Thursday trivia #57

  • I have long been fascinated by the history of Bell Labs, perhaps one of the best-known research outfits in the history of the modern age. There’s a new book, The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation, that looks like it might be interesting, so it’s on my Amazon wish list now.
  • Speaking of my wish list: I love it that I have a single location to keep track of every interesting-sounding book I run across. It’s much easier to add books to the list than to read them, though, so periodically I have to make a pass through the list and cull it a bit.
  • Yet another reason why I love O’Reilly Media: their newest book is the Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments. It’s intended for home schoolers, but who wouldn’t want to read it?
  • And speaking of biology: Brain freezes are caused by dilation of the anterior cerebral artery. Yep, really. Now you know! (Reading that story did make me want some ice cream, however.)
  • And speaking of brains: I’ve been spending some time lately trying to wrap mine around the concept of storyboarding in iOS 5. There sure is a lot to learn; if you’re interested I recommend starting with this tutorial and working your way on from there.
  • Speaking of working: women may soon be working in the Marine Corps’ infantry, artillery, and other ground combat jobs. After thinking about it quite a bit, I’ve come to believe that they’re taking the right approach: try sending some women to the Infantry Officers’ Course and see how it goes. In parallel, they are developing new, gender-neutral fitness tests. In theory, these tests should make it possible to set a standard that applies to men and women. Meet the standard and you’re good to go; fail to meet it and you’re not. If this actually happens, fantastic. Gunpowder & Lead said it best: “I think women should have the same opportunities as men to serve in our military, provided they can meet the necessary standards to ensure the maximum possible safety and effectiveness of our combat forces.”. Me too. As with “don’t ask, don’t tell,” I believe that the Marine Corps will lead the way in integrating women into ground combat forces if that’s what we’re directed to do.
  • Twin-engine airplanes are supposed to be safer than single-engine planes, and in most flight regimes they are. But see this video of a horrible accident for a counterpoint: the pilot’s trying to land with one engine out. His turn to final approach is too tight, so he skids to try to make the runway. This causes the wing with the dead engine to enter an aerodynamic stall, which in turn causes a spin, with catastrophic results. Takeaway: don’t do this.
  • Another takeaway: subscribe to the Flying Lessons newsletter, which is a weekly compendium of annotated aviation accident reports. Great reading, though sobering.
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