Archive for the ‘science’ Category.

Will It Lens? Food Edition

If you missed it, here’s part 1 and part 2 of our adventures with a 4’x3′ fresnel lens. As always, I’ve got a gallery of all the raw pictures, and this is a summary of the good ones.

The same SAFETY NOTES as before apply, with the addition that you shouldn’t eat any food you cooked in the same skillet in which you just cooked non-edible things (plastics, coins, etc). Also, we’ve upgraded our welding goggles, from a shade 5 filter to a shade 12, which is actually good enough that you can stare at stuff in the focal point. It’s not quite good enough to stare directly at the sun, but it’s darn close, and rumor has it that you can watch sunspots through this thing if you don’t look at them too long.

Last time, I left you with a picture of popcorn getting ready to be lensed. More results with more pictures →

Will It Lens? Part 2

In case you missed it, here’s part 1 of our adventures with the 3’x4′ fresnel lens.

Oh, man. I have lots more pictures. The same SAFETY NOTE as last time applies again, but with a few more additions. You should probably wash your hands after you’re done handling stuff in the lens. In particular, when you heat copper up until it turns black, you’ve probably made copper (II) oxide, which is a somewhat nasty irritant. I also make no guarantees about how many carcinogens we’ve made/touched/breathed, although so far I still feel healthy (no cancer in the past week!). Speaking of health hazards, if you use a frying pan to hold stuff, make sure it doesn’t have a Teflon non-stick coating! That coating will burn away and become a huge safety hazard (it’s mainly fluorine, and most fluorine compounds are toxic, volatile, and several other kinds of nasty; quite a few fluorine compounds were used as chemical weapons and precursors to sarin nerve gas, so avoid it at all costs). We got a cast-iron skillet, which is reasonably safe and inert, and it doesn’t melt until we break 1800K, which is very unlikely with our current setup.

Anyway, on to the results. with more pictures, of course. →

Will It Lens?

A couple weeks ago, Dustin got a whole bunch of people to each contribute a few dollars, and we bought a four foot by three foot fresnel lens. It arrived earlier this week, and we’ve been spending our lunch hours out in the sun playing with it.

Explanation of the lens and safety note, followed by more pictures →

Stand Back, I’m Going to Try Science!

My father is a chemical engineer at a large company. He volunteers in an outreach program where the company gives him science demonstrations aimed at precocious elementary schoolers, and he periodically goes to schools and birthday parties and stuff to show how neat science is. One of the kits he does is all about cryogenics, where he gets about a gallon of liquid nitrogen (LN2), and demonstrates what happens to things when you freeze them really cold. He talks about how matter can be a gas, a liquid, or a solid, and how its properties change as it goes from one state to another and changes temperature (racquetballs become brittle, flowers become crumbly, small amounts of LN2 boil into large amounts of nitrogen gas, etc).

He did a demonstration a couple days ago, and still had some LN2 left over from it. Ordinarily he just pours the rest out on the street (it boils away quickly, and no one notices since air is already about 78% nitrogen). However, this time we convinced him to keep it around for a few days so we can try freezing other things. Some stuff about LN2, and some safety tips, followed by a bunch of pictures →

An idea for tuning new music

I’ve been reading about the history of musical tuning (which is way more interesting than it sounds; no pun intended, but please bear with me), and it recently occurred to me that these days, you can actually get all your notes in tune (which has not truly been possible at any point in history more than about 50 years ago). I can’t tell if this will make a significant difference in most music, but I think it would be interesting to try. Before I explain my idea in more detail, let me summarize the various tuning systems over the years, to give you the background of where this came from. Wikipedia, while not necessarily wrong here, is too incomprehensible to really read; I got a lot of information from this old temperament overview.

A history of tuning methods, followed by a new idea →

The Singularity is Not Necessarily Near

For those of you not already familiar with him, let me start off by introducing the visionary futurist Ray Kurzweil. He’s done some amazing things, but I don’t think his whole Singularity thing is right. →

Tell me about your ideal programming language.

Suppose you could create the specification for your ideal programming language. It must be possible to implement (it can’t solve undecidable problems, etc), but other than that the sky’s the limit. What would you put in it (what kind of syntax, intrinsics, etc)? For what sort of applications would it be used? What other features would it have? Would the interpreter/compiler do anything unusual? Tell me anything you want about your ideal language and the tools that go with it. You’re welcome to answer some of these questions if you don’t have answers to all of them.

I’ve been asking variations of this question to all sorts of people, and it’s fascinating seeing where they agree and where they don’t.

Science is awesome: the Kaye effect

Science is awesome: early life support machines

Merry Easter, all! Zombie Jesus may not be real, but we can honour him anyway by watching videos of Zombie Dog Head, which is real. Though I should first post a WARNING: THESE VIDEOS ARE VERY GRAPHIC. The first one shows organs and body parts that have been dismembered. The second shows a dog getting killed (and then brought back to life; there is a happy ending!). Seeing early prototypes of the life support systems that hospitals use is fascinating!

and while I’m posting robot videos…