3-D "Printers", Coming Soon Near You

We’ve talked about 3-D “printing” several times on the blog. Prices are dropping rapidly and they are becoming more and more common. Take a look at the “next big thing.”

It won’t be long before people have a 3-D printer sitting at home alongside its old inkjet counterpart. These 3-D printers, some already costing lessthan a computer did in 1999, can print objects by spraying layers of plastic, metal or ceramics into shapes. People can download plans for an object, hit print, and a few minutes later have it in their hands.
Call it the Industrial Revolution 2.0. Not only will it change the nature of manufacturing, but it will further challenge our concept of ownership and copyright. Suppose you covet a lovely new mug at a friend’s house. So you snap a few pictures of it. Software renders those photos into designs that you use to print copies of the mug on your home 3-D printer.
Did you break the law by doing this? You might think so, but surprisingly, you didn’t.

Medicine and the Legacy of Steve Jobs

An intriguing column from Forbes:


Certainly, hospitals could use the Jobs touch. In a stunning eulogy, Jobs’ sister Mona Simpson recounted how an intubated Jobs asked for a sketchpad in the ICU. “He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment,” she said. “He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. 


I have often said that airlines have the worst customer service with medicine second-worst. Apple’s solutions are elegant because they take charge of the entire customer experience (i.e., hardware, software, Apple store, etc.).

In medicine, it is the opposite. The ER nurses don’t communicate with the hospital nurses, the doctor doesn’t to bother to look at the form you laboriously filled out, etc., etc. The amount of wasted time is breathtaking and that translates into big dollars.

How Steve Jobs Made Weather Products Better

Macintosh computers at AccuWeather

The passing of Steve Jobs earlier this week hit me hard.

I’ve asked myself why and it was because the Macintosh and the company I founded, WeatherData, Inc., were so tightly linked for so many years.  With its unsurpassed graphics capability, the Mac allowed us to create full color weather packages for newspapers that were better and more timely than the newspapers could do for themselves. WeatherData grew rapidly as a result.

Even after I sold WeatherData to AccuWeather, the Mac continues both in AccuWeather’s Wichita and State College offices to create great graphics in our products. This blog is written on a MacBook Pro.

AccuWeather’s Grace Muller picks up the story.

Steve Jobs, Rest in Peace

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Steve Jobs has died. We offer our condolences to his family and friends.  

While most everyone associates Steve with Apple, his work at Pixar has cheered millions of children and adults throughout the world.

Mr. Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of technology. His contributions to our society and our world will be sorely missed.

Here is the tribute on Apple’s web site:

Apple’s statement:


Virginia Postrel wrote this excellent tribute in August, 2011:

“Businessmen,” Tom Wolfe tells the Wall Street Journal, “no longer have the conviction 
that what they’re doing is exciting and glamorous, which is, I guess, another 
way of saying intrinsically worthwhile.”
That was all about to change.
In the 1980s, entrepreneurs became heroes, celebrities and role models. The Apple whiz kids, 
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, were the new face of business.

Please read the whole thing


And, finally, Steve’s excellent commencement address to Stanford University. Well, well worth reading. 

Sometimes Good Can Come from Natural Disasters

Yet when describing what is commonly known as the Andover tornado, two prominent weather officials often use an unlikely word: lifesaver.

The tornado struck while a new radar system was being field-tested, and the radar performed so well that instead of being canceled it was approved for production, officials say.



It is hard to image that good can come from a major tornado. But, twenty years ago, the Andover tornado of April 21, directly led to the installation of the Doppler radar network that may have saved lives as recently as this afternoon in Georgia.

The story from the Wichita Eagle

Steve Jobs’ Resignation

I have been a huge fan of Apple and their products since the Lisa computer. We even had an Apple II in WeatherData’s original office 30 years ago.

I wish Steve well and thank him for his amazing accomplishments at Apple, NeXT, and Pixar. To have started just one of those companies would have given him a tremendous legacy. Three? Amazing.

Amazing Technology

Twenty years ago tornado footage was still rare. Today, you can track storms via the internet. Take a look at these images from 4:29pm.

Click to enlarge.

At left is a strong thunderstorm moving toward Pond Creek, Oklahoma. By going to www.severestudios.com you can watch images from their chasers. In this case, Jeffery Gonzales is showing the intense rain and hail (middle image) and you can see his location via GPS in the right image.

Just amazing.

Presentation by David Archibald

David provides his highly optimistic view of the future here. I had no idea the United States, for two years, had a military aircraft flying around with nuclear fuel. I also agree with him about thorium reactors.

While I do not agree with 100% of what he has written, I do agree that there is at least as much climate danger from cooling as warming.

Highly recommended reading.

Roadway Weather Information Systems

Have you ever wondered about the towers with mounted instruments along the sides of many highways? They are likely roadway weather instrument systems (RWIS) used by many states and cities to improve their response to winter storms.

In addition to sensing atmospheric conditions (temperature, wind, etc.), there is usually a nearby

Pavement sensor. Courtesy: Vaisala. 

sensor about the size of a hockey puck buried in the highway. It senses pavement temperature (above or below freezing is critical) as well as whether the pavement is wet and whether the chemicals used by highway departments are retaining their potency. The goal is to allow maintenance crews to stay ahead of the weather and winter driving problems. By indicating an additional application of deicing chemicals is not necessary, the systems save money.

Many states have web sites where this data can be accessed by the traveling public.  For example, Kansas’ is here. In questionable weather, these sites can be very useful.

Mobile Phone, 1964 Version

Click here.

I recently read on a blog about a family that intentionally kept their rotary dial phone in their kitchen to watch their teenaged son’s friends try to use it. He reported that most of the time the teenaged guests put their finger in the hole in the plastic dial and pressed.

Hat Tip:  Instapundit.