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Photos On my Desktop November 26, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Uncategorized.
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flamingo squared

I want to go outside

Poignant, yes?

Predictable November 24, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Geek Stuff, Star Trek Technology, Toys, Uncategorizable.
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I have often opined that all the technology shown on Star Trek TNG is within our reach (except FTL travel, holodeck simulations and transporters, naturally.  We do have tactical lasers, however, so there’s that).  My phone does what their comm systems did minus Majel Barret’s  voice.  The iPad is pretty close to the little pads the actors carried around with them (Wil Wheaton said they were kind of cue cards).

In a further fevered hallucination, I pictured a time-traveller from the future inspiring the writers of STTNG to write about a future containing all these things, because inspiration is well known to come from science fiction. In the movie Trekkies, an apparently otherwise sane woman wears her ST uniform to work, where she likes to be addressed as “Commander”.

It’s a documentary.

Imagine a few thousand faithful steadily expanding influence over popular culture until the 23rd century.

Robert Heinlein invented the waterbed, after all.

The Holy Grail of Cell Biology November 21, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Photography, Science, Toys.
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In a paper entitled “Three-dimensional cellular ultrastructure resolved by X-ray microscopy”, researchers  at the Institute for Soft Matter and Functional Materials at the Helmholtz Zentrum Berlin (HZB) have imaged whole mammalian cells at resolutions down to 36nm.  Remember that a human hair is 100,000 nanometers wide.  This, dear readerrr [spelling intentional], is ultramicroscopic imaging, allowing the double membrane of the cell nucleus, nuclear pores in the nuclear envelope, membrane channels in the nucleus, numerous invaginations of the inner mitochondrial membrane and inclusions in cell organelles such as lysosomes to be imaged with partially coherent light (actually, X-rays generated by BESSY II, the synchrotron source at HZB).  I admit I have no idea what that might mean, but it suggests to me interferometry of some kind: “Partial coherence is the property of two waves whose relative phase undergoes random fluctuations which are not, however, sufficient to make the wave completely incoherent. Illumination with partial coherent light generates significantly higher contrast for small object details compared to incoherent illumination.” (from an article in MedicalDaily.com, in turn based on a press release from the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.  At least, this is an English translation of the press release).

This approach has some distinct plusses: no staining is required.  No fluorescent dyes are needed.   Whole cells can be imaged (they have to be frozen, but that’s not hard) at the aforementioned ridiculous resolution.  You need a synchrotron, a frozen sample mounted on a tilt platform and a boatload of code to make sense of the data bouncing off and running through the sample.  And probably royalty payments to Gerd Schneider and James G McNally, who seem to be the lead investigators.

I get the feeling we will be hearing more from them.

A Good Beginning November 19, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brilliant words, Toys.
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When I was a lad I would have killed for the internet’s ability to connect me to the world.  I was interested in electronics and found nothing in my local library that was really helpful for a youngster.  It never occurred to me to ask the librarian about interlibrary loans (didn’t know they existed at the tender age of ten).  Consequently, my self-education consisted of tearing apart broken radios and TVs and such for components, and hacking them together randomly (nearly).

I would have loved LucidScience.com’s little tutorial on building an FM transmitter for the breezy, forgiving tone that it sets: “many of the parts only need to be ‘close enough"’, you will probably be able to salvage all that you need from any old radio, TV, or RF based circuit board. Even the two transistors used are generic, and practically any small signal NPN transistor will work here.”

After that, it goes on to say which parts you can skimp on, how to wind an inductor easily and how to not worry if something doesn’t work right away: “I have built many versions of this transmitter using all kinds of varying scrap parts and it usually works. Most times, errors are due to wiring, not the parts used in the circuit.”

What really helps it to make sense is the Zen-like simplicity of the teaching method.  For example, look at how he relates schematic to layout:


Isn’t that beautiful and comforting?  What beginner would be intimidated by that?

Even more importantly, he’s left clues on how NOT to do it:

Figure 11 - This circuit almost worked...but barely!
Figure 11 – This circuit almost worked…but barely!

“A look at the underside of a solderless breadboard shows that it is made up of multiple metal strips that join the holes together in rows. These metal strips actually act like small value capacitors, often with more capacitance than some of the capacitors you may actually need in your circuit.”

Finally, as an inspiration for the perfectionist who may want to stretch herself a bit, he shows an example of patient assembly:


I feel like such an underachiever.

Why Did It Take So Long For Me to Find This? November 19, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Toys.
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I should have a category for “epic”.

More about the construction here.  This Japanese guy  has eight methods for releasing rubber bands from his (many, many) rubber-band guns.  This one is awesome for its elegant simplicity…it uses string.

Little Shop of Horrors: The Beginning November 17, 2010

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The plant on the left is Nepenthes holdenii, a new species of carnivorous plant discovered in Cambodia’s Cardomom mountains by British photographer Jeremy Holden during a Fauna and Flora International survey .

The object on the right is a human.

Tai Chi and Arthritis, Strength and Balance November 8, 2010

Posted by stuffilikenet in Awesome, Brain, Brilliant words, Science.
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More than three hundred patients recruited from  North Carolina and New Jersey were randomly assigned to two groups. The first group received an eight-week, twice-weekly Tai Chi course immediately while the other group was a delayed control group (they started eight weeks later).  At the end of eight weeks the individuals who had received the early course showed moderate improvements in pain, fatigue and stiffness. They also had an increased sense of well being, as measured by the psychosocial variables, and they had improved reach or balance as measured by timed chair stands, gait speed and two measures of balance: a single leg stance and a reach test.

"Our study shows that there are significant benefits of the Tai Chi course for individuals with all types of arthritis, including fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis," said Leigh Callahan, Ph.D., the study’s lead author, associate professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and a member of UNC’s Thurston Arthritis Research Center.

This is mostly plagiarized from ScienceDaily.com, who bring you further studies of backing evidence (below), and should be at least glanced at every day.

Tai Chi Benefits For Arthritis Shown (June 17, 2009)

Tai Chi Improves Pain In Arthritis Sufferers (June 2, 2009)

Tai Chi Exercise Reduces Knee Osteoarthritis Pain In The Elderly, Research Shows (Nov. 1, 2009)

Stroke Survivors Improve Balance With Tai Chi (Mar. 24, 2009)

Tai Chi Program Helps Prevent Falls Among Older Adults (Aug. 13, 2008)


“’Data’ is more than the plural of ‘anecdote’.” —Anonymous, Greek philosopher (date uncertain).

Not Exactly a Laser Pointer, But It’ll Do November 5, 2010

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This guy knows how to play with his cat.

Bundt Cake Tower of Barad-dur November 3, 2010

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From MAKE magazine.  You are all reading their daily blog, yes?  you should be.