Hurricane Irma forecasts for Florida in pictures


Denver’s a long way from Hurricane Irma, but like everybody else I’ve been following it. With events like this one, it’s fascinating to check out the detailed Weather Underground forecasts. With Hurricane Harvey, I’d look at daily rain forecasts of 24 inches, stated without hint of how out-of-whack such a number is. With Irma approaching, the rains can be nuts, too, but the barometric pressure and, in particular, the wind speed curves are the most otherworldly. Key West, above, tops out at 101 mph. Compare this with what I’ve got in Denver today. The wind curve looks more insane, really, until you note the scale at left.

Most striking about Hurricane Irma is its sheer scope. The New York Times-published spaghetti model shows where it’s probably headed…

But these hurricane-track graphs don’t capture the immense scale of this storm.

NOAA’s GOES satellite image from a few minutes ago shows Irma dwarfing Cuba (as Hurricane Jose approaches from the East). The Weather Underground forecasts show how that scale will play out on the ground.

In Miami, technically the opposite side of the peninsula from Irma’s projected path, we get 87 mph winds and close to nine inches of rain.

Not much better in Fort Lauderdale.

In Fort Myers, on the Gulf side at just a bit higher latitude than Fort Lauderdale, it’s nastier.

Sanibel Island, where my wife and daughters are booked for a seashell-hunting adventure in late October, may be largely wiped away. The forecast has the center of the storm passing right over this patch of sand.

Up the Gulf Coast in Tampa, not a whole lot better, though better than Saint Petersburg.

Perhaps most awe-inspiring about this storm is its projected impact on the Atlantic side, 140 miles of peninsula separated from the above targets. Here’s Fort Lauderdale:

And Daytona Beach:

And Jacksonville:

Seventy-eight mph is a lot less than what Sanibel will suffer, but hit 78 on a highway, stick your hand out the window and think about how your roof would fare.

Central Florida isn’t all that much better off, though storm surges at least aren’t a worry. Here’s Lakeland:

And Orlando, if you’re wondering why Disney and Universal have shut down their theme parks:

Even Tallahassee will see 50 mph winds.

Really the only semi-quiet spot in the state looks to be Pensacola, which is basically in Alabama.

Which is all to say: this is a monster event of unique scale. It’s going to take a very long time to rebuild and recover from it.

Lucy McRae is thinking ahead. Like 2,500 years ahead

A lot of us have a hard enough time deciding what to scrounge up for dinner. Lucy McRae is thinking about life in the year 4,600.

She’s not alone. Science fiction writers have spent plenty of time imagining the distant future. But McRae is not a science fiction writer. She’s a science-fiction artist. She makes short films involving lots of silvery Mylar, condensation-soaked plastic, and edible body parts, among other things. They are gorgeous, cryptic, slow-moving and strange. [more]

Ancient craft yields storage medium of the future

An example tablet from a commission by the Kunst Historiches Museum Wien. (Courtesy of Martin Kunze)

The preservation of our collective story — so much of which is told in electronic pulses and stored in bits and bytes — may well hinge on the oldest of materials: clay.

It’s not just any clay. It’s a specially designed stoneware (the stuff of bathroom tiles) formed into 20-by-20 centimeter ceramic tablets. Martin Kunze, an Austrian ceramist and researcher, invented them, and once printed with snippets of science, politics, art, culture and much more, he stores them in a cavern in a salt mine in Hallstatt, deep in the Austrian Alps. The cavern, accessible via an 80 centimeter-wide tunnel, will naturally close up over time. There, what Kunze calls “the greatest time capsule ever” will wait for someone, someday, to find it. [more]

Robots kill, and they’re just getting started 

Gabriel Hallevy - When Robots Kill

For Gabriel Hallevy, one of the world’s leading legal thinkers in the emerging field of criminal law as it applies to intelligent machines, it started in a movie theater. The professor at Ono Academic College in Israel had already established himself as a prominent legal thinker in areas like criminal law, criminal justice, laws of evidence, and even corporate law when he sat down to watch I, Robot.

While the movie didn’t do much for Will Smith’s career, the seed it planted in Hallevy’s mind helped advance legal theory surrounding future crimes committed by intelligent machines to a point at which it’s now keeping pace with — if not out ahead of — the technologies themselves. [more]

Autonomous ErgoChair: a review

Autonomous ErgoChair

The Autonomous ErgoChair. It also comes in all sorts of much more interesting colors.

Before getting to the brass tacks of this post – a review of an office chair made by a company called Autonomous – I’d like to get on the record that Autonomous is an interesting-as-hell company. I mean, how many other outfits selling sit-stand desks or tabletop sit-stand desk adapters also offer, for all of $19, a corrugated fold-out (called, appropriately, Cardboard) that, with some extremely basic origami, converts any table or desk into a standing desk? Much less also produce, as Autonomous also does, a telepresence robot (in this case named Clone)?

Autonomous ErgoChair

The ErgoChair cuts a sharp figure from behind.

Autonomous’s office chair, called the ErgoChair, is closer to the mainstream of office accoutrements than is the Clone. It’s also something I was looking for right around the time the folks at Autonomous reached out and offered up an ErgoChair for review. (They also offered up a SmartDesk 2 standing desk, which I reviewed here).

I have sat in the ErgoChair for a solid week now, in fact sitting much more than I otherwise would have given the sit-stand desk I use. I have done this extra sitting after a decade or so of using what was, at the time, a similarly priced Office Depot chair (which is to say, not a cheap office chair). And I write this review having spent a few months earlier in my career – at a doomed dot-com, appropriately – with a gold-standard Aeron office chair. Given these facts, and perhaps most importantly the fact that that my body (male, five-foot-ten, 170ish pounds, given to slouching) is not your body anyway, take my view on this piece of mail-order office furniture as one man’s opinion.

My view is that the ErgoChair is a really good office chair. It is wildly adjustable (while I’m always happy to delve into mechanical detail, it’s more efficient for us both to check out Autonomous’s YouTube video showing as much – plus the music is uplifting). The armrests raise and lower substantial amounts and slide both forwards-and-backwards and sideways. The seat tilts. It also lifts up. There’s excellent lumbar support. The headrest, which like the back of the chair is mesh and stays cool, is also adjustable (vertically as well as tilt angle). The coolest adjustment, though, is the chair’s ability (also adjustable) to lean back to the point that you’re well into recliner territory.

The ErgoChair comes extremely well-packed in a box whose contents took about 45 minutes to convert from sturdy components into an actual chair – with the help of, no surprise, an ergonomic Allen wrench that Autonomous includes.

Working from a home office, my naps can happen on the family room carpet under the dog’s watchful gaze. In an office environment, napping on the lobby carpet under the receptionist’s watchful gaze might well be frowned upon. With an ErgoChair, you could just lean way back and nod off. Bosses beware. (Or maybe bosses should just embrace: there’s no shortage of data showing that short naps are in fact productivity boosters).

And if you care – and despite not wanting to care, I care, given that the home office is a converted dining room about eight feet from the front door – the ErgoChair looks modern and sharp. I chose a black-on-black model, but there are tons of color options, most more interesting than my selection.

For comparison’s sake, my aging, similarly priced office chair adjusted nicely but had a less-flexible back. At times, during the first couple of days using the ErgoChair, I found myself leaning back and being surprised by the give (which itself is adjustable). This passed with time.

The only aspect of the chair I miss from my older model is the seat itself. I sort of sank into the old Office Depot model. The ErgoChair’s seat is soft to the touch but, if it were a mattress, it would be classified as firm. I’ve gotten used to this, too. And frankly, for those of us who stand half the day or longer anyway, a slightly harder chair is as much a positive as a negative. You don’t sink in and find yourself on your duff slouching severely seven hours later. Certainly the ErgoChair seat is soft enough for napping either way.

The ErgoChair is not the best office chair money can buy. If you care to spend five times more, you can pick up a Herman Miller Embody, for example. Or feel free to snag an Aeron for two-three times the price. But for $299 plus $39 shipping, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better chair than the Autonomous ErgoChair. One man’s opinion, of course.