Intel's Ronler Acres Plant

Pergelator

Silicon Forest

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Girls with Guns

Speed Limit Map


I drove from PDX to Wilsonville on I-205 today. Southbound through Clackamas and then west through Oregon City the speed limit is 55. Somewhere after that it changes to 65 MPH. Evidently I missed the changeover because all of sudden everyone in the fast lane is going much faster. Eventually I saw a 65 MPH speed limit sign and I got with the program.
    Now I'm home and I'm wondering just where does the speed limit change, so I start Googling and eventually I end up on ITO World, where I found this map.The fat blue line wandering in from the left hand edge is the 65 MPH section of I-205, and the purple section coming in the from right is the 55 MPH section. Where they meet is the point where the speed limit changes. Unfortunately, I still don't know where it is because that section of I-205 is notoriously devoid of landmarks. Nothing but trees for miles.
    I don't know how much of the world ITO has covered, but they definitely have the UK and the USA sorted.

Monday, July 28, 2014

X-Ray Telescope

I stumbled over a picture of the Chandra X-Ray telescope this morning, which was kind of a shock because while I've been hearing about it for years I don't think I have ever seen a picture of it. It's not much to look at, it looks like just another big dumb satellite, but then I came across this diagram along with a brief explanation of how it works, which I thought was kind of interesting.

Chandra X-ray Observatory optics.Launched 1999.
    Space-based x-ray telescopes allow astronomers to study a wide range of energetic phenomena from neutron stars to diffuse million-degree gas permeating galaxy clusters. Unfortunately, x-rays are notoriously difficult to focus. To produce images, x-ray telescopes must use grazing incidence mirrors, which reflect incoming photons at very shallow angles. High-resolution x-ray mirrors usually use the Wolter Type I geometry—a double reflection off first a parabolic and then a hyperbolic surface (see Figure 1). As a consequence of the shallow angles (typically 1° or less), the collecting area is a small fraction of the mirror surface. To increase the telescope's effective area, multiple mirror pairs are nested. Thin mirrors can be nested in higher number and more densely than thicker mirrors, resulting in a large total collecting area, but they are more subject to manufacturing and mounting errors that degrade the angular resolution.
    The trade-off between imaging quality and light collecting power is apparent in the most advanced current facilities. The Chandra X-ray Observatory1 employs four thick (16–23mm) mirror shells with an unparalleled angular resolution of 0.5".
    Here we have the reflection conundrum again. X-rays go through most anything, or are stopped (absorbed), which is how we get medical X-rays. But if we can catch them at a low enough angle they can be reflected, and if they can be reflected, they can be focused, so we ought to be able to get some kind of image.
    All electromagnetic radiation (light, radio waves, X-rays) are composed of photos, which aren't really particles, and aren't really waves. X-ray photons are more energetic than visible light photons, which might explain the low angle of incidence needed for reflecting them.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The War On Drugs

We're watching The Wire these days. Episode we watched last night was about the political campaign of a guy running for mayor of Baltimore. Several characters involved in the campaign spend time watching political discussions on television. They do not seem to be particularly interested in what is being discussed, but rather they are concerned about how this discussion will be perceived by the "public". This is understandable, most Americans still watch the news on television.
     Police Major Kolvin, under pressure to reduce crime in his district, marks out a "free zone" for drug dealers, and encourages them to take their business there. He achieves a dramatic drop in crime. When the press gets wind of it, the Drug Czar drives over from Washington D.C. to tell the mayor that half a billion dollars in Federal funding is in jeopardy if this policy continues. The mayor, naturally, tells him that it is NOT his policy, it is an aberration and will soon be put right.
     I think our nation is suffering from a real bad case of group think regarding this War On Drugs. President Nixon stepped up and declared the war, the news media reported it, the people who watched the news heard this and believed, or at least didn't complain, and so the "will of the people" was given a new direction. It's kind of like the emperors new clothes. No one thinks this war is a good idea, but everyone is afraid of being called soft on crime, or a hippie, or a communist, if they utter even one word against it, so they keep quiet. Politicians run their polls and everyone seems to be in agreement, but no one actually believes.
    I wouldn't be surprised is our War On Drugs wasn't causing more grief for more people than Al Qaeda.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

True Lies

Alcohol History
  1. Sometime after beer was invented, somebody figured out that just boiling water was enough to make it safe to drink, you didn't actually have to make beer out of it. Since people no longer needed to start the day with a tankard of ale, productivity went way up. This was the start of the industrial revolution.
  2. Alcohol was the cause of slavery. Because a free man could drink as much as he wanted, and which he did, thereby becoming drunk and useless, nothing got done. So some wise guy decided that some people's grog should be rationed, so they weren't drunk all the time and the chores would be taken care of. The people who had their grog rations curtailed didn't like it and complained, which led to conflict and iron bars and chains. Hence, slavery.
  3. People aren't any crazier now than they used to be. It's just that more people are sober now and distinguish crazy from drunk. I mean it can be hard to tell the difference, especially when you are drunk.
H/T to Marc.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Globe

Babson Geophysical Globe. U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Schuyler Otis Bland Memorial Library. Kings Point, New York.

I have a globe. It is slightly larger than normal with a diameter of 16 inches. It is nowhere near as large as the Babson Globe shown above, but I like it. I'm thinking I should make some kind of mounting for it, and I got to thinking that maybe I should fill it with concrete so as to give it a more realistic feel. Set something like that to spinning on good bearings and it might be days before it came to a stop.
    Then I got to wondering just how much a scale globe should weigh, so I did some checking. Here's what I found:
  • density of granite:   170 pounds per cubic foot
  • density of steel:     500 pounds per cubic foot
  • density of the Earth: 345 pounds per cubic foot
So the density of the Earth is midway between that of granite and steel. That makes a certain amount of sense. So how much would a scale model globe weigh with the same density as the Earth?
  • typical 12" globe:                   180 pounds
  • my extra large 16" globe:            425 pounds
  • Babson globe (7' 6" in diameter): 76,000 pounds
Then I got to thinking about the biosphere, the portion of the Earth where there is life, and I realize it's like the skin of a balloon, pretty damn thin, and fairly insubstantial. There are also some fairly sizable holes in it, like deserts, high mountain ranges and the polar regions. Our small size gives us a limited view, and gravity keeps us glued to the surface. Even though some of us have our eyes on the stars we are really all flatlanders.