Tech Theory

15 Sorting Algorithms in 6 Minutes


Ok, this is weirdly cool.

According to the website, the creator calls this “Audibilization and Visualization of Sorting Algorithms”, or, “The Sound of Sorting”. It takes us visually and audibly through various methods of sorting digital data, with the algorithms used noted up in the upper left-hand corner.

If you’re like me, the kind of dolt who is aware of such brainy things Continue reading 15 Sorting Algorithms in 6 Minutes

Neutrino Soup Makes a Thin Gruel, Tech Theory

Why Look for the Higgs Boson?


One possible signature of a Higgs boson from a simulated proton-proton collision. It decays almost immediately into two jets of hadrons and two electrons, visible as lines. The proton beams would enter the picture from the east-southeast and west-northwest. Image from Wiki

Good morning everyone.

Particle physics is a rather complicated affair and uses a host of specialized terms and concepts that the majority of people aren’t familiar with, and I find them difficult to explain succinctly in the handful of words that I’m allotted here, or without glazing over the eyes of the casual reader. I run into the same problem when attempting to explain the functioning of the valve body in an automatic transmission without using terms like “eldritch devices spawned by ancient squelching horrors from another dimension” or “well guv, it’s bloody voodoo, innit?”. It’s tough.

The other day however, I came across a short video over on Gizmodo that I was unable to watch because it’s a Vimeo video, and Vimeo videos won’t play for me on Gizmodo for some reason, and I find it quite annoying that I have to go to the Vimeo site (nothing against Vimeo, mind you) to watch them rather than just watch them where I’m already at. They work everywhere else, so why not on Giz or the rest of that lot? Could it be from weird site design decisions? Perish forbid. Bloody pain in the butt is what it is, but what can you do? Complain? Hmph. Join Facebook just to login? Oh please, can I? Bah!

Ahem. Where was I…video? What video? Oh yes, that video. I found a video called “The Higgs Boson Explained” which was made by Phd Comics, whoever they are, and I was immediately intrigued. I’d been having such a fun time with the topic, I wanted to see how these guys do explaining the subject to the drooling knuckledraggers, mechanical engineers (same thing, really), and iFone addicts in the audience. Yes indeed, ho ho, it should be entertaining.

The answer is “quite effective, in about eight minutes” as it turns out. Sigh. The video is after the jump.

Continue reading Why Look for the Higgs Boson?

Brainings, Tech Theory

How Hard Can It Be?

Good morning, everyone.

A while back when I was prattling on about tool steels, I looked into the subject of hardness testing to see how the various Rockwell Hardness numbers were determined. What I found, was a huge can of worms that fits under the heading of ‘materials testing’ and rather more involved than I had anticipated, so I set it aside for another day. Good news! Since I’m somewhat unprepared this morning, today is that day, at least for hardness testing of metals.

Continue reading How Hard Can It Be?

Communications, Tech Theory

The Deceptively Simple Limerick

Consider this humble submittal
Which poses a cumbersome riddle:
What’s rarely discreet
And has thirteen feet
With two shorter legs in the middle?

The limerick is usually derided as a bit of lowbrow, immature fluff. But penning a truly good limerick is actually quite difficult. It must effectively tell a compelling story, preferably one with multiple shades of meaning, within a framework that is so ruthlessly efficient and so structurally demanding that a haiku is a comparative free-for-all.

We don’t normally think of something as basic and non-scientific as a witty turn of verse as “technology.” But in the case of the limerick, it certainly fits the definition: accomplishing a practical task through the deliberate implementation of specific, repeatable techniques or methods. This deceptively simple form of poetry must adhere to a canon of rules that is at once rigid, sophisticated, and remarkably nuanced.

An in-depth look at what a limerick is, where it came from, how identify (and write) a good one follows after the jump.
Continue reading The Deceptively Simple Limerick

Tech Theory

Swash Bucklers

1. Non-rotating outer ring (blue) 2. Turning inner ring (silver) 3. Ball joint 4. Control (pitch) preventing turning of outer ring 5. Control (roll) 6. Linkages (silver) to the rotor blade #. Linkages (black) that make the inner ring turn

There is a saying in the aviation community that helicopters are a thousand moving parts going in generally the same direction. There is some truth to this. How does the helicopter change direction? Black magic? Pure, unadulterated evil? A mechanical linkage that changes the pitch and path of the blades, creating a higher lift region opposed by a lower lift region allowing the aircraft to move towards the lower lift region? Most likely, it’s a combination of all three.
Continue reading Swash Bucklers

Tech Theory

Grayscale Is Still Cool Like Jazz

Last week, my lovely wife surprised me with a new toy I had been jonesin’ for quite a while — an Amazon Kindle. For $139, it’s an amazingly competent piece of technology, and I probably don’t need my flame suit on to declare it the best e-reader on the planet. It’s greatest strength lies in the two things it does not have: a color LCD screen and the swiss-army-knife, do-everything aspirations of iOS and Android operating systems. The Kindle focuses on doing one thing extremely well: displaying the most readable, visually pleasing grayscale image around. It knocks that one clear out of the park. And grayscale is a very, very attractive thing when done well. At least, I’ve always thought so.
Continue reading Grayscale Is Still Cool Like Jazz

Tech Theory

LED Home Lighting…Ready for Prime Time?

This morning, TechieInHell asked about your preferred type of home lighting. Since I work for a company that manufactures LED vehicle lighting, I had previously written an in-depth look at LED home lighting for my employer’s corporate newsletter. I present it here to AT readers in a slightly revised form.

Most people are aware of the advantages low-voltage light emitting diodes (LEDs) over incandescent lights for vehicle lighting and flashlights: longer life, vibration resistance, lower power requirements, less heat; the list goes on and on. Meanwhile, the bulk of the general public has converted at least some of their incandescent home lighting to fluorescent tubes and integrated compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) in order to save money on energy and help protect the environment. Far fewer have considered LED home lights, which are available commercially but remain more of geek/techie niche. Higher-voltage LEDs offer many of the advantages listed above, but some drawbacks remain. Are they ready for mainstream use?
Continue reading LED Home Lighting…Ready for Prime Time?

Tech Theory

Mini Twinkle Lights: Today’s Worst Widely Used Technology?

Ho, ho, ho! It’s that time of year — a time of joy, brotherly love, and…four letter expletives aimed at those frustrating holiday twinkle bulbs. Could there be a worse technology currently in widespread use by the general public? I say no! Why do I think that twinkle lights are bad tech? Let me count the ways… Continue reading Mini Twinkle Lights: Today’s Worst Widely Used Technology?