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DIY bread-board power supplies.

These look fun. Perfect for an EE 333 project or maybe even something for Audio Club.


Chip start-ups are back in vogue.

The integrated circuit business has always been huge, but in recent years, little start-up money has gone to new IC companies because the vested players (Intel, Micron, Texas Instruments, etc.) are all too big and the start-up costs can be astronomical. (It costs several billion dollars to build a modern chip factory.) But there is a new market to be conquered — artificial intelligence encoded in hardware — and the venture-capital kids are back in the game.


52 places to go in 2018.

The NY Times' annual list of "places to visit". Some of them look pretty cool. (And I would say that a few are lame, but what do I know?) Save up your money, buy some tickets, and hit the road.

Note: The web page seems to be set up to work best on a phone. When I tried looking at it my computer, the navigation was very clunky. Not good design.


Happy Birthday, Hamilton.

Historical trivia: Today is the birthday of Alexander Hamilton. He would be 263 today if he hadn't been gunned down by Aaron Burr. Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis and as a young man emigrated to New York to embark on an eventful life that culminated in becoming one of the founding fathers of the United States, promoter of the Constitution, and first Secretary of the Treasury. (And, of course, star of Broadway plays.) Nevis is one of the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean. It is now part of the nation known as the "Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis", and it would probably be included in the league of "shithole countries" as defined by our modern "stable genius". It's a good thing that Hamilton emigrated when he did — he might not make it now.


EE 432/532.

For anyone that might be interested and still have room in their schedule, there is still space available in EE 432/532. These classes cover semiconductor fabrication technology — how to build chips. This is a fun class for a couple of reasons: 1) You actually get to build something, in this case a silicon wafer with transistors and some simple circuits. 2) You combine all sorts of interesting topics in ways that you don't see in many other classes — things like semiconductor physics, transistors, chemistry, optics, vacuum systems, characterization, and simulations. There is also a hint of danger with the lab, as we use all kinds of nasty chemicals that would dissolve you into a puddle of goo like one of Heisenburg's enemies from Breaking Bad, furnaces that would fry you like a dragon victim from Game of Thrones, and every day there is a chance of an explosion, particularly if I happen to be your lab instructor. (Of course, I exaggerate — slightly.) More than a few students have parlayed this class into jobs with companies like Micron, Intel, and Texas Instruments.

The downsides are the pre-requisite of having completed or currently being enrolled in EE 332 and a fairly steep lab fee. (Although you probably get your money's worth — at the very least you get a lab coat, lab goggles, and your own hand-built silicon wafer. Making integrated circuits is not a cheap process.)

EE 432 and EE 532 are, by and large, the same class. They have the same lecture time and the labs are run in common. EE 532, of course, is intended for graduate students, and it requires some extra work (homework, projects, etc.) beyond EE 432.

I don't really need any more students this semester — there are already about 275 enrolled in my various classes — but 432/532 lecture was moved at the last minute, and it's possbile that some people were not able or willing to make the switch, leaving a few more open spots than normal.


2017 – the best year ever.

As he wrote a year ago, Nicholas Kristoff shows that the world, over-all, is getting better all the time — less poverty, less disease, longer life-spans, more education. In Americans' self-centered point-of-view, everything seems to be coming unglued as our government increases inequality and makes plans to ravage the environment, and two doofuses with really bad hair-dos argue over who has the bigger "button". But in many, many places in the world, where most of the people have never heard of — or care about — Donald Trump, things are demonstrably better. We should hang our hats on these hopeful observations, and grit our teeth in order to get through the next one or three years of domestic nonsense.


More places to visit.

Travel recommendations from National Geographic. A few are standard places, but many are off-beat and seem very interesting.


Australian dog sledding.

This is an awesome dog. Australian shepherds are smart and can be very OCD. Occasionally, we dog-sit for a friend's Aussie, and all he ever wants to do is play catch with his Frisbee.


Norway is leading the way.

In Norway last year, all-electric and hybrid cars outsold conventional fossil-fuel cars.


National Trivia Day.

Today is "National Trivia Day" — Who gets to decide this, anyway? — and MentalFloss provides 60 trivia facts that can used in preparation for your next trivia match. My favorites: The one about the Finnish cell phone throwing contest and the one about physicist Niels Bohr.

Side Note: Our McFly's trivia team has two first-place finishes in a row, including the much-coveted trifecta last time. We are heartened by the wins, because prior to the victories we had fallen into a many-weeks long string of second-place finishes. We had despaired of possibly becoming the trivia versions of the Minnesota Vikings or the Buffalo Bills. (Any good trivia player know what I'm referring to.) But, it looks like we may be getting our mojo back.


Bike Rage.

At various times while out on my bike, I've had thoughts similar to those of the bicyclist in the video. However, I wasn't carrying the same armaments, which was probably a good thing. I'm sure the whole thing in the video was staged, but it's still pretty funny. Somehow, it seems appropriate that all of the shouting is in Italian.

My senior design team for this year is working on a bike gizmo that might give riders a better chance to survive encounters with careless drivers. It is a LIDAR-based sytem to warn a biker when a car is approaching from behind. Maybe next year we will have to take a cue from the video and have an SD project that takes a more offensive-minded approach.


The top 10 stats of 2017.

An odd collection of statistical factoids. Via Robert Samuelson, an economics columnist at the Washington Post.


Cool Jobs.

I ran into former student Nick Juelsgaard (BSEE 2017) at a restaurant tonight. He had taken EE 201 (F2013) and EE 230 (S2014) with me and then specialized in control systems on his way to completing his degree. Next week, he is heading to Hawaii to begin working as a control systems engineer at the Keck Observatory at the top of Mauna Kea. (Basically, he will be working at the top of a volcano.) The two telescopes there are the biggest in the world (at least for now). Nick will be working on the systems that control the movement of the telescopes as they track the sky during observations. He will also work on the control systems for the adaptive optics of the multi-element mirrors in the telescopes. What a cool job! Congratulations to Nick on landing it.

I have always been interested in astronomy and seriously considered majoring in it when I first came to ISU. At that time, space science seemed to be in a bit of a lull — after the end the Apollo moon missions and before the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope — and the job prospects were iffy, at best, so I opted for EE. Now astronomy is one of the most exciting things happening (IMHO). The change came in the early 1990s, with the initial confirmations of exoplanents. Now there are thousands of known planets outside our solar system. Finding exoplanents is a first step towards answering that most fundamental of questions: Is anyone else out there? Now that astronomers know better where to look, they can further develop their observational tools and techniques to try to determine if anything is "alive" on one of those alien worlds. The next couple of decades will be exciting times in the astronomy business. Finding life in another part of the universe would change everything about how humankind views itself. (Or at least it should. Probably one-third of Americans won't believe it, even if the evidence is irrefutable — they have been hornswoggled into thinking that all science is "fake news". Sigh — hopefully, someday things will be better.) Anyway, Nick will get to a play a role in this great search. Good luck to him!


EE Christmas.

My kids know what to buy me for Christmas.