Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Economics 101 or Show Me the Money

$100 dollar bills are approximately 6.125 inches long by 2.5 inches wide. A 1" layer = 500 $100 dollar bills or one ream, the way the Fed packages money).

A standard box car is 50' long, 10' wide and 12.5' high. The volume of same totals approximately 6250 cubic feet (50'X10'X12.5'). Weight capacity, approximately 70 tons.

Using these dimensions, 4656 $100 bills would cover the floor of said box car (48 X 97 = 4656). A 1" layer (or one ream) would amount to 2,328,000 bills (4656 X 500 = 2,328,000) or be worth $23,280,000 (2,328,000 X $100). Filling one box car up would generate a cool $3,492,000,000 ($23,280,000 X 149 [12,5' = 150"- 1" {the ream already computed} or 149]).

Endgame: $15,000,000,000 divided by $3,492,000,000 = 4.295 box cars filled with $100s.

Addendum: The weight of each note is one gram. There are 454 grams in one U.S. pound, therefore, there should be 454 notes in (1) pound.
Ergo: 150,000,000 bills divided by 454 (1 pound of $100s) = 330,396 pounds or 165 tons (30396/2000 = 165) .

Question: How does one lose $15,000,000,000 or 4.295 box cars filled with $100s weighing 165 tons?

Answer: Ask the Pentagon.

Oh, I forgot, they don't know. Maybe Haliburton might or the BA or better yet, the Tooth Fairy because she knows when you lose a tooth so finding something like $15,000,000,000 shouldn't be a big deal at all.

Stop Making Sense - Talking Heads

Addendum II: With the Iraq/Afghanistan wars projecting to cost 3 Trillion, the monies, if converted to cash, would be truly astounding. Just multiple 15 billion by 200 and do the math.

Same as it ever was - Talking Heads

Addendum. The amount may be 23Billion. Click here to see why.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Am the Walrus

Walruses are cool! As per the NYT article; “The first thing the walruses will do when they come over is start pushing at you, pressing their heads right into your stomach,” he said. “Don’t let them get away with that. No matter how hard they push, you have to stand your ground.”

I stopped short, confused.

“If you don’t stand your ground, you’ll be knocked over or backed against a wall in no time,” Dr. Schusterman said.

But but ... I sputtered. How was I supposed to stand my ground against an animal the size of a Honda Civic? This sounded less like “friendly and playful” than “aggressive and possibly dangerous.”

“Just push back on the snout with the palm of your hand and blow in its face,” Dr. Schusterman instructed. “A walrus really likes to be blown in the face.”

But suddenly there I was in the pen, time expanding as I watched Sivuqaq, a 2,200-pound adult male, roll toward me like a gelatinous, mustachioed boulder and head straight for my solar plexus. Somehow, either out of professional pride or rigid terror, I managed to stay standing and stuck out my palm; when Sivuqaq nuzzled against it, all my fears fell away. I stroked his splendid vibrissae, the stiff, sensitive whiskers that a walrus uses to search for bivalves through the seabed’s dark murk, and that feel like slender tubes of bamboo. Then I blew in his face, and he half-closed his eyes, and I huffed and puffed harder and he leaned into my breath, all the while bleating and grunting and snorting for more."

Amazing stuff here, all the more reason to stop bickering about the causes of global warming and doing something about it. Man is creating the equivalent of a Permian Extinction through gross mismanagement of the earth's resources. We are in desperate trouble yet we continue to, for the most part, act as if climate change is "a ways off" so we can continue to pollute and generate ever more greenhouse gases that will kill off the kind of magnificent animals like the Walrus and Polar bear.

As stated in a previous BRT article (click here) , the tech is there to do something about it, the question remains, do we have the will to do something about it?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

One of the most amazing books ever written, The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe, stands the test of time by depicting what it was like to do acid, something this author experienced quite a number of times back in the late 60's. In addition to talking about the Merry Pranksters and the trip Ken Kesey and company take on a bus, Wolfe desscribes Neal Cassady's obsession about getting as close to the "present" as possible through gunfighting & LSD. To Cassady, matching the 1/30th of a second interval it takes to draw a six shooter from a holster gets one as close to experiencing the "present" as one can get.

40 years later, a researcher pursues the same goal.

"Changizi claims the visual system has evolved to compensate for neural delays, allowing it to generate perceptions of what will occur one-tenth of a second into the future, so that when an observer actually perceives something, it is the present rather than what happened one-tenth of a second ago. Using his hypothesis, called “perceiving-the-present,” he was able to systematically organize and explain more than 50 types of visual illusions that occur because our brains are trying to perceive the near future. His findings are described in May-June issue of the journal Cognitive Science."

The more things change, the more they remain the same. - Alphonse Karr

Addendum: Click on the Daily Galaxy eyeball to get another take on how the brain predicts the future.

Sorcerer's Apprentice

"The tale begins as an old sorcerer departs his workshop, leaving his apprentice with chores to perform. The apprentice tires of fetching water for a bath or tank, and enchants a broomstick to do the work for him, using magic he is not yet fully trained in. However, soon the floor is awash with water, and he realizes that he cannot stop the broom because he does not know the magic word to make it stop. Despairing, he splits the broom in two with an axe, but each of the pieces in turn transform into animated broomsticks, taking up pails and continuing to fetch water, now faster than ever. When all seems lost in a massive flood, the old sorcerer returns, quickly breaks the spell and saves the day."

When applied to multicore programming, Sun Computer's take is apt.

"In real life, however, a task that can be described as "doing the same thing 100 times" is often more nuanced than it seems. If my task is to fetch water from a well, for example, one person armed with one bucket could make the trip 100 times to complete the task. But if I had a hundred buckets, and a hundred strong backs to carry them, I could complete the mission in one one-hundredth of the time. Barring any other bottlenecks, there's nothing about a trip to fetch water from a well that depends on anyone else's trip to the well; you can complete all the trips at roughly the same time.

This, of course, is exactly the same kind of efficiency that you get from parallel computing. But writing algorithms that can take advantage of parallel processors isn't easy in today's languages. There's nothing about the grammar of a for-next statement that lets the system know that it's OK to parallelize that loop. Instead, you have to manage the calculus of making it parallelizable by hand. Lose track of what's happening in the system and you can quickly end up in a "Sorcerer's Apprentice" scenario."

In Fortress, on the other hand, language constructs such as for-next loops are parallelizable by default. The Fortress specification supports the concept of transactions within the language itself, which means that complex calculations can be computed as atomic units, independent of any other program threads that might be running.

Ah, if Sun only knew how to do interfaces, they, and not Apple, would be the darlings of the tech world.

When Pigs Fly

Self powered spreadable OLED's? Yeah, Right! C'mon, this isn't possible but...

solar cells and OLEDs work on similar, but opposite, principles, it is possible to make materials that both take light and turn it into electricity and also do the opposite to provide a controllable display."

If this comes to pass, tech will be everywhere, persuasive to a fault.

Tokitaro Hoshijima at Mitsubishi Chemicalexplains:

"What I want to create is a world that does not need power sockets." He goes on to describe how his paste applied to the back of a phone could be enough to charge the device when exposed to light.

By the same token, researchers at Sumitomo Chemical have created a similar organic solution that can be sprayed onto a surface to create an OLED screen.

Such a display could be on a rollable piece of plastic or even applied directly to a wall. The solar-charging properties described above mean it would never need to be plugged in.

Blue-sky projects like these typically take years to bear fruit, but both companies are looking at getting usable prototype devices ready within the next two years.

Pigs may fly after all.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Elastic Lists

Click on the image to see something very cool when having to go through a great deal of information to find the thing you need. Well Formed Data, the terrific site that presents this Elastic List Demo of Nobel Laureates (open source code developed by Flamenco Search) also links to Information Design Patterns, an environment dedicated to showing how to set up useful patterns (graphs, charts and layering etc., etc.) to efficiently search through large amounts of data with a minimum of hassle.

The Semantic Web beckons.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Universal Soldier

I have a dark secret, I love trashy action movies, scifi flicks and horror films. (Techies one and all admit this without a problem.) One of the "best" is the 1992 epic titled Universal Solder starring Jean Claude Van Damme (the good guy) and Dolph Lundgren, (the bad). Seems these soldiers were chemically amped to the nth degree, fed muscular enhancements to give them super human strength and drugged to the nth degree to obey orders without question. (OBTH, They are reanimated dead guys.)

Flash forwarding to 2008, it looks like the military is doing the same thing (partially) by juicing up soldiers to deal with the extremities of war with little regard for the inevitable blowback that accompanies the use of drugs.

"As the chemical interventions grow bolder and more sophisticated, we should not be surprised that some are beginning to cast their eyes beyond droopy eyelids and sore muscles. Chief among the new horizons is the alluring notion of psychological prophylactics: drugs used to pre-empt the often nasty effects of combat stress on soldiers, particularly that perennial veteran's bugaboo known as post-traumatic stress disorder syndrome. In the U.S., where roughly two-fifths of troops returning from combat deployments are presenting serious mental health problems, PTSD has gone political in form of the Psychological Kevlar Act, which would direct the Secretary of Defense to implement "preventive and early-intervention measures" to protect troops against "stress-related psychopathologies."

Proponents of the "Psychological Kevlar" approach to PTSD may have found a silver bullet in the form of propranolol, a 50-year-old beta-blocker used on-label to treat high blood pressure, and off-label as a stress-buster for performers and exam-takers. Ongoing psychiatric research has intriguingly suggested that a dose of propranolol, taken soon after a harrowing event, can suppress the victim's stress response and effectively block the physiological process that makes certain memories intense and intrusive. That the drug is cheap and well tolerated is icing on the cake."

As per the AlterNet article, a cool $160 billion is being pumped into the program with the army taking the lead on this risky enterprise. Other tech being developed include exoskeletons, remote control unmanned aircraft and autonomous intelligent weapons. (Skynet)

A good site to see the full array of tech being developed for war is FCS (Future Combat Systems), an environment both fascinating and chilling in its intent.

For more BRT info on weapondry, click here and here.

Thursday, May 01, 2008


A couple of days ago, I chanced upon a really cool book titled Bonk.

"Shafik won my heart by publishing a paper in European Urology in which he investigated the effects of polyester on sexual activity. Ahmed Shafik dressed lab rats in polyester pants. There were 75 rats. They wore their pants for one year. Shafik found that over time the ones dressed in polyester or poly-cotton blend had sex significantly less often than the rats whose slacks were cotton or wool. (Shafik thinks the reason is that polyester sets up troublesome electrostatic fields in and around the genitals. Having seen an illustration of a rat wearing the pants, I would say there’s an equal possibility that it’s simply harder to get a date when you dress funny.)"

There are no questions, right? :)

Read the Getting it On for Science Salon interview with Mary Roach. It's a good read.


Writing, a skill I took up seriously about 25 years, ago, never ceases to amaze me, especially when viewing how a very talented artist Stephanie Posavec analyzes great writers from the design perspective.

By clicking on the Literary Organism graphic above, you will see the organizational structure of Chapter One /Jack Kerouac's On the Road. Other mappings depicting Rhythm Textures, Sentence Length and Sentence Drawings show, in fascinating detail, the different approaches writers take in chaining together words to communicate their thoughts to the reader. To see more of her outrageous work, go to Notcot and prepare to be blown away.