Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Henri captures the true Halloween

Henri 4 is quite the chat noir if you know what I mean.  His views are often insightful (in a dark and depressing way) and his outlook on Halloween is no exception.

Happy Halloween

Monday, October 29, 2012

E=mc^2 is Incomplete

In this video, Minute Physics does a really nice job of explaining the missing part of the most famous equation in the world, E = mc2.  It seems that that simple version of the equation only holds true for objects that are not moving.  These moving objects have momentum which is represented as p in the slightly more complex equationE²=(mc²)²+(pc)².  If you pay attention, you'll even see why it is that, according to Einstein, nothing with mass can move at the speed of light (or faster).  
Watch and enjoy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tasty Mex Hexaflexagons at Digital Diner

We did it!  We couldn't help ourselves.  We were inspired by Vi Hart to make the tasty hexaflexagon treats that you may have read about here on Digital Diner (If you have no clue what I'm talking about, you can catch up by reading read our previous posts herehere and here).  It was fun, educational, and mostly delicious.  We encourage any other curious readers to try for themselves.  IMPORTANT!  First, be sure to watch the safety video below... Even if you aren't going to make the hexaflexagon treats, you should really watch the video.  It's outstanding!

How to make your own Mex Hexaflexagon

Once you have watched the safety video, you should refresh memory by watching the Mex hexa flex video.  Also, before you start, you must get yourself some large tortillas.  Then the fun begins.  We found that in order to make the most efficient use of the tortillas, we cut each one in half and then cut a long strip from each side.  We calculated that in order to create the required 10 triangles, we needed a ratio of about 5 : 1, length : width of the strip of tortilla (actually 5 * 2 * cos( 60˚) : 1 which equals 5 : 1).  If your strip is too wide, say a 4 : 1 ratio, you won't be able to create the required ten triangles.  If your strip is too skinny, say a 6 : 1 ratio, you will have a very tiny hexaflexagon and end up with excess length of tortilla to cut off.  
Tortilla cutting

Next is the folding.  It can help to practice with paper first.  With a little patience we were able to fold some fine flexagons.

A tortilla hexaflexagon
Next you add yummy stuff.  Like Vi Hart, we put guacamole and sour cream on the first layer.

Then you must flex your flexahexagon in order to move the gooey goodness to the inside.  It is important to notice that because of the constraints of gravity, it is necessary flex your hexaflexagon by lifting up three vertices and opening up the bottom as Vi Hart does in her video.  If you are lucky it will flip nicely inside out.

After that, you need only to garnish with more yummy stuff.

 Then it is time to eat it.  It is quite a pleasant little gooey, messy treat.

Don't take our word for it.  Try for yourself!

We have some ideas for how to take it up a notch... stay tuned.  If it turns out, we'll publish the result here on Digital Diner.  If not, then forget I said anything at all.

How to Make a Drop of Water into a Work of Art

It's just a drop of water, but when it is frozen in time, suddenly it becomes a thing of beauty.  It happens so fast that we never see it, but with the magic of high-speed photography, the moment is frozen; captured forever.  In the video below, photographer  Markus Reugels shows his entire process, including the little Arduino controlled mechanism that helps him make a splash, so to speak.  I think the results are quite pleasing.

via PetaPixel

Steve Jobs' Yacht

Usually I'm more of a sailboat kind of guy, but I must admit that this yacht looks really striking.  I especially like the seven iMacs lined up across the bridge.  I can only imagine what it must be like to be onboard.  Apparently Steve Jobs was having this boat built when he died and they just finished it off.  I guess it is just the sort of boat I'd imagine him building.  His family attended the christening.

More pictures and the story in Dutch here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tex Mex Hexa Flex

Vi Hart is at it again.  As you know, we've been having fun with hexaflexagons recently here at Digital Diner.  Now Vi Hart has applied this technique to tortillas to make a new taste sensation.  Definitely worth trying out.  It looks geometric, topological, messy and yummy.

Awesome Aeroponics : Workshop Weekend

Plant roots growing in a soil-free aeroponics system

November 10-11 in Oakland, CA there will be a Workshop Weekend.  It is a great event where adults and kids alike can learn all sorts of things to enrich their lives.  In particular, you should all plan to attend because among all the other wonderful classes is one called "Awesome Aeroponics: The Art of Soil Free Gardening" which will be taught by a group called Team "Awesome is What We Totally Are".  This team was founded by Digital Diner's own Bix, Widdakay and some friends.
If you attend this class on November 10 at 1pm, you will build your own Aeroponic Garden system that you can take home with you!  Don't know what Aeroponics is?  It's the latest in high-tech, soil-free gardening.
Leaf on the left was grown in soil while the one on  the right was
grown in "Awesome is What We TotallyAre" high tech garden
The two lettuce leaves above show how awesome this technique is.  We planted two similar sized lettuce plants on the same day.  One was put in soil in our garden.  The other was grown using soil-free techniques.  As you can probably guess, a few weeks later we picked them and the one on the left used the traditional methods while in the same period of time the one on the right grew to about three times as large.  In the class you'll learn about hydroponics, aquaponics and aeroponics (which we collectively call *ponics). And best of all, in a couple of weeks you can start eating food from your own aeroponic garden.  This class promises to be educational, entertaining and hyperlocavoric.

Workshop Weekend will be a great event with a wide variety of classes for all age ranges to take.  Topics include how to roast coffee, liquid nitrogen ice cream, designing for 3D printers, how to build a web site, build a Gieger counter, MacGyver class and plenty more...   They all look great!

Plan to attend!  Sign up now for Workshop Weekend

Awesome is What We Totally Are - Team

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dry Ice Bubbles

I know it says don't try this at home, but it sure does look like fun.  You create a bubble using dish soap and the gas generated by dry ice melting.  Please... Can I?  Can I?

Arduino Uno vs BeagleBone vs Raspberry Pi

This is a post specifically aimed at our budding Makers out there.
We like to build stuff here at Digital Diner.  There is always some sort of project going on.  These days, most of our projects include some sort of digital component - a microprocessor.  If you haven't gotten bitten by the Maker bug yet, we strongly encourage it.  It can be incredibly rewarding.  If you have even a minimal understanding of programming, there are websites, platforms and tools to help you develop your skills to the point where you actually create a hardware device with buttons, knobs and servos - a real physical world gadget.  Software is fun, but when you can make your project physical it is even better.  

There are so many great platforms for creating digitally enabled devices that its gotten hard to figure out which one to use.  For example, we are currently building a hydroponic garden project and had to choose a controller to run the pumps, read the sensors etc.  We were surprised at the number of choices that were available to us.  It can be a little confusing for the beginner.  To help, we've taken three of the popular models and compared them so that you can choose the right tool for your next project.  Spoiler: we recommend all three.

The three models (all of which we use here at Digital Diner) are the Arduino, Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone.  We chose these three because they are all readily available, affordable, about the same size (just larger than 2" x 3") and can all be used for creating wonderful digital gadgets.  Before we get to the comparison, here is a brief introduction to each one.  

Arduino Uno
The Arduino Uno is a staple for the Maker community.  Arduinos come in various sizes and flavors, but we chose the Arduino Uno as an example of the prototypical Arduino.  It has an easy to use development environment, an avid user base and is designed to be easy to interface all sorts of hardware to.

Raspberry Pi
The Raspberry Pi is the newcomer to the game.  It isn't really an embedded computer.  It is actually a very inexpensive full-on desktop computer.  It is barebones, but at $35 for a real computer, its worthy of note, and it is a great platform for lots of Maker projects.

The BeagleBone is the perhaps the least known of these platforms, but an incredibly capable board worthy of consideration for many projects.  It is a powerful Linux computer that fits inside an Altoid's mint container.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Human Tower Competition

There is a contest held in Tarragona, in the Catalonia region of Spain called the Tarragona Human Tower Competition.  The idea is to make the tallest tower you can out of meat.... well, OK, people.  The tallest towers are up to 10 layers tall, and the most dangerous position, the top, is usually given to a small child.  Yikes!  Based on the pictures, it seems like a pretty amazing event to see... just make sure you wear your deodorant.

More info and pictures here and here.

Happy Mole Day

Today is a day to celebrate 6.02 x 1023 (one mole).  The "mole" is a unit of measurement that describes an amount or quantity.  I learned is as Avogadro's number, the number of molecules in one gram-molecule of hydrogen, which, happens to be 6.02 x 1023, but I hear that they've redefined it to be slightly different and renamed it to Avogadro's Constant.  I'm pretty sure these are the same guys who told us Pluto is no longer a planet... but I digress.

I admit I'm a little confused as to whether today should be Mole Day (6:02 10/23) or should it be in June (6/02 10:23).  For that matter, in Europe, where they are much more sensible and list the month first, do they celebrate on February 6th and 10:23? Of course, when it comes to celebration, the best compromise is the one that allows for as many celebrations as possible, so I hereby declare that is it OK to celebrate Mole Day on any of those dates.  So please join me in singing along with the video above.

Of course, when one thinks of moles, I often also think of moles... the furry little critters that burrow through the earth.  And clearly, combining the two, one wonders, "what would a mole of moles be like?"  Thankfully, XKCD has thought this through for us and I highly recommend reading through the results <<click the link!.  Of course, they don't mention anything about the moles that are spots that appear on your skin... I guess that is a different story.  Anyway, enjoy!

Thanks for the reminder today Grandma!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Don't put this off

I want to post this right away, but I'm afraid I might procrastinate and not get it out.  What a great opportunity to take the advice from this video on how not to procrastinate.
Let's see.  Make a list of reasons why I want to post this...

  • It's Monday and there is a whole week of potential procrastination ahead of us.  We must avoid it.
  • I think this is probably relevant to all our readers
That's good enough.  
Reward myself for working hard so far.  A little snack should do fine.

This is going great!  Now I need to remove myself from the distractions that would keep me from getting this post done:
Put down the cell phone.
Turn off games.
Disconnect from the internet.... um...

Sunday, October 21, 2012

You'll thank me for this later

I've never seen anything like this before.  This is an incredibly amazing set of household tips and tricks. They are all great... really.  A lot of these seem really useful for keeping life organized and dealing with those little annoyances that bug us everyday, from how to remove strawberry stems with a straw, to getting rid of those pesky unpopped popcorn kernels in microwave popcorn, or how to get corn on the cob out of the husk.  Trust me.  Follow this link and lead a better life.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Flight Attendant Rap

I was on a flight once where no one was paying attention to the flight attendants as they gave their safety speil, so when it got to the part where they talk about the masks coming down from the ceiling, one of the flight attendants pulled out a rubber chicken.  I nearly burst my spleen when she hung it by the neck as if it had fallen down from the overhead compartment, then proceeded to rap the chicken's legs around her head to show exactly how you breathe through the 'mask.'
Another memorable flight was an early morning commuter plane leaving Huntsville Alabama.  It was dark and for some reason, prior to plane moving, they turned out the cabin lights.  The humidity was very high (in Huntsville?  never!) and while the lights were out they turned on the airconditioner which proceded to fill the cabin with water vapor... there was a cloud in the cabin.  Then, as if it was a rock-n-roll concert, they brought up the lights and they beamed through the foggy air.  The flight attendant came on and said, "welcome aboard ladies and gentlemen, I'm Lisa Smoke."  It got my attention.  It sure was very dramatic and it made me feel like I was at a concert.
However, even the drama of Lisa Smoke can't compare to this guy's rapping (in the video above).  He's actually pretty good.

Friday, October 19, 2012

I can control time!

No really.  I can control time.  You can too.  It's awesome and fun!

I do it with my camera.  You see, I've started to make time lapse movies.  I'm just starting, so the results aren't stellar yet, but they are a lot of fun.  The really cool thing is that when your movie shows time at a different scale than we perceive on a daily basis, you see things you might otherwise miss.  I'd love to make slow motion movies like this one, but those slow motion cameras are still very expensive.  Maybe some day.  Until then, instead of slowing time down, I'll just speed it up.  It's much easier.  I'll tell you most of what you need to get started below, but if you aren't interested in trying for yourself, you can just jump to the bottom and see the results I've gotten so far.

Fancy DSLR timed shutter release remote

Normal video cameras take a series of pictures at somewhere between 24 and 30 frames per second.  Then we play that series of photos back at the same speed and you see a movie.  If you take those pictures at once every 3 seconds instead of 30 times per second, and then play them back at 30 frames per second, you effectively play back at 90 times real time.  So to make a time lapse film all you need to do is take a series of pictures at a constant rate and then stitch them together into a movie.  Pressing the shutter every three seconds for several days straight can get tiring.   Fortunately there are tools that can help with this.

I have two set-ups that let me shoot a sequence of timed photos that I can later stitch together into a movie.  First is an timed shutter release remote control for the DSLR.  On the remote I can program the number of seconds between photos.

The second system is an old Canon point and shoot camera.  It is important that it is a canon, because that means that I can load the Canon Hack Development Kit (CHDK) onto it.  This ingenious little system makes that camera think that it has a software upgrade but when it hands control over to what it thinks is a software upgrade, it really is handing control over to CHDK.  One great thing about CHDK is that it is temporary.  The system lives on the flash card.  Put in a different flash card and you are back to the vanilla camera you had before you started hacking.
Canon SD800 IS running CHDK with external power supply

The CHDK software enhances and extends the functions of even simple little cameras to allow them to take RAW images, use manual controls or even run scripts.  It is this last feature that allows us to run a script that takes pictures on a time schedule, thus time lapse photographs.  I use a script called counter.bas that seems to work just fine.

BTW, older cameras are great for this making time lapse movies because they don't need to be super high resolution in order to make good quality movies.  A 1080p movie is about two megapixels per frame.

One extra item that I did invest in is a power supply for the camera.  I was able to get one relatively inexpensively from Amazon and it allows me to plug the camera in so that I can create time lapses that go for days.  I never have to worry about the battery dying.

The outcome of running this script or using the timed shutter release is a flash card full of pictures.  To make a movie of them you need a program that can assemble all those individual images into a moving picture.  I use a free one on the Mac called Time Lapse Assembler.  It is very straight forward.  It just takes a folder full of images and turns them into a movie that you can view and edit just like any other movie.

The great news is that lots of thing look interesting when they are sped up; clouds, boats; plants.  Get out there and try it for yourself!  If you get into it, you can learn a lot more advanced stuff from this website:

You can see my first results below.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Endeavor Mission 26

Last month we had a great view of Space Shuttle Endeavor as it flew by on its way down to the Museum of Science and Industry in LA.  The final part of the flight included a trip through the streets of LA.  We have to admit that as it made its way through the streets of LA, there were people who got a better view of Endeavor from their deck than we did from ours.  It is pretty amazing to see the shuttle moving down neighborhood streets and around trees.  On the whole, it looks as if LA streets were built just wide enough to accomodate a space shuttle.  Very impressive planning.
In the end it was rolled into the building at the Museum of Science and Industry that we know very well from our last couple of trips to the California State Science Fair competition.  We're not sure where they will have the awards ceremony now, but it will be great to have the shuttle there.

See the very impressive time lapse video and article here.  Go ahead, click the link!

Technology put in perspective

Sometimes here in Silicon Valley, we can take our gadgets a little bit too seriously.  It is important to take a step back and consider what we do have rather than the little things that aren't perfect.  Louis CK summed it up nicely in a rant to Conan O'Brien in the video above.

Here in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere, but especially here), people have been complaining quite a bit about some of the issues with Apple's iPhone 5.  This Saturday Night Live sketch does a nice job of putting it into perspective.  If you can laugh at yourself and enjoy a bit of sarcasm, both videos are worth your time.

Just remember you are sitting on a chair in the sky!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Did you know Ladybugs fold their wings?

Did you know that ladybugs have folded wings underneath their polkadotted exterior (called an Elytron) that they have to deploy in order to fly.  These slow motion movies show the process in incredible detail.  I was amazed.  I'm already jealous because ladybugs can fly and I can't.  But now, the fact that they have such a complex system that they can control with a brain the size of the head of a pin...  It's just not fair.
I'd really love to see slow motion footage of them putting the wings away after they fly, but I haven't been able to find that.

via the kids should see this

Sunday, October 14, 2012

More Hexaflexagons

Remember last week when we told you that we had been playing around with hexaflexagons here a Digital Diner?  Well, we were inspired by Vi Hart, who was inspired by other people who were inspired by Martin Gardener who was inspired by Richard Feynman and others.  I had no idea that hexaflexagons had such a long and distinguished history of inspiration. The good news is that Vi Hart is back with a new video to tell us a little more about hexaflexagons and a lot about mathematical inspiration.  Take a look and be inspired.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Whoa! A Diamond Planet!

This really sounds like something a 4th grader made up.  "A planet that is 1/3 solid diamond!"  But no!  Astronomers think they have discovered a planet that is made mostly of diamonds just about 40 light years from here.  It seem far fetched, but there it is...  Its about twice the size of the Earth and it swings around its star (a year for it) in only 18 hours.  The year is so short there because it is very close to the star.  That also means that the temperature is very warm.  They estimate temperatures around 3900 degrees Fahrenheit.

Read for more information here

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Quantum Cats can Passively Detect Photons

So according to the Minute Physics guy and his video above, the nobel prize for physics was awarded to some dudes who figured out how to detect photons passively while Schrödinger's Cat... or something like that.  This is quite cool.  They are actually able to tell whether or not there is a photon in a very cold box by sending an atom in a superposition of two states through the box.  Quantum physics is such bizarre stuff that I really love when it gets used to solve a very specific and concrete problem, like is there a photon in that box over there.  Very interesting stuff and worthy of a Nobel Prize for Physics for Serge Haroche and David Wineland.  Nicely done.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Simpsons Intro in Real Life

Well, this is fun!  The video above is an impressive recreation of the Simpsons TV show opening recreated with real actors.  Others have recreated this opening in other media like the MineCraft version below.

For those of you who can't remember the details of the opening to the show, it changes subtly every week, but it generally follows the outline of the videos above.  Below is an actual Simpsons opening segment.  This particular one incorporates a rather dark recursive view of the world of animation, but it includes the major parts.

In fact, if you really want to get into it, take a look at the video below that shows two different versions of the opening from two different years at the same time just to point out some of the subtle differences.

In any case, the real life one is pretty impressive.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

What if Money was No Object?

What do you want to be when you grow up?  In the video above, the late professor Alan Watts, poses the following question:

Should you spend it doing something you don't like in order to make money to keep yourself alive so that you can spend more time doing something you don't like?

Is this a trick question?

Trials riding on a $15k Road Bike?

This year Bradley Wiggins rode a very expensive ($15k) bike made by Pinarello to win the 2012 Tour de France.  Back when I used to race bikes, one of the Stetina brothers (a midwestern bike racing dynasty family when I was growing up) had a bike with a Pinarello frame.  It was a pretty awesome bike back then too.  I also remember that he was in an accident and, as my brother said at the time, the Pinarello ended up looking like a pretzel.  These bikes are light weight performance bikes, not rugged mountain bikes.  That is why I'm doubly impressed with what this fellow Martyn Ashton does with it in the video above.  It is definitely NOT the manufacturers intended purpose.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Voyager1 has left the Solar System!

Start Trek fans know it as V ger, but to the rest of us, its just plain old Voyager 1.  It is the space craft that we sent off on an adventure in 1977.  Since then it has sent back incredible pictures and data from Jupiter and Saturn.  People haven't talked about it much, but it has continued to hurl itself ever outward on its lonely journey.  So why do I bring this up now?  You'll have to read on to find out.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Angels and Cats on The Bay

Yesterday was one of those days that reminds us why we live in the San Francisco Bay area.  On a whim, we decided to head up to San Francisco to see the Blue Angels and America's Cup catamaran sailboat race.  (thus Angels and cats on the Bay) What we saw was an impressive spectacle capped by a perfect view of the dramatic capsizing of Jimmy Spithill's America's Cup boat.  No one was hurt, but you can see our pictures below.  You can click on them to see the larger version.
For locals, I should mention that it all happens again today, so if you hurry you can check it out in person.

5 of the six Blue Angels
It's fleet week, so the bay was as full of incredible boats as it ever is.  On top of that we were treated to an amazing air show.  As we drove up, a sonic boom rocked our car and set the stage that this was going to be a substantial event.  We were parking while Sean Tucker with the Oracle Aerobatics plane was performing his ridiculously unnatural maneuvers.  However, we were in time catch the Blue Angels performing their maneuvers over the bay.  It was quite spectacular.  Seeing these powerful jets flying in front of the Golden Gate bridge was pretty awe inspiring.

Passing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

In a hard turn, the vapor trail off the wings is very impressive

Mass start racing cats
The America's Cup races were equally as impressive.  We were seeing the 45 foot versions of these boats.  Next year, for the actual America's Cup defense, they will be sailing 72 foot long behemoths that are capable of speeds up to 50 miles per hour.  We've done some sailing here at Digital Diner, but phrases like "50 miles per hour" really haven't come up in our sailing conversations before.  These smaller boats were not quite as fast, but the types of words I would normally use to describe sailing boats like "majestic" or "stately" really had nothing to do with these boats.  They were incredibly fast, nimble and agile.  Most impressive was the fleet race.  They had mass start races with 11 boats all simultaneous jockeying for position.  It was mayhem.
The series of pictures below shows the team Oracle boat skippered by Jimmy Spithill, as it catipults its crew into the drink.  Amazingly, within ten minutes they had the boat righted and later even competed and won the match race competition.  Spectacular!

One moment the Oracle boat is cruising along nicely
Then the hull catches a wave and digs in to the water
And the next thing you know, the sailors are hanging on for dear life

I might mention that Oracle sponsored my favorite aerobatic plane, two of the America's Cup boats and Team Oracle's win of the America's Cup a few years ago is even the reason that we have America's Cup boats racing in the San Francisco Bay in the first place.  So to Larry Ellison and Oracle, thanks for some great entertainment!

Friday, October 5, 2012

One year ago today

A year ago today Steve Jobs died.  I was moved by the outpouring of condolences, and I was compelled to photograph the spontaneous memorial.  All I can say is that I miss Steve.  If nothing else, he was a larger than life character.

I don't know if its a coincidence or not but I've had more iPhone, iPad and Mac problems in the past year than ever before.  Most recently we took a laptop to the Genius Bar to have them identify a rattling sound in a brand new MacBook Pro.  In the process of finding that they couldn't fix the rattle, they managed to strip the screws holding the computer together.  It took 5 more trips to the genius bar to get the problem resolved.  This on top of questionable maps on my iPhone, and I just don't know.  I still like Apple products, but I do miss Steve and his maniacal pursuit of perfection.  I'm also glad that I don't work for him, cause perfectionist bosses can be no fun at all.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

SF Bay Area Science Fans Unite!

If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and you are interested in science, you should definitely check out the 2012 Bay Area Science Festival and unleash your inner scientist.  It includes everything from lectures from such notables as Alton Brown (the awesome and scientific host of Good Eats on the Food Network) to a Bay Area star party.  The calendar of events can be found here, although you can rest assured we'll add some of the more interesting events to the Digital Diner Calendar.


This week, here at Digital Diner, we played with tri-hexaflexagons.  The always amazing Vi Hart created a video about these bizarre 3 sided shapes, which happen to be easy to create and a lot of fun to play with.  We recommend that you watch the video above and try it for yourself!

Widdakay and Bix cut out shapes

An unfolded tri-hexaflexagon shows which sides show up when.