14 Interesting "14"-Related Items for October 14th - An Engineer's Aspect


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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

14 Interesting "14"-Related Items for October 14th

1. Carbon-14 Dating

"Radiocarbon, or Carbon-14, dating is probably one of the most widely used and best known absolute dating methods. It was developed by J. R. Arnold and W. F. Libby in 1949, and has become an indispensable part of the archaeologist's tool kit since. Its development revolutionized archaeology by providing a means of dating deposits independent of artifacts and local stratigraphic sequences. This allowed for the establishment of world-wide chronologies (id-archserve.ucsb.edu)."

Radiocarbon-Related Information Sources
How Stuff Works

2. Apollo 14 Mission

"Apollo 14 was the eighth manned mission in the Apollo programme and the third mission to land on the Moon, touching down on 5 February 1971.

The crew were Commander Alan B. Shepard, Jr, Stuart A. Roosa (Command Module Pilot) and Edgar D. Mitchell (Lunar Module Pilot).

After landing at the destination for Apollo 13 - Shepard and Mitchell took two moon walks, adding new seismic studies to the by now familiar Apollo experiment package, and using a "lunar rickshaw" pull cart to carry their equipment. Roosa, meanwhile, took pictures from on board command module Kitty Hawk in lunar orbit.

Shepard and Mitchell collected almost 45 kg of lunar samples for return to Earth.

The Apollo 14 astronauts were the last lunar explorers to be quarantined on their return from the Moon.

Shepard and Mitchell named their landing site Fra Mauro Base, and this designation is recognized by the International Astronomical Union."

Lunar and Planetary Institute
Apollo 14 Summary

3. Complete Genomics Sequences 14 Genomes

"September 10, 2009: This week Complete Genomics of Mountain View, CA, announced that it had fully sequenced 14 individual genomes, almost doubling the number of people who have had nearly every C, T, A, and G in their bodies decoded and published (technologyreview.com)."

4. Messier 14

"Discovered by Charles Messier in 1764.

Messier 14 (M14, NGC 6402) is a slightly elliptically shaped stellar swarm, about 100 light years across and about 30,000 light years away; older determinations have given values between 64,000 ly (Shapley) and 23,000 (Mallas/Kreimer) to 24,000 ly (Glyn Jones, Kinman, Becvar); the Sky Catalogue 2000.0 had 38,000 ly. Shapley assigned it an ellipticity of 9, extended in position angle 110 deg. While its bright main body about only about 3 arc minutes in angular diameter, the cluster's outlayers reach out to a total apparent diameter of 11.7 arc min. It lacks a dense central condensation (Burnham), as its concentration class VIII indicates. Its apparent visual brightness of 7.6 visual magnitudes corresponds to an absolute magnitude of -9.12, or to a luminosity about 400,000 times that of our sun - so while, because of its greater distance, it is apparently dimmer than the two other great Ophiuchus clusters, M10 and M12, it is intrinsically much more luminous (seds.org)."

5. The Universe within 14 billion Light Years--The Visible Universe

"This map attempts to show the entire visible Universe. The galaxies in the universe tend to collect into vast sheets and superclusters of galaxies surrounding large voids giving the universe a cellular appearance. Because light in the universe only travels at a fixed speed, we see objects at the edge of the universe when it was very young up to 14 billion years ago (atlasoftheuniverse.com)."
  • Number of superclusters in the visible universe = 10 million
  • Number of galaxy groups in the visible universe = 25 billion
  • Number of large galaxies in the visible universe = 350 billion
  • Number of dwarf galaxies in the visible universe = 7 trillion
  • Number of stars in the visible universe = 30 billion trillion (3x10²²)

6. F-14 Tomcat fighter

"The F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic, twin-engine, variable sweep wing, two-place strike fighter manufactured by Grumman Aircraft Corporation. The multiple tasks of navigation, target acquisition, electronic counter measures (ECM), and weapons employment are divided between the pilot and the radar intercept officer (RIO). Primary missions include precision strike against ground targets, air superiority, and fleet air defense (US Navy Fact File)."

This is a video of the official ceremony for the retirement of the F-14 Tomcat, called Tomcat Sunset. At the event, the F-14 flew for the last time.

Tomcat Sunset took place at the Oceana NAS in Virginia Beach on September 22, 2006. The only people who got invitations were the men and women who flew, designed, or worked on the F-14.

7. GOES-14

Video Description: "On June 27, 2009. NASA launched a new and improved weather satellite called GOES-O. Now that GOES-O is safely into its orbit, it has been renamed to GOES-14. Today, we visited NOAA's Satellite Operations Facility in Suitland, MD where NASA and NOAA will be releasing the very first image from GOES-14, a satellite that will provide weather forecasters with more stable images at a greater resolution."

8. October 14, 1947: Yeager Machs the Sound Barrier

"Capt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager pilots the rocket-powered Bell X-1 to a speed of Mach 1.07, becoming the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. In breaking the sound barrier, Yeager becomes the fastest man alive — and the legend of the X-Planes begins (Wired.com)."

9. Venera 14

"Venera 13 was launched on 30 October 1981 and Venera 14 was launched on 4 November 1981. They journeyed to Venus and deposited their landers on 1 March and 5 March 1982, respectively. There were 2 high-energy instruments aboard each spacecraft, one a continuation of the French-Soviet collaboration and one called the "Konus" experiment. These experiments returned data until March 1983."

"The data from Venera 13 & 14 produced a confirmed gamma-ray burst event of 1 every 3 days, a factor of 3 better than had been deduced previously from Venera 11 & 12 and Prognoz 7. A total of 44, mostly confirmed, cosmic gamma-ray events were detected between November 1981 and March 1982 by the 2 instruments (NASA.gov)."

10. October 14, 1979: Hyatt Regency Atrium Roof Collapse

"On October 14, 1979 (more than one year before the walkways collapsed), while the hotel was still under construction, more than 2700 square feet of the atrium roof collapsed because one of the roof connections at the north end of the atrium failed.3 In testimony, G.C.E. stated that on three separate occasions they requested on-site project representation during the construction phase; however, these requests were not acted on by the owner (Crown Center Redevelopment Corporation), due to additional costs of providing on-site inspection (ethics.tamu.edu)."

11. 14 Things Every Software Engineer Should Know

In no particular order -
  1. Common Design Patterns – Design patterns are tools to let us solve common problems. Knowing your design patterns can make the solution to a problem easy.
  2. At Least One Assembly Language – One can program quite well without this, but when it comes time to debug something for which the source isn’t available or when it comes time to create a new language or when it comes time to optimize to the metal, you will have a good understanding of what does the heavy lifting. It also is vital in understanding common calling conventions and why they are the way they are.
  3. Basic Set Theory/Boolean Algebra – there are so many problems that come up that are easily solvable through set modeling or can be simplified with judicious application of DeMorgan’s Laws. It will, at least, clean up your if-statements.
  4. At Least One Bit Banging Trick – My favorite two are removing the leftmost bit (x &= (x-1);) and value swapping without a temp (x ^= y; y ^= x; x ^= y;). Some of these little hacks, while they may drop readability, can be used to shed cycles in tight loops or simplify code paths. Here is a handy list of some.
  5. Physical Self Awareness – Are you in software for the long haul? If so, you should know your body and know the things that happen to it under stress. I’m the worst offender in this category – to the point where a former coworker suggested that maybe I should stop taking my vacations in the hospital.
  6. Functional Programming Techniques – While I do not believe that mainstream coding is ready for functional programming, I do believe there is a lot to be learned from the techniques of functional programming. I also believe that exposure to non-mainstream thinking and reasoning provides intangible and tangible benefits to your mainstream work.
  7. How People Communicate/Argue – Much as we sometimes like to hide from social interaction, one of the most valuable skills is the ability to communicate ideas with your peers. It allows you to spread your workload to others and to get the sense of “many hands, one voice” across your codebase. In addition, you will be required at some point to defend your ideas. Learn how to argue constructively – part of this should include understanding Aristotle’s Appeals, and Logical Fallacies.
  8. Functional Models of Your Tools – Knowing your tools means knowing how you can use and potentially misuse them to the greatest benefit or detriment. Do you know all the stages that a C compiler goes through to generate your executable? If you don’t then you might miss out on how to use the preprocessor on its own for other purposes or how to inject extra code into your own code stream.
  9. How and When to Implement a Language – one of the sexiest jobs in software engineering is the ability to create a new programming language that (a) works and (b) solves a problem for you in a way that would be painful otherwise. It is a wonderful sageful state of metacircularity to be able to create a program for the creation of new programs. It can also be one of the greatest wastes of time when other (better) tools probably already exist for your problem.
  10. How Pointers Really Work – I’ve always thought that pointers were a very, very simple concept – then again, I more or less started with an assembly language, so pointers were fundamental. One of the scariest things I’ve seen is code written by someone who doesn’t understand pointers. I’ve seen code that shotguns the heap, the stack, returns pointers to local variables, and so on. I believe all of the heinousness was due to a basic ignorance of pointers and memory.
  11. Algorithmic Analysis – This is one of the fundamental tools of assessing the performance of your code. Understanding how to do this will also help set your expectations for how code should perform. I have seen a version of string comparison that took factorial time. Yikes.
  12. When to Design Beyond the Horizon – I have had the pleasure of using a number of systems that were way stronger than they needed to be – but for very good reason. I hold the PostScript language up as a model of this. While not a perfect language/runtime by any means, its imaging and operational models made it far simpler to get consistent, high quality print across an array of different devices. This was because of the strength of its design – which in 1984 was barely implementable in an affordable way, but it has held the test of time and it is telling that it quickly because the standard for printing and publishing.
  13. Fundamental Understanding of Human Anatomy – most of the work that is done on computers is made to interface with people. Without understanding how people work (or don’t), how can you expect to build useful tools? 5-8% of the men using your software won’t be able to tell red from green. Are you using these colors to indicate success/failure? What is the best frame rate for a game? Why do IR remotes use a 40KHz carrier? Why are icons alone a bad solution? Why do menu bars work best when glued to an edge of a screen? What is muscle memory and how does it affect user experience in dynamic UI?
  14. State Machinery – state machines are one of the most beautiful models of computation. No, they can’t solve all computability problems as they are not Turing complete on their own, but they are one of the few models that spans the domain of math to transistors and loses little in the process. One of the defining moments for me in studying computer science was the realization that there is a straight forward transformation from a state machine diagram to hardware. That is glorious.
Source: Steve's Tech Talk.

12. October 14, 2001: Ithaca Exchange Dance Floor Collapse

Video Description: "The infamous floor collapse at the legendary Ithaca Exchange, October 14, 2001. This was the floor of the Pavilion at Stewart Park; no one was seriously injured."

13. Your Guide To The Best 14-Inch Laptops

"If getting a quality laptop at the cheapest price possible is your main concern then you should certainly take a look at the HP Pavilion dv2000t. It's the most affordable laptop in its class.

If you are looking for a budget laptop, you can customize the dv2000t cheaper then any other 14 inch laptop. But if you want better and long-lasting quality, you can customize it to be a very high-performing laptop. Whatever you are looking for, it should be able to perform exactly like you want it.

Similar in price is the Dell Inspiron e1405.

If initial price isn't your number one concern, certainly the Lenevo Thinkpad t60 is in a league of its own. You certainly will be satisfied with its overall build and quality. Also, you will be getting the latest and greatest technology from this laptop.

Paying extra on a laptop such as the Thinkpad t60 can save in the long run. By getting this laptop, you are more likely to hold on to this laptop longer then you might with another one.

These three laptops are really all you need to look at. They are by far the best 14 inch laptops currently in their class (Direct Laptops Guide)."

14. US-14 Wisconsin River Highway Bridge

"This lovely span is doomed. A replacement is being constructed to the southwest of the current structure (bridgehunter.com)."