Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Soda, Pop or Coke? US dialects shown visually

Having grown up in the midwest, gone to school in the east and then settled in the west, I'm not quite sure how to say anything.  The video below, however, nicely illustrates some of the ways that language varies in different parts of the country.
Of course, the correct answer to all these questions is what would Walter Cronkite say?  Unfortunately, he is no longer around to ask.

They missed one of the interesting language issues here in California. Here in the bay are, if you need to drive from San Francisco to San Jose you are likely to take 101 south. If you live in LA and you want to get to San Diego, you take "the" 101 south. There is a point somewhere between Monterey and San Luis Obispo where people to the south refer to numbered roads with a "the" in front of it. To the north, you just refer to the number. Go figure.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Surface Tension Dance - Spontaneous motion of dyed liquid droplets

I love it when science and art collide.  OK, this one caught me off guard.  In the video below, researchers Nate J Cira and Manu Prakash, from Stanford, show little drops of liquid dancing around spontaneously on a glass surface based on surface tension.  When sped up, these little buggers look like they are dancing around on the glass slide.  There is a peculiar imbalance between the long distance forces and short distance forces that make the motions quite complex.  Watch and enjoy.
This work is currently being presented at the American Physical Society's annual Division of Fluid Dynamics Meeting.  More info on this work in particular at Physics Central.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Vi Hart explains logarithms

People usually develop a pretty good feeling about numerical addition and subtraction early on, but more complex mathematical concepts like logarithms, not so much.  Vi Hart is here to fix that for all of us.  In her own, wonderful way, she tries to teach you the gestalt of logarithms and give you a feeling for what they are and how they work.  Watch the video and get that logarithm-y feeling inside you.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Is this the next step in wind power?

Over a year ago I told you about a wind power generating technique that uses a flying wing to swing around at the end of a tether.  The idea is that you can create a mobile power generation system with a much smaller amount of material than a traditional wind turbine.  The kites or wings can also fly up higher where the winds are more consistent.  Well, it appears that the folks at Makani Power have now made the entire system autonomous.  The company was acquired by Google in May and they are now moving ahead at full speed to create autonomous offshore power generation systems that don't become huge permanent eye-sores for everyone nearby.  If it actually works, it is pretty clever.  Watch the video to see it in action.

Friday, November 15, 2013

This is how to burn your dinner

Photographer Brian Lowry took this strangely compelling video of a can of Chef Boyardee ravioli being consumed by hot lava in Hawaii.  The little jet of flame at the end is like a little ravioli rocket.  I guess that is how you know your dinner is done - and I do mean done.


More pix here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

This high school student built a cool aquaponics system

This is a really cool video from Edutopia about a High School student's passion for discovering new ways to grow food.  He learned about Aquaponics (building a closed loop ecosystem of fish and plants) and ran with the idea.  I love it when someone finds a passion and those nearby support or at least don't get in the way of it.  Of course for Pierre, it isn't just the enthusiasm in building the systems, it is that he is driven to expand the system and bring it to his school and share it that really makes this story great.  I'm particularly impressed by the fact that the food they grow on the school premises is now served in the cafeteria.  Very nice!

I think agrotech is a cool interesting up and coming field.  The whole thing is somewhat reminiscent of another group of awesome kids that I've heard about.

More info is available on Edutopia and the Edible Schoolyard Project.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How round are your ball bearings?

Did you know that ball bearings don't need to be spherical to roll smoothly?  Really.  You can make pointy versions that will roll just as well as the round ones.  They just need to have constant diameter, or constant width as they call it since non-circular shapes don't really have a diameter.  The video below shows a fascinating little glimpse into a world of math and physics that kind of intrigued me.  Apparently there are 3-D shapes that are constant width that are not round.  They roll around like ball bearings.  The only reason that we don't make wheels this way is that there is no stationary place to put an axel in the center of the shape.  Take a look at the video to see what I mean.

I think the non-symmetrical shapes are really interesting.  For every sharp pointedness on one side there must be an equivalent flatness to the opposite side in order for it to all balance out.  This allows you to create objects that roll smoothly, but do not have equal weight distribution.  They won't roll away on their own, but they are smooth when used as ball bearings.

It seems to me that this is a great opportunity for playing with a CAD program and a 3D-printer.  You should be able to design all sorts of surfaces of constant width.

For more information, see How Round is Your Circle or buy the book, How Round is your Circle on Amazon.

Soon you will have a Superman suit

OK, so maybe it's just me, but I think we are coming close to making a suit that can turn you or me into Superman.  I recently came across two videos that prove my point.  First was an awesome flying video of a fellow named Yves Rossy, better known as "Jetman", who straps a wing with jets onto his back and flies around.  Sure, it would be even more awesome if the controls allowed him to put his arms out in front of him, Superman style, as he flew.  Still, it is the closest thing I've seen so far to Superman-style flying.

Next, I saw the exoskeleton called the Titan Arm, created by the young engineers from the University of Pennsylvania who won this year's James Dyson award.  It allows you to lift more weight and generally augment your movements.  This video explains the system.

So, the way I see it, with these two different systems you can become stronger and fly, just like the man of steel. How far away can the Superman suit be?  So here is the challenge to all of you out there.  How do we combine these two?  How can your jetpack wings transform into an exoskeleton to help you lift heavy stuff while you are on the ground?  I'm pretty sure that is all you would need to be able to swoop in, save Lois Lane and then fly off.  As soon as you remove the suit, you are Clark Kent again.  A suit for the superhero in all of us.

It's 08:09:10 on 11/12/13 (at least on the US west coast) lets play a game

As this posts, it's 08:09:10 on 11/12/13 (at least on the US west coast).  That is a lot of consecutive number.  I think this calls for a celebration.

Lets have a contest to see how many consecutive numbers you can place in a row in a standard English sentence.

Here is my entry:
"The score was one to three for five innings"
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - nice, eh?

Anyone have anything better?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Quadcopters - just can't get enough...

I'm not quite sure how I missed this one when it came out, but here's a nice TED talk about quadcopter.  It nicely spells out some of the reasons that we love the quadcopters here at Digital Diner.  Four motored, flying awesome as illustrated by the folks at ETH in Switzerland!

Quadcopters are so versatile...  They can even weave webs.

Pretty sure the society for the prevention of cruelty to machines will have a something to say about the next one..


There's plenty more details and lots of cool videos here: