Something that mattered

I recently joined a Toastmasters club local to me, to improve my public speaking skills. In the educational pathways available, the first formal speech one gives is the "icebreaker", in which you speak for 4–6 minutes about a comfortable personal topic. Here is my icebreaker speech, which I accompanied with a slideshow of pictures as I spoke. Something that mattered Thank you, Mr Toastmaster, for the privilege of letting me introduce myself to this group. I'm going to share with you just one of many childhood interests that have played a large part in shaping who I am. That interest is flying. Flight in any form. It started when I was two years old, terrified of the monsters flying over our house who would eat me. Or so my parents told me; I don't remember it. We lived near the flight path of McClellan Air Force Base. My mother took me to the base to face my fears. She showed me that airplanes were machines that fly like birds, and that people fly them.

Elliptical-blade NACA airfoil propeller

You don't see aircraft with elliptical wings anymore. The most famous aircfaft with such wings is probably the Supermarine Spitfire fighter aircraft from World War II. Elliptical wings have the most uniform theoretical distribution of lift and therefore the least induced drag. In the case of the Spitfire, the gentle taper of the ellipse near the wing root also provided more room to mount weapons internally than a straight-taper wing, while providing an overall thinner, low-drag cross-section. However, with all curved edges, elliptical wings are expensive to construct. Of all the kinds of drag that a wing or propeller blade experiences, induced drag is an unavoidable price for lift. Induced drag has nothing to do with the drag created by surface area, surface roughness, or thickness of the airfoil. Induced drag depends on the planform shape of the wing. It is also inversely proportional to aspect ratio (the ratio of wing length to airfoil average chord length). The optimal and

Whose hands are biggest? You may be surprised.

A recent project to create an ergonomic handle for 3D printing led me down a path that introduced me to anthropometric measurements of the human hand, which in turn revealed some interesting facts about hand sizes. I had no idea that hand size is dependent on nationality, but I found a number of research articles on this topic. For those who don't want to read further, the answer to the title question is: Based on the data found, Filipino males have the biggest hands, by a significant margin. In fact, the margin is large enough that this population may be considered an outlier from the general human population with respect to hand size. Even Filipina females have larger hands than most males of other nationalities. On the other end of the spectrum, Vietnamese females and Indian females have the smallest hands. Now you can read on for the whole story, or you can skip down to the chart at the end. Idea for a toy My unintentional investigation into hand sizes started while de

It seems I created a meme

Back in July 2005 I became intrigued with crafting weird and improbable magical items for the amusement of my Dungeons and Dragons gaming group. At the time, I had also been employed in the defense industry for about half my life, working around various weapons systems. Naturally, these things came together in creating a couple of D&D weapons, one of which became a meme in both D&D and in engineering circles . It started like this. Gary, one of the other players in our group, sent out an email to the other players warning about a possible dirty trick that Ian (our Dungeon Master) might play on those of us playing characters who rely on magic and magical items: Conventional D&D wisdom states that placing a rod of cancellation into a bag of holding, handy haversack, or portable hole will destroy both items in a massive explosion. I dunno if Ian is going to spring this to annoy folks who are carrying too much equipment, but you may want to store unidentified wands outs

My favorite mathematical card trick

I learned this card trick in the fourth grade, decades ago, before the World Wide Web existed. I have never seen it written about, and anyone to whom I have shown it has never seen it either. This is surprising given how long I've known this trick. Did a brilliant classmate (or a parent) invent it? I'd love to know the origin. This is a mathematical card trick. Meaning, there is no sleight of hand, no actual trickery, just manipulation of playing cards that gives a surprising, final result. You can find many examples of mathematical card tricks on the internet; some of them appear downright magical and quite impressive. What the audience sees Here is how this trick appears to the audience. It looks like many steps, but they are easy to remember after you've practiced the trick even once: Starting with a deck of 52 cards (no jokers), you ask a volunteer from your audience shuffle the deck. You deal out the cards into seemingly arbitrary face-up piles, handing t

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