Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Game of Loop

Alex Bellos designed and commissioned a pool table that is an ellipse. This has been up on Numberphile for about a month, but I saw it again on BBC just now. Along with this, he has devised a rather fun game that he talks about in the video as well as on BBC here.

An ellipse is a geometric shape that is commonly referred to as a conic section. Other examples of conic sections are parabolas and circles. The geometric definition of an ellipse is "the locus of all points", (that is all of the possible points) such that the sum of the distances to the two focal points is constant for every point on the curve. Interestingly, a circle is just a special kind of ellipse where the two foci are at the same point.

The really cool part of this is that if you were to draw a line to the edge of an ellipse from either focus, the reflection would draw a line through the other focus. For the game above, this is the core. That means that a player must be cognizant of the other focus of the ellipse in order to sink the ball into the hole, which sit on the other focus. Watch the videos, and enjoy the gameplay. I, for one, want one of these tables...

I'm working on another write up that will talk about ellipses, hopefully to post later this week. My buddy Tyler asked me about how we solved for the distance between the Earth and the Sun, using a pair of Venus transits across the Sun. I'll post that soon!

Friday, August 21, 2015

How to Become and Expert in Anything


This is a an extremely cool interview with Neil Degrasse Tyson, perhaps one of the most rock star scientists of our time. He talks to PopSci from the point of experience on how to become an expert, what that means, and what comes with it.
To be an expert means you are on the frontier, making discoveries, thinking thoughts never before dreamed of. I’m an expert in astrophysics.
I don’t generally share opinions. It may not feel that way because I speak passionately about what I know, but if you look at my tweets and books, I hardly ever express opinions—because I don’t care if you have them. I don’t care a rat’s ass. As an educator and as a scientist, I care only that you are scientifically literate.
The more informed you are, the more empowered you are to think for yourself, and the more representative our democracy will be.
Don’t come to me to debate whether climate change exists. If you’re coming to me in that fashion, you do not understand how and why science works. You’re expressing an opinion, and I’m expressing a fact.
Successful people are driven without regard to their social life, love life, or the opinions of others. Every one of them has a story saying, “Here’s a list of people who said I should do something safe.”
To be genius is to be misunderstood, but to be misunderstood is not necessarily to be genius.
I am the consequence of my life experience. Everything that has happened to me has summed to be what I am. If I jumped back in time, I would derail that learning curve, so I don’t have any urge to go to my younger self and say, “Do this, not that.” What would that mean? Making mistakes contributes to your wisdom.
It’s not that we fear technology, it’s that we occasionally take it for granted, and when we do, we discount the brilliance and work that went into it. You’ll say, “Oh, we don’t need to increase the funding on science; I’ve got my smartphone. We don’t need to go into space; I’ve got weather.com.” Well, where the hell do you think you got the image of the hurricane that just tore up Galveston, Texas?
If you want a career in science and technology, well, you better hang out with some geeks. Go ahead. They are a friendly people. They’re not talking about the clothing you are wearing. They’re not talking about your waistline. It’s just, “Who are you, and do you have interesting things to say?”
No matter what you do, you need to be able to fail and know how to recover from it in order to one day succeed. There is no successful person who has never failed. Think of the lessons you learn every time you fail. It’s the people who ignore those lessons who basically check out of that contest permanently.
The fastest way to end a career in science and technology is if you’re guilty of fraud. No one will listen to anything you publish thereafter. The greatest statement you can make to a scientist is to pay no attention to his or her science.
When you are first in the world to know something, there’s nothing like it. There is no salary, there’s no car you can drive to substitute for that feeling.
This is from PopSci, interview done by Cliff Ransom

Thursday, August 20, 2015

3D Printing... Glass



This whole concept is pretty awesome. It was only a matter of time for somebody to figure out how to get glass to print nicely, and apparently it happened at MIT's Mediated Matter Group. If you go to their website, you see a fairly simple description:

Additive Manufacturing in Glass

For a process that is both amazing to behold and is absolutely beautiful. Check it out here at PopSci.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Ferrolic


Ferrolic is a fun little device that takes advantage of of the magnetic sensitivity of ferrofluids. The front portion is a very thin tank with a small amount of the volume filled with ferrofluid, the rest of the device has a series of electromagnets that control the fluid and make some very striking art. It can be used as a simple digital clock, or as a desk piece. Check out the videos here.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Meteor Shower Season

Now that the Summer Solstice is well past, the nights can start to get longer so that we can all do more stargazing. The last half of this year promises to be amazing not just for stars, but also meteor showers.

This week (August 10-14) marks the Perseids Meteor Shower, the herald for the season. This is made even more special as the light pollution due to the Moon will not be there, as the Moon is New this week. The following all come from the 2015 Astronomy Calendar of Celestial Events.


The New Moons for the rest of the year each coincide with a major celestial event:


In September:

September 13 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 06:41 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

September 13 - Partial Solar Eclipse. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Sun, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun's reflection. The partial eclipse will only be visible in southern Africa, Madagascar, and Antarctica.


In October:

October 13 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 00:06 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

October 21, 22 - Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.


In November:

November 5, 6 - Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains left behind by Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. The second quarter moon will block out all but the brightest meteors this year. If you are patient, you may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

November 11 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 17:47 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

November 17, 18 - Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing an up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The first quarter moon will set shortly after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what could be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.


And Finally in December:

December 11 - New Moon. The Moon will located on the same side of the Earth as the Sun and will not be visible in the night sky. This phase occurs at 10:29 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.

December 13, 14 - Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.


So get out there and enjoy the Night!