Incredible Machines from Japan

This video on the Collegehumor.com website is a little over 12 minutes long, you can stop at any point and be amazed. I suppose it’s a case of having far too much time on ones hands but some of these little machines are pretty clever.

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on October 22, 2006 at 11:17 pm

Graivier Halloween Party 2006

Here are some pictures from Mich’s office’s Halloween bash:

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Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on October 21, 2006 at 1:38 pm

The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy

The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of EnergyThe Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter Huber & Mark Miles

This took a LONG time for me to read! It was interesting but I *did* have to gird myself to read it each time I picked it up. It makes a realistic argument concerning the practicality of switching to alternate energy sources in the short term. Also explored at length is the fact that energy consumption has historically always increased in spite of (or to a large extent as a result of) advances in efficiency. For instance, the LED dramatically reduces the energy requirements for lighting, but there are myriad other novel and hitherto impractical uses that the LEDs also make possible that will result in overall more energy consumption than was the case with earlier lighting sources.

There are some great explanations involving higher orders of energy (and thought) being created and required as technology moves forward and that the 2nd law of thermodynamics will be satisfied no mater how fancifully you couch your arguments to the contrary.

Also highlighted is the fact that we’ve had “experts” since the beginning of the age of coal and oil use who have been predicting the end of those reserves in short order. While these resources are necessarily finite, we get better and better at extracting them – something current “experts” never really seem to be able to foresee. We extract oil now from miles under the ocean floor for similar or less cost than they used to perform such extraction from 60 foot wells in the 1800s. This, plus creative future exploitation of currently unusable resource (think athabasca oil sands) gives us a lot of time to transition to other, higher order energy sources. Maybe solar, maybe wind, maybe fusion?
It seems that, no matter what the subject, there are always those who cannot accept the brilliance that is the essence of the human spirit. If there is a problem to solve, we do find a way to figure it out.
The book ends, surprisingly to me, with an interesting hypothesis concerning the origin of life and how the day-night thermal cycle is all that is really required to drive the biochemical engine that could have resulted in life and then draws an interesting parallel from this with the beginning of the book of Genesis.

A good read and reassuring for those optimistic in the future of mankind.

Posted under Books

This post was written by Marc
on October 17, 2006 at 11:19 pm

Ever write “Wash Me” on a dusty car window?

If so, prepare to be humbled.

Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on October 17, 2006 at 9:45 pm

Don’t Mess with Texas

Now this is an idea I can get behind. This school in Burleson, Texas is actually teaching both the faculty and students to take action in a variety of situations.

My favorite, if a gunman comes into the room, rather than cower and wait for them to decide your fate, they are being trained to throw anything they can get their hands on at the gunman and to rush him.

There is some controversy about this approach, but I’ll leave that to the proponents of left and right ideals to argue. For myself I believe that the folks in the situation are best off taking control away from the bad guy. And if they are all encouraged that this is the best approach I believe the chance for a successful outcome is much greater than if one or two people try to go it alone.

I have to wonder what the long term impact is on a hostage victim after having acquiesced to a gunman’s demands and having had to just sit there and wait for their fate to be decided for them. Some may argue that “at least they’re alive”, but that is just for the lucky ones who weren’t butchered. Both in Columbine and in plenty of other incidents, many of those who handed over their fates to obviously hostile people paid for that acquiescence dearly.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on October 16, 2006 at 9:27 am

Is the TSA trying to destroy air travel?

I think everybody who travels has their own story about the arbitrary and laughable measures implemented by the TSA as it tries to show that it’s “doing something” to keep us all safe. Here is a Boing Boing article that purports to show how completely implausible the “liquid explosive threat” really is.

The more we de-emphasize science in schools and ignore scientific achievements in our society, the more we’re going to get policies and decisions based on fear, superstition, pseudo-science and myth. It’s the twenty-first century, surely we can shuck some of our most primitive instincts and stop cowering in the dark, fearful of being smitten by magic means.

We have a congress filled with lawyers, Political Science and History Majors (all of which are necessary to some degree) but virtually no science majors, it’s no wonder they can be swayed toward creating hysterical legislation.

Posted under Opinions

This post was written by Marc
on October 14, 2006 at 12:23 am

Big Bug in backyard

This is the second time I’ve seen this behemoth. It looks like a “stretch-bee” and is maybe 3 times larger than a normal bumble bee.
Here are some pictures, the “little” wasps beside it are actually normal size (about 3/4 – 1 inch). This thing is noticeable. They are feeding on the sugar water dripping from our hummingbird feeder. We’ve since replaced the feeder with one that doesn’t drip…

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Posted under General

This post was written by Marc
on October 10, 2006 at 9:23 am