Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Super Light Household Iron

I picked up an iron the other day - admittedly, something I almost never do. It was REALLY HEAVY! I gave the iron the same look I give someone who packs too much for a weekend vacation. WHAT COULD YOU POSSIBLY HAVE IN HERE?!

I thought: What components are so heavy, and is it possible to make them external to the iron? Certainly you could make the water tank external, but adding a hose does seem pretty sloppy. What about the heating element? And does the iron plate need to be so heavy?

Then I remembered hearing about a technology called a heat pipe. This is a nifty little tube that uses a pressurized vapor/liquid mix to transfer heat almost instantly. They mostly use these for cooling electronics like a laptop.

What if you made the iron plate really thin and regulated its heat by a heat pipe attached to an external heat source plugged into the wall. Maybe you could even make the iron's steam the same steam used in the heat pipe: You would just have to carefully regulate the amount of water and pressure filling the hose at any given time. With the right technology, the flexible heat pipe tube would be just about the same thickness as the electric cord that would no longer be needed.

Wouldn't it be nice if your iron was 5 times lighter? Think how much lighter a centralized vacume systems is. Why do we have to shove the weight of a whole machine around with each arm movement when really we just want to move around the suction or heat - the machine's byproduct?

And here's the best part about the idea: You don't have to worry if you accidentally set the iron down on something - as soon as you release the button, the iron cools off instantly!

How much for the Maglev?

I love the idea of Maglev technology. A couple weeks ago I decided to find out how it really worked and how much it cost - how much power does it take to keep a train full of people elevated? You can't just assume a "new technology" is better for everything. Yes Maglev reduces friction, but how much power does it cost? I wanted to understand how it compared to traditional wheeled trains. And then I had a thought about sticking some huge wheels on a train..

Let's make an assumption that a maglev train suffers frictional loss only from air resistance, and that a similar train using traditional wheels will experience the same air resistance. Let's assume that a wheeled train suffers an extra frictional loss due to wheel bearing friction, and that this loss is roughly proportional to its speed.

So, all things being equal, there should be an approximate top speed at which the more expensive maglev train pays for itself by outperforming the wheeled train. Lets guess that this speed is 100mph.

But I had to ask this question: What if you made the wheels 5 times as large? This reduces the bearing friction by 5 times. Does that mean that a wheeled train would outperform a maglev train up to 500mph?

Of course there are heaps of ignored factors here, but it's a valid thought experiment. Here's a really bad sketch for you. I have no idea what is ha.xinhua.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My Pecha Kucha Video

Click here to Watch the video!
Thanks for being a great audience that night Pecha Kuchakers

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Kitchen Sink Pause Button

So you're doing the dishes,
and you have the pressure and temperature just right,
and you turn off the water to soap a big pot, or put something in the dishwasher,
and then you turn the water back on...
But you have to tap the faucet back and forth, up and down to get it back to where you had it just right.

Sometimes I wish I had a pause button.