Science

Everything You Need to Know About Electrostatic Discharge in One Funny Video

Having worked with electronics through instruments companies or the semiconductor industry most of my professional career, I am keenly aware of the potential impact of a minor static shock on electronics. Static is more technically called ‘electrostatic discharge’ or ESD. From my very first job I was introduced to the concept of grounding straps, anti-stat mats, and on and on. For a great reference on the topic, check out this old magazine article on the impact of ESD on electronics. When I was learning, there were documents on the impact that talked about the technical impacts of how current and…


Here Are Just Some of the Other Benefits of Sex

Sex is great because … well, if I have to explain THAT then I probably can’t help. But aside from the obvious benefit of being sex, there are numerous health benefits … and the folks at Greatist have detailed them out with links to some of the studies. Here are a few: • It can ward off the cold and flu • It can improve overall physical fitness • It decreases risk for heart disease * It lowers risks during pregnancy Head to Greatist to check out the full list, along with all of the links to the studies and…


Physicists Help Show Math Behind Growth of ‘Coffee Rings’

Have you ever left a cup of coffee sitting for a few hours and prior to dumping it out you notice a ring remains at the top-level of the fluid? That is the ‘coffee ring effect’, and recently physicists have helped to demonstrate the effect both theoretically and on the microscopic level. The studies looked at particle aggregation based on Poisson and Kardar-Parisi-Zhang (KPZ) processes. KPZ is harder to study because any impurities in the experiment will impact the behavior of the system. The combined theoretical and practical study looked at a variety of particle types and shapes as drops…


Random Cool Math Fact – The Monty Hall Probability Problem

If you have ever taken a course in probability you have likely heard of the ‘Monty Hall Problem’, based on the name of the host of the show ‘Let’s Make a Deal’. On my current work project this week someone on the technical team inadvertantly offered such a choice without knowing or understanding it … which turned into a fun education for the non-statisticians on the team. The setup is this: you have a free choice between three items (on the show they were doors, and a prize was behind one). One is correct and the other two are incorrect….


In News That Surprises No One, 2012 Was the Hottest Year Yet

By now most of the debate about global Climate Change has settled down not to IF there is climate change, but WHY. Of course there will always be tin-foil hate wearers, but the science is pretty clear as noted above. One side of the debate says that the rapid acceleration timed to match the industrial revolution and modernization movements of the last century and a half … and the other side calls it part of the natural cycle. The ‘natural cycle’ folks are largely represented by and funded by companies with a vested interest in not changing the industrial and…


New Yale Study Using MRI Brain Scans Links Fructose to Weight Gain and Obesity

A new study from Yale University published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and reported at Bloomberg details something that has been gaining more and more scientific support: fructose has a significant link to weight gain and obesity. I have been compiling links for several months now about all of this stuff, including a report from last year put out by the UK Guardian that made a bold claim – that we are on average more than 40 pounds heavier than we were three decades ago, and much of it isn’t about eating more or exercising less ……


The LED Lighting Cost Savings ‘Myth’ Addressed

You have heard the story by now – LED lighting is the ‘next new thing’ … just like you were supposed to change to (mercury containing) compact fluorescents a few years ago, now you should be switching over to LED lighting as pricing has dropped a bit. Right? Wrong! Well … it depends, really. Why not? Well, let’s look at some of the reasons you SHOULD change to LED lighting: instant-on, bright and clear lighting, small size, up to 25 year life, and high lumen efficiency per-watt. But it turns out that all of the great promotional stuff about cost…


Cool British Video Reminds Us of the Difference Between ‘Climate’ and ‘Weather’

“Another 10 feet of snow fell on Buffalo last night … derp … so much for Global Warming” – it is something most of us hear in one form or another on an annual basis, and makes us choose between (a) shaking our head and walking away, (b) hitting the person upside the head with a crowbar or (c) trying to explain the difference between ‘weather’ and ‘climate’. Fortunately we now have a fun video from The Armstrong & Miller Show out of the UK that reminds us of the difference … and the penalty for failing to heed that…


My Bag: Ham Radio Edition

Hurricane Sandy, the derecho and the upcoming winter season has had me thinking about what I carry on a daily basis. It also prompted me to consider what I might add to it to be better prepared.  In HAM lingo, we refer to this as our GO bag– the bag that serves in an emergency preparedness capacity. Here’s a look at my Go bag. The Bag Itself My bag is a Swiss Gear Cobalt laptop bag. In fact, this is the same one I use as my daily driver laptop bag; it is available from Amazon for around $60 bucks. I…


Election Maps – “Why Is the Map All Red if Obama Won?”

This isn’t in any way a political post, it is just a reflection on how the visual display of information impacts out perception. Look at the image above; it might seem inaccurate to say, based on the image, that ‘most of the country voted for Romney’. But that image is based on land mass, and since our country isn’t uniformly populated, that graph doesn’t really serve the intended informational purpose. Some people might only care about the basic result, such as this one from the New York Times: Others are looking for more, such as the margin of victory for…


Physics Wins, as 32 Out of Sync Metronomes End Up Synchronizing

This is a really cool video that operates on a principle of physics: that the transfer of momentum will result in alignment of motion. In other words, as the metronomes tick, they are transferring force to the table, and due to the design of the table that force is dampened and dissipated through the table causing it to move. That motion begins to impart a force upon the metronomes – amplifying the signal of those aligned with the table, and dampening the signal of those out of alignment. Eventually all of the metronomes will align! Anyway, check it out! Source:…


D-Star Breathes New Life into Amateur Radio

D-Star is the newest mode I have recently added to my Amateur Radio arsenal.  I bought an Icom ID-31A D-star, radio which I will be reviewing here soon, but I wanted to share a little about D-star and why it’s a cool mode before I did the review. The History of D-Star D-star is a mode that was created by the Japanese Amateur Radio League in 2001 after doing three years of research.  JARL designed it as an open standard so that manufacturers could build the radios.  Icom is the first company to make radios for D-star, however they aren’t…


Eight Chocolate Planets for the Discriminating Palate

I’m still mourning the loss of Pluto, but you’ll find the other eight planets (including the sun) in this luxury chocolate gift box … Chocolate can taste all of the solar system eight planets, planet is chocolate set. Planets lined up in a row in the package that the image of the universe, like a real solar system space. You can be happy as a gift, is a popular set. “Kaiseki chocolate solar system”?(pictured above) , set of 9 (× 9 individual species 1) ¥ 3,619 (¥ 3,800) If $46 seems a bit steep, then you can opt for the…


Kitty Cam? More Like KILL Cam!

Do you have a cat? We have two – an outdoor cat we’ve had since he was a few weeks old (and is now 12) and one indoor cat we inherited from my sister-in-law when they moved half-way across the country two years ago (supposedly a two-week babysitting … but I digress). Is your cat a hunter? Ours is – he regularly brings home mice and moles and rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels and birds and … you get the picture. To date our biggest concern has been that he delivers these as presents to our dogs (12-pound Norfolk Terriers)…


Good Movies Actually Do Better at the Box Office

Conventional wisdom would say that movie-going crowds reward some of the worst movies with some of the highest box office grosses, particularly during the summer months. In fact, there are web sites devotes to that very premise. It is an interesting and amusing thought … but is it TRUE? That is what one person looked to answer, using available data and statistical analysis. Here is the setup: It is common to argue that there is a divide between critics and audiences. Critics prefer arthouse dramas, preferably in black-and-white; audiences like things that go boom. Thanks to countless explosions and few…


Why We Will Probably NEVER Know the Whole Truth About ‘Fracking’

Is Fracking – the nickname for the process of releasing natural gas by using water, salt, and sand to fracture rocks – safe? I don’t know … and I am beginning to think we will NEVER know for sure. There are three main reasons for this: – What constitutes ‘fracking’ varies according to who you ask. For some it is the entire end-to-end process involved in getting natural gas from deep in the shale layer, while for others it is strictly the part of the process in which water and chemicals are used to free the gas. In local ‘town…


GE Engineer Composes with the Sounds of Engine Knock

I don’t recall when I first heard ‘industrial music’, but it was probably in the late 1970s when I first heard the group Throbbing Gristle on the local Harvard College radio station. I was attracted to some artists in the genre who would incorporate ‘musique concrete’ into their works – recordings of actual street or industrial noise, or bringing pipes and sheet metal and other noise-making apparatus into the studio. But imagine that someone working in an industrial situation took the sounds all around him from his everyday life and turned it into music. That is exactly what GE engineer…


Non-News of the Day – Pop Music Getting Louder and Harmonically Bland

There has been loads of talk in recent years about the loss in dynamic range of music – the so-called ‘loudness wars’. Basically, to make the quick impression required by the short-attention span internet age listener, a song needs to ‘pop’ and has about 10-15 seconds to do it. The quick cure for that is simply to bring everything to the front in the mix and make the difference between the loudest and softest sounds smaller (i.e. reduce the dynamic range). Now a study noted at Reuters looks at this in further detail, as well as categorizing the ‘musical diversity’,…


New ‘Active Gaming’ Doesn’t Change Reality of Couch-Bound Stereotype; also, ‘Brain Games’ Doesn’t Work

There are a number of stereotypes surrounding gamers: such as that of the male anti-social, under-hygenic basement dweller toiling away the hours on Dungeons & Dragons fantasy games; or the ultraviolent shooter player who is a bit ‘off’, also an outsider, one round of Doom/Halo/Call of Duty from wiping out his high school/college/post office; and even in the more enlightened recent years there is the image of a few somewhat unkempt and overweight friends on a couch (or couches in different locations connected by the internet) playing a bunch of games. If you look at the LAST console generation –…


At SemiCon Technical Conference, 450mm Silicon Gets REAL!

If you have never worked in the semiconductor industry, much of what goes on seems like intentionally obfuscated jargon and black magic. And for many years it was – or at least it seemed to be – as empirical knowledge outstripped theoretical understanding, and yields were more a factor of skilled process engineers at the knobs than of robust and thoroughly understood processes running in statistical control. When I got involved in the semiconductor industry, wafer size was 100mm (4 inches) with a ‘flat’ along one or both edges, and a rather ‘generous’ edge exclusion area and ‘kerf’ between device…


New Synthetic Polymer Helps Solve ‘Sticky’ Chewing Gum Messes

When was the last time you were walking on a beautiful paved path, sitting on a bench, walking through a school or shopping area … and you DIDN’T see wads of used chewing gum dropped on the ground, stuck to walls and doors and desks and so on? Or watched a teen blow a massive bubble that popped and got residual gum all over their face and clothes that took hours to clean out? IT IS ONE OF THE GREAT PROBLEMS OF OUR TIME! OK, so perhaps not. But compounding the general annoyance and ‘yuckiness’ are two REAL problems: health…