Monday, April 30, 2007

Knobby-Treaded Wallet

As a person who enjoys hacks (including wallet hacks) and owns a belt made from a bicycle inner tube,* I find this wallet made from a mountain-bike tire to be right up my, singletrack. Plus, it has motion-sensitive lights; how cool is that?

* Given to me by my lovely bride.

Mice Regain Lost Memories

This article reports a study in which mice suffering from a conditions similar to Alzheimer's disease were made to regain some long-term memories using either environmental stimulation or drugs. This work may indicate one means of treating humans with advance Alzheimer's.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Minear's Next Series: All Puppies All the Time

Come to think of it, maybe Tim Minear could learn something from Alison and Newton. His next projects should be as follows:
  • Firedog
  • Puppyfalls
  • The Dogside
  • Standog
  • Fetch


Thanks mostly to Alison's advertisement of photos of Newton, Industrial-Strength Science has passed 4500 visits. (We're counting the 501 we got before joining Site Meter.) Granted, half of those are by me or Alison, and 45% more are by our 7 regular readers, but still...

It's Spring!

It is spring at our house. We celebrated by cleaning up our balcony last weekend and getting it puppy-proofed. Because, of course, our puppy who is very hesitant to jump off the couch has no qualms at all about sticking his entire head and shoulders through the bars of our 2nd floor balcony. Super. So, we put up some chicken wire along the inside of our railings.

Haha! Stick your head out NOW, puppy! He really loves it out there. He just sits there and watches the world go by. In this picture he's standing up, but usually he's lying down out there. I haven't been able to get a shot of that yet, though, because every time he hears me click on the camera, he runs inside to check it out. *sigh*

He's not's very nice out there. Check out the view and a close-up of that gorgeous pink-flowered tree. So pretty!

I didn't know that tree would be so pretty in the spring. We moved in in July, so this is a nice surprise.

Anyway, happy spring everyone!

Friday, April 27, 2007

Welcome Lillian

Megan gave birth to her first child, a girl named Lillian Rose, this Monday. So congratulations to Megan, Jason, and Lilly.

Welcome Matthew

Lindsay, the wife of Michael F., gave birth to their second child, a boy named Matthew Isaac, a couple of weeks ago. So congratulations to all three of them!

That's My Girl!

Alison gave her dissertation proposal today. It went very well, as I knew it would.* So, we should all congratulate her on passing this major milestone. Congratulations!

* Because she rocks!

How-To: Nitro-to-Brushless Conversion: Part 3

Part 2 can be found here.

Part 3 of the brushless buggy project was painting and decaling the body that came with the kit. As I've said, and as many of you have noticed, I'm very concerned with appearances and other superficial matters, so this part was great fun for me. Additionally, I must say that the stcok Losi 8IGHT body is more attractive, to my eye, than the aftermarket bodies available from Pro-Line or JConcepts. Here're a couple of good shots of the mounted body:

Yet another reason for going electric is that I won't need to cut one hole in the body to allow the engine's cooling head to protrude and another to allow me to fill the tank. Not only does the vehicle look cleaner this way, but the aerodynamic drag should be lower as well. For a comparison with the stock, nitro 8IGHT, check out this photo.

I'm Brain with the overhead projector about how the paint came out; there are a few flaws in my masking, but you can't resolve them in these photos. I'm also quite happy with how the black and white of the body contrasts well with the orange1 of the wheels, wing, antenna tube, and body-clip retainers.

For scale, here's a photo with my Associated RC18B,2 which some of you have seen:

Also for scale, here's a shot with everyone's favorite Bichon, Newton:

My plan now is to report on the real guts of this project---the brushless/Lipo power system---once I get that done, whenever that turns out to be.

1 I've chosen orange as my signature color in the world of RC.
2 I converted this thing from an RC18T, which conversion basically consisted of attaching some wing-mounting hardware and a new body.

Lensherr. Erik Lensherr.

It appears that uber-comic-geek David Goyer will direct the upcoming X-Men spinoff film, Magneto. Since the film will be an origin story, it's likely that Erik Magnus Lensherr (Magneto) and Charles Xavier (Professor X), who will also play a roll in the story, will at least mostly be portrayed by actors much younger than those that played them in the X-Men movies (Ian McKellen and born-for-the-part Patrick Stewart).

How-To: Nitro-to-Brushless Conversion: Part 2

Part 1 can be found here.

The second part of my brushless buggy project was assembly of the non-nitro-specific portion of the Losi 8IGHT kit. First, I assembled all of the mechanical components that required no modification. Doing so entailed putting about 200 parts (plus screws) together, which wasn't so bad, since the manual is quite clear. The hardest parts were filling the diffs and especially the shocks with silicone oil of the appropriate viscosities; getting all the air bubbles out can be challenging. Here's a photo showing the car at this point in the construction; it also illustrates just how off-center the center diff is.

Next, I modified the electronics box by cutting off the portions designed to house the receiver pack and brake servo. I'll be powering the Rx and the servos using a voltage regulator---called a battery-eliminator circuit in the RC world---running off the main battery. Additionally, I'll be using the motor to provide braking, which will eliminate the ability to adjust front/rear brake bias, but also save a lot of weight, room, and complexity. Here's a photo of the car with the modified electronics box, Rx, and steering servo installed:

Note that I have only a very short length of antenna oriented vertically and potentially projecting out of the body. (The antenna is housed inside the orange antenna tube at the right front of the car.) I can do this because my radio system, the Nomadio Sensor, uses the same 2.4-GHz band that cellular phones employ. Between this high frequency and the spread spectrum1 modulation that Nomadio radios use, the transmitter-receiver link should be very resist to noise. (Come to think of it, noise is another reason to go electric; all those moving metal-on-metal interfaces in a nitro engine put out a lot of radio static.) I should also mention that the link is bidirectional; the receiver---really a transceiver---cames with temperature, voltage, and speed sensors, and it can send telemetry back to the transmitter---also really a transmitter. I'll try to post photos of the transmitter later.

By the way, in the above the photo, you can see the body I painted for the 8IGHT. That will be the subject of my next post on this project.

Part 3 can be found here.

1 Frequency-hopping spread spectrum,2 if you must know. Nomadio claims this is superior to direct-sequence spread spectrum, but I would think the opposite would be true.
2 I should point out that actress Hedy Lamarr contributed significantly to the development of spread spectrum.

How-To: Nitro-to-Brushless Conversion: Part 1

Some of you may know that I spent a big chunk of 2005 working on and modifying a radio-control monster truck, specifically a Traxxas Revo. I learned a lot about 2-stroke glow-fuel1 engines and quite a bit about suspension settings: caster, camber, toe, droop, and so forth. These suspension settings are important in full-scale cars, but there importance is exagerated in smaller-scale vehicles due to the very high power-to-weight ratios and scale speeds. Eventually, I felt like I had learned most of what there was to know on this topic, and I was tried of futzing with and cleaning the temperamental and messy engine.

Well, a couple of months ago, I became re-interested in building RC cars and experimenting with suspension mechanics. This time, however, I wanted to run a clean, quiet, electric vehicle. Traditionally, nitro engines have put out more power than electric motors, so the larger, more complex---and thus more interesting---models have typically been powered by nitro. In particular, the class of vehicle I was most interested in was the "Formula 1 of off-road RC," the 1/8th-scale. These buggies have 4-wheel drive with 6-gear differentials front, rear, and center, front and rear disc brakes, extremely adjustable suspensions, and long-travel shocks that can absorb the landings that follow 30-foot jumps, and are nitro-powered. In recent years, though, brushless motors and lithium-polymer/ion/manganese batteries have advanced to the point that electric power systems can be more than competitive with combustion-based systems. Thus, since I'm in favor of voiding warranties and believe that if you can't open it, you don't own it, I decide to convert a 1/8th nitro buggy to brushless/LiPo power.

Further, I've now decided to chronicle the conversion on this blog, much to the consternation of the readership, I'm sure. I'll wager2 you're asking, "Where's all the sci-fi news and puppy photography I really want to see?" Well, you'll have to wait a bit for that.

My first step was to select a buggy model. I chose the Losi 8IGHT,3 partly because it is generally well regarded, and partly because the unique, extremely offset position of the center differential---designed to allow the engine, and thus the car's center of mass, to sit close to the centerline of the vehicle---seemed helpful for mounting the huge battery pack4 I'm planning to use. I also like that most of the aluminum parts are hard-anodized. The downside to this car is that is uses Imperial hardware; ugh. Anyway, here's a photo the buggy still in the box:

Please note that the dog is not provided with the kit; he is an optional accessory. Said dog will actually slow down your assembly of the vehicle, but he will also put a few smiles on your face during the build. And look how cute he is!

I hope to report the next part of this conversion, the assembly of the mechanical components, soon.

Part 2 can be found here.

1 Model-car engines usually run on a mixture of methanol with 10 to 30% nitromethane and about 15% lubricant.
2 If I wager 4 Quatloos, will that make you feel better?
3 I should point out that RC is one of those industries where no one pays the so-called retail price. For example, I paid significantly less than half the MSRP for the 8IGHT and about half MSRP for my Revo.
4 4 lithium-polymer cells,5 wired in series, each nominally 3.7 volts with a capacity of 8 ampere-hour.
5 Actually, each of these is really 2 cells wired in parallel, but I was trying to keep things simple and clear.6
6 Aren't footnotes great?

Eek, a Mouse!

Is your computer mouse too ordinary? Would you like to shake up your web-surfing experience? Do you feel the need to impress your officemate with cooler versions of ordinary office equipment? If so, and if you fancy yourself a bit of an electronics hacker, you may be interested in these two mouse-hacking projects I found through the MAKE Magazine blog:
By the way, don't forget to acquire Das Keyboard to go with your new point-and-click device.

The Minear Effect

A couple of years ago, just after Wonderfalls was axed, Nick expressed his belief in what I now call "The Minear Effect:"
The Minear Effect, noun phrase. The phenomenon wherein, if Tim Minear becomes associated with a television series, it will instantly become 20% better but 50% more likely to be canceled.
This article from Blogcritics Magazine illustrates my point by listing the mostly-good shows with which Minear has been associated and which have been canceled, mostly before their times. Come to think of it, perhaps I should recast this phenomenon as The Fox Effect. Sigh.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Secret to Good Ratings

In other blog news, Alison has discovered how to dramatically increase the traffic here at Industrial-Strength Science: by posting photographs of a cute puppy. Every time we put up pics of Newton, she posts a link to that post on a dog-training board she frequents. Almost immediately, the number of visitors shoots up. As this "refferal" data indicates, all the extra traffic comes from the dog board. I guess we should change our format from Random Stuff that We Find Interesting to All Puppies All the Time.


Last night's post about the death o' Drive was a milestone for Team Grondul; it was the 500th post to this blog. To those of you who've been reading from the origin of this exercise in self-amusement, I say thanks for putting up with so much of it.

Return of the Sequel

Today, NPR's Morning Edition had an interesting story about the economics of big-budget movie sequels. You might be interested in listening to it yourself.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Drive Repoed?

Variety and other web sites are reporting that the Minear-created, Fillion-lead, illegal-road-race series Drive has been canceled by Fox, after only 4 episodes where broadcast and less than 2 weeks after the show premiered. Instead, the network will broadcast reruns of House. This scenario reminds me strongly of when Fox canceled Wonderfalls after transmitting only 4 eps in two different time slots and replaced it with reruns of The Swan. I'm also reminded of how Fox canceled Firefly after airing 11 episodes out of order. I mean, how can you tell if a show is worth broadcasting in that short a time?

I think I'm going to add the word "Fox" to the list of profanities I won't post to this blog. I also predict that Minear and Fillion will join Joss Whedon in his vow never to work with that network again.

Newton's Narrative

Hey, um, what's that, whatcha got? Is it-is it good to eat?

Um, why is it so close to me? I-I'm a little worried.

OK, I-I guess it's not food after all. I'm gonna take a nap.

Um, it-it's hard to nap when you're watching me.

So comfy....

...except I'm sliding off!

Will Someone Please Give Joss a Hug?

Whedonites in the readership may be interested in this Wizard interview with Joss Whedon. The most interesting part to me is the brief update on Goners: now that he has a lot of time on his hands, Whedon is rewriting the screenplay and plans to give it to 'Versal Studios "for, hopefully, a light of greenishness."

Monday, April 23, 2007

Old is the New New

You may have noticed that retro is all the rage in the automotive industry these days. See, for example, cars like the new Volkswagen Beetle, the Chrysler PT Cruiser, the Plymouth/Chrysler Prowler, the fifth-generation Ford Mustang, and the upcoming fifth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. Dodge recently resurrected a vintage name, if not design, with its Charger, and now it's fully embracing this latest fad with the 2008 Challenger, which will look very similar to Alex Tully's 1972 Challenger (and be fabrique au Canada, by the way).

No Benign Musings, Though

Todd hasn't posted any screeds or diatribes in over a year. I can't help but notice that he stopped putting new ones up at about the same time he became engaged to his now-wife, Laura. Awww, she must make him happy. Well, not too happy, I guess; he still hasn't posted any benign musings. Still, when I consider the material she had to work with---this is the main I like to call Sarcastro that we're talking about here---I'm amazed at her progress.

DW: S3

The third season of the resurrected Doctor Who began airing in the UK a few weeks ago, and I've been tuning in. David Tennant has really made the role of the Doctor his own, and Freema Agyeman is doing a more than adequate job as his new companion, Martha. I recommend you check it out.

And, if you live in the States and don't feel like quasilegally downloading each episode, you'll be able to do just that. The Sci Fi Channel has just announced that they will air Season 3, beginning in July. So, keep an eye out.

Black and Blue Man

This weekend was a mixed bag for me:
  • On Saturday morning, during my Parkour class, I landed a front handspring* off a vault poorly and badly sprained my left ankle.
  • On Saturday night, Alison and I went in to Baltimore to see the Blue Man Group perform. The performance was terribly entertaining.**
Unfortunately, the good part of the weekend did not cancel out the bad, since I'm still hobbling about, and my exercise plans for at least the next week have been dramatically altered. In particular, now that the spring has finally arrived, I've gotten re-excited about cycling, so Alison and I had planned to ride on Sunday, which didn't happen. I'm hoping I'll be well enough to climb onto the fixie by next weekend.

* Technically not part of Parkour.
** You should definitely see them if you have the opportunity.

Death Race 2008

Apparently, insane Scientologist Tom Cruise is planning to produce a remake of 1975's Death Race 2000. For those of you who have haven't this "cult-classic" movie starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, the film "told of a dystopian future America in which the president presides over an ultraviolent road race from New York to Los Angeles. One of the ways that drivers score points is by mowing down innocent bystanders using their heavily armed cars." I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Who ordered that?

I think I'll get my racing-related storytelling from Drive instead.

Shear Thinning: Yawn? I Think Not!

Nick's been on fire lately; he sent me a link to this video illustrating that occaisionally, "fluids do things that just don't make a lick of sense." Sometimes I'm amazed at the amount of science that can be done with a bottle of shampoo.

They Don't Call it a Shack for Nothing

Judging by this article, I'm guessing that the editors of the Onion, "America's finest news source," have had experiences at Radio Shack similar to Todd's and to Alison's.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

This Will Ruin Your Life

Nick recently sent me a link to this site, a wiki devoted to cataloging all the tropes* common to TV, movies, and other media. For example, here's the page for what Nick calls "the official affliction of the non-Scooby citizens of Sunnydale." I find the site quite fascinating. Be forewarned, though: not only will this site suck up a huge amount of your time, it could also ruin your life. Or at least ruin TV and movies for you. /fauxsarcasm{Thanks, Nick.}

* "[D]evices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations."

Sunday, April 15, 2007


(This post contains no significant spoilers.)

I watched the first two eps of Drive tonight. While the setup is more than a bit fantastic, I quite enjoyed the show. The producers of the series carefully avoided showing you exactly who is in the race, so, in addition to Lost-style flashbacks giving backstory and motivation to the main characters, I expect we'll see lots of Lost-style introductions of characters who were "there all along, but just offscreen."

I'll be watching the next ep tomorrow night.

Why Does He Need Lips?

The guys over at Jalopnik are righteously indignant that the latest trailer for Transformers shows that the film incarnation of Optimus Prime has lips. I must say I share their indignation; I mean; he doesn't even need a mouth, let alone oddly protruding lips. This flick is looking worse all the time.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Material Components

Potterians* in the readership might enjoy the latest Penny Arcade comic. If you are wondering how Gabe came to own a unicorn, you can find out here. As for the phoenix, I guess that's his secret.

* Fans of the Harry Potter books and films. Duh!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Gorram, That's Some Driving!

Those of you excited about the upcoming Tim Minear series Drive will be interested to know that they can watch the first 4 minutes of the premier here. I should point out that, in addition to those I've mentioned before, the police detective in this clip is also a Minear alumnus. I'm sure you'll recognize him.

In other Drive news, reviews of the premier have been posted by Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

Drive premiers this Sunday on Fox.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Lookie What I Made!

Just in time for the new season known as "Second Winter", I have made two scarves! Check it out:

This was my very first knitting project. I only had to start it, like, a hundred times before I figured out what I was doing. I also learned that things knitted in this particular pattern (called "stockinette"...I have no clue why) tend to roll up. Oh well! I kinda like that it's all roll-y.

This is my second project. I attempted to re-create Crazy Aunt Purl's magic scarf. This was hard because it involved counting and not getting distracted by the TV. Still, I muddled through and it looks pretty cool I think.

Check out the up-close uber-cool basketweave action:

So, the knitting is going swimmingly except for one thing. Newton has decided that he LOVES yarn. It's his new favorite toy. He must have it. Now! It's hard to learn to do something new, but perhaps doubly so when you have to do it while trying to keep an exuberant puppy from constantly interfering. *sigh*

Oh, incidentally, that's the noise Newton makes when he finally gives up trying to eat my yarn for five whole seconds and instead sulks on the floor in front of the couch, giving me very, very sad puppy eyes that say, "Fine, Mrs. Meanie...just keep all the fun yarns for yourself! I'll just lie here and be miserable without any delicious yarns." *sigh*

Friday, April 06, 2007

I am a Giant

Those of you who have been reading this blog from its inception---and thank you for putting up with this nonsense, by the way---may recall that Alison doesn't like bananas.* That doesn't stop her from buying them for me, however, if she's the one doing the shopping. Meanwhile, those of you who eat bananas may have noticed that it's been quite difficult to find good bananas this year; they all seem to be green, far too green to ever ripen in one's kitchen. As a result, Alison recently came home from a trip to the store with the only ripe bananas she could find, a big bunch of these:
They are sometimes called ladyfingers, and, as you can see, they are perfectly formed, half-scale bananas. They made me feel oddly huge. Every time I ate one, I had to say, "I am a giant. Grr." Anyway, I just had to share my amusement with you, gentle reader.

* I love her anyway.

Return of the CRX

Some of you may know that I drive a 1991 Honda CRX. The CRX, a 2-seat hatchback based on the Civic chassis, was quite popular because it was sporty but efficient. For a time, the CRX HF was the most fuel-efficiency car sold in America, while the CRX Si was popular with performance enthusiasts. Honda ended production of the cute little vehicle in 1991; yes, I have one of the last batch. Ever since that dark time, rumors have occasionally arisen that Honda would resurrect the little egg-shaped car. None of those rumors ever came to fruition, so I'm skeptical about the latest one. According to this article, a "serious design proposal is under way at [Honda's] R&D design studios," spurred on by the success of fun-to-drive small cars like the Mini. This new CRX, if it were to be produced, would be based on the Fit platform, which makes a lot of sense, given how large the Civic has grown since 1991. I guess we'll have to wait to see if this rumor pans out.

By the way, since Honda has also terminated production of the Insight, I'm also hoping a hybrid version of the future CRX will be available.

The Key to the High-Def DVD War?

According to this article, pornography was a significant factor in the format war between VHS and Betamax, and it will likely play a similar role in the ongoing fight between HD-DVD and Blu-ray. Apparently, the Blu-ray backers are making it difficult for the porn industry to put out their product on that format, while the HD-DVD folks are working with the pornographers. Hunh.

La Bamba Bone

Anyone who went to school at the University of Illinois knows about La Bamba burritos whose slogan is, "Burritos as Big as Your Head". Well, I bring you the La Bamba bone...

It's comically oversized, but he seems to love it! Also, our dog trainer suggested that bigger rawhides are safer for dogs because they are less likely to get large pieces off and swallow them, which can cause intestinal irritation or even blockage. So, there you go! Enjoy...

Trying Something New

Hello everyone! I have found a new way to procrastinate doing my dissertation proposal. A friend recently introduced me to a super funny blog by a woman who, among other things, knits as a hobby. I will totally put this blog on my recommendations list as soon as I figure out how to edit the template code in the new Blogger. Reading her blog is, of course, yet another excellent procrastination tool...I laughed out loud several times.

Anyway, for whatever reason, the idea of trying to knit something has totally facinated me for about a week now. So, last night I broke down and went and bought some yarn and needles as well as a book and I now have about 4 inches of what I imagine will one day be a scarf. Knitting is not as easy as one might think! I had to re-start about nine hundred times because I had big holes in my scarf or I had somehow accumulated extra stitches. Anyway, we'll see how long this hobby lasts. Of course, I have decided to start this up right as it's getting warm. Because everyone needs a wool blend scarf in the summer! *sigh*