Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chip Art

As part of my research for my Ph.D. I needed to have some small-scale structures fabricated (you may recall my all-nighter at BNL). Recently I haven't been doing much of that, sticking to theory and simulation, but I left a little surprise in the GDSII file I sent to the ``fab team'' operating out of The Cornell NanoScale Science & Technology Facility (CNF).  And they found it! [Click through for full size]
These were actually some of the larger features I hid on the chip, but I think they came out really nicely.

Two things:
1. I was inspired by the work of the talented people over at The Silicon Zoo to put this on the wafer. You should check their site out (the zoo starts a couple lines down).
2. I forget where I got the silhouette picture from, but I think it was from Ironic Sans's The Histogram as the Image post (modified slightly).

Update 6:17PM
SJester's comment made me realize that I didn't comment on the size scale here! The whole cityscape is around a third of the width of a human hair. The width of the Empire State Building is around the diameter of a bacterium, and the antenna on top of the Empire State Building is as wide as the wavelength of UV light (smaller than all the other ``ROY G. BIV''), and the width of the antenna on the WTC is smaller than a rabies virus! This is approximately three billion times smaller than actual size.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Additional Studies on The Recent Evolution of The American Urinal

Some time ago Eli first documented the new species of urinal americanas urinalas aqualessAt the time he questioned whether this was a naturally occurring species or if it was the result of genetic engineering.  Unfortunately, we here at The Lansey Brothers' Blog Investigative Team do not have any information about the validity of these allegations (If you do have information on this matter please leak this information to us, the people have a right to know).  I am here to alert our readers to the fact that it has become an invasive species.  Previously shown to be exclusive to arid climates it has begun to appear in this moist north eastern climate.  Additionally, it has shown the ability to rapidly adapt to the wetter beer addled climate.  I present to you my findings on this newly discovered subspecies urinalas aqualess vortexsius.
While the changes in this subspecies are not large they have resulted in a significantly improved fluid processing capabilities.  The elongated neck area, over previously observed samples of this species, has resulted in increased vortex creation allowing for improved drainage and user amusement.  This has resulted in the capabilities of this species to proliferate on college campuses and then the rest of world.  While initial studies indicated a solitary lifestyle, it has been recently shown to have the beginnings of a pack mentality, as shown below.

While is has yet to be seen in packs larger than two the speed at which it is forcing out older species is concerning.  In this image you can even see the remains of the previous species to inhabit this region.  The only logical conclusion is that this new species may have cannibalistic tendencies toward older outdated species.  If pack sizes continues to grow at this rate we on the brink of a great extinction.

This is the greatest issue of concern since Global Cooling.  Please write your government representatives, we need to stop this global extinction of the americanas urinalas due to loss of habitat and violent encroachment on territory by the urinalas aqualess vortexsius.  Action must be taken before it is to late.  If worst comes to worst we can always create a americanas urinalas sanctuary.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Metropolitan Waterworks Museum

The new Metropolitan Waterworks museum (where I am a volunteer) is having a grand opening today (3/27/2011), from 11:00-4:00pm (location).The Museum is about steam power, public health, and the Boston waterworks. It houses a few historic steam engines that were the state of the art in their day, breaking records for efficiency. I hope to eventually get one of the smaller ones spinning.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sexagon Update

Some more updates on the Sexagon front:

Thanks to Nathan Schurr for the above Philosoraptor,

Also, thanks to the bloggers Doings at Useless Ranch for their part in bringing sexagon back into the lexicon. They use it to refer to a certain quilting pattern traditionally called a "Grandmother's Flower Garden" (see below).

"Just to be clear, we are talking about an actual six-sided shape, not the six person sexual position/act, although now I really want everyone to start calling that a Grandmother's Flower Garden. Whenever it might come up in conversation. Whenever that might be." -mb on the sexagon, link

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Choose your own adventure

I am TAing a lab section at CCNY this semester.
Check out the bottom of the cover sheet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aryeh Cooks: Chocolate Eclairs Part 2/2

Welcome back to Aryeh Cooks.  If you don't recall the first part of this post, well than go back and read it again.

Pastry cream is more of a custard than a cream (although it can have cream in it).  And here comes a recipe:

1 1/2 cup dairy product (I made this twice, once with none fat milk and once with heavy cream)
Vanilla (the recipe uses a vanilla bean, I used vanilla sugar and you could probably use vanilla extract.
4 egg yolk (and this is where you could get your egg whites for your choux)
1/2 cup of sugar (I substituted some of this for vanilla sugar)
3 and 1/2 tablespoons of corn starch
1 tablespoon of butter (unsalted)
NOTE: this recipe will only yield enough for half of your eclairs so you should double it (I only made a half batch of the eclairs so this was fine for me).

There area number of different methods for separating egg whites from egg yolks, and you can learn about them from a Google search.  I used the shell method.  The only real advise I can give you on this is not to use eggs straight out of the fridge, warm them up first and they will be far easier to separate.

Add half of the sugar to the egg yolks and the other half into the dairy (you should add the vanilla flavor to the dairy).  Put the dairy over the stove on low heat (the last thing you want to do it burn your dairy).
Cream the egg yolks and sugar together with the corn starch.
Slowly bring the dairy to a simmer, as soon as you start getting bubbles rising you should be good and you should take the dairy off the heat.

Now comes the bit that always scared me about custards.  You need to bring the temperature of the eggs up slowly.  If you do it to quickly you will have scrambled eggs in your custard.  The way to do this is to slowly add the hot dairy into the egg yolks while mixing.  Take your mixing implement with one hand and your dairy in the other.  While mixing the eggs slowly pour a bit of the diary into the eggs and mix.  When they are fully mixed add a bit more diary in.  By the time you have mixed about half of the dairy in you should be OK to drastically speed up the combination.  (Sorry I don't have pictures of this step, I was busy not messing it up)

Pour the custard base back into the pot and put back on low heat.
It is important that you keep stirring the pot.  This step will take some time.  As the mix heats up it will become a little more viscous,
than all of a sudden it will just thicken on you.
Once it thickens pull it off the heat and transfer it into a bowl.
Take your butter and mix it in the custard should become much smoother with a glossy appearance.
Cover with some plastic wrap and refrigerate.  It is important that the plastic is in direct contact with the pastry cream so that is does not develop a skin while it sets.

When your pastry cream has gotten cold and set put it into a pastry bag with a smallish star head on it.
Then stick into the side of your eclair and squeeze until pastry cream starts coming back out.  Repeat until you have filled all your eclairs.

Next take about a cup of chocolate chips and a teaspoon of vegetable oil and melt.  Most cooks recommend melting chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave, I have always done it on a stove at the lowest temperature setting.
Than dip your eclairs in the chocolate and refrigerate to set.

Voilà you have made chocolate eclairs, congrats.

Earlier I mentioned that I made I made two batch of the pastry cream with two different dairy products.  They resulted in two completely different textures with the heavy cream resulting in a stiff custard and the none fat milk resulting in a pudding like custard.  For eclairs whole milk is probably your best bet.  However, the heavy cream was for a chocolate eclair cake, which is a bonus on this episode of Aryeh Cooks.

I started with a regular chocolate cake (I use the recipe from the back of the Hersey's coco powder).  Then I cut it into layers.  Alton brown has a trick for this, he uses some wood and a saw blade.  I have modified this for the soft chocolate cake and I use some wood and some fishing line (although very thin wire, like what is used to cut into large blocks of clay, would probably work better).  I use some 1/2 inch square dowels I bought from home depot (I bought one length and cut it in half).  You put the wood on both sides of the cake and using it as a guide you run the fishing wire through the cake.  I find a sawing motion works best, but you will likely need to play around with this technique to find what works for you.  Then spread the filling of your choice (I have used pudding, chocolate mousse and the pastry cream) onto a layer and place the next on on top.
Repeat as many times as necessary.
Then cover with a chocolate glaze (go find a recipe you like online, I have played with a number and haven't found one I really like) and then decorate the top however you like.

 This says Happy Birthday in Russian, the gun is an AK-47 (sort of, this is the first time I have tried drawing something on a cake).
Happy birthday Pasha.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Security Theater

They're installing some new outside benches at CCNY. Before they're fully bolted down, though, they seemed concerned about someone walking off with them:
This is particularly ridiculous for a few reasons. Firstly, that bench weighs a lot. They were moving them around with forklifts -- hardly something you could sneak away. Secondly, anyone with the wherewithal to abscond with the bench could probably figure out a way to break the puny lock or cable. And, finally, notice the middle bench board is missing a screw. All of the boards are attached with Philip's head screws, so if someone wanted to steal the thing, they'd only need to unscrew a few screws to walk off the the boards and base in pieces, leaving the lock securely fastened around the lamp post.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Aryeh Cooks: Chocolate Eclairs Part 1/2

Eclairs seem like a daunting foodstuff to make, and I always figured they where hard to make.  The truth is that they where incredibly easy.  That is not to say that they are not time consuming, but with good instructions I believe that eclairs are cake.

I will start you where I started.  Years ago I watched an episode of Alton Brown's Good Eats titles Choux Shine (choux is pronounced like shoe)season six episode ten, and you can probably find it on youtube.

Chocolate eclairs are made with a special kind of dough/batter called pâte (pronounced like pot) and it is basically a dough/batter that has a high fat content and has been cooked before it is baked.  It was developed in the middle ages originally to create sealed vessels for meat.  If you cooked the meat in this dough the dough acted as a can and sealed the cooked meat in with its own juices.  The high fat content of the dough creates a barrier between the moisture and microbes in the air from the meat.  This allowed the food to not spoil for far longer than other means available to people at the time.

The specific dough that eclairs are made from is called pâte à choux.  It is a pastry dough and is used differently.  Cooking the dough allows the starch molecules to gelate and absorb tons of water, while the fat gets in the way of gluten chains and allows the dough to be light and fluffy.  When the dough is then baked water is released from the dough in the form of steam which is trapped in the dough and creates a large air pocket in the center of the dough and forces it to rise.  When the pastry finishes cooking the side is pierced with a knife to allow the steam to escape, and the pastry sets.  It can then be filled with the substance of your choice, traditionally pastry cream.

Lets start with a recipe.
1 cup of water
6 tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of sugar (you would skip this if you where making a savory pastry)
a pinch of salt (about 1/8 of a teaspoon) for sweet
or 1 teaspoon of salt for savory
4 large eggs and 2 egg whites (the egg white we will acquire in an efficient manor)
5 and 3/4 ounces of flour (flour can get packed and this recipe requires a very accurate ratio of water to flour)
This should yield about 14 eclairs.

Put the water, butter, salt and sugar into a small pot, and bring to a boil.
Then pull the pot off the heat and immediately mix in the flour.
Put the pot back onto the stove at medium heat and work the dough until all the water is absorbed into the flour.
  Transfer the dough into a bowl on the counter and let it sit for a couple of minutes.

Now if you have a stand mixer you can use, I recommend you use it, but I did not use one when making this dough.  Add one egg at a time and mix completely into the dough.
I ended up adding all of the eggs and whites into my dough however you may not need to.  This is where the whole dough/batter thing comes into its own.  Before the eggs are added the pâte à choux is the consistency of a dough but after the eggs are added its really a batter.

Transfer the pâte à choux into a pastry piping bag and using a large head portion it out into strips on a greased baking sheet.  Alton Brown uses an S (an S on top of itself so that the batter makes one oval shape).  Then wetting your finger with water poke down any spiky edges, if you skip this step those little spiks will expand while baking.

Now place the dough into a 425 degree preheated oven for ten minutes.  Then turn the oven down to 350 and leave it in for another 10 minutes, this dries the dough out without burning it.  The most important thing about the baking stage is that you do not open the door to the oven while baking. I don't care how tempting it is, don't do it.

Pull the baking sheet out of the oven and after a minute you should be able to touch them.  Pierce the side of every one with a sharp knife.  Congratulations you have made some hollow pastries.  Time to fill them, but with what.  Well you will just have to wait until next week to find out wont you.

Thursday, March 03, 2011


I do some of my best thinking in the shower. It's warm, there's a plethora of white noise and no major distractions. The one downside has always been the lack of paper. I might come up with a great idea, but I don't always remember it by the time I've run downstairs to find a writing implement.

Well, thanks to having a two year old kid, I now have the solution: The entire shower is a whiteboard!
These are Crayola Bathtub Crayons (and this is not a paid advertising post), and you can use them to write on the walls of the shower:
These are fantastic! Now, whenever I have a great idea in the shower I can just scrawl it on the wall, dry off at my leisure, then transpose it to a paper/electronic copy. And the stuff washes (mostly) off! Now, if only I could figure out a way to find the volumes of irregular objects, I'd be set!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Frozen Stalagmite

A couple of weeks ago (while it was still well below freezing) I notice a really cool stalagmite.  It was located in front of my house.  It was also made of ice.  I found it right below a faucet in the front of my house that would normally be hooked up to a sprinkler for the front lawn.

Not only is the fact that I have a stalagmite cool, but the shape it is in is also quite cool.