Measuring the World

UniverscaleThis isn’t strictly related to politics or the topic of this blog, but I recently ran across a very useful web site from Nikon.  The site is Universcale and it provides a Flash-based interactive demonstration that allows users to navigate through various levels of magnitude to compare the sizes of things.  The site’s introduction explains it well:

We are able to view all entities, from the microworld to the universe, from a single perspective. By setting them up against a scale, we are able to compare and understand things which cannot be physically compared.

Today, using the electron microscope and astronomical telescope, we can see the objects which we have not been aware of its existence before. Are you able to fathom, or even roughly grasp, these sizes?

See our Universcale and experience the sizes of various objects.

I would love to see something like this for comparing dollar amounts of, say, United States expenditures.  In past posts, I have linked to static images that do a pretty good job of helping us visualize spending (see The 2008 Budget Poster).  But wouldn’t it be great to be able to zoom in on the cost of attacking Iraq and to be able to compare that with our spending on education, law enforcement, and healthcare?  If anyone’s aware of any such site, please post it in the comments.


Triggering Traffic Lights

It’s quite common to see traffic lights that are triggered based on a magnetic field.  For most automobiles, this works as planned – there’s enough metal for the sensors to detect a waiting automobile.  But what if you’re on a bicycle or motorcycle?  I run into this problem all the time.  People would be quick to agree that cyclists should obey all traffic rules.  But what about also getting equal treatment at traffic lights?  I often find myself have to run through red lights because the lights won’t change unless there’s a car directly behind me. 

In a video entitled Trigger Green Traffic Lights, you’ll learn how to use a couple of magnets to help trigger traffic lights.  Keep in mind that there are still timing algorithms, so it’s not like you’ll never have to stop.  Still, at least you’ll get your fair share of signal time at intersections.  I plan to try it soon.

Beautiful Libraries for the Librophiliac

OK, perhaps Librophilia isn’t exactly a priority topic of the day.  But, if you want to see some amazing photos from libraries from around the world, see Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries.   In a world dominated by web sites and blogs, it’s easy to overlook the importance of “old school” print books.  These photos are amazing, and it made me really want to visit some of these locations.  Perhaps there’s a way to get the best of both worlds – make as much content as possible available online, while preserving the original books and buildings in this way.

Interesting Animals

Earth hosts over a million species of animals, and evolution seems to have needed to get creative to keep coming up with new combinations of characteristics.  25 of the World’s Most Interesting Animals provides an illustrated list of some of the stranger ones.  My personal favorites are the Komondor Dog, the White-Faced Saki Monkey, the Blobfish and the Axolotl.  Strangely, all of these guys seem to be quite photogenic.

Traffic-Ticket Myths

One of the most common sources of urban folklore is that related to beating the traffic ticket.  Never mind the fact that we, as members of our government, have put these laws in place for safety.  People need to find some kind of loophole or technicality to get out of paying for committing a misdemeanor.  MSN Money provides some facts behind the most commonly-heard pieces of folklore in 8 top traffic-ticket myths.

While the information is interesting, there is a good way to avoid traffic tickets: Don’t break traffic laws.  It always surprises me to hear about people who will tout the importance of following laws. Some will even quote political philosophy to help justify their arguments.  While I can’t disagree, these same people seem to have no problem with speeding or rolling through intersections without stopping.  In some areas, for example, a speeding ticket is tantamount to marijuana possession.  The latter is a horrible, unmentionable crime, whereas the former is something that you should try to weasel your way out of. 

The Simpsons: Star Wars Intro

Here’s a really well-made spoof of the intro to the The Simpsons, but done in the style of Star Wars: The Simpsons Star Wars (YouTube).  There are numerous related videos from “official” episodes that include Star Wars-related references.

Exotic Car Hell

Have you ever wondered where exotic cars go when they die?  Ordinarily, the life expectancy, health, and value of these high-priced vehicles defies that of most transportation.  However, Wrecked Exotics provides pictures of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, and other exotic machines.  However, rather than take the “traditional” route of showing these cars on race tracks, it shows them being completely destroyed.  Apparently, the site has a noble goal:

Welcome to the internet’s largest collection of exotic car crash photos. We display over 6,000 wrecked exotic cars to show you the real consequences of reckless driving.

These car crash pictures involve some of the most expensive automobiles ever produced including Lamborghini, Ferrari, Mclaren F1, Bugatti and more. All in all, you’ll find almost a quarter of a Billion Dollars worth of damage within this car crash collection. That’s enough to make any insurance company weep

McDonalds’ Menus Around the World

I’ve always wondered about the allure of McDonald’s in foreign countries.  I have heard about how the Moscow location was (is?) insanely popular.  Here’s an entertaining blog entry on menus from around the world: McDonald’s Strange Menu Around the World.

I wonder, though: How many things would have to change before people would stop calling it McDonald’s?  It seems to me that the rather-gaudy logo is the only consistent part. 50 Best Websites 2007

I remember the early days of the World Wide Web, when your choices for web sites were quite limited.  Everything had a gray background, and you’d be lucky to see low-resolution images.  Things have change, obviously, so it’s handy to see Time Magazine’s 50 Best Websites 2007 article.  Personally, I’m a huge fan of the current leader, (an online backup service).  Some of the others are worth checking out, of course.

Ironically, the site navigation for this article could use some help – it’s just too difficult to find specific sites and their reviews.  As a hint, see the Complete List page.  Of course, it still beats visiting every page on the Internet and classifying them yourself!  Which cool sites didn’t make the list?  Add your comments!

Generate Ideas Automatically!

OK, I might as well be trying to sell you snake oil or the rights to the Brooklyn Bridge.  But recently I ran across a well-made Idea Generator.  It harnesses the power of the English language to create combinations of nouns and verbs.  The instructions are quite simple: Click on the button in the center of the utility.  Here are some sample results:

mobile concrete exercise machine

eco-friendly glitter restaurant

funny concrete sex toy

mobile collapsible food

Of course, these ideas are taken, so stay away!  By the way, is anyone interested in purchasing some quality swampland in Florida?

The Honda Cog Video

HondaCogVideo  Ever since I started using my ReplayTV (around eight years ago), I rarely watch commercials.  Talking geckos and people screaming at you to purchase a newer, larger, less efficient truck just don’t appeal to me.  Every once in a while, though, I run across an amazing advertisement that’s worth watching over and over.  Such is the case with the Honda Cog Video.  It uses an elaborate setup of sequential actions that shows various car parts interacting to ultimately start a Honda car.  It was recorded in two takes (only because it was necessary to move the camera equipment).  Watch the Making Of video for a really interesting look at how much time and effort was involved (along with some “blooper” takes).  They even had a bunch of ideas that didn’t make the final cut.

You can find more information about the creation of the video on Wikipedia.  The basic idea is similar to those generated by Rube-Goldberg, and it’s an entertaining combination of physics, engineering, and just plain fun.  Enjoy!

Analyze Your VisualDNA

There’s certainly no shortage of personality tests and surveys on the Internet.  Ranging from Scientology, to Myers-Briggs, to Vogue Magazine, it seems that just about everyone is an expert in telling you about yourself.  I’ve rarely taken the time to complete one of these surveys, but here’s one that I found to be particularly interesting.  It’s called the Imagini Visual Profile, and it involves simply selecting images based on various prompts. The whole “quiz” will probably take about three minutes (longer if you really pontificate on each option).  The resulting page gives you an analysis about your mood and other details.  Here’s an example:


If nothing else, it’s a small time investment, and it can be fun.

Homer’s Odd, You See?

It’s clear that The Simpsons has had a profound impact on the world. The show’s official site has all kinds of information about the jaundiced characters of Springfield. The show recently completed it’s 18th season (and celebrated it’s 400th episode) – an amazing achievement for any show. Check out the 400 Episodes Index for a complete guide to each one.

Also, check out The Simpsons Quotes web site. At the time of this writing, there are 19 pages of quotes. Visitors to the site can vote on their favorites. Here are some sample one-liners:

“Oh, so they have Internet on computers now!”

“Son, if you really want something in this life, you have to work for it. Now quiet! They’re about to announce the lottery numbers.”

Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. 14% of people know that.

And don’t forget about The Simpsons Movie (releasing on 07/27/2007).

Play the Flash games and create your own Avatar to waste time until opening day!