Oct 22 2013

Ancient light on a long and winding road

 

Ancient light

The journey of light from the very early universe to modern telescopes is long and winding. The ancient light traveled billions of years to reach us, and along the way, its path was distorted by the pull of matter, leading to a twisted light pattern. 

This twisted pattern of light, called B-modes, has at last been detected…

Long-Sought Pattern of Ancient Light Detected

Oct 14 2013

Iconic: a photographic tribute to Apple innovation

OK, say you’re an Apple devotée. No, say you’re an Apple fanatic. No, actually, say that Apple has changed everything you do, that Steve Jobs is one of the most influential people in your life, and that it is inconceivable that you could imagine functioning day to day without at least one Apple product in your hand, your pocket, or your purse.

Then you need this book.

Iconic.

Aug 30 2013

Charging the Model S

I’ve created a small spreadsheet to calculate the charging times at various stations for the Tesla Model S, and the optimal kW/m usage to maximize range.

 Tesla-charging

Jul 18 2013

Eek. Biggest virus ever. And it’s alien.

Thank God it only eats amoebae.

Perhaps most striking, 93 percent of pandoraviruses’ 2,500 genes cannot be traced back to any known lineage in nature. In other words, they are completely alien to us.

Biggest Virus Yet Found…

Jun 22 2013

ZFS: some day my prince will come…

Lost

Many of us believe that filesystem integrity is the single most important component of computer systems. Disk drives fail, computer systems are upgraded, networks improve and and morph from wired to wireless – but the data files that represent the accumulated work and knowledge of users remain. It’s bad enough that, as applications become outdated, proprietary file formats become unreadable: who now can read an old WordStar doc? (Even NASA has learned, to its chagrin, that failure to have a policy regarding collected data can result in historic losses. For example, the original video transmission tapes from the Apollo 11 moon landing are gone, nowhere to be found; and telemetry from the first lunar orbiter satellites were stored in an uncertain file format on tapes that could only be played on machines no longer made.) We will probably never entirely overcome these kinds of issues. But it would be absolutely stupid to compound them, by using filesystems inherently vulnerable to data loss.

Anyone who has used Macs or PCs for more than a minute has erased a file they wished they’d kept. Or had a disk crash and become unreadable. Or discovered that a long-unread but valued image file now contains junk.

Over the years, OS designers have come up with various methods to prevent this from becoming a disastrous Read the rest of this entry »

Jun 21 2013

Tesla phones home

This weekend, my Signature Model S P85 sent out a cry for help.

Not to me, mind you. I never heard it. Instead, Essie went all ET-like and phoned home: she powered up her cellular 3G antenna and transmitted an alert to her Mom and Dad at the Tesla engineering labs in Fremont, California. “Help me,” she whined. “Isolation fault!”

Now, I don’t keep my Model S isolated at all. I love this car, and pay her all kinds of attention. If she feels isolated, it’s obviously something deep inside her, someplace I can’t reach. But she wasn’t talking to me, and I had no clue how she felt.

But Mom and Dad did. On Saturday, they called me. “Mr. Allan?” they said. “We need to see your car. She’s sending out a fault alarm. Can you either bring her to us, or can we pick her up?”

Getting Amped in Dania Beach

Getting Amped in Dania Beach

I was damned if I was going to drive my uncommunicative vehicle all the way to Dania Beach just because she was feeling, well, faulty; so instead the Tesla geniuses arranged for a specially-trained tow service to send a flatbed to my home to pick her up. Specially trained, indeed: the driver is one of the only operators in S. Florida who understands Teslas, and how they need to be lifted into jack mode and driven at a 30-degree angle onto a flatbed tray, secured not with hook tie-downs but with web loops around the wheels, and conveyed like fairy princesses down the Interstate to the shop. Shades of John Broder, I thought: now everyone is going to see how my Tesla is leaving me, running away with a tow truck and looking broken down.

But the next day, the Tesla geniuses called me. “No worries,” they said. “Yes, she was having issues with isolation. But we gave her a brand-new battery pack, and she feels young and healthy again.”

“What happened?” I asked. “What did I do?”

“Oh, nothing!” they replied. “Hard to why or who’s at fault. But rather than try to analyze it too deeply, we just decided a new pack would fix it quickly.”

And a day or so later, back came Essie, clean and bright and shiny on a Tesla trailer, home to my front door. I was admittedly a little concerned when Tesla Genius handed me a five-page document to sign. But as I read it I became positively cheerful. Not only was Essie recharged and rejuvenated; they had cleaned her, and filled her tires, checked and changed the lift gate seals, inspected the A/C and re-routed the system harnesses, replaced the rear axle nuts, checked the PSRCM calibration and J1772 adaptor, and – most delightful of all – replaced the front floor mats and installed a new rear mat as well. It was like coming home from the hospital with a new set of clothes and a haircut thrown in. I’m lucky at Mercedes if they wash the car; forget new floor mats.

Now, just last night, even as Essie was sitting happy and content again in my garage, Elon Musk announced a new battery-swap program. It takes all of 90 seconds. Phew. That’s almost faster than I can find my credit card at Sunoco to start with. It certainly is faster than the 2 days that my Model S was in the shop. But, then again, they don’t give you new floor mats, and I’ll bet that PSRCM calibration takes a little longer. So I’m happy. Essie is happy. And all is right with the world.

Jun 18 2013

1990 WWDC swag

Found this buried in a storage cabinet. Blast from the past. When WWDC was in San José, and Mac programmers were Real Men, not wimpy iOS code monkeys. Does anyone remember HyperCard? MacApp? MPW?

 

1990 WWDC briefcase

1990 WWDC briefcase

 

1990 WWDC briefcase label

1990 WWDC briefcase label

 

Jun 13 2013

Remember the old Mac Pro?

Well, just in case you’ve forgotten how cool it was then, here‘s the intro commercial for the G5.

G5

Apr 16 2013

We are starstuff

Apparently scientists at the Technical University of Munich in Germany have established a link between specific non-terrestrial isotopes of iron in fossilized bacteria, and a specific supernova: IOW, actual stellar debris collected from exploding stars into the tissues of an earth organism. Starstuff, indeed.

This apparent signal of iron-60, Bishop said, could be the remains of magnetite (Fe3O4) chains formed by bacteria on the sea floor as radioactive supernova debris showered on them from the atmosphere, after crossing inter-stellar space at nearly the speed of light.

Supernova left its mark in ancient bacteria

Mar 23 2013

What I learned today from my corporate cousins

Thanks, Michael Johnson

https://twitter.com/drwave/status/315325314953777152/photo/1

Mar 21 2013

Flagler Bridge to remain open

 
March 21, 2013. Palm Beach Duh News.

The Florida Department of Transportation assured residents of Palm Beach County that the Flagler Bridge will remain open indefinitely, officials said today.

“We have no plans to close the north bridge,” said Jojo deLojo, chief dreamer of the Department. “There is nothing wrong with the bridge that chewing gum and duct tape can’t fix.”

Officials have been scrambling in recent weeks to understand the problems that have caused the supports of the bridge to settle during construction of its replacement. However, despite repeated attempts to drill tiny little holes into the muck below the bridge using straws, they have been unable to fully reveal the damage believed to have occurred to its foundation. All that has been seen to date are millions of wood-borer worms and a handful of flattened styrofoam coffee cups tied together with string, which they believe were used by the original engineers to fill gaps in the wood of the pilings.

Mayor Gail Coniglio of the Town of Palm Beach announced her support for the proposed repairs, after they were unveiled in a public meeting in the back of E. J. Bradley’s late Saturday night after a three-hour open bar cocktail party. “We have every hope that the Department of Transportation will hire someone who knows what they are doing and that the next set of engineering drawings will use the latest and most sophisticated CAD/CAM tools available, rather than the scribbled sketches on the inside of a Mars bar wrapper that were previously relied upon,” she said Monday.

DOT’s deLojo circulated plans of the proposed bridge repairs to attendees at Saturday’s event, though most ended up being used as cocktail coasters and dartboards. The repairs are clearly seen as long strands of heavily reinforced unidentifiable organic material, secured at either end of the bridge by gold-plated golf tees from the Palm Beach Country Club. “The State of Florida will not skimp to find the most expensive and exotic technology to use to keep traffic open between the mainland and the island of Palm Beach, notwithstanding our belief that island’s citizenry are undeserving of any assistance,” deLojo assured the crowd. “The State may be broke and may refuse any monies from the Federal government, but we have confidence that we can produce all the required funds, if necessary by printing fake Florida dollars with the likeness of Rick Scott and Donald Trump.”

State officials estimate the cost of the repairs to be no more than $500 million, give or take $50 million depending on the fees necessary to pay the Palm Beach Water Taxi and other ferry services while the repairs take place. They believe it will take no more than 15 years to complete, working mainly at night from 1:00 am to 1:10 am to minimize noise and inconvenience to the bridge keeper, who normally sleeps during the period while cars are waiting for the gates to go up. Officials also revealed that emergency escape procedures from cars left hanging precariously over the edge of any collapsed portions of the new bridge will use zip lines and plastic tie wraps attached to large commercial fishing hooks, capable of holding people weighing up to 350 pounds.

“This is Florida,” said one representative from the Governor’s office. “From our voting equipment to our infrastructure, everything here works like we intend it to.”

Mar 21 2013

Greenland Melt Ponds

Each spring and summer, as the air warms up and the sunlight beats down on the Greenland ice sheet, sapphire-colored ponds spring up like swimming pools. As snow and ice melt atop the glaciers, the water flows in channels and streams and collects in depressions on the surface that are sometimes visible from space. These melt ponds and lakes sometimes disappear quickly – a phenomenon that scientists have observed firsthand in recent years…

http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_2474.html

Mar 13 2013

Neanderthal large eyes caused less intelligence?

The Neanderthals had larger eyes, so more of their brain was devoted to sight. Result: less of their brain was devoted to brainy things like survival. Not sure of the lesson here, other than that seeing more means thinking less?

Smart people on the right

Neanderthal large eyes caused their demise.

Mar 07 2013

Urbane sprawl

Hipness knows no borders.

You no longer have to take the L train to experience this slice of cosmopolitan bohemia. Instead, you’ll find it along the Metro-North Railroad, roughly 25 miles north of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y.

Creating Hipsturbia in the Suburbs of New York – NYTimes.com.

Mar 07 2013

Royal Bodies

A rather amazing overview of the monarchy as a biological organism. Beautifully written.

Heavenly Bodies

Hilary Mantel · Royal Bodies

Feb 21 2013

The cosmos is a beautiful and terrifying place

A solar flare that never quite escapes the Sun’s gravity…

Feb 16 2013

Steve + Steve + blue box = …

This is beyond funny. The phone phreak subculture of the 1970s ended up changing the entire world, much like the model railroad club at MIT did.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak’s “eureka!” moment @ Salon.com

Feb 14 2013

Tesla, the Times, and everything in between

Well, there’s certainly has been an uproar this week concerning an article about Tesla in the New York Times by John Broder. In response, Elon Musk, Tesla’s charismatic founder and CEO, wrote a critical blog about the article on the company’s website. Musk was a little hasty to call the article a “fake” in TV interviews last week; it seems unlikely that the NY Times would ever fake an article intentionally. But he does have an important point despite his hyperbole.

First point: I’m a former science reporter. I also own a Tesla Model S.

The Tesla Model S is a great car that requires the driver to think differently about travel, for the simple reason that charging stations are not as ubiquitous as gas stations, and won’t be for many years. IOW, you need to give a little thought to planning a long-distance trip, including charging at each opportunity and understanding how the car’s batteries take a charge.

It was immediately clear from Broder’s article that he did not do either of these things. He undercharged the car (pleading ignorance after the fact) and failed to recharge when he could. Tesla understood his purpose was to test Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 07 2013

Questions people should ask about the Model S, but don’t

Everyone asks questions about the Model S. No one asks these. They should.

  1. How much does it cost to wire a high power wall charger?
    Depends on how far your car is from the main electrical feed. If both are near each other, a few hundred dollars. If your car is >200ft from the electrical feed, well…try $2,000–$5,000. Copper is expensive.
  2. Can you lock the frunk?
    Yes. But only when the entire car is locked. You can’t “valet lock” the frunk. IOW, all storage areas in the car are accessible if you have the key. You can’t even lock the glove compartment.
  3. Is it safe to valet park?
    Maybe, if you have a smart valet. Otherwise, they might leave the key in the car, and when the door handles retract, you have to hope the car doesn’t lock itself. You probably want to turn OFF “walkaway locking” if you use a valet.
  4. Do the displays ever crash?
    Yes. Once in a while the touchscreen hangs, or doesn’t correctly work. After the last software update the car wouldn’t stop beeping for me to put on my seatbelt, even though it was on. Fix: reboot the appropriate screen, by holding down both scroll wheels on the steering wheel for about 10 secs for the touchscreen, or holding down the two top buttons on the steering wheel to reboot the dashboard display.
  5. With the regenerative brakes, how does braking work?
    You almost never touch the brake pedal; the regen brakes do all the work of slowing down the car. You learn to change your driving style to use that feature optimally. The brake lights will automatically light when the regen brakes engage, to warn drivers behind.
  6. Is there an alarm system?
    Not really. The new software update 4.2 enables the car horn to sound if someone tries to open the car without a key.
  7. Is there a voice command system?
    With software update 4.2, yes. It’s limited to dialing, playing music, and navigation. But that’s enough.
  8. Can you play music from an iPhone or iPod?
    Yes, but it’s still dumb: IOW, for reasons best explained by Apple I suppose, you must control the music selection from the iPhone or iPod, not from the touchscreen. Also, the iPhone volume needs to be full up.
  9. Can you close the hatch from inside the car?
    Yes. Thank goodness. But not from the key.
  10. Can you raise/lower the windows from the key?
    Lower, but not raise. This seems backward to me. IOW, you can open the windows as you approach the car, perhaps to ventilate it. But you can’t close the windows from the key as you are walking away.
  11. Do the windows work when the car is off?
    Trick question. If you are sitting inside, the car is never off unless you specifically turn it off. So normally, yes, the windows work while sitting in park.
  12. Do the mirrors dim at night?
    Yes, but you have no control over it. It’s fully automatic.
  13. Can I use my old keychain? Can I use the Tesla keychain I got from the showroom?
    No. No! The key is shaped such that no chain, keyring, or other normal attachment will fit it. Duh! You need to use something with a flexible string. Good luck with that one.
  14. Who pays for the cellular 3G link?
    Tesla, at least for the first year. Or at least for Signature owners for the first year. After that, who knows?
  15. How do you change the windshield wipers?
    Good question. I have no idea.

Feb 06 2013

Just the FAQs

Tesla Motors has a FAQ page. It’s for potential buyers. Real people on the street have their own FAQs. Here are some of them.

  1. How much gas does it use?
    Uh, zippo.
  2. How far can you go?
    EPA claimed maximum is 268m. At 80% “standard” charge, 240m. You use about 20m for air conditioning and driving faster than 55mph, so call it 225m.
  3. How long does it take to recharge?
    On a 110V outlet, days. On a 240V outlet, overnight. With a high speed wall charger, a few hours. With the highway superchargers (when available), less than an hour.
  4. What happens if you’re on the highway and you run out of electricity?
    What happens when you run out of gas? You don’t because you plan ahead. Same thing.
  5. How often do you recharge?
    Trickle-charge every night. More prolonged charge after a road trip greater than, say, 50m, but still overnight. Read the rest of this entry »
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