This man was fined $500 by the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying. His crime? Talking about problems with the timing of yellow lights, how they are too short, and don’t account for modern traffic. He was fined for “practicing engineering without a license” because he complained about a freaking traffic light, and chose to back his complaints up with facts and math.
It all started when his wife received a red light ticket. He started watching yellow lights, and noticed they were so short they actually tend to unfairly “trap” cars that were going too fast to stop before they turn red, even traveling the speed limit. He studied the lights enough to gain conclusive evidence that the lights were indeed too short for cars to realistically stop in time, resulting in red light cameras being tripped far too often. Not only that, but too-short yellow lights encourage accidents, as cross-traffic can begin moving before the supposed red light offenders are able to clear the intersection, or encourage rear-end accidents as people slam on their brakes.
All his research and public comments earned him nationwide recognition – he was interviewed on 60 Minutes, and even gave a presentation at an annual meeting of the Institute of Transportation Engineers. But when he wrote a letter to Oregon’s Board of Examiners asking for a chance to present his research, they responded by not just declining his offer, but slapping him with a $500 fine for unlicensed practice of engineering. In their response to him, they told him that even calling himself an engineer in his letter was enough to constitute a violation of practicing engineering without a license. For the record, the guy IS an engineer – he has a degree in electrical engineering from Sweden, and worked as an airplane camera mechanic for the Swedish Air Force before immigrating to the U.S., and has worked in a variety of technical jobs since moving here.
There are those who might feel that Oregon’s yellow lights are intentionally made too short, designed to intentionally trap people with those cameras just to generate additional ticket revenue for the state. One would have a very hard time arguing against that – unless one had an asinine law to fall back on that was so ridiculously written that you could be fined for a criminal violation just for complaining about the damn traffic lights. Thankfully, there are those who think Oregon has gone WAY over the line here, into the realm of constitutional violations. It is a protected constitutional right to complain about or criticize the government, including its engineering practices when they place public safety at risk in favor of sucking money from people. The Institute for Justice agrees, and has helped this guy file a lawsuit against Oregon. He is not seeking any monetary damages, but he is seeking an order that the state board stop violating people’s constitutional rights. Apparently this is really common behavior for this particular board – they have fined other people in the past simply for saying “I’m an engineer”… and even more ridiculously, they issued a $1000 fine against an activist simply because he said that a new proposed power plant would be too loud for nearby residents.
Here’s hoping this Oregon board goes down in a blaze of glory, because they absolutely are violating people’s right to free speech as a matter of standard practice. The entire purpose of the First Amendment was to protect the right of people to complain about or criticize the government or its actions. Come on, Oregon. Get your crap together.
The Prince Rupert’s Drop is sort of a freak of physics. It’s a shape made out of ordinary glass, but the way it’s made results in that glass being stronger than steel, but with a significant Achilles heel. You can strike a Prince Rupert’s Drop as hard as you like with a hammer, and as long as the tail is not affected too much, it won’t do much of anything to the glass. In fact, a professor on one Youtube video points out that he has had some “testosterone-charged” students who actually left dents in his lab table by striking the glass so hard – yet the glass itself didn’t crack or break. Another Youtube video shows that one of these drops can withstand more than 20 tons of direct force from a hydraulic press before it will break – and it was strong enough that it left a dent in the steel plate it was sitting on as well as in the hardened steel press head. And in the feature video here, you can see that the drops basically annihilate every bullet shot at it, up to a .38 special full metal jacket – often surviving itself as long as the tail is not shocked too hard.
However, apply just a little too much force to the tail of one of these glass drops, and the entire thing shatters into basically glass dust. You can shatter one of these drops by just manually snapping the tip of the tail off.
Prince Rupert’s Drops are made by taking plain old glass and melting it to the point it liquefies, then allowing a drop to fall into cold water. This creates a teardrop shape with the long tail. When the molten glass hits the water, the outside of the drop rapidly cools and solidifies while the inside is still molten. Glass is a pretty great heat insulator, so the interior cools much more slowly. Now you know that hot things typically expand, and cool things contract. Well, as the molten glass cools, it contracts, and as it contracts, the inner glass molecules pull the outer ones inward, basically creating an extremely tight lattice of glass molecules under tremendous tension. Because of this tension, the glass is extremely resistant to outside forces. However, at the tail end, if you remove just enough of the outer shell of glass, the inner portion no longer holds that tension since there’s nothing for it to pull against any more, and as that tension is released, so is the tension on adjacent molecules, and so on, throughout the entire drop. The result is an incredibly fast shockwave of tension release that travels from the tail of the drop to the head, effectively shattering the entire drop at once into dust.
I personally would love a chance to play with some of these and see the effect for myself, but to really appreciate what’s happening here, it’s hard to beat slow motion video. And watching a .38 fmj slug disintegrate when it hits the head of the drop is just freaking cool. The experiments aren’t done at Smarter Every Day – he’ll be making a new video soon with even higher caliber, but at this point, considering the head of one of these can withstand 20 tons of force, I’m not convinced there’s a caliber high enough that would actually shatter the drop from the head – if they break, it’s probably going to be due to disruption of the tail.
“Oh, Christ. Anna, he’s going to start reading poetry at us. What do we do?”
“No, that’s bears.”
The Toast has a whole slew of these gems where people have critically analyzed not the paintings themselves, but the poses of the women in them, and speculated at the scenarios in which those poses might have happened. Some of them are pretty great. From women appearing uncomfortable, disappointed, bored, annoyed, distracted, or any number of other uncomfortable expressions, you can gain a whole new perspective on older paintings once you read the text that goes along with them to give you context for the scene. Try it yourself next time you find yourself someplace like The Louvre.
[via The Toast]
Plastic bags and such have been a major source of concern for the environment, since they don’t tend to biodegrade quickly – some estimates say they can take 500 years to break down in landfills. Researchers have previously found a fungus that can help accelerate the degradation of polyurethane, and later a bacteria in the digestive system of wax worms that could start degrading polyethylene after around 2 months. But now wax worms have been found to handle plastic on an entirely different level – they actually eat it.
This was discovered by accident – a woman was clearing a wax worm infestation out of a beehive, and placed them all in a plastic bag. In less than an hour, the wax worms were out of the bag and all over the place. But they hadn’t just chewed holes in the bag – they had eaten it. With this discovery, they ran some additional tests to make sure (including blending some wax worms up and placing the resulting goop on some plastic), and the determined that there is definitely some substance in the waxworm digestive system that actually digests the plastic. The resulting waste of this digestion is ethylene glycol – the main ingredient in antifreeze.
Using wax worms to clean up the billions of plastic bags in landfills won’t work – they wouldn’t survive the zero-oxygen environment. But they do hope that they can now isolate exactly what compound is digesting the plastic – in minutes and hours rather than months and years – and produce it at a high enough rate to be usable commercially to deal with plastic waste.
There’s a new fad that has suddenly sprung up all over the country: goat yoga. It’s basically exactly what it sounds like – just a normal yoga class, but with baby goats running all around, frolicking, eating your yoga mat or hoodie, jumping on your back… The waiting lists for these classes are pretty insane – some lists are more than 600 people long, so it’s definitely popular right now. I’m not sure how zen and relaxing it would be to have half a dozen baby goats jumping on me, but it is therapeutic and enjoyable to interact with playful animals like that. I wonder how long this fad will last until the next big thing comes along?
Yeah, you read that right. The font that is the bane of every legitimate graphic designer ever actually does serve a purpose. A group of psychologists worked together with a group of school teachers to run an experiment on the effect of fonts on learning and retention. For one group of students, all handouts and everything were given to them in traditional, easy-to-read fonts like Times New Roman or Helvetica. Another group was given all their handouts in fonts that are terrible for reading, like Haettenschweiler or Comic Sans Italic.
Turns out, the group that was stuck with the crappy fonts did notably better on their final exams than the group using easier traditional fonts. The reason is that with the easy fonts, you can just skim the information and feel like you already read it. The ugly fonts, though, force you to pay attention, and actually engage your mind to understand what you’re reading. This increased attention also tends to translate into increased retention, resulting in higher exam scores.
So maybe next time you see something written in Comic Sans, don’t be so quick to condemn the foolish amateur who chose it – maybe they’re just trying to get you to absorb and remember the information. Oh, who am I kidding? I’m still gonna hate on Comic Sans as an ugly font – I mean, the reason it worked in this study is because it’s ugly. But at least I”ll remember it might serve a purpose even though I hate it.
OK, this isn’t exactly new (it’s from 2013), but it’s still awesome. Great cosplay isn’t just about making a fantastic, detailed costume. It’s about really getting into character. And I’m not sure there are many cosplayers who have gotten into character quite so well as QWOP runner. I feel like this guy is what all cosplayers should strive to be.
If you’ve forgotten, or somehow just stumbled across this thing called the internet and have never heard of QWOP before, try it out. It’s harder than it looks.