Category Archives: Technology

New WISE Web Site Launched

Hi all,

We just launched the new web site for the Westminster Institute for Science Education [W.I.S.E.]. Click on the logo below to check it out, including the links to the student and teacher blogs. Comments and suggestions welcome!

Oh yes, and for any of you wealthy philanthropists or corporate titans with a hankering to invest in nationwide science, math, or technology education reform, donations are encouraged! Just email or message me, or post a comment here on “All the Best Bits.”

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Filed under Education, Math, Science, Technology

I Want Half!

An important milestone was reached today. Roughly half of the human race has a cellphone account. It’s actually somewhat less, since many countries average more than one mobile phone per person, over 3.3 BILLION mobile phone accounts across the globe….but still. Wow. Now to outfit them all with live TV!

Read more here.

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Filed under Technology

International Broadband Pricing

Here’s an interesting chart via Ohm Malik’s blog on the OECD telecommunications outlook report on the cost of broadband Internet in different countries. It’s an interesting metric on industrialization. Sadly, we’re not looking so good.

broadbandpricespermegabit.jpg

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Filed under Economics, Technology

More Rooms With a View on the Space Station

From APOD,

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

The International Space Station Expands Again
Credit: STS-117 Shuttle Crew, NASA

Explanation: The developing International Space Station (ISS) has changed its appearance again. During the past week, the Space Shuttle Atlantis visited the ISS and added pieces of the Integrated Truss Structure that mirrored those added in September 2006, including a second impressively long array of solar panels. The entire array of expansive solar panels are visible at the edges of the above image taken by the Shuttle Atlantis Crew after leaving the ISS to return to Earth. The world’s foremost space outpost can be seen developing over the past several years by comparing the above image to past images. Also visible above are many different types of modules, a robotic arm, another impressive set of solar panels, and a supply ship. Construction began on the ISS in 1998.

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Filed under Astronomy, Technology

A Mechanical Marble Computer

Matthias Wandel has developed a fantastic mechanical binary adding machine using a simple series of cascaded chutes to store numbers and perform carries through mechanical toggles. Don’t miss the video embedded below to see it in operations.

Marble Adder

Ingenious!

More details can be found on his web site: www.Woodgears.ca along with all manner of interesting contraptions.

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Filed under Computer Science, Technology, Toys

Maker Faire This Weekend: Don’t Miss It!

This has become one of my favorite events anywhere, anytime. You’ll find a great collection of art, technology, science projects and demonstrations, contests (like the “King of Fling” catapult contest) kits for sale, tools…and of course the people that make and use them! It is a completely unique collection of interesting things and people.

I strongly recommend the Faire to any family that can make it to the San Francisco Bay Area this weekend, not just the nerds among you. There really is something for everyone. Even my one-and-a-half-year-old daughter was enthralled last time around, so don’t miss it!

Click on the picture link above for more info and tickets!

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Filed under Art, Education, Electronics, Technology

Smartfish: A Hydrogen Fuel Cell Powered Airplane

With declining budgets at NASA and an airline industry beset with growth pains, soaring fuel costs, and bankrupt carriers it has been some time since I have seen true innovation in the aerospace industry. For decades, airplanes have advanced very little despite tremendous strides in tools, materials, and engines. Incremental tweaks on 20+ year-old designs comprise the bulk of the commercial and military complement. But I now have new hope of a resurgent industry.
Check out the Smartfish personal aircraft design project that has been the ongoing masterwork of a rock-star design team from Germany and Switzerland since 2003. Smartfish might seem like an odd name for an airplane until you get a look at it’s profile; it is very piranha-like indeed.

The basic concept is to design and build a new generation of personal aircraft using the latest software design and simulation tool, aerodynamics, composite materials, and jet engine technologies. When aggregated into one cohesive design demonstrating unprecedented efficiencies, the initial results promise a tiny craft whose entire body provides lift rather just relying on the wings. The svelte profile of the composite material lifting body introduces less drag with modest wings, and requires less thrust to power. It requires so much less thrust that a tiny engine powered by a hydrogen fuel cell drove the first 1-meter model craft at full speed for 15 minutes.

There are so many interesting aspects to this design project that I almost don’t know where to start. Thankfully, their web site nicely documents the project’s evolution from initial concept, to computer modeling and optimization, to wind-tunnel tests and model flights. Truly amazing start-to-finish. Here is a short photo summary of the amazing project to-date.

Here is the original CAD drawing for the design concept.

This is a rendering of the simulated air flow around the CAD model which shows the vortex-lift generated by the novel lifting body shape that makes the craft so efficient.

This is an image of the numerically-controlled milling machine carving the mold for the single-piece carbon-composite body.

An image of the completed top-panel mold.

The completed 1 meter scale model.

A Trade-show booth highlighting the completed model and the simple hydrogen fuel cell powered jet engine.

The engineers installing the model in the big wind tunnel for stability and control testing and design optimization.

Making the last pre-test connections.

The post-test flow patterns painted on the model by the test fluids.

And see the model in flight in this short promo video.

This project is a complete tour-de-force of modern design, and demonstrates what it takes to change an industry: several years of monomaniacal focus in a small elite team. I believe these folks are really going to succeed in changing the industry where multi-billion dollar multinational aerospace conglomerates have been stalled for decades. It is really the silicon valley start-up model applied to aerospace, much like Tesla is changing the automotive world.

And oh yes, I definitely want one. I’d even take a MODEL of one.

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Filed under Science, Technology