Sunday, November 21, 2010

Worlds Largest Maple Leaf

As we were out walking this afternoon I mentioned that a 9 year old from Canada had recently found a maple leaf that he had certified as the LARGEST MAPLE LEAF IN THE WORLD!

A few moments later Bernie casually picked up a leaf from a leafpile laying out in the street for pickup. Since I hadn't heard how big the world record was I offered her no encouragement as she proceeded to carefully carry it all the way back home.

This is that leaf (and Bernie) (more technical pictures at the bottom)

This is the letter that Bernie (10) is submitting to the Guinness Book folks:
Dear Sirs,

I found a large maple leaf that appears to beat the record size that we read about in the news.

My maple leaf (photos available)
Width = 16 - 5/16 inches
Height = 14 - 1/2 inches
 (note: Stem does not extend below leaf so stem size seems not important)

Current record holder: "The width is 13 and 5/8 (inches) and then the length is 15 and 5/8 with the stem" [we weren't able to confirm this at the Guinness site but we found it here:]


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wind in the Willows ... or Windsheild

What is that? A bird? A plane? A zeppelin?

It's a toad hitching a ride on my windshield.

I don't know how he got there. I don't know where he went after. I only know that he seemed to be enjoying the "wild ride" in the slow traffic for about 5 miles.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Another Great Idea in an Old Movie

You Can't Take it With You

We love this old 1938 Jimmy Stewart movie around this house. So you should see it!

If you see it you may be intrigued by this optimistic scene:

I remember in college another guy and I had an idea [....] We wanted to find out what made the grass grow green. Now that sounds silly and everything, but it’s the biggest research problem in the world today and I’ll tell you why. Because…there’s a tiny little engine in the green of this grass and the green of the trees that has the mysterious gift of being able to take energy from the rays of the sun and store it up. You see that’s how the heat and power and coal and oil and wood is stored up. Well, we thought if we could find the secret of all those millions of little engines in this green stuff, we could make big ones. And then we could take all the power we could ever need right from the sun’s rays. (Thanks for transcribing it!)
Now that sounds pretty fresh in light of all the solar cell hubbub that's all the rage. In fact someone is going right for the green:

A North Carolina State University-led team has created 'artificial leaves – water-gel-based solar devices which can act like solar cells to generate electricity.
The devices show it's possible to make solar cells that more closely mimic nature, and could also be less expensive and more environmentally friendly than current silicon-based solar cells. (Read more here: )
 The world is a wonderful place.

And you should watch that movie - that's only ONE of the good ideas in it! (Hint - most of them aren't about science topics - they are about a life well lived).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cheap Hard Drive Recovery - Success

A friend recently asked if I knew how to recover his pictures from his crashed (Macintosh) hard drive. The "genius" store geeks had tried to read it by booting from another drive and just looking at this one. That didn't work. My friend wasn't ready to pony up for a level-2 recovery attempt - $750 whether or not the procedure was successful!!

Now, I have been pretty tuned into hard drives for years because of my profession. I have seen hard drives crash. I have used both manufacturer's and open source tools to read and interpret SMART data on drives. I have opened and examined hard drives that have suffered from shock, vibration, thermal torture and customer abuse. I have watched hard drives spin topless. I have painted them with Omegalaq and used thermocouples as thin as a hair to check internal temperatures. In addition I have read articles about the various degrees of data recovery possible (from freeware on up to thousand$). I thought I could offer some assistance.

Knowing that the drive didn't even work inside his laptop with an external boot I figured I would try to find a similar drive on ebay and swap in the disks. Yes there's a risk of contamination but I just wanted 1 pass to grab those files - just a few minutes of operation was all I asked. There was one in Australia with a datecode a few days away. But before I spend the $70 (plus who-knows-how-much shipping) I did just a little extra homework.

I found a guy talking about getting those few extra minutes by putting the drive in the freezer overnight and then using it. My young, geek cube-neighbor at work said he had heard about this but always worried about the condensation killing it too fast. He also said that Apple formats its drives in such a way that I would probably need a Linux OS to properly see it.

Since this was a SATA drive I was in luck. I have access to a little USB connected pod that can accommodate a SATA drive. So I put the whole thing in the freezer for a couple days and just ran the cables out to the host laptop (i.e. my work laptop with an Ubuntu install on it). After getting some advice about how to navigate around the command line (not my specialty - yet necessary due to the permissions issues on the Mac drive) we were able to run the drive for hours and recover all the pictures!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

St. Francis of Assisi was really John!

So who doesn't love and admire St. Francis of Assisi? (Rhetorical question! Everyone who knows him loves him). I learned in a sermon this morning that St. Francis of Assisi actually shares my name. So I get to add to my extensive list of patron saints:

John the Baptist, preacher, ascetic, and reported baptizer of Jesus Christ
John the Evangelist, speculated author of the Fourth Gospel, traditionally identified with the John the Apostle
John of Patmos, author of the Book of Revelation, traditionally identified with John the Apostle and Evangelist
St. Francis of Assisi (baptized: Giovanni di Pietro Bernardone)
John the Wonderworking Unmercenary (d. ca. 304), Egyptian or Mesopotamian healer
John Chrysostom (347-407), Antiochene Archbishop of Constantinople
John Cassian (ca. 360-435), probably Scythia-Minor priest and abbot
John of Egypt (d. 394), Egyptian hermit
Pope John I (d. 526), Italian pope
John Climacus (ca. 525-606), Syrian or Byzantine monk and abbot
John the Merciful (d. ca. 620), Cyprian Patriarch of Alexandria
John of Damascus (ca. 676-749), Syrian monk and priest, also known as John Damascene
John of Beverley (d. 721), Angle bishop
John of Pavia (d. 813), Bishop of Pavia
John of Rila (876-ca. 946), Bulgarian priest and hermit
John of Matha (1154-1213), French priest; founder of the Trinitarian Order
John of Meda (d. 1159), Italian priest
John of Nepomuk (ca. 1345-1393), Bohemian vicar general of Jan of Jenštejn
Giovanni da Capistrano (1386-1456), Italian friar; summoner of European troops for the 1456 siege of Belgrade
John Fisher (ca. 1469-1535), English cardinal and martyr
John Houghton (martyr) (ca. 1486-1535), English abbot and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Stone (martyr) (d. 1538/1539), English friar and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John of God (1495-1550), Portuguese friar; founder of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God
John of Avila (1500-1569), Spanish Jewish converso priest, missionary and mystic
John Payne (martyr) (1532-1582), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Leonardi (1541-1609), Italian priest; founder of the Clerks Regular of the Mother of God of Lucca
John of the Cross (1542-1591), Spanish Jewish converso friar, priest and mystic; joint founder of the Discalced Carmelites
John Boste (ca. 1544-1594), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Rigby (martyr) (ca. 1570-1600), English martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Roberts (martyr) (1575/1576-1610), Welsh priest, Prior of St. Gregory's (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Sarkander (1576-1620), Polish priest and martyr
John Ogilvie (saint) (1579-1615), Scottish priest and martyr
John Jones (martyr) (d. 1598), Welsh priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Southworth (martyr) (1592-1654), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
Jean de Brébeuf (1593-1649), French missionary and martyr (one of the North American Martyrs)
John Kemble (martyr) (1599-1679), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Wall (priest) (1620-1679), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Plessington (ca. 1637-1679), English priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
Jean-Baptiste de la Salle (1651-1719), French priest; founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
John Joseph of the Cross (1654-1739), Ischian friar, priest and Vicar Provincial of the Alcantarine Reform in Italy
John Lloyd (d. 1679), Welsh priest and martyr (one of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales)
John Dat (ca. 1765-1798), Vietnamese priest and martyr
Jean Vianney (1786-1859), French priest
John Hoan Trinh Doan (ca. 1789/1798-1861), Vietnamese priest and martyr
John Thanh Van Dinh (1796-1840), Vietnamese martyr
John Baptist Con (1805-1840), Vietnamese martyr
John Neumann (1811-1860), Bohemian missionary, Bishop of Philadelphia, founder of the first American Catholic diocesan school system
John Baptist Y (ca. 1800-1839), one of the Korean Martyrs
John Bosco (1815-1888), Italian priest and educator; founder of the Salesians of Don Bosco and the Salesian Cooperators
John of Kronstadt (1829-1908), Russian archpriest and synod member

                                                 ... orate pro nobis!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Maybe Einstein was Right

One would think it's not going too far out on a ledge to suggest that Einstein may have been right. But when he said (and it seems to be a paraphrase) "God does not play dice with the universe." He was talking about quantum mechanics. And the quantum guys probably grimaced and thought to themselves: "Yeah, I'd like to believe the old guy but it seems he's wrong on this one." Maybe the two "sides" are finally coming together as we better understand the unity of the truth. Here's a geeky article that is exciting in that it seems to suggest that there's a more understandable order (indeed a 'harmony") to that quantum mechanical world that we are just now starting to discover.

(The highlights are mine)

"...For these interactions we found a series (scale) of resonant notes: The first two notes show a perfect relationship with each other. Their frequencies (pitch) are in the ratio of 1.618…, which is the golden ratio famous from art and architecture." Radu Coldea is convinced that this is no coincidence. "It reflects a beautiful property of the quantum system - a hidden symmetry. Actually quite a special one called E8 by mathematicians, and this is its first observation in a material", he explains.
The observed resonant states in cobalt niobate are a dramatic laboratory illustration of the way in which mathematical theories developed for particle physics may find application in nanoscale science and ultimately in future technology. Prof. Tennant remarks on the perfect harmony found in quantum uncertainty instead of disorder. "Such discoveries are leading physicists to speculate that the quantum, atomic scale world may have its own underlying order. Similar surprises may await researchers in other materials in the quantum critical state."