Phoenix Landing

Check out the NASA video explaining the landing challenges of the Phoenix Mars Polar Lander which is scheduled to touch down this coming Sunday. Three weeks ago I was at Kennedy Space Center for the very first time and was totally impressed and re-inspired by the US Space program. I’ll be watching for the success of this expedition to find water on the Mars pole.

A Prestige Heckler

You know your conference has hit the big time when Robin Williams steps up from the audience to fill the dead air during an embarrassing, show-stopping technical glitch.

Those are the words of Kim Zetter of Wired reporting from the TED (Technology, Enterainment and Design) conference taking place in Monterey, CA.
How great would that be? A free 10 min., impromptu performance from Robin Williams? Originally, he stood up and shouted from his seat when a technical problem caused an awkward delay in the proceedings just as Sergey Brin of Google was being introduced. When the crowd recognized who he was, Williams was invited on stage and let it roll for about ten minutes. Wish I’d been there. Check out Kim’s article linked above.

Robot? Cyborg? Soldier?

This video demonstrates a surprisingly advanced exoskeleton being developed for soldiers (marines don’t need it). It is like something from a dark scifi novel — something an ‘evil empire’ would use. Such a device would also eliminate all arguments for keeping women off the front lines of battle since physical strength would no longer be an issue. In spite of the development of this Terminator suit for war, I can think of a lot of very productive civilian uses for this exoskeleton. After all, if we can fly like birds with the help of our machines why can’t we lift things like ants?

Vodpod videos no longer available.


The Ribbon vs the Turbine Blade

Wind generated electricity is being advanced in many countries with turbine farms being installed in open grasslands and off-shore. While this method of power generation is non-polluting to the atmosphere it nevertheless has some detrimental effects on the environment — the blades are deadly to birds and they create noise pollution.

The link below is to a video clip of Shawn Frayne describing a new method of wind generated power, that of a vibrating ribbon rather than a rotating blade. He does not address the efficiency of this method but talks about its low cost and portability. The clip is an idea pitch and not a scientific review, but it sure looks interesting!

Third-World Wind Power

Has it really been 25 years?

compact discAP Reporter Toby Sterling’s article “Compact Disc Celebrates 25th Anniverary” overwhelmed me with a flood of memories. I’m a gadget-friendly guy. Blog posts about the Sony e-Reader from Rivertyde’s previous location (still viewable as Google cached pages, e.g. My Sony E-Reader) will bare that out. When I saw this article about the first Compact Discs rolling off a German assembly line in 1982, I remembered the day that I bought a brand new Sony Discman….for $300+! It was a huge investment for me, but in spite of my circumstances I could not resist.

At the time I was living with my aunt in Asheville, NC. and working at a warehouse on a 5pm to 3am shift. Although I could borrow my parents ragged Toyota Corolla from time to time, a Honda 450 motorcyle was the only mode of transportation that I owned. In addition to working full time, I had just signed up for German language classes at UNC-Asheville campus and was determined to become a German Lit professor.

The very first CD I ever bought was Mike Oldfield’s Crises — I’m listening to it even as I write this. The sound was astonishingly clear compared to that from my worn-out Rick Wakeman albums, and I was ecstatic with this new toy. There were small irritations though. The early Discman players were sensitive to vibration and there was no such thing as a pair of ‘ear buds’. I had trouble getting my helmet on over the bulky earphones and the bouncing of my light-weight motorcycle caused the player to skip. It was dangerous to have headphones in my helmet but I did not care, especially on my days off cruising the smooth-riding Blue Ridge Parkway. I was in heaven. Back then the only other form of portable music was the radio and having commercial-free, personally selected music was bliss.

Has it been 25 years already? Wow. Although I doubt that CDs will disappear, they are already a ‘once was’ format. Compact Disc sales have been plummeting for years and perhaps the highest-volume seller of CDs in the country, Tower Records, went bankrupt last year. Although the future is bleak for compact discs the memories are still sweet.