The question was posed…..

The question was posed in one of my many ‘think’ groups recently. “What’s your opinion of how the world started?” That was somewhat erroneous, especially when the person asking the question was really referring to how the universe was created.

Well, the answer is highly speculative, to be sure. There are several theories concerning the creation of our universe. I won’t go into any depth over the theories. That’s something best left to the individual to discover through their own questions and research.

I’m kinda partial to a cyclical Big Bang. One theory is that the universe expands and contracts, Big Bang/Big Crunch. But then how do we account for the increasing expansion of the universe? Well, maybe… it’s like a spring. The Big Bang is followed up, in time, with the subsequent Big Crunch. Just a thought…

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Life has interesting twists….

 

It’s been a lifetime… I was just a child, about seven years of age, back in 1976 when I left behind the country of my father. The story of why my family left the United States and moved to Colombia, and then returned to the United States two years later, is a convoluted one. Suffice to say, when we left, there were some hard feelings. I was too young to fully understand the dynamics and the depth at the time.

I had not heard from any of my Colombian relatives after our departure. It wasn’t that I had any choice in the matter, those were much different times and the ability to maintain contact was limited. I spoke almost no Spanish and they spoke very little English. What’s a seven year old to do?

Anyway, out of the blue about two weeks ago, I was contacted by a 2nd cousin through social media. He was intent on finding his ‘American cousins’. He reached out… and after a few questions about common relatives, came to the conclusion that yes, we were related. Forty-one years… how does one make up for the passage of time?

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Science Olympiad Project build – Hovercraft

It’s a new year and the Science Olympiad is starting to ramp up! I’ve noticed a fair amount of traffic on last year’s Science Olympiad posts. I’m assuming that, like me, there’s a lot of unknowns and questions when one first embarks on building the hovercraft, hence the uptick in traffic.

Last year, the hovercraft competition was introduced as a new division. There was a lot for us to learn. We went through trial and error to end up with the hovercrafts we eventually entered into competition. The same can be said of the materials needed to prepare our competitors for the test portion of the competition. That meant we had to be flexible… with our study materials as well as our hovercrafts.

***Please check for updated rules before starting your builds!***

Here are a few pointers to help guide you in the right direction, and hopefully, to a successful build. You must always keep in mind the parameters of the build… the weight, size limits, etc. All of these constraints should be plainly stated in the build guidelines and on the national Science Olympiad website. Here, I’ll add a word of caution, the hovercraft listed for sell on the Science Olympiad website is only useful for demonstration purposes. The craft is not suitable for competition. This is because it lacks several key elements. It does not have a barrier to protect fingers from touching the prop, it is way too light, and not easily adaptable (I’ll explain this in detail later in this post).

Our parameters for the 2016-2017 Science Olympiad stated that our vehicles had to be between 15 cm to 30 cm in length. Height had to be less than 20 cm. The length could could not change during the run and had a weight limit of 2,000 grams. Propellors had to be shielded and not extend beyond the track’s side rails. Other vehicle limits are stated but not important at this stage in the development of your basic craft.

What should your craft look like? Well, we know the minimum and maximum lengths… as well as the width (determined by the track rails)… so, I would suggest that you try to get as close to those maximum dimensions as possible in terms of overall size. This is because if you make it too narrow and/or not long enough, the craft will tend to get cocked sideways as it travels down the course, creating drag and slowing down your runs. You should also keep in mind the skirt of your craft in relation to your hovercraft’s platform. The skirt usually extends beyond your hovercraft platform. If that’s the case and your platform is to the maximum size restriction, you may be disqualified from competing. To be safe, allow about an inch per side for the skirt. Make your hovercraft’s deflated skirt just under your size restriction. This will help keep your craft in compliance.

Another feature of your hovercraft build, and this is key, is the adaptability of your craft. As I stated earlier, we had to learn via trial and error. What we initially did not know during the first trials, was that we would be given a target time to achieve. So, if you’re trying to obtain a target time and your motor is not capable of being regulated, you must be able to add or subtract weight to your craft to reach the target times. By adding weight, you make the craft go slower down the track. Removing weight allows it to travel faster. Keep in mind, the heavier your craft and the closest to the target time, results in the highest scores.

 

Here is a craft that was entered in last year’s competition by one of our teams. It contains features I mentioned. Notice the corners of the craft… it is capable of adding on or removing weight depending upon the time target needing to be achieved. The front weights also overhang the edges of the craft for a reason… they act as bearings, allowing the slightly undersized craft to engage the track walls without creating drag.

The design of the craft also allowed for the regulation of airflow downward as well as rearward. This was accomplished in two ways. One, the shunt that directed air downward was adjustable. Note the small holes on the side walls of the shunt. They’re spaced evenly and the shunt can be locked into place with a pushpin on both sides. Two, the housing containing the motor and propeller is also capable of being adjusted, directing air flow to the shunt or over it as needed.

As you build your craft, keep in mind your weigh restrictions and weigh the craft regularly. Your battery weight is also important. Different brands, sizes, etc., all have differing weights. These should be noted. Once you’ve build your craft, you should do a few test runs on your own track and keep detailed notes on the placement of the weights of each craft and the battery size, weights configuration, etc. as you go. By tracking the weight of your craft and the time it takes to complete a ‘run’ down the track, you can create a chart to quickly dial in your craft once the judges release the target time to the teams at the competition. It will save you valuable time in trying to calculate the optimal weight to reach the desired time. These charts should be specific to each team vehicle.

Here are a few specs of the pictured craft:

The weights used are 33.3 grams each.

The craft weighed 399 grams using a 450 mAh battery.

It was 408 grams using a 800 mAh blue battery.

And 414 grams using a 800 mAh black battery. (6 grams difference!)

The craft using the 800 mAh blue battery with to disc weights = 480 grams.

Craft with 4 disc weights = 547 grams.

Craft with 6 disc weights = 614 grams.

Craft with 8 disc weights = 680 grams.

As you can see, the craft was capable of adding/subtracting weights as needed. Keeping your craft very light gives you more latitude playing with the weigh ratios. The setup of the craft, in conjunction with the propellor and battery pairing, had more than enough power to lift the vehicle and rapidly run down the track. In fact, without any weights on the craft, it would flip itself over as soon as it was turned on.

 

For additional information and questions, I’ve found this site to be useful.

https://scioly.org/forums

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What’s the point?

The conversation had returned to the question that had originally brought us together… “What’s the point?” Meaning, why does any of this matter? In the end, nothing we do really amounts to much.

From the perspective of the individual, we’re connected to one another via three or four generations, at any given point in time. Beyond that, people exist only as names in a grand story in which we may or may not play a part. This human story, in a manner of speaking, has been going on for hundreds of thousands of years. So, what’s the point?

It was suggested that perhaps, as a means of creating a purpose… and as a consequence thereof… that volunteering in some fashion may give more meaning to our lives. It was an interesting proposition but not one I hadn’t already contemplated. Sure, helping out by ‘giving back’ to others is a great and admirable thing to do, but it doesn’t do anything that will ultimately make much of a difference. The feelings we have when we help others are only that… feelings… and thereby, self-serving. Perhaps I’m being a bit too cynical? This very question is something I struggle with on a regular basis… finding a point to life.

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What do you think about when you’re by yourself?

What questions come to mind when you’re alone? Are they based upon regrets? Joys? Or, just what’s currently going on in your day?

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Something to contemplate

 

What is the purpose of our existence? Are we just the latest in a long line of organisms to have mastery over the Earth? Do we even matter?

Evolutionary timeline:

The universe, based upon the recession of distant galaxies, is approximately 13.8 billion (13,800,000,000) years old. Our solar system and the Earth, 4.57 billion years old.

Our solar system and the Earth, 4.57 bya.

Earliest life (single cell) on Earth, 4.25 bya.

Multi-cellular (cyanobacteria-like) life began 3.0 to 3.5 bya.

Ozone layer develops 600 mya.

Earliest known animal footprints on land – 530 mya.

Earliest dinosaurs – 225 mya.

Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction event, wiping out most dinosaurs – 66 mya. This event gives rise to the dominance of mammals.

First hominins – 4 t0 13 mya. The divergence of the Pan (chimpanzee) and the Homo (human) occurred during this time. The Hominini was the last common ancestor of both the Pan and Homo lines.

Homo Habilis (Africa) – 2.6 mya. Habilis are thought to be the first Homo to use tools (2.3 mya).

Homo antecessor (Spain)- 1.2 mya

Homoheidelbergensis (Europe, Africa, and China) – 600 kya

Neanderthals (Europe and Western Asia) and Denisovans (Russia) – 350 kya to 28 kya

Anatomically modern humans appear in Africa – 250 kya to present.

The genetic ‘bottle-neck’ – 70 to 90 kya. Homo sapiens numbered very few and we almost went extinct.

Modern humans start to migrate out of Africa.

 

Ok, that was quite a lot to digest without losing interest. But, consider this; at what point did we gain a soul, if we do in fact have souls? When did we develop consciousness? When did we ‘leave the safety of trees’ and venture out as ‘land walkers’?

In the evolutionary timeline presented above, modern humans have been walking the Earth 250,000 years or so. We’ve taken many baby steps as a species. In the last 130+ years, we’ve accelerated those steps… going from the invention of the car to a man-made probe entering interstellar space.

Are we alone? Are there other life forms in the universe? Are we unique? With trillions upon trillions of planets out there in billions of galaxies, it’s doubtful we’ll ever know for sure. Even if we were to detect life in a nearby solar system (Alpha Centauri), it’s still 4.3 light years away. The fastest outward-bound spacecraft (Voyager 1), has covered 1/600 of a light year since it’s launch 30 years ago. That means that a trip to Alpha Centauri would last 80,000 years. Would those life forms still exist once we’ve arrived?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2017 American Mensa AG! FireHouse Special!

This year’s American Mensa AG is was held in Hollywood, Florida at the beautiful Diplomat Beach Resort. With nearly a thousand Mensans worldwide registered to attend this event by March, it was certainly shaping up to be a large party!

Within the Mensa organization is a FaceBook group called American Mensa FireHouse (1,575 members strong). Members of the FireHouse are known affectionately as “FireHosers”. Mensans from all over the world are welcome to join the FireHouse. Here are a few of the pics from this year’s annual gathering featuring FireHouse members.

The FireHouse!

 

Angie and Kash

 

Bethany and Erin

 

Cat

 

Diann and Kash

 

Erin and Bjorn

 

Erin and Jacek

 

Erin

 

The Boob Court

 

In memory of Marc Lederman

 

Johnnelle and Erin

 

Kash and LaRae (Mensa Chair… go LaRea!)

 

Lily and Erin

 

Jam session (Chad on the guitar and Seongtaek at the piano)

 

Seongtaek playing

 

Susan and Erin

A gift from the FireHouse

Laura and Taz

 

Therese Erin and 杨冰阳 (Aya)

 

 杨冰阳 (Aya) ready for a swim!

Johnnelle

Laura and Kash

 

Sexy Hottie (Joyce) with another sexy hottie (Laura)

Group pic!

Johnnelle and Bethany

Jason with Penn and Teller (Keynote Speakers)

Jennifer with Penn and Teller

Jimmy, Taz, and Jason

Michael

Penn and Teller

Bjorn

Touchy subject…

 

Carole and Sobeq

 

Gala dinner

 

Erin and Ellen

 

Erin and Ellen

 

Erin and Harriet

 

Erin and Kelli

 

Erin, Michael, and Johnelle

 

Kash and Kurt

 

Laura, 杨冰阳 (Aya), and Bjorn

The Airing of Grievances 2017

 

Andre hard at work

 

FireHosers 2017

 

Laura and Rob

 

Laura and Tony

A picture is worth a thousand words!

Naughty girl!

Thierrion and Bethany

Seongtaek and Bethany

Timmy and Stacey (Who says you can’t pick your friend’s nose???)

 

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San Diego Mensa uRGe 2017, aka “Nerd Camp” (26 May – 29 May)

The San Diego Mensa Regional Gathering kicked off today at 3 pm and runs through Monday, ending at 1 pm. The event is being held this year in Palm Springs, California.

The event theme this year is “Midnight at the Oasis”

Mensans from all walks of life will be in attendance. We have lawyers, authors, Armed Service members (current and retired), professors, artists, physicists, engineers, IT professionals, and even a sitting judge!

 

Movies being shown are:

Friday evening – Hidden Figures

Sunday evening – Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Here are a couple of items that may be useful…

RGlineup2017 Agenda for 2017 San Diego Regional Gathering

Agenda for 2017 San Diego Regional Gathering

 

I’ll post stories and pictures, time permitting, as the RG unfolds.

FRIDAY – 26th

Registration

Margie and Dave Bowles manning the registration area.

 

Lots of fun Friday! Following registration, the day was filled with the laughter of old friends and new alike. Card and board games were enjoyed by many and puzzles were pieced together into the wee hours of the morning.

 

SATURDAY – 27th

Activities and conferences!

Very interesting seminar given by H. Stanley Jones covering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator  (MBTI). Upon completion of the MBTI worksheet and further analysis,  Mr. Jones will personally email the results to seminar attendees.

 

Bob Tutleman’s Sing-a-long!

Really enjoyed Bob Tutleman’s Sing-a-long. As always, it was a great performance! Thanks, Bob!

The Mensa Song – https://youtu.be/GQYBKeRTwEM

 

Again, more games! Games are a big part of AGs and RGs!

 

Sunday – 28th

The day was filled with games and shared fun, discussions, and testing applicants for Mensa. RGs and AGs are a time to make new friends. The American Mensa Firehouse was well represented! I personally counted 9 members in attendance. The ‘award’ for the farthest traveling Mensan in attendance goes to… Laura Ingram, who flew in all the way from Indonesia! Congrats!

Two Firehouse members are shown below.

Carole Lane (L) and Laura Ingram (R)

Later in the evening, several of us Mensans went to Toucan’s Tiki Lounge to see the “Drag Revue”. If you have to ask…

Anyway… there has to be a punch line in there some where… “10 geniuses walk into a gay bar…”  Yeah, I need to work on that one.

Monday – 29th

The end has come, as all things must. Time to say our goodbyes and fond farewells. Until we meet again…

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Sometimes a Blog Post Writes Itself…

Recently, I was talking to a co-worker about a picture I had run across on FaceBook.

He thought it was funny and asked, ‘Are all of you guys crazy?’

‘No’, I replied but then went on to expand upon my answer. I explained that we’re pretty much like everyone else, but a little more intense.

‘What do you mean?’ he asked.

‘Well, a lot of us are very knowledgeable in very specific areas… more so than the average person. We tend to research things that we’re curious about, in order to learn or gain a better understanding about a subject matter. And many of us are quite passionate about our points-of-view. Sometimes that passion is mistaken for being crazy. But that’s not to say some of us aren’t ‘touched in the head’, I said smiling.

‘So, some of you are mentally unstable?’ he prodded.

I did my best to answer… ‘Of course! It just stands to reason that a certain percentage of any population will have problems… whether it’s mental illness, specific health issues, and so on and so forth. I’ve read articles that attribute a higher instance of mental illness to highly intelligent people and I’ve read articles that say there’s no correlation between the two. I think it has a lot to do with how people identify and deal with potential mental health problems. That’s true for the super smart people and those who aren’t.’

‘Alright. Answer me this. Looking at the scale, where are you? he asked.

‘Oh, dude… you really don’t want to know!’ I remarked, laughing… and walked away.

 

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Misfit Toys

I’ve struggled with depression over the course of my life. There, I said it.

Depression was something I had always regarded as a sign of being mentally weak. To counteract my depression, I pushed through it by ignoring the emptiness… the despair… and tried to replace those feelings with a series of intimate relationships. The net result, aside from the countless notches on my headboard, was unhappiness. But I didn’t really have great coping skills in my youth either.

Today, it’s much different. I’ve learned to cope with depression in other ways. I’ve tried my hand at writing, a little sculpting/drawing, and devoting more time to my lifelong interest in learning more about world history. I find that filling my time with activities tends to limit the frequency and intensity of my bouts with depression. But there’s also a big downside to this approach. I usually get less than 4 hours of sleep a day… sometimes it’s as little as an hour. That can only go on so long before my body is exhausted. At some point I have to crash… sleeping for many hours at a time, trying to ‘catch up’. It cannot be good for my overall health.

It’s common for people who are experiencing difficulties in their lives to seek out religion. It’s not that I lack spirituality as much as it is not believing in organized religion to begin with. Religion provides people with a sense of belonging, comfort in times of crisis, hope for a better future, and reward in an afterlife. Not being a religious person, and not believing in an afterlife, there’s really no reason for me to adhere to any sort of moral compass or by societal standards… aside from creating pleasant living conditions for myself and my family. Let’s face it. The reality is that in order for many of us to be successful in life, we must adhere to certain standards, societal and otherwise.

Does that mean I can do anything I damn well please without concern for any repercussions? Absolutely not. I find that I’m still guided by a strong sense of what I consider right and wrong… good versus evil… and an obligation to others who depend upon me in the context of a family member, friend, or co-worker.

But, I do find myself wondering at times why any of it matters? I don’t believe in a god or gods. And if there aren’t any gods, then the concept of good and evil or right and wrong, are really just social constructs. All of it is then relative. The obligations that I feel towards others is, more or less, limited to my immediate family and close friends. And, as a very introverted person, my circle of friends is quite small.

I’ve reached a point in my life that I’m no longer too concerned in how others view me on a personal or professional basis with the exception of my family and close friends. Sure, I want people to like me but I won’t work for their approval. It either exists or it doesn’t. A sense of complacency now defines that part of my life.

That complacency, in conjunction with intervals of moderate/severe depression, have given me periods when I experience a complete lack of passion for life… a lack of empathy towards my fellow man… and that scares me. I know it isn’t healthy. Being the type of person that I am, I analyze myself constantly… my goals, my beliefs, and my obligations. But in the midst of an episode of depression, I wonder again… ‘why any of it matters?’

 

 

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