VnutZ's Articles, Page 2 of 74
Getting into space is expensive and demanding. Scientists have researched alternatives to rocket boosters for decades as means of mitigating cost, danger, and the barriers to entry. One of the more peculiar concepts is known as the space elevator which varies in idea from being a staging point to putting an object fully into orbit. Thoth Technology of Toronto was just granted a patent for a new space elevator design using kevlar composites and helium filled tubes to support a 12 mile, free-standing elevator. The goal behind the elevator is to enable cheaper launches from a higher altitude or to simply scale the elevator all the way out to 200km.
Before the information age, the best way to store data for perpetuity was in books. Perhaps that’s still true as many current digital mediums still do not last for more than a handful of years. Right now, scientists are looking at leveraging sequences within DNA for archival storage based on the notion they can last for thousands of years. DNA is estimated to be capable of storing 300,000 TB of encoded data. Current experiments have successfully “saved” 83 KB of information and recovered it without error.
Two women are set to make history on Friday as they become the first females to graduate US Army Ranger School. They began the three phases in April 2015 with 19 women and 381 men whereupon the herd began thinning out due to recycles and course drops. By the time the class completed the swamp phase, only two women and ninety-four men remained. Only about 45% of students that begin Ranger School actually make it graduation. Throughout their attendance, military forums exploded with controversy about whether standards were loosened, whether women should even be there, and what their role was afterwards. Currently, the Pentagon still has restrictions on women applying to the 75th Ranger Regiment and there are no published plans for further women to attend the course following this integration test.
Why are you a picky eater? Some of the reasons may include conditioning but there is a genetic portion as well. There’s a gene that regulates how bitter certain foods taste and this is often the cue by which picky eaters shun a food. That gene, amongst other factors, is TAS2R38 and it triggers from glucosinolates in plants. Some theorize it existed to keep humans from killing themselves eating poisonous things in our more primitive days.
We’ve all come to expect that Global Warming is a thing and many people have embraced it for the awesome experience that it will bring – endless bikini pool parties.
But what about when nature’s pendulum swings back the other direction and as per usual, overpowers all of mankind’s tiny inputs? Scientists are considering the prolonged lack of solar activity in cycle 24 to be indicative of a significant solar minimum. The last time the sun was so inactive was a period lasting for nearly 70 years known as a Little Ice Age (the Maunder Minimum and Dalton Minimum). It will be interesting nonetheless given modern equipment and sensors to really see how anomalous solar activity affects the Earth’s climate.
Arguments go back and forth in American society about torture as an interrogative method – even here on OmniNerd (2009, 2012). However, simply acknowledging that torture methods are not necessarily effective does not address the challenge – how does one extract information from a suspect “that knows”? Psychologists are now pushing the Cognitive Interview which studies are showing can extract up to 80% more information. The method is also credited with effectively countering deception as well because over the course of time, lies are shallower and less detailed than the truth and trained interrogators are taught to tell the difference. Sometimes it does make one wonder, however, what methods are really used as the fear of torture and getting caught can still be quite the psychological deterrent.
The Department of Energy offers a portion of its massive, 20+ petaflop supercomputer Titan up to the public for scientific research. Recently, GE engineers updated an older code base for simulating how a water droplet freezes to make use of Titan’s mammoth array of NVidia GPUs to nearly quintuple the simulation’s performance. Of course the purpose wasn’t to merely run the simulation faster, it was to run a deeper simulation increasing the model to one million water molecules in order to study how the droplet freezes. As a result of the research, scientists can develop better anti-icing materials for things like wind turbines in the arctic or off-shore drilling rigs. A time lapse video of the droplet’s freezing can be viewed here: https://www.olcf.ornl.gov/2013/10/25/titan-propels-ge-wind-turbine-research-into-new-territory/
It’s hard these days to not be aware of the e-mail handling accusations against the former Secretary of State. Claims have gone back and forth about never handling classified information, how does one conduct state business without anything being classified, that multiple email accounts were too difficult, that coincidentally everything about topic A, B, or C was deleted, etc. etc. Of course there are ironic things such as the State Department cable issued by Clinton advising personnel about the security threats of using private, personal email accounts. A fairly decent timeline of the shenanigans was compiled by the Washington Post. The latest development finds there were Top Secret emails on her server after all, to include details of drone use.
I’ve been chatting with my colleagues about how this process works for awhile and how it ought to be relatively easy to corrupt. For starters, think of the gas-point programs that many supermarkets offer. You buy at their supermarket where every spent dollar equals a point and then 100 points saves you 10¢. You show up at the gas station and swipe this card and without interaction from the station owner, the pump automatically lowers the price per gallon. At first, one would think this only works because each station has explicitly configured their pumps to work with only certain programs – which makes sense – but how technical are all of these station owners? This process needs to be dirt simple and largely self configuring.
Amongst other things – does anybody else find it particularly wrong for the government to be able to tax your prior year’s return? After all, that return is based on an overpayment of taxes to the government for that year’s income. It is not “new income”, it’s simply “already taxed income that has nothing to do with the current year”. Hence, it just seems like a double tax.
There’s no real doubt that diesel engines are far and away the most efficient powerplant to put into vehicles. For instance, simply dropping a 4BT into a Jeep Wrangler doubled its fuel economy. In fact, most manufacturers do make diesel variants of US vehicles for the rest of the world – Wranglers (30mpg), Mini Coopers (60mpg), HiLux (25mpg), and even entire swaths of the Ford product line have export only, diesel variants.
What is holding back these engines such that everyone else can enjoy diesel fuel economy? According to Toyota’s Chief Engineer, the United States’ self-imposed LEV III standard adds $3000 of emissions equipment per vehicle that simply isn’t worth the investment for only the United States. This is, according to Toyota, why there will not be a diesel powered Tacoma in 2016 as rumors had led enthusiasts to believe. A similar comment was once fed back by Mini Cooper engineers, that the added hardware required for DEF was too big for the little car’s already packed space. Other manufacturers were on course to produce American diesels but stopped (like the Jeep Liberty) in 2007 when these laws were passed. Now, diesel can generally be obtained only in the higher end models of a product where the company assumes a consumer is already spending big money.
Genetic Algorithms, “are a way of solving problems by mimicking the same processes mother nature uses. They use the same combination of selection, recombination and mutation to evolve a solution to a problem.” They’ve often been used in software but have largely not been applied to hardware. Enter Dr. Adrian Thompson and some 100 cell FPGAs. He created an experiment where a computer would analyze the evolution of an FPGA configuration over time until it could reliably differentiate between two tones (and later two voice commands). After nearly 4000 evolutions, Dr. Thompson’s creation demonstrated a peculiar quirk of the process – unexplainable hardware nuances themselves became part of the design. For instance, the final candidate included some logical loops that were never actually part of the circuit – but removing them results in the chip’s failure. More so, putting the same configuration onto another chip resulted in failure. The algorithm literally adapted to magnetic flux, a “gray area” between transistor ON/OFF states, and other performance quirks of its native FPGA host in order to fulfill its task.
American Sniper is currently raking in money across theaters and has touched many nerves with the public. For the most part, the movie is very well received in its honoring of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, its visual accuracy of the OIF experience, and its portrayal of the family strife veterans face at home. On the other hand, the movie has also stirred a lot of controversy with various talking heads blasting at snipers as cowards or the SEAL himself as a sociopathic killer. American Sniper has definitely become a culturally dividing movie, though one that is still highly regarded cinematically no matter which camp a viewer falls into.
Fellow OmniNerds – looking for advice with regards to properly helping young children (age 4) handle divorce. At what age do they “get it” with regards to what happened? Should they get therapy? What are some pros/cons to different scheduling methods? What are some of the toughest questions children will ask?
To help our generic readers, the comments could certainly pertain to both full custody and split custody situations.