Archive for August, 2012

This is Not an Energy Drink

This is how you fill a water bottle with fire

This is a quick experiment that you can do at home. By that, I mean it is physically possible to do at home, not that it is actually a good idea to do at home. Yes, even if you do promise not to sue.

Sounds like something to do in the back yard at the next family gathering.

How Many Licks Does it Really Take?

Physics and Physicists: “Sticky physics of joy: On the dissolution of spherical candies”

From the paper’s abstract

Assuming a constant mass-decrease per unit-surface and -time we provide a very simplistic model for the dissolution process of spherical candies. The aim is to investigate the quantitative behavior of the dissolution process throughout the act of eating the candy.

The first commenter grabbed the “low-hanging fruit” response:

Blaise Pascal said…
It appears that this is the right paper (or at least, the right researchers) to answer the important question in this field:

How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?

Previous published experimental trials yielded an answer of 3 (W. Owl, 1970), but I believe the experimental protocol was flawed.

No eror bars on that result, either.

Load Another Vortex!

Physics demonstrations: vortex cannon!

So how does this “vortex cannon” work, and what does it demonstrate? There is a surprisingly amount of physics and history behind such vortices, and they can be a lot more powerful!

Attempted Murder, He Wrote

I ran across this again just recently: Letters of Note: Maybe it’s just catharsis. But I think it’s more.

Gene Roddenberry defends the original Star Trek pilot.

In other words, am wide open to criticism and suggestions but not from those who think answers lie in things like giving somewhat aboard a dog, or adding a cute eleven-year-old boy to the crew.

No cute eleven-year-old boy? I wonder what changed his mind for TNG?

Which reminded me, I guess I should confess that I once tried to kill Wesley Crusher. Technically I have already confessed but did not deliver an allocution, so perhaps it’s time to do so.

First of all, let me say that this was nothing personal against Wil Wheaton. This was business. There were a lot of us who couldn’t stand the character of Wesley, especially at first. So when the opportunity arose, I tried to have him whacked. Here’s how that went down.

My friend Naren had done an internship with the show and was subsequently offered an opportunity to write a free-lance script as the next step of a vetting process to see if he was potential staff material (they apparently had a policy of not hiring interns directly). Naren had the beginnings of the framework of the story that would become The First Duty when he and I and the remainder of out trio, Gil, were all back home for Christmas vacation. Gil and I were still in grad school, studying physics. So one night after going out to see a movie we ended up at my parents’ house and Naren explained where he was in the script and let us pitch some ideas. As soon as he mentioned that it was to have Wesley in it (Wil Weaton had left the full-time cast to go to college, so Wesley went to Starfleet Academy) we both said, “Kill him! Oh, please, kill him.” Well, that wasn’t going to fly — a writer, especially a free-lance writer wanting to get a job, isn’t going to get anywhere killing off a recurring cast member, so we had to settle for Wesley being injured; as it ended up he had burns and a broken arm from his accident. So, yay us. Someone from Starfleet does die, which is why there is an inquest as part of the story.

Since our coup failed, the rest of the discussion that night revolved around some holes that had yet to be filled, which included the exact reason that Wesley was in trouble. I suggested that he be in a flight accident, as some sort of Blue-Angels-like (or Thunderbirds, I guess, but I was in the Navy so it’s the Blue Angels) flight team, doing close-order tricks, and the maneuver was something they shouldn’t have been doing. Teenagers (or early twentysomethings) feeling immortal and taking risks — that’s not going to require suspension of disbelief. I dubbed the maneuver the Andorian Clusterfuck, which was the first thing that popped into my head, even though I knew that name would never make it into as real script (it ended up as the Kolvoord Starburst). Gil was studying plasma physics at the time and suggested that the maneuver involve igniting a plasma to take the place of the smoke trails that the planes use. That suggestion proved to be important to the plot, since it gave a vital clue that tells Picard what naughty business the flight team was up to.

Since Gil and I were both complaining about our statistical mechanics classes, Naren’s shout-out to us was to mention how the deceased cadet (Josh) had helped Wesley with his stat-mech. Working our names into a story never happened (“Tom” and “Gil” being too mundane for the future).

So that was my involvement in that script. Overall pretty minor — nothing like wrestling with the problem of a homosexual nymphomaniac drug-addict involved in the ritual murder of a well known Scottish footballer or anything, but an important detail in a story that ended up being a pretty decent episode (it made at least one top-ten list). One little slice of ghostwriting fame.

Long Exposure Fireworks

Unusual Long Exposure Firework Photographs by David Johnson

imgur gallery

The technique I used was a simple refocus during the long exposure. Each shot was about a second long, sometimes two. I’d start out of focus, and when I heard the explosion I would quickly refocus, so the little stems on these deep sea creature lookalikes would grow into a fine point. The shapes are quite bizarre, some of them I was pleasantly surprised with.

Welcome to Tranquility

Walk on the Moon with Neil Armstrong in a Beautiful Interactive Panorama

Keeping Sharp

Reading Up On Thermodynamics

I am no uber-meister of thermodynamics either. That PhD thing I got helps, but I too have to go back, re-read the basics and then build up to the relevant literature on the subject I am studying. (This is true of all scientific work; you are always reviewing the basics.)

Oh so true. It’s one reason I spend time on the forms at this blog’s host, Science Forums (dot NET) — answering questions forces me to review basics that might have atrophied. It’s a constant battle.

Anyhow, I did (and continue to do) a lot of re-reading of my favorite thermo texts

I understand the individual words in “favorite thermo texts”, but taken together it makes no sense to me. Thermo being one of my least favorite parts of physics and all that.

It's Always More Complicated Than You Think

The Hidden Truths About Calories

Odds are you sometimes think about calories. They are among the most often counted things in the universe. When the calorie was originally conceived it was in the context of human work. More calories meant more capacity for work, more chemical fire with which to get the job done, coal in the human stove. Fat, it has been estimated, has nine calories per gram, carbohydrates and proteins just four; fiber is sometimes counted separately and gets awarded a piddling two. Every box of every food you have ever bought is labeled based on these estimates, too bad then that they are so often wrong.

It's Not Made of Iron

Robot Chef

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That's Buzz, not Neil, and other Picture Trivia

Keep in mind as you put together your Neil Armstrong packages tonight…

In fact, if you’re hoping to use a picture of Armstrong on the moon tonight: Rots of Ruck to you. Armstrong and Aldrin only walked on the moon for about two-and-a-half hours that night in 1969. Most of the time, Armstrong carried the primary camera. Aldrin carried a camera but was assigned to shoot specific, technical things.

The result: Lots of pictures of Aldrin. But hardly any of Neil.

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