Events (plug, plug)

Firstly, PROXY are playing the Bongo Club this Thursday (23rd) from 8pm, along with EIGHT MILLION WAYS TO DIE and TINY MONKEY. Rar, hope to see lots of you people there. (Bongo Club has moved to Holyrood Rd, btw)

Secondly, it’s soon going to be Science Festival time of year again. It’s one of the things that make me happy to live in Edinburgh. I went to lots of events last year, and was informed, amused and irritated in equal measure. I even managed to refrain from posting a full-on rant here about how clueless various panel-members and audience-members were. Any event which can get me that wound up has to be doing something right.

Visual poetry

I’ve told many people about this sculpture over the last few years. It’s in the MIT museum in Boston (or at least, it was there six or so years ago!). At the left, a motor turns the first cog fairly quickly, maybe once a second. The next cog is connected to the first as a step-down gear so that it rotates more slowly, maybe once every thirty seconds. This continues on for a few more cogs, gradually getting slower until you reach the punchline: the final cog is embedded in a concrete block attached to the base.

It’s awesome to watch. There’s no tricks at work. There’s no need for slack in the system or anything like that. You can set up the gear ratios such that the final cog moves maybe 0.1mm over the next 100 years. Whilst concrete doesn’t stretch as much as an elastic band does (when a given force is applied), it can certainly still stretch a little bit. The cogs are still all turning, all the way down.

The sculpture is a visual poem about scale, a physics lesson and a funny joke all rolled into one. Genius.

Use our disks!

Looks like I might have a new cheap option for my over-the-network backup … not that I’d be biased at all. 😉 Looks like I could make a 2Gb backup of my most important files, followed by weekly incremental backups for probably around $5 a year.

Autopilot and RF hacking

This evening I got a crude (but surprisingly effective) autopilot working in Flightgear, and also cracked open my receiver and waved an oscilloscope at it. The autopilot is a separate ruby script which uses the Flightgear httpd interface to read and write values which control the plane. The plane managed to stay up in the air, despite me selecting heavy turbulence. But, to quote Susan, “I wouldn’t like to be a passenger in that plane!”. So, next I need to add a bit more complexity to the autopilot (technical version: my pid controller needs some id).