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This is a follow-up to my prior post yesterday, Homosexuality Facts #1: Baby, You’re Not Born That Way. The prior posed addressed the state of scientific knowledge on the genetic component of homosexuality, if any. My prior post proposed to address a second question: Whether homosexuality is “immutable,” i.e. whether homosexuality can change, either on its […]

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A recent thread on the member feed led me to research the state of knowledge about homosexuality. I’m going to address two issues: Whether homosexuals are “born that way,” e. the state of scientific knowledge on the genetic component of homosexuality, if any. Whether homosexuality is “immutable,” e. whether homosexuality can change, either on its […]

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Google’s presentation of its impressive new game streaming service began with images of boardgames, arenas, sports stadiums, and concert halls to show how entertainment has provided a social glue throughout history to bring people of different backgrounds and beliefs together in joy. Hence the name, Stadia. “Create + Scale + Connect” are the three goals […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Build a Computer 29: Electron Microscopy

 

For the next couple of posts, we’ll be sauntering through the science of measurement. To put it simply, computer bits are really, really small. So as you wander through the world of building them how do you know you’ve made the thing right? Well, let’s start simple. You can just look at ’em. I could go on a great big tear about optical microscopy which is still an important subject, and relevant. The problem with it is that I just don’t find the subject very interesting. Still, you get some neat images.

This is my fingerprint, photographed on the background of one of them hard drive platters I ripped out of that drive in the video. FBI please ignore.

To understand why you need the electron microscope it helps to spend some time with an optical microscope. The majority of the time I spent looking at parts I spent looking through an optical microscope, not on the SEM. Largely because Chem Lab owned the SEM, and they get all fidgety when someone else touches their stuff. Briefly though, I think I can demonstrate the usefulness of an electron microscope with two images.

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“The history of π is a quaint little mirror of the history of man. It is the story of Archimedes of Syracuse, whose method of calculating π defied substantial improvement for some 1900 years, and it is also the story of a Cleveland businessman, who published a book in 1931 announcing the grand discovery that π was exactly […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Apollo 9: 50th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing

 

We are midway through the fiftieth anniversary year of the culmination of the Apollo program. Fifty years ago, this week, Apollo 9 was circling the Earth, testing the lunar module. The module had not been ready in December, when the Apollo 8 crew went to the Moon, tested out lunar orbit and safely returned. Now astronauts were putting the lunar module through all its paces except for actual lunar landing. Remember that, two flights after Apollo 9, the world witnessed the first human steps on ground beyond Earth, meeting President Kennedy’s challenge. This monumental achievement marked a shift in the balance of the Cold War and happened at the same time as the West seemed to be waning down here on Earth.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Soft Landings

 

The moon’s distance from Earth varies from approximately 225,000 miles to about 250,000 miles. Because the moon is much smaller than Earth, and so has a weaker gravitational field, most of the trip to the moon — the first 200,000 miles or so — is uphill: Earth is still trying to pull you back, albeit with an ever-diminishing attraction as you get farther away.

It’s hard to get there, and even harder to land once you do. Several countries have crashed objects on the moon, but to date only three — the old Soviet Union, the United States, and China, and in that order — have managed to achieve soft landings on the moon.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Build a Computer 28: Video Edition!

 

Coming to you taped from the Wastes of Wisconsin Winter we present a special video edition of how to build a computer. In this post I take apart a hard drive and look at the bits piece by piece. Thrills, chills, blood and laughter, folks this film has it all! And at a price so low I’m practically giving it away.

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Air Power School Picks Up My Book

 

Amazon has a section where authors can track sales of their books and of particular interest are the sales by geography. Two weeks ago, I sold fourteen copies of the hardcover in a week. But it put the geography section as “other,” which means that it wasn’t from a big city. I haven’t sold fourteen copies in a week since the initial month in which it was released, so I wondered if a book club selected it. Tonight I found out that the Air Power School in Birmingham Alabama is reading it; the Air Force’s MA and PhD granting institution of Air and Space strategy. This is the biggest news we’ve had since we were invited three years ago to speak to Air Force Space Command and a four star general (Hyten) introduced our talk. Sorry for the vanity, but the many Ricochet authors know how nice it is when you find out that your book is being recognized and used by significant people.

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Tile damage almost destroyed the Atlantis on a secret military mission in 1988. More

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Build a Computer 27: Data Recovery

 

We’ve covered the physical aspects of a hard disk drive, tonight we’ll touch on the way data is organized on the drive, by covering those two most important topics; keeping secrets and ferreting other people’s out.

In this case describing the times this joke has been used since it was last funny.

We’ll start by deleting files: Let’s say that I’ve got a backlog of old and worn-out memes to purge. That’s no problem, you just move them from the exquisitely detailed and organized archive of these things into the trash can, but that doesn’t actually erase anything. Bill Gates, knowing that we mere mortals are flawed and prone to regret, keeps your trashed files around in case your stale jokes may, someday in the future, be called for again. But we’re stronger than that. So we empty the trash folder (or, pro-tip; on a Windows box if you hold down ‘Shift’ as you delete a file the file doesn’t go to the trash at all; it empties automatically.)

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Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Affirmative Action in Inventions

 

Last June, I attended my monthly nonfiction writers meeting. Afterward, I spoke to the black gentleman sitting next to me. He mentioned that he’d just found out that a black woman invented GPS. I said that was strange since my father invented it. He chuckled and said that I was holding out on him. I looked it up and a Dr. Gladys West was the person. It appears that she worked on refining satellite orbits and models of the earth. She did valuable work but is one of hundreds or thousands of people at that level. I dismissed it; errors about the origins of GPS are rife and in spite of my extensive writings about it I’m a relatively obscure person.

More recently, the articles about Dr. West have multiplied and an unrelated erroneous documentary about the origins of GPS was released.

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Pardon the length of this, and don’t read if you prefer an immediate events focus. Anyone answering may have to project forward 50 or even 300 years to speculate and answer. Clearly there is a political force convinced that human activity adds significantly enough to global warming to justify enacting new realms of governmental action […]

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http://www.collectspace.com//news/news-021419a-apollo-11-documentary-imax-release.html More

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My daughter had a curious encounter with her iPhone last night, and I’m hoping someone here can give me a “Oh, that’s nothing” explanation. It starts with a little background. More

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Build a Computer 26: Spindles and Platters and So Forth

 

We’ve discussed what it means to actually store information on a hard disk drive, how you magnetize it and how you pull that information off. Neat stuff, but a bit heavy on the abstract physics. Today we’re going to zoom out a bit and look at the mechanical bits of how hard drives work. Here, let me start you off with a picture. Take a look at these two hard drives (conveniently cracked open for viewing purposes), one I borrowed from the boss man, and the other I picked up off the “Free Stuff” shelf when they moved the engineering department. Tell me which you think stores more data:

None of the above. Neither of is ever going to run again. Look at that dust!

Now I’ve actually got no idea on the history of these two drives, what year they were built, their listed capacity. Couple points of difference tell me the one on the left is older, and stores far less information:

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My favorite footnote is in Sienko & Plane’s Chemical Principles & Properties, in the section about tungsten: “At room temperature W has an extremely small vapor pressure. It has been calculated to correspond to one W atom per universe. E pluribus unum.” My second-favorite footnote is in Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great […]

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A coworker recently purchased the book Ignition! and credited me with clueing him to it. It’s about the astonishingly hazardous business of inventing and testing rocket fuels. I do not remember mentioning anything about this book…but maybe I did, after seeing a review of it right here! Be that as it ever was, I am […]

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. How to Build a Computer 25: The Magnetoresistive Effect

 

Our story starts with Lord Kelvin, one of the great old school physicists. You can read about his career from John Walker’s old Saturday Night Science. Actually, at the point he enters this story I don’t think Kelvin had made lord yet; he was just some bloke named Thompson. This Thompson fellow was playing around with magnets and electricity and that sort of thing. What he discovered is that you can change the resistance of a wire with a magnetic field. And furthermore that that change in resistance depends on the angle between the wire and the magnetic field.

Let’s take that a little more slowly. Change in resistance when you’re in a magnetic field? Okay, I can buy that; there’s all this nonsense about wires and magnets and whatnot that I’ve been blathering about up until this point. Angle? The resistance in your wire will vary a great deal whether it’s parallel or antiparallel to the magnetic field on your disk. (Antiparallel means parallel, but facing the other direction. The northbound lane on a highway is antiparallel to the southbound lane.) If your wire is running current right-to-left and your magnetic field is pointed left-to-right then your wire’s resistance is at it’s highest because of your antiparallel configuration.

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(1) Sit less. (2) Eat less. More

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