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Adventures in Engineering
The wanderings of a modern ronin.

Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2008-12-03 00:27
  Subject:   Can you smell what the stoners are smokin'?
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The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a landmark decision today in which California state courts found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law. The state appellate court decision from November 28, 2007, ruled that "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws." The case, involving Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient from Garden Grove, was the result of a wrongful seizure of medical marijuana by local police in June 2005. Medical marijuana advocates hailed today's decision as a huge victory in clarifying law enforcement's obligation to uphold state law.

http://www.safeaccessnow.org/article.php?id=5614

I don't think I understand how this interacts with Raich. The Feds can make laws regulating the interstate sale of pot, but can't override state laws about it? The BATF and FBI can still police pot inside the states, but the Feds can't force local law enforcement to enforce the federal laws? Both? Case by case?
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2008-12-03 02:08
  Subject:   "I don't like X" is not a good basis for a system of government.
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The outgoing Bush administration is planning to announce a broad new "right of conscience" rule permitting medical facilities, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other healthcare workers to refuse to participate in any procedure they find morally objectionable, including abortion and possibly even artificial insemination and birth control.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-conscience2-2008dec02,0,7013690.story

I quite agree. Nobody should have to do things they consider morally objectionable. Particularly under government duress.

I, myself, find it morally abhorent to pay taxes that go to fund a war that has killed upwards of 30,000 people whose only crime was living in the wrong country at the wrong time.

Do you suppose Dubya will support my moral right to not pay the portion of my taxes that goes to pay for such a war?

No, you say? Futhermore, you say that those in power only support the "morals" of those with whom they agree?

Well, well... what a shocking revelation.
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2008-12-03 06:17
  Subject:   Wanna see all 900+ satellites in Earth orbit in 3D?
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We hope you enjoy J-Track 3-D. It should appear in its own window and begin loading a database of over 900 satellites.

What you will see (assuming your system supports this JAVA applet) is a plot in 3-dimensions showing the position of these satellites. Be sure to try the "Satellite" pull-down menu to choose which satellite you wish to view.


http://science.nasa.gov/realtime/jtrack/3d/JTrack3D.html
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2008-12-03 06:53
  Subject:   DRAM sucks. ZRAM rocks.
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Z-RAM, short for "zero capacitor RAM" is a new type of computer memory in development by Innovative Silicon Inc. Z-RAM offers performance similar to the standard six-transistor SRAM cell used in cache memory but uses only a single transistor, and therefore offers much higher densities. It is also denser than conventional one-transistor, one-capacitor DRAM used for the majority of a modern computer's main memory, although it is unlikely to appear in this role in the short term due to the requirement to be built on only the newest generation fabs.

Z-RAM relies on an effect known as the floating body effect, which was first encountered in CPU design based on the new silicon on insulator (SOI) process introduced in the early 2000s. This effect causes capacitance to form between the transistor and the underlying insulating substrate, and was a problem that needed to be solved in conventional designs. The same effect, however, allows a DRAM-like cell to be built using the transistor only, the floating body effect taking the place of the conventional capacitor. Consisting of only one part instead of two, Z-RAM offers twice the density of DRAM, and five times that of SRAM.

The small cell size leads, in a roundabout way, to Z-RAM being faster than even SRAM with SRAM normally much faster than DRAM. SRAM's large cell size means that any "reasonable" amount of SRAM cache takes up a large portion of the CPU die. The long traces needed to carry current into the cells have a capacitance of their own, and requires the driver circuitry to "slow down" in order to allow the charge to settle. Although Z-RAM's individual cells are not as fast as SRAM, the lack of the long lines allows a similar amount of cache to be run at roughly the same data rates by avoiding this delay while taking up less space. Response times as low as 3ns have been stated.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z-RAM

Imagine if all 4gig of your RAM was as fast as your L1 cache is now.
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Ben Cantrick
  Date: 2008-12-03 10:28
  Subject:   Can you go downwind faster than the wind, in a wind-powered vehicle?
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Evidently, yes:

http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=xHsXcHoJu-A

The treadmill thing isn't well explained, but briefly: If you hold a wheeled vehicle still on a treadmill that's going 5 mph, that's nearly identical to the same vehicle going 5mph with a 5mph tailwind.

I don't have a coherent physics explanation for how it works. At first I thought the propeller was storing flywheel energy, and there does seem to be some of that going on. But that can't be the entire explanation. Obviously the prop is extracting energy from the tailwind, but exactly how I'm not quite sure.
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