RECOMMENDED CDROM: "The
Amateur Scientist," from Scientific American magazine.
All 810 columns by C.L.Stong, Jearle Walker, Shawn Carlson. ~1000 amateur
projects, pp2100. $28
THE GREAT MENTOS
Everyone is convinced
that the 'explosions' of cola and Mentos(tm) are caused by
chemicals and solid nucleation sites. Wrong. It's acutally microbubbles.
Mentos' outer layer is an air/sugar foam, not a white pigment.
The dissolving Mentos-ees will release billions of microbubbles to seed
the carbonation froth. But how to prove this? After all, a
liquid with a cloud of
invisible bubbles is not so different than a liquid full of invisible
"nucleation" molecules. (And Mythbusters says it's chemical-based. We
that Mythbusters is always right.) <grin> BRAINSTORM!!!!
Water with a bubble-cloud is compressible, and the acoustic velocity falls
lower when compared to water without a bubble-plume. So, just do the "hot
chocolate effect" acoustic demo, but rather than dumping powder into hot
water, instead dump Mentos(tm) into cold. Also, the pitch of the clinking
sound should progressively descend slowly as the Mentos release increasing
numbers of microbubbles. (Other tests: with Mentos in water, suddenly
lower the pressure by 50%, and the invisibly small bubbles suddenly grow
large enough to easily be seen as a white plume. Break the vacuum seal on
your pressure chamber
and the white plume winks out. Or, dump some Mentos into water with a bit
of dish detergent. Later a white froth of un-popped microbubbles is found
on the surface. Or, wet some mentos and drip it into cola to see violent
fizzing, but if save up some mentos-drippings and we wait an hour to let
any microbubbles in the mentoswater
dissolve (or rise and burst,) then that same mentoswater no longer
provokes fizzing of cola. Or, with submerged Mentos, pass high power
light beam through the water adjacent to the invisible bubbles. (Video
watt laser pointer?) With enough light,
scattering should make the released plume of invisible microbubbles
My recipe for mideastern party dip,
Baba Ganouj, 2005.
Restaurant style, not the stuff resembling peanut butter you find in
You're supposed to broil the eggplant like Gyros: cook it on a stick over
a fire, while carving off the charred layers as it goes. My version comes
close: carbon-y goodness. And if you make it from scratch, you can also
do garlic overkill and destroy any vampires downwind.
Nearly finished that old WHAT IS COHERENT LIGHT? article.
I'd never really understood lasers, despite optics courses and later
realizing the classic misconceptions that
plague this whole topic. No, photons don't look like a little sine-wave
drawn by a wiggling pencil.
I've occasionally heard reports of two moons seen in the sky.
Quite a few reports, but no photos. Yet this effect might not be
totally impossible. For example, during a plane trip over desert, if
there is a layer of cirrostratus or cirrus below you, and if the sun is
near the horizon, sometimes you see a second sun below the first. It
looks just like a reflection on water, as if there is a big lake
hidden below the clouds. But under the clouds is desert and mountains.
The "water" is actually a layer of suspended ice crystals, all of them
hovering horizontally like tiny dinnerplates. Together they form a
crude mirror. So, what if you were BELOW this mirror? If the moon
was out at night, and if it was very low in the sky, then maybe you'd
see a "subsun" moon reflection. But it would be upside-down from a
normal subsun. The real moon would have a false moon hanging in the
sky diretly above it. (But if the second moon was to the side, or if the
two moons were high in the sky, then the phenomenon is still unexplained.)
Recurring (recursiving!) late night self-referential philosophical
musings: anyone who has been caught using the fallacy of
Poisoning the Well is no longer trustworthy, all their
further arguments are suspect, and anything they say is merely a
dishonest attempt to delude us! :)
UNUSUAL PHENOMENA REPORTS section, hundreds of new stories, vanishing
toilet paper, people teleporting out of lethal accidents, many electric
humans and Ball Lightnings. Even some twice-arriving dopplegangers
Pressure of unopened cola
A coke bottle. When you shake it,
the pressure rise? Well, there's an easy way to detect pressure changes.
Hold a plastic bottle by the cap, then whack it by whipping your knuckles
across the side in a glancing blow. It rings like a bell. The pitch is
determined by fluid mass and tautness of the plastic: by gas pressure.
If the pressure rises, the pitch will rise. I go and get a sealed warm
soda. Whack it a few times to remember the pitch of the bell-tone. Now
shake it a bit, let the bubbles clear, then whack it again. The tone
doesn't change. Shaking it didn't alter the pressure. Next, if I put it
in the fridge for 15min, then whack/shake/whack, I hear the pitch go
down. Shaking it DECREASED the pressure. As expected! After all,
opening a warm soda releases a big burst of pressure, but not with cold
soda ...so a soda bottle cooling in the fridge is in the process of
dissolving its high-pressure CO2 pocket. Shaking it up will provide a
large surface area, so the gas can suddenly go into solution. Pressure
falls, bell-tone goes lower. (And if you test an hour-chilled bottle
that's been warming on the counter for a few minutes, you should find the
Plasma w/injected carbon
When the multiple Tesla coils were set up at Hackerbot, I brought my argon
tank and filled roundbottom flasks. Placed on a topload, arcs
went capacitively through the flask and through the argon. Amazingly
we got some ball-lightning effects as arcs passed through the "stopper"
made of paper towel
in the neck of the flask, extended out into the air, and set the
paper on fire. Plasma w/carbon doping, doncha know. The streamers in the
air had all sorts of glowing
beads moving along them (a bit hard to see in this photo.) Aha,
here's some video showing the
mixture of flames and plasma streamers.
Argon flasks are a convenient way to position some stable fire+carbon
in the center of
a tesla coil streamer.
PS, OT, if I use yellow-green fluorescent highlighter to draw some anatomically
correct bones on my hand, they're almost invisible in normal
lightning. Then a high-power ultraviolet LED flashlight freaks people out
even under bright room lighting. (safety note: a small percentage of
people are allergic to fluorescein dye in these markers, so test first
before you cover your entire body with fluorescent ink!)
Old news, me at Burning Man '07, where I sat daily in Center House trying
to put tiny flakes of TERRIFYING LETHALLY DANGEROUS DRY ICE in drinks of
passersby. Also handling it wo/gloves while chewing up chunks and spewing
CO2 plumes out my nostrils. (Sideshow fire-eaters think I'm insane.)
A couple of
TURN AIRPLANE VIDEOS INTO 3D HYPERSTEREO: II
While flying down to a conference I was wondering if cosmic ray
bombardment of brain tissue will again stimulate hypercreativity like it
has in the past. Nope. Nope, no weird ideas spontaneously appearing. As
soon as I thought this, immediately a simple and astounding idea
flashed into my head. You know hyperstereo trick mentioned below? A
stereo screen playing two delayed versions of footage shot from a moving
vehicle? Well, why not just open two browser windows and play the same
video of slowly crawling landscape, but play/pause them to give just the
right delay. Then view them with crossed eyes for 3D. DOH!!!! Try it
right now, NO CUSTOM SOFTWARE NEEDED! I'd been looking right at this idea
for months, but the simple trick didn't occur to me until my head was
being penetrated by naturally-occurring ionizing radiation. Pretty cool,
I wonder how many of us invented "Portal" back when we were kids? I doubt
I'm the only one.
Imagining bracelets where you stick your hand in, and your hand comes out
through a different bracelet? Put a pair around your neck, then
take your head off and place it on the table. Two big ones on the floor
would create a "zero-G bed," and one on the ceiling would make an infinte
hole. Would you die of thirst while falling, or would you tend to wander
to the side and get beat to death by hitting the edges? Throw a small one
in mile-deep ocean, use
the other as an energy source, or a weapon, ...or a reaction engine to
a bunch of similar bracelets to the moon. Make a vacuum chamber with
really clean 'high orbit vacuum.' Don't drop one in the sun, or
soon the sun will be half its size, with a second sun orbiting 93M miles
MOTOR CHALLENGE: making fake O/U motors
All these "Mylow Motor"-style hoax videos. But never an
interesting fake. It's always just a blurred thread, or an air jet
with the sound turned off.
Last year on SED I was thinking about this and
wondered, could I build a magnet-powered spinner? Or perhaps a
magnet-pendulum? A real one, where the
magnets got weaker, but the "motor" ran for a couple of minutes?
I don't think anyone has tried doing this.
Two possible methods come to mind:
Let two or more magnets N and S poles attract towards each other.
While the gap between is smallest, slightly demagnetize one or both poles.
Let them coast apart by inertia, then repeat.
Let the alike-poles of two or more magnets push progressively apart.
While the gap is largest, slightly demagnetize one or both poles.
Let them coast together by inertia, then repeat.
Set up a rotating carrier to repeat the process. Probably repulsion
version #2 is easier because of the larger gap.
In other words, weaken the magnets at the bottom of the PE energy hill.
Such a wheel should spin faster and faster. On each cycle, the magnets
interact first to give the wheel a strong kick. But during the trip
back out, the magnet force is weaker, so the opposite kick doesn't cancel
out and stop the wheel. The wheel spins against friction. Magnets are
the fuel! :) Of course they can only supply a few joules total before
the "fuel" is gone and the wheel grinds to a halt.
But it takes energy to scramble the ferro domains and demagnitize. Any
sort of demagnetizer will, yes, extract energy, but it also acts as a
brake. So, the real question is, can the energy extracted during
demagnetization of a large magnet be used both to drive the wheel against
friction, and also to operate the demagnetizer mechanism? Perhaps we'd
demagnetize a very very thin stripe on a large magnet face; and move to a
different stripe every cycle. Or better, demagnetize a tiny round spot,
with the demagnetizer being moved randomly each time until eventually it
has hit every possible spot.
People on Make blog talking about
XKCD hyperstereo video system. Hmmmm... just do it with software. I shoot L-R stereo pairs out
the plane windows during trips, and I've wished for a piece of sw to
convert my videos of slowly-passing landscape into realtime 3D. Think:
if your cross-country plane
trip is at 500MPH, that's 730fps, so if you play two copies of your video
with a 1-sec delay, that creates a hyperstereo pair where your eyeballs
are 730ft apart. Basically YOUR HEAD IS 1000 FEET WIDE. No problems with
camera alignment, just hold the camera still while shooting. Position the
two video playback frames adjacent on your monitor. If the footage was
shot from the other side of the plane, then view it in crosseye instead of
straight. Or do a red/blue anaglyph process, then prevent inside-out
images by having a checkbox for L-R swap. Add a slidepot to move
fast-forward or reverse in the video. That slides your giant head from
side to side over the tiny landscape. Add another slidepot to vary the
time delay between the two images (to vary the size of your Big Giant Head.)
Got picked up by FORGETOMORI.COM on my idea that Leaping Sundogs might
be caused by thunderstorm electrostatics. Certain types of UFOs are
explained. Foster & Hallett found that suspended ice micro crystals
respond to .5V/mm electrostatic fields, and become totally aligned at only
10V/cm field strength. Ice crystals coming near a 9V battery cannot help
but line up like iron filings! Also picked up by The Anomalist
Updated UNUSUAL PHENOMENA REPORTS.
Lots of vanishing objects, Ball Lightning, hypnagogic paralysis, and funny
weather. And the usual huge population of "Electric People."
Usta be you'd get slashdotted
or MeFi'd. Nowdays you get
just saw 145K hits
in a couple of days because of one extremely brief mention buried on the
second page of this one on Cracked below. It also spread to
reddit, i-am-bored, facebook. Wow, what would that have traffic number
been if it was an obvious link at
the top of the Cracked article? Cockbite! 6 things that daily annoy you explained by science (p2)
Another video collection: Flir thermal IR cameras In
particular see the "GasFindIR" stuff
about halfway down the page. These cameras see gasoline as black ink with
smoke pouring off! Finally, a thermal camera which actually detects
The coilgen science project now
FAQ: building hamster generators, wind power, or just
vastly increasing the feeble half-volt AC output.
ant-trail engineering. I once interfered with an ant trail by placing
a couple feet of masking tape right along the trail location (after
blowing the ants off to the side.) Hours later the trail had reconnected,
and ants were flowing along the tape strip. DOH! That's a portable
ant trail! What would have happened if I thought to peel it off and
put it back reversed? The "direction to food" and "direction home" scent
codes would be all screwy. Or I could form a square of the tape, pour
some captured ants onto it, and they'd rush in circles as they look for
food that's always just ahead. Make more of the "trail tape" and write my
name in ant patterns.
Added lots more to Odd Physics videos,
including successful replication of anti-chirp time reversed water
Scott Adams is talking about "crazy eyes" over on
I've done that!
Often when I'm working for long periods under polyphasic sleep schedule,
into that hypomanic idea-spewing region, I'll scare myself by looking in
the mirror: my eyes are WIDE. Eyelids not touching iris, I can see the
scelera above and below. Crap, is that how everyone sees me?!
Yep. But my eyes feel normal at the
time, if a bit cold. Crazy Eyes is automatic. wtf.
If I next watch the mirror and squint my eyes on purpose; forcing them
like a normal person's eyes, then they feel warm and half-closed as if I'm
sleepy. But in the mirror, the crazy eyes are now gone. HEY that's
While I'm in high creativity "flow mode," I'm really really awake,
and my perceptual world is embedded in my entire peripheral visual field,
and not just staring narrowly with central vision. Perhaps it's akin to
looking frightened. Fear does the same. (In order to detect approaching
dangers, fear makes us pull our eyelids back so they don't block
peripheral vision as much.) When terrifed you don't necessarily roll your
eyes, but when
your eyelids are that wide open, any glancing to the side will expose the
whites of your eyes. VERY noticeable to onlookers. (So when I then go out
in public, I have to make sure to intentionally squint and pretend to look
Also, I've noticed that if I can manage to adopt "crazy eyes" for a
considerable period, sometimes it kicks in and pushes me into the
high-creativity mental state. This seems to be akin to the "frowning makes
you angry" phenomenon. Even better than simply widening your eyes, is to
walk outdoors with fixed gaze at the horizon, while "staring" at objects
all throughout your peripheral vision. You put yourself into the Omnimax
Steady-cam visual world. Then you don't have to attempt to think outside
the box, since you *are* outside the box. So just start jabbering ideas
into your mp3 recorder while walking down the sidewalk ...and watch all
the oncoming pedestrians crossing the
street to avoid you. crazy eyes!
Sheer speculation: ancient tribes might survive better if their members
had evolved to display certain unconscious instinctual facial expressions.
For example, the look of feverish sickness says "stay away, infection
danger." If instead all the sick tribal members looked perfectly normal,
your whole tribe might get infected. They couldn't avoid the sick one. So
also the wide-eyed crazed/fearful expression warns your community to all
back off and avoid any unexpected behavior from Crazy Eyes person. The
automatic facial sign would evolve, but also our visual sensitivity to
those signs would increase. Rolling eye-whites look "scary," but at the
same time, the genuine scary people become instinctually programmed to
automatically display the wide-eyes look.
Imagine what might happen if ancient heavily-armed and mentally unstable
humans didn't display any outward sign that they'd
consumed large quantities of alkaloid plants or mushrooms or alcohol?
...or they'd just gone
without any sleep for two weeks?! Could be bad.
When I've put myself into an extreme creative state, I'll notice that my
eyes feel cold. Wide open lids are exposing more eye surface. Nowdays I
always notice this, and I think to myself "Yep, automatic tribe member
craziness-warning system been activated again."
Sleep: it's the Ayahuasca version of "getting demented from staying up
all night working." Known users: Edison, Picasso, Tesla.
Early last century William James noted that whenever two people meet,
there are really six
There is each as he sees himself, each as the
sees him, and each as he really is. Times two.
James stopped too early though! :)
There is also the false facade-self we each try to present to the other
person (rather than the ones we really are, or the ones we believe we
are.) So eight people total. RD Laing then discovered: since there is
the version of
you that the other person sees when they look at you, therefore if
you can predict accurately how their perceptions of you differ from your
desired facade, this knowledge lets you take appropriate small actions to
tweak their viewpoint into perceiving the facade-self you wish to
project. The actual facade is an imperfect version of the desired facade.
So... ten people!
Then we have the
RD Laing spiral: you imagine that
person is noticing you perceive a warped version of themselves, but the
other person is smart enough to realize that you're trying to
predict what you're seeing them
see you see, so next they try to predict what you think they think you
think they think you think that they're seeing. That way they can use this
prediction and try to fool you into thinking that you've successfully
fooled them into seeing you in the way that you wish, when in reality the
fooler is being led on a merry chase by a devious opponent who correctly
guessed their thinking. But also you suspect that this is
happening! So you let them go on thinking that they've fooled you into
imagining that you've fooled them.
In other words ...once the human brain has evolved mirror-neurons, you
can point them at each other
to form an infinite tunnel of repeated reflections.
Just received my
DIY electroluminescent lamp kit with conductive ITO glass and various
Dupont EL inks. Now we'll see if Zinc Sulfide glow-paint works better
than Zinc Sulfide t-shirt ink. And also make some EL wire
Added lots more to Odd Physics videos
Someone successfully fired a propane smoke ring at a distant flame!
Also: DON'T SWALLOW (drinking liquid nitrogen.)
On frequent questions in the "traffic waves" sections, I added:
Does 'Amateur Science' pay? Well, I just checked, and see that I've made
$110,000 from the website since 2004. Not enough to "quit your day job,"
but it pays for kids education and takes a big bite out of the rent.
When negative-index materials first were announced, I realized that I
could make a cool optics exhibit for a science museum ...without using
any (non-existent) negative-refraction materials. The key idea is to
low-refraction material within a sea of high-refraction material. Don't
exotic photonic crystals ...instead just do it under water, using
bubbles. Or use water blobs placed witin heavy
syrup, or in jello. A blob of water in some thick gelatine will have a
lower I.R. than its surroundings. So try this:
Coat a small model of "stealth" aircraft with a layer of weak gelatine.
Immerse it in a small tank of very dense gelatine, and allow it to harden.
Now when viewed against a white background the aircraft should appear much
smaller than it really is. That's the "cloaking" effect: where the axial
rays still strike the hidden object, but off-axis rays are bent away,
causing the object to optically shrink in size. If the effect is strong
enough, a fairly huge object can appear as a tiny dust speck.
VIDEOS: Odd Physics, a large
collection of vid embeds. Very cool and strange stuff I found on youtube
over the years.
Yes, our hosting ISP
eskimo.com just had major troubles. amasci.com was
down for more than 24 hours.
RUSSIAN WOODPECKER I always wondered what the transmitter
looked like for OTH megawatt broadband shortwave radar. It's HAARP, but
built on a gigantic vertical wall! See photos of the defunct rusting
'Steelyard' Duga3 transmitter in Russia
Years ago I was explaining rainbow optics ...and also explaining
thunderstorm dynamics. I stumbled across a strange idea: shouldn't the
electrostatic fields in thunderstorms have a visible effect on rainbows?
E-fields should slightly distort falling raindrops, causing the light
distribution of a rainbow to change slightly. We should notice that a
rainbow suddenly "flicks" during a lightning bolt, then slowly changes to
its initial pattern as the e-fields build before another strike.
I just heard from LH
on youtube about three videos
apparently showing this in
action! But it's not rainbows. Instead it's suspended ice crystals or
condensing just above a rising thunderhead, brightly back-lit by
the sun. Take a look:
Rather than distortions of droplets, perhaps these are "
parhelia light patterns caused by aligned ice crystals. A changing
e-field could rotate all the ice plates or columns, causing the sundog to
suddenly change shape and position. Or less likely,
perhaps some condensing droplets are changing size under e-field
influence (condensation rate of small droplets is known to be altered by
strong electrostatic fields.)
I just heard that relatively tiny e-field of 10V/mm will totally align
suspended ice crystals. Storm fields are far stronger, so "leaping
sundogs" should be quite common. See foster/hallett paper
via Google Scholar search.
Brainstorm! The year 2012 ...it's the Mayan Y2K disaster!
We think it's something special when our car odometer goes from 99,999 to
100,000. But the
weren't using base ten.
"Just one 30-ton calender stone should be all anyone ever needs?" Yeah,
right. They forgot that we gotta carve a new one every 5125 years. And all
of the small local governments need copies of heiroglyphic codex notices
string-knot memos to make it official. What a pain. Worst case, the
whole civilization comes to a stop because nobody can figure out how to
write dates on new legal documents! Better buy a lot of beef jerky and
then move way up into the hills until the disaster is over.
You've heard of Nikola Tesla's "Death Ray?" Well actually that was one
of his later, more unimportant inventions.
There was another very different Ray which came first. It was
birthed before 1892, and it formed the basis of many of his fantastic
claims. It was an invention on par with the transistor, or the laser, but
Tesla decided that it might destroy society, like giving knives to
infants. The secret is now mostly lost, but fortunately he left many clues
behind. Look at the art accompanying his 1899-era articles.
Those may not be searchlights.
Dry ice CO2 gas pushes it instantly away from warm metal. Place it
against a metal plate, and it howls. But the metal cools down and it stops. Here's a
I KICK MYSELF!!! You know the physics-demo where you cause a thin mylar
fly by electrostatic repulsion? Rub a balloon on your head, then
the mylar strip hovers high in the air? Well someone figured it out:
build a wand-shaped VandeGraaff generator. Probably the charged rubber
band is enough. I was looking right at it, but didn't see it. That
thing's now toy of the year, sold at
Educational Innovations, Thinkgeek and
I was tired of seeing interesting Tesla science topics be thrown off the
coilers' forums. I've finally got ambitious and started a new email
How did Wardenclyffe broadcast a 100Hz Schumann frequency using a tens-KHz
resonant transmitter? A 100Hz resonant coil would be far,far larger than
the Wardenclyffe tower. Brainstorm: use a Tesla Coil as if the entire
device were a HVDC power supply! "Discharge" your TC through a spark-gap
to excite an external low-freq tank circuit. IT WORKS!
I used a spark
gap to step an 800KHz coil down by 20x to give 40KHz output. The
is a slow spike of alternating polarity which produces a square-wave
output, while the output resonator changes the spike into a sine wave.
The two coils locked together coherently; a Victorian Phase-Locked-Loop.
So if the Earth is our output resonator, and we place a spark-gap in
series with the output of the huge Extra coil, we've created a 100Hz
square wave transmitter which automatically locks on to a Schumann
absorption line. Or change the spark gap's width to select most any other
ZINC NEGATIVE-RESISTANCE OSCILLATORS
I haven't heard of others succeeding with Nyle Steiner's discovery
semiconductor devices. I tried it myself last year and
it worked the first time. Maybe I was lucky to grab the right parts?
Also, I inspected the V/I graph using a curve-tracer, so I could see which
resistor values might work. For my version I hooked these parts in
Resistor, try 680ohm to 2K
25mH toroid coil, 5 ohms
cheap stereo headphone (one side)
The LC resonance is around 2KHz. I hooked the "burned zinc" device
between the 680ohm resistor and the far end of the loudspeaker. When I
probed it with a wire, I heard "tinks" at 2KHz as expected (shorting the
current-limited supply causes the LC to briefly ring.) But when I poked
certain spots in the burned crust, VERY LOUD oscillation. Too loud for
headphones. Very cool:
a sinewave generator with no transistors. I'll take it to the
Weird Science Salon tomorrow
No one seems to know just how N. Tesla was going to use his high freq
Magnifying Transmitter to broadcast at VLF/ELF frequencies. 100KHz or
50KHz won't excite any Schumann global resonances. But if we can
manage to see through Tesla's eyes, the answer is fairly obvious.
It's my daughter Lillian's birthday. Hey, take a look at a
she made, also lots more of her stuff
on Deviantart. Pretty good for a
high school kid! (Heh, she'll probably make me delete this.)
ANOTHER "LIFTER" EQUATION
I realized I could calculate the maximum thrust for an electrostatic
Lifter. I just assume that the ion receiver is flat, and it's getting a
maximum e-field of 30KV/cm. Also, the energy stored in a capacitor at a
certain voltage is the same as the work done in pulling the plates apart.
So, the max lifting force in LBS is:
So it looks like the Electrostatic Lifters are less like helicopters and
more like helium
balloons... except their thrust is proportional to area, not volume.
Very bad. For example, a 10ft flying disk could *ideally* produce 65lbs
max lift. If we want to build a Hugo Gernsback flying futuristic city in
the sky, it would be better off with giant propellors or hydrogen chambers.
It's fairly easy to erase part of the left-lane traffic jam on I-5 just
south of Seattle. Sometimes a single driver can wipe out the whole thing.
YOUR PLACE IN LINE IS MEANINGLESS
In the above
video, the jam forms when people in the left lane pack together and try to
block all merging drivers. Next, cars coming in from I-90 then force
in at the downstream exit ramp, which halts the flow. Who's at fault?
drivers in the left lane are probably trying to "block cheaters." The
I-90 cars are not cheating; they had no chance to get into the clogged
lane, so they probably feel justified in bulling their way in. But if
just one driver lets in five or ten cars, often the whole jam unplugs and
flows freely. Whenever early merging is possible,
then nobody forces their way in and halts the flow, so
the jam evaporates.
And whenever the jam is gone, then early merging becomes easy, so
traffic keeps flowing. [Note: dense
traffic moves at about one car per second, so if you let ten cars in ahead
of you, your commute will become TEN SECONDS LONGER, OH THE HUMANITY! To
shorten your commute by only a few percent, you'd have to pass at least
fifty other cars. Highway traffic is not like a line at the cash register
where every single person ahead of you represents many minutes of
delay. Yet most drivers won't even let a single car in ahead of them,
and they get angry if someone else does it.]
I've made a few more videos: scratch holograms, magnet beads, Asian seed
drink wind tunnel, soda/ultrasound fountain.
INTERNET SCIENCE MEMES: HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW?
In 1993 early internet days I decided to become "Johnny Apple-meme" and
try to trigger some infectious ideas. Some were my own invention, while
others were just cool things I'd found in obscure articles. Let's see how
Forming some new science nerds 1993
Since the Scientific American ended "The Amateur Scientist" column, and
Popular Electronics magazine died off again, the kids of the 1990s have no
chances to encounter any wicked-cool DIY science hacks. Our whole culture
is going to be taken over again by sports and TV shows. What can be done?
(Actually I just want to turn lots of kids into loner weirdo physics
nerds.) Hey, this "internet" thing might be big. Since I'm here early
before everyone else discovers it, and since the entire www is boring and
empty, I can post articles on the best science projects I've encountered.
My site will end up as some of the only interesting "content" on the
entire internet. Porn isn't available yet, so they'll have to come to me
for twisted online entertainment! With luck, maybe HUNDREDS of kids will
find these physics DIY
projects and become infected with science geekery. Neo magnets!
Leaf blower hovercraft! Electrostatic pop bottle motor! Scratch
holograms! Maybe more than just hundreds.
Scientists don't use "The Scientific Method." 1999
Because of my textbook consulting work, I'm very familar with the
bogus "Scientifc Method" being promoted by those publishers. That stuff
about hypothesis-experiment-conclusion? It doesn't exist. Real
scientists don't work that way. There's lots of articles about this,
but nobody gathers them together in one place online. They're too
dilute, and have no impact. If I add a small "scientific method"
section, maybe I can light a few fires and get some changes
happening. Aha, it begins. A small war erupts on Wikipedia
definition of The Scientific Method. William McComas encounters wild
success from his 1996 "Ten Myths of Science." How far will it go?
Leaf-blower hovercrafts 1989 I saw an article on
air hockey pucks" in Physics Teacher magazine. Rather than letting
physics teachers have all the fun, I started pushing it via Jim B's
science outreach company. I was hoping to post the plans via Gopher
something called "The Internet," but fortunately the WWW appeared, so I
didn't have to figure out how Gopher works. The science fair
community became infected by those plans, and now leaf-blower
hovercrafts are competing with volcanos and solar-system models to be
the most common science fair project. In 2004 the Mythbusters tried to
"bust" it, see episode 17 "Levitation machine."
Flowing "Electricity" as motions of copper's electrons 1988
Back in my days at Museum of Science in Boston, I was working on K6
science textbooks for Holt/Rinehart/Winston, and also designing devices
for our inhouse Electricity/Electronics exhibit. Based on my vast
collection of student misconceptions taken from those K6 textbooks, I
worked out a
cure: a brain-hurting alternate
vision of electricity. Well, not really "alternate," since it was
taken right out of basic undergrad physics and E&M texts, with their math
models translated into simple verbal descriptions. Compared to the
distorted stuff in K12 textbooks, mine certainly was alternate. Unlike
the gradeschool stuff, my version is like university physics: it
actually hangs together and makes sense. Now that the internet suddenly
how many other minds will pick up my infection. After we all finally
"see" electricity, CANNOT UN-SEE!
Neodymium Supermagnets 1994 While working on science
exhibits in 1992 we had some large, dangerous "neodymium" magnets. I'd
worked with tiny SmCo supermagnets, and these Neos were the same. But
they were cheap! There were all sorts of weird new physics demonstrations
you could perform. But the magnets were only available from China imports
Tridus International. When Gopher changed into Web in 1993, I started
pushing this as science fair projects. I posted a big list of suggested
demos and flogged my URL all over the newsgroups. Arbor Scientific then
started selling cm-sized magnets for only five bucks, so soon the public
could start messing with these. The word started spreading. Then
Wondermagnet started selling them. Then Eng-concepts. Wow, this one took
off like wildfire. Would it still have happened if nobody intentionally
contaminated the online amateur science community with neodymium?
Ball Lightning 5/1996
"BL" is an infamous physics phenomenon: denied and scoffed at by the
entire science community until the mid-1980s, then treated as
real-but-irreproducable mystery. I posted an entire page of links,
articles, and a pro literature search printout. Hey, maybe if I can get
the garage science crowd to mess with it, then some hobbyist will make the
breakthrough and create it on demand. Then guys on vortex-L figured out
how to make microwave oven Plasmoids on demand. That did it; interest
soared (although microwave Plasmoids probably aren't thunderstorm BLs.)
Misconception 1996 At MOS Boston we had a small pushbutton
windtunnel w/movable airfoil ...with the wrong explanation of lifting
force. I'd been vaguely aware of some sort of problem with these
explanations, and argued about it with Larry Bell, the exhibits director.
Then in 1990 I saw Weltner's correct explanation in AJP American Journal
of Physics and in "The Physics Teacher." In 1996 I decided to force this
issue: introducing it on PHYS-L and spreading the debate to all the Usenet
newsgroups. Jan-Olov Newborg was a fellow troublemaker. We pushed and
pushed the issue of misconceptions, got it into everyones faces, triggered
repeated flamewars on RC-modelers and pilot forums. My airfoil
misconception page attracted much traffic. I found Jeff Raskin's
treatment of the issue, and Gail Craig's book. Then Anderson/Eberhardt
took it up with their paper, then an entire textbook. Pilots started
vortex-downwash penetrating cloud layers. Online I met the author of
the NASA GRC education site and, during a big nasty (private) fight
between three physicists, apparently convinced him to deeply research the
issue and to post misconception-fighting articles on the NASA site. Soon
major news services picked it up! New York Times, NPR Discover Magazine,
several piloting magazines. It went exponential. Note again that this
one was not my invention. I was just "Weltner's bulldog."
electric generator 1988
Back at MOS Boston I saw several articles about the ultra-simple electric
motor (today known as Beakman's motor.) Well, what about an equivalent
generator? Robert Oppenheimer at Exploratorium had built one using
magnetron magnets and a pancake coil. I messed around and found that a
pile of 3" loudspeaker
magnets shoved into a one-lb coil of #24 magnet wire could easily light a
one-volt #48 bulb. Internet later came along and still nobody had spread
the word on DIY
ultra-simple electric generators. Looks like it's up to me. In 1996 I
sat down and figured out a design using cardboad, tape, and common parts
from Radio Shack. Wooeee, did that one ever take off. Right now (2010)
it's the most popular page on my site, and the youtube
is well past a million views.
Neodymium sphere-magnet beads toy 2001
As part of Seattle Weird Sci. Salon
we make bulk purchases for the group. One popular item has been
supermagnets. In this case, our bulk purchase had an interesting result.
In the late 1990s, Dan and Dan at Wondermag
invented the supermagnet sphere, and started selling 1/4" version. Round
supermagnets had no use ...but since I was buying them in bulk, I quickly
discovered that supermagnet balls were amazing in large quantities. The
0.25" magents cost over a dollar each, so nobody but me was able to play
with hundreds of them at once. I was making Bucky-spheres, nanotubes, and
finding cool patterns possible using long chains. These would be a
hot-selling toy item, and I showed them to one toy company but they
weren't interested. Way too expensive, and far too dangerous as a toy for
little kids. Eventually the price came down enough that a hundred magnets
didn't cost $100, so everyone at Weird
Science Salon bought globs of them (mostly as adult xmas gifts!)
I realized that I didn't have ambition to start a company selling them.
Way too much work: mainly a fulltime job of packaging and mailing. So I
finally decided not to patent the magnet-beads puzzle toy, but instead to
break secrecy and put the idea in the PD (public domain.) I could use
them as an "internet meme." How far would they spread? I decided to test
the waters by describing them on my Neodemo page around 2001.
Nope, nobody noticed. Years later in 2004 I split off a webpage just for
neo spheres. Nope,
nuthin'. I started selling them at the yearly Mike and Key ham radio fleamarket, and
later at my table at Freemont Sunday Market (see 2:23 in the vid). No matter how cool
they are, they just don't attract attention.
Finally towards the end of 2006 I posted some youtube videos.
Still nothing. Nobody notices. Apparently some "seeds" are too small,
and just won't sprout! You can't light a forest fire with matches that go
Then in March 2008 I posted the coolest secret: making a
sphere. Apparently that triggered it! The "neocube" video was posted
on youtube, and suddenly the idea caught fire all over the
place. A few months later there were Neocubes and Cybercubes and QQmag
and Magcube and Magbead and Buckyballs and Cubercube and Nanodots, and
many un-trademarked magnet blobs on eBay (none patentable you see! Already
in the PD, anyone can pick a new product name and start selling them.)
FINALLY at long last there's a valid purpose for spherical supermagnets.
They even might end up outselling all other shapes. Probably the sales
volume in spheres is supporting entire towns in China. But still
...they're lethally dangerous for little kids, and unless the price comes
down, they're still too expensive for giant toy companies to show
interest. The indie toy companies can go wild, with no Mattels or Hasbros
coming in to take over everything.
Electric Circuit Mechanical Analogy 1986
While consulting for Holt/Rinehart I considered the typical hydraulic
analogy to explain electric ciruits. I found a better one: electricity
is like the molecules in a loop of rope wrapped around pulleys. It's like
the rubber of a conveyor belt: when the drive roller turns, all the other
rollers turn as well. When internet came along, I started pushing this
analogy all over Usenet forums. It slowly caught on. Then I came up with
another version: electricity is like a rubber bicycle tire: push it in one
place, and all the rubber must turn as one. Look around the www today,
and see how far these ideas have spread.
Bare-hand bottle smash: IT'S CAVITATION!(1989)
At MOS Boston I worked out a water-cavitation demo for classrooms: if you
whack a can of beans on top, it goes "snap!" But if you whack it gently
...no snap. In the near-vacuum contents there are bubbles of hard vacuum
opening up and then slamming shut. The same works with glass jars of
spagetti sauce. Also with vacuum-packed bottles of orange juice.
Finally I found that if you're demonstrating the onset of cavitation to
everyone at work, and you're hitting a glass bottle of juice over and over
with increasing violence, first you get the "snap." Then you get a
missing bottom! Orange juice splashes all over the office! A perfect
glass disk is left behind.
Years later I heard about the beer-bottle smash trick. Whack a beer
bottle hard enough, and the bottom pops out. Ah, but I knew the secret.
With beer you need a weak bottle and it barely works, since CO2
efevervescence fills the cavitation spaces almost instantly, which
provides a cushion. Do it with water. Do it with "de-gassed" water that's
been sitting around for hours (or that you've previously boiled.) Works
like a charm. Even very thick glass bottles can be smashed.
While showing someone the "Ragu Sauce snap effect" I noticed a silver
flash. Hey. CAVITATION IS VISIBLE. Ooo, I gotta make a vacuum bottle to
capture this effect. Found an easy way to do this. Works great. The
cavitation is slowed, so you can see it by eye, no high-speed camera
needed. So I made a youtube video to introduce the beer-bottle
phenomenon, then to show closeups of silver pockets
of cavitation which cause it.
Lol, right away it ends up on the show "Time Warp." They
didn't contact me. Did they by coincidence figure out that bare-hand
bottle-smash contains well-hidden high-speed phenomena ...and then work
out the correct explanation? Or are they working under the commands of a
Meme infection? PS you can remove a cork from wine using this same
phenomenon. Aim cork down, hit top of wine bottle repeatedly with shoe or
other solid object. Cork slowly is hammered outwards! NOTE TO TRY:
OIL-BOTTLE CAVITATION ABOVE TESLA COIL, DO CAVITIES FLASH BRIGHTLY IN A
Congo Blue as cheap IR filter 2001 Infrared Goggles for under
$10. While working for Eaton Optosensors in 1998 I wanted to spread
idea, but it had to wait until I discovered Congo Blue filters. A truely
mad-scientist toy: it lets humans see genuine infrared light ...but it
also will fry your eyeballs if you use it to stare into the sun. As with
Tesla Coils and Gauss Guns, these remain somewhat "safe" because most
little kids don't have the ambition to order the supplies and build one
Diamagnetic Water 1998 Neo magnets were starting to
spread online. Someone emailed me and pointed out that a neo magnet could
slightly deflect a stream of water from the kitchen faucet. COOOOL. I
informed the physics teaching forums and physics newsgroups, and my local
hobby group had great fun with this. We found that a submerged neo magnet
would distort water surface just above it. We found that you could
deflect a horizontal popscicle hanging from a hair.
1998 Once you finally "PERCEIVE", your inner Commuter will be sent to
stand in the corner, and your brain is now occupied by a
suddenly-enlightened Zen Traffic Practitioner.
But "With great power comes great responsibility
-Spiderman." If the Ice-Nine concept ever gets loose, will one person
manage to solidify the entire traffic network around Washington DC? It's
like flipping one wall switch on-off in a special pattern and causing
a blackout of the entire East coast. Will such a solidification-wave
reach out and engulf Baltimore, NYC, and Boston? Fortunately it all melts
again by 4AM each morning, so we're probably safe.
Bipolar Transistors are Voltage-controlled 1995. It
bugged me that technicians as well as the public are taught that
transistors "amplify current," but then we learn as EE undergrads that
transistors are actually controlled by voltage: Ic is directly determined
by e^(Vbe*k), not by Ib. For YEARS I'd been unable to really understand
transistors; not until I took semiconductor physics and learned the
dreaded secret. I decided to stir up trouble with an accurate non-math transistor
explanation aimed at school kids. I'd never seen any similar article
anywhere, so I personally get a chance to introduce millions of hobbyists
to an important fundamental idea which had been concealed inside the math
models used in college-level electronics classes.
Long High-volt streamers in flows of Argon
harmless lightning bolts shoot from your fingers. This one hasn't
taken off yet. "Mike's Electric Stuff" did pick it up.
Electrical Sorcery 1994 I had lots of
demonstrations built up from the science museum. If I post the best
ones online as Science Fair projects, can I turn thousands of innocent
little children into practitioners of the dark High Voltage arts?
voltage-motor caught fire and spread widely. Once I even saw
some school science-fair rules which banned three projects: baking
soda volcanoes, papier-mache solar system models, ...and tinfoil
electrostatic pop-bottle motors!
Aware of your Skull. Skull Awareness!
In a very old
Peanuts cartoon, Lucy causes Linus to become aware of his tongue. Then he
can't turn it off again. When making faces in the mirror one day I
accidentally made myself aware of my own skull. It took quite a while
before I was back to normal. But I could also talk
with an echo, cross one eye, and make smoke come out of my mouth. I
started collecting these "little kid mental techniques." The list became
very long. When the
internet came along, I realized that the same good things that happened to my own
brain... could be put inside YOUR brain too!
oven plasma 1997
In 1987 I'd written an entry for Lincoln Homework Encyclopedia containing
a science classroom activity for microwave ovens. It was never used, so
I posted it online for others to play with. This triggered much
experimentation by members of various online forums, and eventually a
couple of people worked out a way to produce stable plasmoids.
"Hey, you're the Traffic Waves guy?!!!"
"Hey, you're the congo blue goggles guy?!!"
"Hey, you're the Childhood brain guy?!!"
"Hey, you're that microwave ovens guy?!!!"
"YOU'RE the amasci dot com guy?!! I spent my whole childhood on your site!"
all together now...
"WE SENT YOU EMAIL, BUT YOU NEVER ANSWERED!!!"
Here's an alternate version of a classic physics demo. Rather than
heating up a
glass rod and then plugging it in to 120VAC, we heat up a glass bottle and
plug it in to a few hundred watts of 2.1GHz RF.
A great idea for school science fair. Don't make a motor; everyone makes
motors. MAKE A GENERATOR! Light a bulb.
ACCIDENTALLY PRODUCING X-RAYS
A note about x-rays and "plasma globes." When attaching light bulbs to a
tabletop Tesla coil, some small bulbs fail to produce purple plasma
streamers. The space inside remains dark, but the glass flickers blue, or
white, or sometimes green. This shows that the bulb contains a fairly hard
vacuum. If run at high voltages (above 10KV,) such a bulb will produce
x-rays. USUALLY the x-ray intensity is insignificant. It's way too little
to light up a fluorescent screen. Maybe you could take x-ray photos by
exposing film for minutes or hours. It will certainly make a geiger
counter click like mad, but only if your GM probe has
a thin window (for alpha particles.). So, to avoid
even the slightest x-ray hazard, use only those large 4-inch spherical
bulbs for your "plasma globe." Stay away from small
green-fluorescing aquarium bulbs! Here's some radiation info ,
you can compare canoe trips and peanut-butter toxins to x-ray risk.
ENOUGH OF VIDEOS!
How about some electrostatics? Try this:
- Connect a metal needle to a high
voltage power supply. Connect a small metal
to ground. Put a microamp meter in series with the plate's ground wire.
(Ground the other power supply lead, of course.)
- Power up the HV and aim the needle at the metal plate from many inches
distance. The microamp meter should indicate a large reading. "Electric
Ion Wind" is flowing from the needle, to the plate, and through the meter
- Now blow some crosswind through the gap between the needle and the metal
plate. This should deflect the "electric wind" and make the meter reading
fall to zero, right? Instead, NOTHING HAPPENS. The microamperes reading
remains the same.
- Uhhhh... OK now, maybe the ion flow is bending around to hit the
grounded plate from the side. Following the e-field lines?
So lets put a wide metal ring around the plate and connect it directly to
ground (no meter.) If the electric wind gets deflected, it should miss
the meter and flow directly into ground. Power up the needle, get some
microamps on the meter,
now blow some wind. AGAIN NOTHING HAPPENS! The microamp reading stays
high. The ion path doesn't deflect!
- Really blast some wind across the path. Use a plastic straw, and hit
the needle tip with some series crosswind. Nope, still the same. Maybe
the microamps fluctuates just a bit, but essentially remains large. The
ion paths won't move. They blast right through any crosswind I can throw
- RATS! This means that I can't easily build an air-blast VandeGraaff
using a HV supply, needles, and a small battery-powered fan. It
also means I can't make a wind-speed sensor with no moving parts which
between electric wind being received by two adjacent collector
plates facing a single needle. A high-volt wind-direction indicator won't
work; it just ignores the wind.
- SPECULATION: if the electric wind was made up of many slow ions, then
a gentle breeze would push it away from the receiving plate. Therefore,
be composed of few/fast ions. It makes no sense! Ions should collide
with neutral air molecules and experience large drag. Maybe the ion flow
into very thin
"filaments;" jets having narrow cores made of fast-moving ions. Thin
filaments have a high RE (Reynolds Number), which allows them to move very
fast but without turbulent breakdown. It's like the fast thin laminar
stream of smoke above a cigarette. I wanted to make a hailstorm of ions,
but instead I get a "death ray" beam far narrower than a human hair. Just
like Tesla said.
- I lied about making too many videos. I couldn't resist doing this one about
gas-filled capacitors that magically pump themselves down to vacuum.
WHO ACTUALLY SAID THIS?
Nothing sends them scurrying back to that black pit
How can I "R Burns-ify" this t-shirt slogan? Nothin' sends
CURES YOUR ATHSMA TOO
Hey. IR GOGGLES FORCE YOUR LENSES TO FOCUS DIFFERENTLY! This means that
the IR goggles (or simply some deep red goggles) would exercise your
lens/muscles/brain system and force your lenses to excessivly stretch.
(Or do they excessively contract?) Either way, this would be a form of
"eye excercise" which might end your need for glasses. Sort of like
wearing prism-glasses to correct the lazy-eye problem. For
nearsightedness you'd want the deep colored (red? violet?) goggles. For
farsightedness you'd want deep (violet? red?) goggles. Of course use
or glass lenses to avoid any problems with UV damage.
INNER LIFE OF THE CELL
Years ago one of my early morning visions involved weird EM resonance
forces between biomolecules at hundreds of nanometers distances. If my
delusions were true, then there must be a huge hole in modern biology, a
hole almost as large as the one which would remain if the physics of
chemical bonding had never been discovered. Without the long-range
frequency-keyed electromagnetic bonding force, all sorts of nanomechanical
phenomena in cell machinery would remain entirely unexplained.
Now Harvard U. Media has a long animated movie of subcellular
nanomachinery within leukocytes responding to tissue inflammation. Just
as in my dream, all sorts of bizarre effects are unexplained: they're
glossed over, or more frequently they're fudged by playing a motion
sequence backwards (against the laws of thermo!) Specifically: HOW DO
THE FRICKIN' ACTIN MOLECULES SELF-ASSEMBLE? The movie doesn't say.
Instead they give us a picture of actin subunits magically pouring in from
all directions and somehow finding the growing end. Uhhh... isn't that
just an animation of depolymerisation and diffusion... but PLAYED
BACKWARDS? Same with polymerization of tubulin: the subunits magically
come running from great distances just so they can link up to the growing
tubulin end. And these are just the most egregious examples. All through
the movie there are molecules which somehow "know" where they're supposed
to go, how they're supposed to rotate themselves, and they move with
apparent intention over major distances. mRNA tips and ribosomes
magically find the few rare membrane pores. Actin-snipping proteins both
fly in from distances and also magically orient themselves through many
degrees of freedom in order to bond to the fiber. Apparently the
researchers are asking us to believe that all this happens by diffusion,
by random tries and re-tries performed at high speeds. I got news for
them: if you stick a padlock in a bag with a bunch of keys, you'll be
shaking the bag a long time before one of the keys inserts itself. And in
living systems, the bag should be filled mostly with quarters, with just a
few keys, most of them not fitting that lock. And I thought *I* had
delusions! But all this strange dishonesty will pop like a bubble if we
admit the (possible) existence of a fairly simple thing: mechanical forces
caused by AC electromagnetic fields in the nearfield regions between atoms
and molecules having resonance lines at common frequencies. It's just
attraction between electromagnets. But AC electromagnets. If their
frequencies are different, they essentially don't recognize each other,
and the net attraction becomes zero (well, it changes from attraction to
AC vibration.) But if their frequencies are right ...or more likely a
combination of different atomic frequencies in distant molecules are right
...then not only would the molecules pull together over relatively vast
distances, but they would experience torques which twist them into proper
positions. In other words, the unexplained "magically intelligent"
motions of the macromolecules depicted in the above video might not be an
exaggeration at all. They might be moved by electromechanical forces
which act like simple computers communicating over hundreds of nanometers
by coded radio signals.
KEELY SONIC SUPERHEATING WATER EXPLOSION CANNON!
One of the old postings on the "weird science" page involved a report
where a column of water in an ultrasonic resonator flew upwards and
punched a hole in the ceiling an in the roof above. See Keely ultrasonic
explosion. While waiting at the opening of the "Steamboy" movie,
things suddenly fell into place for me. First, guess what happens if we
leave some water for hours under high powered ultrasonic treatment? This
degasses the water, removing all the dissolved air. Heating the water
increases the effect. Second, what happens if we strongly heat some
thoroughly-degassed water? If microbubbles are lacking, then the water
temperature will rise far above 100C, and the water will be massively
superheated. It may even superheat to such an extent that, once it starts
boiling, the entire volume of water may convert to vapor. Finally, what
happens if we place water in a resonant
ultrasonic chamber where the transducer is located at the bottom? In that
case the pressure excursions will be maximum at the surface of the
transducer and at the surface of the water. But the upper water surface
will cool by radiation, so if cavitation were to commence, it would be at
the bottom of the water column against the transducer. All together, this
is a recipe for a cannon, but a cannon
where the bullet is a slug of water propelled by its own steam output. A
bubble will break out at the
bottom of the water column, and the bubble will instantly fill with live
The water column will be smoothly accelerated upwards as the superheated
water emits a downwards "exhaust" of hot water vapor. As the steam leaves
the water, the water cools, but if the superheated temperature was high
enough, the water would not stop cooling. As the water
slug leaves the pipe, the vertical water surface will emit vapor in all
directions with little propulsive effect, while the bottom surface will
act like a rocket engine. But would this
be enough to punch a hole in a ceiling? Well, we know that if a kilojoule
capacitor discharge propels a water colunmn upwards, the water can punch a
hole through a thick aluminum plate (tested by Richard
Hull and Dr.
Peter Graneau). Yet in this capacitor experiment, turbulent
converted their water column into a water spray after a few feet of travel
through the air. But what happens when a superheated water slug sends
steam outwards in all directions at high velocity? Maybe this would help
preserve the shape of the water column on its journey towards the ceiling.
Wagon-wheel reverse rotation effect
During morning commute on I-90 I glanced at a truck wheel and noticed it
pattern of light... which was
rotating slowly backwards! It was the lug nuts. Obviously some garage
mechanic had tightened the nuts to give a special pattern. As the six
sides of the hex nuts flashed in the sunlight, the angle of each flash
was slightly different as each of ten nuts moved past. It looked like a
circular dotted line which moved opposite to the wheel's motion. I wonder
how many mechanics know
this trick? I wonder if the original inventor just had a weird mind, or
do truck-repair depots tend to hire PhD physics types?
To start, tighten all the lug nuts, then turn them so they all point
at the hub. Now pick a nut as number zero and leave it as is. Go to
nut number one, and if you have 10 nuts with 6 sides, tighten that nut by
an extra 1/60th turn (ten times six to get a 60th.) Go to nut number two
and tighten it by an extra 2/60ths. Repeat. When you get back to nut
number zero, you still leave it alone (since you could also tighten it by
10/60ths or 1/6th turn, which would leave the hex facets still in the
same relative position.) Now when the wheel rotates, the pattern of
flashes will advance by 1/10th rotation when the wheel rotates once. But
will the pattern turn backwards? Figure it out. It depends on
which side of the vehicle you're adjusting. Maybe you were supposed
to loosen each lug nut by 1/60th turn. Watch:
video, 1.3 min,
also newer video, 0.6 min
Added note: these are somewhat common on the highway; more common
than explained by over-educated garage mechanics. So, what happens if
we align all the nuts parallel to a single line? This would happen if
the nuts were tightened with a tire iron, and the angle of the handle
was the same each time. This pattern gives annoying flashes, but it
also gives a backwards-drifting pattern which is 6x slower than the
wheel RPM. So it seems that these patterns are probably accidental.
They took away our overhead projectors and replaced them with Powerpoint!
(That's not fair. Powerpoint is a slide projector, not an overhead.) Now
I'll finally get my vengence by infecting the web with...
filmstrips!. Please advance to
the next image when you hear the beep. BEEEEEEP.
(WARNING: embedded MP3 audio)
Hey, if you search Google for the word
second hit is
Experiments! And if you search for the word "oven," then it's the top Google hit.
still leads right here, but
"Science" has moved
way down (once long ago this site was #13 on Google for "science," above
Scientific American and the AAAS!)
Energy-sucking atoms and molecules
antennas, where a longwave resonant
coil can intercept radio waves even if they pass within hundreds of feet?
recall the speculations about odd forces hidden under the catch-all name
"Van der Waal's", and what this
might imply for biochemistry?
Well, I finally encountered a mainstream physics article about just this
topic. But it's
not what I expected. Suppose you have an atom, a single highly-resonant
atomic oscillator, on then end of a STM scanning probe. Suppose you bring
it near another identical atom. Will there be some long-range forces
which become strong when the two atoms are separated at less than a
quarter wavelength? (E.g. if the atoms had a resonance line in the
optical band at 500nM, then if placed within 125nM of each other would
they strongly attract or repel?) The answer might be: NO. But
the atoms link together and refuse to change their separation! WEIRD!
Resonant atoms trapped on adjacent surfaces create strong
friction between those two surfaces, EVEN IF THE SURFACES AREN'T TOUCHING.
In subcellular molecular machinery this could produce a "force" counter to
diffusion, one which slowed any molecule which approached another with the
same coded frequency. As with cockroaches and sowbugs who crawl more
quickly when in a lighted region, the right kind of molecules would end up
in the "slowed-down" regions under the fridge.
You can find a bunch of articles about this AFM discovery via a Google
friction", also Google Scholar:
noncontact friction and
THOSE GOOGLE ADS
I strongly resisted putting banner ads on AMASCI. They're all just ads
for spammer products: diet pills and ringtones. They support unethical
popup-ad companies. They insult our intelligence with "click the jumping
monkey" animations. And as I found out with Network54, many banner ads
are controlled by advertizers themselves, and they contain really nasty
spyware and browser-hijackers. But Simon at
scitoys suggested Google ads, and they avoid these problems.
They're text-only and controlled by Google, not by shady advertizers.
The company is non-evil (at least so far.) And more important, the ads
"know" the page topic, so they usually put science-education ads on
my site. You get ads for science fair products rather than for casinos.
So, Quitcher Job, Live Off The Website Revenues? It actually looks
possible. Would YOU become a big flaming sellout ...if it let you escape
the nine to five world? :)
A moon that fell?
As a kid in the 1960s I remember staring at the world map in
the classroom and *knowing* that the Americas fit with Europe and Africa
like a jigsaw puzzle. In 1965 this was geological heresy, but the grade
school kids like me were seeing something real, something that
professional geologists denied. So now I'm looking at the map of Mars
over my desk, and I know enough to take my first impressions seriously.
Marineris is too straight. WAY too straight.
Well, actually it's curved in a sine wave on the map which extends as
a discoloration across more than half the planet. (World maps with sine
waves drawn on them are plots of orbiting spacecraft, where the angled
circular orbit is "unrolled" to form a wave.) Also, Valles Marineris is
aligned with the
Martian equator, so it's also aligned with the plane of the ecliptic
where moon orbits lie. Also, Valles Marineris has many widely separate
which are also perfectly straight. Also there are all kinds of crater chains
parallel to the valley
all around the same region. Yet explanations of this valley talk about a
cracking crust. I don't believe it. There are linear gouges and
discoloration way downstream from the main valley. I predict that within
a few decades
the expert opinion will shift: Valles Marineris is an astrobleme, it was
carved out by a moon
that fell from orbit. The Valles region doesn't extend all the way around
the planet, so it probably wasn't caused by a planetary ring. Imagine the
event! It's even more impressive than those craters left by direct
An entire moon gradually hits the top of the atmosphere and starts heating
up from gas compression. If it survives for several orbits, its heat
output will bake everything below, perhaps turning continent-wide deserts
into glass and leaving a scar so large that the professionals will miss
it when looking right at it. Then it breaks up into two or three huge
chunks plus lots of rubble, into
a hundred asteroids, which then descend and roll across the land at
orbital velocity from horizon to horizon like incandescent bowling balls
the size of Manhattan. Downrange of the main strike the air is full of
big dirt: flying boulders the size of large buildings which rain down
and ...disturb the surface.
freak In his book "Surely You're Joking...", R. Feynman
experimented with personal time sense, and he wondered what determines
it. I think it might be social, not physiology. My first summer job was
raking leaves on Elmira College campus, and it quickly became apparent
that my normal rate of work was wrong. I did things much faster
than the seasoned workers, and I attracted funny looks, so I adjusted my
performance. I thought it was sort of stupid; why didn't everyone rake
leaves normally instead of in slow motion? But slow raking was the "way
you're supposed to do it," and anyone who strayed from the norm would
encounter group pressure to slow down. But... that's how infants become
people!!! We change behavior as we encounter immense nonverbal pressure
from parents, friends, outsiders, etc., otherwise we'd all behave as
one-year-olds even when adult. In different societies the standards are
different; I've heard that tourists south of the border complain that
everyone does everything slowly... and islanders complain about crazy
Americans who are always rushing about. WHAT IF HUMAN TIME SENSE IS
SOCIETALLY DETERMINED? I've experimented with this and find that it is.
If I'm alone I can push myself to perform tasks much faster until until
"faster" becomes habitual and unnoticed, but I get huge amounts of work
done, and it takes forever for the clock to get to lunchtime. It feels
like really waking up, at least until it starts being normal. Also, my
usual body movements become tiring, and I find it's much easier to move
in curves rather than starting/stopping the considerable mass of limbs.
(Like switching to 'racewalk' rather than just speeding up my normal
walk.) And when I tried it for days at a time, I started losing weight
and had to eat extra meals. If I asked someone a question or tried
conversing, their slow responses and slow thinking was quite irritating.
But whenever I kept all this up in public, people responded badly. They
seemed to be thinking "what's WRONG with that guy? What drug is HE on?
Is he insane or something?" Bingo! That's the societal pressure which
usually keeps its members living at the "proper" speed. It's the same as
if I started acting like a 2-yr-old, or if I moved to a country where
things happened at different speed: I'd encounter the same type of
pressure to adapt. So... I wonder how far this can be pushed. Can we
live at 5x normal? Will we get huge amounts of work done, then have a
crash from "exhaustion of manic energy" or perhaps die prematurely of old
age? Or go the other route and let the outer world speed up to 5x faster
while we stay "the same."
More about nanobacteria in the biology section.
(This is a fairly exciting controversy!) Suppose that when a bacterium
splits in half, each half takes half the genome.
If the two bacteria remained together, they could trade metabolic
molecules and survive. Suppose they split into two, four, eight, etc.
If this slowly happened over millenia, we could end up with
species of bacteria
smaller than viruses, where each cell isn't viable
alone since they act as specialized organs of a colony. Wouldn't
just such an evolutionary trick be the result of a deep underground
nano-crevice environment and evolution pressure favoring smallness?
AMPERES VARIES MAGNET?
Random thoughts: if you pass a current through a bar magnet, it should
create extremely instense circular fields inside. After all, the
path surrounding the current is a closed loop of iron, and a low current
should saturate the material. But wouldn't this
path be disrupted if the current fell? The axial field of the permanent
magnet would take over. Apply a weak AC to the bar magnet and create
immense pulses of internal b-field. Are these detectable? Instead
perhaps pass a cable through a narrow iron pipe to give the pipe internal
circular flux patterns. Apply AC to the axial cable and look for pulses.
Perhaps wrap a coil around the pipe to apply a bias.
More randomness. In the Vasserfadden demo below, how thin could the
water thread become? I should think that e-field forces would cause it
to resist evaporation, as with electric ice needles. The water filament would be like an electret.
But if the thread broke, would it contract to form a droplet, or would
the e-field preserve its threadlike form? If it stayed threadlike, this
means we could build a network, an aerogel, from nothing but water. The
threads would be maintained by the strong e-field (unless closed loops of
electrified water filaments are also stable, so the external field
could be removed.) An electrically-stablized aerogel made from water
vapor would possibly explain the observation of invisible wall phenomena.
SEATTLE WEIRD GENIUS REAL SCIENCE 2005, the 'science
fair' in bldg #30 at Sand Point, Saturday July 16. I'll have a
demo table there with microwave oven, Tesla coil, and bowl of
Remember Plasma Globes
Getting ready for the above event; I executed some microwave oven mayhem
Wednesday's Seattle Outsider
Artist Project: Dorkbot Mad Science night. New high voltage effects
discovered! A microwave oven with nothing inside is a 2.5GHz high
A bag or balloon of pure Argon usually does nothing... unless you include
a tiny fragment of carbon fiber. After the plasma outbreak, the glowing
violet-white cloud will grow and grow, melting the bag, then crawling
all around looking for every last scrap of argon left in the wilting glob
of plastic. Argon inside a glass bowl was similar: when triggered by a speck
of carbon fiber, it exploded into a radial burst of wiggling lightning.
This was a first: it was normal-looking mini-lightning, but at 2.5GHz
soon as the argon heated up, the spark-brush turned into a bright fuzzy
cloud which rose to the top of the bowl and melted holes in the plastic
laying across the opening. With a bigger bowl we actually saw
some spherical lightning: a small spark at the bottom of the bowl
became a 2" glowing hemisphere which rapidly rose, becoming more
and more spherical before being distrupted by the plastic plate.
When you drop a dish, usually it bounces once. Then it shatters on the
second bounce. After noticing this effect I started listening for it.
Sure enough, in restaurants (etc.), when you hear a plate go "DONGGGGG"
when it hits, it usually goes "smash/tinkle" during the second bounce. I
FIGURED IT OUT!
When the dish hits the first time, it bounces upwards, but it also starts
wobbling fiercely. It rings like a bell, and the vibrating edges of the
dish are probably moving at several hundred miles per hour. [NO THEY'RE
NOT! It's like a spring, and the edge can only move as fast as the
plate was moving when it struck. When it comes back down, the wobbling
edge could hit at twice the plate's velocity at most.] Now "view
the movie in slow motion." The edge of the dish is going in-out-in-out
as the dish slowly falls towards the floor. When it arrives, the
wobbling edge whacks the floor again and again and again... and it hits
at such high speed that it seems like the dish fell from 100ft
altitude [wrong, it will seem as if the plate fell from *twice*
the altitude of the bounce], not the two feet it fell after the bounce.
My conclusion: if
you grab for a falling dish but you're not fast enough, don't give up.
You have a good chance of either catching it after the first
bounce ...or even just *touching* it briefly which will damp out the
intense vibrations that usually make the dish explode on contact with
"Spirit Orb Photographs" made with water mist, dry ice frost clouds,
fumed silica, etc. I find that a parallel grid of human hair w/separation
around 0.5mm on camera lens will cast shadows, essentially drawing lines
on each false ghost-orb. If your camera had a hexagonal iris, the "orbs"
would all be little hexagons.
SHOOT PLASMA BOLTS FROM FINGERTIPS!
This one was a brainstorm during
Dorkbot Tesla Night at COCA gallery in Seattle. Get a tank of argon
plus regulator, a glass vase or bowl, some hose, and an aquarium airstone.
In a draft-free room, slowly fill the vase with cool dense argon.
Argon is different than air or CO2: it supports immensely long electric
sparks. Poke the end of your Violet Wand or Tesla coil into the argon
pool and watch the huge flaming white streamers spew forth. Now for the
Ready? Place the HV electrode against the outside of the glass, then
stick your hand inside. Blazing white plasma streamers spew from your
fingertips! Feels like being poked by needles. Make a fist (it stings
less!) Next trick: a larger
bowl, one which my head fits within. Yes, I wanna become the central
electrode in a "plasma globe" device. Shouldn't be too painful unless the
arcs shoot from my eyeballs...
Buy a big wad of 1/4" supermagnet spheres (~$.50 each.) Make buckyballs,
mysterious spinners, DNA chains, etc. (I really need to add photos to
Put some crushed ice in a translucent or transparent cup. Fill it half
way with dark cola (the kind with sugar.) Then fill it the rest of the
way with diet 7-up or diet lemonade (or even water.)
The ice will distrupt the stream, keeping the two layers from mixing very
much. You end up with dark cola at the bottom, and clear stuff at the
top. (Sugar is denser.) If you tilt the cup back and forth,
you can make slow-motion waves in the cola!
Even if the pizza place doesn't have see-thru cups, you can still
use the trick. First add ice, then fill half way with full-sugar
drink, then fill it up with diet drink. This creates two layers. You
can drink the diet Coke first, leaving the layer of non-diet Sprite for
later. Just remember to add the diet drink second, and use a thick
layer of ice to disrupt the stream.
Idea for future hoaxes: leave messages on the cardboard tube inside toilet
paper rolls. It's not so difficult to remove the tube if you bend it.
Write a message, or even apply a professional looking sticker. Or
perhaps carry around a rubber stamp made for just this purpose. "HELP, I
AM BEING HELD PRISONER IN THIS SCOTT FACTORY." Or "HERE IS THE SECRET
PHONE NUMBER, DO YOU DARE TO DIAL IT?" Put several copies on the same
tube so it's hard to miss. Or even cause total amazement by
wrapping a dollar bill around the thing. Reinstall the tube and put the
roll back on the holder.
The DC electric motor was invented by accident! Huh. I totally
this fact in my schooling. Michael Faraday demonstrated the "motor"
effect in the early years, but
like Ben Franklin's electrostatic motors, it was only a lab curiousity.
Volta's "pile" caused power supplies to become all the rage in science
labs, and by
the mid 1800s, several types of DC electric generators or "dynamos" were
already in use as power supplies. So people were generating voltage with
rotating coils and commutators. Then during an inventors' exhibition at
Vienna in 1873, inventor Z. Gramme accidentally connected a steam-driven
dynamo to a second similar unit, and to everyone's surprise the second one
started spinning as a motor. Thus the modern multi-HP electric
motor was "invented." We add the DC motor to the list of other
accidental discoveries: Becquerel's radioactivity, Roentgen's x-rays, the
Leyden capacitor, Oersted's electromagnets, etc.
Ant trails at work. A narrow stream of black ants is flowing across my
lab bench, up the side of a water bottle, into the squirt-tube and down
inside. They're harvesting distilled water?!! The trail is coming from
the floor, up the side of a box, across the top edge of some papers
standing on edge, then up the voltmeter wires which happen to dangle over
the edge of the tabletop. Following the trail backwards, I find that it
goes about a HUNDRED AND TWENTY FEET back to the Mass Spectrometry lab at
the end of the hall! It disappears under a fume hood. There must be
several thousand ants in the trail.
I guess the Chem. building ant nest must be hard up for water. I brush
away ants and create a 3ft gap by cleaning away their scent trail with
alcohol. But an hour later the gap has closed again. Ants trapped on the
far side of the gap apparently find their way across.
Playing with ant trails! I move the water bottle, but then the
arriving ants start spreading all over the desk. So I give the ant colony
a wet cookie (placed 120ft away near the origin of the trail.) If the
ants are a signal in an optical fiber, then the cookie should act like an
impedance mismatch; reflecting the outbound ants back to the nest. Sure
enough, after an hour the ant stream decreases greatly. I brush the
remaining ants onto the floor and disrupt their scent trail. But in the
morning it has re-formed, this time traveling up to an old bottle of Moxie
Cola with a tiny bit of dried syrup in the bottom. They're still using
the edge of the papers in the box on the floor, this time crawling up
another test lead, transferring to the power cable of the oscilloscope,
then up to the shelf with the bottle. OK, this time I convert the entire
"ant-flow optical fiber" into a Bragg mirror: I drip some sugar water at
many places along the 120ft trail. Quickly the stream of ants at my end
of the trail has dropped to zero.
Hmmm: pranking possibilites.
If I put a tiny bit of sugar water on a victim's desk, and also deposit a
blob of ants, won't a few ants find their way back to the nest and create
a new 120ft stream?
Another brainstorm! It's crackpot physics time. Remember Pyramid Power?
The original claim was that a cardboard pyramid could sharpen a disposable
double-edge razor blade. While reading an "
Uncle Al" physics note
laser ultra-black beam-dumps composed of stacks of hundreds of standard
suddenly several concepts aligned in my brain. First concept: Uncle Al
notes that the
blackness of the razor-stack can be compromised by knocking the arrayed
razor edges against even a soft object.
Second concept: by stropping an
old-fashioned straight-razor, we do not sharpen it, instead we straighten
the bent-over micro-edge of the hard steel. The very tip of the sharp
edge becomes folded over with use, and abrading it on a soft surface will
grab the edge and bent it straight. Third concept: What if Pyramid Power
was genuine after all, but it was actually triggering some sort of
memory-metal effect? Not sharpening the blade, but essentially it
would spontaneously "strop" a razor blade? Fourth concept: shine a bright
LED at a slightly damaged razor-stack beam-dump and use a photodiode to
measure any slow changes in the return
reflection. Spontaneous blade-straightening would now be measurable.
Stick the thing in a pyramid overnight (perhaps with power turned off, if
that has any effect.) See if you can detect any auto-stropping effects!
Have you met The Krampus?
Santa Claus has an evil assistant who punishes bad children. He's a demon
from ancient pagan solstice celebrations.
A great mystery within microwave ovens: WHY DOES THE TURNTABLE
SOMETIMES ROTATE BACKWARDS? I always wondered about this. The obvious
explanation is that the turntable motor is a 60Hz synchronous induction
motor. But why? Synchronous motors aren't as good as the normal kind.
One thing might make sense: it forces your turntable to end up in the same
position as it started. That way your coffee mug will be at the front, or
the handles on the cassarole dish will be positioned correctly. But my
microwave oven doesn't do this. Most of the time the mug ends up in a
Testing is required. I heated a mug of tea at
a minute, and for the first time I actually watched the clock as the
turntable rotated. AHA! IT ROTATES ONCE EVERY TEN SECONDS!!!! I verified
the effect and it does work: as long as you punch in multiples of 10 seconds,
your food will come back to its original position. But something's
screwy. My oven at home doesn't do this, yet its turntable randomly
starts off clockwise or CCW, so it must contain a synchro motor. So I
timed the oven at home. Bingo: it rotates every 20 seconds. That
explains everything. At home, if I punch in 30 seconds, or 10 seconds,
then the turntable rotates an extra half turn, putting the soup bowl on
the opposite side. Not to smart. How many people cook things for 20
seconds, or 40 seconds? A 3RPM turntable speed only works if you
cook something for one minute. But now that I know about the problem, I
can start only using multiples of 20 seconds.
I'm playing with a UV keychain LED light. It's not very deep UV (400nM).
like violet. But it will make your teeth glow green, and your fillings
are easy to see (I mean the white non-metal ones.) Fluorescing aqueous
humor gives you some green pupils! I see little flecks of green all over
my arm: fungus?
Yep. The thick edges of my heel fluoresce green as well. Huh, what
else are these
things good for? They will light up the plastic strip inside $5 US dollar
bills. They will charge up some ZnS "Glow In The Dark" plastic to very
high phosphorescence. Ah, if you draw all over yourself with yellow-green
Hi-lighter markers, the UV keychain flashlight makes the invisible lines light up
brightly. Draw some finger bones.
I'm having fun with a perl command: global search/replace all files in a
unix directory. Throughout the whole amasci.com site I've changed
all the www.amasci.com addresses into amasci.com,
changed all my email addresses into GIF images (harder
for spam spiders to read 'em,) and other such things. Here's the
single-line unix command syntax below.
I stumbled across
a new food. I feel like the discoverer of yogurt must have felt:
disgusted, but not adverse to putting weird things in their mouth.
purchased some eggplants, and
they were in the fridge for a couple of weeks along with some button
mushrooms. When I finally got around to inspecting them, one was still
OK, but the other one had a large brown spot several inches across.
there was a mushroom stuck to the eggplant in the middle of the brown
region. It was merged. The mushroom mycelia were still alive, and they
trying to absorb the eggplant! The brown region was somewhat soft, and
when I tore the eggplant skin, the hole smelled like mushrooms. I
returned the eggplantmushroom organism back to the fridge. A few days
later I checked again and found that the entire eggplant had been
assimilated. It was soft and mushroom-smelly within. Resistance was
Now I have to try sticking mushrooms against all sorts of different
vegetables and see what results. Can mushrooms take over cold salmon?
Since the storebought mushrooms are Agaricus Bisporus, we
could call the process "Bis-porizing." I also need to try actually
cooking one of these mutant
beasts. Hmmm. What would happen if you fell into a coma while lying on a
mushroom? You'd wake up all brown and mushroomy? With an unstoppable
desire to hide inside a compost pile?
subconscious delivers fully-formed visions in answer to questions from
years ago. Today's vision: AC Kelvin water-drop generator. Half of a
Kelvin electrostatic generator could be placed in the exhaust of a jet
engine and produce megavolts at milliamps! There's more. I have a La
Violette idea of military aircraft covered with Barium Titanate or perhaps
PZT ceramic. How weird. Why PZT sheath? Ah, it's Jean Louis Naudin's
"plasma sheet" idea where sonic booms can be eliminated by covering the
airplane wings with a glow-discharge. But why use insulating
ferroelectric? Well, I know that long dielectric filaments can act as
"wires" for high frequency AC (the "right angle circuitry" idea.) If JL
Naudin replaced his plastic covered hi-volt wires with PZT-encased wires,
he'd still get purple plasma even if his operating frequency was greatly
reduced. (Barium titanate acts almost like a metal conductor, as long as
you use AC.) BINGO! Drive the Kelvin water-drop "inductor" electrode
with slowly changing polarity, and your megavolts output will slowly
change polarity also. With a jet engine driving it, how fast could this
polarity change be made? Maybe raise it to a few hundred Hz? Without the
PZT your metal aircraft would spew lightning bolts. But with the PZT
layer, the whole thing would develop a sheet of plasma. It might even
absorb radar pulses at the same time it modifies the transonic shock wave
fluidics. Whew. It all hangs together and makes some kind of sense. I
couldn't assemble the ideas piece-by-piece intentionally. They just pop
up when I'm half
Added Seeing Sound, an untested idea involving mirrors, strobes, and razor blades
A new traffic-wave phenomenon: the infinitely large traffic jam! I need
to add this to Traffic Waves.
The "infinite jam" occurs whenever a
traffic wave stops moving backwards and instead becomes pinned to a
certain point on the highway. It happens
when each driver in the jam must sloooooowly crawl past the "pinning
accelerating freely again. A cop car by the roadside can cause this. So
a bridge crest or blind curve.
In other words, the trailing edge of a traffic wave stops
evaporating normally... yet its leading edge still grows as before, since
are piling on from behind. The region of solidly-packed traffic grows
larger and larger with
nothing to halt its growth. HOWEVER... if a single driver can pull the
edge of the wave back away from the pinning point, then the wave begins
moving again. The edge of the jam begins evaporating normally, and
cars which pass the former pinning point have no reason to
slow down (i.e. the "pinning" effect only occurs if a slow dense
traffic-wave goes past.)
Once un-pinned, the huge jam stops growing. It doesn't dissipate, but if
it had yet to grow enormous, one driver can nip the gigantic traffic jam
in the bud. It only takes one car to unplug one lane.
In Seattle we have at least three of these continously-growing jams: the
bridge crest on I-5 at the
ship-canal bridge, and on 520 at the bridge crest just before the Lake
Washington floating brige, and on I-5 North near the Senaca St. exit
where cars exit into the express lanes. I've also seen these on 520 many
a cop has pulled someone over, causing a two-mile traffic jam to form
(people won't roar off into the empty roadway if a cop is right there, so
they drive many yards past before peeling out... so the wave remains
pinned, and the backup grows enormous.)
I was imagining crowds of people walking on city sidewalks, versus crowds
driving on highways. The atmosphere is totally different. Our cars act
as our masks, making us anonymous. (Well, some of us make tatoos with
spraycans and stickers.) But while commuting, we're silenced and cannot
talk (or even communicate) with everyone around us. Hmmm. Maybe I could
build myself a voice? How about an ultra-powerful broadband
comb-frequency FM transmitter which could override nearby car radios
regardless of which station they're tuned to? Too much work.
Brainstorm! Cellphones. An experiment for the daring: print out a large
bumper-sticker on adhesive paper and stick it on the rear of your car.
(Cover it with clear tape to waterproof the paper.) The sticker
DRIVER'S CELLPHONE 425-222-4321
your real cell number.) What will happen? Death threats from road-ragers?
Random members of the opposite sex hitting on you? Do you dare to
find out? It might actually be interesting, since all those thousands of
drivers on the highway near you have absolutely no way to send messages to
anyone around them... except to you.
Idea for "Orbs" believers. "Orbs" are bright sphere- or disk-objects
that show up when photographing cemetaries, haunted houses, etc. But
many of these are simply the photoflash-illuminated dust motes or mist
droplets hanging a few inches in front of the camera. The circular
"orb shape" is a blurred image of a bright dot, and the shape is
determined by the camera iris edge. If your camera iris is circular,
the "orb" will appear as a disk, but if the iris is octagonal, the orb
will look like an octagon. Ooo, idea! To settle the matter, place an
opaque object on your camera lens! E.g. stick a thin slice of black
electric tape across the lens. Or even make an "X shape" from thin
tape slices. Now whenever you photograph a bright, small, blurred
object such as a dust
mote, the dark strips of tape will show up in the bright circular "orb
image." On the other
hand, if the "orb" is real, and is large and distant from the camera,
you'll see no
shadow-image of the opaque tape cutting across the "orb." Presto: any
possible "orbs" can be instantly separated from the dust-mote images;
the real orbs won't have a big fuzzy "X" across them. Also see some
more ghost hunting suggestions.
I never really understood laser "coherence." While working on science
museum exhibits, I found that books were full of mistaken explanations.
Over the years I've noticed that even the advanced textbooks get it
wrong. They talk as if laser coherence is caused by stimulated emission.
Nope. The laser-medium amplifies light. But if you give it some
light, it will only amplify it while preserving the incoherence.
But then why do lasers emit coherent light? I finally figured
it out. It's because the laser mirrors cause the laser to behave as
a near-perfect "point source." As light bounces between the
mirrors, any light which doesn't seem to come from a single tiny point
will eventually wander away and be lost off the edge of the mirrors,
while any light which DOES come from one tiny point will keep bouncing and
be amplified. Get two parallel mirrors and look into the "infinite
tunnel." Only light that comes from the distant "infinite" point will
avoid crashing into the walls of the tunnel. (How many physicists or even
laser researchers know that
laser coherence is caused by the laser cavity? Textbooks teach
that it's caused by individual atoms, by "in-phase
WSCI: Demented idea, INBOX POETRY: send a string of blank
WSCI: messages where the subject lines form a poem to be
WSCI: read directly from their inbox without opening any
WSCI: email. Send them slowly, otherwise the vagarities
WSCI: of web traffic will jumble the order... but not TOO
WSCI: slowly, or every other line will be the subject line
WSCI: from some spam message. OOOoooo! Design the lines
WSCI: of the poem to be read in ANY order, then send 'em all
WSCI: in one glob and let the net have it's way with 'em.
WSCI: Internet Haiku is born!
Animated background-GIFs are possible? Oh the humanity.
We live in a free country? Well, I personally know two science people
who've been raided in the last five years. One was invaded by the local
cops because they decided that his home lab was a "crack lab." Another
was raided by the FBI after they decided he was a child pornographer. They
of course found nothing at all in either case. And in past years the state
of California tried to make it illegal for individuals to own chemistry
glassware. And now the guy below is hassled for having biology lab
equipment at home. This crap is DANGEROUS. I'm not very political, but I
know exactly who is the poster-child for the highly ignorant "dark forces"
pouring fecal matter on the US constitution. I advise any science-hobby
people in the USA to think very carefully about this trend before casting
votes in the upcoming election. Consider writing your elected official.
So few people do this, that if you decide to write, your voice will have
an unusually large impact.
I just bought my own overhead projector. Apparently Boeing engineers
are ditching all of theirs, so they're only $25 at Boeing Surplus
warehouse in Seattle; (more for the fancy collapsible portable versions.)
In the past at very small conferences I've had problems because they'll set
up video for laptops, yet balk at tracking down an overhead. I've always
wanted one of my own.
Dirt and a pointy stick (isn't it all we could ever want?)
Clay tablet (well, it does have "save." Lacks instant-erase)
Napkin (for restaurants lacking dirt floors)
Chalkboard (good for audiences above 5 members)
Dry-erase whiteboard (less messy than chalk)
Overhead projector (for huge audiences)
Powerpoint (huh! wtf! CANNOT DRAW ANYTHING?!!! )
Powerpoint: twenty thousand years of technical advancement has given us
a "chalkboard" where nobody can draw sketches or schematics while thinking
out loud, or while answering audience questions. Yet NOBODY NOTICED?!!!
GAH!!!!! Powerpoint is a computer-based slide projector, and cannot
replace overhead viewgraphs or even chalkboards.
I shudder to think what the next stage could be. And I'm even more
convinced that guys like "The Iceman" with their woven grass backpacks and
wickedly sharp flint weaponry were the peak of advancement, while everything
afterwards has been slow creeping unnoticed degradation. :)
Friday, time for another Weird Science Salon, the monthly meetings at
my place in Seattle. But after all these years they've finally grown too
large for this small livingroom. Tonight's meeting will be at Seattle's
new UFO museum, the Museum of the Mysteries, on Broadway in the
the Capitol Hill region. 730PM to midnight. The usual bulk-purchase stuff
will be for sale: supermagnets, levitation graphite, ferrofluid samples,
scihobb bumper stickers, copper Lenz-law tubes, 7,500Vdc power supplies, etc.
Holy creeping Capitalism Batman! It's the end of an era. Sci. Hobbyist
now has BANNER ADS. But wait, there's more! The ads
are run by Google, there's no graphics, and the products are
somewhat chosen via the website keywords: science toys, kits,
high voltage devices, etc. I'm putting most of them along the
site edge like ads in a magazine. Comments? Is google an evil
giant corporation? Not just yet. We'll see...
Our group got some publicity in Seattle Times (back in Sept)
Here's the photo that went with the above.
Huh. If you search Google for keyword "microwave oven," guess which
site is right at the top of the list?
NEWS FLASH: Molten lava in your microwave oven! I had a piece of
volcanic glass from a science store, so I perched it on the end of a
vertical metal cylinder placed in my microwave, heated it to a dull red
glow with a propane torch, then turned on the oven for several minutes.
A hotspot appeared on the obsidian, grew bright, then moved to the
interior. After awhile the obsidian fragment glowed red again and the
surface softened and cracked open, revealing a brightly glowing yellow
interior which started flowing outwards. Mini lava flow! When cooled,
I found that the hottest part of the melted obsidian had foamed up and
turned white. Pumice! Creating pumice in your kitchen from home-made
molten lava. Apparently this obsidian is full of dissolved gasses, so
it must have originally cooled while still underground (under pressure)
where it couldn't turn into pumice or into an ash cloud. Note that I
only succeeded after removing the glass platter from the oven. With no
other big absorbers in the oven, the platter was eating all the watts.
OLDER: trying to melt pumice in a microwave oven. It does glow
orange when nuked (pre-heat with propane to trigger the effect.) But
only the sharp edges soften. Next to try: changing ash from Mt. St.
Helens back into lava again.
EVEN OLDER: microwave ovens can melt glass, but only if the glass is
first pre-heated to dull red heat. I melted a hole in the side of a
bottle by nuking it, after first heating up a small spot with a
plumber's torch. I had to stop it after 60 seconds or the stream of
liquid glass might touch and shatter the rotating glass platter.
The bottle shattered during cooling, so wear goggles!
Sometimes at a boring party you'll find some helium balloons used as
decorations. You task is to release them from bondage. Fly! Be free!
But sitting against the ceiling is not freedom. So, collect carrot
sticks and celery from the food trays, tie a hunk to each balloon, trim
down their strings to a minimum, then carefully nibble down the hanging
vegetable until the balloon neither falls nor rises. Leave it hanging
in air, and it will float annoyingly around on the air currents, or
perhaps be attracted to the back of various hair-dos by electrostatic
forces (especially if you've thoroughly rubbed the entire surfaces of
each balloon against your arm-hair before letting it loose.) OK, Dr.
Von Fronk-en-steen, now combine several mylar balloons to make a single
monster duct-tape zero-gee asteroid! (See link below)
The "Rijke tube" is a very strange device. Jam some metal screen
into one end of a metal pipe, hold it vertically with the screen end
downwards, and heat the screen with a flame. The thing starts loudly
howling. The gentle convection-breeze with the hot screen acts as an
audio amplifier. The howl is feedback (a longer tube makes a lower
tone.) Brainstorm: inject helium or CO2 into the lower end to change
the tone. Send it a sequence of gasses and it will change your gas-data
stream into music. Or be boring, and just add a telescoping pipe to
create a Thermal Trombone.
Poor man's liquid nitrogen: chunks of dry ice in an insulated
container of rubbing alcohol. Amazingly enough, many of the things you
can do with liquid nitrogen are associated with its great thermal
coupling power. It's a liquid, so it touches the entire surface of any
object dipped within. Dry ice is cold, and SEEMS to work poorly, so most
people assume that this is because it's only -110F, not -320F. Wrong.
It's because dry ice is not a liquid, and any object stuck into a dry
ice container is insulated by the layer of gas. It cools down, but only
very slowly. So, use dry ice chunks to chill some alcohol! Then try
freezing and shattering a rose or a rubber band. Make springs and chimes
out of solder or lead sheets. Dip an operating LED into the stuff and
watch it grow intensely bright. Some supermarkets carry dry ice (such
as QFC in Seattle.) Or check your yellow pages. A buck a pound.
As a kid I tried to grow crystals using table salt. But first I made
a big jar of salt solution so the white stuff would settle out
(salt is normally full of anti-caking agent.) But then, my salt
solution ESCAPED! It crawled out and made a run for freedom. You
see, salt grows crust, but the crust is wet with concentrated salt
solution. So then the crust grows crust. And more crust grows on
that. Within a matter of hours your jar of salt solution can grow
crust on the glass which extends up the side and over the lip, and
then the wet crust becomes a siphon. If the humidity is low, the
salt water crawls out and forms a large pool on the floor, leaving a
mysteriously empty jar. Hey, maybe this explains how battery acid
can escape from your car battery and form those big white crusty
things on the battery terminals.
People spend years learning to sound just like Jimmy Stewart or Elvis.
Why not do something far more useful: do impressions of YOURSELF, but
a version of yourself who has a trachea full of Helium. Make tapes of
yourself on helium, then learn to speak the same way but without any
helium. Get several others together and go on the road... "Barbershop
Faux Helium Singers." Maybe do some Mitch Miller numbers.
Added PFI, a local Seattle legend, gourmet food warehouse store.
Hey, that "threadlike electric wind" phenomenon from 1998 won the
Nobel prize last year. Dr. J. Fenn uses it to make a row of micro droplets
each with protein molecules inside, then evaporates the water, leaving a
"beam" of charged proteins which can be accelerated in a vacuum chamber and
their mass determined. "Electrospray ion-trap mass spectrometry." The
tiny droplets can travel at tens of MPH through the air apparently because
they behave like a moving column, not like individual droplets. Nikola
Tesla wanted to use liquid mercury electrospray micro-droplets accelerated
by a 100 Megavolt VandeGraaff machine. He claimed that it was an effective
weapon over many kilometers. Like a water-jet cutter, but with a much
smaller and denser "blade."
If escalators are driven by standard AC motors, then as more and more
people pile onto the descending escalator, finally the current phase
will reverse and energy will be dumped into the power grid. The
esclator's induction motor becomes a generator! The escalator lowers
all those heavy flesh hunks, and the energy has to go somewhere. If you
want to make a small donation to a company whose building has
escalators, then walk up the stairs, but ride the escalator down.
Experimenting with cyborg text brain implants: the RSVP
protocol. It's like text-to-speech software, but aimed at your
retinas rather than ears. Disable your eyes' muscles and pour the
text directly into your brain at high speed. Here are three examples
done in GIF animation: slow, fast, faster.
See Speeder reader museum exhibit.
Added Human IR sense detects hail? to the 'weird sci.'
section. It's subjective and might not be real, so I didn't put
it under 'amateur sci.'
Sheep mowing your lawn? Forget it! You'd have to build a barn for 'em
and clean up the sheep poop. BRAINSTORM: plant your whole yard with
catnip, and let the neighborhood cats keep it trimmed. Actually
this might even work. I noticed that at the end of winter my flowerpot
of catnip on the front porch wasn't regrowing, yet the stump had many
tiny leaves. I put a cage over it and within a day there were large
green shoots taking off. Neighborhood cats had kept it trimmed way back.
Added to misconception list: a Lemon Battery can't light a bulb.
This classic school science experiment actually doesn't work. It never
did. Fortunately there are other things you can do with a lemon
battery. Also, if you have a supercapacitor, then you can cheat.
Found old article: making square wheels
Anyone with some machine shop skills should try making a set of
these things. They look really cool when made in gleaming polished
acrylic. Stick them on a little axel and they'll roll smooth
and silently across a glass tabletop... yet they're CUBES. The
tetrahedron version looks almost as odd.
Where's the dividing line between "site update news" and "Blog"?
Have I injected sufficient humorous comments to qualify?
Updated hoaxes page with "Radioactive Nightmare"
Also "megavolt body charger." Make yourself into a human
VandeGraaff generator. Use laying-on-of-hands to perform anti-
healing ceremonies on cellphones and laptops.
The word of the day is "Serrodyne." I've heard of Heterodyne and
even Superheterodyne, but "Serrodyne" is a new one on me. How could
I have missed it? Simple: it's very recent. Also it's very
weird: change an incoming high-freq signal's frequency by using
Doppler shift! Then just add your frequency-shifted signal to
the original, and then a nonlinear detector will give you a nice
low-freq signal at the difference frequency. Hobbyists take note:
it lets you treat a light signal as if it were a radio channel.
Split any laser into several different frequencies, then put
separate data streams on each!
For a microwave signal, just pipe it through a TWT (Travelling
Wave Tube) while constantly increasing the drive voltage on the
electron beam. For a light signal, just constantly move one end
of an optical fiber (or instead wrap the fiber around a cylinder
of piezo material and then constantly increase the cylinder
diameter.) This shifts the frequency by a constant value. Mix
it with the original, shine it on a photodiode, and you've
moved a piece of the optical spectrum down into the radio
spectrum! Pretty cool, eh? Serrodyne lets you treat light
as if it were radio frequency.
Of course you can't keep up the constant change forever, and that's
where the "Serro" part comes in. Just move things in a sawtooth wave.
Give your optical fiber constant drift in order to create doppler
shift, but every so often jump it back to the start. Except for
those brief jumps, the signal frequency will end up shifted. In
other words, you've created "Serrated heterodyne."
Updated misconceptions list with why do clouds float?
Clouds DON'T stay up there because the droplets are small, or
because they're so light that existing updrafts can lift them.
They stay up there because the air inside the cloud is warm.
Oh, and why is the sky blue? Simple answer, but not one I've
ever seen in any book.
Added Drawing Holograms By Hand (2003), presented at SPIE Imaging conference.
I actually submitted a paper to a science journal. It's just
a conference proceedings, but still. Last thing I "published"
was around 1980 as a coauthor on an instrumentation design for