Archive for September, 2010|Monthly archive page

World’s top skylines

In Read, View on September 30, 2010 at 7:19 am

Here’s a list of the Top 45 Skylines of the World.  Blogger Luigi di Serio has spent time studying urban planning, and has devised a quasi-scientific method of rating the world’s skylines:

Since skylines are mostly about aesthetic appeal and very subjective, how can I judge which skylines are the best? Well, there are some rigid criteria I’ve used for this list. So here is what they are in order.

  1. VVII: Visual Vertical Impact Index
  2. Height
  3. Density
  4. Style & Organization
  5. Feats & Marvels
  6. Uniqueness
  7. Surroundings & Topography


New York at #3.

New York at #3.


Los Angeles at #34.

Los Angeles at #34.

Click through for detail on his ranking method and the full 1-45 list.

Master Bladesmith

In Read on September 29, 2010 at 7:31 am

Burt Foster is a bladesmith who lives in Virginia and makes blades by hand.  He is one of only 114 people in the world with the title “Master Bladesmith.”

Foster works mostly by hand, spending between six and 50 hours on each creation. “Knifemaking is not like punching a clock,” Foster says. “There are no templates or patterns. Very little of what I do is ever repeated exactly.”

Bladesmith Burt Foster.  Photo by Popular Mechanics.

Bladesmith Burt Foster. Photo by Popular Mechanics.

Click on the photo or the link for an interactive graphic looking at Foster’s gear.

Peat moss mushroom clouds

In Read, Watch on September 28, 2010 at 7:18 am

In a study published this summer, physicist Dwight Whitaker and his team describe how peat moss creates a vortex ring (like in a bomb blast’s mushroom cloud) to help propel their spores further.

This is the first time anyone has documented a plant creating a vortex ring, Whitaker said. In animals it is not that uncommon. Squid and jellyfish create vortex rings to propel themselves forward, and a healthy human heart creates a vortex ring between the left atrium and ventricle.

“This explains one of the wonders of the botanical world,” said biologist Joan Edwards of Williams College, an author on the paper. “It is amazing that such a simple plant came up with such a sophisticated system for propelling its spores.”

Follow the link for a couple brief HD videos of the explosions.

Enjoying the art museum

In Read on September 27, 2010 at 7:28 am

Here’s a three-year-old Fred Sanders essay called “How to Look at Art”:

Even more awkward is the moment when you encounter a painting that grips you. For some reason it stands out from the crowd of images you’ve already seen and makes a powerful connection. You like it. It moves you. You’ve seen something new and interesting here. But after about 90 seconds, you have to admit that you don’t really know what to do next.

"Connoisseur" by Norman Rockwell.

"Connoisseur" by Norman Rockwell.

He offers practical tips on how to “look more gooder” and thus, how to access art in a way that can make viewing more enjoyable for the layman.

Robotic arm learns to flip pancakes

In Watch on September 24, 2010 at 7:21 am

This video shows a robotic arm going through the process of learning to flip a pancake in a frying pan:

After about 50 attempts, the arm is finally able to perfect its wrist-flipping technique, so the fake metal flapjack flips and lands in the skillet. You almost want to start clapping.

The robot learned via kinesthetic teaching, which involves a person grasping the arm and performing the motion.  Sensors record the movement and then the robot attempts to replicate the feat.  The robot perfects the motion by attempting the task on its own and adjusting various factors until it gets is right.

Google’s “Liquid Galaxy”

In Read, Watch on September 23, 2010 at 7:22 am

Here’s a video of Google software engineer Jason Holt demonstrating his team’s “20% Time” project which takes the data available in Google Earth and marries it to a bunch of plasmas and a joystick:

We wanted to try visualizing other cool geo displays, so in July, Dan Barcay, one of the engineers on the Google Earth team, modified a Google Earth client so that it would synchronize views across multiple computers. The effect was pretty stunning: all of a sudden, flying around in Google Earth really felt like flying, and exploring the ocean trenches was like piloting a submarine. When you splashed through the sea surface you cringed slightly, expecting to get wet.

We decided to name it the Liquid Galaxy. With the Liquid Galaxy, we could fly through the Grand Canyon, leap into low-Earth orbit, and come back down to perch on the Great Pyramid of Giza without even breaking a sweat.

The Liquid Galaxy setup.

The Liquid Galaxy setup.

It’s exciting to see people doing things in the category of “Wouldn’t that be cool if we could…”

Via:  Make Online

Diablo Valley Lines

In Read, View on September 22, 2010 at 7:00 am

The members of the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society operate one of the largest model train lines in the U.S.  The layout for their model covers 1,700 square feet and can accommodate up to 10 trains simultaneously.

A port serviced by the Diablo Valley Lines.  Photo by Jim Merithew.

A port serviced by the Diablo Valley Lines. Photo by Jim Merithew.

Nearly a mile of track winds through the layout’s miniature landscapes and tiny towns, featuring replicas of a wide variety of structures and scenery. Craggy yellow hills, made of wood and wire mesh, rise well above eye level.

Though the terrain is not modeled on any place in particular, its dusky hues evoke what member Ted Moreland calls “freelance western railroad.”

The level of detail here is amazing.  Click through for many more photos, including one of the miniature railroad ties and spikes they lay by hand.

Mayo Clinic piano duet

In View on September 21, 2010 at 7:24 am

This couple has been married for 62 years, and they still know the tune.

The piano is in the Gonda Atrium at the Mayo Clinic.

HT:  Diane Elizabeth

UPDATE:  Here’s the couple talking about the video.

Shot put biomechanics solved

In Read on September 20, 2010 at 7:08 am

German scientists Alexander Lenz and Florian Rappl have created a model of shot putting that predicts an optimum angle of release that matches the angle observed in the best shot putters.

Apparently, the best models biomechanicists were previously able to come up with were 4-5 degrees off, so this new model represents the solving of a puzzle that has been out there for some time.

Lenz and Rappl look at the energy the athletes can impart to the shot as they push it at an angle from the shoulder. This can be split into kinetic and potential components. The potential component is related to the height of the shot above the shoulder when it is released.

The German pair point out that the equation that determines the final distance depends on the height but also on the velocity squared. So the athlete is better off imparting more energy in kinetic than potential form. And this lowers the optimum angle of release.

Shot Put Biomechanics

Shot Put Biomechanics

I didn’t know that scientists were busy on these types of questions, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have guessed that a problem like this would have still been unsolved!

Blue Angel pilot

In Read on September 17, 2010 at 7:37 am

Navy pilot Lt. C.J. Simonsen flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet for the Blue Angels.  He calls the job relatively stress-free since before doing airshows he was landing on aircraft carriers in the dark.  There are some other differences as well:

Fleet squadron pilots wear G-suits, which pressurize to keep blood from pooling in the lower body during high acceleration. Blue Angels can’t do that. “We rest our forearms on our legs and use our knees as a fulcrum,” Simonsen says. The inflating suit could interfere with hand movement—dangerous in tight formations.

Navy Lt. C.J. Simonsen.  Photo by Art Streiber.

Navy Lt. C.J. Simonsen. Photo by Art Streiber.

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