brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell

25Feb/04Off

Pocket Enigma Machine


I recently joined orkut.com, and find it pretty interesting to participate in a community based soley upon invitations/trust. One of the first interesting things I discovered was a link to a cute toy apparently sold in the Bletchley Park Museum: a single rotor Enigma machine. Nifty! You can read more about it Stuart Savory's Pocket Enigma®: The revised Review

I may have to write a Python implementation and then cryptoanalyze it.


21Feb/04Off

Visible Man, Visible Woman, Visible Barbie?

When I was in at Princeton in the late 80's, I remember Pat Hanrahan talking about the Visible Human Project, a project to produce detailed 3-D models of both a normal male and female, using CT, NMRI and anatomical images. Yes, anatomical images.
They sliced the male up in 1mm intervals to match the imaging resolution of the CT scans. The female was sliced much thinner, at 0.33mm per slice.

Not content to leave cryosectioning to the trained biologists, numerous amateurs have gotten into the act as well. Witness The Visible Barbie Project.

Filed under: Science Comments Off
17Feb/04Off

Damn Yankees…

Today, Alex Rodriguez was traded to the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano. Apparently A-Rod will play third base for the Yankees.

I bet the Red Sox are wishing they'd have ponied up a bit more cash and done the deal now.

While the Yankees will field quite possibly the greatest offensive team of my lifetime, it remains to be seen whether that will net them a championship. They may average six runs a game or so, but I suspect that their pitching will be rocked with some degree of frequency. Kevin Brown is
old and hasn't been all that durable, and If they get on a losing skid anytime during the season I think that Joe Torre will find himself looking for a new job.

But still, I know I'll have my ticket when they come to town. It should be quite a show.

Addendum: The rumor mill is that Greg Maddux will be signed to pitch for the Yankees.
This is undoubtably part of a
clever strategy
for winning another World Series.

Filed under: Baseball Comments Off
13Feb/04Off

Happy Birthday Charles Darwin


Charles Darwin was born February 12, 1809 in Shrewsbury England. In addition to being the world's greatest barnacle expert of his time, he also took time out to write the rather famous
On the Origin of Species, which
laid out his theory of evolution. I think strong arguments can be made is history's single
most influential scientist: his keen insight into the relationships between living things continues
to aid in understanding the biological world around us.

Surprisingly debate over evolution continues, not in the scientific arena, but in the religious and political world. Many are offended to believe that they owe their existance to descent from
other primates instead of divine creation in a magical garden. I won't debate them here (you can
examine talk.origins for that) but I will respond with a quotation:

How so many absurd rules of conduct, as well as so many absurd religious beliefs, have originated, we do not know; nor how it is that they have become, in all quarters of the world, so deeply impressed on the minds of men; but it is worthy of remark that a belief constantly inculcated during the early years of life, while the brain is impressionable, appears to acquire almost the nature of an instinct; and the very essence of an instinct is that it is followed independently of reason.

-- Charles Darwin

Filed under: News Comments Off
9Feb/04Off

Weekend thoughts of metalworking

This weekend I had the pleasure of driving out to visit "Steamboat Ed" Haas. Ed is a heck of an amazing guy who (among other things) has his own steam powered launch and has worked on Battlebots. He nicely had a bunch of people out to his newly completed 2-story shop, and we had a great time.

After removing 15 cubic yards of crap from my garage, I'm feeling like trying to get some projects going. Several years back I bought a 6" Atlas Lathe which sadly hasn't made a single chip. It's actually pretty well equipped, I simply haven't bothered to set it up. That will hopefully change shortly.

Yahoo! Groups has a atlas_craftsman
group which is dedicated to owners of Atlas equipment. There is lots of great information and equipment still available for these little lathes, so I should be able to get it up and running shortly.

I'm intrigued by the idea of building a small metalworking shop. In browsing the web to find what other people use, I found a couple of nice links. Some apartment dwellers even manage to get into the act. Chinese import tools are available, and while not particularly the greatest tools, for small work they can be quite good. There is a nice review of a 7x10
miniature lathe
for only $299. The lathe isn't perfect, but seems to be quite capable. The same company has a small mill that sells for $399. If I get things straightened out, perhaps a treat will be forthcoming for me around my birthday.

Filed under: My Projects Comments Off
7Feb/04Off

You’ve gotta have balls…

Over the years I've been interested in complex and chaotic phenomena. Anyone looking at my desk would confirm this to be true. Sometimes I think scientists have all the fun though, like when they use half a million
ping pong balls
to study the motion of avalanches in snow. There are many unanswered questions, such as why avalanches produce so much low frequency acoustic energy. Cool stuff.

1Feb/04Off

Remembering Columbia


One year ago today, the space shuttle Columbia broke apart on reentry. All hands aboard perished.

In honor of the sacrifice these men and women made in the pursuit of mankind's dream of spaceflight, NASA has designated the Mars rover Spirit's landing place The Columbia Memorial Station. To remember the crew of the Challenger, Opportunity's landing spot is designated The Challenger Memorial Station.

Columbia, STS-107 Challenger, STS-51L
  • Rick D. Husband, Commander
  • William C. McCool, Pilot
  • Michael P. Anderson, Payload Commander
  • David M. Brown, Mission Specialist 1
  • Kalpana Chawla, Mission Specialist 2
  • Laural Blair Salton Clark, Mission Specialist 4
  • Ilan Ramon, Payload Specialist 1
  • Francis R. Scobee, Commander
  • Michael J. Smith, Pilot
  • Judith A. Resnick, Mission Specialist
  • Ronald E. McNair, Mission Specialist
  • Ellison S. Onizuka, Mission Specialist
  • Gregory B. Jarvis, Payload Specialist
  • Sharon Christa McAuliffe, Teacher

Best wishes to their friends and family. The memory of their courage is not forgotten.

Filed under: News Comments Off