Tag: science

I can hear JFK rolling in his grave

Recall his speech on the moon mission:


And now read this from the Wall Street Journal on how students are initially gung ho for math and science and then shut down because it’s hard. Really? Math is hard? What I’ve noted through the progression is that it’s just more operational symbols that get introduced, first functions, trigonometry, calculus, linear system and the list goes on.

Are we really a nation of mediocrity now? We’d do well to listen to the words of President Kennedy. We choose to go the the Moon…not because it is easy, but because it is hard!”

So it’s the 21st of December, 2012 and we’re still here

Time to start laughing at the idiots who thought the world was going to end, once again, only this time just in the midst of the Holidays.

It’s currently 00:43 Eastern Standard Time (EST)  or 05:43 Universal Time Coordinated (UTC).  And the globe still spins on – nothing happened. The Mayan prophesy in addition to Nostradamus were completely and utterly wrong.

So enjoy your idiocy. The planet isn’t really scheduled to come to and end for billions of years yet. So get used to the fact that you’re going to have to pay your mortgage, car payment, utilities, etc.


Getting ready to laugh at the chicken littles

By Chicken Littles I mean the people who think that when the current Mayan Epoch ends on Dec. 21, 2012 that the world will also end.

I’ve written before about end times prophesy and how it’s always been wrong. Sure, some day it’ll be right because even a stopped clock is right twice a day, assuming you have an analog clock left in your home.

So come Dec. 22, 2012 when the Earth is still going about it’s business of spinning around on it’s axis, and gradually precessing so that we in the northern hemisphere enter Winter, while those in the southern hemisphere enter Summer! I want to make enough money so that I can constantly follow summer. Yes, that is how much I hate winter.  And the Earth will still be going about it’s cycle around the sun, much to the dismay of the Catholic Hierarchy back around the 16th Century.

And there will be a whole bunch of people with the proverbial egg on their face! And I shall preemptively laugh at them. Suckers!

The Evolution of the Telephone

A thought occurred to me. The evolution of the telephone is fascinating. It was established in 1876. By this point a hard waging battle over the type of current transmitted to homes would be, Direct Current favored by Thomas Edison, and Alternating Current favored by Nikola Tesla and George Westinghouse.

The telephone system of course uses a 48V DC circuit.

But the phone started as an instrument first in a common area of the home, one where you had to stand in front of the device to speak to the distant party.

But by the start of the 20th century – phones were rapidly evolving. It became readily apparent early on that you couldn’t hire enough switchboard operators to handle the rising call volumes seen by the early Bell System.

The dial telephone was invented by Almon Brown Strowger in 1891. But the Bell system didn’t fully adopt it until the late teens of the 20th century.

But adopt they did – using Strowgers Step by Step (SxS) system. You literally manipulated the switch train as you dialed. It was sort of a horribly inefficient system though.

SxS maintenance

Anyhow back to the 1920’s we started to see the phones with handsets and dials on them. But those phones required their network and ringing components to be located separately from the instrument itself.

Another development of the teens were the development of Panel switching. This was the very first of the common control types of switching equipment. In essence, everyone shared the same major elements in the switch train.

But Panel couldn’t keep up. In the mid 1920’s the started developing the #1 Crossbar. It was an ungainly beast of a switch but had capacities that far exceeded what Panel and Step by Step switches could handle. In addition, the #1 Crossbar introduced the element that you could use a specific switch element multiple times to complete calls.

By this point newer telephone with all components internal including network and ringer and handsets versus a separate ear piece and transmitter.

This is when you started seeing phones move from the common areas to the bedrooms, offices, etc.

And it carried on like this for another 50 years with moderate improvements in the telephone instrument. The 500 series represented the last great breakthrough in modern telephone service. And the Touch Tone derivative, the 2500 is still seen today.

And switching technology improved dramatically. The toll routing network was vastly improved in that time, to the point where it got so inexpensive that Bell couldn’t keep charging the exorbitant rates for long distance. This is what ultimately destroyed the Bell System. The MCI law suit challenged them on interconnection and they won.

Some of the notable switching improvements was the invention of the #5 Crossbar for local service, and the number 4A Crossbar for the toll network. Those increase the amount of common control and automation in the phone network.

But then, in the late 1950’s the Bell System started working with Electronic Switch Systems (ESS). The first ESS was a test in Morris, IL. They had to rework the whole system – the phones were different, the method of connection was different. But the key thing was, it proved advanced features like call waiting, Caller ID, three way calling, call forwarding, Centrex, etc.

But here’s where it gets interesting. The Bell System came up with the idea for cellular telephony back in the late 1930’s. They just lacked a critical element that we take for granted, widespread computing hardware in order to implement a cell system. It would take 40 years before they’d try again and this time with wild success.

Telephones then started moving from every room of the house to your cars and trucks.

But then micro-miniaturization gave us something luggable, then a brick, then a tiny brick, etc. so you could put the phone in your pocket.

But then the microprocessor revolution happened and now what we carry in our pockets has more computing power then some of the big main frame computers of the 1950’s and 1960’s. You most definitely have more computing power in your current phone than they did for the Apollo moon missions. In fact more than the computing power on the Space Shuttles.

Now we use our phones EVERYWHERE. We use them to talk to others and not just over the phone. I have an app called Echolink that lets me talk over amateur radio repeaters all over the world. And the phones have gained a measure of utility, like texting, web surfing, facebook, kindle and they’ve also become our music libraries.

So there has been progress made on the phone front. I suspect if A.G. Bell himself could see it he’d be astounded at what his simple invention has become.

Christianity is fighting a losing battle

Take a look at this (You may click to enlarge):

Yes indeed – Christianity is sliding down that slippery slope. A friend of mine says that what we are witnessing is the dying gasps of organize religion.

But granted, it’s going to take a long time for it to completely fade away.

Why else would the likes of the Pope, and leaders of the Southern Baptists, and evangelicals keep saying such ridiculous things? Because they know they’re losing the battle.

Part of it is a function that traces back to the invention of the printing press. Of course we’ve taken that to an extreme, I can publish this without anything more than a swype or press of keys on my phone or computer.

So it’s really a function of education, which is why you’re seeing attacks on things like evolution because the religious know they cannot legitimately argue against it. So they came up with creation ‘science’.

And of course there’s the deliberate dumbing down of our educational system in general. I was at the forum for potential school board candidates and I said, I want every student in the Providence school system to get the education I got, and mine wasn’t in public schools.

But even with those attacks we’re still making progress. It is because we have this thing that I alluded to earlier, the internet. A multitude of search engines, Web 2.0 sites, etc. It heterodynes the message that directly disputes the claims of the religious.

There are planets around distant stars

This shouldn’t be news to you. For the past few years a remarkable things has happened. Astronomy has gotten better at resolving things orbiting distant stars.

And now, a rocky body is orbiting a dwarf orange star called HD40307.  And it’s orbiting closely enough to have liquid water. Sort of like how here on earth, it’s kind of accepted that life began in the water and then gradually moved up onto the land, thought there is evidence that some land dwellers chose to return to the oceans aka whales.

I find this incredible, when I was a kid we barely knew about planets orbiting distant stars, but this one is only 42 light years away. And we now know there is a group of scientist playing with warp drive, one that could get us 12 light years in a single jump.  Now the interesting part, that jump would take fractions of a second. So 42 light years would be nothing.
The future is looking very bright indeed.



The Frankenstorm so far

So it’s coming up on 18:00 hours – for you 24 hour challenged types that’s 6:00PM.

In Providence the wind is picking up – with brief gusts that make it hard to walk but not too bad.

I do know a few things from venturing out on foot though.

RIPTA stopped running at noontime. Way to strand people!

I don’t see ANY police cruisers on the road. In fact there’s very little traffic.

The Woonasquatucket River is rising – but it’s got about four feet or so to go before it overflows it’s banks. And we’re seriously UPHILL from that river so I don’t worry too much.

The power is still on. I doubt it’ll go out – because we never lose power due to weather events, instead we lose power due to National Grid’s little fuck ups.

The only flooding is due to the storm drains being plugged with leaves. I note that after last year I had commented to my city councilor that they should wait until all the leaves fall before they muck out the drains. I think that got the attention of a few people. Good – wait until it all falls down.

And the flooding I speak of is mostly puddles.

Guess who applied to be a member of the local School Board?

I did. The invite was on a Facebook group I am a member of. They were looking for someone in the area to represent so I stepped up.

Looking at it, I figured now was the time. I’ve long read a lot on education theory, done program reviews at schools around the state, and griped about failing education on this blog quite a few times. So it’s damn well time I do something about it.

We’ll see if I get accepted. My technology background plays into this – I want to see our kids learning more about science, technology, engineering and math. I want them to be able to navigate the challenges of a world that is rapidly changing.

I suppose I’ll have to upgrade the wardrobe a bit but that shouldn’t be an issue.

They meet about four times a month and it’s a one year term.

What newspapers and magazines do I read

Newspapers first. I never read a single newspaper cover to cover, only articles that interest me. Those can be anything from hard news, political news, etc.

On the local front there is the not quite adequate to line the litter box with Providence Journal. Traditional newspapers are dying. For other local sources there’s the gay oriented Edge Providence, RI Future, Go Local Providence, Greater Cities Providence.

Then I use up my ten article limit on the NY Times quite often. I also read a number of article from the SF Gate, WSJ, the whole nine.

Magazines are a different story – there are only two I read regularly. Make Magazine and QST. The former is an O’Reilly publication that is for makers. I call myself one as I do occasionally build things. In fact I’m happiest when I am building something, be it a recipe or a new lighting system. QST is a magazine for the Amateur Radio community.

And books – oh boy. That’s a biggie for me. I’ve got VoIP: Internet Linking for Radio Amateurs by Jonathan Taylor K1RFD on order, should have it soon. I’m also re-reading a gay classic “The Dreyfus Affair” as well as having just finished reading a couple of other books. What can I say, I love to read.

It’s funny – I was looking for a book on my bookshelf the other day and realized I had loaned it to someone years ago. Ah well, found the digital version online for free so no big deal.

A nice comparison

This is a nice little summation.

Science v. Creationism

Yes boys and girls, science is about taking the facts and drawing a conclusion based upon those facts. That’s the basic way of putting it, in essence science aims to make the universe predictable. I know that sounds weird but it’s true. Look at all the theories in physics for example, and they describe the interactions of space-time, matter and energy. Plug the right numbers into the formulas and you’ll get the orbits of planets, the distance to another planet, or even be able to peer into atoms.

Creationism, aka Intelligent Design simply starts with the premise that a god/sky fairy/flying spaghetti monster created something. Then they try to arrange the facts to support the conclusion they’ve already reached, a foregone conclusion you might say. For example, check out the Answers in Genesis tour of the Creation Museum to see fixing the facts around a pre-determined conclusion.

I can’t wait for the Christofascisti to start commenting on this post. I will admit though that I’ve reached common ground with one of the Christians who comments on my blog on occasion. It’s amazing how it can come to that. But I think the fact that I hold a science degree, even though it’s information science, means I fall solidly in the science camp.

Then again I’ve let a few obvious tinhat/asshat/asswipe comments through and commented on them, torn them apart etc for the entertainment of my readers.