Monday, October 31, 2005

Things Learned in English

One Hundred Fifty Fourth Post: Things Learned in English

Most everyone is introduced to the classic novels in high school or college. The teachers express that it is important to read. The say it can actually be enjoyed. If there is one thing learned from reading these novels it should be this: Sometimes in writing, as well as the fine arts as drawing, it is what is left unsaid or not described that leaves thoughts open to the imagination, thus creating a good work.

A good novel will describe a topic, usually relating to life or society, and present the author's opinions in the story. In order to complete the story, the author has to balance how much they emphasize the topic and the topic’s symbolism throughout the novel. The simple fact that the author cannot possibly describe the topic completely leaves much to be interpreted by the reader. And if those interpretations are profound things the readers can relate to and discuss the book becomes a classic.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Thinking like Einstein

One Hundred Fifty Third Post: Thinking like Einstein

There are several different types of intelligence. Each applies to a different type of skill. One book argues that while Einstein was an extraordinary physicist, he would lack skills to survive in a desert. Physics was his area of expertise in which he was most skilled in. Why label the different types of intelligence and study Einstein and other leaders in their fields? The answer is simple, the researchers want to find out the workings of the mind and find out what it is that makes people like Einstein special. This could lead to different ways of teaching to learning techniques that could improve people’s abilities. Also it would identify people with special abilities like Einstein.

My interest is to understand the way that Einstein thought. Of course you can only learn the way Einstein thinks by the things that he wrote. It is difficult to see how he thought in this way, but you can see the ideas and concepts he produced. And these concepts create new thoughts in the person that reads them. Writing is sort of like a foot print of the mind. It leaves an impression but one can only follow the prints with only a subtle hint of what produced them.

Perhaps, it is not as important to understand Einstein’s mind as it is to learn to use our own minds to produce our own footprints. Sure to know Einstein’s thoughts when he thought about relativity would be invaluable. It would also be impossible. The way someone thinks is comparable to an artists “style” when they draw. It is an unique signature. So the idea is not to copy another’s style but to use one’s own style to its fullest potential. Maybe what you learn from another’s ideas and how you use what is learned is more important than understanding their mind.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Replace or Repair?

One Hundred Fifty Second Post: Replace or Repair?

I am reading a small engine repair book that is from 1976. The basics are still the same only some features have been approved on. One thing that has changed is the fact that it used to be cheaper to repair and machine a part than replace it. And the price must have been significant. But today that has all changed, it is cheaper to replace a part than to machine it.

Another thing that is more widely known is that it is cheaper to replace computer parts than have the board repaired. So instead of soldering are using a multimeter, technicians just make sure the problem isn’t the software and replace the damaged part.

This leads to a large supply of broken boards for tinkerers to practice on. The tinkerer could probably get a shop full of free parts. Pieces still useful that could be used to practice finding the components that aren’t working or learn soldering on. A computer has all sort of electronic architecture and complex design to explore. What is learned about design is invaluable. And just maybe, there while be a need for repair skills in the future. (for instance, soldering Mod chips on a game machine)

On another note but not recent news, is that Fermat’s last theorem was solved by Andrew Wiles. I read about this from the Guinness Book of Records 2000. I haven’t heard of this theorem since high school geometry, but am interested in finding out how it was solved. It is something I am going to be looking up.

Maybe you, the reader, should look it up too. But in the meantime.... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, October 28, 2005

The ultimate how-to magazine

One Hundred Fifty First Post: The ultimate how-to magazine

On page 187 on Make vol.04 they write about an old copy of Popular Mechanics from 1994. Of course there is going to be biased opinions between two competing how to magazines, but in general the author was not impressed. But, they did admit to PM having some unusual among the common.

So this raises a question of Make vs. Popular Mechanics. Make has more projects covered in depth in the issue every quarter, but Popular Mechanics covers everything from wood working to cars with an issue every month. PM has some really great art on future or “dream” technology with Makes art also good explanations of the projects while having How Toons comics. I think the two are both good in their own ways, but nothing compares to the classic Popular Mechanics. From the 1960's back PM was unquestionably the best publication. It is now over a century old. When planes were new it featured articles on building flying machines. It was the size of Make every month with the projects being about new technology. So today, Make and PM should be on every tinkerer’s subscription list, but nothing compares to the classic Popular Mechanics.

I also read that Window’s Vista will be in 32 and 64 bit versions. I guess the 32 is to maintain compatibility with XP. I guess which one to get depends on how many software companies are switching to a 64 bit format. It is too soon to make any assumptions before using it though.

Meanwhile, I go back to studying small gas engines. But until then... May the Creative Force be with You

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Scientists and Engineers as Heroes

One Hundred Fiftieth Post: Scientists and Engineers as Heroes

In Make vol. 04 Dean Kamen commented on how much sports heros are celebrated in our culture with many young people having the dream of becoming one. Meanwhile it is not realistic in becoming one, but it is realistic to become a scientist or engineer. There is a lot of truth to this statement. Sports, while important teaching values such teamwork and winning attitude, are often more focused on than academics in both college and high school. Science offers an outlet to be creative and think of new ideas. It helps students understand the world and resolve problems to improve their world.

But there are already lots of students whose heroes are scientist. I believe they are called nerds. LOL (Only kidding. I was a nerd.) There has to be a balance between letting the student excel in what they are interested in such as sports and letting them dream, while at the same time, encouraging them to have many interest and learn a variety of subjects to find what it is they like to do. If science or art was introduced they just might like these subjects. There are a lot of heroes in these fields even though sports stars in the media more often. But in other media such as comic books scientists are the heroes. Just look at Star Trek.

Another short idea I was playing with is to take a game like Magic the Gathering Online and make it possible for players to design and draw there own card. Then the community could rate the card on originality, how interesting it is, how nicely it is drawn, etc. Then you could trade and sell custom cards for points. I really don’t know how the game works, but it is just something to think about. The same thing could apply to video games with players modeling custom characters. The main problem is the challenge in programming such a cool statistic system. But, it is just an idea.

May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Expand- - -ability

One Hundred Forty Ninth Post: Expand- - -ability

One of the major design problems of a website is not the graphics. Instead it is how the content is organized. Fancy graphics are nice, but the user must be able to navigate the site. Even if the content is interesting and organized well, there is the factor of adding additional content or expanding the site. My site Constructor’s Corner may not yet be difficult to navigate, but I have found that adding new content to the site can be a chore to manage links and menu buttons. I have yet to use cascading style sheets or other templates, but understand they may solve the problem. I like the way the site is designed even though it is not the most artistic or well designed site. The content is there giving the site some potential. My new site design will be experimented with Calculated-Curves.

One site that impresses me is Amazon. They have haven’t changed there style to much cosmetically, but under the surface they have an ever changing site with server side code and a huge database of users, product descriptions, and reviews. Changing a site so much hourly is impressive. But that is only one type of expansion....

One thing on small engines on tractors that race in fairs and college SAE formula racing is the speed of the engine. The thing that is lost in increasing the throttle speed by removing the throttle’s governor for a faster engine is fuel efficiently. More importantly with small engines if the carburetor is simple like it is in small engines, there will be only fast speeds. I have never participated in lawn tractor race but I am interested in how they speed them up. I my opinion the race is won with the carburetor and transmission. If the race team redesigned these components they would be sure to win. It is sort of like expanding the engines capabilities.

References: “Small Gas Engines,” Gray / Barrow

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Printed Circuits

One Hundred Forty Eighth Post: Printed Circuits

Myself, I have studied a little bit of mechanics in school including physics, statics, and dynamics, but I never studied electronics in school. Most programs in mechanics have a couple of courses in intro to electronics, but I never took them. But when you start to tinker with things that are mechanical, you start to realize how electronics and mechanics complement each other. This is especially true today with computers. You have a mechanical problem or measurement, you must use the computer to analyze it. A mechanical part is controlled by an electronic switch. And there is robotics a mixture of mechanical machines with electronic controls.

But the thing about electronics is that it is fun to learn even though the field is so vast. Today everyone uses a computer, but most are probably negligent to the building blocks on how their computer actually runs. But a lot of science suppliers and Radio Shack have simple electronic labs that teach children to adults about circuits. So the resources are available. Make magazine also features projects that include a lot of electronics. The projects range from complex to simple.

I found a cool ad in Make. It was PCB Express that make custom printed circuit boards from the user’s design. Sounds interesting. I am not that advanced in circuits yet, but I bet it would be perfect for the Senior undergraduate or Grad student working on a design project.

I have been mentioning Make a lot since I received it yesterday which is because it is the only thing that I have been reading. It is impossible to do all the projects because the main projects are involved, but the magazine has something to everyone. I think schools should buy them to complement their science books. This is the application of science and ingenuity which is exactly what interests young students. They want to see how what they are learning applies to the real world and here it is presented in one plain issue of Make.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Product Research

One Hundred Forty Seventh Post: Product Research

I got my Make vol. 04 today. In it was an article with Dean Kamen. I read the article with much interest. My only complaint is that it doesn’t cover enough, but still, in it were very Kamen’s very interesting views toward engineering.

I don’t want to rewrite the essay, but there is one view that I thought stood out from the rest. Kamen said, “If you do “product research,” the product that you end up with will be similar to what already exists.” This is a very simple yet meaning full statement. This is basically saying the designer should tinker with his own ideas and assumptions before referring to current methods. This can be compared to a math problem. You could look into the back of the book for an answer or ask the teacher for the solution, but until you try to solve the problem yourself, you haven’t found the answer.

Today a doe, a female deer, was about 20 ft. from my door. I did take some video through the window and the deer didn’t seem to mind. But whenever I open the door, she took off. I want to get some corn to put out for them. I’ll try to post a small video on Constructors’ Corner.

But until then... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Home Lab

One Hundred Forty Sixth Post: Home Lab

You ever wonder if you could make discoveries out of the basement, garage, or shed? To have your own little corner with all the cool equipment. But could you expect to produce discoveries in areas that labs and teams of people couldn’t find with million dollar equipment? Well, maybe not, but this area is yours to dream in.

Spiderman studied at the University, but he maintained a laboratory in his Aunt’s basement. He was glad to get a job at a lab and admitted it was nice that the equipment hadn’t come from a mail order catalog. So working in a lab must be nice, but surely Spiderman would agree that home laboratory certainly has its own applications. The young Peter Parker (Spiderman) spent many hours in his basement lab. Isn’t the home lab where all scientist start?

The first thing home labs lack is the equipment. So the experiment won’t be about putting a plane in a wind tunnel or smashing protons in a particle accelerator. But what the lab lacks in shear power it makes up for with the scientist’s, whose lab it is, ingenuity. The scientist may not be designing stealth air fighters, but they concentrate on simpler techniques that could lead to just as big discoveries. For example, a scientist testing an engine that runs on ethanol could modify an existing small engine and test what setting of air and fuel mixture works the best. The scientist can also be working on methods to create that alcohol.

So the small lab is based on the fact that discoveries, sometimes large, can be found by relatively simple methods. The key is in finding those methods. There is a lot to be said of home laboratories and lots to discuss, but until then....... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Ethanol Hybrids

One Hundred Forty Fifth Post: Ethanol Hybrids

New hybrids are just now becoming popular. The need for oil independence is there. Ford recently has been showing a commercial where they talk about new ethanol hybrids coming out soon. The site is It is better than nothing, but isn’t this technology 30 years to late. Ford admits that Henry Ford originally tried ethanol as a means to fuel his cars, but oil was a cheaper alternative.

Ethanol is by no means new. It has been an additive in some gasolines for years. But as found by searching the web, it increases octane so the timing of ordinary gasoline engines is off to use the ethanol efficiently. Ford said that its ethanol hybrids will operate on 85% ethanol and 15% regular gasoline.

I have a few questions for this technology. This first is that if only slight modifications had to made to an average, gasoline combustion engine why wasn’t this done sooner? If alcohol can be nearly as efficient and easy to produce from corn and other renewable resources why wasn’t this done sooner? Secondly what are the byproducts of burning ethanol? And lastly, where do you find a gas station that caries the ethanol?

I would like to see a diagram of the ethanol engine explaining how it differs from a regular gasoline engine. But until then it is something to watch and surf the net for.... And May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, October 21, 2005

Becoming a Master

One Hundred Forty Fourth Post: Becoming a Master

When you first start learning something, you want to learn everything about the subject as fast as you can. The only problem is that there are 500 page textbooks, class lectures, and a lot of time to spend studying. But you want to be a master. It is here you realize that to master a subject, a profession, or skill it takes years and experience. Whether the subject is art or welding, to really be skilled it takes years.

This seems a bit overwhelming at first especially if you feel that you need to become an expert overnight. Not to worry because even though you are by no means an expert, this is one of the funniest times of the craft. You are a new recruit whose ideas are fresh and are viewing the learning experience with wonder. For what you lack in knowledge you make up for by a willing to try attitude and ambition. The imagination is over loaded with fresh ideas.

Everyone is going to be new at something at one point of their life whether they are a doctor in training or traveling cross country in an 18 wheeler. And for Star Wars fans it is the transition to Padawan to Jedi Knight to Jedi Master. And though you want to be a master over night, don’t forget to enjoy the time when you’re a young Padawan.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Design throughout Time

One Hundred Forty Third Post: Design throughout Time

I’m studying a small engine repair book from 1976. It’s been 30 years ago, but the information still applies to small engines built today. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same. It is comparable to the way a bicycle is designed. It is a simple idea that works so there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Sure bicycles have changed with gears being added and being built of high tech, lightweight materials, but only minor improvements in the large scope of things.

So basically other than the way it is manufactured, small engines are the same. Reinventing the engine would be a challenge if at all possible without there being some major scientific discoveries. A small engine is based on the combustion of fuel (gasoline) and air, but to ignite that fuel it is creating an electrical charge as the crankshaft turns using a magnet and some coiled wire to create a spark in the spark plug. So the system is efficient as any combustion engine can be. The important thing to remember is that it took years to evolve.

But what about more advanced, futuristic engines? There probably won’t be a futuristic engine on a small push mower unless it is converted to electric engine. Where the ideas are needed is in automobiles and large farm equipment. The problem lies in not only creating a better engine but in creating an engine that is practical enough to replace current engines.

It doesn’t seem as if there is any simple solution. Colleges hold contest and race tractors and SAE formula 1 cars. What if there was a small competition on a creating a battery powered lawn mower. All are attempts to learn and become knowledgeable with engines and maybe even spark new ideas.

That it the problem. There is a race to create a better engine in automobiles, but today’s engines do what they do well. Their only drawback is that they rely on oil. So before an upgrade of engines occur they have to be as powerful as the engines that already exist.

But until someone invents free energy.... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Creating Theories

One Hundred Forty Second Post: Creating Theories

We often read or hear stories through the media of new scientific theories. But what verifies such theories. In science students are taught about the importance of the experiment. The experiment has variables as well as a control group to compare results. So that when we think of a group of scientist creating a new theory, we visualize them in the lab mixing test tubes into a beaker.

But what about those theories that are just based on pure observation and reason, what makes those theories so widely accepted if there is no way to test them. Only discoveries can prove them right or wrong. And a lot of the time they are wrong like recently when Stephen Hawkins admitted his assumption that nothing leaves a black hole.

Darwin’s theory of evolution is believed by many to be true, yet it cannot be proven. So with all these people creating a theory what is to stop any one to create there own. Admittedly the average person may not have the degrees or authority of those whose theories have been accepted, but that doesn’t take the fun out of it. In fact everyone draws conclusions about the world rather they document it or not. It is just the way we think and learn.

In my humble opinion, early science class in elementary school should have young learners developing their own theories. Kids already have humorous theories of how things work why not start critical thinking at an early age.

So where does someone start when creating a theory? Start with what you know. You probably have a subject you use every day or think about sometimes. It is easy to make a basic theory because it doesn’t have to hold as true as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. It just has to be interesting and about something you find interesting.

Here’s a little theory I have been tinkering with:

What if time did not move linear and that people just experienced the movement through time as being linear. Meaning what if a time line was compared to a sine wave such as the way electricity is. At some points time would be moving at one speed and at others it would move at a faster or slower speed. The observer wouldn’t be able to record the time difference because all of their surroundings would be moved at the same time. So the time change would be negligible to those in that time frame. The difference would come when things traveled across time from one wavelength to another. These wavelengths would be out of phase and amplitude much like the curves of trigonometry. Something else to explore is if the before and after affect occurred in nature, or in other words, if time actually moved in a straight line. If the wavelengths did not move in a straight line there would have to be a new way to explain time change. But the theories that explained time as a straight line would still apply because that is the way we experience time. So current theories of time are correct, however they wouldn’t hold true during time travel.

So you see it is easy and fun to make theories. And while your making your own... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Before the X box 360

One Hundred Forty First Post: Before the X box 360

Well since yesterday I came out of video game retirement only to find that I am not at all that good at video games. Well at least “Capcom vs. SNK”. I found that if a fighter is vulnerable to the jump kick that it will only take a well timed kick to defeat him. This doesn’t work with fighters with swords or fighters who have upper cut moves.

Well the X box 360 is not really going to change games, but how the gamer uses the game system. This isn’t a new concept. Back in 1993-94 the Philip’s CD I tried to become a bridge between a game console and an entertainment system. It played games as well as video CDs. Also it had great ground breaking interactive video games and had a simple 3D game. The games ranged through adults to children. One thing that is interesting is that it had a Zelda game featuring Link. I don’t know how they got the license to make this game, but the game never appeared on Nintendo. Unfortunately, this system like a lot of good systems such as the Sega “Dreamcast,” didn’t sell.

Also today I learned about a LEGO CAD program from a book from .The book is called “Virtual LEGO” and covers the basic of the different LEGO drawing programs. I haven’t read it myself but it has high reviews on Amazon.

Lots of things to explore. But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Monday, October 17, 2005

Coming Out of Video Game Retirement

One Hundred Fortieth Post: Coming Out of Video Game Retirement

Well I tried my network again today. For some reason XP Home will connect to another XP Home but not to a XP Pro. Also the Internet connection sharing keeps disconnecting after the connection has been made.

Today I went for a drive trying to find an Army surplus store. I had did a search on “Google Local” and all these businesses showed up. I found one near me and drive down the road it was supposed to be. From the looks of the area there had never been a surplus store there. So Google Local can find some businesses but it is better to call before taking a trip.

I went into video game retirement back in Nov. 1994 when I got my first computer. I was tired of video games of the day just being side scrollers with the same design. I still had my favorite games, but at the time the best game was “Street Fighter” and many other game companies followed with their clones. The computer had simulators, first person shooters, and strategy games. So that is where I stopped gaming except for the occasional game of Doom 2.

While as was at Basic Training in the Army, the Drill Sargents referred to my generation as the “Nintendo Generation.” This basically meant that instead of riding bikes throughout the neighborhood or hunting or camping, we were glued to the tv playing video games. So we lacked the basic knowledge of Army life had lost useful skills to hours of playing Nintendo.

Video games have changed since I was a kid. I believe that in most areas they have improved. I haven’t focused on a game in years. I mean playing anything other than the first levels. Now, that I have some interest in designing games, I have to be involved in the game to feel the player control. First person shooters are my favorite, but I want to play the classic fighters such as Street Fighter. I’m going to play a game that I can play a few hours and have fun. I’ll be playing the games that I want to design level mods for. Unfortunately I don’t have broadband. I will still be playing the games that people get addicted to. So as of now I am out of video game retirement.

I won’t be trying to beat a 5 to 16 year old at a game of hand and eye coordination. The fact is if your over 18 you just can’t win. In a first person shooter to even the odds you must use strategy. That is why I went into video game retirement is because the games were one dimensional relaying only hand and eye coordination. But the games have changed. So while your busy with that level of Battlefield 1942 or whatever game you like... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Incomplete Network and Where do magnets come from?

One Hundred Thirty Ninth Post: Incomplete Network and Where do magnets come from?

Network settings are made simple today with the standard being TCP/IP, but there are other things such as getting XP Home to see XP Pro. Also the firewall must be configured properly. It just leads to a bunch more settings. This basically means that my network doesn’t work yet.

But another interesting fact I read is about electricity and magnetism. When electricity flows through a wire it has a magnetic force around it. This is probably why electromagnets can be created. So the force is there it is just hidden. If you ever used a remote control car and happened to pass under a power line, you may notice that the car does not respond and may drive itself backwards or off course. This is because of some sort of force of interference from the power line.

The Greeks knew about static electricity. They also new (magnetite) stones would attract iron. I was always puzzled where these magnets came from. How can electricity be created without a magnet? Electric is made when a magnet is rotated inside a coil of wire. So the magnet is the key. Who invented the magnet or at least discovered it?

References: 1. Small Gas Engines, Gray / Barrow
2. Fundamentals of Physics volume 02, Halliday

Until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Precession and Do It Yourself Networks

One Hundred Thirty Eighth Post: Precession and Do It Yourself Networks

There is a force in circular motion that the object in motion will resist moving a direction opposite the circular motion. This can be seen with the classic experiment of a spinning bicycle tire. Precession seems like a nice fact to know, but how does it apply to real world applications?

In an old 1960 issue of “Popular Mechanics” it explained how the first WWII airplanes were out matched technically in the air because of precession. The engine of the planes were to blame. The engine rotated in one direction so if the engine rotated to the right and the pilot made a left turn the plane would resist going left.

I haven’t researched how this was corrected. A believe the article said that gyroscopes that spun in a direction opposite the engine were used to balance the force of precession. Though, it would be interesting to see how precession is corrected in automobiles. Something to research.

Meanwhile, I am trying to set up a small network. I have been basically skimming a huge computer books to find out the steps I need to get it working. I could pay a few hundred dollars to have someone like the “Geek Squad” fix it. That would work until a setting changes and that would take another few hundred dollars. It is pretty basic, but computer settings can be tricky. But until then... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Tinkerer

One Hundred Thirty Seventh Post: The Tinkerer

Here are some ideas I had when developing a super villain:

I want some one who doesn’t have any super powers. Instead they use there wits and knowledge to build little “inventions” or solve a problem. So instead of magic or special powers, their weapon is technology.

Now there is several ways to develop the character:

One being to make him a knowledge powerhouse.

the imagination of Einstein
math knowledge of Newton
the engineering ability of Edison

This would lead to one powerful character. He wouldn’t have a match person to battle. And probably wouldn’t lead to good stories.

I honed his abilities making him an average man and gave him a story to show his abilities. This is a brief description of an unfinished story.

the curiosity and observation of Da Vinci
the tinkering of Macgyver
the passion of Magneto

A bright graduate student at a very prestigious university is assisting the head professor in his research. So far most of the work has been trivial photocopying and paper work along with answering the professor’s calls and emails. But today was something different. When looking at the professor’s common email, he looks at a message that was intended only for the professor.

This message starts the student’s mission to uncover good technology and sharing it with the world while trying to destroy the bad. The student then stills the technology and steals money from the University. With the money he joins a militia and begins to recruit scientists and engineers for his plans. He renames himself the Tinkerer.

The important thing to note here is that although the Tinkerer is breaking the law, he is comparable to Magneto with his strong self righteous beliefs.

Yes Marvel comics has a “Tinkerer” who is completely different and who is never used anyways. The names are the same, but the story is different.

A Tinkerer fits right into the Joe Kubert’s Super Villains correspondence class books. In fact if the “mechanical course book” that is listed as a course that is under development is developed, the drawings of the Tinkerer’s hideout, inventions, and costumes could possibly be used.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Just One Spark Plug

One Hundred Thirty Sixth Post: Just One Spark Plug

I was tinkering with a 12hp tractor engine a little and found that it had only one spark plug meaning it only had 1 cylinder. It is just an average tractor engine, but the engine seems pretty efficient considering all the weight it has to pull up hills and including the weight of the rider. Of course the wheels hold most of the weight. It is not lifting 350 pounds it is just pushing it. Still the engine is doing a lot with a little 1 cylinder engine even if its top speed is 5 mph.

When studying the basics of the engine and looking at diagrams, a person sees how easy the logic is behind the works. What makes it challenging, however, is the fact that so many parts are need to perform the simple tasks. But if a person thinks of how the part functions withing the engine’s system it is easier to understand the part’s job. Once that is known, how the part does that job can further be broken into basic steps.

I also recently found an interesting basic robot projects done by introduction to engineering students. The student’s came up with some interesting ideas at:

I am currently tinkering with a little with a math problem, but I am still thinking about the tape looper machine. It is all about breaking a complex subject into something simpler and describing it. Once that is done a person can build with the simple descriptions they have made. But until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

2 cycle or 2 stroke?

One Hundred Thirty Fifth Post: 2 cycle or 2 stroke?

Two cycle engines are familiar. Those are the engines that you mix oil with the gas most commonly found in weed eaters and lawn mowers. But what does the 2 cycle mean? A 2 stroke engine means the engine’s pistons have 2 turns per each turn or cycle of the crankshaft. It probably is a simple answer, but a lot of people are probably unaware of why it is called 2 cycle engine oil when 2 stroke engines usually mix oil and gas. Puzzling.

Another interesting engine is the diesel engine. Diesel engines don’t have spark plugs. So the engine can be sprayed with a stream jenny and the engine will still start. The same may be true with a gas engine (I figure) if the spark plugs were sealed instead of just covered by a rubber insulator. Diesel engines use something called “glow plugs” instead. Maybe the engine works when sprayed because it is sealed. However water in the diesel would probably stop the engine just as moisture in the gas during winter. It would be an interesting to search on the Net to actually figure out how these engines work.

Another interesting thing with the diesel engine is that when it won’t start sometimes the driver can give it gas as someone holds there hand over the exhaust pipe. This builds up pressure and somehow helps the engine to start.

Whatever the engine the driver should have some idea on how they work. If not just for knowledge, it may be useful to know for basic repair and maintenance. We must know how current engines work if we are going to build better engines.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Ash can comic 2

One Hundred Thirty Fourth Post: Ash can comic 2

In the days before the Net artist used to photocopy their comics on a black and white photocopier. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started this way. But with today’s computers and artist can post there comic to the web and pay to have it published latter. But what is your just an amateur that wants to create a small work (It could be a comic book or other written work.) and have a small circulation. The same photocopier techniques could be used, except now there is a lot more access to the tools.

Today’s inkjet printers can turn out a decent printing, but to save money on toner it would be easier to use a document place such as Kinko’s. The problem with home printers is that most of them can only handle paper that is 8 ½ inches wide. The largest the paper comes is 8 ½ by 14 inches. If the comic creator didn’t need the space they could use 8 ½ by 11 folded in half and staple in the middle. That is the size of a lot of Manga. The document place would have larger 11 by 17 papers which printed in black and white shouldn’t cost much more.

I’ve never drew an entire comic book, but if I ever make a publication this is how I am going to do it. To have something sent to a print shop would cost thousands of dollars depending on the number of pages and amount of books printed. But being a graphic artist when you make something considering how it is going to be printed. Fancy graphics are nice, but if the only printer is black and white an inked drawing is much more practical.

The Army drops leaflets and flyers all the time. And when looking at the leaflets of Desert Storm 1, one will see that it is just simple drawn cartoons. The printing is enough to send the message, but the quality is just enough to get the message across. At the time of Desert Storm 1 computers where not a common. The graphic artist was probably using inked line drawings and using a resograph to print them out.(I might not have resograph spelled right, but it’s basically a simple printer that uses solid colors. It doesn’t print fancy computer graphics.) So computer graphics have not replaced the artist. Instead, they have given the artist more options to distribute art, but simple methods of printing are still useful when distributing comics or other newsletters.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Star Trek vs. Star Wars

One Hundred Thirty Third Post: Star Trek vs. Star Wars

There are basically 2 kinds of space nerds out there: Star Trek and Star Wars nerds. It is a huge divide, but the two actually have a few things in common. Star Trek is about exploration... “to seek out new life and new civilizations.” It has a more structured crew with each person having their own role. Star wars has the same thing, but with a different focus. The worlds are at war and it is more about how the Jedi fight for the good side. Star Wars is more about a fantasy world. A Jedi is a kind of super hero. Star Trek has its heroes, but the scenes usual reflect deeper thoughts of real life. The two overlap when described, but it is not the ships or symbolism that make a person decide between Star Trek or Star Wars it is the characters and how the viewer likes to have their stories told. This is just a good, simple answer.

This is a complicated area because most people who like Star Wars don’t follow Star Trek and vis versa. I like them both though I do kind of lean more towards Star Trek, but I have to admit the whole Jedi concept Star Wars is based on leads to a great story.

The reason I am on the subject is that I am reading a Star Wars book and it seems very well written. Also it seem that there are more Star Wars fans make robots such as replica R2-D2 as seen in Make volume 2. I actually know a lot about Star Trek and thought is would be easier to debate the Star Wars vs Star Trek, but it wasn’t. But however you are Star Trek or Star Wars... May the Creative Force be with You

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Book Corner

One Hundred Thirty Second Post: Book Corner

I have recently finished Joe Kubert’s western “Tex”. I can’t reveal the story because it is a comic book and it would ruin the reading experience. The artwork is excellent and although a lot of stories in western genre have been done, the story isn’t predictable and keeps the reader interested.

When doing all this reading I remembered one thing. I call my site “Constructor’s Corner,” but I still haven’t posted anything on the site explaining were the name originated. In case you, the reader, were wondering it comes from Stanislaw Lem’s “The Cyberaid.” I recommend the book. It is one of Lem’s best works. Look for a better description with the next 2 months on Constructors’ Corner.

November is 20 years of Microsoft Windows. PC Magazine has devoted the entire magazine to it. But many still wonder how an OS that was average in quality become the words leading operating system. Nobody can quite figure it out.

Today my interests are in a macro program. This allows task and buttons to be done repeatedly with one button. I have been interested in this for a while, but never explored it. Just about any program from benefit from it from Auto Cad to Photoshop. I’ll keep posted on what I find. But until then ..... May the Creative Force be with You

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Gears and Gadgets

One Hundred Thirty First Post: Gears and Gadgets

In the book “Windows XP Power Tools” by Jim Boyce it describes the setup of a little known modem technique. The technique is for those with dial up modems. If the user has two phone lines and two modems installed, they can use both simultaneously to double the bandwidth. The internet host must support this option for it to work. But what if you needed high bandwidth? Could something similar be done with broadband? It would only be used for something that requires that speed, but because of the complexity would probably never be programmed do to simpler methods.

Advertised in Nov. 8th “PC Magazine” is a laser cutter and etcher. The think looks quite impressive. It works similar to those laser machines found in machine shops. The only thing is the price and possible maintenance. The starting price is around 7,000 some dollars. No doubt the thing looks cool, but needs to be more affordable.

Make Magazine has a Maker Challenge were readers submit there design problems or answer them. Mine would be to modify a digital camera to act as a DV recorder. Digital cameras already have movie mode, but the movie only last for 2 to 3 minutes. There must be something that limits the size of the movie. There needs to be a way to easily bypass this. One problem when doing so is not just the complicated electronics, it is that every camera is built differently.

Also I am wondering how many people read the “circular switch” answer on Constructor’s Corner. The puzzle does not stop there. There needs to be a solution to make the tape loop. Not only must the machine do the job, the hard part is designing it so that it is easily produced and assembled. Until then...... May the Creative Force be with You

Friday, October 07, 2005

Gear Puzzle to be uploaded soon

One Hundred Thirtieth Post: Gear Puzzle to be uploaded soon

The solution to the gear puzzle will be posted soon. ( The puzzle is simple, because I wanted to present a “real world” solution that can be built upon. The puzzle doesn’t end once the solution is found. The puzzle also shows the relationship between art and science as they are used in design. The diagrams are simple, but the designer needs to think in an artistic manner to imagine the gear, its movements, and find a solution. It is similar to drawing from the imagination. In fact, that is exactly what it is. The designer is just drawing a machine instead of a person or dragon.

My drawings are simple, but that is all that is needed to explain the design. However if they were for a more formal presentation, I would have to make more detailed drawings of the circular switch and the tape looper machine.

I think that artistic drawing can improve technical descriptive drawing and vis versa. I have studied a little of both and from my experience of life drawing or rather drawing still life and seeing the angles and proportions helped me to visualize the orthographic drawings in drafting.

You won’t often see an art class for an engineer or draftsman. It would be beneficial if the students had to take at least one art class as an elective. It is probably the way the roles of the job are separated. Engineers who design cars or planes are probably taught some kind of art. Art students avoid the technical side of drawing unless they are in industrial design or architecture. But whatever the profession both art and technical drawing will be used with art being very important to them all.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

More Carburetion

One Hundred Twenty Ninth Post: More Carburetion

In the book “Small Gas Engines” by Gray and Barrow it explains that engines burn fuel, but it is more of a mixture of fuel and air. The book has aged, but it says that four gallons of air are mixed with each tablespoon of gasoline. So the fuel is more of a gas than a liquid.

The point is that most of us drive our vehicles without knowing how they work or how to fix them. If we understood how the engine work we would have a better understanding of how that expensive gasoline we purchase is being used.

It would be hard to reinvent a new type of engine overnight, but it would be beneficial to know the basics of engines. What if instead of using ordinary air that is mixed with the gasoline, someone could find a method of filtering out pure oxygen out of the air to mix with the gas. It probably wouldn’t work without modifying current engines. It would probably create a much too powerful explosion in the piston which would create what the previous book calls knocking.

It seems like the idea would be to difficult to implement, but ideas like these are always being started. The result is news that we are running out of oil to rumors oil companies covering up the new perpetual motion and free energy machines.

Whatever your opinion, you must admit we need better engines if not just to improve transportation but to help the world.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Screen Savers and Engines

One Hundred Twenty Eighth Post: Screen Savers and Engines

I have discovered a freeware program called “Vital Desktop” which allows the user to put a screen saver in their desktop wallpaper. It adds a nice little touch to the desktop. I don’t know the website it’s from, but you could always put it into a search engine.

As I have mentioned before, I have a lawn tractor that has a broken transmission but has a good engine. I want to remove the engine and have it run by itself and maybe tweak it a little. I am starting my study with a simple small engine repair book. The information is presented simple enough but it shows what the tinker needs to know when working with small engines.

I am also experimenting with RSS feeds. Not on my sites but I am subscribing to other sites. There is an article on about in PC Magazine that is how I finally found out what RSS was.

I have the solution ready for the gear puzzle. I just have to draw up some graphics and write a description. I am working on it now. I hope that enough people have had a chance to solve it. I will put the solution in steps so that you, the viewer, can work through it and work along.

I have downloaded the trial version of Alias’s “Sketchbook Pro” and compared it to “Painter” version 7. Painter is much more vast with more options and tools. Sketchbook is nice but pricey. Sketchbook is designed especially for graphic tablets and gives the user freedom from the mouse. I prefer Painter, but it’s the user’s decision.

Not much new covered today... but until then.... May the Creative Force be with You

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Interactive Junk Collection

One Hundred Twenty Seventh Post: Interactive Junk Collection

Everyone keeps junk somewhere around there house. It could be in the draw in the kitchen, in the basement covered with a sheet, or in the garage where the car is supposed to be parked. In fact junk is so popular there are garbage dumps, scrap yards, and junkyards. But isn’t ones person’s junk another person’s treasure.

First let’s specify what kind of junk discussed here. The junk can range from a broken toy to an old lawn mower to a junk car. This is the stuff that no one wants, but valuable to those who see its potential. A car is worth more in parts than it is as a whole car, but when looking for junk the collector is searching for something more than material value. They are looking for design and function. What does that mean? If you, the reader, are familiar with Macgyver, A-Team, or Junk Wars, it is easy to see the value of machines, electronics, and other gadgets that are just thrown away.

When something breaks the first question that should be asked is: “Can it be repaired?” If it can’t the user must determine: “Does it have other uses or has pieces that can be used for other things?” For instance something common to all mechanical devices is a motor. Motors are very useful so much, that scrap yards save them. After these questions are ask, the final one before throwing the object away is: “What can I learn from this?” “Learning” meaning is there something in the electronics (ex. a broken computer part) or in the transmission or engine (ex. a broken tractor) that you, the user, can tinker with, draw, or study the design to increase one’s understanding of the machine or create something entirely new.

Now there are tons of reasons to start a junk collection!

But on a second note, what if there was on online junk collection of drawings or parts or electrical schematics. There already is a collection of source code for programmers. Also, there is a collection of patent information available online. The next step is to have drawings that are both 2D and 3D that would be open rights drawings. Of course there would have to be a way to categorize and search these drawings, but imagine you, the reader, needed a part drawn that didn’t have to be exact but needed right away for a demonstration. You could just search the “junk yard” and have the drawing ready to give a lecture or demonstrate a product. There are lots of possibilities.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Tape Looping Machine

One Hundred Twenty Sixth Post: Tape Looping Machine

Once there was an article in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that a teacher’s assistant was in a contest to have her idea of an office product developed. Her idea was a tape looper that was designed to save the teachers time when putting the entire classes artwork on the wall. I haven’t heard anything about her idea since then.

Well in machine design one simple part is taken and expanded upon. Something that is simple has to be described in a way that the technician can build it. This is true of many machines and designs, but does it hold true of the tape looper? This is the question that needs a design answer.

In case you gave it some thought, the gear puzzle on Constructor’s Corner is not just an ordinary brain teaser that is based in theory. Instead it is a real world design problem. You guessed has to do with the “tape looper machine.” When making sketches of a tape looper, I found that there had to be a simple way to tell the machine how to start and stop and when to cut the tape. Thus the “one revolution plus x” was created.

There are several ways to start and stop the machine, but I figured a simple switch would be cheaper and simpler than using computer processors. I wanted a mechanical answer. So this leads to the gear puzzle, but once this problem is solved, it leads to many more design problems inorder to create a tape looping machine.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

New Game Play

One Hundred Twenty Fifth Post: New Game Play

Soon the next generation of game consoles will be released. The X box 360 is scheduled to release November 22. But the question is not rather graphics improved or polygon count be increased, the question is what will this new systems add to game play.

We have seen game play improve with the release of each new generation of consoles or maybe not. There are basically two types of game play: 2D and 3D. We have seen the 3D evolve with the 1st person shooters and the 3rd person adventure, but this was possible back with the original Play Station and N64. Since then game play hasn’t changed much, but graphics and speed have improved. The X box did add one element to game play and that is online gamming. Now game players are waiting to see just what new features these game systems add for the increased price.

Of course, Microsoft must have some revolutionary features or they would not have developed a next generation system so soon. Maybe they listened to what the game designers needed to make better games. Such as, “we could do this in this game if we had this amount of processing power.”

Us gamers will just have to wait and see what the new system offers.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

HowToons show how + Some “Gear Puzzle” Hints

One Hundred Twenty Fourth Post: HowToons show how + Some “Gear Puzzle” Hints

I first saw Howtoons in Make magazine. It was excellent. It is a cartoon that teaches science and design. It is easy to think up the concept of teaching science in cartoon strips, but difficult to execute. Cartoons themselves are difficult to make and adding a lesson in science just makes it harder. They can be found at This just shows the diversity of comics. There are a bunch of science experiments and with an ability to describe the steps and add a funny twist, there are endless comics to be made.

I recently put a simple “gear puzzle” on Constructors Corner. My first hint (I will be posting hints soon on the site.) is to try to wire the cylinders in a straight line. So the cylinder that is 180 degrees is connected to the original cylinder. There are more hints, but I only want to lead the reader in the right direction instead of just giving away the answer.

In the following months, I want to add a large Flash site to Calculated-Curves. And for Constructor’s Corner I want to add a portfolio. I am still working on these things. In the mean time the seasons are changing. I have some good fall pics I took years back that really show the changing of the trees. Unless you have a top of the line camera with the right lenses, it is hard to always get the right shot. Most of us have the usually digital camera whose zoom range is limited. So it is a little more difficult to get the perfect shoot. Remember what you see isn’t always what the camera sees. What is seen in the view finder is the area the camera is pointing, but sometimes the focus point is different. Well until then... May the Creative Force be with you