Thursday, September 22, 2011

Highest Mountain in the World: Mount Everest has some rivals !

Mount Everest
   Mount Everest from Gokyo Ri. ,
© by Grazyna Niedzieska

Mount Everest:
  The "Highest Altitude" 

Almost everyone knows that Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world and climbers from everywhere travel to Everest hoping to earn the distinction of climbing the "World's Highest".

The peak of Mount Everest is 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) above sea level. This high elevation gives Mount Everest the distinction of being the mountain with the highest altitude

highest mountain
An altitude of 8,850 meters (29,035 feet) makes
Mount Everest Earth's highest mountain.

Mauna Kea tallest mountain
      Mauna Kea - observatories in the Hawaiian snow
  © by Dan Schmitt

Mauna Kea:
  The "Tallest Mountain" 

Mauna Kea has an altitude of 4,205 meters (13,796 feet) - much lower than Mount Everest. However, Mauna Kea is an island and if the distance from the bottom of the nearby ocean floor to the peak of the island is measured, then Mauna Kea is taller than Mount Everest.

Mauna Kea is over 10,000 meters tall compared to 8,848 meters for Mount Everest - making it the world's tallest mountain. 

tallest mountain
Mauna Kea rises over 10,000 meters above
the ocean floor making it taller than Everest.

Mauna Kea tallest mountain
      Chimborazo mountain in Ecuador
  © by Loic Bernard

  "Highest Above Earth's Center" 

Chimborazo in Ecuador has an altitude of 6,310 meters (20,703 feet). Mount Everest has a higher altitude and Mauna Kea is "taller". However, Chimborazo has the distinction of being the highest mountain above Earth's center.

This is because Earth is not a sphere - it is an oblate spheroid. As an oblate spheroid, Earth is widest at its equator. Chimborazo is just one degree south of Earth's equator and at that location it is 6,384 kilometers from Earth's center or about 2 kilometers farther from Earth's center than Mount Everest.

Chimborazo is located near the equator where earth's diameter is greatest.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Simple Questions You Won't Believe Science Can't Answer - How a bicycle works

Bicycles have been around since the early 19th century, and its basic design has actually changed relatively little for almost 200 years. You always had two wheels, a frame to connect them and a handlebar for steering, and you required a person completely devoid of shame to ride on it.
It turns out skintight short-shorts are an improvement in bicycle fashion.
At the very least, you'd think that the guy who invented the damn thing knew what he was doing, but after more than a century of research, science has been forced to conclude that he was probably some kind of sorcerer. The first bicycles were invented, not through any kind of scientific procedure, but by dumb old trial and error. Even modern bike design schools admit that it's not engineering or computer knowledge that make a good bike designer, but instead "intuition and experience."
So, what happens when you ask scientists exactly what makes a bicycle stable? Or what keeps it going? Or how people ride them? Well, odds are they'll either nervously tell you that they have cookies in the oven and run out on you, or if they're honest, they'll give you a pretty big shrug. In fact, top bike researchers admit that, even though some people have come up with equations on how to ride a bike or how they think bikes work, those equations are pretty much fancy icing on top of a cake of cluelessness. One Cornell researcher even says that absolutely nobody has ever come to an intuitive understanding of what makes a bicycle do its thing.
Science: "We've narrowed it down to either spoke fairies or wheel fairies."
For ages, scientists assumed that the gyroscopic effect (the force that keeps a spinning top from falling over) was the key for a bike's balance. But nope! In the '70s, a scientist disproved that theory.
So then, scientists thought that the principal factor for a bike's stability was something called the caster effect, or trail (something to do with the front wheel's angle away from the frame). But just this year, top bikeologists from Cornell and other universities formed an angry scientific mob, then torched and pitchforked that theory as well. They did this by building a goofy-looking bike that has no gyroscopic effect and no trail, but manages to stay upright nonetheless.
Sam Rentmeester/FMAX
"Look, Ma! No physics!"
So scientists are essentially back at square one, as things such as steering geometry and the physics of stability are all going back to the drawing board. At least you can be secure in the knowledge that the humiliation you feel when you ride a bike is akin to the humiliation science feels when it's asked how a bike stays up.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Windows 7 Advanced Search Operators

Windows users are familiar with the not so perfect search utility in XP. Now with Windows 7 we have an ideal form of searching ability with Advanced Query Syntax (AQS). These are advanced operators that, when used correctly, make file searches easily on target. Windows 7 utilizes an Advanced Search option that can be used instead of Advanced Query Syntax. This was developed with the Windows Search tool as a part of the Windows 7 package. This can be accessed, in a basic sense, from the Start menu, or with Windows Explorer for a specified search in a particular folder or drive.
windows search

By using certain operators and searching syntax, AQS allows for a significant level of precision with search results. As long as you learn the operators, you will be able to find specific results rapidly. This syntax is a gateway to specified search parameters. This saves time and overall effort. When a file needs to be found, the basic Windows Search option will work, but generally you are presented with a list of possibly related files. You would have to sort through the search results list to find the right file. AQS hones this down and gives you the control to quickly find specific files and applications. The syntax is easy to learn and need only be applied to awaken the AQS potential within Windows 7.
As in the screenshot above, open a Windows Explorer window and search for a term. “Microsoft” was selected in this search and it was narrowed down to the Documents folder as the selected area for the search. The following screen shot is a search for “Reader” on the main hard drive (C :).
windows 7 desktop search

This comes up with many different files. This user is looking for Screen captures, so eliminating the term “Adobe” would be favorable in order to find an SC Reader file. Simply add a dash before words you wish to eliminate from the search results.
This yields all files without “Adobe” attached to the filename. The SC file was discovered, as were other important files that may be of use. The point is that the search option changed and the simple syntax entry of (-) before a term negation will alter the search parameters.
Similar to Google, if you want to search for exact phrases, use quotation marks. In this example, the user has documents on social commerce. Social commerce is entered in quotations in the search field.
desktop search

Apparently the file has multiple copies in a few different locations but it was found quickly nonetheless. Windows Search does not discern between letter cases, so the lettering in the search field is not case sensitive. These are the AQS operators involving text searches:
  • NOT/- : Using “not” in addition to a prefix dash tells the search to exclude items in the following term.
  • AND/+ : “And” and the prefix of the plus sign aims the search to solely include items matching both search terms.
  • Use quotes (“”) to filter for a specified term or phrase
You can take this even further by using search filters. You can search by Kind, Date modified, Type and Size.

Some alternatives to using the mouse include the following syntax:
  • search terms >mm/dd/yy
  • search terms datemodified:mm/dd/
  • search terms date:past month
This is just an introduction to Using Windows 7 Advanced Search Operators. There are many options for searching with syntax. Some examples include:
  • size:>=4mb < 12mb
  • modified:September…yesterday
  • type:music bitrate:>=180kbps
This is a phenomenal feature in Windows 7. The ability to use natural language in a GUI advanced search is definitely a wise addition to the geek toolbox.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Singapore lacking in innovation

Depending on who you ask, Singapore is either one of the most innovative countries in the world or underperforming in that aspect.

The 2011 Global Competitiveness Reportby the World Economic Forum clearly thinks Singapore falls in the latter category. While it scores highly for lack of corruption, government efficiency (1st for both), and infrastructure (3rd), it lags behind for adoption of latest technologies (10th), measures that support sophistication of companies (15th), and capacity for innovation (22nd).
But overall, it is still the second most competitive economy in the world, behind Switzerland.
This means that while Singapore is a great place to do business, firms here have not quite caught up with the world’s best when it comes to improving their own processes and developing more innovative products. Government operations, on the other hand, have been on the cutting edge of technology, scoring second globally in government procurement of advanced technology products.
The survey gathers over 13,000 valid responses from 142 economies, for an average of 98 respondents per country, and captures the respondents’ perceptions of their countries.
These findings are somewhat in agreement with INSEAD’s own Global Innovation Index, which ranks Singapore highly for investing resources into developing innovation but penalizes it for the creation of knowledge and the production of creative goods and services.
In fact, when comparing the dividends reaped with the investment made, Singapore ranks an inefficient 94th.
Despite this blemish, there’s a lot of good news for Singapore. The Global Competitiveness Report compares the country quite favorably against other innovation-driven economies. It’s just that Singapore falls short of its own lofty standards.
But the government has only just begun to recognize the important of innovation, and they are now earnestly encouraging firms to innovate by pumping in money to support entrepreneurs and increase productivity in the workplace. Time will tell if these measures have been effective.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Avoid 'Backup of' Files in iWork on OS X Lion 10.7

With AutoSave and Versions in Mac OSX Lion, iWork now creates a 'Backup of' file for every document you create in an iWork application. However, there is a very easy way to prevent this.

If you're tired of the backup files created by iWork, simply go to Preferences » General (in each of the iWork applications) and then uncheck 'Back up previous version when saving' and check 'Save new documents as packages.' This will maintain the data needed for Versions and AutoSave without cluttering up your Mac with duplicate files. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tips & Tricks: Using the new Subtotal function in Google spreadsheets

This week, we added the Subtotal function to our list of functions in Google spreadsheets. One of the benefits of the Subtotal function is that it works well with AutoFilters by only using unfiltered data when performing calculations (other functions such as Sum include filtered data calculations). Subtotal also lets you change what function you’re performing on those values very quickly, by selecting an item from a drop-down list. See our help article for details.

This versatile function is often used by accountants, finance professionals, and business consultants. It can also be extremely convenient for any user -- let’s show you why.

Say that you’re helping to plan your family’s annual Labor Day beach weekend. You want to decide how many hot dogs and veggie dogs to buy. To figure this out, you create a Google spreadsheet that includes all your family members, their meat preferences, and the number of hot dogs everyone ate at the past several family gatherings:

To quickly count how many veggie dogs you need to buy based off the number of veggie dogs eaten last month, add a filter to the columns , sort to “Yes” only in Column C, and type in this Subtotal function underneath the table:

=SUBTOTAL(109, F2:F14)

Cells F2 through F14 show the number of hot dogs each family member ate last month. “109” is the code that references the Sum function (“9” would also work). Typing in a regular Sum function in this case (=SUM(F2:F14)) would have added all dogs, veggie or not, whereas Subtotal ignores hodogs which have been filtered.

Another neat feature of the Subtotal function is that the function code (such as “109” above) can easily be changed to refer to different operations like Average, Minimum, and Maximum. As a result, Subtotal can be used to condense a number of calculations into a small space.

Let’s say you want to see not only the total number of hot dogs eaten each summer month, but also the average number eaten. Rather than creating two different functions (Sum and Average) for each month, you can use Subtotal.
  • In an open cell -- let’s use B15 -- you would create a drop-down list with the codes for the Sum and Average function (109 and 101 respectively).
  • And under the column for each month, you would write a Subtotal function, but reference cell B15 instead of typing in a code.
For June, therefore, your function would read: =SUBTOTAL(B15, D2:D14)

Every time you change which code appears in cell B15 through the drop-down, the values under each month will change, showing either the total or the average number of hot dogs eaten by your family with just one click.

We hope the Subtotal function makes your data analysis a lot easier -- and maybe even more fun.

Lai Kwan Wong, Software Engineer