Sunday, November 30, 2008

youtube, Yahoo and AP

Here you see AP ripping off a youtube video of Obama . . . they either don't know how to use the embed function - or don't like the way that youtube does the progress bar. Whatever the reasoning what I see looks pretty ridiculous to me . . . any thoughts?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

How to identify a math major

I recently received a lab report that was stapled in an interesting way.
Just in case you're having trouble seeing what happened here, the student first used a stapler designed for many pages (I think it's for over 45 pages, but I'm not sure) on a stack that was way too short.  He did this three times. Then, for good measure, he topped it off with a standard staple (after a misfire, first).
Needless to say, this student is a math major.

And, Happy Turkey Day to all our American readers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Aerodynamic Power Failures

Last Thursday I was scheduled to make up my Aerodynamics midterm (which I had missed over Simchat Torah). As fate would have it there was a power failure. Not just any power failure, an extended outage, in fact as of this afternoon the power company still hadn't found where the underground cable blew out. My exam was scheduled for 4:00, I started it at 4:15 (sundown) in a conference room in the engineering building. As would be expected it got dark quickly, and suddenly I was taking an exam in a room with no lights at night. Fortunately, I have a flash light in my backpack.
My initial setup, note the sealed envelope with the exam in it.

My view after about 20 minutes (and this is the actual picture I took with the flash off, not just a black plate, if you open it you can see the small amount of light reflecting off of my watch in the right hand side, you can also see the table to some degree).
The same view, but with my flashlight on (so this is how I took the exam).

Finally the same image but with the flash on, you can see the flashlight on the exam booklet (if you look close you can even see the compass). And yes, I was taking the exam by myself with no supervison, although to be fair it is rather hard to cheat on an open book, open notes, open quiz, and open home work exam.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Title to be determined

After requesting to get access to a directory for my new job I received a very helpful message: "If you have any questions of problems, contact or visit the following: to be determined"

Fortunately for me the only problem or question that I have is the following:
Who/Where do I contact or visit!?!?!?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's Inside a Diaper? Project

We have some left over, fairly low quality [i.e. leaky], WalMart-brand diapers (White Cloud and Parent's Choice) in a size too small.  So I figured that it is time for...a Science Experiment!
I chose one diaper, and prepared the specimen for dissection:

After some preliminary incisions to remove some connective tissue, I was able to peel back the outer layer, revealing the inner guts of the diaper:

This flaky, dusty, papery, almost cotton-like material was laced with little beads:

Upon addition of water, I noticed two phases of absorption.  First there was a rapid, although weak absorption by the papery stuff.  This was followed by the second, stronger, slower absorption phase when the beads started taking up the water.
This two-stage method is fairly clever, and efficient in vivo.  The first step rapidly pulls the, well, "moisture" away from the, erhm, "source," decreasing the likelihood of instant leaks, while the second phase stores the "moisture" well for a longer period of time, thus allowing the source's "handlers" to sleep a little bit longer.

But just how much moisture can these things hold?
The dry weight of the absorbent part of the diaper is around 20 grams.  I added water until it just stopped absorbing:
The added weight of the absorbed water was around 600 grams (and the absorbed volume was similarly around 600 ml).  So, the diaper can hold around 30 times its weight in fluid.  (And these are the cheap diapers!)  I was pretty impressed.
Here are the beads at near-full absorbency:

We still have a bunch of these diapers left, so if there are any further experiments you'd like to see, please let me know in the comments.

And now you know What's Inside a Diaper.  Aside from the obvious, that is.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Cinnamon Buns for Fun

Last week I made cinnamon buns. I got the recipe from Alton Browns cooking show Good Eats and I recommend it anyone who ever wanted to make their own cinnamon buns. While it was a slight pain to work with dough that has butter in it (I couldn’t use my mothers Parve Kitchen Aid, so had to do it by hand) and it’s a test of patience to let the dough sit overnight in your fridge before they are baked, I think it is well worth it.

Before the baking.

After the baking and glazing, you can see the glaze in the pot in the left corner of this picture. It should be noted I used Alton Browns doughnut glaze recipe instead of the glaze in the recipe.

And of course the close up.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Names of Monkey Sounds

I saw this study the other day that played the sounds that monkey's make to other monkeys. The sounds were scientifically labeled: "coos, grunts, barks, and harmonic arches." I thought that "harmonic arch" probably isn't what the monkey had meant to say!
There is an even more extensive list in this paper Y. E. Cohen 2006, but I have censored it for the general public . . . you'll know why if you look it up.

Photo courtesy of link

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Nothahn Update

Some time ago I reported on a NYC MTA bus engineering test.  At the time, I asked for translations of the German word "Nothahn" appearing on a sign.  Courtesy of the FailBlog, I think I might know what Nothahn means:
Although, this is clearly a mistranslation, I believe that we can deduce that Nothahn means "Emergency Lock," similar to some of the suggestions we got in the comments back then.  Mystery solved!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Optical Brightness Illusions, and Hazyness

These optical illusions are so great that they have the privilege of gracing my new wall.

The gray Diamonds are all the same shade of brightness.
Note the much stronger effect in the upper one.

The gray rectangles inside are the same shade of brightness.

Below is my current all time favorite.

The two inside diamonds are identical.

Unlike the normal illusions of brightness, this time one of the diamonds appears "Hazy" quite an impressive feat. It takes some nuance to explain why this happens (E. H. Adelson 2000), but the other illusions are easily explained by the similar illusion below:

If you were to see this in real life, the actual reflectance of B would be lighter than A, and so your brain computes this and tells you that its brighter even though on the screen they have the same brightness.

These are fake-motion drawings:

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Hazardous Area

I saw this in City College today.  For some reason, I doubt wet paint really is so dangerous, but who knows...

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I'm Watching You!!!

I recently got a job. I am now a Rutgers University employee, working for the Associate Director of the CAIT building. Basically what I do is work out how to use a 9.5 foot helium balloon with a remote control Pan Tilt Camera system, so I could literal be watching you right now. However, the really cool bit is that I have a big lab all to myself.

You can see the pan tilt on the left, with the remote control right next to it, and next to that is the battery chargerThis is the blimp (not inflated of course, and with no tail fins)