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I couldn’t see the lesion but the name of the drug being prescribed for it rang a bell. I should’ve asked the dermatologist: “There’s a fungus back there?” But I do not challenge physicians since they know more (and see more) than I do. And now I know the answer: there’s a fungus all over. […]

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Made in the USA

 

More than a year ago, I was contacted by a film maker on the East Coast who wanted to interview me for a short documentary on Robert Noyce and the history of Silicon Valley. I agreed and he filmed me for several hours one autumn morning, in my house and atop my water tower (I have the oldest home in the Valley). Afterward, distracted working on two books, I promptly forgot all about it.

Tonight, I suddenly discovered the finished documentary on another website. I was astonished how well it was done, and how comprehensive in its history. It also, especially in the last few minutes, it captures some of my thinking in my upcoming book The Autonomous Revolution (co-authored with Bill Davidow). I hope you find it entertaining — and a little eye-opening.

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Can You Live Without Your Smart Phone? Would You Want To?

 

This stems from a PIT thought. How much do you really need your smart phone? How much has it supplanted other devices, activities, or things in your life? Would you be willing to give it up, either mostly or entirely? Do you want to give it up? What is it that you use it for?

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October 4, the 62nd anniversary of the Sputnik satellite launch, is a good day for a review of Boris Chertok’s great memoir, Rockets and People. Chertok’s career in the Soviet aerospace industry spanned many decades, encompassing both space exploration and military missile programs. His four-volume memoir is an unusual document–partly, it reads like a high […]

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Member Post

 

I will be taking over the @People_of_Space account tomorrow for a week. It switches each week and has almost 5,000 followers. People who are on twitter might want to follow it if you’re interested in space. I’ll be telling a lot of stories about the early space program, and a binder I found in a […]

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How to Build a Computer 37: CVD II, This Time It’s Personal

 

Last time, if you’ll recall, I discussed the basic idea of a chemical vapor deposition system, and described how you’d use it to deposit silicon onto your wafer. Today we’re following rather directly from that post, where we answer some important questions. Questions like “What if I don’t want to put down silicon? What other things can you offer me?” Well, for starters

SiCl4(g) + 2H2(g) + O2(g) —> SiO2(s) + 4HCl(g) ~900 C

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Two Degrees of Separation

 

There’s a theory that they’re only at most six degrees of separation between all people living today. But it’s interesting to consider how many degrees of separation there are between people today and famous people of the past. I’ve been considering for a while writing a biography of Capt. P.V.H. Weems. He was a major figure in developing aerial navigation in the 1920s-40s. He taught Lindbergh celestial navigation after he flew to Paris.

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How to Build a Computer 36: Chemical Vapor Deposition

 

No matter how much fun you’re having etching silicon, applying and stripping photoresist, or implanting ions, sooner or later you’re going to have to actually put down some lines. Gotta build a circuit eventually. Chemical Vapor Deposition (CVD) is one of the main ways this gets done. Let’s have a look at what we’re doing, shall we?

If I had known I was going to use this picture at least three times I might have put a little more effort into the sketching.

What you’re looking at is a jump over a wire. You have two wires that need to cross but not touch each other, you gotta do something like this. Let’s go over the process to get there:

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Eating Cheetos with Chopsticks

 

Chopsticks are, in a general manner, inferior to the fork. Forks are more effective over a wider range of food, and they’re easier to master as well. Really in this day and age, the major reason to learn chopsticks is to look sophisticated. You don’t want to look like a dolt in front of your friends. So I’m using chopsticks to eat Cheetos.*

Cheetos are pretty much on the opposite end of the sophistication spectrum from sushi.** If you learn chopsticks to look suave in one of those swanky Japanese restaurants that’s one thing. You simply can’t look debonair eating bright orange cheese puffs. So why bother with the chopsticks? Aren’t they a finger food? They are if you don’t mind leaving blaze orange fingerprints everywhere.

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Fun with Vectors and the Zombie Apocalypse

 

No, not vector in the epidemiological sense. The other, mathy kind of vector. Which, trust me, are fun. At least stick around for the zombies.

This dates back to my college days, when I took Differential Equations. Twice. I’ve always been good with math. Sure, I struggled with plenty of things along the way (percentages, trig identities, multivariable integration. Oooh, and concentrations in chemistry), but DiffEq is where I hit the wall like a coyote hits his own painted-on tunnel. Vector spaces were part of that; an abtruse concept used to justify an abstract concept used to solve some difficult equations that might, in turn, have something to do with the real world. But once I got my head wrapped around them, vector spaces turned out to be a fun and useful bit of math. Hey, it could happen.

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Appearance on Cold War Conversations Podcast

 

My interview was posted today. I talked about the early space program and the origins of GPS. This podcast is great. I especially liked the episode where Hess’s interpreter talked about his conversations with the former Nazi #2. Here I am with my father in 1963.

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How to Build a Computer 35: Anisotropic Etching

 

Last time we talked about how to make tiny little holes in silicon using harsh acids. Wet etching is fine and all, but sometimes you just can’t make a feature small enough. You’re limited by the aspect ratio. That is, how wide it is versus how tall it is. A post hole has a high aspect ratio because it’s much deeper than it is wide. A strip mine is a pretty low aspect ratio hole. The difficulty with making high aspect ratio holes in your silicon is that your etchant is going to etch down, yes, but it’s also going to etch towards the sides.

Before we get into dry etching there’s one more trick for making an anisotropic (uh, it etches downward quicker than it goes sideways. Literally the word means not-the-same-in-all-directions.) wet etch. What happens if you do your etching with a strong base instead of a strong acid? As it turns out, and for no reason, I’ve managed to determine, a strong base will etch one crystal face preferentially.

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Posting this vital information without further comment, although I know this usually mitigates promotion to the main feed, because, well . . . . (Still, I can’t help observing that it does give a modern twist to the phrase, “get a buzz on.”) Doctors Warn Women Against Putting Wasp Nests In their Vaginas. More

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Member Post

 

Readers of Thomas Kuhn’s famous book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions will know his central thesis that when anomalies and contradictions arise in a reigning scientific theory it creates a crisis out of which new theories emerge to replace the old. We may be seeing the beginnings of such a crisis for modern Darwinism, which […]

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Member Post

 

I’ve six times disputed on Twitter the claim that Dr. Gladys West invented GPS. Two people blocked me, two did not respond and two responded nicely. We’ll see if I get a response from a museum. More

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Member Post

 

How often did the space shuttle avoid disaster only by sheer good fortune? After the Challenger and Colombia losses, we learned that the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) segments have burned through in the past – leaking hot gasses out of the side of the Booster – or that foam had frequently fallen off the External […]

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John Glenn’s Flight

 

In elementary school, they brought TVs into our classrooms so we could watch the Mercury missions. John Glenn was the first American to orbit the Earth (after many delays and cancellations).

I found this copy of one of my father’s souvenirs yesterday. I think this track comes from my father’s Naval Space Surveillance System. Two years later, it would help inspire him to start his navsat program Timation which led to GPS.

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This is the last of three posts I’ve made about celebrating the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 at Space Center Houston. There was a panel comprised of L-R Johnson Space Center head Mark Geyer, Apollo 7 astronaut Walt Cunningham, Flight director Glen Lunney and Flight Controller Bill Moon. More

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I took the tram tour of the restored Mission Control at Johnson Space Center in Houston tonight. They have video of what the flight controllers were seeing during critical points of Apollo 11. It’s well worth a visit. Then I went to my hotel room and watched some of the coverage of Apollo 11 which […]

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