Friday, April 27, 2012

Space Shuttle Enterprise Flyby Yonkers on way to JFK

The Space Shuttle Enterprise fly around NY attached to NASA's modified 747 on its final trip to the Intrepid Air and Space Museum in New York City.  Here are some great pictures take from the Yonkers waterfront.

The one above is great since it looks like it is from directly behind.  Taken from the roof of a building.

This last one is an American flag on the side of a building Yonkers since I am very especially Patriotic Today!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

How to beat a patent troll and the patent system in general

Another great video to watch. I will be pulling stuff from memory so feel free to comment with corrections or additions.

Note: Drew is a new hero of mine and is one of my new favorite websites (based totally on the charisma in this video)

The patent system has been totally subverted for years (maybe decades).  I remember reading around ten years ago (I do not remember the magazine) an article about how at that time two companies owned around 90% of the patents.  First, let me be one to say that I do not think corporations should be treated as people and only a person (or team of people) should be able to own a patent.  In the article, if my rusty memory serves, talked about how before the Internet bubble burst companies would patent troll other companies.  One of the major companies that had a majority of patents acquired those patents by having a team of engineers writing and submitting proposals. 

As mentioned in the video above this hurts innovation and drains economic development.  Perhaps patents should be only maintained if viable progress has been made in leveraging it commercially (weather yourself or by leasing it) or else it becomes public domain.  Now of course the issue is much more complicated, but just wanted to put an idea out there.

oh, and way to go Drew!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Cool math trick: Converting between miles and kilometers

taken from:

Too great not to share:

The Fibonacci sequence is made up of numbers that are the sum of the previous two numbers in the sequence, starting with 0 and 1.

It's 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…

1 is 0+1, 2 is 1+1, 3 is 1+2, 5 is 2+3, and 8 is 3+5. The number after 144 is 233, or 89+144.

The Fibonacci number describes the golden spiral, an ideal form much beloved by designers everywhere. Interestingly, it also neatly matches the relationship between kilometers and miles. Three miles is five kilometers, five miles is eight kilometers, eight miles is 13 kilometers. It's not perfect, eight miles is actually 12.875 kilometers, but it's close enough in a pinch.

If you need to convert a number that's not on the Fibonacci sequence, you can just break out the Fibonacci numbers, convert, and add the answers. For instance, 100 can be broken down into 89 + 8 + 3, all Fibonacci numbers. The next numbers are 144, 13, and 5, which add up to 162. 100 miles is actually equal to 160.934. Again, close enough.

Math is cool.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lego Shuttle in space

A great video of a Romania high school student who sent a Lego shuttle into space attached to a weather ballon.  I love he follow up at the end.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring Time Special: Cheap and lazy lawn care

I know next to nothing about yard work, but I know a lot of people that either have to or chose to do their own lawn maintenance.  I did come across an interesting article on lawn care via

Here is a quick summary:

Must do:

-Set you mower as high as it will go (3 to 4 inches)
-Water only when your grass shows signs and drought stress and then water deeply (put a cup in your sprinkler zone and make sure it gets at least an inch of water) - water early in the morning or in the evening avoiding the hottest part of the day.

- Fertilize with an organic fertilizer in the fall and spring.
-Have the pH professionally tested. add lime if it below 6.0 and gardener's sulfur if it is above 7.0
-check how much top soil you have. See how deep a shovel will go into the soil. How deep can you dig a hole in one minute? Four inches is OK, eight inches is great.


I really like the counter-intuitive advice which makes sense with the explanation.  Cutting grass lower will cause it not only to grow height faster, reduce root depth, but also promote weed grow.  Since grass needs blades for food (photosynthesis) to feed the roots, cutting the grass lower will cause it to grow height faster (at the expense of the root system) since that requires more energy.  Taller grass is healthier and the turf will thicken (as the grass can spend more energy on roots and new grass as opposed to height). Next, the sensitive grow point for grass is near the soil and for weeds the sensitive grow point is near the top.  This is also why you should mow more frequently if you have a weed infestation. Lastly, leave the clippings on the lawn as it adds organic matter and nutrients back to the soil.  Some people are concerned about "clumping" which can happen if you mow short or too infrequently.

In summary there are four perks to mowing higher:
 1- More shade to soil leads to less watering
 2- promotes deeper roots leads to less watering
 3- thicker turf leads to fewer weeds
 4- slower growth leads to less mowing


This forces the lawn to deepen its root system and will also prevent weedlings which tend to have shallow roots.  Shallow frequent watering actually promotes weeds! (ha, unintended consequence of auto-sprinkler system!)

Two methods to tell when it is time to water:

1-The grass will start to curl before it turns brown. When it starts to curl, that is the best time to water. Anything after that is time for "intensive care watering" (water half an inch, wait three hours and water an inch).

2-Take a shovel and stick it into the soil about six inches. Keep the sun to your left or to your right when you do this. Push the handle forward. If you can see any moisture, wait. If it's all dry, water. If you can't get your shovel to go into the soil this deep, you need more soil.
The first method is the best - especially if you have not yet trained your grass to make deep roots.

Watering on a schedule does not help in the war on weeds.

A tip for lawn care experts: If you have a good feel for how often your lawn needs watering and it is almost that time and there is a rain shower - maybe a quarter of an inch - that is the BEST time to water your lawn and give it that other 3/4 of an inch. Remember, the grass roots are down deep and most weed roots are near the surface. The idea is to keep the top three inches of soil as dry as you can for as long as you can. That quarter of an inch might make it so that your top three inches is well watered but the lower 9 to 20 inches is on the edge of being pretty dry. This gives the weeds some advantage over your grass!

Another thing about lawn care watering: I have discovered that if you are going to water an inch, it is better to water half an inch, wait 90 minutes and then water another half an inch. Maybe do this once a month. Sometimes when the soil gets really dry, it will repel water. This is called "superdeflocculation" (I think Mary Poppins would be impressed with this word!). If you put a little water in first, wait, and then put more, the soil is better prepared to take in more water.

Imagine a dry sponge - so dry it is stiff. And another sponge, slightly damp - soft and well wrung out. Now pour a cup of water onto each. The water runs off of the first sponge and all over the table. The water is soaked into the second sponge, not a drop is lost.

Remember: water has a strange and powerful attraction to itself. It would much rather stick to itself than disperse through the soil.

Another perk: every time you water, you wash away soil nutrients. So the less you water, the more fertile your soil!

Again, this was taken from the excellent article at

Go there for a full discussion and further discussion on fertilizers.

I don't think I have touched a lawn mower in the last decade.  Also, my dad hated mowing the lawn so much that each cemented over more and more each year until it was all gone in the little quarter acre house plot I grew up in queens.

Anyway, this one is for you Dave.  Happy mowing.

I didn't win the free trip to watch the next SpaceX launch

Unfortunately I recieved this email today:

Dear Frank Hark,

We regret to inform you that you were not selected for the SpaceX launch NASA Social or the waitlist. Thank you for your interest in attending the NASA Social on April 29-30 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We value your interest in SpaceX and NASA’s space program. The launch is targeted for Monday, April 30, at 12:22 p.m. EDT. There are multiple ways you can follow the NASA Social and the launch: There are several ways you can follow the NASA Social and view the launch online:· You can follow the conversation using the #NASASocial hashtag on Twitter. · NASA may broadcast a portion of the program on April 29. · You can watch the launch on April 30 on NASA TV or on SpaceX’s website. · NASA and SpaceX will provide regular launch and mission updates on @NASA, @NASAKennedy and @SpaceX.

If you would like to make your own arrangement to attend the launch, please see for more information. Thank you for applying and for following us. If you have any questions or concerns, e-mail us at
Oh well, I will be sure to watch the launch at one of the internet sites given above.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Thursday, April 5, 2012

NASA Social: Watch the Launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon Spacecraft at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida

Check out the link below to be a part of the SpaceX launch to the International Space Station April 30th, 2012.

Do I need to have a social media account to register?

Yes. This event is designed for active social media users who follow SpaceX and NASA on Twitter (@SpaceX, @NASA, @NASASocial), Facebook (NASA, SpaceX) or Google+ (NASA, SpaceX). The goal of NASA Social is to allow people who regularly interact with each other via social networks to meet in person and discuss space exploration.

Users on all social networks are encouraged to use the hashtag #NASASocial. Updates and information about the event will be shared on Twitter via @SpaceX and @NASASocial and via posts to Facebook and Google+.

Click this link to register

TED: "Donations Hurt": a new perspective on medical equipment donation

Ongoing efforts around the world to develop alternative, low-cost medical devices that improve health care delivery in low-resource settings. Dr. Malkin is a Duke University Professor and the founder of Engineering World Health and the Global Public Service Academies. He is a member of the World Health Organization's Technical Advisory Group on Healthcare Technology and a member of the committee rewriting the WHO Medical Equipment Donation Guidelines. Dr. Malkin's laboratory at Duke has launched products for the developing world to treat hyperbilirubinemia, detect cervical cancer and prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

things you can do:

1) stop donating medical equipment
2) if you donate to charities that do donate medical equipment ask one question "how much of the equipment you donate is operating six months after you donate it?"  Hint: an answer of 100% is a lie.  In the speakers experience they have never seen more that 30% of equipment- including donation NEW not used equipment!
3) see that equipment is locally produced, at least partially.