Google Sketchup

Today Google has released Sketchup, a 3D drawing desktop application. From the little demo animation that they have on the linked page, this looks like the rare combination of a very powerful, yet easy to use tool for creating 3D renderings. Renderings can also be used in conjunction with Google Earth, presumably as some sort of a layer or overlay.

Unfortunately, the Mac version of it is ‘coming soon’ even though the pre-Google acquisition product already ran on OS X. I’ll have to wait for the Mac release to get into this any further. I hope that the delay is something a simple as switching over the branding and a few other minor tasks it truly will be available RSN.

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Critical Thinking Is Not Optional

Graham Glass has an excellent anecdote about a lesson he learned in high school regarding critical thinking.

…Once the pleasantries were out of the way, he started the first lecture, which was about the composition of the atmosphere. Everyone started taking copious notes. He told us that Nitrogen was 78% of the air we breath, with Oxygen accounting for 21% and the remainder taken up by Argon, Carbon Dioxide, and other gases.

He then proceeded to explain that Nitrogen had a pink color and a slightly sweet smell. Like good students, we continued to record this valuable information into our study notes. After several more minutes of lecture he stopped, and then exclaimed “are you students morons??!!”. Needless to say, this caught our attention and we instantly brought our heads out of our books.

He continued: “If Nitrogen was pink and formed 78% of the air, the classroom would look pink! Are your brains even turned on right now?!” He proceeded to berate us for being so gullible, and then used the situation to segue into a discussion of the ingredients of science; observation, theory, and rigorous testing.

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Instructables is an interesting web site where you can show people things that you made and share how others can make them for themselves. Definately some creative and handy people posting on this site.

We like to think about the physical world as something that is programmable. We like to think of objects or stuff you make as ‘code’. In other words, we are approaching the physical world as something that is describable and replicable.

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Word Of The Day from the OED

I just discovered that you can get the ‘word of the day’ emailed to you by no less than the folks who bring the world the Oxford English Dictionary.

I find the OED a great resource to have around. We have the Compact OED version of it that has 9 pages reduced onto a single page (versus the pricy 20 volume edition). To read the entries you need to use this sort of half crystal ball magnifier that is provided along with the Compact OED. It’s a little funky, but thats part of the fun.

If you are curious as to what went into producing the OED, I highly recommend The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester.

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Old School Terminal Emulator for Mac

This Mac application really takes me back to when tubes were hot technology. Back in the day, when I was learning programming in college, I had the patience-building experience of programming on a hard copy terminal (the DecWriter) for the first year or so. Round about the beginning of my second year, they began to introduce VT-52 and VT-100 terminals with manual dialup acoustic couplers at a blazing 300 baud. There was one terminal that ran at 1200 baud that people would literally fight over (or come in when the lab opened and stay on it all day).

Anyway, back to the app: this is an emulation of an old tube terminal, including screen buldge/warp and variable brightness of pixels. Apparently, it even simulates cursor studder. Really makes one appreciate the state of computing these days!

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What Time Is It?

I think that using technology in humorous ways is a noble task, especially when it has the effect of humanizing things. At least thats the way that a posting over at BoingBoing struck me — its about a “watch that displays cheeky ‘approximate time’ messages“.

I was a teen back when LED-based digital watches first became affordable and thus, widely available. I always had to chuckle whenever anyone with one of these watches was asked the time; they would quite earnestly respond “10:42” or “3:28” not “quarter to eleven” or “three thirty” — no siree, they knew exactly what time it was, because that’s what their watch displayed.

Of course the matter of the exact time depended on what source they used to set their watch by and the not insignificant matter of how well the watch actually kept time. Of course you can now buy a watch that synchornizes itself with Naval Observatory time, but I still like to keep ‘human’ time — “half past eight” instead of “8:29” for me.

And for what it’s worth, my timepiece of choice is an analog watch with a manual movement (no batteries).

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Star Wars Actors

Someone actually when to the trouble of using the magic of IMDB to create a list of the non Star Wars movies that have the most Star Wars actors in them. Tied for the top? Flash Gordon and Labyrinth.

This makes me think about earlier in the week when my wife and I were watching a detective show on BBCAmerica called Touching Evil. One of the characters in that episode was the same actor that plays Chancellor Palpatine/Emperor in the Star Wars movies. This caused my wife to exclaim, ‘of course he did it, he’s the Emperor!’ Turns out, he did.

uh, hope that didn’t spoil it for anybody.

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