Monday, April 8, 2013

Small Things Coming

I recently posted on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ that "nano is huge." It was on my mind for a few reasons. Locally, it's because of the SUNY Albany College of Nanotechnology, and the miniaturization lab at the Global Foundries complex near Malta, NY.

What really had me pondering, though, was reading Richard Feynman's 1959 lecture on miniaturization, titled There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom. It was mostly focused on computer technology, but included an intriguing bit about arranging atoms into the structures we want. It's a fascinating talk, and very far ahead of it's time. It's worth reading about that talk and the Feynman challenges.

But, even if we don't leap that far ahead, there has been some amazing progress in miniaturization. It's also a good idea to continue the efforts in the reverse direction - reducing waste to it's chemical or molecular components. Of course, on the one hand we might get the replicators of Star Trek, and the ability to reduce waste and recycle everything, we'll probably also get the disintegration rays, but we can't let the negative possibilities derail the positives, can we?

The other things that I recently saw that tie this thread together regard the role of chemistry and some recent advances in that field relating to x-ray analysis. Although they are mostly beyond my comprehension, I can grasp that it makes the analysis of molecular structures much easier, which relates to the Feynman lecture mentioned above, and other writings of his.*

http://pipeline.corante.com/archives/2013/03/28/xray_structures_of_everything_without_crystals_holy_cow.php.

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/news/news/1000127

Lastly, was an email I forgot I had sent myself with a link to an article about an amazing substance called Graphene. Ignore the silly news reader chatter - the video is interesting: http://www.kusi.com/video?clipId=8716717&autostart=true


* I recommend reading any of Feynman's work, but do start with "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman." The cause of most of this piece is my recent reading of "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out." He's a bit difficult to follow at times, due in part to the fact that many of his articles are aimed at an audience of his peers, and his somewhat erratic writing style.


UPDATE: add nanocellulose to the list! I've seen a lot about algae being used to make bio-fuels, but this is new to me.





Friday, October 28, 2011

This is a blog

Before Facebook it was how we wrote things that nobody cared about reading and shouted look at me, me, me!

Yuck, yuck. Funny thing is, I still follow more blogs via Google Reader than I do people on Facebook. And I pay more attention to them than I do Twitter. And while I love the effort, Google+ is just kind a playground for the more nerdy types to create longer posts than they can on Twitter.

Now get off my porch. I have to watch my programs, then read my newspaper. ;-)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Better than tech

Despite being a so-called nerd or geek, there are some things I still prefer the old fashioned way. Sometimes I have to force myself to admit that just because something can be automated doesn't mean it should be. Sometimes it makes me want to become a Luddite. Some examples, in various degrees of severity:

Paper books - ebooks are great for traveling, and for saving space, but have no charm. There's no tactile enjoyment and I get sore thumbs from every model I've tried to use for any length of time. Nothing can replace the texture, feel, user-friendliness, or even the smell of a good book. Bookstores and libraries continue to be wonderful places to hang around and browse. As a comparison, browsing the Kindle store is an imitation that brings to mind the Allegory of the Cave.

Cash - I am a die-hard debit card user who rarely has any cash, but.... it is good that there is still a form of currency that is not readily traceable, and it does discourage overspending. When it's gone, your done, rather than hoping the purchase will float long enough that an overdraft charge won't kick in.

Cashiers - win hands down over automatic check out.
It: "Please place the item in the bag!"
Me: "Don't shout at me you stupid machine, it's in the f*****g bag!"
It: "Item did not scan!"
Me: I've dragged it every possible way over the scanner, you stupid f*****g piece of s**t!" You get the message.
This usually continues until the nice person monitoring the six stations comes over to offer to check me out the old fashioned way.

Paper ballots - the more I learn about them, and the longer I work in a large corporation, the more the very idea terrifies me.

CDs and DVDs - here, I don't have as much invested in the physical product. The cover art is nice, but if I want to see that it is available online. I love the flexibility of digital media: variable playlists, not having to swap CDs in the car after only a dozen tunes, and best of all, not having to buy twelve songs when I'll only like one or two at the most. Streaming movies is nice, too. I don't even have to drag my butt off the couch and stand in front of the DVD shelf trying to decide what to watch, and then waiting impatiently for the Blu-Ray player to think about opening, swallowing the disc, then regurgitating several minutes of pre-movie ads, previews, dire warnings against copyright violations and promos about the wonders of Blu-Ray!

What do you think? What did I leave out? What do you vehemently disagree with?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Libertarian without the crazy stuff

I like that description. I stole it from a Scott Adams Dilbert Blog post. He said:

"I should disclose my own biases on this topic. I have described my philosophy as "Libertarian, but without the crazy stuff." Libertarians are for personal freedom, small government, and a defensive-sized military."

He has a qualifying example that explains the "crazy stuff" that libertarians (with a big L) might not have a problem with:

"That sounds good to me. But I think a better objective is something along the lines of maximizing the public's long term happiness. So while a libertarian might favor allowing his suburban neighbor to operate a bazooka firing range in his back yard, I'd be against that, even if it required a slightly larger government to prevent it. "

And this next part is spot on!

"Furthermore, I believe that if you identify with any political group or philosophy that has a name, you are far more susceptible to confirmation bias* than someone who doesn't. And as a general rule, I don't trust anyone with a strong opinion on a complicated topic."


* Google that one - it's something we all do to some extent. Guilty as charged, I'm sure.
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