Tuesday, August 31, 2004

You want me to ride in what? The Engineer: Inflation set to rocket

8/27/2004 by Helen Knight
"The craft, which resembles a shuttlecock, is being developed with support from ESA as a cheaper alternative to the US Shuttle for transporting cargo from the ISS. It could also be used as an emergency rescue system for crews, the company claims." Re-entering the earth's atmosphere in an inflatable birdie-shaped raft takes a small leap of faith -- but it is light, and less expensive, and can possibly carry more weight.

New Scientist: Radar to scan shuttle for launch debris

"NASA will use ground-based radar imaging to monitor the next space shuttle launch, scheduled for spring 2005, agency officials said on Wednesday. The technology was tested successfully on 3 August, when NASA's Messenger mission to Mercury blasted off from Florida."
It makes sense to use radar. I hope they'll be using other imaging tools, as well. According to this article, cameras will be mounted on the tanks and other places on the shuttle.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

If you need show your math work on the web...

My last post mentioned that there are some complications to using symbols on the web. Those of us who started by hand-coding html will probably recognize what happens when you toss in a greater than sign or ampersand. For the previous post, I looked up the code for the Greek letters on http://www.evergreen.edu/biophysics/technotes/misc/entities.htm . Jukka Korpela provides a pretty detailed discussion of math and html on his site: http://www.cs.tut.fi/~jkorpela/math/ .

There's sometimes a difference between the programs you use to calculate and those you use to display on the web. Back in the day, I used MathCad to calculate and display or just the equation editor in Word to add pretty equations to my lab reports and papers. Word made pretty equations (it still does), but it doesn't calculate. It's more for taking your handwritten stuff and putting it into a document everyone can read. I also used Mathematica for diff eq, but as I recall, its input was text only. Very picky, too. At the time, you could print the graph or whatever, then tape or glue it to your lab notebook. Now you can export to a document that you can include as a graphic. There's also a gizmo that lets people calculate within a web page. I would guess Mathlab is in the same category. They're both powerful but ugly. TeX and LaTeX are widely used and accepted by many publications but I believe they are just typesetting deals and need to be converted for the web.

There's been a lot of discussion recently about MathPlayer (free, kind of like Adobe Acrobat Reader is free) and MathML (a mark-up language). MathML is from W3C and it's a mark-up language for math on the web. From what I can tell, you need a plug-in like MathPlayer to see MathML and a tool to write it. While you can pretty much wing HTML, MathML is supposed to be pretty ugly behind the scenes.

Update: I just noticed a book on our new book shelf that's causing flashbacks - it's a new edition of the book I used for Mathematica for diff eq in college. They do have an "input palette" now that's similar to what you get in Word's equation editor. There's also a save as... html, xml, TeX.

Read my review: High - κ Gate Dielectrics

(cross posted with my LIS blog) Pikas, Christina K. "High - κ Gate Dielectrics" E-Streams v.7 no.8 (August 2004). There was a little font problem. The relative dielectric constant (relative permittivity) is either εr or κ as they use in the title of the book. It comes out in various forms of the review as ? , ! , e. Ah the joy of mathematical or Greek symbols on the web.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

AIR tells us how to write science press releases

(pdf) If you're like me you scan through a lot of press releases and scientific news articles that are pretty much embellished press releases. They do start looking alike after a while. The AIR folks have the pattern down so now you, too, can write a science news press release.

e4engineering.com: Absorbing corrosion-causing chemicals

by Pam Frost Gorder 8/24/04
"The new paint is unique because its pigment contains tiny particles of clay that capture the chemicals that cause corrosion. It also releases just the right amount of a corrosion-fighting agent when needed, explained Rudolph Buchheit, professor of materials science and engineering. 'It works kind of like high-tech kitty litter,' he said."
This is pretty cool stuff, at least until they find environmental problems with using cerium like this. It's possible to tell when the cerium is used up by X-ray diffraction so you can tell in advance if the coating has lost is protective qualities. I believe in painting once over dust and twice over rust and that it's easier to talk the junior guy into painting than cleaning....

Monday, August 16, 2004

EurekAlert: British scientists exclude 'maverick' colleagues

Cardiff study shows attitudes differ in UK and Sweden
Scientists in Britain tend to exclude controversial 'maverick' colleagues from their community to ensure they do not gain scientific legitimacy, new research has shown.
A Cardiff University study has found that British scientists' attitudes differ considerably from those of their counterparts in Sweden, when managing dissent.

The research, by Lena Eriksson, a Swedish researcher in the Cardiff School of Social Sciences, has shown that British scientists operated with firm boundaries between 'inside' and 'outside' and believed that controversial scientists needed to be placed outside the community so as to not gain scientific legitimacy.

Swedish scientists were more inclined to ensure that all members 'have their say'. They were more likely to be inclusive, so as not to create adversaries who would threaten the scientific community.
"The image of a scientific establishment attacking and punishing individual researchers with contentious results — such as the MMR vaccine controversy - has done little to inspire public trust in science."

Is the US more like Sweden or Great Britain? In some ways, we're harder on people outside of the mainstream; but, they do seem to be less likely to be discouraged.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Read my review: Communication Patterns of Engineers

(cross posted with my LIS blog) Pikas, Christina K. "Communications Patterns of Engineers" E-Streams v.7 no.7 (July 2004).

BBC NEWS | Health | Prozac 'found in drinking water'

Yes, of course. US EPA's been on this for a while. Turns out that all the hormones we're collectively taking, and anti-depressants, and other drugs flush through somewhat in tact. The treatment plants aren't designed to remove these. This BBC article is concerned with effects on human health, but more importantly, what about all the chilled out fish with hot flashes? What is it doing to oysters and crabs?