Friday, December 22, 2006

The Future Takes Flight

The F-22 is half of the new generation of American airpower. The other half is the so-called Joint Strike Fighter. An expensive project and an impressive engineering achievement, the new jet had its first flight test a couple weeks ago.

The Losers are Winners

I didn't watch the Biggest Loser show. But as someone who has recently discovered a workout routine that works for me, I would like to mention that the winner says he pondered gastric surgery. Instead through exercise, diet, and mental effort, he lost over two hundred pounds. It can be done folks. If you want to do it and can't by yourself, get help. Getting there naturally has got to be more of a reward that using surgery.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Numbers Are in on the Stuipd Tax

I can't let this pass by without note this morning. According to AP reports, "Easley and other expect the North Carolina Education Lottery to raise $400 million in its first year for education..." [source story by Gary D. Robertson, the March 30th 2006 entry.] The first financial audit of the state lottery is finished, and according to it, the lottery managed to bring in $63.5 million for education in its first fiscal year. The audit notes that the budget for the lottery next year is to raise $401 million and that lawmakers expect it to raise $425 million.

I'll help with a little math since clearly lawmakers can't handle it. The lottery produced about sixteen percent of the money that was stated it would during the sales pitch. Next year the lawmakers expect the lottery's earning to grow by six and one quarter percent over what they said it would do this past year, while lottery officials give the growth estimate at a quarter of a percent over the goal stated by the governor. To actually achieve this lesser goal the return will have to grow by over six hundred and thirty percent.

If you play the lottery, you are making a bunch of shady business people rich(er) while not helping education in the state much at all. Do the math.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Meat the Immigration Issues

OK, so the title is a bad play on words, but the meat packing industry is currently the target of federal immigration officials (though it is worth mentioning that many (all?) of the people involved are being arrested for identity theft, not illegal immigration). Naturally an article appears that consumers may be the "victims" of this because it will drive meat prices up. I don't like the tone and I don't like the implication. One of the major arguments of those who favor immigration enforcement is that illegals are holding down wages. The pattern is clearly shown in the article. So yeah, prices will go up. Until we don't buy as much meat, then they will be driven down again. That's the way this stuff works.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weapons, High Tech and Not So Much

The use of silly string as a trip wire detector was widely reported last week, but it is a good lesson in creativity.

The military has certified a new kind of weapon for use in Iraq. This one is designed to give the target the feeling that they have been flash-burned, and it does sound entirely unpleasant. I note it here because, technically, it's a beam weapon...

Science, Big and Efficient

It looks like the folks at NASA caught a black hole consuming a star. Is it up on YouTube yet?

A bigger story has nothing to do with size. The old adage claims that it's what you do with it that matters. Solar cells have to be large because they aren't terribly efficient. And any electronics that are large are expensive. The Department of Energy has announced a solar cell with a stunning 40% efficiency. Such high efficiency cells are half of what we need to solve the energy problem. The other half is good storage solutions, by which I mean something not chemical batteries. Hopefully capacitor breakthroughs will follow, and then things will get really interesting.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Watching the Watchers

Here's one that will make the tinfoil hat brigade say "I told you so!" The FBI is already using cell phones to record the conversations of people carrying them. Even when they are off.

After years of watching Veronica Mars and recently seeing Casino Royale, I sometimes wonder how people spied on each other before cell phones came along.

The Opposite of What I Want on the Roads

Driving is one of those things that I file away under necessary evil. Europeans wanting to do away with all traffic signs (basically, they are giving up trying to enforce the laws) is just scary.

Computer Science on Paper

One of the lessons from computer networking classes is not to underestimate the bandwidth of a truck. This is a novel way of using color and shape encoding to store data on a machine readable piece of paper. One could imagine a data storage solution that looks much like what we called "filing cabinets" back in the day...

It's not the Size of the Oil Barrel, It's What You Do With It

If you are interested in the price of oil on the domestic market, there are many things that you keep an eye on. Something that often slips through the reporting cracks is that the supply bottleneck is not in the number of wells or the number of barrels of crude moved around, but rather in refining capacity. It's nice to see the media point out the obvious way to control prices.