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Visualizing the numbers we work with

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chewie and han solo star wars lightspeed

Let’s face it — engineers see a lot of numbers in their everyday jobs.  While generally comfortable with math and numbers, I doubt many of us take the time to actually visualize what those numbers actually mean.

The speed of light is a great example.  Every engineer knows that it’s 299,792,486 m/s^2.  In more common (for us Americans) terms, it’s about 186,000 miles per second.  But how fast is that, exactly?

Well, the moon is a good example.  While really close to Earth in astronomical units, it would be a pretty long walk to reach there, if such a journey were possible.  But humans have been to the moon and around the far side.  It’s as far as we’ve ever managed to travel in one journey.  So how far is it, in relation to the speed of light?

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General Atomics Makes a Very, Very Large Gun

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railgun-8

Above is how a basic info graphic explaining how a railgun works.  Below is the General Atomic’s new Blitzer Railgun’s test apparatus.

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One of the most important machines ever. The IBM 1401.

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While not as huge as some of the vacuum tube-based mainframes of the 1940′s, it was still pretty damn large for an accounting calculator.

Here are some still-shots of the revolutionary machine:

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NASA: Mars rover “Spirit” gets stuck, makes big discovery

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NASA Spirit Mars Rover Wheel

NASA Spirit Mars Rover Wheel

NASA reported today, December 2, that the Mars rover “Spirit”has made significant discoveries while stuck in a section of the Martian terrain named after the ancient city of Troy.

Several of the wheels on the rover have been unable to gain traction, and have spun in place for the past six months as NASA operators attempt to unstick the device.  As the wheels churned up the soil, scientists were pleased to discover the presence of water-indicating sulfates, which form during steam events.

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Unbelievable photographic memory. Prepare to be blown away.

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Steven Wiltshire (The Living Camera) is world renowned for his photographic memory and incredible archtectural skills.  He is also autistic, and although unable to speak until the age of 5, at age 11 he drew a perfect aerial view of London after just a 30 minute helicopter ride.  He’s now a successful artist and architect.

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Widetronix Uses Tritium For 25-Year Power Source

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simple-beta

The image above is a simple betavoltaic graphic from medgadget.  It shows the beta particles creating an electric field over a pn-junction diode, biasing the device, which thereby causes conduction.

It has been some time since betavoltaic batteries have been used. Lithium Ion has been the battery of choice for awhile, probably because it isn’t, you know, radioactive. Widetronix is looking to change that with its Tritium-based, navy-funded technology. By using more efficient semiconductor materials, they have revamped the self-charging betavoltaic battery.

These tiny power sources are said to last for 25 years! Of course, this technology only works for devices that require minimal amounts of current draw (think pacemakers and small sensors).

Check this VentureBeat article for more on these tiny batteries.

Toshiba sends a chair to the edge of space to market its new Regva SV TVs

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Um, that is insanely cool.  This Toshiba article delves into the company’s brilliant ad campaign, and how sending a chair to space relates to laptops.

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A Stadium Full of Solar Power: Taiwan National Stadium Pictures

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solar-stadium

We’ve been posting some “green” pictures recently here at Industrial Interface.  So, in keeping with theme, check out these amazing pictures of Taiwan National Stadium.  The entire roof is covered in at least 8,844 solar panels!  In addition to powering 75% of the stadium’s energy needs when in use, it also contributes to the local power grid during times of stadium inactivity.

Here are some photos courtesy of Gizmodo:

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