Friday, April 27, 2012

"Alien" Roots - Are We Witnessing the Beginning?

I don't know about you, but when I first went to see the Alien, the 1979 sci-fi horror film, I was, well, horrified.  That movie scared the daylights out of me. 

Theatrical Release Poster by Bill Gold
Today's article is about a company, a real company of billionaires, engineers, and scientists, outlining details to mine asteroids for water, minerals, and such.  If you're not familiar with the plot of Alien, let me say, The Company plays a transparent but evil part in the movie.  

Commercial enterprises don't always have the best interest of their employees at heart, and that was definitely the case in the movie. 

Anyway, check out the article.  Could it be we're witnessing an historic event?  Okay, maybe not historic, maybe more 'ironic'?  Plus, I'm kind of curious - does anyone 'own' the asteroids?  I can see several legal and ethical issues that might come up.  Surely people more in-the-know than me are addressing them.  I can only hope....   

If you've ever wondered how we get there from here, we might just be witnessing the first tentative steps.

Enjoy the article! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

JFK to London in One Hour or Less?

How would you like to fly from NY to London in an hour?  It sounds wonderful, doesn't it!  We could visit with our internal sales representatives as frequently as needed, or hand deliver high voltage diodes, even.   

Okay, seriously now, check out the article on passenger and cargo air transport.  It might be a little early to book your flight, but prototypes are expected for some designs as early as 2020.  2020 is not that far away. 

How would you take advantage of global flight times of 2 hours or less?

Photo Credit:  NASA

Friday, April 20, 2012

What Good are X-rays? Aren't They BAD for Us?

X-rays are used for a lot of different things, including medical diagnosis and treatment – CRT and CAT scans, fluoroscopy (i.e. coronary artery blockages) for diagnosis, and radiation treatments for cancer.

X-rays are part of the electro-magnetic spectrum which includes visible light we see every day. Visible light includes ultra-violet on one end; infra-red on the other.

x-raysThe X-ray spectrum is beyond the ultra violet range, and is bordered on top by the gamma ray spectrum.

X-ray radiation frequencies ranges between 3 x 10^ 17 and 3 x 10^19 Hz; wavelength ( lambda), ranges between 1 x 10^-11 and 1 x 1^-18 meters. X-rays are characterized by high energy which makes them suitable for interacting with electrons on the atomic level. It is largely this feature that makes them useful in detecting metals, or bombarding and penetrating the human body.

Applications include

• Security (airport scanners, truck scanners, border patrol)

• Medical Diagnosis (CRT, CAT scans, fluoroscopy)

• Medical Treatment (radiation treatment)

• Spectromicroscopy – used to detect paint layers, and pigment degradation in artwork masterpieces

• Crystallography – used to analyze minerals and metal alloys

• Astronomy – used to find and identify sources of x-rays in the universe

• Portable medical and dental x-ray systems


So....to answer the questions, x-rays can be harmful or beneficial.  Modern technology has put them to good use.  Sometimes the applications are good, sometimes they are controversial. 

Either way, I think they're here to stay.  What are your thoughts?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Latest Solar Storm 2012


Great article by Jeffery Bausch on the latest solar storm happening RIGHT NOW, and five things you need to know.  Think they won't bother you?  Think again.....They might, especially is you use the Power Grid, or land based phone lines. 


Solar storms can effect -
  • Satellites
  • GPS devices
  • Space shuttle and space station activities
  • High-altitude polar flights
  • Electric power distribution
  • Long-line telephone communication
  • HF radio communication
  • Pipeline operations
  • Geophysical exploration

Photo credit:  NASA/SDO/AIA taken March 10, 2012

In the photo above, an active region has been moving from left to right since March 2, 2012.  So far it has generated three X-class flares and numerous M-class flares. 

The disturbances are electro-magnetic in nature.  Diodes and other components can be radiation hardened - meaning they're not as susceptible to EM pulses.      

Have you noticed anything different in your electronic or electrical devices since March?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pittcon 2012

Pittcon Show


The results are in! There were 15,754 visitors to the world’s largest laboratory science conference and expo. And VMI was there! Margaret and Daniel were available to handle questions on high voltage diodes and other VMI products. High voltage opto-couplers are especially hot items for mass spectrometers and other instrumentation.

Pittcon is the event for scientific specialties such as spectroscopy and chromatography. Attendees were from many different industries including education, manufacturing, environmental, agriculture, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, and more.

Next year (2013), Pittcon will be held in Philadelphia, PA.

Pittcon 2012 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Optimum Stress

Curve from zenstorming  
I first came across the Yerkes-Dodson curve a couple years ago.  It popped up again recently. 

The first time it was related to arousal levels in students taking tests in college.  Basically, what it says is there is an optimum stress level for a test-taker.  Too much or too little stress, and the test-taker performs below his or her capabilities.

The second time around, it was in reference to work-loads.  With several fast-paced projects going on, the stress level rises.  You can see it on the faces of your co-workers (and maybe you're own), if you know what to look for.  Usually you don't have to look hard.  What you don't know is just how much stress they're under or where it's coming from.  What you do know is, they're feeling the pinch. 

Different people have different ways of handling stress.  If one person is under-stressed, maybe they feel they're not busy enough.  They go looking for things to do, projects to work.  They FIND something to do that interests them. 

Short-term over-stress is one thing. Chronic over-stress is an entirely different animal.  In short-term over-stress, a person knows it's temporary.  Maybe the push is to get something shipped out the door - a new prototype - in under four weeks.  The goal is clear, possibly unreasonable, maybe almost impossible.  But it's time limited. 

On the other hand, chronic over-stress can take a toll in the form of burn-out, and it creeps up on us.  You know what I'm talking about - it's hard to get out of bed in the morning, or get excited about a new project because you're just not quite up to the challenges.  It requires more energy than you have.  We've probably all been there at one time or another in our lives.  The best advice I've come across to deal with burn-out is to start simplifying, cutting back, and prioritizing.  Figure out the really important things, and work on those first.  Take baby steps.  If your goal is to have a more balanced work-home life, start by leaving work one day during at the week 'on-time'.  If that works, start there and expand.

Just my two cents worth.

What's the best advice you've heard about preventing job burn-out?