The Future of Communications

Monday, 26 July 2010 17:43 by The Lunatic
  I just got back from a one-week excursion to Washington DC. I had two objectives for this trip: buy a car, and find a house to live in (since we are moving back to the USA next month.) Buying a car and selecting a house to lease in one week is difficult enough – but it’s even more problematic when the rest of your family are on another continent. I needed to keep in contact with my wife and kids three or four times a day as I scouted out different neighborhoods and looked at houses.  To make matters worse, I didn’t have my cell phone with me since my basic calling plan (discussed below) doesn’t have international roaming. So it was Skype to the rescue!  Calling home to Switzerland on Skype is only 2.1 cents a minute, and if the internet connection is good, the voice quality is indistinguishable from a regular phone call. The problem, however, is More...
Categories:   Miscellaneous | Science
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How big is a Googol?

Thursday, 3 June 2010 12:00 by The Lunatic
  My eleven year old son has been fascinated with large numbers lately.  He’s asking all [More]
Categories:   Science
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Energy, Efficiency, and the long road to SBSP

Saturday, 3 April 2010 01:29 by The Lunatic
Here’s an old high school physics puzzle, let’s see if you can get the right answer: You have perfectly insulated room (i.e., no heat can escape).  Inside the room is a refrigerator, plugged in and running – but the refrigerator door is left wide open. As the refrigerator runs, does the room: A – get colder B – get warmer C – stay the same temperature Think about it for a minute ... (and yes, I first heard this from my high school science teacher back in the late 70’s) The answer is ... (drum roll please!) ... More...
Categories:   Economics | Science
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The all natural, all organic, totally healthy blog post

Monday, 29 March 2010 01:04 by The Lunatic
I consider my family to be a fairly “healthy” eaters.  We consume a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and eat very little fast food (only a few times a year). My kids are never allowed to drink soda, except when they are at a party or some function where there are no alternatives.  We eat a lot of fish and pasta.  And although I love beef, lamb, pork, and chicken, we limit our portion sizes and try to stick to lower fat recipes. However, I have mixed opinions about the “organic” food movement. I admit it’s important to openly discuss better/safer/healthier/environmentally friendly ways of feeding our growing population, and there are many organic products and processes I agree with wholeheartedly – but many of the organic guidelines are based on emotion rather than facts and real data. The use of synthetic fertilizers, for example, is one of the hottest topics. I liken the use of fertilizers to More...
Categories:   Science | Social Issues
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My (exceedingly minor) contribution to Avatar’s 3D effects

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 05:54 by The Lunatic
  I met with James Cameron a few times when I worked in the Windows Media Division at Microsoft.  Mr. Cameron had just finished the 3D IMAX documentary “Ghosts of the Abyss” and was looking at different technologies to use in an upcoming “big budget 3D production”. This was back in 2003 or so. In the first meeting, we just provided a broad overview of the technologies that Microsoft was working on, and had a general discussion on what he was looking for.  I must say, I was exceedingly impressed with Jim’s technical knowledge. Most “Writer/Director” types I’ve interacted with are great on the creative side but fairly light on the technical side. I pointed out that the digital camera that they used for the “Ghosts of the Abyss” had a subsampled horizontal resolution, and he jumped right in and told me how they solved that problem ... by tapping into the actual image sensor itself, bypassing the rest of the storage capabilities of the camera, they were able to capture the higher resolution image which the sensor was capable of, and store it directly to hard drives. More...
Categories:   Miscellaneous | Science
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Wrestling the Anaconda

Friday, 6 March 2009 04:47 by The Lunatic
The year was 1996.  My wife had graduated from Medical School a few years earlier, and she was in her second year of residency at a large university medical center. The time was about 1:45 in the morning. And we were Wrestling the Anaconda. Ok, I need to back up a little bit.  My wife did her residency in Pathology.  She studied in both Anatomic and Clinical Pathology – but this particular year was strictly clinical work.  Although most people think that pathologists primarily perform autopsies (which is the “Anatomic” branch of the specialty), the majority of pathologists are actually on the “Clinical” side of the business.  Clinical pathologists run all the hospital lab functions – blood banks, specimen analysis, frozen sections, lab tests, etc.  During surgery for example, if a doctor is removing a cancerous cyst, they will send the specimen to the lab to have the margins checked.  The pathologist needs to analyze the lump, diagnose it while the patient is still under anesthesia, and make sure that the surgeon has cut into “clean” tissue all the way around.  If not, the surgeon needs to cut a little more. Most of these specimens are pretty small – typically a few millimeters up to a few centimeters.  But not the Anaconda. That was More...
Categories:   Science
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A few universal questions

Friday, 30 January 2009 05:26 by The Lunatic
All the data we have at this point says that the universe that is just under 13 billion years old.  The universe exploded from a big bang and after a brief period of inflation, it has been expanding steadily at the speed of light. Although there are still some unanswered details, most cosmologists agree on these basic points. From here, however, there are numerous opinions and conflicting theories on the basic nature of the universe. There are a few different mathematical models that show it’s possible that we can be living in an “open” universe which will continue to exponentially expand forever, a “flat” universe where the expansion will slow down and eventually stop at a certain size, or a “closed” universe that will reverse direction and eventually contract into a “big crunch” – presumably to explode again in another big bang (and with multiple series of “big bang/big crunch” cycles, we have an “oscillating universe”).  While all of these are mathematically feasible (and yes, I’m leaving out a few other good theories), the current data strongly suggests that we are in the “open” model, where the universe will continue to expand forever, until all the stars burn through their remaining fuel and all that’s left is ashes and space dust. Of course, there are many unanswered questions – such as, More...
Categories:   Science
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The History of Workman's Law

Friday, 5 December 2008 02:05 by The Lunatic
  For the last twenty years or so, my email signature has included the following:      Workman’s Law: In the movies, the skeptics of supernatural phenomena are always wrong. In real life, the skeptics of supernatural phenomena are always right.  I came up with "Workman's Law" after watching the movie Ghost Busters, somewhere around 1985.  Remember the creepy EPA inspector that wanted to shut down the Ghost Busters? That was the impetus for Workman's Law. He didn't believe in ghosts, he thought the Ghost Busters we're all a bunch of con artists, and everyone from the janitor to the mayor ridiculed him.  In the end, he was horribly slimed by the ghost and the audience applauded and everyone said "WHAT AN IDIOT!" It's a great movie, but it's not real life! Workman's Law has held up pretty well since then, I'm happy to say.  Here's a challenge for everyone: find me a movie where the skeptic turns out to be right (ok, I'll admit there may be a few) AND find me a real life supernatural phenomenon. I'll buy the winner a cheeseburger. Here's a great article posted in The Onion a few months ago: Evolutionists Flock to Darwin-Shaped Wall Stain. I love it!  
Categories:   Science
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The Monty Hall Goat Trick

Friday, 28 November 2008 03:42 by The Lunatic
Here is one of my favorite math puzzles – commonly known as the “Monty Hall Goat Trick”.  It’s a wonderfully delicious problem that plays with your head. It has a psychological component that makes even the brightest of people swear that the obvious answer is the correct one, but it’s not! The game was a regular feature on “Let’s Make A Deal” – a strangely popular show back in the 70’s with legendary game show host Monty Hall. Pop culture at its finest (well, along with “The Gong Show”, of course).  During the show, some very lucky (and usually crazily dressed) person was selected from the studio audience to play the game, and had the chance to win A BRAND NEW CAR! (this became Monty Hall’s catchphrase). The puzzle has been discussed on hundreds of website, so it’s nothing new, but it's still one of my favorites. Stay with me if you haven’t run across this problem before … Let’s say you are the lucky participant that gets selected to play the game out of the studio audience. The rules of the game are simple: There are three doors.  Behind two doors is a goat and behind one of the three doors is A BRAND NEW CAR! You get to take home either a goat or More...
Categories:   Science
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What do you believe?

Friday, 14 November 2008 23:22 by The Lunatic
  Here is the second of my two talks that I gave at the Seattle chapter of the Ethical Culture Society, this one is from November 4, 2004. (See yesterday's post for the first ...) * * * * * What do you believe? David M. H. Workman   People can be very fervent in their beliefs.  I’m talking about the good old fashioned argument of science versus religion.  By religion, I mean the organizations whose purpose it is to evangelize a monotheistic God. What do you believe in?  Is there a god?  Is there a controlling “force” in the universe?  Is our existence and our future pre-determined for us? Our beliefs are based on our own experiences, what our parents and teachers teach us, what we read, whomever we decide is telling us the truth. And what about our sometimes irrational interpretations More...
Categories:   Religion | Science
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