes it this way:You can buy it by the 55 gallon drum. Then there's water and glycerin -- both readily available. What about Polymethylsilsesquioxane? Sounds exotic. But it is also available from GE Silicones and is described in this way:We've gone through the first four ingredients and there's no magic yet - these are all carriers. It really is interesting to read through the descriptions of all these chemicals to realize that... for the most part the whole thing is a bunch of "lubricity".

The miracle "amino-peptides" would probably be in the ingredient Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3. You find it in all sorts of "AGE REVERSAL SERUMS!". The clinical research behind it is described in articles like this one, which mentions that you only need it at a strength of 5 parts per million to get results.

At 5 parts per million, a 1.7 ounce jar of Olay Regenerist contains only 0.00024 grams of Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3. How much can that cost? Gold right now is in the $400 per ounce range, meaning that 0.00024 grams of gold costs less than a penny. Palmitoyl Pentapeptide-3 can not cost much more than that.

That's a very long discussion of Olay Regenerist, but the point is simple. If a microwave oven costs $29, then 1.7 ounces of this "beauty fluid" should cost about 15 cents by now.

What about this nice DK T-shirt:


The description on says this shirt "is constructed of soft, mid weight cotton. This tee has short sleeves and a crew neck as well as a raw bottom edge." In other words, it's a plain old cotton T-shirt. It contains maybe 25 cents worth of cotton sewn together by a garment worker paid by the piece. Total value -- 50 cents or so. Yours for $68. That's a pretty substantial profit margin. For that same $68, you can get 2 microwaves and a captain's chair.

A couple of other good examples include:

Source: Eckerd


Source: Eckerd

The most extreme example of the trend, however, came with the reports of Martha Stewart's court wardrobe. She arrived carrying a Hermés Birkin handbag, which according to the Miami Herald "carries a price tag of $6,000 to $85,000."

Source: Miami Herald

$10,000 for her purse... Somewhere along the line, these insane prices need to succumb to the power of capitalism, just as the refrigerators and the microwave ovens have.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Something else to worry about #13

[See previous]

Teachers Treated After Eating Doped Cake

From the article:Now you can't even trust the cookies and cake left in the breakroom anymore...

Something else to worry about #12

[See previous]

Saving Ourselves From Self-Destruction

From the article:

Something else to worry about #10 and 11

[See previous]

From the world of medicine...


Study: Optimistic attitude provides no help against cancer

From the artilce:So what are you supposed to do? Give up hope so that you aren't burdened by hope? That doesn't sound so hot either...


Seniors Not Always Getting Best Medicine

From the article:Perhaps the robotic pharmacies can start to address this. When the doctor calls in the prescription, the robot checks the patient's age and says, "I don't think so... try again."

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Interesting stuff

Here's a set of links sent in by friends over the last couple of weeks.

Powers Of 10: There was a book that did this, but this is a Java applet that does the same thing very nicely with animation. You start out 10 million light years away from the Milky Way galaxy and then zoom in progressively until you are looking at the quarks of an atom.

Intel's Prescott, Intel's Extreme Edition, and AMD's Athlon 64 3400+ -- Very nice comparison of Intel's 3 latest chips with the latest AMD chip. Sent in because of the the discussion of the Prescott Pentium 4.

I still get a lot of email from the posts in December on the time wasted fixing computers. Here are - answers to lots of questions

SXSW /interactive/web_awards/finalists -- a very interesting collection of Web sites that you have probably never seen before.

What the Internet Is and How to Stop Mistaking It for Something Else.


SoniqCast - Simple -- funny what happens when you put enough technology in one small package.

Cool invention - Say Goodbye to Frostbite

World's Tallest Skyscrapers

Free legal downloads for $6 a month. DRM free. The artists get paid. We explain how... -

Popular Mini-Med Schools give patients new perspective

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Something else to worry about #9

[See previous]

Life After the Oil crash

From the article:All of this stuff has been "out there" for some time, but this is a fascinating article that puts it all together in one place.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Three unexpected robots

The Grafitti Robot

The Bartender Robot

The Sparrow Robot
UD engineers building flying robot

Two unusual housing options

The first is the world's largest Igloo: Ice Hotel Canada.

The second is an apartment completely wrapped in aluminum foil:

There's also Weird Homes for a catalog of other options.

Monday, February 09, 2004

Something else to worry about #8

[See previous]

The Virus Underground

From the article: Now any 14 year old can generate an email virus... Just what we need.

What's interesting about this story is what it tells us about our operating systems -- the operating systems that are now so important to our business and personal lives. These operating systems are still so ignorant that they allow any random program to format a hard disk. I cannot think of a reason why you would want a user application (as opposed to a trusted OS application) to have the ability to format a drive.

It would also seem like a lot of these problems could be solved with "authenticated applications" -- applications are not allowed to run unless they come from a trusted source, are signed with a certificate from a trusted source, and are willfully installed by a human being. Why would you want your computer running random, untrusted executables that you have not intentionally installed? Trojan horses have been around for 20 or 30 years -- why haven't these holes been closed?

In related news, this story is fascinating: Stripped-Down MyDoom Hits Microsoft.... Again. The original MyDoom.A virus created something on the order of a million zombie machines. The MyDoom.C virus is exploiting all of those zombies to mount a new denial of service attack on Microsoft.

This problem could also be solved by authenticated applications. There is no reason why anyone would want a random zombie application from an unknown source installing itself without permission and running in the background. The OS should protect against that.

Something else to worry about #7

[See previous]

The Pentagon's Weather Nightmare

From the article:Also:Let's say that all of this does come to pass -- the world's climate changes drastically and there are lots of unpleasant side-effects like drought, a new ice age, cataclysmic storms, etc. The question would be, "Have human beings advanced far enough so that we can work together to overcome the problems and shortages that arise?" Or are we still basically apes, and we all go to war?

Something else to worry about #6

[See previous]

Mercury damage 'irreversible' has this to say about mercury in fish:

Sunday, February 08, 2004

Robotic Entries

There are four new entries in the Robotic Nation blog. One is on a new Navy destroyer that, through automation, requires less than half the crew of existing destroyers. Another is on the increasing proliferation of kiosks because of their extensive use by major airlines.

There is also a new Concentration of Wealth gallery developing on this page.

Notes on Starting a Business

Getting Started with Your Own Software Company

Fed up? Strike out on your own

Make More Mistakes

The next Dell

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Censuring the president

It is interesting to watch the effect of the media -- in particular the Internet -- on American democracy.

The Internet has made it possible for many more people to build sizeable audiences for their opinions. It also makes it easy to gather people together into "communities" that have enough mass to get the attention of political leaders and the general public. Howard Dean's campaign is listed as one classic example of the phenomenon -- the community that his campaign created had enough mass to get him mainstream media attention early in the campaign and to attract a large group of like-minded people quickly. It turns out that it wasn't enough mass to win any of the primaries, but it did get him on the cover of Time magazine.

The current effort to censure President Bush is the best recent example. Several organizations like MoveOn and have gathered together something on the order of a million people in their communities. With that many voices, they can begin to get the attention of representatives in Congress and the media. They then create or encourage Web features like these to build more mass:And it all happens quickly.

Where does this trend take us? One possibility is splintering, fighting factions and unrelenting party politics. I am starting to get the sense, however, that it might take things in the other direction. What could happen is that no one can rule if he/she pleases just one "party", as has been possible in the past. With all these voices, communities and activities that have hair-trigger reactions to anything they don't like, a 21st century leader may have to concentrate on serving the needs of the actual majority of voters all the time. Party lines become less important if that is the case. This is the intention of democracy all along, and it would be interesting if the Internet makes it possible to get back to that point.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Buying new inkjet cartridges

I went to the store this week to buy new inkjet cartridges for our printer. The prices are nuts -- it's about $65 to buy the two cartridges I need. I can actually buy a Westinghouse microwave oven at Target for less than the price of a single inkjet cartridge:

Leigh and I had been talking about getting an official "photo printer." Since I was about to blow $65 anyway, I went to look at new printers "just in case." At Circuit City they had a Lexmark P707 photo printer on sale, with a rebate, for $29.

Amazon has this printer as well, and you can buy new ones from their "merchants" for as low as $26.

So I bought one. I open the box and inside there are two brand new printer cartridges with a street value of $65. And the printer is fantastic:It is not the fastest printer in the world -- it takes several minutes to print a photo at the best resolution. I could care less. I'm printing a couple of pictures at a time, not running a photo lab. So this is not a bad deal when you think about it: $65 in ink cartidges + a 4-format flash memory reader + image software + a really nice photo printer, all for $29.

What am I going to do when this printer runs out of ink? I guess I am going to go back to Amazon and buy another P707 for $26. I will throw away the old printer and plug in the new one. At $26, it is cheaper to buy a new printer than it is to buy two new cartridges -- the new printer actually costs half as much as the replacement cartridges.

We've all noticed this -- inkjet cartridge prices are insane. These cartridges should be costing $3.50, not $35. The printers have become disposable, and in some cases they now cost less than half the price of replacement cartridges. How crazy is that?

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

A day with an MRI machine

David spent the day inside the bore of an MRI scanner today. The scanner is a huge machine -- a cube about 8 x 8 x 8 feet with a tunnel through the center big enough to hold an average-size adult.

An MRI scanner produces an immense magnetic field, so the nurses and technicians are extremely sensitive about having any metal near the magnet. There are three separate doors you have to badge through to get into the scanner room, and the last one is vault-like, with an immense yard-long handle.

This sensitivity about metal also applies to any metal you might have inside or outside your body. Therefore, they have you fill out a form and declare any internal metal. Here's the list of things they want to know about:
  1. Aneurysm clip(s)
  2. Cardiac pacemaker
  3. Implanted cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  4. Electronic implant or device
  5. Magnetically-activated implant or device
  6. Neurostimulation system
  7. Spinal cord stimulator
  8. Internal electrodes or wires
  9. Bone growth/bone fusion stimulator
  10. Cochlear, eye or other ear implant
  11. Insulin or other infusion pump
  12. Implanted drug infusion device
  13. Any type of prostheses (eye, penile, etc.)
  14. Heart valve prosthesis
  15. Eyelid spring or wire Artificial or prosthetic limb
  16. Metallic stent, filter or coil
  17. Shunt (spinal or intraventricular)
  18. Vascular access port and/or catheter
  19. Radiation seeds or implants
  20. Swan-Ganz or thermodilution catheter
  21. Medication patch (Nicotine, Nitroglycerine)
  22. Any metallic fragment or foreign body
  23. Wire mesh implant
  24. Tissue expander (e.g., breast)
  25. Surgical staples, clips or metallic sutures
  26. Joint replacement (hip, knee, etc.)
  27. Bone/joint pin, screw, nail, wire, plate, etc.
  28. IUD, diaphragm or pessary
  29. Dentures or partial plates
  30. Tattoo or permanent makeup
  31. Body piercing jewelry
  32. Hearing aid
  33. Other implant ______________
I never really thought about how many implantable and replacement devices surgeons are now installing. It's even funnier to think about what this list will look like in 20 years. Everything from eye chips...

to brain implants...

To artificial organs...

To bionic limbs...

As all these implanted technologies become widespread, it is possible that MRI machines become useless because just about everyone has multiple implants.

The other funny thing about this MRI machine is the fact that it had a big GE logo on it. That's funny to me because my mother gave me a GE wireless indoor/outdoor thermometer for Christmas. There's a little temperature sensor outside that broadcasts the outdoor temperature to the displays inside.

It's got the same GE logo on it.

Yesterday, the outdoor sensor started malfunctioning for some reason. Right now it is telling me it is 65 degrees outside, despite the fact that there is frost forming as we speak. The thought that runs through your head is, "Damn, if they can't even get a little indoor/outdoor thermometer to last more than a month, I'm not sure I want my kid inside this machine." It's hard to believe that the same company makes the two products, and probably is a good argument for GE to brand the made-in-China consumer stuff with a different logo.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Intel's Prescott chip - the latest Pentium 4

There have been hundreds of articles this week on Intel's latest version of the Pentium 4 processor. For example:Here's a quick set of statistics and factoids on the Prescott chip culled from all of these articles: Intel appears to have big changes planned for later in the year. For example, it will be moving from the current 478-pin format to a 775-pin format, there will be a new chipset (Grantsdale)and therefore a new bus (PCI Express), new memory, etc. Possibly with all of these changes, it will be renamed the Pentium 5 and the 64-bit instruction set will become available.

In November of 2000, the Pentium 4 was running at 1.5 GHz and using a 180 nm process. The chip had 42 million transistors. Now, about 3 years later, the clock speed has more than doubled and the number of transistors has tripled. Intel has already announced a new technique that will allow it to significantly cut heat dissipation as it moves to a 45 nm process. So by 2010, it would not be surprising to see 10 GHz processors with 500 million transistors (this presentation given by Intel in 2003 is even more aggressive -- 1.8 billion transistors and 30 GHz by 2010).

At some point, as power dissipation decreases and the transistor count goes way up, it would not be surprising to see multiple CPUs on a single chip. At 45 nm Intel can put two or four complete P5 chips on a single die, or as many as 10 P4s. 10 P4s running at 10 Ghz would provide something on the order of 100 billion operations per second. That would be a way to significantly increase performance in a desktop machine. Another option is massive parallelism. For example, the GumStix computer uses a 32-bit PXA255 processor running at 400 MHz. With 64 MB of RAM, it dissipates only a watt. It currently uses a 350 nm process and has 2.6 million transistors. You could fit almost 200 of these onto a 500 million transistor die.

2010 should be a very interesting year...

Monday, February 02, 2004

Artifical snow -

There's been a lot of buzz lately about artificial snow. The U.S. is primitive in this area compared to Japan, but we are getting ready to catch up.

For example, Japan already has a number of indoor slopes that are open year round (so many, in fact, that one of the first ones is already being torn down).

Now the U.S. is about to get it's first indoor facility, located (predictably) in Las Vegas. Snow Creation International is building the SnowLab Dome. According to the article:It will have 180 feet (~60 meters) of vertical drop. If it works in Vegas they will try building in other cities.

Here is what one of the facilities in Japan looks like:

This facility has a slope that is 490 meters (about 1,500 feet) long, 100 meters (about 300 feet) wide and a 90 meter (about 300 feet) drop.

Making real snow indoors is expensive in a hot place like Arizona. Many indoor ski areas therefore use some sort of carpet system to create fake snow. It can also be installed outdoors on existing slopes. One of the newer systems is called SnowFlex:

The other possibility is to make massive amounts of artificial snow in temperatures greater than 32 degrees F (0 degrees C). That's the goal of SnowMagic, and it can be used indoors or out. SnowMagic is, essentially, a giant ice-maker/ice-crusher machine that can operate in temperatures up to 15 degrees C (60 degrees F) (although there have been reports of it working in summertime temperatures as well). The ice made by the machine gets crushed into tiny crystals and blown out a pipe onto the slope. Here's a nice graphic that shows the capacity of the model 50T and 150T:

The 150T is burning 500 kilowatts to freeze 30 gallons of water per minute and producing 150 tons of snow per day. If you assume that power costs 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, the 150 tons of snow costs $12,000, and it is enough to cover a slope that is 1,500 feet long, 100 feet wide and a foot deep. The equation must be, "if I can get 1,000 people to pay $20 for a lift ticket, then I make $8,000 profit per day on my $12,000 in artificial snow." If you ran the system only at night, you could probably cut the power cost down to 4 or 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Systems like these allow outdoor ski slopes to extend the season and always be open on weekends -- no more "maybe they will have snow if the weather cooperates". Snow is guaranteed on opening day and throughout the season.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Mission to Mars

Here's one way for humans to get to Mars and back, according to NASA: Human Exploration of Mars. For a quick overview, go to section 1 and then flip to pages 11 and 12 for a pictorial guide to the mission.

Here's another view, from Mars Direct.

Another view that's a little more speculative -- but anyone can buy a ticket on this mission for $2,000,000.

And of course ExploreMarsNow -- See the Mission Overview section.

Interesting experiment in education

A merge between home schooling, state-based education and the Internet: Virtual schools gain popularity in Wisconsin.

Taking care of backup CDs

If you are keeping backup copies of old photos, documents, etc. on burnable CDs and DVDs, then the Care and Handling of CDs and DVDs — A Guide for Librarians and Archivists is an interesting document.

ARCHIVES © Copyright 2003-2005 by Marshall Brain


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