Tags: music, physics, thinking theory, video/animation
Despite my oft-stated claim that I find just about everything interesting, I can honestly say that I’ve never been a big fan of quantum physics, except as a useful bit of technobabble in some of my favorite science fiction. However, what Geordi LaForge, Samantha Carter, and John Crichton hadn’t quite convinced me of, a handful of *real* scientists with the assistance of the Symphony of Science did. I now really want to go find out what those ’12 particles of matter, 4 forces of energy’ are, and meanwhile, like Rachel Maddow, I can’t stop humming this song. Enjoy!
More Physics Fun:
“Multiverse” theory suggested by microwave background — My favorite sci-fi plotline strikes again, but this time with the weight of real science behind it, courtesy of the BBC
Exploratorium Science Snacks by Subject – One of my go-to spots for cool experiments with everyday activities. No quantum physics there, but lots to explore with the 4 forces of energy!
Tags: environment, fairytales, music, ocean, perception, physics, sound, video/animation, winter
My anonymous tipmaster sent me a very cool video earlier this week showcasing the universality of the pentatonic scale. (Bear with me: it means that anywhere in the world, people watching Bobby McFerrin jump around a stage can actually sing on pitch and together with almost no instruction). This incredibly cool exploration of sound, music, and the way we think reminded me that I’d been collecting some very fun sound-related links to share with you here on Brain Popcorn.
A Not So ‘Silent World’
Diving in New England is a relatively quiet business. Most of the time, it’s your air bubbles, your dive buddy’s air bubbles, and the occasional scrape of gear on rock that accompanies you in the deep. But not always, and not elsewhere. Diving in the USVI a few years ago I was thrilled and startled to be surrounded by what seemed like a chorus of marine Morse code, and was informed that there were ‘very talkative shrimp’ on that particular reef. A recent report highlighted by the Smithsonian suggests “A Noisy Reef is a Healthy Reef,” which is a fascinating new look at ways to measure the health of communities in endangered waters.
For most of us, the ‘sound of ice’ is skates carving up the surface, or possibly that sharp pop you get when you drop an ice cube into a glass of lukewarm juice. If you’ve been lucky enough to visit the land of glaciers and icebergs, maybe you also think of the great rumble and splash of a calving glacier. But what about a lake in winter? Thoreau certainly noticed interesting sounds at his spot by Walden Pond:
The cracking and booming of the ice indicate a change of temperature. One pleasant morning after a
cold night, February 24th, 1850, having gone to Flint’s Pond to spend the day, I noticed with surprise, that when I struck the ice with the head of my axe, it resounded like a gong for many rods
around, or as if I had struck on a tight drum-head. The pond began to boom about an hour after sunrise, when it felt the influence of the sun’s rays slanted upon it from over the hills; it stretched
itself and yawned like a waking man with a gradually increasing tumult, which was kept up three or four hours. It took a short siesta at noon, and boomed once more toward night, as the sun was
withdrawing his influence. In the right stage of the weather a pond fires its evening gun with great regularity.
If you can’t make it out to a pond when the weather is perfect, then listen to some amazing ice sounds from the warmth of your own desk, with sound artist Andreas Bick’s recordings, or check out compositions played on instruments made of ice by Terje Isungset.
Sounds Like a Fairytale
The Voice of the Little Mermaid — How might the Little Mermaid have sounded under water? If, like certain people who shall remain nameless, you’ve ever tried humming in the swimming pool to find out, here’s a way to explore a little further. An opera singer has actually performed most of an opera, singing underwater, and discusses her technique and the changes in the sound at the link above. Very cool–but hard on the costumes, I should think!
Ladle Rat Rotten Hut – Did you ever notice that when listening to the radio or the TV in the background, you could still get a sense of the meaning even without catching all the words? Try reading this intro to “Little Red Riding Hood” aloud with a ‘storytelling voice’ and see how far you get. Listen to the narrator on the Exploratorium’s page if you’re stumped, and find the rest of the story there too.
Wants pawn term, dare worsted ladle gull hoe lift wetter murder inner ladle cordage, honor itch offer lodge dock florist. Disk ladle gull orphan worry ladle cluck wetter putty ladle rat hut, an fur disk raisin pimple colder Ladle Rat Rotten Hut.
Tags: earth science, food, humor, math, music, physics, sport, technology, travel, video/animation
*waves* Hello All! I have returned from my trip to Italy and essentially recovered from the Italian cold I brought back with me, and I’m back on track to keep bringing you fresh Brain Popcorn. Today’s post celebrates unusual music.
Music is a great interdisciplinary doorway. Though I ran as far as possible from the calculations necessary for the ‘physics of music’ class they offered in undergrad, the fact remains that music and physics *are* closely linked, and so are music and art, music and history, music and literature, music and myth, music and….you get the refrain. Today we’re going to focus on a few science connections.
Gravity Makes Music!
Gravité from Renaud Hallée: check out some very cleverly edited percussion work with falling tennis balls, forks and knives, televisions, basketballs, and light sticks. It reminds me a lot of the number “Trashing the Camp” by Phil Collins, from Disney’s Tarzan. (Thanks to Rob over on Politics et Alia Sensae for the heads up!)
For a slightly more complicated set of interactions (with some entertaining moments and some real physics –there’s a Newton’s Cradle in there!) check out the Rube-Goldberg-inspired “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go. Once you’ve watched it once and have stopped laughing, go again and keep your eyes out for levers, weights and counterweights, wedges, and a number of other simple machines.
Vegetables as instruments?
Well, it beats eating them… If you missed my earlier link to the ViennaVegetable Orchestra, here it is. This is a great way to talk about materials engineering (what qualities are they looking for when they pick their vegetables? How do they change those materials to get the sound they want?), and also just to discuss the ways people make noise (beating, blowing through a tube or over a tube, plucking, shaking…how do these veggie instruments resemble or differ from what a regular orchestra/band/jam session uses?).
Did you know? The palm cockatoo is known to beat hollow logs with sticks to make loud drumming sounds. ~courtesy of @AMNH, the American Museum of Natural History’s Twitter feed
Animal Music–apparently not confined to cetaceans and songbirds! (Does anybody else have the lines from Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb running through their heads yet? “Many more monkeys drumming on drums! Dum ditty dum ditty dum dum dum!”)
Three years/2500 attempts = 37 formations/5 octaves = The Stalacpipe Organ. There are so many cool paths you can take from here, looking at caves and earth science, spelunking, Virginia history, invention of musical instruments, more math and physics of sound, inspiration for creating your own tube-length-instruments. Or just check out the site for Luray Caverns and play the audio clip.
And finally, for sheer amusement value, “Flight of the Bumblebee” played on an iPad. Is this cheating? Having played this piece on the flute, I’m going to say yes. If you’re not out of breath by the end, it doesn’t count.
Tags: electromagnetic spectrum, light and color, optical illusions, physics, plants
So if you’ve got a case of the grays, here’s a collection of fun things to lighten up your day!
“Bright Ideas: Light Bulbs Stimulate Insights” — “New research finds exposure to a bare, illuminated light bulb — a universal symbol of bright ideas — is a catalyst to reaching insights. ” (Ah, but does it work with CFLs?)
Re-using Lightbulbs as Mini-Terrariums Surprisingly pretty! And a neat statement about going green. (Definitely does not work with CFLs! Can you imagine a teeny tiny twisted terrarium? You can? Good. Now say that back to me five times fast.)
Designer Duo Create Dress with 24,000 LED’s – “We used the smallest full-color LEDs, flat like paper, and measuring only 2 by 2 mm,” say designers Francesca Rosella and Ryan Genz… “The circuits are extra-thin, flexible and hand-embroidered on a layer of silk in a way that gives it stretch so the LED fabric can move like normal fabric with lightness and fluidity.”
How-to’s and Lesson Plans on Light and Waves from the New Zealand Physics Teachers’ Resource Bank. Lots of very cool stuff here, including a very small-scale demonstration of eye resolution and color mixing, which would be an interesting tie in to a discussion of Impressionism and pointillism, I think, as well as an explanation of how TV’s and monitors work.
20 Amazing Optical Illusions — The Lilac Chaser above is #13 on the list.
Tags: animals, art, diy, electricity, ideabox, jewelry, magnets, physics, plants, recycling
It’s time for another Ideabox–this time, on CD spindles and the many uses thereof, with a guest appearance by a few spools of thread.
I think CD spindles are a remarkable piece of design: they’re the kind of thing that do what they’re supposed to very well, and then sit there and taunt you, gathering dust because they LOOK like you should be able to do something else with them. If you have a few of these lying around that you’re looking to ‘upcycle’ into something new and useful, here are some ideas to get you started. (Instructables was a really valuable resource in assembling this post. You’ll see what I mean.)
First, a video that gives you four options in what feels like forty seconds, just to get you thinking:
Next, for the folks who can never get too organized:
- The ‘you’re kidding, someone wrote instructions for that?’ Headphone Holder. (Yes, they did. But just because it’s easy and not exactly aesthetically pleasing doesn’t mean it isn’t a valid idea!)
- The ‘I know a techie sort with too much jewelry’ CD Spindle Earring Holder. (I know an artist who could really use this kind of display stand…)
CD Spindles for the Plant and Animal Worlds:
- Flower Planters — this is a particularly cool idea if you’re trying to do a science experiment that allows you to watch the roots of things grow. Visible carrots!
- Mushroom Storage Case — I wasn’t sure whether to put this under ‘plants,’ ‘organization,’ or ‘huh?’ but it’s cute.
- High Speed Silent Hamster Wheel — For the fleet of foot, but not the faint of heart.
For the Electrically Savvy:
- CD Spindle Lamp — Gorgeous, actually. And using an LED or CFL bulb would make it even safer. I’d love to see a version that took up less horizontal footprint though, for the sake of those of us who live in small spaces.
- Water-Powered Tesla Turbine — There are a number of variations to this idea provided by ‘mrfixits’ on Instructables. They’re all fascinating in a ‘how do you come up with these things?’ way. I love the idea of using recycled materials and water power and magnets to talk about generating electricity, though. (And on that note, a similarly cool variation, A Pringles Can Wind Turbine)
Spools get to play too:
- Build a Spool Racer with extra supplemental teacher materials here.
- Spool Racers Expanded! Including the ‘Come Back Can’ directions as well.
- Spool as Pixel –Artworks by Devorah Sperber. This artist is going to be part of the upcoming Art & Nature Center exhibition, Eye Spy, Playing with Perception, opening June 19th.
Tags: games, physics, recycling, sport, video/animation, winter
Downhill skiing is fast. Ice skating’s got those nifty blades. Bobsleds are faster and those runners are longer, and they make that awesome ‘whooshing’ sound. What’s not to love? (Okay, so I was maybe influenced a little a lot by Cool Runnings as a kid. I’m not the only one.)
Bobsleigh Homepage at Olympic.org — full of fun stuff! Current photos and videos from the ongoing games, equipment and history, techniques, etc.
Want to try building a bobsled course at home?
There was a tree at the base of the best side of the house for sledding when I was a kid. A really big pine tree that you didn’t want to hit, if at all possible. So my brother and I, assisted by our parents, got pretty decent at packing up snowbanks so that we would curve around the tree, around the corner of the house, and out into the backyard. It worked enough of the time to be worth it.
However, there are safer, smaller ways to build a bobsled course that don’t involve pine needles down your jacket collar. My favorite is the paper-towel-tube bobsled run. The simplest of indoor Olympic sports, all you need are paper towel tubes (wrapping paper tubes, mailing tubes, toilet paper rolls, you get the picture), marbles or toy cars (I’m more of a marbles fan, myself. Run 4 at a time for a four-man sled!), masking tape, and a whole lot of books, furniture, and boxes to form your ‘hill.’ Cut, tape, and go wild!
(To make ‘curved’ sections, I recommend cutting out triangular pieces from the paper towel rolls [which end up looking like diamonds once you've made the two angled cuts] and bending and taping them together. This takes some practice to get a reasonable variety of angles that aren’t going to make your marbles stick in the turns!)
For other examples, check out some of these snazzy runs for ideas!
Winter Olympics Games for Kids from MakeandTakes.com (for very young children)
A 3 floor marble run and you want more?
For the truly Olympic oriented educator, Kathi Mitchell’s impressive Olympics for Kids round-up page, with lesson plans, interactives, and assorted links galore.
Tags: art, games, physics, weather, winter
Here are a bunch of snow activities to try, to celebrate last week’s first intense snow of the year.
Make a Snowflake:
Fold a piece of paper or a coffee filter in half. Then fold it in thirds from the middle point. (As if you were making ‘pizza slice’ shapes, so that you have 6 triangles.) Trim the edges so that you have roughly a circle, if you are using a regular piece of paper. Cut along the edges and folds, then unfold for a proper 6 pointed snowflake!
If you want to avoid the blizzard of cut paper pieces, try an online snowflake-maker, here: http://snowflakes.barkleyus.com/
Outdoor Snow Fun:
1. Jump snow hurdles: Lightly pack a bunch of basketball-size snowballs. Use them to build a course of hurdles to jump over in a round of follow the leader.
2. Get on a roll: Pair up for a contest in which the object is to finish with the biggest snowball. The contest ends when the teams can no longer roll their entries or when you run out of snow.
3. Catch a snowflake: Find out what’s different ? and the same ? about a bunch of snowflakes. Catch some on a piece of black construction paper or a dark mitten or sweater. At The Discovery Museums, we have a bunch of blue-velvet covered cardboard squares available for snow-catching. We tend to store them in the freezer so they’re snow-ready!
4. Make an iceberg float: Invite kids to make two miniature icebergs (snowballs), one packed very hard and the other fairly soft. Indoors, fill a bucket or basin with cold water, put the snowballs in it, and watch what happens. (Because the hard snowball has air bubbles trapped inside, it will float higher in the water than the softer one.)
Stay tuned next week for icy cool science!