In a step toward winning the Sikorsky Prize, a team of A. James Clark School of Engineering students will attempt for the first time to test-fly their human-powered helicopter, called Gamera. Gamera has a rotor at each of the four ends of its X-shaped frame, with the pilot’s module suspended at the middle. Each crossbar of the frame is 60 feet long, and each rotor is 42 feet in diameter. Through the use of balsa, foam, mylar, carbon fiber and other lightweight materials, the entire vehicle weighs only 210 pounds, including the student pilot. All power comes from a combination of hand and foot pedaling. If Gamera makes it off the ground, the team has the potential to capture a world record for human-powered helicopter flight with a female pilot on board.
Posted by Dyskolos in the wired 8 years ago
Notebooks. Netbooks. Smartphones. Tablets. In 2011, the default state of personal computing is mobile–traditional desktop PCs are still with us, but they’ve become the outliers.  
It wasn’t always so. In their earliest days, in fact, PCs weren’t primarily deskbound; they were entirely deskbound. The notion that you might be able to carry one wherever your work took you was a radical thought.  
That changed on April 3rd, 1981 when a startup called Osborne Computer Corporation announced the Osborne 1 at the West Coast Computer Faire at San Francisco’s Brooks Hall. It was the first true mass-produced portable PC and one of the most popular computers of its time. That makes this Sunday, April 3rd, 2011, as good a day to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of portable computing as any–and to remember Adam Osborne, the company’s founder.
A few weeks ago, when the Justice Department decided not to prosecute Angelo Mozilo, the former chief executive of Countrywide, I wrote a column lamenting the fact that none of the big fish were likely to go to prison for their roles in the financial crisis.  
Soon after that column ran, I received an e-mail from a man named Richard Engle, who informed me that I was wrong. There was, in fact, someone behind bars for what he’d supposedly done during the subprime bubble. It was his 48-year-old son, Charlie.  
On Valentine’s Day, the elder Mr. Engle said, his son had entered a minimum-security prison in Beaver, W.Va., to begin serving a 21-month sentence for mortgage fraud. He then proceeded to tell me the tale of how federal agents nabbed his son — a tale he backed up with reams of documents and records that suggest, if nothing else, that when the federal government is truly motivated, there is no mountain it won’t move to prosecute someone it wants to nail. And it was definitely motivated to nail Charlie Engle.  
Mr. Engle’s is a tale worth telling for a number of reasons, not the least of which is its punch line. Was Mr. Engle convicted of running a crooked subprime company? Was he a mortgage broker who trafficked in predatory loans? A Wall Street huckster who sold toxic assets?  
No. Charlie Engle wasn’t a seller of bad mortgages. He was a borrower. And the "mortgage fraud" for which he was prosecuted was something that literally millions of Americans did during the subprime bubble. Supposedly, he lied on two liar loans.
Das Capitalist
Posted by Dyskolos in history 8 years ago
In the "Overture" to his grandly symphonic The Enlightenment: An Interpretation, Peter Gay describes the "international type" of the philosophe as a "facile, articulate, doctrinaire, sociable, secular man of letters." On this definition, was Adam Smith a philosophe?  
Yes and no. Unlike his French counterparts and even his bosom friend David Hume, he led a retired life, much of it in the small Scottish town where he was born, and he lived with his mother until she died at a very advanced age. He was shy, destroyed most of his letters, and did not seem to relish giving brilliant performances, either in print or in conversation. He never fell afoul of civil or religious authority, had no mistresses, and engaged in no public quarrels.  
(A semi-public one, though. Shortly after Hume’s death, Smith met Samuel Johnson at a party. Johnson spoke slightingly of Hume, Smith defended him, and their exchanges grew increasingly heated until Johnson exclaimed, "Sir, you lie!" To which Smith retorted, "Sir, you are the son of a whore!"and stalked out.)  
(...) Everyone knows, of course, what Adam Smith stood for: free trade, the division of labor, the minimal state, the invisible hand, the illimitable growth of wants and needs. "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest." "Every individual … intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention." "Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things." Case closed.  
What everyone knows is seldom altogether wrong; but often it is not altogether right, either.
In an essay in 1984—at the dawn of the personal computer era—the novelist Thomas Pynchon wondered if it was "O.K. to be a Luddite," meaning someone who opposes technological progress. A better question today is whether it’s even possible. Technology is everywhere, and a recent headline at an Internet humor site perfectly captured how difficult it is to resist: "Luddite invents machine to destroy technology quicker."  
Like all good satire, the mock headline comes perilously close to the truth.  
Despite their modern reputation, the original Luddites were neither opposed to technology nor inept at using it. Many were highly skilled machine operators in the textile industry. Nor was the technology they attacked particularly new. Moreover, the idea of smashing machines as a form of industrial protest did not begin or end with them. In truth, the secret of their enduring reputation depends less on what they did than on the name under which they did it. You could say they were good at branding.
...with His PB-Bacon-Banana Sandwich
This Saturday, January 8, would have been Elvis Presley's 76th birthday. And while Elvis is primarily known for being one of the greatest entertainers of the twentieth century, we can't ignore his namesake sandwich—the one with peanut butter, banana, and bacon all smashed together.  
Nicknamed the "Elvis" sandwich, this collision of delicious indulgence is made up of ingredients that seem like they'd clash, but much like Elvis's music—a dynamic rockabilly fusion of heartfelt country and soulful rhythm and blues—they create something beautiful. The combo is sweet, salty, creamy, and crunchy all at once.
WHILE the federal judge who ruled that portions of the health care reform law were unconstitutional made the big headlines, another important constitutional debate was reopened last week by Justice Stephen Breyer during an interview on Fox. He argued that the historical record — in particular, James Madison’s thoughts and writings — supports the dissenters in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the Supreme Court said the Second Amendment established an individual right to bear arms, and on that basis struck down a District of Columbia ban on handguns.  
Conservatives were quick to accuse Justice Breyer of pursuing an activist judicial agenda. Their charges are misguided.
The scene has been played out so many times as to border on cliché. It begins with an impromptu meet-up of two Chevy Camaros, each announcing its prowess with a V-8 rumble. Then, despite good-natured banter between the drivers, an unspoken challenge is made. Finally, a tire-smoking showdown ensues.  
One big difference this time: the encounter, which took place at summer’s end, did not begin on the main drag of a small Midwestern town and pursue resolution on a deserted country road. Instead, the Camaros, a pair of pumped-up early ’70s models owned by friends, faced off at the Azadi Stadium Race Track in Tehran.
Slideshow: Muscle Cars in Iran
Ukulele Underground
Posted by Dyskolos in it's the arts 8 years ago
Ukulele Underground was created in 2007 to grow the next generation of ukulele player throughout the world. For years, the ukulele has been labeled a toy instrument never to be taken seriously. Ukulele Underground strives to break preconceived notions of what the ukulele is supposed to sound like and break barriers that limit what types of music it can play.  
We do this by providing a fertile bed and all the resources we can to help the next generation of ukulele players grow. We create content that teaches the world how to play the instrument. We open minds to the true potential of the instrument through performance and innovation. We empower these students to become teachers and evangelists for the ukulele movement.  
Our mission is to create millions of new ukulele players, which in turn helps millions experience the joy of music. This is the Ukulele Underground. Are you the next generation?
Imagine your home catches fire but the local fire department won't respond, then watches it burn. That's exactly what happened to a local family tonight.  
A local neighborhood is furious after firefighters watched as an Obion County, Tennessee, home burned to the ground.  
The homeowner, Gene Cranick, said he offered to pay whatever it would take for firefighters to put out the flames, but was told it was too late. They wouldn't do anything to stop his house from burning.  
Each year, Obion County residents must pay $75 if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. But the Cranicks did not pay.
The tall, sleek, curving Vdara Hotel at CityCenter on the Strip is a thing of beauty.  
But the south-facing tower is also a collector and bouncer of sun rays, which -- if you're at the hotel's swimming pool at the wrong time of day and season -- can singe your hair and melt your plastic drink cups and shopping bags.  
...Chicago visitor Bill Pintas experienced Vdara's "death ray" recently. A lawyer, he was here on business for Preferred Capital Lending, which he co-owns. He also co-owns a Vdara condo.  
..."I was effectively being cooked," Pintas said. "I started running as fast as I could without looking like a lunatic."
The jurors who helped put Nino Lyons in jail for three years had every reason to think that he was a drug trafficker, and, until July, no reason to doubt that justice had been done.  
But the federal prosecutors handling the case did not let the jury hear all the facts.  
Instead, the prosecutors covered up evidence that could have discredited many of Lyons' accusers. They never revealed that a convict who claimed to have purchased hundreds of pounds of cocaine from Lyons struggled even to identify his photograph. And they hid the fact that prosecutors had promised to let others out of prison early in exchange for their cooperation.  
Federal prosecutors are supposed to seek justice, not merely score convictions. But a USA TODAY investigation found that prosecutors repeatedly have violated that duty in courtrooms across the nation. The abuses have put innocent people in prison, set guilty people free and cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees and sanctions.
"An Ethics Meltdown at the Justice Department," a brief summary of the article and reflections on it by Scott Horton at the Harper's Magazine web site.
Leonard Skinner, the PE teacher whose name was immortalised in rock'n'roll history by his students, has died in Florida, aged 77.  
The teacher's distaste for the long hair of pupils at Robert E Lee high school in Jacksonville in the 1960s led to many a shaggy-fringed student being sent to the headteacher's office – among them the founding members of Lynyrd Skynyrd.  
The band adopted, then adapted, the sports tutor's name – its spelling purported to be a homage to the vagaries of southern American pronunciation – before achieving worldwide fame with rock anthems such as Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird. The group later befriended their former nemesis.
Here are a few manner posters that appeared in the Tokyo subways between 1976 and 1982.
cc: government, WTF Japan?
People playing a simple video game can match, and even surpass, the efforts of a powerful supercomputer to solve a fiendishly difficult biological problem, according to the results of an unusual face-off. The game isn't Pac-Man or Doom, but one called FoldIt that pushes people to use their intuition to predict the three-dimensional (3D) structure of a protein.  
When it comes to solving protein structures, scientists usually turn to x-ray crystallography, in which x-rays shining through a protein crystal reveal the location of atoms. But the technology is expensive and slow and doesn't work for all proteins. What scientists would love is a method for accurately predicting the structure of any protein, while knowing nothing more than the sequence of its amino acids. That's no small task, considering that even a moderately sized protein can theoretically fold into more possible shapes than there are particles in the universe
cc: blinded by science