Tech Tuesday – Earthrise Edition


[TT1] Making plywood, then and now.  Note the difference in required manpower.

[TT2] Dream Chaser Space Plane cleared for production.

[TT3] Ocean Thermal Energy Device.  Seriously, we spent all these decades warming up the oceans, it’s just silly of us not to extract that energy back out.

[TT4] China has finally lived the Pink Floyd dream.  Also, while I love good old American ‘Can-Do’, if the Chinese, or anyone else, wants to advance human knowledge, I’m all for it.  Good for them!

[TT5] “A Flyby of Ultima Thule” sounds like the title of a Prog Rock song.  But no, it’s an actual rock in the Kuiper Belt, and New Horizons (the plucky space craft that gave us our first pics of Pluto) is going in for a look.

[TT6] In a previous post, I talked about how organic food was not better for the environment.  Now, let’s talk about the irrational fear of GMOs means we’ll need more land for less food.

[TT7] Saturn is shedding it’s rings like a bad 80’s hairstyle.

[TT8] A UV de-activated adhesive for bandages, or what have you.  Also, now I want to know more about Topological Entanglement.

[TT9] Shrink wrap that kills bacteria and is edible.

[TT10] A bit of rabbit genetic code lets ivy plants clean the air in your home.  Next up, police locate kidnappers who watch too much TV by finding modified Ivy plants in the house.

[TT11] Honestly, if there is one thing robotics should be doing for us, it’s this.  Crawling around inside gas turbines was fun and all when I was a fit young man in the Navy, but these days…

[TT12] 50 years ago, man saw the first Earthrise over the moon, and someone thought to take a picture.

[TT13] Speaking of color photos, the Chromatic Awards.

[TT14] More applications for acoustic levitation.  Now when does it become a repulsorlift?

[TT15] Feeding seaweed to microorganisms to get bio-plastic.

[TT16] Being visibly armed can lead to greater hostility.  It’s one study, and all the caveats that go with that, but interesting all the same.  Specifically the fact that it was done in the UK, which is rather famously disarmed, both the public and the police.  I wonder, perhaps, if it’s less the visible presence of arms, and more the visible and available reminders of the power differentials that cause both sides to be more aggressive.


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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20 thoughts on “Tech Tuesday – Earthrise Edition

  1. Seaweed to plastic was something we studied in college (two score years ago, I was reminded during the holidays. I kid you not). I always thought it would and should work.

    I guess it is one of those things a lot of people have an interest in making sure it doesn’t get developed. Until it finally does, and everything changes.

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    • Current production and use of bio-polymers is about two million tons per year, globally. The big point about seaweed is that it doesn’t require land or fresh water to grow. The biggest current drawback to the common bio-polymers is that if they get mixed into the PET recycling stream — by far the most common kind of recycled plastic — the whole lot is ruined.

      Recently, our local recycling center has stopped accepting green PET bottles (eg, Mountain Dew). I am told that the local market for recycled green PET has mostly disappeared.

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        • require businesses to take back the recycling from stuff they sell. And if they use single-use plastic bags, require them to take it back. And drop-off points for cardboard boxes at post offices and UPS stores.

          That said: what is really needed is a better market for recycled goods (or, better: make goods REUSABLE). It’s my understanding a certain percentage of “recycling” now winds up in landfills because (a) it’s not profitable and (b) some of the places that were recycling, have stopped (I *think* China stopped accepting some items that we shipped over there, and I really wonder, with the transport waste, whether it wasn’t better to just landfill the crap here?)

          I think reusables is the future. (Which used to be the past). Though I admit I groan mightily when I realize I forgot to put my canvas bags back in my car as I’m heading out to the grocery.

          While I’m being crochety: it would also be nice if manufacturers didn’t make stuff that either broke or became outmoded (electronics) six months to a year after you got it. I get that that goes against the whole consumer economy, but….I’m just old enough to remember things like my dad getting a TV repairman in when something went wrong with one of the tubes in the set, and that there were general repair-shops in every town that could deal with radios or typewriters or small engines or whatever. Now, much of the time, it’s cheaper to buy a new whatever.

          (At least with clothes, generally, if you know how to sew, you can do minor repairs yourself. And some towns do still have people who will do the heavy lifting, like replacing a zipper in a down parka)

          But yeah: better quality stuff, repairable stuff, not having to buy new stuff every six months to a year, might help with some of the waste-stream issues.

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          • As I understand it, the big problem is at the consumer end. Don’t put your recycles in with the coffee grounds and spoiled meat scraps. Reliably separate PLA and the two main flavors of PET. Corrugated cardboard in one pile, other paper in a different pile. Glass, often sorted by color. Metals.

            Tube electronics were their own nightmare. All of them, from the big picture tube all the way down to the smallest, were heavily-leaded glass (metal tube enclosures were great for the military, but were almost never used in consumer gear). No one recycled them. Those TVs put far more heavy metals by weight into landfills than today’s flat-screen sets do.

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  2. When I toured a plywood factory as a teenager, I learned that the glue was thermoset using microwave heating that could effect all the layers uniformly. When I was a grown-up working in telecommunications, I was peripherally involved in a troubleshooting job with a digital microwave link that was behaving erratically. The problem was eventually traced to a partial failure in the microwave enclosure at a plywood factory that was leaking. I always wondered how much microwave energy the workers were exposed to, and why there weren’t detectors in the factory that would have noticed the leak.

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      • The leak was ~1980, during my stint at Bell Labs. (The teenaged visit was 1970 — I remember which band trip I was on.)

        My father used to tell Navy stories about radar trainees in the early 1950s setting food in front of the antenna to heat it up, and the precautions taken to keep people from being in front of the antenna when it was active. The Bell Labs location where I worked included a microwave test range that dated back to the late 1950s; standard practice from the beginning was to close that whole section of the grounds when there were active tests, due to health risks. There are known cases from the 1960s of people suffering internal injuries due to leakage from strong microwave sources. Wikipedia says the FDA was charged with regulating health-related RF emissions, specifically including industrial RF heating, in 1968.

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        • I remember those stories. When I was deployed, I was friends with some of the guys in the radio shack, and they talked about which antennas were food warmers and which were straight up lethal.

          So my question is, if the FDA was regulating RF emissions, did they coordinate with OSHA, because RF sensors to determine leaks from an industrial warmer sounds like something OSHA would require, or maybe the USDA (since this was forestry products)?

          You are right that one would think a place using an industrial microwave would have RF sensors, but if no one ever made sure the workplace was aware of the danger…

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          • So my question is, if the FDA was regulating RF emissions, did they coordinate with OSHA, because RF sensors to determine leaks from an industrial warmer sounds like something OSHA would require, or maybe the USDA (since this was forestry products)?

            To make it even more interesting, the Bell System filed its report with the FCC, because the problem we observed was a device emitting RF noise at unlawful power levels and interfering with a properly licensed user of those frequencies.

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  3. [TT1] Plywood, and composite wood products in general, really are one of those things that is taken for granted. There are two large manufacturing plants near my hometown that produce these, and being inside something like the Weyerhauser plant or Columbia Forest plant it’s really something to see how it works.

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