Mining University

Calculus Finally Pays Off

Well I did it. I finally used calculus for something in my life after college. It wasn't work related and I basically had to re-learn how to do an integral but it has finally served a purpose.

The question I wanted to solve was: How far would someone fall in a tenth of a second? It sounds like a silly question, but it came from one of my most serious pass times: science fiction.

Recently I have been reading (actually listening to) a fun little book called 'Off to be the Wizard' by Scott Meyer (read by Luke Daniels). The basis of the book is a classic Sci-Fi topic: what if the world were a computer program and people were just sub-routines? The hero of the story finds out this is true and writes a program to make himself 'hover.' The program just increases his elevation by three feet and then refreshes ten times a second with him in free fall in between. Meyer describes this as being a jarring and uncomfortable way to 'hover' but I wondered how far would a person really fall in that tenth of a second interval. I also wondered how far the fall would be if the program refreshed 1,000 times a second like any real programmer would do?

After some serious internet research I was finally able to remember enough calculus to make sense of the non-calculus based physics equations that are posted all over the internet and convince myself that they were correct. It shouldn't matter that 0.5*9.8*t^2 looks different than the integral I remember from calculus bit it did.

Now that we had that cleared up I could calculate that in a tenth of a second a person would fall 1.92 inches. Falling almost two inches, ten times a second seems like a really rough method to use to fly. It might even be enough to injure anyone dumb enough to try it.

I don't think that any programmer I know would leave a flying refresh rate at ten times per second. Most computer things that need to be regularly updated happen at a rate of 1,000 times per second. Given this approach, a person would fall almost two ten thousandths of an inch in one thousandth of a second. This is a much more comfortable vibration to put up with when 'hovering.'

Thank you Calculus for making a totally implausible situation seem more realistic.

Rare Earth Elements - Greenest of the Green

The National Mining Association recently came out with an infographic on rare earth elements and their place in modern society. These elements are used in everything from phones, cameras and tablets to military technology including jet engines and night vision goggles.

Rare earth elements are also used in so called 'green' industries. Windmills and electric car batteries use rare earth elements as well as energy efficient light bulbs. Without rare earth elements large and fundamental parts of the 'green' movement would be unavailable.

Unfortunately, the United States is largely dependent on foreign imports for our rare earth elements. Chinese exports supply most of the raw materials that we are so proud of using to protect the environment. As a country, it is in our best interest to encourage the mining of rare earth elements is safe and responsible jurisdictions (America) in order to protect our ability to protect the planet.

Rare Earth Elements
Rare Earth Elements

Polygonal Reserver - Maptek Vulcan

Maptek Vulcan has a new/old scheduling tool called the Polygonal Reserver. I call it new/old because I didn't know that it was a separate module. I originally learned about the polygonal reserver while I was working for Maptek. As an employee I had access to all the sale-able modules. It never occurred to me that this tool, which combines the functionality of two other tools, might not be part of the base module.

The polygonal reserver combines the functionality of the Polygons tool in the Model > Triangle Solid sub-menu with the Advanced Reserves Editor reporting tool. By combining these tools the polygonal reserver allows the user to interactively change the reserve area by modifying points on a polygon. The resulting triangulation and reserve results can then be used to schedule or simply report the mineable tonnage.

If you have spent any time at all with the advanced reserves editor you have probably seen the panel for the polygonal reserver, the 'name' tab under the 'polygons' section. The 'new naming convention' capability seems a little finicky and you can't exclude some of the naming conventions but the default naming convention puts a generic prefix onto the name of the polygon when naming the triangulation. I really dislike this.

The other quirky part of the tool is 'Display grade totals dynamically' on the 'Setup' tab. This functionality requires that a report specification file already be setup in the advanced reserves editor. I completely misunderstood this part of the tool when I ran it for the first time. In my defense, I don't usually use the report tool in advanced reserves so it didn't occur to me that the polygonal reserver would require it. In fact, I don't think anybody uses the report functionality in advanced reserves. Most people just export results to csv and edit the results in Microsoft Excel. Everybody else just uses the dump file. Anyway, without the report spec file there are no results to report in the dynamic window.

Once things were setup correctly, the polygonal reserver worked fine and actually saves a lot of time. I like the tool but am not sure that combining two existing tools is worth purchasing an extra module, especially since the original software package runs in the neighborhood of $50,000.