Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflate This Economy Now

Now is the time to combat inflation.

I know that Ben Stein is a comedian, and that you can't take him seriously, but I am telling you: Take this seriously. See his post on yahoo/finance. The world economy is falling apart, and falling prices are the problem. Gas prices are down; housing prices are down; stock prices are down; Commodity prices are also down. Today the Wholesale Price index was down in October.
Here is a graph of the price of oil from forecasts.org.

See how dramatically prices have fallen. Gold is the same:

As Ben Stein says, all the spending now is "FREE." because there is no risk of inflation. The government needs to simply print money.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Plasma Globes

The plasma globe was invented by Bill Parker who was playing with neon and argon as an undergraduate at MIT. Later as an artist at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, he made a larger one for display. See more in C&E News for Oct 27, 2008. The site is down this weekend, so I can't put in a link. Of course, the original invention of the glowing plasma was by the great Nicoli Tesla in 1894. It seems Tesla never gets proper credit for anything.

Electrodes ionize the gases, which flow inside the globe and form a current. It is important to have AC current so the gases & current actually flows inside the ball. The current flows from the center electrode to the glass, and then through whatever path to ground. (Some of the current flows out into the globe, and then back to the center electrode when the field reverses.) Voltages vary from 3000 to 30000V depending on the size of the ball and plasma. The gases are between 2-10 torr, or about 1% of atmospheric pressure.

The plasma is attracted to your finger when you touch the ball, and that is the fascinating thing about them. Your finger provides a better path to ground than the surrounding air. Wikipedia has more details.

There are also some interesting non-globlular plasmas at: http://www.plasmarama.com/

The above caught my eye. It is by Morgan Crook, and is called God City.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Virtual Reality News on Election Night

I was taken by the unabashed use of glitzy visual effects on election night. One of the flashiest was the bar-chart that popped up from the floor in beside Ann Curry on MSNBC and NBC. She is in a virtual room where the signage changes reflecting the subject matter. The columns and the walls are all virtual. I understand the panning of the camera around the room required dense computing power.


MSNBC was tame compared to the Holographic Girl on CNN. Jessica Yellin appeared superimposed electronically in the studio with a glowy halo around her like Obiwan Kanobi. She was photographed from 360 degrees by 35 cameras, digitized and then electronically pasted into the frame. Her image was oriented based on the camera position in Wolf Blitzer's studio. In this case, it had novelty value only. It is better to see a correspondent the field, or even the anchor at the news event. I don't need to see the field correspondent in the studio -- who cares about the studio? This technology might be better for an interview subject rather than a reporter. 

Wired Magazine has details.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Auto Sales Crash, Lowest in 25 Years

Having moved to the Detroit area, and having bought real estate here, I can't help feeling awful about the auto industry.

This town would be so much nicer and more prosperous if the US Auto Industry would hit better times.

I know that automobiles are not going away, so that even though cars may be downsized, somebody will have to make and buy them. I was hoping that the weak dollar was going to help them. With the dollar back up to $0.79/Euro, that is less and less likely.

Some say that the US does not have any distinctive, competitive advantage over other countries. I am not sure that's true because the US competes in airplanes and other mechanical equipment. In addition, these companies are not really national companies because they are so global.

I hope our new President takes on US competitiveness issues.

November 4, 2008 Election Day

At long last the election is here. Hasn't this been counting down for 100 weeks?

In my Michigan neighborhood, I am worried about how long the line will be at the polls. I have an early morning meeting at work, and I'll have to vote near closing time. I am going to bring an ipod and a Blackberry. There is good chance the winner will be declared before I get home.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Circus Contortionist Holds Herself Up by the Teeth

Here is Maria Sarach (18) at the European Youth Circus Competition holding up her whole weight with a mouth-piece. The picture describes this better than I can.

After I saw this, I looked on Google, and it seems there is a Youtube clip of her whole act. The act starts slow and artsy, and the above stunt is about six minutes in -- in case you want to skip to the end.