RottenBrains

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Archive for September, 2006

A Cheaper Eco-Sport Car

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

It certainly doesn’t approach the allure of the Tesla Roadster, but there’s another set of high-performance, alternate-technology cars in the works as well: a Brazilian company is poised to launch a line of cars under the name “Obvio!” next year.

The low end model, the Obvio! 828, starts at $14,000 for a hybrid version that runs on gas, ethanol, or any mix of the two; it gets mileage of 33 MPG city/44 MPG highway on gasoline (30/40 on ethanol) with a top speed of 100 MPH. It also comes in an electric-only version with a 200 – 240 mile range for $49,000, which increases the top speed to 120 MPH and has a 0-60 of 4.5 seconds. It has a lot of rather eccentric options, including an in-dash general-purpose touchscreen Windows XP computer featuring GSM/GPRS and 802.11 connectivity options. (And you know it’ll be in the US less than one week before somone blogs about their experience putting Linux on it).

The high-end, “microsport” Obvio! 012, which starts at $28,000 for the hybrid, keeps the same mileage as the 828, but raises the top-end speed up to 160 MPH. Specs for the electric-only 012 ($59,000) remain the same as the 828.

Eating Patagonian Toothfish?

Wednesday, September 27th, 2006

You may or may not be aware that the sudden rise in popularity of the Patagonian toothfish (aka “Chilean Sea Bass”) in the 1990s, combined with their slow rate of maturity, led to the near extinction of that fish. Conservationists called for a complete ban on their consumption until such a time as the species’ viability can be assured.

Today, I was in Whole Foods; they stopped carrying Patagoinian toothfish over 7 years ago in response to the overfishing situation. But today — today, they had it in stock, accompanied by a big “Welcome Back Chilean Sea Bass!” banner. They also had pamphlets explaining that they have found an MSC-certified fishery to source the fish from around South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

It gets weirder than you _can_ think

Saturday, September 9th, 2006

Every year the great State of Texas holds a huge State Fair.

There’s a lot to make this fair unique, but one of the more extreme traditions is finding the wildest fried thing they can convince people to pay money for, and sometimes even eat.

At this point, you’re probably thinking fried twinkie, fried oreo, fried pork rinds, but no – those are left for the mundane, unimaginative fairs of other states and countries.

Here, folks compete for wierd. Last year you could get a fried peanut butter, jelly, and banana sandwich. One of the winners was fried macaroni and cheese. It was getting so strange that I was able to convince several of my friends from Canuckistan that they were serving fried butter-flavored Crisco on a stick. I’ve felt a little guilty about that, figuring they’d learn otherwise and never trust my stories again, but this year’s state fair bailed me out. I’m going to tell them about this, and they’re not going to believe me. It will be mighty sweet when the press backs me up…

There are two major winners in this years contest. One is (IMHO) a little lame: fried pralines. I don’t know why they let that one in – it has a chance of actually being good. The other though….

Fried Coca Cola

No, you read that right. Really. Fried Coke. Don’t believe me? Read the news. I’m completely floored, and no I am NOT going to go try some.

I figure next year they’ll try frying these. Fried stick.         um…, on a stick!

Full Spectrum CFL Bulbs

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

For quite a long time, Jean has been extolling the virtues of full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Not only do they have better color rendering than other fluorescents; they also purportedly have psychological effects that help most people feel better overall. Unfortunately, the full-spectrum bulbs that I’ve known about have all been either tubes (which I have only in the kitchen) or highly-specialized lamp bulbs (which are of no use to me).

I have just recently been made aware of the availability of full spectrum compact fluorescent light bulbs. They’re a bit pricy, but probably worth trying out. I’ll have to order a handful of these and see how they work out…

Hypercolor Monitors in the Works?

Saturday, September 2nd, 2006

In an earlier post, I discussed the difference between purple and violet, and explored some of the color limitations of electronic display technology. Phil recently pointed out an article in Wired that discusses the use of adjustable diffraction gratings to produce arbitrary colors. (In practice, the gratings don’t produce the colors; they diffract a white light in such a way that the desired color can be made to pass through a pinhole). In theory, an array of these can be constructed to produce vivid-color televisions and monitors.

There’s something I find a bit suspect about the article, though. I mean, yeah, it’s full of the traditional Wired-style junk science (e.g., using relative voltage to compare power efficiency without taking current into account — plus, it includes a diagram of all the colors monitors can’t display [pause two beats here to let that sink in]), but in terms of color rendering, it says one thing that stands out as really bizarre.

The researchers are quoted as saying they intend to use white LEDs as the light source for this technology.

What?

LEDs are diodes made with materials specifically chosen so that electrons crossing the p-n junction cause a photon to be released. The wavelength of these photons (color of the produced light) depends on the exact materials being used. Note I said “wavelength,” not “wavelengths” — LEDs produce a single color out of the spectrum at a time. (Strictly speaking, they produce a very narrow range of wavelengths, typically about 20 to 30 nm wide, with very steep drop-offs — but this is as close to a pure color as to make no difference for this conversation).

White LEDs can be produced by mixing together two or more carefully chosen single-color LEDs, but this is rarely done. Almost all white LEDs produced today use a blue LED as their base (gallium-nitride based, with a wavelength of ~460 nm); on top of this LED, they layer a phosphorescent substance (cerium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet) which absorbs part of the blue light and emits a yellow light centered around 580 nm.

If you take the light from one of these LEDs and pass it through a prism, you’ll get a very thin, bright line of blue, and a slightly wider beam of orange/yellow/green.

By now, you should see where I’m going with this. If you use a white LED as your color source for a monitor that uses a diffraction grating, the results will be no better than today’s color display technologies, and arguably worse. Not only will you lack the ability to display colors below 460 nm (keeping in mind that s-cones peak at 420 nm: no violet for you!), but you’ll have gaps in the lower green and upper red spectrum as well.

Nonetheless, the adjustable diffraction technology is fascinating, and I hope something like this eventually gets to see the light of day — hopefully using something more wide spectrum than what the article implies for a light source.

Now all we need is a CCD that can record a full-spectrum scene, and we’re good to go.


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