What’s inside a high tech ocean buoy?

Perhaps you’ve seen those spherical yellow buoys bobbing on the ocean off San Diego’s coast. Have you ever wondered what’s inside them?

Well, there’s a CDIP (Coastal Data Information Program) buoy on display near the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. And a nearby sign describes the technology that makes a buoy such a valuable resource of information!

Buoys like this one measure wave height, period, direction and sea surface temperature information.

The data is used by coastal engineers, planners, scientists, harbor masters, lifeguards, mariners, boaters, surfers, divers, fishers and beach-goers! That’s a lot of people who benefit from buoys!

Inside a plain-looking buoy there are various high tech instruments, including accelerometers, magnetometers, a thermometer, acoustic pingers, a computer, GPS and antenna to transmit all the collected, archived information!

(Did you know biofoul was a word? I didn’t!)

Next time I see one of these yellow CDIP buoys, I’ll have a much greater appreciation of what they are!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Star Trek’s tricorder inspires new medical technology!

An extraordinary panel was held this afternoon at the Comic-Con Museum in San Diego.

The Science and Science Fiction of Star Trek’s Tricorder brought together four panelists who are helping to lead our way into the future. It will be a future of almost unlimited possibility, replete with groundbreaking technologies what were barely imagined when the original television series was created.

Dr. Erik Viirre, who acted as moderator, is Professor of Neurosciences at UC San Diego; Dr. Paul E. Jacobs is Chairman and CEO of XCOM Labs, and former executive chairman of Qualcomm; Dr. Yvonne Cagle is a physician, professor, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel, and former NASA astronaut; Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry, the CEO of Roddenberry Entertainment and head of the Roddenberry Foundation, is the son of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry and Majel Barrett. He is also an executive producer on Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Prodigy and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

The first thing the audience learned is that all four panelists are fans of Star Trek! (Did you know that the former head of Qualcomm, many moons ago, was founding member of Star Fleet Club La Jolla?)

The next thing we learned was that Star Trek has inspired generations of scientists, engineers, inventors and visionaries. Many technological advances we know today were first conceived by Gene Roddenberry and the experts he turned to for advice when writing the show. He wanted Star Trek to be believable and largely based on science.

We were reminded how Star Trek’s communicator became the actual flip phone, and how today’s smartphones have essentially become Star Trek’s tricorder. Think about it!

The various multi-function tricorders carried by Spock, McCoy, and other Star Trek characters could provide a user with all sorts of useful information. A tricorder could be used to ascertain location and weather, or analyze the physical environment or obtain cultural information. A tricorder could be used as a universal translator. It could even be used to assess one’s medical condition.

In many ways, your smartphone does all of those things today!

We then learned our own future contains even greater possibilities.

The panelists explained how a smartphone, or handheld mobile device, used by an ordinary person, could become a practical health tool. For example, such a medical “tricorder” could analyze the sound of irregular breathing or a cough and determine a likely medical condition or disease. And such a device, by detecting signals or other data from the user’s body, could provide a warning that a stroke or heart attack is imminent.

Projects like that are underway today!

Five years ago, The Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE was a $10 million global competition to incentivize the development of innovative technologies capable of accurately diagnosing a set of 13 medical conditions independent of a healthcare professional or facility, ability to continuously measure 5 vital signs, and have a positive consumer experience. Read more about it here.

The co-winning Canadian team, CloudDX, propelled by their Tricorder XPRIZE participation, has gone on to commercialize remote, connected patient monitoring hardware and software that anyone can easily use at home!

And that’s just the beginning.

On the International Space Station today, 250 miles above Earth, astronauts wear a Smart Shirt that senses body temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen, EKG, and even the activity of heart valves!

Can you imagine a virtual reality doctor’s visit in your future? (Oh, wait. Star Trek envisioned this already. USS Voyager’s Emergency Medical Holographic Doctor.) Advances in artificial intelligence and tele-medicine have just barely begun.

(And yes, virtual reality was envisioned many decades ago. It was the basis for many tangled plots on Star Trek: The Next Generation. The holodeck!)

Those who sat listening to this extraordinary Comic-Con Museum panel learned all of this, and more. We saw that, in the hands of thoughtful people who desire positive, healthy outcomes, our technological future can be very bright, indeed.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Makers, dreamers, inventors come together in San Diego!

After a long pause during the COVID-19 pandemic, the San Diego Makers Guild is looking to reenergize. Innovators and fun-loving creators are welcome to join!

I stumbled upon the San Diego Makers Guild tent at the Escondido Street Festival today. They are seeking cool new ideas and pathways to follow as makers move into a technology driven, ever evolving future. Interested? Hook up with them!

I was surprised to hear Dexter explain he’d helped build those awesome Cupcake Cars that have roamed around Balboa Park during past Maker Faires!

You can learn more about the San Diego Makers Guild by visiting their website here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Will this be your futuristic “wearable” car in 2050?

A futuristic car–a new form of wearable machine–is presently on display at the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park.

The Nissan GT-R 2050 is a full-size prototype made at Nissan Design America, San Diego. It was designed by student intern Jaebum “JB” Choi to be an autonomous, human-connected vehicle of the far future!

According to the Nissan website, The completed project runs just under 10 feet long and sits just over two feet high. The single occupant, the driver, rests horizontally in a “prone” position with limbs extended in an X-shape. The driver wears a futuristic, form-fitting suit and helmet that resembles a superbike riders’ protective helmets and leathers.

Does it come with a Bat Cave, too?

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison in North Park!

What in the world are Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Edison doing in North Park?

They’re decorating the exterior of the very unique San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s Substation F!

I happened to look up and see the two historical figures as I walked along the El Cajon Boulevard sidewalk just east of Iowa Street.

These gentleman made groundbreaking discoveries and inventions that remain important in our electricity dependent world. Both esteemed men, in North Park, are busts made of cast stone!

Learn more about SDG&E’s beautifully restored Station F, originally built in 1926, at this web page.

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Top Gun fans vs. reality on USS Midway!

Yesterday a large group of dedicated Top Gun movie fans from a Facebook group visited the USS Midway Museum.

They all were having a blast, some wearing movie-inspired flight suits, checking out exhibits at San Diego’s popular aircraft carrier museum, taking photos near an F-14 Tomcat fighter jet, before heading off to dine at Kansas City Barbeque, where the bar scenes in Top Gun were filmed.

It was interesting to watch their enthusiasm for the classic movie, whose sequel Top Gun: Maverick will be debuting in one week on May 24. I loved the original Top Gun when it came out in 1986, myself!

As I toured the USS Midway yesterday, I noticed a variety of connections the historic aircraft carrier and its present-day museum have to the actual TOPGUN aviator school and its pilots depicted in both the original and upcoming movie.

An F-14 Tomcat on the flight deck of USS Midway. These fighter jets co-starred in the original Top Gun movie, providing exciting, incredible visuals.
A fan group is photographed during their Top Gun Days event aboard USS Midway in San Diego. Three actual Navy pilots pose in front.
Nearby on the flight deck is an F/A-18 Hornet. This fighter jet was used as an adversary during the original Top Gun. The F/A-18E/F Super Hornet will be flown by the characters of Top Gun: Maverick.
One of the pilot ready rooms inside the USS Midway aircraft carrier. VFA-151 Ready Room One is where F-18 pilots gathered for briefing before and after flights.
A look inside USS Midway’s F-18 ready room. During Operation Desert Storm, F-18 Hornets were launched from this long-lived aircraft carrier, which was built at the end of World War II.
What it would have been like sitting in the F-18 ready room. The characters in Top Gun: Maverick are F/A-18E/F Super Hornet pilots, part of a special detachment aboard an aircraft carrier.
White board at front of the ready room, with mission and aircraft details.
An exhibit aboard the USS Midway Museum details the history of TOPGUN, originally the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School located at NAS Miramar, aka Fightertown USA.
Exhibit concerns TOPGUN – The Early Years.
The Navy Fighter Weapons School was established on March 3, 1969 at NAS Miramar in San Diego, California. TOPGUN’s objective was to develop, refine and teach air combat maneuvering tactics and techniques to selected fleet air crews…
Museum exhibit video shows the Tactical Aircrew Combat Training System TACTS in operation.
Visitors to the USS Midway Museum can climb into an F-14 Tomcat cockpit, located on the Hangar Deck.
Maverick call sign painted by the cockpit of the F-14 Tomcat.
The two-seated cockpit’s front seat, where an F-14 pilot sits facing his flight controls. The bubble canopy gives the pilot all-round visibility.
The rear seat of the F-14 cockpit, where Goose in the original Top Gun movie flew. This is where the fighter jet’s Radar Intercept Officer sat.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Star III submersible outside Birch Aquarium.

Should you walk from the parking lot by Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography to the popular attraction’s entrance, you’ll see what looks like a small submarine. On its side is written Star III.

Star III is actually a submersible that was used for undersea studies back in the mid-20th century.

I looked at the cool little marvel of technology and wondered about its history.

A nearby sign provides interesting information concerning the submersible, which was built by General Dynamics.

When I got home, I found a book published in 1968 by the Naval Oceanographic Office titled Undersea Studies With the Deep Research Vehicle Star III which you can preview here. It concerns a series of 21 dives off Key West Florida in March 1967…to evaluate the Star III system as a platform from which to conduct underwater photogrammetric and various surveying tasks.

I also found the following old public domain photograph of Star III suspended above the water from a seagoing vessel.

Launched in 1966, Star III was capable of carrying a two-person crew and as much as 1,000 pounds of scientific equipment to a depth of 2,000 feet. The sub and its occupants could remain underwater for up to 120 hours…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Doing the laundry in early San Diego.

You think doing the laundry is a pain?

Well, back in the mid-19th century, in early San Diego, doing the laundry was a very big pain!

Last weekend I enjoyed listening to a Hidden History talk in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park about the difficulty of cleaning clothes before the advent of handy-dandy push-button washing machines.

Wash day was actually a three day project that began with walking down to the San Diego River multiple times while carrying a bucket. About 50 gallons would be required.

In dusty Old Town, with livestock running around, clothes would get really filthy. The sorting process included the consideration of material–often cotton or wool–and filthiness. After sorting came spot cleaning with lye soap (made by boiling wood ash) and borax (brought in from the desert).

Then clothes and under garments would be generally cleaned with boiling hot water in a big tub using a wooden paddle (for stirring) and washboard (possibly imported to the isolated, undeveloped town by ship) for scrubbing. (My arms are sore just thinking about it!)

Yes, then the hanging out to dry–fortunately San Diego has a warm, dry climate.

And then the ironing.

You had to prep the iron by scraping the bottom, put it on a stove and heat it to just the right temperature so you don’t burn yourself or the clothes, then more arm work. Later irons were more fancy–you could put coals in them. Just don’t get the ash from the coals on the clothes!

In those days, doing the laundry was a job designated for women. The process was so long and involved, they usually wouldn’t cook on wash days. Food for the family would be prepared in advance.

In 1860 San Diego had 4 dedicated laundresses–indigenous and Irish women. In 1870, when San Diego’s population had grown to 2300, there were 32, including Chinese immigrants who were then arriving in California.

That’s a hasty summary of the Hidden History talk, which everyone enjoyed as we sat on a pleasant Saturday in front of the State Park’s historic Colorado House.

On Sunday I threw my dirty clothes into a washing machine, added detergent from a plastic bottle and pressed a button. Transferring my clothes to the drier was oh-so difficult!

I tried to take good notes, but don’t rely on what I’ve written here as 100% accurate. If you’re doing research and came upon this blog post, make sure to read other sources!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Fusion and the futuristic science of Star Trek!

A fascinating panel convened yesterday at San Diego’s Comic-Con Museum in Balboa Park. The Science of Star Trek – Travel at Warp Speed featured a Star Trek editor, a Star Trek writer, and three scientists from General Atomics, which is headquartered here in San Diego.

The event coincided with the Comic-Con Museum’s current exhibition honoring Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.

Five panelists focused primarily on the technology of nuclear fusion, which has been pioneered at General Atomics for many decades. Fusion powers the fictional impulse engines of Star Trek’s starships.

It was fun to learn that Star Trek was a major inspiration of David Humphreys, a nuclear fusion scientist who has worked at General Atomics for 40 years! (Incidentally, his favorite captain is Kirk.)

All sorts of different Star Trek technology, like the matter/anti-matter warp drive, tricorders and communicators, were touched upon. The panelists loved that much of Star Trek’s speculative tech has been based on real physics and scientific possibility. Remember how Kirk would sit in the captain’s chair and sign off on a device that looked like a tablet? Some of that once-fictional tech exists today!

Other not-so-realistic Star Trek technology would be used merely as a plot device. The transporters allowed a story (and Dr. McCoy’s scrambled molecules) to quickly transition from scene to scene. Human scale teleportation remains a somewhat unlikely dream. (But who knows?)

The most exciting part of the discussion concerned the imminent emergence of sustained nuclear fusion as a potentially limitless source of cheap, clean energy. Unlike nuclear fission, with its dangerous radioactive waste and chain reaction, the technology that produces fusion is inherently safe. And its “fuel” is hydrogen, which is practically limitless. The trick is energizing and concentrating hydrogen atoms so that they fuse and become helium, as they do inside the very, very hot sun. No easy task!

Fusion has made such tremendous advances that the world now stands at the brink of major breakthroughs, due primarily to the ITER project–one of the largest scientific programs in human history–where 35 nations from around the world hope to perfect and share practical working technology. General Atomics produced the super powerful magnets utilized by ITER.

Another thing the panelists addressed is how young people today can take part in this exciting future. Diverse, good-paying jobs connected to fusion technology are going to be plentiful. General Atomics is looking for interns! Can you imagine a more interesting place to work and learn?

It was great to see how San Diego’s own General Atomics is helping to lead the way to a world that will be completely transformed in a positive way by nuclear fusion. And it was inspiring to see scientists from General Atomics out in the community. They also participated in the Barrio Logan STEAM Block Party, which I blogged about last weekend.

When I was in middle school, many moons ago, we went on a field trip to General Atomics. I remember how the scientists briefly fired their fusion reactor under a huge protective pool of water. Now, almost half a century later, we are at the cusp of something so huge, the world might be transformed beyond anything that even the creators of Star Trek envisioned!

Oh–the next photo, taken on the main floor of the Comic-Con Museum, is of Star Trek cosplayers belonging to the Science Fiction Coalition. Live long and prosper!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Fun at the Barrio Logan STEAM Block Party!

Explosive reactions! A gigantic walking virus! Snakes, molecules, robots and rockets!

Oh, wow! Check out the fun that families and kids enjoyed today during the Barrio Logan STEAM Block Party, part of this year’s very cool San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering!

There was much to see, do and learn in the outdoor plaza of Mercado del Barrio!

The event featured immensely entertaining live science demonstrations, creative kids activities, and even a bunch of awesome lowriders on display! I was personally pleased to see the substantial community involvement by UC San Diego.

Look at the great event attendance!
There’s plenty of science and technology to learn from lowriders–especially the hydraulics!
Check out this awesome lowrider!
Everywhere I turned, people were engaged in hands-on learning at this Barrio Logan Science and Art Expo!
Young Women in Bio.

I saw a demo of the above very cool science video game Microscopya, designed by Dr. Beata Mierzwa, an artist and UCSD molecular biologist! Students learn about cells and human biology while having tons of adventurous fun! Check out the web page here!

Friendly folks from the San Diego Public Library!
The ladies of Mad Science make a memorable demonstration using carbon dioxide.
That is planet Earth’s size relative to Jupiter!
Free Trees for your neighborhood!

If you live in San Diego, and want to plant a free street tree where you live, check this out!

EcoVivarium brought snakes, tortoises and other critters for the educational event.
A scientific experiment in progress.
Concentrating on science.
Two very impressive young men give a presentation concerning groundwater.
Look at all the drones!
That’s the biggest virus I’ve ever seen! I didn’t bring enough hand sanitizer.
That’s either goop or slime.
A smile!
The Vulcan-1 rocket, built by students at UC San Diego. It’s the world’s first undergraduate rocket powered by a 3D printed engine!
What’s the space weather today?
The science of tortillas!
Even very young kids were interested and excited!
STEAM related artwork by local students decorates the event stage.
A hand crank powers different light bulbs.
A fun demonstration of various physics principles by folks from General Atomics.
Yes, the boiling point of liquid nitrogen is -196 degrees celsius! Brrr!
What happened?
Hair-raising fun!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!