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January 21, 2008

'U R A Fever' by the Kills — 'The grittiest, grainiest, most glam-rock two minutes on YouTube'

Judge for yourself.

[via Karin Nelson and the New York Times]

January 21, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Giant Cupcake Pan


From the website:

    Giant Cupcake Pan

    Create a 3-D cupcake for the whole party to share!

    The non-stick cast aluminum pan allows you to bake both halves of the cake at once.

    Simply secure the baked top half onto the bottom with a thin layer of frosting, then frost and decorate as you wish.

    Makes a cupcake approximately 8" high x 6" diameter.

    Pan is 15.5" long.




Stop Press: It didn't take long (precisely 8 minutes after this post went up) for reader Chutzpah! to tip me to Amazon's much better price on this nifty addition to your batterie de cuisine.


January 21, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

An invention I'd like to see


Now that my default setting for TV commercials is to mute the sound and close my eyes, I'm struck by how pleasant it can be to take these mini-breaks during games and whatnot.

The one thing I still find annoying is to open my eyes prematurely, i.e., with a commercial still on.

What I'd like: a built-in timer in the TV remote that chimes softly every 30 seconds once I've pressed the mute button.

That way I could take a look only when a commercial ends.

Of course, the mute timer function would have an on/off switch so that watching with the sound off wouldn't become annoying.

January 21, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Bottle Opener Hat


Use your head.

Apply within.

January 21, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

MyFonts — '58,519 fonts on one website'


That's different.


"... Half the site's 50 best sellers aren't classics like Helvetica but 'relatively new fonts that have just come on the scene and have struck a chord with buyers,'" said John Collins, head of MyFonts, in an article by Virginia Postrel in the January/February 2008 issue of The Atlantic.

January 21, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Kitchen Calculator


This device is worth having just for the ability to easily convert temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa.

Who can remember the formulas* — and even if you do it's very difficult to perform the calculations without pencil and paper.

From the website:

    Kitchen Calculator

    For those who avoid recipes in unfamiliar units of measure (metric or Imperial), this calculator removes all the mystery of unit conversion.

    It will convert any of the units in one system to the equivalent measure in the other system.

    It will also convert oven temperatures from Celsius to Fahrenheit and vice versa.

    Possibly most important is that it solves the problem of converting grams to cups (or tablespoons or fluid ounces, etc.) for 100+ common ingredients by using a simple factor, avoiding the need for a weight scale in either system of measurement.

    Simple and intuitive to use, it also functions as a standard mathematical calculator.

    The integral cover (with operating instructions printed on the inside) protects it from kitchen spills.

    Powered by light with a button-cell battery back-up, it works under any light conditions.

    Ideal for anyone who wants to use recipes from the Internet.

    5-3/4" x 3-3/4".



*To convert Fahrenheit temperatures into Celsius:

Begin by subtracting 32 from the Fahrenheit number.
Divide the answer by 9.
Then multiply that answer by 5.

To convert Celsius temperatures into Fahrenheit:

Begin by multiplying the Celsius temperature by 9.
Divide the answer by 5.
Now add 32.

January 21, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

The Dome of Silence — For Real


Long story short: scientists have devised a way to shield objects from sound, preventing its reflection.

No echoes = acoustic invisibility.

Here's an article about the new technology from the January 19, 2008 print issue of The Economist.

    Sound reflections

    How to stop echoes giving you away

    In Greek mythology, Echo was a mountain nymph who lost her voice and was condemned to repeat only the words of others. Now science is poised to silence the sprite completely. A group of physicists, led by Steven Cummer of Duke University in North Carolina, has devised plans for a cloak that would shield objects from sound, preventing its reflection. Such a device could be used to hide submarines.

    Sonar, the technique employed to detect subs, uses a transmitter to emit a pulse of sound—usually a distinctive “ping”—and a receiver to listen for its reflection. That reflection indicates the presence of an object and the time that elapses between the sound's being emitted and its being detected indicates how far away it is. A second ping allows the object's direction, speed and location to be calculated.

    Dr Cummer, however, has devised a plan to surround a submarine with a shell that directs sound waves to flow around it as though the vessel were not there. The proposal relies on two properties of the material used to make the shield—its density and its “bulk modulus”, a measure of its springiness. It should be possible to tailor these so that sound waves are bent such that no echo results. The design would also avoid absorbing sound, ensuring no acoustic “shadows” were cast.

    Dr Cummer's method, reported in the current issue of Physical Review Letters, is akin to an existing design for an invisibility cloak that would work for light waves, proposed by Sir John Pendry of Imperial College, London. (Sir John is also one of the authors of the new paper.) Yet the acoustic version has a distinct advantage over its optical counterpart. Making an invisibility cloak would be tricky because the device would work only at certain wavelengths. An aeroplane shrouded in such kit might be invisible to the human eye, for example, but would be picked up readily by radar, which works at radio wavelengths.

    An acoustic cloak, however, would work for a wider range of wavelengths, making it far harder to spot. That is possible because light and sound are rather different sorts of waves. As Einstein observed, light in a vacuum travels at the greatest speed possible, around 300m metres a second. Even when it is slowed by air and water, its progress usually remains close to this limit. That means light must obey the rules of Einstein's special theory of relativity. When light is bent by an invisibility cloak, certain components of the wave are allowed to stretch the laws of physics and travel faster than the nominal speed of light, but only under strict conditions. The energy and the information that the wave carries, for example, cannot exceed the speed of light. The effect is to narrow the range of wavelengths that can be bent by an optical shroud.

    Sound, meanwhile, travels at a sedate 300 metres a second. Because this is a million times shy of the relativistic limit, the behaviour of sound waves is not restricted in the same way. Under non-relativistic conditions, many different wavelengths can be bent simultaneously by the same acoustic shield, making it far more effective at concealing an object.

    It was unrequited love that made the Echo of Greek mythology fade away until only her voice remained. Although Dr Cummer and his colleagues are still some way from transforming their design into a working device, they reckon precisely engineered materials may soon erase her final utterances.


Here's a January 11, 2008 story in the Physics News Update with more about the work.

    Acoustic Cloaking

    Computer simulations and the use of wave scattering theory have demonstrated that, contrary to earlier predictions, it should be possible to produce a 3-dimensional material shell which is invisible to sound waves, analogous to “optical cloaking,” the process in which light waves are guided around an object and then refocused on the far side and in the same direction (with no reflected light to betray position) so as to make the object seem invisible. Full optical cloaking has not been achieved yet, but researchers expect to be able to do it.

    Can the same thing be done with sound waves? In principle there is no reason why it couldn’t be done. The leader of a group of scientists examining this issue, Steven Cummer at Duke University, says that many of the principles that pertain to the channeling of light waves around an object also apply to sound waves. To be sure, there are differences. Sound waves oscillate in the direction of their motion while the electric and magnetic fields composing light waves oscillate perpendicularly to the wave motion. In the optical case, cloaking will require a material (actually a meta-material) tailored, highly anisotropic (varying widely according to the direction through the material) index of refraction.

    In practice, the index of refraction for electromagnetic waves depends on the permittivity, a measure of the material's response to an applied electric field, and permeability, its response to an applied magnetic field (for an account of the demonstration of negative-index materials, see http://www.aip.org/pnu/2000/split/pnu476-1.htm). The acoustic equivalent of these two parameters are the mass density and the bulk modulus (the springiness) of the background fluid (usually air or water) in which the object sits. Cummer (919-660-5256, cummer@ee.duke.edu) says that in the short run acoustic cloaking might be more practical than optical cloaking.

    A limitation of electromagnetic cloaking, he says, is that it requires portions of the wave to move faster than the speed of light (in full accordance with special relativity); this can be done for very limited frequency ranges but not for wider ranges, limiting the applicability of optical cloaking. This limitation does not apply to sound waves moving through matter. Furthermore, the acoustic properties of most materials means that sound waves might not be absorbed as readily in acoustic cloaking as light waves are absorbed in optical cloaking (in which case the cloaking would be something less than perfect).

    Applications of acoustic cloaking come easily to mind: hiding submarines from sonar, for example. Another potential practical application might be in architecture, where acoustic considerations (reducing noise) might not have to be sacrificed in the interest of structural integrity. Among Cummer’s collaborators are David Smith of Duke (one of the early pioneers in the field of negative-index materials) and John Pendry of Imperial College (the early theorist of negative-index studies).


Got it?


Now here's the abstract of the Physical Review Letters publication.

    Scattering Theory Derivation of a 3D Acoustic Cloaking Shell

    Through acoustic scattering theory we derive the mass density and bulk modulus of a spherical shell that can eliminate scattering from an arbitrary object in the interior of the shell—in other words, a 3D acoustic cloaking shell. Calculations confirm that the pressure and velocity fields are smoothly bent and excluded from the central region as for previously reported electromagnetic cloaking shells. The shell requires an anisotropic mass density with principal axes in the spherical coordinate directions and a radially dependent bulk modulus. The existence of this 3D cloaking shell indicates that such reflectionless solutions may also exist for other wave systems that are not isomorphic with electromagnetics.

January 21, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pinball Money Puzzle


From the website:

    Pinball Money Puzzle

    Pinball Money Puzzle challenges them to get their gift!

    Put some retro pinball wizardry into your money- or gift card-giving.

    Players must succeed in getting all 3 metal pinballs into a specific hole to unlock the gift drawer and retrieve their money!

    Trust us — it's easier said than done and highly addictive!



$12.98 (No — it doesn't come with money inside. Sheesh.).

January 21, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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