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July 8, 2020

The smartphone in 1947

"A short French film about the future, from 1947. This has the most amazingly accurate depiction of smartphones, including people bumping into each other in the street. And be sure to watch to the end for the augmented reality." 

[via Benedict Evans]

July 8, 2020 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to find out if the airbag in a used car still works

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Beth DeCarbo's Wall Street Journal "Quick Fix" feature has the dope: it follows.

An Air Bag Check

Problem: You're looking to buy a used car and want to know if the air bag in it works.

Solution: First, inspect the steering wheel and dashboard for signs of tampering, says Ron Nagy, owner of Nagy's Collision Centers, with three auto-body shops in northeastern Ohio.

Thieves often make dents and dings in the interior plastics as they pry out the air bags.

Also, the air bag indicator light in the dashboard — part of the car's diagnostics system — should glow briefly when the car is first started.

If the light never comes on or continues to glow, the air bag probably isn't functioning.

Next, safercar.gov, a government-run Web site, allows drivers to type in the vehicle's identification number, or VIN, to see if one or more air bags have been permanently deactivated.

Enter the VIN to search the database.

There may be gaps in the data because the site relies on third parties to report whether an air bag has been removed or disabled.

If you're still unsure, have a trusted mechanic inspect the car for air bags — as well as the engine and other systems.

"We have a scanning tool to look at the system and see if there are any faults" that emerge, Mr. Nagy says.

There may be a nominal fee, but since replacement air bags can go for $600 to $800, it may save money in the long run, Mr. Nagy adds.

July 8, 2020 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

BehindTheMedspeak: The 5-Second Rule

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C. Claiborne Ray's "Q&A" column in the New York Times Science section addressed this urban legend as follows.

Q. You know the five-second rule for dropped food? Is it really safe if you pick it up in time?

A. "The five-second rule probably should become the zero-second rule," said Roy M. Gulick, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College. "Eating dropped food poses a risk for ingestion of bacteria and subsequent gastrointestinal disease, and the time the food sits on the floor does not change the risk."

In general, if there are bacteria on the floor, they will cling to the food nearly immediately on contact, Dr. Gulick said. Factors that influence the risk and the rate of bacterial transfer include the type of floor; the type of food; the type of bacteria; and how long the bacteria have been on the floor.

In a study published in 2007 in The Journal of Applied Microbiology, Clemson University researchers tested salmonella placed on wood, tile or carpet, and dropped bologna on the surfaces for 5, 30 or 60 seconds. With both wood and tile, more than 99 percent of the bacteria were transferred nearly immediately, and there was no difference by the time of contact. Carpet transferred a smaller number of bacteria, again with no difference by contact time. The amount transferred decreased over hours, but there were still thousands of the bacteria per square centimeter on the surfaces after 24 hours, and hundreds survived on the surfaces for as long as four weeks. As few as 10 salmonella bacteria can cause gastroenteritis.

Below, the abstract of the 2007 paper cited above.

Residence time and food contact time effects on transfer of Salmonella Typhimurium from tile, wood and carpet: testing the five-second rule

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[illustration at the top by Victoria Roberts for the New York Times]

July 8, 2020 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)

Fly over Korolev Crater on Mars

From Universe Today:

We love flyover videos from other worlds.

These stunning videos, created from imagery gathered by orbiting spacecraft, can give us a sense of what it would be like to fly in an airplane on another planet.

This latest flyover video from the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft provides a stunning view of one of Mars' most eye-popping craters.

This movie was created using imagery from Mars Express's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC).

The images are normally taken looking straight down (nadir), and the video combines topography information from the stereo channels of HRSC to generate a three-dimensional landscape, which was then recorded from different perspectives, as with a movie camera, to render the flight shown in the video.

Korolev Crater is 50 miles across and at least 1.25 miles deep.

This well-preserved crater is located in the northern lowlands of Mars, just south of a large patch of dune-filled terrain that encircles part of the planet's northern polar cap (known as Olympia Undae).

That's not snow you're seeing: this crater is constantly filled with water ice, and its central mound is about 1.8 kilometers (1.1 miles) thick all year round.

It's one of the largest reservoirs of non-polar ice on Mars.

This view reminds me of a flight I took where I flew over Meteor Crater in Arizona.

But, for comparison, Meteor Crater is less than a mile across and just 560 feet deep.

You may be thinking, how can this ice remain stable in Korolev Crater; doesn't water ice sublimate away in Mars thin atmosphere?

Just like dry ice does here on Earth, water ice on Mars usually goes from solid to gas with the low atmospheric pressure. (Mars has approximately 8 millibars while on Earth the average atmospheric pressure at sea level is 1013.25 millibars, or about 14.7 pounds per square inch.)

But temperature can influence ice stability as well.

Water ice is permanently stable within the Korolev Crater because the deepest part of this depression acts as a natural cold trap.

The scientists at ESA explain that the air above the ice cools and is thus heavier compared to the surrounding air: since air is a poor conductor of heat, the water ice mound is effectively shielded from heating and sublimation.

The name of the crater may be familiar.

It's named after Russian rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergei Pavlovich Korolev (1907-1966).

He developed the first Russian intercontinental rocket R7, the precursor of the modern Soyuz rockets that are still operated today.

With his rocket and spacecraft design, he was also responsible for the first human-made satellite (Sputnik in 1957) and for the first human spaceflight (Yuri Gagarin in 1961).

Find out more about Mars Express and Korolev Crater here and here.

July 8, 2020 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

DIY Transparent Lock

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I would have been ecstatic to have received this on my tenth birthday.

From the website:

See the inner workings of a lock with this entertaining kit.

Assemble the lock yourself and then watch through the transparent casing as the pins move whilst you turn the key.

Ideal for puzzle enthusiasts and budding engineers, as well as anyone who's ever put the wrong key in the door and wondered exactly why it won't work.

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Features and Details:

• Not suitable for children under 14 years of age, unless under full adult supervision.

• Contains all the required components to create a working padlock.

• Comes boxed — box measures 6.8" x 3.8" x 1.3".

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$24.95.

July 8, 2020 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

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