Saturday, June 28, 2008

Phones, Hypersonic Planes, and the Weather

Sometimes I read something that just makes me feel old. Seeing that the University of North Carolina at Greensboro is no longer offering land line phone service because only about ten percent of the student body uses it would be one of those things. Less than one percent of the students come to school without a cell phone.

Other times, I read things that give me a sense of wonder, as science fiction continues to become reality. Slashdot notes that testing is under way for a plane that uses pulse detonation engines. [Warning: the linked video in the Slashdot article contains extreme ignorance from the newsreader which completely derails the discussion of the technology.] Pulse detonation engines are essentially an extreme evolution of the pule jet engine, which powered German V-1 cruise missiles during World War II. (The buzzing noise produced by the pulse jet gave the V-1 it's "buzz bomb" nickname.) The difference between them would be the difference between combustion and explosion... The big deal about the pulse detonation engines is they allow travel at relatively low speeds as well as hypersonic speeds. Scramjet engines, which can be theoretically much faster than pulse detonation engines, do not operate at low speeds, forcing planes to have another source of propulsion for takeoff and landing.

And then there are the things that remind me of fond memories. Years ago, I used to go camping fairly often. One of the things I would do to amuse myself was try to predict the weather by observation. I was never anywhere near as good at it as my grandfather, but you can actually give a decent guess. Lifehacker offers a couple of very basic tips for those who are interested in exploring how.

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