Today in Science History -
Each week, for the sake of all avid cruciverbalists amongst us, I create a new
crossword puzzle using only words from my custom-created lexicon related to engineering,
science, mathematics, chemistry, physics, astronomy, etc. You will never find among the
words names of politicians, mountain ranges, exotic foods or plants, movie stars, or
anything of the sort. You might, however, see someone or something in the exclusion list
who or that is directly related to this puzzle's theme, such as Hedy Lamarr or the
Bikini Atoll, respectively ...
Electric Corporation has been manufacturing capacitors for more than a century - 109
years as of this writing to be more precise. That is utterly amazing, especially
since they still use the name of the company founder,
William Dubilier. In 1933, they merged with Cornell Radio to form Cornell-Dubilier
Electronics. If you have been in the electronics field for a while, you no doubt have
heard of their capacitors. In fact, William Dubilier was the inventor of mica-based
capacitors. According to this obituary in a 1969 issue of Radio-Electronics magazine
(he died on July 25th), Mr. Dubilier held 600 patents. I found a newspaper obit
that claims Dublilier was offered, but did not accept, a knighthood and pension for
life by the British as a reward for inventing a submarine detection ...
"Researchers have discovered that materials called
dichalcogenides can enable unprecedented computer speeds and memory
capabilities. While computers have come a long way since the early days of machines like
the Commodore 64 in terms of memory and performance, researchers are constantly seeking
ways to improve aspects of the technology. Now, researchers at Georgia State University
(GSU) have made what they think is a key breakthrough involving materials called transition
metal dichalcogenides (TMDCs). Specifically, they discovered that TMDCs possess
optical properties that could make computers run at unprecedented memory speeds ..."
Shipboard radio operators have been a crucial part of commercial
and military transport since first being implemented in the early 20th century. Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company's operators
(John "Jack" Phillips and Harold Bride) onboard the
RMS Titanic are credited for
saving the ship after it ran into an iceberg in the north Atlantic, as are the radio operators aboard the RMS Lusitania
after German U-boats mercilessly torpedoed it. Today's sailing vessels, as well as aircraft, are as reliant upon skillful
radio operators and radio equipment as back then. Much has been automated, but ultimately it is the human element...
The feature story in
the November issue of Microwave Journal is titled, "Defense Opportunities and Challenges in 2019." Most of the
mainstream electronics news focuses on commercial projects like cellular systems,
smartphones, WiFi, the IoT, and Bluetooth. Publications like
Aerospace & Defense
Technology and Military & Aerospace Electronics, as you might expect,
are just the opposite, but I digress. "The 2019 defense budget seems to have
something for everyone - including the first pay raise for troops in nine years - and
sailed through the House with a 361 to 74 vote and was signed by the President. It is
the first time in a decade this was achieved before the end of the fiscal year. By
any unit of measure, 2019 should be a good year for the RF and microwave industry ..."
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"MIT researchers have developed materials that
can potentially replace silicon for the future of
flexible electronics. Silicon is a good semiconducting material because
it's abundant and cost-effective. Yet researchers have been looking for alternative materials
that can perform even better for high-performance electronics. Researchers at MIT think
they can identify some of those alternatives with a new technique for fabricating ultra-thin
semiconducting films comprised of exotic materials other than silicon. The scientists
created flexible films from gallium arsenide, gallium nitride, and lithium fluoride.
They have exhibited better semiconducting performance ..."
Spectrum crowding issues began almost as soon
as wireless communications was started. Early spark transmitters spewed RF radiation
all over the place, and (nearly) filterless receivers picked it up to convert the simple
CW signals into dits and dahs from Morse code messages. As more people climbed onto the
radio bandwagon with ever increasing transmitter power levels and receiver sensitivity
levels, differentiating between desirable and undesirable signals became a frustrating
task - like trying to hold a conversation in a room full of yakking people. Filters on
transmitters and receivers provided much relief. User numbers continued to grow and phone
(voice) communications, which occupies a few kilohertz of bandwidth instead of only a
hundred or so Hz, started straining spectrum availability yet again. Newer modulation
techniques like single sideband freed up some space, but then the digital age came along
and started sucking up spectrum again. During the entire time, advances in electronic
always have been and always will be a daunting subject to a lot of people. For electronics
types, the issue of when to multiply the
logarithm of the ratio by 10 or by 20 seems to be the biggest stumbling
block. After many years of working with decibels, it becomes second nature. There are
still instances, though, where I see seasoned engineers and technicians routinely confuse
unreferenced decibel units (dB, the logarithm of a ratio) with logs of ratios referred
to some base value (dBm, dBV, etc.). The bel unit was originally created to quantitatively
assign changes in perceived levels of sound loudness...
"There's a serious cyber warfare problem that
may be affecting some deployed U.S. military and aerospace mission-critical embedded
computing systems, and nobody really wants to talk about it. It has to do with a computer
chip no bigger than a grain of rice that's suspected of being installed by Chinese intelligence
agencies on embedded servers made by San Jose, Calif.-based Super Micro Computer Inc.
tiny chips may be enabling China and other U.S. adversaries to monitor
the inner workings of military computers and the data they are processing. Super Micro
embedded computing servers are now, or in the past have been in use by some of the world's
largest corporations, including Amazon and Apple. They also may now, or in the past have
been in use ..."
Having been out of the RF system design realm
for a few years, I do not have much cause to think about
mixer spurious products anymore. I wonder these days how many designers even do much
in the way of frequency planning in conversion systems? Are the RF, IF, and baseband
frequencies as so well defined for most of what is done in the wireless world that all
the spurious product issues have been solved and there are few people who need to calculate
mixer spurious product frequencies and powers? If there is a need, what methods are currently
being used? Do you still cobble together spreadsheets and/or MATLAB worksheets using
equations like those presented here, do you have a favorite smartphone app, a compact
program on your computer, or are you using one of the two or three uber sophisticated
and super expensive design engineering programs ...
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"The technique makes metals smoother and more flexible
for better current flow throughout a metallic circuit. Cellphones, laptops, tablets,
and many other electronics rely on their internal metallic circuits to process information
at high speed. Current metal fabrication techniques tend to make these circuits by getting
a thin rain of liquid metal drops to pass through a stencil mask in the shape of a circuit.
But this technique generates
metallic circuits with rough surfaces, causing electronic devices
to heat up and drain their batteries faster. Future ultrafast devices also will require
much smaller metal components, which calls for a higher resolution to make them at these
nanoscale sizes. This requires molds with higher and higher definition ..."
are moving into the colder days of the year in the northern hemisphere. The normal high
temperature here in Erie, Pennsylvania is around 49°F (35° today with snow on the ground
for the last three days). It is the time of year that causes those less appreciative
of cold weather to conjure up memories of warm summer days with green leaves on tree
branches and colorful flowers in the garden. For those of you like me who actually prefer
the cooler weather, this
Carl & Jerry story about making snow by blasting clouds with ultrasonic energy
just adds to my appreciation of the onset of winter and visions of a white Christmas.
To date there has been no major, efficient progress in the field of snowmaking or rainmaking
(other than seeding clouds with silver iodide). Ski resorts still need sub-freezing weather
Paul Rako posted a great piece on the Electronic Design
website about University of Alabama professor Kenneth Kuhn's
HP Museum. If you
have a Pavlovian response at the mere mention of vintage HP test equipment, then you'd
better put on a bib before visiting his website. Be sure to see the
page. Says the good prof, "This web site is devoted to the history of test equipment
produced by the Hewlett-Packard Company which is now known as Agilent Technologies [Keysight
by now - KRB]. I own a huge collection of vintage Hewlett-Packard test equipment, catalogs,
equipment manuals, and Hewlett-Packard Journals. I also own probably one of the few still
existing HP210A square wave generators ..."
According to this 1972 article in Popular
Electronics magazine, cable television began around 1950. The system was very different
that what we have nearly 70 years later. The familiar acronym CATV does not stand for
CAble TeleVision, but rather
Community Access TeleVision. CATV, as originally implemented, was a means of bringing
broadcast TV to areas either too remote or too shielded from over-the-air (OTA) RF signals
to provide good signal reception. Depending on the need, CATV could range from re-broadcasting
of signals into targeted areas or sending signals through cable (originally unshielded)
to individual homes. As you might expect, opponents of the new system predicted that
such a scheme would eventually be the kiss of death for local broadcasters since large,
well-funded conglomerates would be able to dominate programming selection and dry up
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"Griffith University researchers have demonstrated
a procedure for making
precise measurements of speed, acceleration, material properties
and even gravity waves possible, approaching the ultimate sensitivity allowed by laws
of quantum physics. Published in Nature Communications, the work saw the Griffith team,
led by Professor Geoff Pryde, working with photons (single particles of light) and using
them to measure the extra distance travelled by the light beam, compared to its partner
reference beam, as it went through the sample being measured - a thin crystal. The researchers
combined three techniques - entanglement (a kind of quantum connection that can exist
between the photons ..."
Echo 1 was put into
orbit on August 12, 1960. This article was written 2½ years earlier in 1958 by Radio-Electronics
editor Hugo Gernsback. A technology visionary and prolific inventor and writer, Mr. Gernsback
astutely outlined the vast number of advantages that had already been and would in the
future be afforded the science community by virtue of a satellite's perspective from
space. Two of the Soviet Union's Sputnik satellites had revealed the surprisingly irregular
shape and gravitational influence of the Earth, information about the upper atmosphere,
and aspects of
space environment effects on radio communications. America was scrambling
to catch up. Gernsback and others postulated the configuration of active relay transceivers
powered by solar cells and storage...