Thursday, July 11, 2024


Eye of Horus
The other day I was looking at one of my prescriptions (my inhaler for my COPD), and I noticed it had written on it "Rx only." Which I knew meant "prescription only." 

I've probably seen that Rx thing all my life and knew since I was a kid that it meant "prescription." But on that day, I thought, "Why does 'Rx' mean 'prescription'?" I'd literally never thought about. But prescription doesn't start with "r" and has no "x" in it. Why?

Well, Google to the rescue....

Sort of. When I googled "Rx" I got a lot of sponsored links to places wanting to sell me prescription medicine. But I finally found the answer.

One source claims it goes back to the Egyptian Eye of Horus, "a powerful symbol associated with protection and healing was used in medicinal and protective contexts."

In Latin, the word for "take" is "recipe" (that's interesting in of itself). As in "take this stuff to feel better." The word "recipe" was shortened to "Rx." Which makes a lot more sense than shortening prescription to "Rx." 

In medieval times, the "Rx" was stylized as we still see it today:

What do you think of "Rx" meaning prescription? Does it make sense now? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Check Your Tire Pressure!

Happy Independence Day! Which just happens to fall on the fourth of July.

My wife got a new car. It's a PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle) which is great for her because she normally just drives around town but occasionally goes farther. She can run on electricity in town but has a gas engine if she needs to go farther than the battery can take her.

The car comes with an app for her phone and she was showing me stuff in the app and I noticed the tire pressures were over 50 psi. I wondered if that could be correct. Maybe hybrids have higher tire pressure to reduce rolling resistance. But, no. She checked the sticker on the driver-side door frame, and the correct pressures were 32 in front, 35 in back. 

I don't know if it came from the factory at 50 psi (I doubt it) or the dealership did that (probably). But that was ridiculous. (Some mechanics will fill the tire to its maximum pressure, not to the correct pressure.)

Correct tire pressure will give you longer tire life, better handling, and better gas mileage.So the first thing we did the next morning was set the tire pressures at the right level.

Listen folks: set your tire pressure. Buy a good tire pressure gauge and use it:

1) at least once a month

2) after getting any tire work done (new tires, rotation, etc.)

3) apparently now, after buying a new car. Or at least new to you car.

4) after getting maintenance done by anyone. Anyone.

Check tire pressures in the morning before you drive the car at whatever the ambient temperature is. Try to do it in the shade so heat from the sun isn't warming up the tires. If your tire pressure is high, let some air out. If it's low, unless you have a source of compressed air at your house, you'll need to go somewhere to get air. This will skew your readings but it's better than nothing.

Here is more information about tire pressure.

But please, check your tire pressure.

Thursday, June 27, 2024

AI Girlfriends

The other day I heard on the news that someone is predicting that AI girlfriends are going to be a billion dollar industry. So I googled the story and found it. And in the article it says a man is spending $10,000 a month ($120,000 a year) on his AI girlfriend. And he loves doing it. 

I remember in the 2001 movie A. I. Artificial Intelligence that a man killed his wife for having an affair with a male sexbot. But if you add AI girlfriend (or boyfriend) to a realistic robot... that's what you have.

The AI girlfriend ads I have seen on Facebook have slowed lately. Maybe they got as many suckers as the algorithm could handle.

So you could have a perfect girlfriend that never ages, never gets fat, never gets sick, never gets pregnant, and never nags or argues. And never divorces you and take half your assets. If you tire of her, you can just trade her in for a new model, sort of like a car.

And we thought the US was having fertility problems now! Once again, Futurama predicts the future.

I kind of see the appeal of an AI girlfriend but I think (at least. until sexbots are perfected), you'd miss the touch of human flesh. 

What do you think of AI girlfriends? The future of mankind or will they just appeal to some people? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere). It'll happen at 20:51 UTC (1:51 PM PST or 4:51 PM EST). 

But what is a "solstice"? Well, "sol" is Latin for the sun. The actual name of the sun is "Sol." "Stice" come from Latin to make stand, or stop. So it means "sun stopping." The same root, by the way, is used in armistice. That is, arms (weapons) standing.

The summer solstice is when the sun stops moving north. It halts its northern progress at the Tropic of Cancer. On the Summer Solstice it is directly overhead of the Tropic of Cancer. This is partially how Eratosthenes measured the circumference of the Earth in 240 BC with surprising accuracy.

This Summer Solstice is the earliest in 228 years. And over the next 72 years, the solstice will get progressively earlier every four years. This happens not because of some cosmological reason, but how we humans measure time. Our calendar does not exactly line up with astronomical events. 

Read more in depth about it here.

Some people call the Summer Solstice "the longest day." This is not exactly accurate. The day is still (pretty close to) 24 hours long. What it is is that, in the Northern Hemisphere, it is the day with the most hours of daylight. How much daylight depends on your latitude. The farther north you are, the more daylight you will have. If you are at or above the Arctic Circle, you'll have at least one day where the sun never sets. 

Some people ascribe special meaning to the solstice. But it really means nothing more than the tilt of the Earth's axis causing the seasons. On the summer solstice, the axis is leaning toward the sun at the north (and away at the south). 

Do you have any plans for the summer solstice? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Space Missions I'd Like to See

I'm getting older. If I live another 20 years I'll be lucky. But there is still so much to learn and see. I'd love to see some of the following space missions happen before I go. (Some of these may be actually planned; I don't keep up on all the space agencies' projects.)

A mission to Europa (moon of Jupiter) to see if there is life under the ice. Same with Encladus (moon of Saturn). Both would involve somehow drilling through layers of ice (10 to 15 miles in the case of Europa). Or maybe they could use radar to see if something is swimming under the ice. 

A mission to Titan (moon of Saturn) to see what if anything is swimming in the methane lakes. Maybe a submarine.

A manned mission to Mars (this is in the works, I know).

The launch of a fast probe to the Alpha Centauri system to look for life. Like maybe it travels at 0.1% the speed of light. I'd never see it arrive because it would take about 400 years to get there. Don't ask me where the energy will come from to propel a probe that fast. (Yes, this was inspired by 3 Body Problem.)

Are there any space missions you'd like to see? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, June 6, 2024

Disneyland Canoes

Not Disneyland Canoes
My wife and I have twice gone to Disneyland without kids. The first time was in 1986 before we had any kids. I was in the Army stationed at the Presidio of Monterey and driving to Los Angeles wasn't a big deal. 

On that trip, we (probably me) decided to take the "Davy's Crockette's Explorer Canoes" ride. Which is the oldest ride at Disneyland. You are in a real canoe and paddling around Tom Sawyer Island. The water is dark, probably so you can't see the track that the Mark Twain Riverboat and Sailing Ship Columbia ride on. The water is called "Rivers of America." The canoes are big and hold about twenty people.

On this trip, we got in the canoe and started paddling. 

Going into the water near the start of the canoes is the rafts that take people to Tom Sawyer Island. As we paddled past where they launch into the rafts, one came toward our canoe probably because the raft driver didn't see us. The Disneyland employee in the canoe started yelling and banging his oar on the side of the canoe. A woman screamed when the raft got closer. And I thought that was a bit of an over-reaction. I started wondering how deep the Rivers of America is. It was a bit scary.

Suddenly, the driver of the raft saw us and steered away. So a fun little adventure on our adventure.

Have you had any unintentionally scary things happen at a theme park? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 30, 2024

Singing Cars

Toyota Prius
I was in the Starbucks parking lot (big shock, I know) and I just got out of my car. The white, Toyota SUV parked beside me started backing up. And it was... singing. Almost sounded like whale songs. Then I realized that I didn't hear an engine running. So it must have been moving via battery power.

Upon a little research, I decided it was a Toyota RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV). The only fully electric vehicle (EV) Toyota currently sells is bZ4X and I was pretty sure it wasn't that.

PHEVs have both a battery that's larger than a hybrid's and smaller than an EV's. This allows the use of battery power for commuting or running errands around town but then you have an engine for longer range than an EV.

Then I bought my wife a Prius Prime PHEV. And when it's running on battery power... it sings. Just like that RAV4 Prime did. I bought it for her because she does the vast majority of her driving around town. She gets about 30 miles out of the battery and uses almost no gas (she went 1,000 miles before having to put gas in it on a trip). I calculated it costs 64 cents to fill her battery (at local power rates). That's about the equivalent of 64 cents per gallon if the car it replaces gets 30 miles to the gallon (which it did).

I've decided the singing is to warn people the car is moving when there's no engine noise. I think it only plays when the car is moving in reverse or under a certain speed. I know it sings when she's pulling into the garage at our house. I don't know if other EVs or PHEVs other than Toyota do this.

Maybe the singing is a form of communication between Toyotas. They are plotting the overtake of the world...

Maybe in the future you'll be able to choose what noise you what your EV or PHEV to make. You can buy sounds, sort of like they used to sell ringtones for cell phones.

What do you think of singing cars. Let me know in the comments below.