Milwaukee Status

Yesterday we had the qualifying matches for the FIRST Milwaukee Regional Competition, which with the Southwest Robotics Team. The day before yesterday was practice matches, as an opportunity to work out bugs on the official arena before the actual competition. The good news is, our robot was moving up in the rankings. The bad news is, it completely underperformed what I, and many of my teammates, expected. We battled mechanical problems (our lift prongs got bent on Thursday) and yesterday we couldn’t seem to do anything with the lift arm until our final match of the day. The robot didn’t…

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Going Out of Town (FIRST Milwaukee Regional)

As you all probably know by now, I am a member of the wonderful (am I biased?) Southwest High Robotics Team, whose website I designed. Well, we’re going to Milwaukee this afternoon, and we’ll be back late Saturday night (CDT, of course). It is quite interesting that the team captain hasn’t posted about the trip yet on the team blog… But I digress. What that means for this site is that I’ll be publishing stuff I wrote yesterday (and this morning) and scheduled using that Blogger’s still testing (and recently [– ] in). The posts came from ideas that have…

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TSA Restricting Lithium Batteries Starting Tomorrow

I think someone at the Transportation Security Administration has been reading my posts about lithium-ion batteries. The Associated Press and C|NET reported a couple days ago that, starting January 1, 2008, travelers will no longer be allowed to transport lithium batteries (whether rechargeable or not) in checked baggage. There will also be restrictions on the number of spare batteries travelers can bring. The limit is determined by “equivalent lithium content” (ELC) measurements, which applies to both spare and installed batteries. Batteries up to eight grams ELC are permissible, as well as up to two spare batteries with up to 25…

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XKCD Roundup: My Favorite XKCD Comics

I’ve selected a few exceptionally good xkcd comic strips and embedded them here. I find them all particularly amusing, over and above the normal strips. The tooltips have been preserved as well. I advise you to read them; the comics sometimes don’t make sense without. If the pics are too small for you, just click them (Ctrl+click or Shift+click would be better, actually; new tab, new window) to get the full-size version. And you can fix the annoying title truncation in Firefox using this nice extension. Centrifugal Force This is one of those things that just hits my funny bone…

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Two More Illustrations of Battery Dangers

As I’ve written about before, . Today in my newsletter, I got two more articles — one from yesterday, one from today — that further prove the point. The first (I’ll go by chronology) details an IBM lawsuit against an apparently Web-only company that has been manufacturing and selling fake laptop batteries bearing the IBM logo. The batteries are flammable, and are of quite low quality. IBM seeks millions of dollars in damages from trademark infringement and lost profits, among other things. The highlight here is that fake batteries are everywhere. Lithium-ion technology comes from hundreds or thousands of different…

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DARPA Urban Challenge Set for Saturday

The long-awaited (at least for those of us interested in robotics) DARPA Urban Challenge will commence at 0700 EDT this Saturday, November 3. Up to 20 vehicles are slated to compete, narrowed down from approximately 35 candidates during this week’s qualifying trials. The first DARPA Grand Challenge saw the top vehicle complete only 5 miles of the 142-mile course; in the second, four self-driven cars completed the 132-mile route in under 10 hours. The winner of that challenge, Stanley, a diesel-powered VW Touareg from Stanford, took home $2,000,000. This year’s prizes are the same ($2 million first prize, $500,000 second,…

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Lithium-Ion Batteries: Confirmed Fire Hazards

In recent years there has been a string of highly-publicized cases where various types of Li-Ion batteries catch fire. Be they installed in laptops, cellphones, or, now, iPods, Lithium Ion battery technology has, I think, established itself as a definite consumer hazard. PC World has a humorously titled article (“Hot Tunes: Man Says Nano iPod Caught Fire in His Pocket“) that shares the hazard of the newest of the three device types: the iPod. A man playing an iPod Nano in his pocket had it catch fire on him, setting his pants aflame and sending orange streams of plasma (flames…

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World Trade Center: Alternate Collapse Theory

I found a video on Google Video (originally posted on Google Video UK) through comments on another film that contradicts the currently accepted explanations for the collapse of the three World Trade Center buildings on September 11, 2001. What follows is an aggregation of my several comments, which had to be separated due to Google’s comment length limits. While I applaud the uploader of this video for taking the initiative and posting the footage, this can’t possibly be true. Most of the reasons given for the impossibility of the buildings coming down as a result of the fires could indeed…

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BOINC Follows [email protected]

So, I decided that wasn’t enough. I found and downloaded the BOINC program from Berkeley and found three more (so far) projects to contribute to: [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] [email protected] is pretty self-explanatory – it analyzes telescope readings for signs of life. [email protected] and [email protected] are less obvious. [email protected] also folds proteins, but for a different reason than [email protected] [email protected] assists in nano-magnetic research. So just think, it could be my computer that discovers the secret to 100 TB hard drives next year. 🙂 Update 20:57: I have also added [email protected], a project that searches for three-number sets in which…

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I’m Officially [email protected] (and @Work)

Lured by a recent article in PC World news, I have installed the [email protected] program from Stanford University and begun simulating folding proteins. So far, I’ve completed about 1% of my first work unit, so nothing much has been accomplished yet, but I’ve given the program permission to use about 80% of available processor power, and it estimates completion in a little over five days (!). That means, unfortunately, more like ten or fourteen days, since this computer is off more than half the time, but progress is progress. Being part of a One Petaflop (yes, I said “Peta”) computing…

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