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Contractually Obligated Year-End Article

Evidence That 2020 Wasn’t Entirely a Waste of Time

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are for.” – Grace Hopper

You’re probably not reading this article. You’ve got better things to do. But if your browser does somehow accidentally send you here, I’d like to point out that 2020 was, in fact, a fairly decent year as far as electronic engineering technology goes. 

  • Electronics now account for 40% of the cost of a new car, according to research firm Deloitte. That’s more than the engine, transmission, glass, steel, or rubber. As electronics engineers, it seems like we ought to get some sort of discount for designing that stuff, don’t you think? 
  • Gratuitous Thermodynamics Proof #1743: A Chinese engineer managed to take a nasty 14-year-old Intel Celeron D 347 processor (nominal clock frequency 3 GHz) and crank it up to 8.36221 GHz using liquid cooling. That’s faster than any of today’s Intel chips will go, no matter how hard you overclock them. Nigel Tufnel would be proud. 
  • As m’colleague Max helpfully pointed out, you can now buy a metal Faraday shield for your Wi-Fi router. The $63 Router Guard “blocks and shields yourself and your family from the EMF, electromagnetic field your WiFi emits 24 hours a day.” Well, yes. Yes, it would. 
  • “Buttload” is a legitimate unit of measure. It’s a great big barrel that holds 384 gallons, or if you prefer, 48 bushels, or two hogsheads. It is (or at least, was) commonly used in the brewing industry. The word “scuttlebutt” comes from the same source. 
  • Human speech has a bandwidth of about 39 bits/second. And it doesn’t seem to vary based on the language (English, Mandarin, Italian, et al.) Linguists are curious whether this represents some sort of biological limit to our language processing. 
  • AMD’s Ryzen 5900X CPU and Radeon 6800XT GPU are hard to get via retail channels. Anybody want to help a poor tech journalist out?
  • The Eiffel Tower is the world’s largest completely useless object. 
  • Civil War general and 18th President Ulysses S. Grant wasn’t named Ulysses, and his middle name wasn’t Simpson. His given name was Hiram. 
  • Multigrain Cheerios lists sugar as its third ingredient, ahead of three of the five grains it touts. Rice Krispies lists sugar as its second ingredient.  
  • Brown sugar is just white sugar with molasses added. Added back, actually, since removing the molasses is what makes white sugar white in the first place. 
  • A shrub called Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) smells exactly like grape Kool-Aid. 
  • Gasoline weighs about 6.15 pounds/gallon at 60°F. That’s considerably lighter than water, at 8.33 lbs./gallon.  
  • We must live in interesting times. What once would have been called a “helpful tip” is now a “genius life hack.” Lucky us. 
  • One million seconds is about eleven days. One billion seconds is almost 32 years. One trillion seconds ago was 30,000 BC. May your next 31,536,000 seconds be prosperous and bright.

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