Thursday, February 28, 2013

Reminder: Workshop Weekend is this weekend in Oakland

Bix Studies Plant Science at Digital Diner to prep for Workshop Weekend
This is just a quick reminder that this weekend is a Workshop Weekend in Oakland.  It's a great chance to stimulate your Maker neurons, meet interesting people, have some fun and learn a thing or two.  Classes range from telescope making to cheesemaking to website building and Arduino programming.
Of course, the best class will be the critically acclaimed Awesome Aeroponics class taught by two Digital Diner staffers.  As I write this there are only 4 spaces available for that class, so sign up quickly before it is completely filled.  Don't forget, when you sign up, use the code AEROPONICS0313.  It is good for $10 off admission to Workshop Weekend.

We hope to see you there!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Quadcopters continue to be awesome!

You know we love the quadcopters here at Digital Diners.  It seems every week they teach them to do some other amazing trick.  This week it is throwing poles around.  Yes, you heard that right.  These quadcopters, not only balance poles, they are able to throw them to one another.  I can just see the game of "keep away from the humans" now.  Watch the video and be amazed.

Finally! Science and engineering resources applied to opening an Oreo!

Finally physicists/makers have applied themselves to the difficult problems facing our society; splitting an Oreo cookie.  Personally, I think it is sad to just disposed of the cream filling, but that is personal taste I suppose.  Certainly, down the road, these advancements will benefit even those who prefer the filling.  ...and, just like the NASA space program, there are unforeseen benefits that come up along the way... like how to keep you neck and ears warm.  Definitely good work. We salute you David Neevel.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

What Most Schools Don't Teach has published a cute little short film about learning to program.  Gusteau (from the awesome movie Ratatouille) says, "anyone can cook."  Here at Digital Diner, we say "anyone can code."  There are so very many resources out there to learn from... If you don't know how to code yet, now is a great time to dive in!

Here are just a few places to start:
Khan Academy

Give it a shot!

from via Gizmodo

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Wow... A pen that draws in 3D... Cool!

This is pretty cool looking.  It is a pen that lets you draw in 3D.  You actually just move the pen around and it extrudes plasticy stuff that cools and hardens when it comes in contact with the air.  I can't think of a single practical use for this, yet I want one.

It's a Kickstarter from a company called WobbleWorks.  Take a look for yourself.

Become a hyperlocavore

Bix Studies Plant Science at Digital Diner

Science is cool and food is yummy, so of course we love food science here at Digital Diner.   Over the last few years we've been going to the roots of food science (so to speak) by learning about hydroponics.  We have been growing vegetables in our back yard garden for years, but we recently have been growing more hydroponic produce as well.  It has been great fun.  The technical term for growing stuff in dirt is geoponics.  It comes from "geo" meaning earth, and 'ponics' meaning to work.  It literally means working the earth.  Well, it turns out the hydroponics takes both the dirt and much of the work out of the process.  It has turned us into "hyperlocavores" which means we eat food that is produced extremely locally (as in, from our own yard).  
In the course of this exploration, the kids have become experts in a new method called aeroponics.  Where hydroponic systems run nutrient laden water over the roots of plants, aeroponic systems use a nutrient rich fog/mist to deliver nutrients the plant roots.  We use those ultrasonic foggers common for Halloween effects and some buckets from Home Depot.  The process can use >95% less water than conventional farming.  Maintenance is simple, and we always have fresh, hyperlocavoric, veggies just outside our back door.  It's all very high tech, but it turns out that you can build your own system pretty easily.  In fact, for those of you in the SF Bay Area, we have an opportunity for you to build an aeroponic system (designed by Bix and Widdakay) of your own in a class at Workshop Weekend in Oakland, Mar 3.  There are lots of great classes at Workshop Weekend, and since the "Awesome Is What We Totally Are" team is teaching the Aeroponics class, we can offer you discounted admission to Workshop Weekend.  When you sign up, use the code AEROPONICS0313.  It is good for $10 off admission to Workshop Weekend.  Last time they taught this class, it filled up quickly, so sign up soon!  Join us!  Fun is guaranteed!
Leona shows us the roots of agro-science

If you can't make it to the workshop, you can still learn to build your own aeroponic system here.

A completed "Awesome Is What We Totally Are" aeroponic garden

Yummy bok choy!

Workshop Weekend

Friday, February 15, 2013

The sky is falling!

Remember that asteroid close call that we warned you about last week?  You know the one that wasn't going to hit us?  Well, it still isn't going to hit us.  However, it seems that it had a little friend that did hit us.  It landed in Russia.  The video above shows it dramatically burning up as it crosses the sky.  Apparently, that high speed entry into the atmosphere causes an explosion and a shockwave that can do some damage.  Take a look at the video below.

 Bill Nye the science guy says this little guy is not related to our friend DA14.

BTW, the planetary society has live coverage of DA14 here as I write this.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

What is a planing competition?

Here at Digital Diner, we try to bring you the unusual items that you might not learn about elsewhere.  It may seem difficult to top such great topics as windless kite flying, but I think this will give it a run for its money.  The 'sport' is wood planing.  That's right, the sport of making wood extremely straight.  Apparently, in Japan they have an annual competition to see how thin a slice of wood you can plane off of a board.  The answer appears to be 9 microns.  Take a look at the video for yourself and see what you think.  Could it be the next big spectator sport here in the US?  I'm thinking that it could get its own TV show and professional league.  I think it would end up much like "sawing for teens" from one of my favorite animated shorts from the National Film Board of Canada called "The Big Snit"

What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Vi Hart implies that the Beatles were time travelers from the future!

Vi Hart is at it again, this time telling us about how to fold space-time.  It all sounds very Einstein-ian, but her explanation is much more Bach-ian.  Awesome as usual Vi!

Having worked in the audio/music industry, I've had plenty of time to think about sound as a way to represent time, and I must say, I think it works.  You see sound is a waveform that you can think of as a vibration of air molecules.  That vibration is therefore a change in position of those air molecules over time.  Without time, there can be no change... In fact, it is entirely possible that music is time and it is music that makes the world go around.  Therefore I conclude that humming and whistling are effective ways to pass the time.  QED.

Now, if sound is time, then does reversing sound reverse time?  We do know that back in the 60s/70s the Beatles were doing all sorts of experiments in the studio including introducing the world to the possibilities of multitrack recoding and even, yes, recording parts backwards.  There were certainly plenty of people who claimed that the Beatles were hiding secret, backward masked messages in their music.  Check the video below to see what you think.

OK, so stay with me here.  I never believed that the Beatles were trying to create secret satanic messages, or that Paul was dead, but maybe, just maybe, they were actually doing experimentation in time travel.  Just think about it.  Their music was so far ahead of everyone else's, it was as if they had a vision (or audio equivalent) of the future of music, so they then created it.  I'm not drawing any conclusions here or anything, I leave that up to you, but do you think that it's possible that the Beatles came from the future and use backwards masked music to travel back to the 60s/70s and change music forever?

Just sayin... it makes you think!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Windless kite flying?... very cool!

I had no idea that such a sport existed, but apparently there is a competition for windless kite flying.  They fly kites indoors where there is no wind by essentially dancing around enough to make their own wind.  They work up routines that match up to music (orchestral versions of Rolling Stones songs apparently) and do some pretty cool stuff.

They just completed the 12th annual competition (so its been going on for a while).  The competition is sponsors by the Kite Museum in Long Beach.  Apparently they have different classifications for sinlge line and quad-line kites and all sorts of stuff.  We just might have to make out way down there some year to check this out.

Jeez... there are just too many things to do.

Magnets and motion

This little machine looks like a lot of fun.  It is really quite clever.  There may be people who want to see it as a perpetual motion machine, which it is NOT, so get that right out of your head.  It does NOT produce more energy than it puts in.  However, what it is is a clever and efficient, fun little gadget that can spin for a very long time on its own.  The basic idea is that the magnet at the top is repelling the magnets on the wheel, and since the ones that are further apart repel less than the ones that are closer together, the wheel will turn toward the wider apart magnets.  When we get to the part where the magnets get closer together again, if we didn't mover the top magnet out of the way, it would likely stop the wheel.  However, they can use the momentum of the wheel to lift the top magnet enough to start the whole process over again.  This means that the initial conversion of potential energy from dropping the magnet (note how the white plastic piece on the side will start it spinning) puts energy into the system that starts it spinning for a long time.
This wouldn't be possible at all without our friend Neodymium which gives us these awesomely strong magnets.  I especially like how this system uses magnets on the top AND bottom that are being bumped by the little bumper thingy to accelerate the wheel both at the top and bottom of the cycle.  I must say that I'm surprised that it ends up spinning around fast enough that the momentum of the wheel to have enough energy to lift the magnet at the top.  Due to friction and/or wearing down of the magnets, it will eventually stop and/or stop working very well.  Still, I certainly wouldn't mind having one of these on my desk kind of like a Newton's Cradle or something like that.  Magnets are cool.

Newton's Cradle - image by DemonDeLuxe (Dominique Toussaint)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

We're headed for a close call!

On February 15th, when I say duck, everyone crouch down, OK?  The day after Valentine's Day,  Earth will have a close encounter with a big rock hurtling through space called DA14.  It will come close enough to be closer than satellites that are at geosynchronous orbit, which is pretty close, but it will NOT hit the Earth.  It's big enough that if it did, it could likely do a bit of damage.  However, it will just pass harmlessly past us.  Watch the video for details.

Past futures on display

Walter Cronkite's voice defined the age I grew up.  He told us about everything from wars to human being's first steps outside of the Earth.  What he said, we believed.  Below are a couple of fascinating video clips from 1967 showing the vision of the world in 2001.  Of course, Walter Cronkite (who was a ham radio operator by the way) guides us through the vision of the future just to make sure all these wacky ideas were believable... and trust me; at the time, these were some very wacky ideas.

OK.  So they got a few things wrong... like knobs instead of graphical user interfaces etc, but they also got a lot right.  Some of it is so right that you don't even notice it... big screen color TVs.  "Flat" screens for the computers (if you look, they are simulating this by using CRTs that are embedded into the wall).

My questions to you are:  
  • Today, could we paint as clear a picture of what the world will look like in 45 years?  
  • What is the best way to share this vision with the world?  
  • If we don't have Walter Cronkite telling us how things will be in the future, will we believe in it enough to actually create it?

It's all about perspective

Seeing should not always be believing...  and your perspective can distort your view.

This reminds me a bit of the anamorphic illusions we posted some time back...

Monday, February 4, 2013

I want a kite car! On second thought, no I don't.

This is one of the most fun and least practical ideas I've seen in quite a while.  At first blush, the idea of using kite-based wind power to drive you car across country seems like a great idea.  After all, the wind produces clean free energy, and if the kite skiers that we see in the bay are any indication, you can build up some significant speed using these fancy kites.

Once I watched the video below and started to think about what it would be like to actually use it, however, I saw a few problems.  First of all. you need a straight stretch of road.  If it turns the wrong direction you cold easily lose your source of power.  Additionally, since since you are connected to the kite via long strings, any telephone poles, power lines or overpasses could require an immediate cessation of your trip.  Even billboards near the road could be an issue.  Add to that the low angle of the strings, and you can see that if you are on the wrong side of the road when a truck goes by, you could easily get your lines tangled with a fast moving semi truck going in the opposite direction and it's likely the result would be less than ideal.

In fact, maybe that is a better idea!  Maybe you would have more luck just harpooning passing trucks and then skiing behind then until you reach your exit.  Still I salute these pioneers of green energy transportation.  I salute them for having a wacky idea, for actually getting out there and trying it (we all need to be reminded of the power of acting on your ideas), and for actually covering 5000km across the Australian desert using only $15 worth of electricity while having what looks like loads of fun.  Well done!

The project actually was focused on building an electric vehicle that could be recharged via a wind turbine that it carried.  It was sponsored by a company called Evonik.  The video below has a more balanced portrayal of the overall project and you can also read a bit more here.