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Archive for the 'Optical Illusions' Category

The Mad Scientists’ Club

Friday, August 8th, 2008

This article about a “dinosaur-like’ creature being spotted in Papua New Guinea reminded me of a book I read as a kid called The Mad Scientists’ Club. I Googled the title and was surprised to find the author’s son had a web site and the book is still in print. The publisher Purple House Press was apparently created to publish books people enjoyed as children which were out of print. Anyway, the story was The Strange Sea Monster of Strawberry Lake in which a bunch of kids build a monster and mount it on a boat. My wife said she remembered seeing a movie about it and according to this article at Wikipedia it was a two part story on the Wonderful World of Disney entitled “The Strange Monster of Strawberry Cove”.

It also reminded me to visit a site I hadn’t been to in a while called Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories where they have instruction on how to build some strange things like a cardboard cat chaise and a 3D printer that fuses sugar. That persistence of vision thing they had on there reminded me of something I built with a friend of mine when we were kids. It was a florescent string on a motor and it gave the appearance of a semi-solid object you could deform with your hands under a black light.

Speaking of mad scientists, I’ve been reading all these weird things about the Large Hadron Collider causing the end of the world by creating black holes or something. Never mind cosmic rays hit the upper atmosphere with the same amount of power every day. Anyway, here is one that I really found amusing. The LHC will be shutdown before it starts by ripples from the future.

I thought this picture of a bridge that becomes a tunnel was kind of interesting.

Here is another photo I liked of fire and water.

How about a house made out of Styrofoam? I was thinking at least if it fell on you it wouldn’t hurt but according to the article, the panels are 175 lbs each, so maybe not.

How about a mirror made out of wood? You really have to watch the video on this one to appreciate it. It also gives you a close up so you can see how it works. Very cool!

And finally, oh you know I always end with a cute animal picture.

Ancient Aliens

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

I got a kick out of this story about the supposed discovery of a spaceship that crashed on earth 150 million years ago. It makes a good story. I had not heard of the Eben so I googled ‘Eben alien‘ and got a ton of conspiracy theory links. The article made me think about how silly it is in Star Gate when they find some alien ship and Carter is all up in the wiring like it’s based on familiar technology.

On the subject of flying objects here are pictures of objects sucked into an MRI scanner. The pictures aren’t necessarily that good but it does give you a feel for how powerful those things are.

I found this article at the Times interesting because one of the things I like about our new car is it displays the tire pressure. I find the whole thing about offshore drilling depressing. I’m hoping in twenty years we surely will have some technology to replace gasoline. As I’ve said before, oil is too valuable to burn. It’s the source of plastics, solvents, and many pharmaceuticals. Also given the power of sunlight, and the implications of Moore’s law, I just can’t believe we won’t figure out how to harness it and use it more cheaply than any other energy source.

Speaking of new technology, I had never heard of electron-stimulated luminescence but it sounds a lot like how a TV works. Apparently there is a company coming out with lightbulbs based on it.

A friend of mine sent me an email with pictures of things made out of oranges and lemons and so forth. I found the web site but the slide show doesn’t seem to work. You can see the pictures changing on the banner though.

This parking garage is an interesting use of perspective. I’ve often thought you could use a 3D program to generate a template for doing something like this.

If you owned an 8 foot eagle wouldn’t you teach it to play fetch?

One of the cool things about having a high resolution digital camera is being able to crop out a smaller part of the picture and still get a decent shot.  Kodak has released a fifty megapixel sensor. I can’t wait to get a camera with one of those. Then again when I saw the price at the end of the article, I guess it’s going to be a while.

Creating a ball which bounces on water never occurred to me. I’m surprised they aren’t selling paddles and a floating net with it. I have often thought it would be cool to play golf where you used a boat instead of a cart to get around. I suppose you could make some sort of water golf game using that ball.

And finally, check out these cute pictures of dogs and cats together.

Shooting a 3D Picture

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

There are a number of ways to shoot a pair of pictures which can be viewed in 3D. The best way is to have a 3D camera or a special lens that shoots both images simultaneously. I have a special lens but it’s cheap. I don’t have the ability to control the focus and the plastic optics don’t yield a very clear picture. By the time you tweak them in a graphics program and size them for the internet they can look alright.

Another way to do it is to shoot a picture and then slide the camera to the side and shoot another picture. The problem is nothing can change over the time between shots, so this is limited to objects that don’t move. Also if you are using a flash, it has to stay in the same spot so it can’t be attached to the camera.

I have never used the technique outside because even the slightest breeze can mess up the shot. The other day was an extremely calm day. We have a striking yellow lily blooming in the yard so I decided to give it a shot.

Here is my set up.

a camera set up for taking a 3D picture

Note the high tech tilt control. A pair of bricks for more tilt and a pair of plant pot bottoms for less tilt. I have built a sliding track with a camera mount on it. That is a clamp slightly out of view to hold the track to the ladder. It’s a cheap set up but not very portable.

a sliding track

This track is much longer than you really need. Typically you would only move the camera about the distance between your eyes but its fun to experiment with different distances. When you move it farther it can make it harder to view but it does emphasize the depth.

This camera has a manual setting so I can make sure the exposure is exactly the same in the two pictures. Some graphics programs can make up for a small difference in exposures.

With no breeze it was ideal for shooting but really hot for the photographer. After you get your two shots, you can format them in a graphics program side by side. I usually format them for cross viewing. But I also have different sets of 3D glasses and for viewing that way you swap the two images.

You can learn to cross view at my tutorial here. I have more 3D pictures in my gallery. And finally, you were probably expecting my lily picture but I also shot this.

A Raspberry

To see it in 3D click here.

Universal Theory of Humor

Wednesday, June 18th, 2008

It seems like I’m always seeing claims that someone has invented a car that runs on water. The problem is, you can break water into hydrogen and oxygen but it takes as much energy to do it as you would get burning the hydrogen. On the other hand, we are about to buy a gas burning car and I joke right after we do, someone will invent one that runs on urine.

Check out these pictures of astronauts working in space.

There are more than 750 cancer therapies currently in development. This article is about cancer stem cells and a possible cure.

Speaking of stem cells, researchers are on the verge of making old muscle young again.

Want to live in million dollar houses for free? Here is how to do it.

I really prefer it if these pictures were just presented in a cross-view format. Here are some old pictures presented in 3D using the wiggle vision approach.

This is pretty strange. Extreme ironing is people ironing in unusual places.

It’s not an easy read but; Is the Universe Actually Made of Math?

This article about the first universal theory of humor isn’t very funny. It is interesting though.

Amusing childish games such as peek-a-boo and clap hands all exhibit the precise mechanism of humour as it appears in any adult form. Peek-a-boo can elicit a humorous response in infants as young as four months, and is, effectively, a simple process of surprise repetition, forming a clear, basic pattern.

For some reason it made me think of that silly Monty Python skit; The funniest Joke in the world.

There is a full moon tonight. For years I thought the moon looked larger when it rises because of some atmospheric distortion. It’s actually all an illusion.

And finally, here is a cute story of a cat and bear who are best friends.

More 3D

Monday, May 26th, 2008

For those of you who can see 3D images using the cross-view technique here is a site that has some nice ones. I thought the light painting one was interesting. I’ve always wanted to shoot a 3D lightning picture, but it would be challenging (not to mention dangerous). If you want to learn to cross view, there is also a tutorial link there or you can read mine.

I’ve been writing about exoskeletons lately, here’s an exoskeleton motorcycle.

Years back Pons and Fleischmann announced they had achieved fusion at room temperature. The trouble was they hadn’t. There are few technologies which could have such an enormous impact on the world. Now a Japanese researcher has made the same claim. We’ll see.

The Forkinswift is an electric car built from used forklift parts (electric motor, etc.), used golf cart batteries (and a golf cart PWM motor controller) and a pair of near-dead “host” cars.

Turns out one of the things killing coral around the world is sunscreen. I watched Man vs Wild on Friday and ironically he used goo from a coral as sunscreen.

120 square feet of living space for $1500? I don’t really consider a bathroom and kitchen optional, but I suppose you could join a bunch of them together.

Speaking of bathrooms, check out the view from this one.

Here are tips for Green lawn care. As i get older I’m thinking the just get rid of the grass option is maybe the best. I keep wondering why I grow the stuff. I can’t eat it and it’s a pain to take care of.

I was reading about all the new lakes created from landslides as a result of the Chinese earthquake. Here is a series of satellite images showing one forming.

Here are some funny pictures made from food. I like the watermelon one the best.

Optimus Prime from the Transformers movie sculpted out of junk sounded kind of lame but after I clicked on it, I was impressed.

And finally, you know I always finish with a cute animal shot.

More Illusions

Thursday, May 22nd, 2008

Arthur Shapiro has a web site devoted to optical illusions I’ve linked to before. This week he has an interesting one, but he also has this link on his page which takes you to the winners of the best illusions of the year.

You may already have read this AP article about a lost parrot. The parrot refused to talk to the police but later gave his owner’s name and address to a vet. Perhaps it was on advice from his attorney.

I thought this piece about a student who isolated the microorganisms that degrades plastic bags was interesting. When you read about his technique, which sounded pretty straight forward, you wonder why someone didn’t try it before.

I got a chuckle out of this link a friend sent me for a “handy free utility“.

Here are 15 Living Walls, Vertical Gardens & Sky Farms. I thought the best stuff was on the last page.

This false cucumber is both clever and creepy at the same time.

Jupiter has a new red spot.

I like these strange rope people sculptures.

Apparently you can control jet lag by changing when you eat.

Here is a robot which walks like a human. Check out the futuristic stylish head they put on it.

Here is a list of strange animals. I guess I knew the Mayfly didn’t live long but I didn’t know the adult has no mouth and can’t eat.

And finally, here are more cute puppy photos.


Thursday, May 15th, 2008

One of my cats brought a rabbit into the house and let it go today. I think it is in a room we use for storage which means it’s full of stuff, and the rabbit could be anywhere. If any of my readers has a suggestion on how to catch it, I’d love to hear it. I might run out and buy one of those cage traps later.

There is a berry called Miracle fruit. For about 30 minutes after you eat it, it makes sour things taste sweet.

This article says the music you listen to can effect the taste of wine.

This is a pretty cool video about an optical illusion where it appears as though an image is animated as you move a sheet with vertical lines over it.

This is interesting. According to this article, the reason we see optical illusions is because our visual system is predicting future events.

Diatoms are tiny unicellular algae that have shells made of silicon dioxide. It’s possible in the future; Microbes Could Build ‘Iron Man’ Circuits.

I’ve been seeing a lot of news on the chemical Bisphenol A lately. In this article it’s linked to obesity. Even though the FDA won’t tell parents to avoid it, you wonder how they can sell this stuff anymore. How many parents would take the chance?

85% of Americans Want a Presidential Debate on Science. It’s nice to see members of both political parties agree on something.

Having less power makes you dumber.

By randomly assigning individuals to high and low-power conditions, they demonstrate that simply lacking power can automatically lead to performance that reinforces one’s low standing, sending the powerless towards a destiny of dispossession.

After reading; Report: Government’s Cyber Security Plan Is Riddled With New Spying Programs, I had the thought we could all save a lot of money and gain a lot of privacy if those of us who are not terrorists could get certified as such. No matter how many civil liberties we give up or how much we spend there will always be gaps in our protection.

If you don’t know what a trebuchet is, it’s one of those large wooden contraptions people used to use to hurl things at castles. In this video they hurl people into a net. I don’t think I’d try that.

Want more trebuchet videos? This guy hurls cars and flaming pianos.

A German street performer appears to be hanging in space with one hand against the wall. If you look closely at the last picture on the second page, you will see how it’s done. His left arm isn’t real and it is attached to a harness.

And finally, I’ll leave you with three nice photos; this striking city at night, this African setting, and whatever this cute thing is.

It’s a Circus Out There

Monday, May 5th, 2008

The phone rang. I picked it up and said “Hello”, there was no response. “Hello”, I said again, and again, silence. I quickly hung up before the political pollster or candidate activist could reach me. That’s right I live in Indiana. Unless you are older than 58 (and I’m not), if you live here you have never participated in a meaningful presidential primary. By the time we vote, everything is pretty much settled.

Now, this is not a political blog, but I am going to rant a minute on the process. It’s a circus out there and I’m absolutely sure, the best person we could get for the job would never run because of that.

Recently all three major candidates declined to a debate about science, and I think that is unfortunate because I am truly interested in what they have to say on the subject, and their general grasp of technical matters. Many of our most important problems will either be solved by or caused by technology.

The job of the presidency involves many different skills but if I could get my way I would like to see the candidates demonstrate skills in math and logic. I would also like to see them listen to a logical argument and show they understood the reasoning behind it.

Beyond that, I would like to see them recite an ordered list of hard-to-pronounce countries from memory.

End rant.

I’m always fascinated by alternative building technology. Here’s an article about a house built using the ‘rammed earth’ approach. Granted it’s small and they didn’t include the price for plumbing or power but it only cost $1000. It does look a little like something the Seven Dwarves would live in.

Houses like that have a huge heat capacity so they average the temperature differences between day and night, or between seasons. Usually they use dirt or stone but here is a company that sells really massive wood house kits.

This guy built a home using straw bale construction. Again, he doesn’t include some of the things a lot of us consider necessities, but the house cost 4000 pounds or about $8000 American.

What would you do with all the money you saved on a house like that? Well you could blow it on this really cool but very expensive electric car. Tesla Motors has finally started shipping its Roadster. Any Johnny Photon fans are welcome to buy me one of those.

This is an article about people using robotic squirrels and lizards to do research. Since it’s likely they would confuse the other animals, it reminded me of that very silly Monty Python bit; Confuse a Cat.

Here is how to make fireballs you can hold in your hand. Kids, don’t try this without adult supervision.

After the Kentucky Derby, we were curious why they can’t help horses with broken legs. Here is why.

Here is another optical illusion. You don’t want to stare at that for long.

Finally, I thought this picture of a sewage truck had a funny political message on it.

Capacitors on Steroids

Friday, May 2nd, 2008

Gary Settles is a professor of mechanical engineering who studies gas dynamics. Here is a video where he uses both high speed photography and Schlieren photography to visualize shock waves, dogs breathing, and so on.

I read about the company EEStor some time ago. It’s one of those technological developments which sounds too good to be true but you hope it is. A capacitor stores charge directly, unlike a battery which uses chemistry to store energy. Unfortunately ordinary capacitors can’t store much and it leaks away quickly. An ultracapacitor is like a capacitor on steroids. They can not only hold a large amount of power but it leaks away slowly. One other difference between capacitors and batteries is capacitors can be charged quickly, and discharged very quickly as well. If EEstor’s technology pans out, it could mean the end of batteries as we know them. In this article EEStor claims;

This could translate into an electric vehicle capable of traveling up to 500 miles on a five minute charge, compared with current battery technology which offers an average 50-100 range on an overnight charge. As if that weren’t enough, the company claims they will be able to mass-produce the units at a fraction of the cost.

Strap-on helicopters don’t really exist but someone has designed one.

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of being stung over 100 times not once but twice, so the story; What is Causing Super-sized Yellow Jacket Nests? completely creeps me out.

Here is another cool optical illusion. It looks completely different if you add edges or remove them.

From this article it seems we in the U.S. pay more and get less than other countries when it comes to internet bandwidth.

Finally, here is a collection of photos that capture an instant in time.

Behaving Strangely

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Physics is so odd. If this article at Scientific American had been published on April 1st instead of the 3rd, I would have said BS indeed. I suppose if you can get your head around particles slipping in and out of existence, then one which switches between matter and antimatter is no less believable.

The twist comes from odd behavior in a particle called the BS (pronounced “B-sub-S”), which flips back and forth between its matter and antimatter forms three trillions times per second.

Here is an article at NPR about chimps using spears. It doesn’t sound like they actually throw them. It sounds like they use them to dislodge prey from trees.

The Mangrove Killfish spends several months out of water, living in trees. It’s also the only known vertebrate that is hermaphroditic. This article has a photo.

Here is a paint that changes color in icy conditions. The idea is to put it on road surfaces to give you a heads up, the road may be slick.

If you have epilepsy, do not follow this link because of the flashing. I have been seeing a lot of these ‘wiggle vision‘ pictures lately. The idea is by rapidly changing between two slightly different views, you get a 3D impression. The amount of depth seems to vary quite a bit depending on the picture. I guess I would rather just see the pictures side-by-side and cross view them.

Its amazing how something as destructive as a nuclear explosion can also be strangely beautiful. Here are 8 pictures of nuclear explosions. When I worked at Bell Labs, one of my co-workers had a poster of the first picture in his office. I remember he was working on a project where they used lithium batteries and they were concerned about the batteries exploding if they got shorted out. He had taken some in his backyard and sprayed them with water. He would point at the poster and say that was what happened.

The Brazilian Copaifera langsdorfii is a tree that can be tapped like a rubber tree. Instead of rubber it produces a natural diesel fuel which is merely filtered and put in the tank with no refining necessary.

Finally I got a chuckle out of this maze door chain.