Friday, August 31, 2012

How to catch a Fish

This is pretty interesting.  I think the way this bird uses bread to fish is surely a sign that there is plenty of intelligent life out there... not just us humans.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

128,000 Dominos Falling

There is something very satisfying about the sound of a series of dominos falling over.  It is really impressive when it goes on for over 7 minutes.  If you listen carefully, you can also hear the sound of a several world records falling.  I think that preparing these huge setups must be an incredibly stressful job.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Awesome Underwater Shots

Alexander Semenov is a biologist with quite a talent for underwater photography and he has taken some incredible photos.  Take a look.  It's really nice work.  You can see his Flickr page here.  You can learn more about what he is doing here.

via This is Colossal

Monday, August 27, 2012

What if the Earth were Hollow

Did you ever think that if a hole was dep enough you could fall through to China?  What would really happen if you drilled a hole through the center of the Earth and then jumped in?  Luckily, the Minute Physics guys have figured it out for us in this video.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Amusing comments

Every now and then the internet produces something really fun.  The trend of "crowd sourcing" combined with some creative people can produce unexpected results.  Lately we've been having some fun reading the comments that people post to about products or items on websites.  We've come across some good ones.  Really, some of it is very fun reading.  Warning, once you start on these, you should plan on spending some time.  They can suck you in.  Don't believe me?  Try this recipe for Ice Cubes from  Sure the recipe is funny; explaining how to make ice, complete with pictures and measurements etc, but the real fun comes in the comments people made about the recipe.  They start with:

This recipe is horrible! Maybe I should have left them in longer than two minutes (the recipe doesn't say how long to leave them in the freezer so I just kind of guessed) but mine came out all watery. I won't be making these again. 
I harvest my own free-range water, so the idea of putting it in a plastic tray and a commercially made electricity-wasting freezer disgusts me. I prefer nature's method, waiting until the temperature outside drops below freezing.
My husband and I found this recipe a bit bland. The addition of 1 1/2 T of Sriracha really lifted the oxygen flavor that was being overpowered by the doubled hydrogen. The additional "kick" with the newly-balanced molecular flavor has made this recipe a favorite around our house.
Read the rest of the comments here.  It will make you smile.

If you don't like recipes, how about the comments about this Banana Slicer on Amazon?

1,420 of 1,427 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No more winning for you, Mr. Banana! March 3, 2011
For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. "Use a knife!" they say. parole officer won't allow me to be around knives. "Shoot it with a gun!" Background check...HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands. 99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed. No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I'll call it South Side Story.

Banana slicer...thanks to you, I see greatness on the horizon.
You can read all the comments here.

I find it reassuring that there is still humor out there...  Good job internet for making us smile.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Helicopter Physics

I like this video about the physics of helicopters, not just because it has some good explanation of the science of rotating blade aircraft, but it also shows some really cool light painting with helicopters.  Of course it would be more awesome if it included quadcopters, but hey, you can't have everything.  Destin from Smarter Every Day has some rally great videos on a variety of topics including using a high speed camera to understand the physics of poop splashes.  That is useful science.

Separating Yolk from White

This is pretty awesome.  It is a technique for separating the yolk from the white of an egg using a plastic bottle.  It's quite brilliant and definitely something we're going to have to try in the Digital Diner kitchen.  If nothing else, this looks like a good way to amaze your friends.


OK, I understand that this is a Hollywood stunt team and that they are professionals and all of that.  Still I think that it is crazy.  Tight rope walking is crazy enough.  Slack rope walking a little more crazy.  Walking between two moving trucks... insane!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Impossible Graphics

While generally I'm opposed to censorship, I'm thinking that it is wrong to allow graphics like this to be generated.

via Like Cool

Monday, August 20, 2012

Games We Play

We all have those little games that we play.  There are the common ones like pulling the pedals out of a daisy... "she loves me."  "she loves me not."  Then there are the more personal ones.  I had a bunch, like the one where I'd try to get up the stairs before the door closed.  Or just about any game involving two people and a ball - from catch to ping pong - could be turned into a game of "Save the world!"  We need to get a volley of at least 20 in a row in order to save the world... a little pressure and a common enemy can galvanize a cooperative goal.  What games do you play?

What if Everyone Jumped?

When I was a kid, I remember someone telling me that if everyone in China jumped up and down at the same time, they could cause a tsunami that would wipe out the entire United States.  As a kid this seemed perfectly plausible to me.  Well, now as an adult, with a slightly more scientific/quantitative view of things, I'm curious as to just how realistic this scenario is.  The video above is an exploration of this question to help us understand just how much we humans can effect the Earth... at least as far as jumping is concerned.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mobile Phone Throwing Contest

We've all had those moments; an important call drops, you pocket dials someone - whatever the reason, we've all felt like chucking our mobile phones out the window once or twice.  Well, some folks in Finland have made mobile phone throwing into a world competition.  This year, the 13th anual event, just finished with a new world record when 18-year-old Ere Karjalainen threw his Nokia 101.46 meters.

Mobile Phone Throwing World Championships

Raspberry Pi Programming Contest

Raspberry Pi Single board computer

Here at Digital Diner, we've been having fun with our new Raspberry Pi single board Linux computers that we bought, brand new in a box, for $35.  It connects to an HDMI connector on a TV for video and it has USB ports for keyboard and mouse.  It is a pretty amazing little gadget for $35.  The really good news is that you can program it.  In fact, the main reason for its existence is as a platform for education.  It is a pretty nice little platform for learning to programming.  We will talk more about this in future posts.

Today's news about the Raspberry Pi is that there is a programming contest for young people (under 18) that will be accepting entries until September 1.  There are two age categories, 13 and under and 18 and under.  First prize in each category is $1000, so it could be worth your while.

C'mon kids!  Get out there and write yourself a program.

Read more about the contest rules here.


One of the things that we like about making movies is the ability to play with time.  In movies time can be sped up or slowed down.  In this case, these time lapse movies of flowers blooming make them look more like explosions.  They suddenly pop out in all their glory.  I especially like the ones that ruffle their petals.  You can't see that sort of movement in normal speed.  It is only visible with these incredible tools that allow us to manipulate time.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Invisible Bike Helmet

This is a short film about the inventors of the invisible bike helmet.  If you haven't seen it yet, make sure you watch near the end of the film where you can see how it actually works.  You can read about it here.


This is truly brilliant.  What do you do when you love the new technology, but long for that old school feeling of technology gone by?  Here at Digital Diner, we love our tablet computers, but sometimes we miss that tactile felling of an old manual typewriter.  Thankfully, a designer named Austin Yang has come up with a way to combine these two in an outstanding way.  The project is called iTypewriter.

You see you just slide your iPad into this device and then as you hit the keys on the keyboard, little mechanical fingers pop up to type on the screen for you.  It even has that thunk thunk sound of a mechanical typewriter.  All that it is missing is the bell at the end of the line and the manual carriage return.  Outstanding!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

YoYos in Space

NASA Astronaut Don Pettit shows some cool zero G yoyo tricks.  In the end he kind of goes off on a weird tangent, but the first half is pretty fun.


You know, with all the different Olympic events, we somehow managed to miss the dressage competition.  Luckily much of what we missed is available online so we can watch it now.  I think it's really amazing how the movements sometimes make the horses look very human.  Don't you agree?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Perseid Meteor Shower Tonight

Over the next few nights, the sky will put on a show for us.  The Perseid Meteor shower will be visible for the next couple of days, peaking tonight and tomorrow.  The Perseids have been visible for nearly 2000 years.  They are apparently the result of a debris field that is left behind by the Swift-Tuttle comet that travels around the Sun in a 130 year orbit.  Every year, around this time, the Earth's orbit passes through the dust left behind by the comet.  In the same way that you collect bugs on your windshield as you travel through a swarm of mosquitos, any of the particles that we actually hit become meteorites that we can see as they shot through the sky.
If you go out tonight, expect the most meteors, over 50 per hour, sometime after midnight.  You don't need any special equipment, just your eyes and a good dark place to look at the sky.  Be sure to give yourself some time so that your eyes adjust to the darkness.  If you stay up late enough, in the morning, you will see the crescent moon near the planets Venus and Jupiter in the sky to the east just before sunrise.

Read more information here.

Happy Viewing!

3D Motion Capture of Divers

Some of the events at the Olympic events are pretty impressive.  Many of them happen so fast that its really hard to fully capture what is happening.  Diving is one of those.  A diver goes through so many twists and turns in the short time between the platform and the water that it is difficult to tell if that was three rotations or two.  Thankfully, some folks at NYU were able to capture the motions with a computer.  This video shows how it was done.

Dolphins Come for a Visit

These folks were out fishing for tuna off the coast of Santa Cruz this week.  They had a cool little submersible housing for a GoPro camera.  The footage they got when some dolphins came to visit is really pretty impressive.  Take a look.

Friday, August 10, 2012

How You Know that your Parents Never Really Loved You

If your parents really loved you, they would have built you your own roller coaster in the back yard out of PVC pipes.

As a parent, I think this family is just trying to show the rest of us up, and I think its horrible... just horrible.

The Olympics End Soon

We have been having a good time watching selected Olympic events here at Digital Diner.  We particularly like the online coverage that lets us see some events that we would never see otherwise as well as get a glimpse behind the scenes into the events without inane, US centric commentary.  Hear that NBC?  Sometimes we want to see how Sweden is doing in whitewater kayaking or whether or not the Keirin competition will generate some new track cycling stars.  But, now that it has been going on for a couple of weeks we have to admit that while that athletes are are impressive,  nobody has the stamina to watch it all.  It is just too much.  I think that is the sentiment of this video as well.

Why Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?

Ok, so the Internet is full of cat videos, but we rarely feature any here on Digital Diner.  Well, we recently came across this one that includes slow motion video AND some physics... so this is our kind of cat video!  If only they were all like this.
Have you ever wondered how it is that cats can always land on their feet?  Somehow in mid air, they can twist around and manage to orient their feet below them.  How do they do they make these turns while falling without some outside force giving them rotational momentum?  Watch the video and find out.

For the more technical amongst you, check out this paper on the subject.  Plenty of good math and physics in there.  Also check out the buttered cat paradox and why cats can survive falls from great heights.

from Smarter Every Day via Mental Floss

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Follow up: Apple & Amazon Security Issues

After yesterday's post called Find My iPhone about the security holes at both Apple and Amazon's systems, I'm happy to announce that both companies have taken action to address the issues outlined by the hacker who goes by the name of Phobia.  Amazon's changes are outlined here and Apple's are here.

So now what?  By my accounting, the hackers have gotten exactly what they set out to get; changes in the security policies of a couple of big companies and a little bit of fame.  The tactics are questionable but the results are very clear.  I disagree strongly with the methods that these hackers employed (especially deleting someone's data), but I really have a hard time figuring out how else they could have gotten such a quick and effective response from these large companies.  What do you think?

Listening to Color

Neil Harbisson is an artist who was born without the ability to sense color.  To him everything is in black and white.  Some time ago, he artificially extended his senses by implanting a chip in his head to convert colors to sounds.  Now he has a very interesting view of the world where sounds and colors are related in very unique ways.  He can tell you what your face sounds like.  He can tell you what color a piece of music is.  It's all because he has chosen to be a cyborg.

via Mental Floss

We Are All Connected

Here's a nice little film that gets across its point completely visually.  Nicely done.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Find My iPhone

First the good news...

Two weeks ago I was traveling in Canada and I lost my iPhone.  It appears that I somehow left it on the plane, despite the fact that I have a mental checklist of all my gear before I get off the plane.  Somehow  I left it behind.  I noticed it immediately and had the crew that was cleaning the plane look specifically in my seat, but they could not find it.  Apparently someone on a later flight did find it and had the presence of mind to turn off airplane mode and call the entry marked home in my address book.  Outstanding!  Of course things got a bit more complicated because during the time the phone was not found it went from Toronto to New York and (luckily) back.  I was no longer in Toronto, so rendezvousing was not easy.  It took several days and finally the use of a program called Find My iPhone to track it down in lost and found at the Toronto airport.  You see when the person who had my phone returned it to the airport (as she said she would when she called), the phone connected to the free wifi (I had international roaming turned off to keep from paying $15/MB(!) so there was no data service until the phone got to the airport) and started sending me its coordinates.  I was able to see exactly where it was on the map and know that I could drive to the airport to pick it up.  It had been two and a half days by the time I was in lost and found to pick it up and I faced another huge problem.  There were a LOT of iPhones there and I needed to prove which one was mine.  Luckily, I was able to use the Find My iPhone app to make the phone make a loud sound, so the person at lost and found knew exactly which phone was mine.
Find My iPhone shows where my phone is on a Google map

When I was finally reunited with my phone, I realized just how lucky I was.  First, someone actually took the time to return my phone to lost and found.  Thank you for honest people!  Second, Toronto has free wifi so that I could use Find My iPhone to communicate with the phone since it needed data service and I had that turned off because of international fees.  Third, when I finally got the phone it had 5% of its battery left.  If the battery had died, I would have had a much harder time proving that the phone was mine.  Fourth, Find My iPhone is great.

This is actually the second time that application has saved my bacon.  The first time was when I left the iPad in a shopping cart and it disappeared.  In that case I was able to track it on a map and saw exactly where it was at all times.  In both cases I was able to lock the iPhone/iPad and have it display a message saying "Reward if found! call " + my phone number.  If things got really bad, I even had the option of wiping all the data from my device remotely.  It really is an incredibly useful program and it comes free as part of iCloud.

I'm not the only one who has had this type of experience.  The writer David Pogue had an interesting experience last week.  Its an entertaining read that you can find here and the Gizmodo play-by-play coverage is here.

Now the bad news...

OK, so that is the good news, lots of lost iPhones/iPads are being recovered.  There are also similar programs for Android.  It sounds great, but, there is always a bad side to these things.  Now that there is a way to remotely wipe phones and iPads and even Macs (newer Apple software added a Find my Mac feature), hackers can take advantage of this ability, break into your account and remotely wipe your phone, tablet or computer, without ever coming anywhere near you.  Now instead of worrying about someone actively stealing your expensive phone from you, you have to also worry about people you don't even see taking your data from you.  This may sound far fetched, but it is actually happening.  This story from Wired is incredibly interesting and shows just how vulnerable we are when it comes to our digital information.  Mat Honan, the author of the article, describes how within an hour, while he was sitting at home playing with his young daughter, his Google account was deleted, his Amazon account was compromised and all his data on his iPhone, iPad and Mac disappeared right before his eyes.  It is quite sobering.  This article is very important because, even if you don't have an iPhone, it shows just how vulnerable your Gmail and Amazon accounts are as well, and it makes you think about all your other online accounts (banks etc).  It should be relevant to all of our readers.

Read this now!

I'm just guessing here, but I expect that Mr Honan has a chance to get his data back by essentially doing what the hackers hoped for; telling the world how insecure these system are and publicly presenting no ill will toward the hackers.  I think that based on the current state of things, there is still the chance that they can give him the unlock code to recover all the data on his computer.  I wish him luck.  I wish us all luck.

Curiosity has landed

In case you've been under a rock for the last 24 hours, Curiosity is safely on the ground on Mars and NASA has released the video above that is a fine summary of what you missed if you didn't see it.

Jeez guys, we just threw a car to Mars... and it got there in one piece.  How cool is that?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Seven Minutes of Terror Live(ish) Tonight!

Some time around 10:31 pm PT tonight, Curiosity will smash into the atmosphere of Mars at 13,000 miles per hour and decelerate to a complete stop over the next 7 minutes.  Of course, you can watch live... well, not exactly live since it takes about 15 minutes for the signal from Mars to reach us here on Earth.  That means that by the time we get the signal that the Mars Science Lab (MSL - which carries the Curiosity rover) is entering the atmosphere it will already have landed or burned up... we just won't know which.  One way or another it will be on the surface of Mars by around 10:23.

So, we here at Digital Diner recommend that you spend the 8 minutes between 10:23 and 10:31 thinking deeply about relativity.  The reality of Curiosity's fate will ripple like a wave traveling at the speed of light from Mars out into the universe.  We will experience the event of Curiosity arriving at Mars 15 minutes after it occurs there, but really all of time there is offset by 15 minutes.  So when does the landing happen?  The answer is relative.  In fact even the speed of MSL (13,000 mph to 0 mph) is relative to the red planet, not us.  Compared to where you sit, the rover may be moving quite quickly because of the rotation of the Earth, Mars and the movement of the planets in their orbits.  However, what we care about is that it comes to a gentle stop compared to the surface of Mars.  Once again, the speed only has meaning if it is relative to something.  Try to explain that to a police officer next time you get pulled over for speeding.  When you are asked, "do you know how fast you were going?" reply with, "compared to what?"... or maybe not.

What ever you think about or where ever you are when Curiosity really sets down, be sure that you watch live when time catches up with us here on Earth.

Here is how to watch the landing live(ish)
 For those of you in the Bay Area, NASA Ames will have a an event open to the public starting at 4pm today.  You can go there to watch live with everyone else at NASA including some of the scientists who worked on the systems that will be put to the test this evening.
You can see where Curiosity is right now here.

Friday, August 3, 2012


If a little enthusiasm can get you a long way, then this guy will go far indeed.  May we all find passion such as his and follow it to our bliss.  I say don't hold back!

BTW, apparently "foamers" are excessively enthusiastic railfans.  After watching the video, I'm pretty sure I know what that means now.

I guess the "double trainbow" is sort of like the double rainbow below.

To paraphrase the line from "When Harry Met Sally," I'll have what he's having.

They don't call it "Bad"minton for Nothing

By now, you've probably heard about the badminton scandal at the Olympics where some players seemed to intentionally lose in order to have an easier draw in the next round of competition.  While I think it is horrible, I also believe that it was a poor game design that put the players in this moral dilemma in the first place.  Both are to blame here, although I must say that if the referee comes out and warns you that you can be disqualified for playing that way, I would think it would be time to change your behavior.
But, ignoring the actual facts of the situation for a moment, lets just just focus on the coverage of the event.  I believe my favorite summary of the events came from the Wall Street Journal in the video above.  Watch and tell me whether or not you agree.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Smart Phone and Privacy

In some ways, smart phones are what personal computers should have been.  They are computers with sensors that can tell where you are and to some extent what you are doing.   They are devices that you keep with you all the time and that can observe and learn things about you from your actions.  All this information makes them very intimate partners that in some cases can know more about you than any human does.  Using this information they can adapt to work with you seamlessly.  They can adjust to your behavior.  That same information that lets them personalize their behavior to you and can give others a very creepy level of information about your life.
The TED talk above gives you a a little insight into what this can mean.  I think it will take years for this tension between the pros and cons of this technology to be worked out by society.  Right now its a bit of the wild wild west.

Thanks Meg

Getting Ready for Mars

The Curiosity rover has spent the last 8 months traveling through the vast wasteland of space in anticipation of the seven minutes of terror this weekend.  So Curiosity (aka the Mars Science Lab or MSL) has travelled 354 million miles at 13,000 miles over the last 8 months.  What have you done?  Huh?  Feeling a little left behind by this robotic wonder?  No worries, we here at Digital Diner can't send you to Mars, but we can help you keep up on the latest events so that you don't feel too far out of the loop.  Tomorrow (Aug 3) NASA will have a live session at Johnson Space Center that you can tune in to. It may be a good place to start.

Lets start by boning up on Mars and why this mission is headed there in the first place.  The rover's mission objectives include studying Mars' habitability, studying the Martian climate and geology, and collecting data for a potential future manned mission to Mars.  Some of the chemistry experiments are quite interesting (see the video below).

The mission is headed to a place called Gale Crater, next to Mount Sharp, a mountain that rises 3 miles into the martian sky.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Paris In Motion

Paris is a beautiful city, and we love those time lapse movies, so when you put them together, you get something really nice.  Just a little bit Koyaanisqatsi.