Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Amazon testing Drones for Delivery!

Wow: science is advancing at increasingly fast rates!  Check out what Amazon is testing and thinking about...

Amazon says it will take years to advance

Photo credit: AP

Amazon's plan to eventually enlist self-guided drones to deliver packages to customers in 30 minutes or less, revealed Sunday night on CBS' "60 Minutes," opens a host of possibilities -- and hazards.
Amazon.com Inc. says it's working on the so-called Prime Air unmanned aircraft project in its research and development labs. The company admits it will take years to advance the technology and for the Federal Aviation Administration to create the necessary rules and regulations.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in the prime-time interview that while his octocopters look like something out of science fiction, there's no reason they can't be used as delivery vehicles.
Bezos said the drones can carry packages that weigh up to five pounds, which covers about 86 percent of the items Amazon delivers. The drones the company is testing have a range of about 10 miles, which Bezos noted could cover a significant portion of the population in urban areas.
Bezos told "60 Minutes" the project could become a working service in four or five years.

Read more here:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

How Trains Go Around Corners

Here is a link to some nice hands-on "kitchen science" from the Naked Scientists:

In the early 19th century there were various forms of horse drawn railway and the wheels were held on the track by big flanges. These worked but they would rub against the rails creating friction and making a horrible noise. A neat solution was found, probably by accident when they started casting the wheels. When you cast a wheel it will naturally have a slight slope on it to get it out of the mould.
They tried putting the wheels on the axels both ways round. If the wheel is smaller on the outside it means that if the axle moves slightly to the left the wheel is bigger on that side so it steers back onto the track.
Correction from the top
Wrong correction from the top
Wheels sloping outward
Wheels sloping inward
But if the wheel is bigger on the outside and moves to the left, the axle will turn to the left and quickly fall off the track as you found.
If the track is too sharply curved the cone shape of the wheels can't cope and the flanges of the wheels do rub against the rails making a horrible noise and wearing out the track. Most tracks don't corner this sharply.
If you deliberately push the wheels at an odd angle it can overshoot and take a wobbly swaying path down the rails, this is one reason why old trains often sway gently, though modern suspension is a lot better at coping with this.

Read more here:


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Harvest Moon Facts

This year's harvest moon is on September 22.  It represents the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox -- and represents the official start of autumn.

The moon starting now (Thursday) will be huge and bright!  In the old days, farmers were grateful for this harvest moon because it allowed farmers to work later into the night during harvest time.

6. The size of the moon in the sky is dependent on its orbit. When the moon is particularly close to Earth, a full moon will appear noticeably larger in the sky. This is what is known as a supermoon. The most recent supermoon was last June. 

Read here for more harvest moon facts:


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Privacy Issues: Google, Gmail & Internet Privacy

The headline reads:

Google says people can't expect privacy when sending to Gmail

Many people have feared that privacy was not as crystal clear as some would hope.  And these fears are being realized all the time, as we move forward.  As in life, there are many blurred lines when dealing with tough issues.  Should large internet firms provide governments and law enforcement agencies with information that some say should be totally private?  What if it helps against "evil-doers?"  But then, at what point -- and who -- decides how far this can go?  

In any case, the article continues:

If you care about privacy, it's time to drop Google.
That's what Consumer Watchdog is recommending following Google's admission that people shouldn't expect privacy when they send messages to a Gmail account, any more than people would were they to send a business letter that could be opened by an assistant.

Read more here:


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Scientists Freeze Light for More than a Minute!

In what could prove to be a major breakthrough in quantum memory storage and information processing, German researchers have frozen the fastest thing in the universe: light. And they did so for a record-breaking one minute.
It sounds weird and it is. The reason for wanting to hold light in its place (aside from the sheer awesomeness of it) is to ensure that it retains its quantum coherence properties (i.e. its information state), thus making it possible to build light-based quantum memory. And the longer that light can be held, the better as far as computation is concerned. Accordingly, it could allow for more secure quantum communications over longer distances.

Read more here:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Big Brother IS watching! (Privacy not what some would expect.)

The UK's Guardian reports:

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.
The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.
The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims "collection directly from the servers" of major US service providers.
Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.
In a statement, Google said: "Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."
Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. "If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said.
An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of PRISM.
The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

Read more here:

Friday, June 7, 2013

Science: Oops Moment (Submarine too heavy to resurface!)

Here's an "oops!" moment if there ever was one!

Spanish build submarine that's too heavy to resurface

Officials are afraid to let the submarine submerge after a design error was discovered.

Photograph by: Handout , Navantia

HARTFORD, Conn. — A new, Spanish-designed submarine has a weighty problem: The vessel is more than 70 tons too heavy, and officials fear if it goes out to sea, it will not be able to surface.
And a former Spanish official says the problem can be traced to a miscalculation — someone apparently put a decimal point in the wrong place.

“It was a fatal mistake,” said Rafael Bardaji, who until recently was director of the Office of Strategic Assessment at Spain’s Defence Ministry.

The Isaac Peral, the first in a new class of diesel-electric submarines, was nearly completed when engineers discovered the problem. A U.S. Navy contractor in Connecticut, Electric Boat, has signed a deal to help the Spanish Defence Ministry find ways to slim down the 2,200-ton submarine.

Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/news/Spanish+build+submarine+heavy+resurface/8483286/story.html#ixzz2VWtQpmNZ

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

3-D Printers -- Wild Applications Sooner than you Think!

Bloomberg reports:

In its next generation of jet enginesGeneral Electric Co (GE). plans to use a new, and possibly revolutionary, technology.

In each engine, 19 nozzles will shoot fuel into a combustion chamber, where it mixes with compressed air. Because the fuel must be distributed precisely, the interior of a nozzle is very sophisticated: Elaborate chambers and passageways help curtail emissions, control nitrous-oxide levels and prevent temperature surges. Previously, making each nozzle required welding 20 disparate pieces together. Now, GE is employing 3-D printing to build each nozzle as a single piece, using laser sintering on a metal alloy called cobalt chromium.

The new nozzle is faster to make, five times more durable and a full pound lighter -- on a two-engine plane, that saves almost 40 pounds. And it radically reduces scrap. By 2020, the company expects that 100,000 of its engine parts will be made using this process.

All around you, 3-D printing technology is making useful things in novel ways. Align Technology Inc. uses it to make clear orthodontics. Nike Inc. uses it to make soccer cleats. Bespoke Innovations makes customized (and quite stylish) prosthetics. And DUS Architects, a Dutch company, plans to print a whole house.

As the sheer variety of these examples suggests, 3-D printing is already having a demonstrable effect on the economy. Traditionally, it has been most useful in creating prototypes. But as GE and others are showing, printers will increasingly be able to produce critical parts and final products. In 2012, 28.3 percent of the $2.2 billion global 3-D printing market was tied to the production of parts for final products rather than prototypes, according to the Wohlers Report 2013. That shift could have profound implications for the economy and for public policy.

Read more here:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The World's Smallest Movie (IBM Research)

From IBM:

The ability to move single atoms, one of the smallest particles of any element in the universe, is crucial to IBM's research in the field of atomic-scale memory. In 2012, IBM scientists announced the creation of the world's smallest magnetic memory bit, made of just 12 atoms. This breakthrough could transform computing by providing the world with devices that have access to unprecedented levels of data storage. 

Read more here:

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Why Clicking the Mouse is so 20th Century!

Science and technology are always advancing at great speed.  What's coming next?  You can't always tell, but for sure, "change is a constant!"  Here's a great article and example of why we should look at things through children's eyes to get a fresh perspective!

Below is an excerpt from a good article:

A few weeks ago I was home watching a basketball game with my 5-year-old nephew, Jack. It was fantastic to be hanging out with him, period. But he ended up taking my brain off cruise control and blowing me away when he walked up to the TV, placed his tiny fingers on the flat screen and tried to swipe it to change the channel.
Sometimes all it takes is a child to get you to slow down and realize how fast technology is changing right before our eyes. We’ve evolved from a world with no computers, to massive supercomputers requiring manual coding, to a basic point-and-click visual desktop, to touchscreens – all in less than 100 years. Many claim innovation died after the iPhone. (“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” famously wrote the Founders Fund) But I believe we are at the beginning of a new frontier where the line between the virtual and the real is blurring – and, with that blur, seamlessly feeding our basic human need for interaction.
In the UK, about 400 students participated in a study where 8- to 10-year olds used computerized, multi-touch, multi-user desk surfaces for three years to learn math. At the end, students in the techie group collaborated more and had higher scores than the conventional group that used the traditional paper-based approach. The effects of touchscreen technology are just beginning to be seen, and a new wave of technology is adding depth and even more organic interactivity to computer experiences. And it’s happening now.
Take a look at Leap Motion, an incredible San Francisco-based company that developed a 3D motion sensor to register all the natural movements of your hand and its tendons down to one hundredth of a millimeter. Leap Motion brought the desktop to life by adding another dimension, and it created a way to capture our instinctual body movements to interact with the computers. It will soon be time for developers and entrepreneurs to harness all the opportunities that come with Leap’s technology – adding a third dimension to gaming, spreadsheets, and everything in between - and expanding the limits of our imagination while at the same time improving how our minds process information.
Microsoft’s Kinect, and Google Glass are also bridging the software and physical worlds, with several others following suit. Thalmic Labs built an armband that allows you to control devices with your gestures through a Bluetooth connection. Researchers are even harnessing the power of the neurons in the human brain, giving quadriplegics the ability to move robotic arms simply by thinking about it. The next step: incorporating sensory feedback.

Read more here:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Current SSD Champs + Outlook

The current SSD leaders are touching up against the upper limits of the current SATA 3 (6GB/sec) standard.  This translates into read/write speeds of 600 MB/sec.

Note that typical hard-drives are fast enough for the vast majority of computer users.  For faster hard-drive access, some users upgrade to 7200 rpm hard-drives (versus the standard 5400 rpm drives).  However, some users will like the faster boot-up times (15-30 seconds) of SSDs.  In addition to faster boot times, users with large computer files will also find the SSDs helpful.

SATA 3 allows interface speeds of up to 6GB/sec.  SATA-Express promises speeds of 8GB/sec and 12 GB/sec although SATA-Express isn't quite there yet for the general public.  So -- for now, storage enthusiasts will have to make do with the current leaders in mainstream SSDs:

Read more here:

Here is the SATA website -- which shows a pseudo-roadmap

Some good info on PC setups and SSDs

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Big Brother is Watching: Be Good!

Technology is everywhere -- and helps us in many ways.  Here's a story that reminds us of "Big Brother"...

There is no good way to find out that your significant other is cheating on you, but one woman in Russia discovered her boyfriend's infidelity in a pretty surprising manner. Marina Voinova was looking up an address on Russia's version of Google Maps, Yandex Maps. She wanted to get a closer glimpse of a building using the street view feature. So she zoomed in, and there was her boyfriendSasha with his arms around another woman.

Read more here:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

GMail Cleanup

Here's a great article on cleaning up your

In particular, the last few steps will help you delete UNREAD emails that are old and HOPEFULLY unimportant!

Search for:
in:inbox is:unread
Then, click on "All" and then delete...


Click here for the whole article:

  1. Type "in:inbox before:2009/08/01" (use whatever date you have chosen) in the search box, and click "Search". The format of the date is important. It must be in the form YYYY/MM/DD, with all 4 digits of the year listed first, then the month with two digits, and finally the date with two digits.

  2. 9
    Select all of these messages by clicking "All" then "Select all conversations that match this search", just like you did above.

  3. 10
    Take a deep breath, and click "Delete".

Friday, February 8, 2013

More SSD Information (Feb 2013)

As SSDs (Solid State Drives) become more mainstream, we thought we would put some information together.  We prefer looking at the Read/Write speeds (such as 500 MB/sec).  Some people like to use the IOPS (Input/output Operations Per Second) measure; this benchmark is particularly useful for input/output actions required by servers.

Samsung PM810 (older generation)

Samsung 840 / Crucial m4

  • Newer is SATA 3; 6GB/Sec; Read 500 MB/sec; Write 250 MB/sec
  • Twice as fast as the Samsung PM810 SSD and about 4x+ faster than hard-drives.
  • Boot times around 15 seconds


Faster Read / Write Specs

Some makers have edged specs up closer to read/write numbers on the order of 500 / 300 or even 500 / 500.   Although not generally-available to the public, some makers are even pushing the boundaries to 1000 / 500 and more.  Read more here:


Most people get 120-256GB SSDs.  This should be enough space for most people -- although not enough for your entire digital picture / video collection!  More space costs more $$...  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Valentine's Day +1 Surprise = Asteroid

NASA says that an asteroid half the size of a football field will pass by the earth very closely -- the day after Valentine's Day.  The asteroid is not expected to hit the earth, but will pass closer to our planet than the moon -- and some satellites!

The asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly by Earth on Feb. 15 and zip within 17,200 miles of the planet during the cosmic close encounter. The asteroid will approach much closer to Earth than the moon, and well inside the paths of navigation and communications satellites.

"This is a record-setting close approach," Don Yeomans, the head of NASA's asteroid-tracking program, said in a statement. "Since regular sky surveys began in the 1990s, we've never seen an object this big get so close to Earth."

Asteroid 2012 DA14 was discovered last year by an amateur team of stargazers at the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory in Spain. Yeomans  stressed that, while the asteroid's approach bring it closer than the geosynchronous satellites  orbiting 22,245 miles above Earth, 2012 DA14 poses no threat of a deadly collision with the planet.

Read more here:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Hybrid Computer Drives = SSD + HD

Here's a great article on how Hybrid drives work.  SSD's are great -- but you pay for the 2-5x faster access time.  SSDs still cost almost $1/GB.  Hard-drives cost a fraction of this amount.  Hybrid drives try to achieve the speed of SSDs, but also keep costs down by using hard-drive materials for the bulk of the storage.  How do Hybrids work?  

An SSD can read and write data many times faster than the best mechanical hard drive. On the downside, flash memory is many times more expensive than the innards of a typical hard drive, so manufacturers have limited their SSD capacities to hit reasonable price points: A 128GB SSD costs about $130, and for that same price tag, you can buy a 3.5-inch desktop hard drive that delivers 2TB of storage, or a 2.5-inch laptop drive that provides 1TB of storage.

Two years ago, Seagate (quickly followed by Samsung) introduced a drive that married a small SSD with a mechanical drive. The objective was to deliver the superior speed of an expensive SSD, while retaining the higher capacity and lower cost of a conventional hard drive. Now that Toshiba and Western Digital are joining the party, it's a great time to explain in more detail what hybrid drives are and how they operate.  

Read more here:

Friday, January 25, 2013

Google's Self-Driving Car

Wow!  The headline says it all.

Check this video out:

Forbes reports:

Much of the reporting about Google’s driverless car has mistakenly focused on its science-fiction feel. While the car is certainly cool—just watch the video below about a 95%-blind man running errands—the gee-whiz focus suggests that it is just a high-tech dalliance by a couple of brash young multibillionaires, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

In fact, the driverless car has broad implications for society, for the economy and for individual businesses. Just in the U.S., the car puts up for grab some $2 trillion a year in revenue and even more market cap.  It creates business opportunities that dwarf Google’s current search-based business and unleashes existential challenges to market leaders across numerous industries, including car makers, auto insurers, energy companies and others that share in car-related revenue.

Read more here:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Intel Haswell Chips - coming soon

Mobile computing is moving along at a rapid pace, thanks to continued progress and innovations -- especially from the efficient and powerful Intel series of chips.  We're excited about the Haswell chips that are slated to come out in June 2013.  These chips promise an improvement in power and efficiency of about 30% over the current lineup of Intel i5/i7 series of chips -- and should enable new form-factors (!!) for new PCs.

xBitLabs reports:

The new chips that are made using 22nm process technology promise to revolutionize notebooks and ultrabooks as besides of increased performance they will feature lower power consumption.

“We started production of our next-generation micro-architecture product code-named Haswell, which we expect to qualify for sale this quarter. This production prior to qualification for sale resulted in an increase in [older-generation] inventory write-offs,” said Stacy Smith, chief financial officer of Intel, during quarterly conference call with financial analysts.

The fourth-generation Intel Core i “Haswell” processor family will enable true all-day battery life, representing the most significant battery life capability improvement in Intel history, the company revealed earlier this month. Intel executives disclosed that new systems are expected to deliver up to 9 hours of continuous battery life. Thanks to higher performance and lower power consumption compared to predecessors, Intel Core i “Haswell” will be able to power new breed of laptops that will, among other advantages, feature touch-screens, voice recognition and gesture controls. Intel itself believes that ultrabooks powered by Haswell will revolutionize the market of mobile PCs in a similar way Centrino did a decade ago.  

Read more here:

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Electricity -- Science Terms

There are an increasing number of rechargeable batteries, for various devices -- and even batteries that can be charged by solar power.  Here are some terms you should know.  

Volts, or Voltage -- is also called "electrical potential difference" or "electrical tension" is the electrical potential difference between two points.  It is the potential to cause current.  A 12-volt battery has the 12-volts of potential energy.  Note, however, that a 120-volt household outlet has potential -- but nothing happens until you plug something in, turn it on -- and complete the circuit, so an electrical current can flow.

Current - is the flow of electrons.

Amp or Ampere -- is an international standard unit of electrical current.  It is the number of electrons passing a point in a given amount of time.  More specifically, 1 amp = 6.241 x 10^18 electrons / second.  1 amp = 1 couloumb / second.  At 120 volts, an average toaster may use 16 amps; lightbulbs = 500 mAmps (milli-amps); household circuit breakers are typically set to go off at around 15-20 amps.

mAh - Milli-Amp-hour -- is a init of electric charge.  Today, a rechargeable AA-sized NMh battery might have 2800 mAh, while a smaller "AAA" battery may only have 1000 mAh.  An alkaline 9-volt battery might have about 5000 mAh of energy stored.  Some newer lithium-ion batteries store even more power than alkaline batteries!  Lithium-ion batteries are only available for about 3-volts and higher (the reason why NMH batteries are used for AA or AAA batteries).