Friday, April 18, 2008

Superconducting antennas, earthquakes, and other topics

Not sure where to put that 60-plus-foot long 40-meter dipole? If you don't mind a little baking and some liquid nitrogen, maybe you can use something shorter.

Seriously, it is very tempting to try this. Liquid nitrogen isn't that expensive, and making the YBCO ceramic high-temperature superconductor really isn't all that hard by the looks of it. (And then there's this story, which I don't particularly believe -- note the date -- but which is quite amusingly funny nonetheless.) Even if it's totally impractical, there's the sheer fun of making a superconductor in your own backyard. I mean, how can that not be cool? That's right up there with smelting copper in your backyard, something I'd also love to do but doubt would go over all that well with the local zoning ordinances. Not much hope of building any 1-nanometer transistors at home, though.

I'm still the newest Extra in region 9. Also on that page are some trendlines for overall licensing in the US. I'd hazard to guess that the elimination of the Morse requirements (in 2007) have helped boost numbers; the one year trend is positive, reversing the negative two year trend. (The previous two major changes in the licensing model were in 2002 or 2003, and in 1991; neither of these would lead to large numbers of expirations at the present time.) Still, the overall long-term trend is down. I blame the ubiquity of cellphones and the general disdain for engineering amongst Americans.

There was a Midwestern earthquake this morning, as I'm sure most of you have already heard from somewhere or another (such as this blog here, perhaps). Actually three earthquakes, apparently; two four seconds apart and another one some hours later. We get these every so often here, but not often enough that people have made smallish earthquakes a part of their daily lives the way Californians have. (Or Oregonians, for that matter.) And nobody predicted this one, the way the December 3, 1990 earthquake was. Except that there wasn't an earthquake then; this article on the media hype around completely bogus predictions is reminiscent of the same anti-intellectualism that underlies the disdain for engineering mentioned above and Wikipedia's inability to attract (or not chase off, at least) topical experts for complicated subjects like physics.

Two parting items for the day: Any cows who may be reading this may wish to avoid getting stuck under fences. And here's a small catalog of fashion don'ts to keep in mind, whether or not you happen to be a cow.