Backtalk - 3/06/08

March 6, 2008
The 139th Anniversary of the Cog Railway The Cog Railway, set in Mount Washington’s White Mountain National Forest, takes visitor’s back to 1869 and the era’s technology of toothed cog gears, rack rails, and titled boilers.

This engineering marvel was the first mounting-climbing cog railway developed when coal-fired dreams and steel rails mapped the course of civilization. The attraction is open year-round. For more information, go to

Paper airplane

The Japan Origami Airplane Assoc. and University of Tokyo researchers are developing a paper aircraft that can survive a flight from the International Space Station to Earth.

Strength and heat-resistance testing recently began on a 31-in.-long prototype in an ultrahigh-speed wind tunnel at the University of Tokyo’s Okashiwa campus. The Space-Shuttle-shaped origami glider has been treated to withstand intense heat and will be subjected to Mach 7 wind speeds (5,300 mph).

When reentering the Earth’s atmosphere, the Space Shuttle reaches speeds to Mach 20 (over 15,200 mph) and friction with the air heats the outer surface to extreme temperatures. Researchers say the much-lighter origami aircraft will come down more slowly, and is not expected to burn up on reentry.

No launch date has been set, but Shinji Suzuki, an aerospace- engineering professor at the University of Tokyo says, “We hope the space-station crew will write a message of peace on the plane before they launch it. We don’t know where in the world the plane will land, but it would be nice to send a message to whoever finds it.”

Blog bytes

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Vicki Burt - Career Talk
* Women Who Tech:
A TeleSummit for Women in Technology aims to create a supportive network for women in technology professions by giving them an open platform to share talents, experiences, and insights through virtual workshops and panel discussions. Any woman with a telephone who works in technology at a nonprofit, a political campaign or is interested in technology is invited to participate in this free, live event on March 31, 2008 from 11 a.m. to 6:15 p.m. EST.

* Worst employees of 2007: MSN Careers posted a list of bad employees who crossed the line this year and got caught. Examples include the postal carrier who kept greeting cards for the cash, the day-care center worker who locked a 14-month old in the building alone, and an employee who pushed his manager out of the way to get back pay out of the register. These people aren’t just bad employees, they’re bad humans!

From Leland Teschler
Stealing data from laptops with a can of air: Turns out you can read the contents of DRAM from a laptop for anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes after the machine is off. Blasting the chips with compressed air can slows the rate at which data decays. Of course, you need access to the machine either while it is on or shortly after it has been turned off for this scheme to work.

* The gravity-powered LED lamp: Here’s an interesting idea — The slow fall of a mass spins a rotor that powers 10 high-output LEDs. A Virginia Tech student made a lamp using this concept..

Ascending Jacob’s Ladder

The original Cog engine

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