Shuttersparks

Welcome to my musings on whatever topic catches my eye, plus stories, recipes, handyman tips, welding, photography, and what have you. Oh, and analog/digital hardware design, and software. Please comment on the blog post so everyone who visits can see your comments.

Category: STEM (page 1 of 6)

A New History Blog!

Relatively new on the Shuttersparks blog are the “On This Day” posts about important historical events in science and engineering. I started these here on my main blog but I see that these posts are going to drown out everything else. So, I’ve created a new blog just for these historical posts here: https://today.shuttersparks.net/

Consistent Forecast Temperature Error

A weather forecasting question:

For the past two months we’ve had one heat wave after another here in West Virginia. It’s been awful. High temperatures in the low 90s (Fahrenheit) with humidity giving a heat index around 100F. These conditions are 15 to 20 degrees above normal. Sometimes, it goes on for four or five days at a time without a single break. Then, there’s a one or two day break in the 80s, and then another heat wave. It’s now the middle of September, almost fall, and it continues. The forecast shows another heat wave next weekend, after the first day of fall.

An odd new thing I’ve never seen before that’s happening this summer is that forecast temperatures, both highs and lows, are consistently four or five degrees lower than the temperature actually reached. The forecast says 90, but it reaches 95. The forecast is 87, but it reaches 92. An error the other way around never happens.

As an engineer, I know that true errors are like noise and vary randomly to either side of the correct value. If the error is consistently to one side or the other, then there’s a systemic problem or calibration error.

Here’s the question. As an amateur meteorologist for over 50 years, this got me thinking. Long ago, before the powerful computer weather models of today, the historical average temperature was factored into a weather forecast. I don’t know if that’s still the case today. Might it be that I’m observing one of the effects of climate change? The climate is changing, today’s temperatures are above normal, and the historical weather data is biasing the forecast several degrees too low? Is that what’s going on?

I invite anyone who might know the answer to comment below. Thank you.

Those Tiny Bubbles When You Boil Eggs

If you’ve ever boiled eggs, you’ve surely noticed tiny streams of microscopic bubbles coming from various points on the eggs as the water heats up. I always figured this was dissolved air in the water and there were certain “flaws” on the shell that formed nucleation sites for the bubbles. This is a nice explanation but totally wrong. I’m an engineer, not a zoologist. The correct answer is quite amazing, even mind-blowing to an engineer. It’s also obvious once you know.

The truth is that bird egg shells are fabricated with microscopic breathing holes so the chick can breathe while it breaks its way out of the shell. Those tiny bubbles are air trapped inside the egg that expands when heated and streams out of the breathing holes. For me, learning this was a real “duh” kind of moment because long ago I wondered how the chick manages without air while it’s alive and breaking the shell. Magic? Nope, just Mother Nature’s engineering.

Patents

Announcing a new page. In recent weeks, my patent “legacy” has come into the conversation. Looking them up is clumsy and time consuming, so I gathered the most interesting ones and published them on a WordPress page here, along with PDFs of the full patents. Now, I can send just one link.

https://shuttersparks.net/patents/

A Walk Down Memory Lane

For Google Plussers Only

Once in a great while, I have a good idea at the right time. (Happens about once every ten years.) Thank goodness I had this one on April 1st, before Google+ started shutting down. I thought, hmm, I should take some screenshots so I can remember what G+ looked like — what it looked like, exactly.  Several times already, I have patted myself on the back for thinking of this and realized how angry I’d be if it had occurred to me after it was too late.

I did this with myself in mind, so in the future I can look at them and remember what was. Then I realized, if these are so important to me, I should publish them.

The work of the Archive Team rescued 98 percent of G+ profiles, which is fantastic. All this will be on the Wayback Machine in a few months. However, my experience is that material on the Wayback Machine doesn’t look exactly like the original. Everything is there, but for various reasons, the appearance is slightly “off”. I don’t mean this as a criticism. It is what it is and it’s wonderful. These screen captures below are not slightly off. They are exact.

For each thumbnail that you wish to view, click the thumbnail. It should open the image. Then click again on the image to increase it to original size.

Trigger warning: Google Plussers may find these images disturbing. They may make you cry and collapse in a quivering heap. Proceed at your own risk.

My Profile Page

Profile Page 2

Profile Page 3

Notifications 1

Notifications 2

Contacts 1

Contacts 2

Contacts 3

Circles

Collections 1

Collections 2

Collections 3

Collections 4

Browser Icon

#SignalFlare 1 on Android Mobile

#SignalFlare 2 on Android Mobile

Android Mobile Notifications

Android Mobile Contacts

And then…
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced.”
— Obi-Wan Kenobi

The End

Does Salt Raise the Boiling Point of Water?

I love cooking, I love eating, I hang around with foodies, and I work as a sous chef at a local restaurant. As a result, I’m tired of hearing that salt raises the boiling point of water.

Technically, yes. If you’re in a chemistry lab with precision instruments for measuring temperature, there is a small measurable effect. Any liquid’s boiling point will be affected by molecules dissolved in that liquid. In the case of salt and water in the kitchen, the effect is microscopic — smaller than the effect from changing your elevation above sea level by a couple hundred feet.

If you add a half pound of salt to a quart of water, you’ll raise its boiling point by 2 degrees C. If you add one tablespoon of salt to one quart of water, you raise the boiling point by 0.16 degrees.

Will that have any effect on cooking? No. So, please, just stop. Thanks.  😉

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