God must be banging his head against a wall…

Sometimes, for all our amazing intelligence, humans can be really, really stupid.  If you believe in God, what was the point of giving us a brain if he didn’t want us to use it?  As if creationists – especially young earth creationists – weren’t bad enough, there are actually geocentrists out there including a dude with a PhD in astronomy from Case Western!  Can they revoke his degree for lying on his exams?  A scarier statistic is that upwards of 20% of Americans believe in a geocentric universe.  Personally, I think it would be fair for those of us who produce the science and technology these jackasses use to demand they give it all back – cell phones, TVs, cars, you name it.  If it was built using the laws of physics – which they deny – they can’t have it.  They’re free to believe what they want to believe, but they’re not allowed to use shit they don’t believe in.  If they can build this stuff with Biblical science, then more power to them.  I swear God must be banging his head against a wall.

Cars: the third way

It drives me nuts how black & white people make the world out to be.  In the latest example of this, fans of classic muscle cars are lamenting that the days of ‘Vettes and Mustangs are over.  Meanwhile, auto companies have gotten so utterly bland that it’s hard to tell a Taurus from an Accord anymore just be looking at it.  The Prius, while appealing to a certain segment, is hardly a looker when it comes to exterior design.  The Tesla Roadster, designed by those brilliant people at Lotus, is great to look at – a sexy, Ferrari-like design – but reportedly makes very little noise.  Every car lover knows that one of the things that makes a great car is the sound.  Just think back to your Matchbox-playing childhood and the sounds you’d make driving your cars all around the house.

But do those days really have to be over just because we need better efficiency and less pollution in our engines?  Here are some technologies I’ve stumbled across that could be judiciously employed to have your cake and eat it too.

  1. Here’s a simple solution that I’m surprised no one realized before.  Lotus (I’m telling you, they’re geniuses) has a canned car sound you can add to a quiet car (in this case a Prius, but why not an electric ‘Vette?).
  2. Alternative fuels don’t have to be dull.  Check out these alt-fuel racing prototypes.  And, as a note, the IndyCar series has been using an ethanol blend for a few years.  While there are issues with ethanol (it’s not that great an alternative), it shows that you can still have speed without 100% petroleum.
  3. Transonic Combustion has a technology that retrofits existing internal combustion engines, increasing their fuel efficiency to nearly 100 mpg.  Welcome back muscle car!
  4. Electric doesn’t have to be un-sexy.  I’ve mentioned Tesla before (exterior design by Lotus) who, incidentally, recently tried out the Roadster at a drag strip.  But what if your tastes run a little more in the grease monkey genre?  Perhaps you prefer two wheels to four.  Well, Orange County Choppers, the legendary builders of loud motorcycles, has unveiled an electric bike.

The Mathematics of Zombies

My friend Helene alerted me to the following article from Wired that talks about a paper that was actually published analyzing the mathematics of a zombie attack on civilization.  Since they initially only specified that the authors were from Canada without giving their names, I went immediately to the source to determine if quantum zombie fan Chris Fuchs (really a Texan, but currently residing in the Great White North) was behind this.  Apparently the answer to that is ‘no.’  Oh well.

Anyway, I really liked the comment on the Wired website posted by ‘immuno’ that said,

As an immunologist I’d argue that, once a zombie recovers, he is immune rather than susceptible, and therefore standard Reed-Frost kinetics should apply. This is based on never having observed a recovered zombie succumb again (and there is no case reported in PubMed), which is pretty conclusive evidence, wouldn’t you say? And what kind of name is Smith? ?

Incidentally, among the many HTML tags given to it by Wired editors, was ‘howtosurviveazombieattack.’  In addition, one of the paper’s coauthors (and it appears the faculty advisor of the students who were the lead authors) is named ‘Robert J. Smith?.’  The question mark is legally part of his name, hence the double-question mark in the above quote and by addition of a period in the previous sentence.  I wonder if he ever gets flak from journal editors about that (assuming they’re not zombie editors since zombies likely wouldn’t care).

A copy of the paper in PDF format may be found here.

Orion looks an awful lot like another spacecraft I know…

Take a look at the new Orion spacecraft being proposed as NASA’s future primary space vehicle.  Rather than looking like some wild prototype of a post-Shuttle vehicle, it looks an awful lot like an Apollo capsule.  This, of course, is a great thing in my book since Apollo got us to the moon six times and was a far simpler vehicle than the over-engineered Shuttle.  I think the problems of over-engineering might finally be catching on (John Deere is now advertising a non-over-engineered mower, for example).  Let’s just hope NASA goes for Bigelow’s ideas.

Can a university save a region?

Apparently (at least by some claims) it did in the case of Seattle.  More pertinent to yours truly is the case of my hometown of Buffalo and its namesake, my alma mater.  A very interesting article appeared in The Chronical of Higher Education recently discussing the university’s long-term plan, called UB2020.  The comments on the above article are especially telling.  The poster identified as ‘buffalomaine’ is me (not to be confused with ‘buffaloman’).

John Hughes is dead :(

The man whose films practically defined my generation died today of a heart attack at age 59.  His films were the epitome of growing up in the ’80s.  I would say that, personally, The Breakfast Club was my favorite with Ferris Bueller’s Day Off a close second.  Weird Science was also one of my favorites, though more a cult classic than a great film.  He also wrote the screenplay for Home Alone which – can you believe it? – came out 19 years ago!

Update: Check out this very well-done montage of some of Hughes’ films. Don’t worry. It slows down after a minute or two.

Information and the internet

I’m reading a great book called Westward Bound in the Schooner Yankee by Irving and Exy Johnson about their round-the-world sail in 1934 and have been trying to follow them on detailed maps.  At the moment they have just left the Admiralty Islands which are part of Papua New Guinea.  Since they discovered a number of new islands, I was trying to find them on a map.  In the age of Google Earth and StreetView, you’d think hydrographic charts or even simple maps, even for Papua New Guinea, would be readily available.  Nope.

This brings up something I have noticed recently: Google searches seem to be less relevant than they used to be.  Granted, I could try another search engine, but part of me wonders if it is simply that the Internet is 99% crap.  I can’t find something interesting – and potentially useful – like a nautical chart or detailed map but there are thousands of sites hawking male enhancement pills and dietary supplements.

To get back to the specific problem for a moment, all the government hydrographic offices I ran across made it clear that any maps you download from them were insufficient for navigation (predictably, the US – supposed champion of libertarianism – actually has a federal regulation, i.e. law, dealing with this).  But how hard would it be to provide online, printable navigational charts or software for handling them (I’m sure many skippers have computers onboard these days)?  Maybe the reason I’m partially a luddite is that I’ve come to realize a lot of the technology out there is simply crap.  So much for the information age.

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