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Sometimes I can't believe Sili Valley [Feb. 17th, 2010|08:08 pm]
High-tech entrepreneurs killed when nobody should have been flying

Let's take a look at this.

A twin-engine Cessna 310 registered to a Tesla Motors engineer crashed shortly after takeoff this morning in East Palo Alto, wrecking three homes and a day care center and killing all three Tesla employees on board. Miraculously, no one on the ground was injured.

I don't know the specifics of the Cessna 310. I do know that personal-size planes have far more accidents than commercial ones. To me they don't seem like a great idea unless you are very careful about conditions. (Certain microlights, which are slower and have whole-plane parachutes, may be safer, although I'd still only fly them in good conditions.)

Schapelhouman said the crash likely occurred because of "mechanical" difficulties, or "poor visibility" because of this morning's soupy fog, which caused the early-morning cancellations or delays of many flights at the Bay Area's three commercial international airports.

In other words, it was a bad idea to take off at all that day, probably even in a much safer plane with better instruments.

These are the guys who invent electric cars?

"You couldn't see 100 feet in front of you," Ferrell said. He noted that under those conditions, a plane can take off but not land because the runway isn't visible.

You can take off, but you can't land? Who accepts a dare like that?

Collateral damage: 3 homes and a day-care center. Fortunately no one on the ground was injured.


Can anyone explain this to me? It sounds like some airports have ways for landing planes by instruments alone, but the above quote suggests that PA isn't one of them.
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How not to make a fool of yourself, rule 1 [Jan. 31st, 2010|05:11 pm]
Do not use technical terms whose meanings you do not know.

In general this guy seems to me like an uninteresting over-the-top leftist, but I was tickled by this line:

And yet this presidency [Obama's] in practice has been like watching George W. Bush with a working cerebellum.

George W. Bush, no hero of mine, is quite capable of walking, balancing, even flying a plane.
I think his cerebellum checks out.
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The greatest pie chart of all time [Dec. 1st, 2009|06:37 pm]
It's easy to think of ways that this might have happened.
But it still means something is broken at Fox News:

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"He had one known fault, which was a love of puns... [Nov. 16th, 2009|06:47 pm]
...let us never speak of that again."
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Fun with Google Translator [Aug. 24th, 2009|10:00 pm]
qatar recently mentioned Translation Party.
Supposedly it translates your phrase into Japanese and then back -- and then back into Japanese, and so on -- until it finally gets the same phrase back twice.

There's a fair amount of wild stuff you can get from it. To steal her example, "All for one and one for all" becomes "All in all one by one", which becomes "All one, all 1 inch", which returns the same phrase, so it stops.

Amusingly, that isn't exactly what Qatar got for the same phrase.



We did some song lyrics, so I thought it would be good to translate successive lines of a Beatles song.

How to adjust the music
I was walking to the stand please
Lend your ears, I'll sing you a song
I like to sing along with me, my big key
Get a little help from my friends
Get help from a friend from my little high
I'm trying to please a little help from my friends

Do you need someone you?
I need to.
It could be anybody?
I love people.

If desired, such as the distance from your love?
The only problem.
What I feel the end of the day?
So sad to do it yourself?
No, I get a little help from my friends.
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Robotic Fish! [Jul. 24th, 2009|07:50 pm]
This week I had an inspiration.

Robotic fish.
I mean, they would be fish -- but they would also be robots!

What could possibly be cooler than that?

The thought occurred to me when I was thinking about sensible ways of mapping the ocean floor. (It's hard to map the ocean floor, because no light gets down there--even if you bring your own, it doesn't go very far--and only long-wave sonar can go far enough, so the resolution is bad.)
My initial thought was to use some kind of sub with an X-ray discharger and X-ray camera.
Unfortunately, it turns out that X-ray attenuates pretty fast in water, so it would be impossible to take pictures from hundreds of meters above the surface.
But I found an IEEE paper about some experiments with megahertz-frequency radio signals in sea water. They were able to maintain radio contact between portable units that were 70 meters apart.

So here's where the robotic fish come in. If they could be programmed to keep in radio contact--try to stay 40 meters from their neighbors, for example--and otherwise sink toward the bottom, you could have a chain of robotic fish that
(1) know how far they are from their neighbors, which gives you 3-d structure if there are enough neighbors,
(2) is ultimately connected up to some buoys on the surface that get GPS.
In other words, the fish all know where they are when they start to detect ocean floor.

I did some simply calculations. If the fish are trying to keep 40m apart, then each fish on average covers about 1400 square meters of ocean floor, so it would take a few hundred to cover a square kilometer. Hundreds of thousands of fish could cover a larger area, all taking in a little bit of sensor information and relaying it up the chain...

Wouldn't that be cool?

So today I googled around a bit, and found that, sure enough...there's a website devoted to robotic fish, and even better--there really are robotic fish that you can see on the site.

A little more poking around brings an environmental project based on robotic fish and even video of how one moves.
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The greatest press release of all time [Jul. 21st, 2009|05:39 pm]
We completely understand the public’s concern about futuristic robots feeding on the human population, but that is not our mission
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Why New Writers Usually Aren't Little Kids [Jun. 27th, 2009|07:33 pm]
John Scalzi describes himself as sort of old at 37, but you can see why people might take far longer to really hit their stride.
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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?? [Jun. 26th, 2009|06:17 pm]
underpope, have you seen this yet?
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"What I have witnessed" [Jun. 18th, 2009|12:11 am]
Transmitted by Nico on Tuesday:

6:03 PM ET -- "What I have witnessed." A powerful note from a female medical student in Iran, translated from Farsi by a trusty reader.

Hello,


It's painful to watch what's happening.

I don't want anything to do with what has been said this far, as I neither have the strength nor the resilience to face all these unfathomable events.

I only want to speak about what I have witnessed. I am a medical student. There was chaos last night at the trauma section in one of our main hospitals. Although by decree, all riot-related injuries were supposed to be sent to military hospitals, all other hospitals were filled to the rim. Last night, nine people died at our hospital and another 28 had gunshot wounds. All hospital employees were crying till dawn. They (government) removed the dead bodies on back of trucks, before we were even able to get their names or other information. What can you even say to the people who don't even respect the dead. No one was allowed to speak to the wounded or get any information from them. This morning the faculty and the students protested by gathering at the lobby of the hospital where they were confronted by plain cloths anti-riot militia, who in turn closed off the hospital and imprisoned the staff. The extent of injuries are so grave, that despite being one of the most staffed emergency rooms, they've asked everyone to stay and help--I'm sure it will even be worst tonight.
Story continues below

What can anyone say in face of all these atrocities? What can you say to the family of the 13 year old boy who died from gunshots and whose dead body then disappeared?

This issue is not about cheating(election) anymore. This is not about stealing votes anymore. The issue is about a vast injustice inflected on the people. They've put a baton in the hand of every 13-14 year old to smash the faces of "the bunches who are less than dirt" (government is calling the people who are uprising dried-up torn and weeds) .

This is what sickens me from dealing with these issues. And from those who shut their eyes and close their ears and claim the riots are in opposition of the government and presidency!! No! The people's complaint is against the egregious injustices committed against the people.
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