Category: Technology

We create technology and technology changes us.

| April 6, 2014 | Reply

I played guitar at a local coffee house last night ( Hartford Coffee ) In my haste to pack up to go, I forgot my electronic guitar tuner. Last night, then, I realized how dependent I have become on the tuner. I’ve played for many decades and, until 5 years ago, tuned by ear. I’ve fallen out of habit since then because these cheap tuners are incredibly accurate. All you need to do is watch the read-out–you don’t even need to hear the guitar while tuning (one of my tuners attaches to the head of the guitar and picks up vibrations). I made it through the night, of course, but I found myself having to focus on what exactly the tuning problem was (which string or strings was out of tune, and which direction). People who don’t play stringed instruments don’t realize that even when you get the guitar tuned, it might not last for long. Even two songs later, it could require another adjustment.

My point is that I had offloaded a skill to an electronic device. This is a common phenomenon these days. A lot of us don’t know the phone numbers of our friends–no need to, with smart phones. Many of us are terrible spellers, but no problem, because the word processor will signal problems. My Google calendar and smart phone seem to organize me, rather than me organizing them. I find myself shooting out short texts and emails to get right to it, rather than calling, which requires some social graces–younger folks avoid calls like the plague, it seems. This makes me wonder whether they are thus losing some conversational skills. Robin Dunbar has researched the number of friends we have in our social group (it tends to be close to 150), but people who watch a lot of TV have fewer friends, and they might be losing the skills necessary to maintain a robust social group.

This is not a criticism of technology. It can be immensely useful. For instance, I’ve used Meetup.com to connect with folks with keen interests in photography and urban exploring, people I would never have encountered without technology. My misplaced tuner last night reminded me that we create technology but that technology also changes us, for good and bad.

Share

Read More

How to make things

| January 15, 2014 | Reply

I really enjoyed these mesmerizing videos demonstrating how many types of things are manufactured. Fascinating. Life would be so very different without our factories. Some would say for the better, but I don’t agree at all. I don’t want to spend the time to make my own food from scratch or create clothes. That would take immense amounts of time away from things I prefer to do.

This topic reminds me of Jared Diamond’s Germs, Guns and Steel, in which he describes a culture that spends most of every live long day harvesting, mashing and cooking their basic food substance. They can never get to libraries or any sort of technology because every day is a battle to gather enough food. Here’s a description from Wikipedia:

The first step towards civilization is the move from nomadic hunter-gatherer to rooted agrarian. Several conditions are necessary for this transition to occur: 1) access to high protein vegetation that endures storage; 2) a climate dry enough to allow storage; 3) access to animals docile enough for domestication and versatile enough to survive captivity. Control of crops and livestock leads to food surpluses. Surplus frees people up to specialize in activities other than sustenance and supports population growth. The combination of specialization and population growth leads to the accumulation of social and technologic innovations which build on each other. Large societies develop ruling classes and supporting bureaucracies, which in turn lead to the organization of nation states and empires.

Share

Read More

Stress analysis of a strapless evening gown

| January 5, 2014 | 1 Reply

Here is a stress analysis of a strapless evening gown.   I just KNEW there had to be a scientific approach to this mysterious ability for nothing to hold up something.  Here is the focus:

Effective as the strapless evening gown is in attracting attention, it presents tremendous engineering problems to the structural engineer. He is faced with the problem of designing a dress which appears as if it will fall at any moment and yet actually stays up with some small factor of safety. Some of the problems faced by the engineer readily appear from the following structural analysis of strapless evening gowns.

Share

Read More

How does my voice sound when I’m talking into my cell phone?

| October 2, 2013 | Reply

I’ve been trying out some headsets for my smart phone. Some of these are cheap, but got good reviews on Amazon. For instance, this Panasonic $9 headset (yes, I meant nine dollars), which requires a 3.5mm male to 2.5mm female adapter to use with a cell phone (as opposed to a cordless phone). I use headsets when talking on the phone at my desk to keep my hands free. I like the ones with microphones that wrap around right in front of my mouth, so that I need not disturb others when in my collaborative workspace.

I’ve tried some other headsets too, including a bluetooth set that people complained about constantly.  I simply don’t want people staining to hear what I’m saying.   I’ve found myself asking other how my voice is coming through when I speak on my cell phone (through the phone itself or using a headset).  People will give vague answers, such as “It sounds OK.”   I’ve been wondering what my cell phone really sounds like on the other end.  I think I’ve found an answer.   I found a phone number that plays back your voice:  909-390-0003  .  That’s all this phone number does.  When you call this number, you don’t even hear a phone ringing.   But you can immediately speak into it and hear what you sound like.  Excellent.  Problem solved.

I’m going to recommend it to others.  For instance, a friend of mine sounded all muffled.  I told him about this a couple years ago.  He eventually got a new phone and his voice quality immediately improved.  I wondered whether fuzz or dirt got into his phone’s microphone.  Now his new phone sounds muffled.  I can’t hear his consonants.  I’m going to give the test number to him, so he can hear it for himself.

It turns out that my Panasonic $9 headset “sounds OK.”    No, really.  It’s a keeper.  It sounds great.

Share

Read More

The stunning numbers of YouTube

| May 21, 2013 | Reply

These numbers stagger the mind:

Users of the world’s most popular video sharing service upload 100 hours of video to the site every minute. That’s 6,000 hours of video every hour and a whopping 144,000 hours of video every day.

And here’s how Youtube does it.

Share

Read More

Putting one’s finger into a table saw blade

| May 12, 2013 | Reply

Ten people per day lose their fingers in table saw accidents. It this invention goes into production, that number will decrease. Check out this vivid demonstration.

Share

Read More

Ressurrecting the F1 rocket

| April 26, 2013 | Reply

Wired has published an article that ties the present space program to the highly successful Apollo program many decades ago. We might be on the verge of recreating the F1 rocket engine. Lots of amazing facts and figures here:

There has never been anything like the Saturn V, the launch vehicle that powered the United States past the Soviet Union to a series of manned lunar landings in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The rocket redefined “massive,” standing 110 metres in height and producing a ludicrous 34 meganewtons of thrust from the five monstrous, kerosene-gulping Rocketdyne F-1 rocket engines that made up its first stage.

Share

Read More

Bridge halves try to kiss

| March 7, 2013 | 2 Replies

I hiked through some mud in north St. Louis this afternoon to capture this photo of the new Interstate 70 Bridge, which is almost spanning the Mississippi River. Due to open in 2014.

[caption id="attachment_24814" align="aligncenter" width="550"]Image by Erich Vieth Image by Erich Vieth[/caption]
Share

Read More

Look what was filmed with a green screen

| February 24, 2013 | 1 Reply

Eye-opening 4-minute video from Stargate Studios.

Share

Read More