Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

October 5th, 2008:

Odd Lots

  • Small, short-lived sunspots are starting to turn up on a fairly regular basis. (I monitor daily.) Their polarity suggests that they belong to the long-delayed Cycle 24, but they are so small as to be almost invisible without a powerful solar telescope, and many vanish within 24 hours of their initial detection. So we could still be facing something like a Maunder Minimum, with small and short-lived spots keeping the count up even with generally minimal solar activity. The coming year will be especially interesting in solar astronomy.
  • I ran across a fascinating couple of homebrew radio projects, and the tube design is especially intriguing. If you understand tubes even a little bit, read the article (PDF) on the low-voltage 3GK5 “Hellenedyne” one-tube reflex AM receiver. This is like nothing I've never seen before, and it's making me itch to throw one together just to see what this peculiar tube can do.
  • This is humor for deep, deep railroad geeks only, but wow: Parodies of classic locomotive designs, some of them realized as HO scale models. Ok, you may not think these are funny without knowing a little bit about railroad history, but hey, there's just something inherently silly about a locomotive painted with the legend “Wrong Island.” Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.
  • Also from Pete: Suppose that Tolkien's Hobbits, out from under their terror of the Dark Lord, had a thousand years or so (Hobbits don't hurry) to develop a reasonable technological civilization. Their astronomical observatories might well look like this, which is in fact a working observatory in Potsdam, Germany, named for Albert Einstein (I can picture Buildo Baggins, a distant descendent of the Sackville Bagginses, analyzing variable star luminosity curves at those desks, between bites of bread spread with entirely too much butter…)
  • Interestingly, the ebook edition of my Souls in Silicon collection is outselling the print edition 3 to 1. Even more interestingly, I make 23c more per copy on the ebook edition, priced at $3.99 vs. $11.99 for the print edition. This is an extremely useful dataset, and I'm tempted to drop the price on Cold Hands to $2.99 when I release it in December, just to see how it does.