Tech Tuesday – 12/18/18


On a personal note, we spent the weekend in Flagstaff, and Bug got to see Mars through a 16″ telescope, and he got to see the Orion Nebula through the Clark Telescope, which showed him 8 baby stars and the glowing green gas of the nebula. Totally worth staying up late and standing in line in the cold.

[TT1] It’s got a funny name, but under the right conditions it can provide more thrust than the mains.  So I guess the name isn’t quite so funny.

[TT2] New neural network design using ordinary differential equations. If you understand calculus, this will make sense.

[TT3] Oh, man, evidence that gender is not as simple as XX or XY is bound to cause certain heads to explode.

[TT4] See what happens when you let your kids play with Shrinky Dinks too much?

[TT5] Pretty sure this was an episode of Curious George, when he got to pilot a mini-sub to find a lost sensor package.

[TT6] I feel better knowing there is a group out there for Architects with anger issues.

[TT7] Using lasers to help cubesats keep in touch with earth.  This is more involved, and a bit more clever, than simply pointing a laser at earth.

[TT8] A motorcycle with jets in the wheels.  We are living in the future.

[TT9] Organic farming is bad for the environment.  Bit of schadenfreude with this one.

[TT10] CRISPR techniques could help with obesity without editing genes.  Well, some obesity, in people with certain gene mutations.  Not you, you just need to stop hitting Dunkin Donuts three times a week and try going for a walk longer than from the couch to the bathroom.  And maybe take Dave’s advice and lift some actual weight.  Or eat some clay.  Ya’ll weren’t expecting that last one, were ya?

[TT11] The VSS Unity reached space and came home safely.

[TT12] Previously mentioned ‘Steam Sponge’ has leveled up to become a ‘Super Heated Steam Sponge’.

[TT13] I am enormously curious and eager to try a vat grown steak.

[TT14] Electric motors do make variable geometry a lot easier to do.

[TT15] Two older drugs, when their powers combine, can form Captain Pla…, errr, no, but they can cause cancer cells to starve and die.  Now can someone explain to me why this doesn’t hurt healthy cells?

[TT16] A tunable, artificial Mother of Pearl.

[TT17] The 3rd, and final, Zumwalt has left the construction yards.  Why the 3rd, and not the 32nd as originally planned?  Because OMG! are these expensive ships, and destroyers, like frigates, are supposed to be cheap and easy to turn out.  The Zumwalt is sitting at (not counting R&D costs) $4.6B per hull.  The Arleigh Burke class is $1.8B per hull, and those ships are currently doubling as light cruisers (since the Navy is no longer developing a Ticonderoga replacement, which was only $1B a pop).  Compare to the Freedom LCS, which is just shy of $400M.

[TT18] I’m a fan of electric motors, but being a fluids guy, I personally think hydraulic motors don’t get nearly the love they deserve.  Glad to see someone else thinks so too!

[TT19] Damnit technology, stop finding more fossil fuels!

[TT20] Sure it’s small, but can it be produced cost effectively?  Thoughts, Brother Michael?


A Navy Turbine Tech who learned to spin wrenches on old cars, Oscar has since been trained as an Engineer & Software Developer & now writes tools for other engineers. When not in his shop or at work, he can be found spending time with his family, gardening, hiking, kayaking, gaming, or whatever strikes his fancy & fits in the budget. ...more →

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17 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday – 12/18/18

  1. I lived in Flagstaff a couple of years, and totally loved it. It is on my short list of places I would live, were there no considerations beyond personal preference. The trip to the Lowell Observatory is totally worth it. Be sure to ask the docents about Martian canals. Next visit, try the Museum of Northern Arizona, a surprisingly good regional museum.

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    • The docent(?) at the Clark telescope was telling us about how Mr. Lowell was intrigued by the canals on Mars and was constantly looking for other evidence of Martians. Bug was very quick to point out that Martians are aliens, and aliens don’t exist.

      Bug also sat through a half hour lecture on stars, paid pretty close attention (for a 6 year old), and answered questions.

      We will probably be back in the Spring on our way to the Grand Canyon, so I will be sure to check out the Museum. Thanks for the recommendation.

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      • My recollection, from going on twenty years ago, is that they were eager to talk about Pluto, while maintaining a discreet silence about the canals. That might have changed, or it might depend on who you get that day.

        If y’all are interested in Indian stuff, I also recommend Walnut Canyon National Monument, just east of town. It has cave dwellings. A lot of this sort of thing you really shouldn’t go tramping through, but in this case the Powers That Be have thrown in the towel on maintaining archaeological integrity, and instead have gone the other direction of making it easily accessible, so the tourists can get it out of their systems without messing up dig sites. This should make it ideal for a six year old, if he is interested in such things.

        Then of course there is the Grand Canyon. If you are the least bit tempted to set foot downward, especially with a six year old, I can offer good advice on a day trip that won’t kill you.

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  2. [TT3]

    “Importantly, we identified XX patients who would normally have ovaries and be female but carried extra copies of these enhancers, (high levels of SOX9) and instead developed testes. In addition, we found XY patients who had lost these SOX9 enhancers, (low levels of SOX9) and developed ovaries instead of testes.”

    I read another paper recently where one of those XY patients with ovaries had actually given birth to another XY with ovaries.

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    • I’ve always wondered if it was possible to have an ovum with a Y in it.

      I know there’s enough required genetic information on X that people have to have (at least) one, but someone could get their Y from their mother and X from their father.

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  3. TT20: [Techno-babble warning] Minimum feature size, which is what this article is about, has become almost meaningless. Minimum metal pitch — the center-to-center distance between lines connecting the components — is the current bottleneck, and is stuck around 40nm because of the limits of copper. Intel has started using cobalt in the lowest metal layers, which allows some reduction of the metal pitch. Intel packs about 100M transistors per mm^2 using its 10nm process. TSMC and Samsung, with what they advertise as 7nm processes, get about 80M and 65M respectively. At this point, the gain from shrinking the transistor size is a quite modest increase in switching speed and a modest decrease in power consumption.

    Intel, Samsung, and TSMC are the last firms standing in the race to keep shrinking feature size; everyone else has been priced out. That may be a problem for high-end stuff in the future. It still looks to me that we’re close to the end of Moore’s Law, because there won’t be enough demand for the high-end devices to cover the costs of the fab lines.

    OTOH, most of the interesting toys I’m dabbling with these days are designed around the Raspberry Pi boards. All of the Pi system-on-chip devices use 40nm tech.

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    • I don’t know when we have to stop miniaturizing processors, but we’re basically at the point that we should stop, because it’s getting silly with diminishing returns. Instead we should be figuring out how to make multi-processing scale better, and figure out better heat dissipation.

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  4. TT19: These are identified by the USGS as “undiscovered” reserves. That means that, based on models and limited geologic information, they’re thinking that there’s that much total oil and gas down there. The other categories, in increasing order of certainty, are possible, probable, unproven, and proven. The numbers generally go down quite a lot as reserves move through that scheme. The more important questions are (1) how much does it cost to extract the oil and gas, and (2) at what rate can the oil and gas be extracted?

    Relative to (1), there are gigantic amounts of natural gas in onshore geopressured brine reservoirs under Texas and Louisiana. The reservoirs are well mapped because drilling into one of them while attempting to reach a useful structure below them can be catastrophic. No one knew how to extract it cleanly when I was in graduate school in the 1970s doing speculative systems analysis on the question. No one knows how to extract it cleanly today.

    Relative to (2), the depletion rate for natural gas wells in the US in aggregate is getting very close to 25% per year, and going up. That means we have to drill enough new wells this year to produce 25% of next year’s total production. So far we’re keeping up. At some point we won’t.

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  5. Tt15:
    “Now can someone explain to me why this doesn’t hurt healthy cells?”

    in the follow-up study, jointly performed at the Biozentrum and Basilea Pharmaceutica International Ltd, the scientists shed light on this phenomenon: The combination of the two drugs blocks a critical step in energy production thus leading to an energy shortage, which finally drives cancer cells to “suicide”.

    I am not a doctor, or a biologist (literally the last bio course I took was in 9th grade), but my understanding is that the passage above is key.

    The feature (and bug) of cancer cells is their growth – that every other ‘normal’ feedback mechanism is shut off so all they do is replicate and multiply.

    So, possibly, a drug combo that shuts off the ‘food’ to cells causes the ravenous cancer cells to ‘starve’ preferentially over healthy cells, who are on more limited ‘diets’ to begin with.

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    • That makes sense, that the drugs might weaken healthy cells, but kill the cancer cells long before the healthy cells are in trouble. I just wish such press releases would spend a bit more time clarifying such things.

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  6. [TT1] This sort of thing (a rotating cylinder placed vertically on a ship used to generate thrust) has been a favorite of Aerodynamics 101 professors for a very long time.

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