Boundary Layer

The best way to find a line is to cross it

Monday, January 31, 2005


The Economist has a short profile of Toyota and tries to explain its phenomenal success.
First, of course, it taught the modern car industry how to make cars properly. Few had heard of the Toyota Production System (TPS) until three academics in the car industry study programme run by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) wrote a book in 1991 called “The Machine that Changed the World”. It described the principles and practices behind the “just-in-time” manufacturing system developed at Toyota by Taiichi Ohno. He in turn had drawn inspiration from W. Edwards Deming, an influential statistician and quality-control expert who had played a big part in developing the rapid-manufacturing processes used by America during the second world war.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Midair Repair

You've got to do it buddy or we are going to die.

This kind of thing doesn't just happen in movies. (via dm)

Friday, January 28, 2005

How a fly flies

Researchers at Argonne National Laboratories were able to take high speed X-ray photographs of a fly's muscles in flight through some incredible experimental techniques. (via Fark)

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Travelling without moving

Quicktime virtual reality panoramas of numerous sites in the West. It's too impressive for words. Check out The Grand Canyon, The Painted Desert, a Ghost Town, Death Valley, waterfalls, Monument Valley, Santa Monica, The Cascades, Palm Canyon, Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, Redwood Forests, poppies, date palm groves, and Bumpass Hell. (via Highways West)

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Height and Hunger in North Korea

Last year I mentioned that North Korea is administering human growth hormone on a large scale to unusually short children. NPR did a brief report on malnutrition in North korean refugees and mentioned a South Korean anthropologist, Sunyoung Pak, that has been studying malnutrition and height in North Koreans (pdf). A recent article in the Observer summarizes her findings.
Her research shows that the only ages at which the average North Korean in her sample and the average South Korean share about the same height is from 50 to 69 years. Since height is determined during the early teenage years, this suggests that North Korea began to suffer food shortages at least by the 1960s.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

The Joy of People

Shortcut to Nirvana is a documentary about the Kumbh Mela of four years ago. The Kumbh Mela is a religious gathering of tens of millions of people that happens every 12 years at a sacred site in India. There is plenty of material to work with when dealing with such a large event and this movie doesn't attempt to cover all of it.

The filmakers found some noteworthy personalities including travellers, swamis, and gurus, some of which showed off some talents that would fit right in at a side show. One guru wrapped his you-know-what around a stick and had people stand on it. Another claims to have kept his right arm held above his head for 20+ years as a display of willpower. The film is impressive at bringing the sounds and sights of the festival to us but doesn't attempt to go deeper than that.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

No Fish For You

Did the Norsemen, aka Vikings, eat fish? Malcolm Gladwell reviews Jared Diamond's new book Collapse in the New Yorker. The book seems to claim that the Viking settlements in Greenland failed because the settlers refused to adapt to local conditions. The author claims that even as they were starving they still refused to eat fish.
Why did the Norse choose not to eat fish? Because they weren’t thinking about their biological survival. They were thinking about their cultural survival. Food taboos are one of the idiosyncrasies that define a community. Not eating fish served the same function as building lavish churches, and doggedly replicating the untenable agricultural practices of their land of origin. It was part of what it meant to be Norse, and if you are going to establish a community in a harsh and forbidding environment all those little idiosyncrasies which define and cement a culture are of paramount importance.
But a simple search shows that fish was a staple of the Viking diet. The Viking Answer Lady agrees. Something doesn't jive here. Either the review misrepresents the book, or the Greenland settlers were very stubborn people.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Tommy Lee: The Gay Years

Young rockstars. (via Metafilter)

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Sapien on Flores Action

I'm sure you've heard of the Homo floresiensis, the species of small people found on Flores island in Indonesia. Jared Diamond writes about the find in a recent issue of Science and answers the question all of us were dying to know. Well... actually the thought hadn't even occured to me. And now that I think about it, the guy sounds like he's a real freak.

At last comes the question that all of us full-sized sapiens wanted to ask but didn't dare: Did full-sized sapiens have sex with micropygmies? The difference in body size would not have been an insuperable obstacle: Some individual modern humans have sex with children or with domestic animals no larger than the micropygmies. I suspect that the answer is the same as the answer to the question of whether we modern humans have sex with chimpanzees. We don't, because chimps are too unlike humans to appeal sexually to most of us, and because chimps are much too strong, unpredictable, and dangerous to make sex a safe proposition for any individual humans who might find them sexually attractive. Ditto for H. erectus, even when dwarfed.

Bull Moose

Ever wonder what Theodore Roosevelt sounded like? Listen to a short segment of him speaking here.

Update: More TR here and here. That last link also explains why his voice sounds so goofy.

Saturday, January 01, 2005


I really hadn't been following the recount and allegations of fraud in Ohio but it sounds like there were widespread problems. We'll find out on January 6th what kind of democracy we have.

In other precincts, impossibly high voter turnout figures - nearly all of them adding to Bush's official margin - remain unexplained. In the heavily Republican southern county of Perry, Blackwell certified one precinct with 221 more votes than registered voters. Two precincts - Reading S and W. Lexington G - were let stand in the officially certified final vote count with voter turnouts of roughly 124% each.

In Miami County's Concord South West precinct, Blackwell certified a voter turnout of 98.55 percent, requiring that all but 10 voters in the precinct cast ballots. But a canvas easily found 25 voters who said they did not vote. In the nearby Concord South precinct, Blackwell certified an apparently impossible voter turnout of 94.27 percent. Both Concord precincts went heavily for Bush.

By contrast, in heavily Democratic Cuyahoga County, amidst record turnouts, a predominantly African-American precinct, Cleveland 6C, was certified with just a 07.85 percent turnout. The official count was 45 votes for Kerry versus one for Bush, in a precinct where the day's overall voter turnout would have indicated eight or nine times as many voters.

Independent statistical studies of Cuyahoga County indicate that if the prevailing statewide voter turnout was really 60 percent of the registered voters, as seems likely based on turnout in other major cities in Ohio, Kerry¹s margin of victory in Cleveland alone was wrongly reduced in the certified returns by 20,000 or more votes.

From the Annals of Bad Ideas

It's all fun and games until the last picture. NSFW. (via Metafilter)

Even more failures of leadership

I really have a hard time understanding this GWB hero worship thing. In the most crucial hours of his presidency he, and perhaps for this country for the past 30+ years, he did absolutely nothing. Leadership is about stepping up to your responsibilities in a time of crisis. Instead, our president, the commander-in-chief, sat in a school reading a book to kids. From there he flew to Louisiana and gave a pathetic and forgettable speech. Then he flew to Nebraska and hid underground like the deserter he is.

But all of that is fully within character for him and, to some extent, understandable. What really bothers me is that some spokesperson for the President came out and claimed that there was a threat made against the president that was credible due to the use of secret codes. It came out that this was a lie. To think that people were dying that day and our president fabricates a threat to himself out of thin air to legitimize his actions is ridiculous.

But, you say, how dare you attack the courage of our president? according to Mike Scheuer, the CIA agent, and formerly anonymous author of the book, Imperial Hubris, Dubya waited to long to attack Afghanistan. And when the attack came he was too reluctant to send in American troops. Three years later, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose and al-Qaida is even stronger. The record speaks for itself.

In that context, this administration's response to the tsunami is completely understandable. It took three days for the president to make a statement and what did he finally say? He attacked a UN official that referred to Western nations as stingy. What kind of small and insecure man acts like this? What a disgrace.

With all that mind, Time named this idiot the Person of the Year for 2004. Maybe they should have waited until the January. The NY Press has an excellent response.

From beginning to end, the magazine behaves like a man who knocks himself out making an extravagant six-course candlelit dinner for a blow-up doll, in an effort to convince himself he's really in love.