Wonderful 1970s Space Colony Art

Posted by ted @ 3:22 am, March 27th, 2014



I just love these gorgeous imaginings of space colonies from the 1970s. These are the kinds of scenes that filled my imagination when I read Varley’s Rolling Thunder, Bova’s Saturn or Nivan’s classic Ringworld. These massive space habitat’s have so much to fuel the imagination, from the upward curve of the landscape to the zero gravity points in the center of the ring or cylinder, and these images bring them to life.



Click through to the Public Domain Review and enjoy the whole set!

[via Boing Boing]

Cephalopods Are Awesome

Posted by ted @ 1:00 pm, October 6th, 2011


Every Day is Science Friday

Banana Peels Make Low Cost, Effective way to Remove Heavy Metals from Water

Posted by ted @ 4:19 pm, March 12th, 2011



Add ‘cheap, effective water filter’ to the growing list of uses for banana peels. A recent report in the ACS’s journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research says that using minced up banana peels is highly effective way to remove copper, lead and other heavy metals from water. Other methods of removing metals left behind from mining, farming and industrial waste can be expensive and often involve their own hazardous chemicals. The scientist’s work involved testing a number of plant waste materials as water filters including coconut fibers and peanuts shells. They found banana peels held some particular advantages:

The researchers found that minced banana peel could quickly remove lead and copper from river water as well as, or better than, many other materials. A purification apparatus made of banana peels can be used up to 11 times without losing its metal-binding properties, they note. The team adds that banana peels are very attractive as water purifiers because of their low cost and because they don’t have to be chemically modified in order to work.


[Science Daily] via [Gearlog]

Breakfast Cereal – Fortified With Iron (Filings)

Posted by ted @ 10:20 am, June 4th, 2009

We read that iron added to fortified cereal is usually in the form of actual iron filings, which your body may not even be able to use. A box of Mini Wheats I recently purchased had an unusually large amount of crumbled cereal in it (over 4 cups!).

mini wheats

After calling for a coupon for a replacement box, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to do some kitchen science and try to find these iron filings.
First we tried grind up the crumbs in a mortar and pestle.


We then  tried putting strong magnets in the powder. While some stuck, it was not clear if it was just stickiness and not magnetism, and it sure didn’t look like iron.



We then added water to make a slurry.

Needs more water.

Tried a stack of little rare earth magnets, but still nothing conclusive. We did see some movement in the liquid  when we passed the magnet over the liquid (but could not capture it with the camera), so we were on the right track, but still not satisfied.

mag slurry
Time for the big guns. Out with the blender and more crumbs.
Reduced crumbs to finer powder and added a generous helping of RO water.

iron0007 blend2

Poured into a little plastic container and applied magnet to the outside of the container. After sloshing and stirring around a bit we began to see a dark blob form on the inside of the container against the magnet.

iron blob 1

The blob is made up of small particles and moves with the magnet. Iron!

A little careful arrangement of magnet, camera and window light and (despite imperfect macro focus) we are finally able to clearly see the spiky little iron filings standing up on the side of the container.

iron filings 2


Yummmm . . . enjoy your breakfast.

Happy Make Pi Day 2009!

Posted by ted @ 2:00 pm, March 12th, 2009

Pi day (March 14 or 3/14) rapidly approaches once again. Last year we celebrated with . . . a pie. This year we are going to be in Minneapolis for my son B to play in a state piano competition, so I was not sure how we would recognize the day short of buying some pie. But now, salvation! Make: TV is having a Make: Day at the Science Museum of Minnesota.  We are SO there. As a subscriber to Make magazine, and the Make philosophy I often lament that all of the Maker Faire events take place in far off Texas or California, so I am very pleased to be able to attend a Make event right here in my home state of Minnesota, and even on a day when I will be driving to the Twin Cities anyway.

Celebrate the ingenuity and inventiveness in our community. Make: television, Geek Squad® and the Science Museum of Minnesota join forces to create a new event giving local engineers, artists, tinkerers and inventors the opportunity to showcase their DIY creations to museum visitors.

This family-friendly event features arts, electronics, musical performances, green technology, crafting and more!

Happy Pi Day!

The Many Faces of March 14

NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander Guest Blogging on Gizmodo

Posted by ted @ 7:03 am, November 6th, 2008

Over at Gizmodo they have the most impressive guest blogger I have seen yet – the Phoenix Mars Lander itself! Click over to read its two current posts:

Phoenix Mars Lander Looks Back on its Re-Birth
This is What Landing On Mars Feels Like

Includes a lot of interesting technical information and background on the lander, and a few “personal” insights:

One of the most common questions I’m asked, and one of the most difficult to explain, is whether I knew going in that this mission would cost me my life. The answer to that is yes, of course, and there’s not a single robotic explorer in our solar system that doesn’t know it faces the same fate. Unlike all of you, most of us can’t go home again.

LINK: Phoenix Mars Lander: NASA’s Phoenix Mars Lander Guest Blogging on Giz

Halbach Magnet Array

Posted by ted @ 2:00 pm, November 5th, 2008

Like most people who have taken basic science classes or played with refrigerator magnets and paper clips, I knew that stacking up magnets can increase their magnetic pull. Three fridge magnets stuck to each other can hold a longer chain of paper clips than one. Until recently I did not know that their is actually a special way to arrange magnets to increase their lifting power much more. Invented by the late Klaus Halbach, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the 1980s (relatively recently in my world view of engineering advancements) the Halbach Array is just such an arrangement. It was invented to focus accelerator particle beams but is now finding many other applications in brushless motors, linear motors and are critical component in a new generation of maglev trains.

This is how the magnets are arranged in a Halbach array:

It does not matter which way N or S is and long as you are consistent to the diagram.  It is not intuitive (to me anyway) but it turns out that this arrangement combines the magnetic flux along one side for a much greater force, while nearly canceling the pull on the other side.

“The diagram (below) shows the field from a strip of ferromagnetic material with alternating magnetization in the y direction (top left) and in the x direction (top right). Note that the field above the plane is in the same direction for both structures, but the field below the plane is in opposite directions. The effect of superimposing both of these structures is shown in the figure at the bottom:” Wikipedia

Here is another nice diagram that shows how the arrangement combines the flux of the different magnets.

The above diagram is from an excellent article entitled Build a Halbach Array which details the construction of a simple Halbach array using a wooden bock and Neodymium-Iron-Boron cube magnets. They point out how hard it is to push the magnets into position as they will always want to flip over and align N to S poles, hence the need for the wooden block and glue.

Halbach arrays can also be constructed in several cylindrical forms which turns out to be very useful for brushless AC motors, magnetic couplings and magnetic bearings.

You can learn more at Halbach Array which includes the customary Wikipedia complement of images, diagrams, formulas and links.

There is also a nice set of links at Halbach Array links

Now you know…..

Street corner science lessons with a Nobel Laureate

Posted by ted @ 1:40 pm, September 29th, 2008

Nobel Laureate Leon Lederman sets up a table on a busy city street corner and offers expert answers to the public’s science questions.

Oh what shame, this senseless tragedy could have been easily avoided if only they had taken simple precautions. Just one little fence, that’s all it takes . . . oh the humanity. . . when will they learn?

Link ScienCentral via BoingBoing

The Future is Not What It Used To Be

Posted by ted @ 12:15 pm, September 10th, 2008

Not long ago I wrote about an interesting way to apply math to predicting the future. Now I have come across an interesting article called Welcome to the Future by writer Gavin Edwards on his site Rule Forty Two which summarizes nine future predicting authors, and how well they have stood up to the test of time. It is quite thorough and covers a lot, and he evens ends with some predictions of his own. Be sure to get down to the part about David Goodman Croly (1829-1889), “the greatest prophet you’ve never heard of” with an accuracy rate of 75%

Most of the futurists I read focused on the rise and fall of governments, and especially, the progress of technology and the sciences. The future of art and literature got short shrift, as did sex and religion. At first, I thought this was because too many of the predictors considered their readership to be drawn from the business community. But that didn’t wash: an accurate prediction of fashion trends, or societal attitudes towards sex, would be immensely valuable to any savvy investor or corporate type. Would-be prophets avoid arts and entertainment because they seem too difficult to pin down, too trend-driven. Science provides the illusion that progress occurs in an orderly fashion…

As I immersed myself in futurism, I waded through promise after promise of electric cars, unified world government, and videophones. (For decades, certain favorite predictions have been coming along Real Soon Now.) But before I burned out on days of future past, I resolved to grade leniently. If a prediction seemed to be mostly correct, even if it mangled some details, I gave the futurist credit. If they correctly described the effects of a technology but misunderstood the mechanism of it, that was accurate enough for me.

Welcome to the Future


One often overlooked future prediction comes from rock star and writer Pete Townshend. His failed and then reborn 1970’s rock opera project Lifehouse featured people living in a world where pollution is so bad they are forced to stay in Lifesuits and obtain all their experiences and social interaction by plugging in to “The Grid”, a huge global computer network not so unlike today’s internet and social networking sites.

Commenter Bobbie Dawn adds a reference to writer Orson Scott Card and asserts his prediction of blogging in Enders Game makes him particularly relevant to bloggers. I looked him up and, admittitly not having read Enders Game, could not find information on his predictions. I instead found him described as a right wing Bush war supporter and homophobe, not that that invalidates his writing, but it does make me less likely to want to read his work.

Trying to predict the future? Look to the past

Posted by ted @ 7:23 pm, June 26th, 2008

I have often thought that futurists had a great racket going. They sit around and make up a bunch of random nonsense about what they think the future will be like, and apparently some of them even managed to get paid for it. It usually looks to me like their predictions are based on no more expertise or research than you or I might be able to come up with over a beer at the corner bar, and years later they are of course never held accountable when their predictions are wildly wrong.
In the July (2008) issue of Discover magazine in “Why Laughing Matters” Jim Holt offers a very interesting hypothesis on what they do wrong, “the repeated sins of futurologists is that they often extrapolate from what is new rather than from what is old”.

(click for more…)

Phoenix descent caught by Orbiter

Posted by ted @ 3:09 pm, May 27th, 2008

In case a successful descent and landing of the Phoenix Lander on to the surface of Mars wasn’t exciting enough, they actually managed to photograph it from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter while it came down.  Here is a photo of it hanging from its parachute.

Here is a Zoom:

This is really amazing, or as the Planetary Society puts it, “a speeding bullet photographed by a speeding bullet.” I wonder if they knew they could do this successfully, or if they pointed the camera, hoped for the best and just got really lucky. Either way, very cool!

Here is a shot from NASA showing the lander on the surface, again from the Orbiter

[Link to OMG!! Parachute!!!! Photo!!!!!]

NASA Phoenix Lander Home Page

Happy Pi Day!

Posted by ted @ 6:59 am, March 14th, 2008


Today is March 14, or 3/14 which is international Pi day. How will you celebrate it? We have settled on the old standby and made a pie. B made her amazing Kaluha cream pie actually – yum (Basically a dream whip and chocolate pudding pie with a splash of Kaluha for added flavor). There are lots of fun pi day things on the web, a good place to start is http://www.piday.org/ . Interestingly, March 14 also happens to be Albert Einstein’s birthday.  -And Happy Pi Day 20
In our household, the number pi will always somehow be linked to the expression of perfection by our favorite robot in love:



2011 See Also:

Happy (banana) Pi Day!

Now enjoy Pi in musical form!

Moby Dick On A Stick

Posted by ted @ 5:40 am, January 18th, 2007


In October of 2006 Iceland began commercial whaling again. They had been doing only scientific whaling since 1986. The harvesting of whales is done in a controlled sustainable way with strict quotas, but many organizations including environmental groups and the whale watching industry are still opposed to it. Only 1.1% of Icelandic adults actually eat whale once a week or more. As seen in the whale Kebab ad above, some people are able to approach the subject with a sense of humor. Below is a clip from the local paper, “The Grapevine”.

whaling clip

Camel Cheese

Posted by ted @ 7:23 pm, July 22nd, 2006

camel milk

The other day my son was listing some unusual foods he would like to try someday, and along with snake meat, frogs legs and an insect of some kind, he included camel cheese. I did not know if there was such a thing so I looked in to it a little. Turns out that cheese is not one of the otherwise many functions and products usually provided by camels. For some reason camel milk does not react well with the bacterial starter they usually add to milk to get it to curdle. But now, thanks to modern science they have come up with a different starter solution that allows one to make cheese from camel milk. Learn more about it at The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Interesting Tidbits about Niagara falls

Posted by ted @ 10:26 am, June 20th, 2006

I recently learned some fun facts about Niagara falls that I had not known. First of all, as amazing as it appears now, apparently the current flow of water over the falls is a mere fraction of what was witnessed by the first europeans to discover the falls. Between 50% and 75% of the flow is now diverted through huge tunnels to hyrdoelectric plants. Second, the falls are slowing moving upriver due to erosion. They used to recede an average of 3 ft per year until the major diversion was done in the 1950’s to produce electricity. They now recede around 1 ft per ten years. Learn more at Wikipedia.

the secret of bananas – caught on tape

Posted by ted @ 8:42 pm, May 27th, 2006

The Sneeze reveals the secret of bananas, just when they thought they were safe.

And not without controversy.

Voyager 2 Detects Odd Shape of Solar System’s Edge

Posted by ted @ 5:48 am, May 25th, 2006

“Voyager 2 could pass beyond the outermost layer of our solar system, called the “termination shock,” sometime within the next year, NASA scientists announced at a media teleconference today.

The milestone, which comes about a year after Voyager 1’s crossing, comes earlier than expected and suggests to scientists that the edge of the shock is about one billion miles closer to the Sun in the southern region of the solar system than in the north.

This implies that the heliosphere, a spherical bubble of charged low-energy particles created by our Sun’s solar wind, is irregularly shaped, bulging in the northern hemisphere and pressed inward in the south.”


Flashy goggles combat space sickness

Posted by ted @ 6:42 am, May 21st, 2006

from NewScientist.com news service


“Goggles that simulate a strobe-lighting effect could prevent the nauseating effects of space sickness – and that of more down-to-Earth travel.

Reschke suggests astronauts could wear the glasses during the early part of space missions to help them adjust. This would be preferable to anti-motion sickness drugs, which frequently make people drowsy.”

Maybe there is hope yet for those of us who can get queasy turning around to fast on an office chair…

LiveScience.com – Light Travels Backward and Faster than Light

Posted by ted @ 11:26 pm, May 20th, 2006

LiveScience.com – Light Travels Backward and Faster than Light
It sounds nuts, but a scientist says his team has made light go backward. And this is not a simple trick of mirrors.

Previous work has slowed light to a crawl. But in the new research, a pulse of light is given a negative speed and—as if just to make your head spin—the researcher says the experiment made light appear to exceed its theoretical speed limit. Link