Thursday, March 31, 2005

Some Poetry

Well, I'm not usually one for writing poems, unless it is explicitly part of an English assignment (strangely enough, I always did really well on poem-writing assignments, but that's a different story). Anyways, I was in kind of a -weird- mood earlier today and I wrote this. Comment and tell me what you think!

It's hard to decide, what, did you need someone?
You, back at tomorrow.
I sleep.
I feel.
For the next year is crappy.
I went to understand me.
But I will have the next year.
I love.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Computer Existentialism

So I finally got around to training Microsoft Office's voice recognition system. I guess it's one of those things that seems cool until you actually have it. How many times have you seen someone talking to a computer in an old science fiction movie and thought "Whoa! What I wouldn't give to be able to talk to my computer!" And now, it's more of a "meh" reaction. Truth is, it's not all that useful yet, and won't be until it gets closer to 99% accuracy. Until then, its still faster to just type (as I'm doing now).

So after playing around a bit, talking to Word and trying to get it to understand the words that I was saying, I did the natural thing and experimented with playing music into it. For the first song, I figured I should use something where the lyrics are plainly heard, without much actual "music". Eminem's "The Real Slim Shady" seemed to fit the bill nicely - and here's what the voice recognition thing came up with:

The LAN and they can at any time a new time and data and can handle the pan am on an outline of the default along with all he can ignite it, and lived a life-and-white<>>and a date and time the event that anybody can advocate and an event have 88 and an analog and>what the NFL won’t have it, and yet, the nothing but a little evidence, and Atlanta 88 at the hand that have enough but a lot, in a lot on the phone at 8:00 PM on Sunday that he had failed yet left behind the veil dependent at all along that line and only handle if it came with eight am I felt only a need that can lead a little with a handful of any-and-but I can’t open an envelope and Aviv of them can have anything, and you might have been attacked a little debate and ifview the annual event the the the gave the event, and then gave the But you’re there

But it get's more interesting. The next song I tried was "The Anthem" by Good Charlotte. A song which, I gather contains a lot of "the"s and "can"s.

The the at that date, shows the shot The Dow fell by the way the end of the can Can can The the the the can A Can I am I then can’t get at the the If

My next try was "The Grange" by ZZ Top. Note that the word "anthem" actually shows up here, whereas it did not in the previous song.

Two of those without homes and I’ve pitched moved out of his better just to the to handle the phenomenal data what>to assume that little about half of the virtues of adults, if deserved to the and then at an average can and can’t have an aunt Dan and the and the data and did that can and the can may have been an anthem and Canada and they’ve been can and the AM and FM in the anti-and an anti an aunt the end of the can Can I can get can and can’t be an F. If if

For my final experiment, I played "Drops of Jupiter" by Train. In what I think is the strangest one, this is what it transcribed from the entire song:

IfAs stuff If if a half if if if If If If if if if if if If if if if if if if If if

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Stuff (Damn I suck at making up titles)

First and foremost, I would like to announce that I've now gotten over 5000 pageviews... *celebrates*. Another factor of 20,000 more and I'll be ranking with the likes of Maddox, who is a seriously cool guy.

Secondly, I got accused of plagiarism yesterday. For a physics lab write-up, I pasted in some pictures I had taken during the lab of different interference and diffraction patterns. I got the write-up back from the TA, and in the comments was this: "These web pics are not your experiment and technically constitute plagiarism." Then there was the mark, a lovely 5/10. Thanks for the vote of confidence there. I was going to speak with the TA about it, but she was nowhere to be found, even though she was supposed to be available for the full lab period to answer questions and the like... That really pissed me off. I wonder if I can get them fired for unfounded accusations of plagiarism?

Thirdly, while opening a door today, I somehow managed to rip the fingernail on my right middle finger halfway off. It hurts like a son of a bitch, and typing is quite a tedious process now. Thankfully I'm left handed, so I can at least write stuff the old-fashioned way.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Ignore Me, I'm an Idiot

Disregard this, please.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Defend Your Castle!

I'm sure we all remember this game; it made the internet rounds a couple of years ago. I just started it up again tonight, and I'm on level 29, with 500 archers, 300 craftsmen, 330 wizards, and 100000 wall strength.

I also have a story about this game. See, from the summer of 2002 to the summer of 2004, I worked in the local library. Pretty boring work; but how could I complain. I was making money for pretty much doing nothing. So it comes to be February of 2004. Somebody had sent me a link to this game, so I decided; what the hey, I'll play a bit of it. But it turned out to be so much more than that. It just so happens that you can save your progress in this game. So I saved it the first day, and the next time I went in I played it some more... Soon enough, it's July of 2004. I'm on level 162, with 3400 archers, 2000 craftsmen, 400 wizards (any more than this is superfluous; you can't use them fast enough to make it worthwhile), and a wall strength pushing 2000000. By this time, the levels had gotten so long that I could only finish two or so per shift. The plus side is: after about level 20, you can pretty much let the game run in the background without worrying about losing.

But then, of course, I had to quit my job and go to university. I entrusted the regular library patrons with the task of making sure the game was run every night the library was open. Predictably, they forgot rather quickly, but the last time I was in there, the savegame still existed...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Happy Pi Day! (and happy birthday, mom)


Saturday, March 05, 2005

All your base

Well, I found the company that made the thing that I ripped the guts out of to create the ceiling fan display: Versatile Visions. Also, I figured out how to program it, as can be seen in this picture. Unfortunately, the messages can only be 18 characters long, so putting "All your base are belong to us" would be impossible.

All your base are belong to us!

Wacky Ideas Part 3: An Implementation!

Well, this wacky idea wasn't exactly mine, but it seemed cool so I figured I would do it. I present to you: The ceiling fan LED display!

Ceiling Fan LED Display

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Wacky Ideas, Part 2

Here are a couple more that I've recently come up with.

Idea #1: A handheld directional EMP weapon

I'm sure you'll agree with me when I say that cell phones going off at inappropriate times are extremely annoying. For example, today in Calculus, this one girl's phone went off not once, but THREE TIMES. It's unfortunate that us victims of cell phone harassment have no way of getting back at the owner (besides beating to death - it's happened before). So what if there was a way to shut down their cell phones remotely? Even better, what if there was some way to burn out the circuitry in their phone? They would certainly think twice before leaving them on in classrooms, movie theaters, etc.

The obvious answer, of course, is an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapon. Yes, like the ones in The Matrix, only a lot less powerful. Cell phones have essentially no shielding, and the antenna will easily channel a properly-tuned blast right into the microprocessor at the heart of the phone. The way I figure, you could do it with some AA batteries, assuming a large enough capacitor.

What you'll need:

- A bunch of batteries (I'd recommend rechargeable)
- A large capacitor (Anything over 500 μF should do; I have a 10,000 μF cap at home that should do the trick quite nicely)
- Some sort of circuit for modulating the blast
- A parabolic reflector (ideally, tuned to the pulse frequency)

How to do it:

1. Build the damn thing. An empty Pringles container would work for the casing.
2. Charge the batteries and put them in.
3. Let the capacitor charge.
4. Wait for the offending cell phone to ring.
5. Fire away!

As an added bonus, you can target people who check their e-mail on blackberries every five seconds, and the laptops of those who think that class time is "Solitaire time".

Idea #2: Cheap, easy-to-make E-paper

So I'm sure many people have heard about this amazing new technology that never seems to materialize: electronic paper. We've been promised this ever since they demonstrated a black-and-white 320*240 paper display back in the mid-nineties. But various problems due to [insert excuse here] have prevented any products from coming into existence. Perhaps they just can't agree on who should be selling it: paper manufacturers, or the electronics industry? In any case, I say we should be making our own. Near as I can tell, electronic paper consists of two main components: the paper and the ink. As far as the paper goes, it needs to have a matrix of electrodes through it in order to activate the ink, as well as some sort of connection to a computer. The ink is tricky, because you need something that can change from black to white when electric current is supplied. The most common way of doing this is to have microscopic spheres, half white and half black, that align themselves according to electric charge.

What you'll need:

- paper (it probably doesn't matter what kind you use)
- very thin wire
- a sewing machine
- those weird glass microbead things (made by 3M)
- black spraypaint
- some sort of mass-seperation equipment (perhaps something as simple as chromatography could work; I'm not sure)
- an old LCD screen

How to do it:

1. Take the spool of thread out of the sewing maching and replace it with the wire.
2. Use the sewing maching (on the appropriate setting) to sew a grid of wire into the paper.
3. Spread a bunch of microbeads onto a flat surface.
4. Spraypaint the microbeads. With any luck, you'll have a bunch that are all black, a bunch that aren't covered at all, and a bunch that are approximately half-white/half-black.
5. Since the microbeads with more paint will be heavier, use the mass-seperation equipment to seperate out the "half-and-half" ones.
6. Somehow, embed these extracted microbeads into the paper. (Wet it, spread them on, wait for it to dry? Make sure the spraypaint isn't water-soluble)
7. Pull the circuitry out of the old LCD screen (especially the stuff that actually drives the pixels. Hook it to the edges of the piece of paper (which should have a bunch of really thin wires to attach it to).

And there you have it; your very own, home-made, electronic paper.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Wacky Ideas

It seems that every once in a while, I get an idea that's either sheer brilliance or complete insanity. And every once in a while, one of those ideas will stick with me; I can't seem to forget it, no matter how crazy it sounds. So I figured I should start writing some of them down.

Idea #1: A method for producing arbitrary-length single-walled carbon nanotubes.

This one came to me as I happened to be staring at the metal screen on the microwave while thinking about space elevators. I wondered - isn't there some way to make them fast, cheap, and as long as you want? And even better - to do it with stuff you can find around the house (or at least order off the internet)? So here it is.

What you'll need:
- a bunch of polyethylene
- a microwave
- a Proton Exchange Membrane (well, something with really tiny holes through it)
- something to spin the nanotubes together

How to do it:

1. Melt the polyethylene. Send it through something to pull it out into fibers (not sure exactly how to do this). Pull it into thinner and thinner strands, until you get something about the width of a nanotube.
2. Send the strand through the microwave slow enough for it to rip all the hydrogens off the carbon chains.
3. Push the charged carbon chains through the PEM.
4. Let the carbon chains come together in a tube shape.
5. Tada! Instant carbon nanotube.
6. Do this at a bunch of places on the PEM, and spin the nanotubes into nano-string.
7. ???
8. Profit!

Here is a diagram of the process.

Idea #2: An entopy scanner.

This one I thought of the other day while sitting in chemistry class. Since every process increases the entropy of the universe, if it were possible to measure the entropy increase in a given volume of space, then you could tell if something was happening even if there was no information coming out of said volume (What I've just said probably contradicts some law of quantum physics, but oh well). For example, say you have a black box, which contains one of two things. Either it contains two cubes of some material at different temperatures, or two cubes at the same temperature. The box is opaque to any kind of electromagnetic scan or any other type of scan. How do you tell what the box contains? Why, use the entropy scanner, of course. A box with two cubes at different temperature will have a higher rate of entropy increase. In fact, if you were able to focus the scanner on a smaller region of space, you could tell exactly where the cubes were. And if you could focus it even smaller, you could probably tell what material they were made out of.

Imagine the possibilities of a technology like this! You could passively scan any object and determine it's characteristics. It would be particularily handy as a "life-signs detector", because living things are notorious for increasing entropy.

What you'll need:

- probably a new physical theory that would allow this to exist

How to do it:

1. I have no idea.

Idea #3: A cure for cancer!

From what I've heard of cancer cells, the reason they are so hard to target is because they essentially look the same as non-cancerous cells. They have the same surface proteins as healthy cells, which makes a virus-based attack impossible. So what differences do these cells have? For one, there are certain proteins that are more common in cancer cells. So what if one was to devise a virus that needed to attach to two proteins before activating? Then you could just tweak the distance between receptors in order that it wouldn't attack healthy cells.

What you'll need:

- a modified virus that has two receptors
- a bunch of cancer cells and healthy cells to test it on
- a way to change the distance between receptors

How to do it:

1. Genetically engineer the double-receptor virus. Or build it from scratch.
2. Test the virus on the healthy and cancer cells.
3. Tweak the receptor seperation until you achieve the highest ratio of cancer/healthy cells killed.

Here is a diagram.

Idea #4: A four-bit finite-state machine (with unusual implementation)

This one has it's roots in the last house meeting I attended here in residence. Since we have co-ed washrooms, there had been a lot of complaints about toilet seats being left up. Naturally our discussion gradually turned into an argument about putting the seat down. People on both sides had good information to support their opinions, but in the end it boiled down to the usual: guys have to put the seat down. Now, I know it looks like I'm going off on a tangent; after all, what does an argument about toilet seats have to do with computational theory? Well, I got to wondering what would happen if everyone who went to the bathroom followed some kind of set rule which depended on the state of all four toilet seats? Could one actually do computations with the toilet lids?

At first I wondered if a toilet-based computer could be Turing-complete. But I soon realized that without some sort of storage device, the best one could do would be a finite-state machine. Admittedly, a four-bit finite-state machine isn't exactly the epitome of excitement, but imagine if it were done with eight bits? Sixteen? Thirty-two? These would allow for more computational possibilities, but the bathroom size would quickly become impractical. So it's four bits for now. I haven't bothered working up any algorithms yet, but I'm sure someone can come up with a set of rules that will, say, allow two two-bit numbers to be added together. As far as input goes, perhaps the initial state of the machine would work?

Addendum: After more careful thought, perhaps the number of bits could be extended by using other bathroom digital devices. What first comes to mind are the stall doors (open/closed) and the faucets (on/off). With four stall doors and four sinks (each with two faucets), this would allow for a total of sixteen bits! I also had an idea for making this into a true universal computer. The traditional Turing machine has a paper tape with squares on it.... I'm sure you can think of something that's found in every bathroom that also fits this description.

Idea #5: Pool Noodle furniture.

I'd say the title of this one speaks for itself. I thought of this when I realized I was completely broke, and was wondering where to live next year. After finding a place to live, there's the problem of getting furniture. So why not make it out of materials that are cheap, cushiony, easy to work with, and aesthetically pleasing? I don't know exactly how to join the noodles together; perhaps hot glue? Contact cement might work for the smooth outsides of the noodles.

What you'll need:

- pool noodles (Buy a bunch; they're dirt cheap)
- a saw/knife of some sort
- glue?

How to do it:

1. Draw out the piece of furniture; get approximate measurements.
2. Cut the noodles to their appropriate lengths.
3. Glue the noodle-pieces together

Couldn't be simpler! I bet you could furnish an entire home in an afternoon, with about $50 worth of noodles. However, be careful with your designs, because noodles aren't quite as sturdy as materials that would regularily be used to build furniture from (i.e. wood).
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