Monthly Archives: October 2013

Short Story – “The Weight of the Badge”

Here’s a little something I came up with based on my Tech Update on 3D printing metal. It was also supposed to double as NaNoWriMo practice, but ended up taking longer than I expected when I started to care about making it actually somewhat polished and well-written. All in all, it probably took about 3-4 hours to write and edit the 1000 words here. Hopefully I can improve on that rate for NaNo when I’ll try really really hard not to edit at all. And inevitably fail because I awkwardly enjoy editing…

The Weight of the Badge

Officer Karen Winters pointed her pistol at the rear exit and waited. She tried to steady her trembling hand and brushed a bead of nervous sweat from her forehead. It was her first case outside the office.

Around the front of the small condo she heard one of the other officers knock on the door. “Mr. Kane, please come out. We have a warrant to search the premises.”

Despite the current focus on this house, Karen kept her ears more focused behind her. She had heard the stories about this rundown neighborhood. Drugs, guns, poverty.

Suddenly, a large crash sounded from inside the house. Karen jumped and instinctively pulled the trigger, blasting a hole through the back door. Her partners came running, guns drawn and ready.

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The Science of Waking Up

If you’re anything like me, then you probably struggle to get out of bed in the morning. This morning was pretty bad (though still fairly typical for me, sadly enough…). Somewhere amid the obnoxious beeping of my 10 alarms set at random 5-15 minute intervals, my cruel consciousness lurked, knowing that it was supposed to be pulling me out of slumber. Instead, it just softly lifted my finger and pressed the snooze every time.

For an hour.

There is something about getting out of bed that is bizarrely difficult, especially when it starts getting cold out. I don’t know if my bed is just infinitely more comfy than everyone else’s… but I just can’t resist the urge to stay where it’s warm and cozy. I’ve even tried putting my alarm across the other side of the room under my desk. When it goes off, my body just slumps over to it, presses snooze, and crawls back under the covers. It probably is as much a result of craving extra sleep as it is about not wanting to leave that happy place…

These days there are all sorts of things that can help you get out of bed in the morning. There are “Sleep Cycle” phone apps that sense when you are moving and try to wake you up then instead of when you are in a deeper sleep. That way you will feel more awake when your eyes open! Some people use stimulating alarms that try to get their brains active to get out of bed—usually using math problems that always seem to be way too easy to actually do much stimulating… And finally, a friend of mine had an app that required him to scan a bar code in order to turn the alarm off. He put the bar code on his bathroom mirror, which proved to be extremely annoying once when he spent the night on our couch after going out and was miles from his bathroom mirror the next morning…

These solutions probably work for some people, but it turns out there is an actual biological reason that we don’t want to wake up in the morning and often remain tired throughout the day. I think by now everyone is aware that 7-8 hours of sleep is ideal and actually crucial to human health because that is the time our cells use to regenerate and fix all the stupid things we did to them throughout the day. But actually, the original sleep cycle for humans was based on sun cycles. In general, once the sun went down, it was a cue to our bodies and we would become tired and rest until sunrise. Historically, humans even had a period where we woke up in the middle of the night for an hour and then went back to sleep. This was observed as late as the medieval period, but no one really knows what the purpose of that was—although apparently it is the most productive state of mind to accomplish things.

I don’t think I will be changing my sleep hours or waking up in the middle of the night to gain more energy in the morning, but maybe I’ll try out one of those apps… Unfortunately, I think the only one that would actually work for me is the bar code. Yay…….

Check out this link for more information on all the sleep cycles and why we always seem to be so tired: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10000872396390443866404577565781327694346

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Tech Update – 3D Printing Metal

At this point we’ve had 3D printing of plastic parts around for a while now. You can upload a file from a professional design software and watch a small plastic part get built up right before your eyes! These 3D plastic printers are starting to appear in homes and will probably eventually be as common as a microwave.

Now 3D printing is taking the next step. A consortium of companies called the AMAZE Project have started work on printing metal parts (http://www.gizmag.com/esa-amaze-project-3d-printer-iss/29447/). “Oh crap… I can’t find the screwdriver AGAIN! That’s okay, let me just print a new one…” That could be a future we are heading towards. Instead of buying things people will be buying raw materials and using 3D printers to build their own things. Customization and innovation will become accessible to the average person and instead of buying a product, you will buy the design file for a product online and then make it yourself. Everyone thinks that they can do things better and without the regulations and cost of typical companies, people will get a chance to see if that’s true. If you just can’t seem to find a pen that fits your hand right, then you could finally get a chance to make the personalized changes you want–you could design and print up a pen casing that is specific to you. There will be so much more individuality and creativity in the everyday things people use. And it will be AWESOME!

There are unlimited other industry applications for this kind of technology, but I will go with an example that is close to home. I have a little bit of experience in the plastics industry and injection molding. In this industry it literally costs pennies to make small plastic parts (depending on material and complexity). Unfortunately, because of this you can only sell the parts for so much. The biggest expense in creating plastic parts is making a metal mold that the plastic forms in and cools in. If 3D printing metal can make these molds cheaper to create then they could significantly cut the cost of injection molding and save it from its biggest competitor… Which, ironically, is 3D printed plastic parts.

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Tech Update – Living on the Water

Recently, during a healthy dose of internet browsing, I learned about a company based in the Netherlands that is designing floating apartment complexes in anticipation of melting ice caps and population growth. I wandered my way over to their website to learn more and was amazed by all the innovative projects they have in their pipeline regarding “water living.” Take a look for yourself:  http://www.waterstudio.nl/.

The idea of living in cities that float on the water (or under the water) really excites my inner engineer. Not only is it fascinating, but it is actually an entirely plausible future–although it is more likely to be a luxury than commonplace. I could see celebrity villages or vacation paradises constructed upon floating cities, secluded and private from the rest of society. It would be similar to how cruise ships are now, at least at first. Eventually, luxury will likely become necessity and many people will need to either move inland or move to floating cities.

It’s great to see a company that is innovating and improving technology ahead of the curve and preparing the world for things we will need in the future. (Unlike the space program, which we all know needs to start being awesome again soon!)

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Tech Update – Self-Assembling Magnetic Blocks

This is very neat! (http://news.discovery.com/tech/robotics/cubic-robots-build-themselves-131004.htm#mkcpgn=twdsc1) These little “M-Blocks” are magnetic cubes that have flywheels inside, which allow them to roll and can be programmed to self-assemble into a nearly unlimited number of configurations. Then they can disassemble almost as easily.

Right now they may seem like nothing more than expensive adult lincoln logs… But the potential here is enormous!

Think about all the temporary structures that we use. We could have building scaffolds for construction that build up on their own and then come down on their own. We could have flood walls that form whenever there is a threat, but are hidden during good weather. We could have buildings that spring up over night! And if a building needs to be moved… Well, if it’s made of M-blocks it can just disassemble, be transported to a new location, and then reassemble. Obviously, the technology is not anywhere close to this right now, but the thought of a future with these possibilities sure is tantalizing!

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