Results tagged “eastham” from kwc blog

Cordurl

|

Cordurl mapPaul launched with a new toy I like: Cordurl. It's like tinyurl for geographical locations. For example, http://cordurl.com/M9G-6E 'links' to a NASA Shuttle Landing Facility. Paul even integrated it with geonames so that links to related Wikipedia articles show up.

Aerogel

|

paul and I ordered some aerogel from United Nuclear, fine purveyors of radioactive materials, super strong magnets, and other fine materials. I've long wanted aerogel ever since I saw ghostly pictures of this substance, which holds the Guinness world record for lowest-density solid, best insulator, and thirteen other records. I received two dime-sized pieces. They aren't as cool as an entire brick of aerogel, but at $40 for even these small bits, a brick is rather out of the question.

Aerogel-1

The aerogel feels like you're handling an impossibly light and miniaturized piece of pumice and it's just as prone to shedding little bits of itself. It's 90-99.8% air and the edges of the pieces seem barely defined. When the aerogel is placed against a dark background it's like blue smoke that comes out of a tailpipe when a transmission has gone awry. Against a white background it nearly disappears into a faint outline -- a lot of what you're seeing for the clear piece in the photo is little bits of the blue velvet from the packaging stuck to it. The blue smoke/clear effect is due to Rayleigh scattering -- the scattering of light by particles smaller than the light's wavelength. It's an extremely strong dessicant as it's essentially the same chemical makeup as the silica gel dessicant packets you sometimes get in packaging. You have to be careful holding it as it will suck all the moisture out of your hands. You also have to be careful as it isn't very difficult to crush it into smaller bits.

Making aerogel seems a bit out of the question for my resources. Either one must be able to make alcohol a supercritical fluid (280 C/1800 lbs per sq inch), hard and also highly explosive, or you need access to liquid carbon dioxide and make it a supercritical fluid (600-800 lbs per sq inch). (History of aerogel and description of how to make).

One of the questions people seem to have about our pieces is, "What are we going to do with them?" Well, we probably won't use it to catch comet samples, and I don't think I'll be using it as a microchip insulator. For now I think I'll blowtorch one of the pieces and then keep the other on my shelf :).

Federal Budget Explorer 2007

|

Paul's Federal Budget Explorer version 2007 is up for those that want to explore how their tax bill is divided up.

Paul's random observations:

  • Games with the defense budget continue. Since the emergency funding for the wars has not yet happened, the budget continues to show a decrease over the current year, as it has for the past 3 years.

  • Medicare still up 9.3% overall, despite the cuts proposed, due to the prescription drug benefit. Medicare almost topped $400b.

  • Interest on the debt almost edged out all health spending at $243b.

  • Social security still the top category at $588b and growing at 5.5%.

For additional scrutiny, WashingtonPost.com's Froomkin has a roundup of articles pointing out the many fallacies in this year's budget.

Previously: Federal Budget Explorer 2005, California Budget Explorer 2004-05

Congrats Paul and Emily

|

Your wedding was a great conclusion to a great weekend. Congratulations and have a great honeymoon!

Balance the National Budget

|

Here's a little toy for Paul: A National Budget Simulation that challenges you to try and balance the federal budget.

TurboTaxDrain, California State Edition

|

Paul updated his budget tools so that you can explore California's budget now as well. It quickly puts into perspective how hard it is to balance the budget: 3/4 of the budget is split evenly between education and health & human services. If you cut education, you're damned for ruining the future of our children; if you cut health & human services, old people will beat you with their dentures.

As with Paul's federal budget explorer, you can input your own approximate taxes to see what leeches are sucking on them.