Thursday, May 28, 2009

Water Drop Photography

Finally got around to really digging into the custom firmware on my new camera this week. I took these pictures with a Canon SD1000, which is a small point and shoot camera (I don't know why it's so expensive now, even the newer model is only $199). What's cool about the Canon Powershot series is that there is a project, CHDK, which replaces the firmware on the camera with their own, which allows the camera to do anything the hardware is possible of, not just what Canon lets you do.

I took these in my sink in macro mode with the shutter set at 1/40,000 through the alt menu. They're pretty standard for first projects with CHDK, so now I need to start digging into the rest of the features. This thing even has a programming language so you can write scripts to do whatever you want.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Bought a New to Me Bike

Considering that I am spending at least the next two fun-filled years of my life in UC Flatlands, I figured now would be a good time to reinvest in my primary mode of transportation and buy myself a new bike. This was mostly inspired by a weekend trip to Santa Cruz to hang out with my sister, when I got to borrow her boyfriend's bike. I had forgotten how nice it was to ride a relatively new bike after something like 7 years on mine. The fact that I have put little to no maintenance into mine unless something catistrophically failed made the difference all the more pronounced (My crank has started making a rather concerning grinding noise this quarter...).

Luck for me, that very bike happened to be for sale, so I am now the proud owner of a new-to-me, 9 month old bike. I could post all kinds of pictures of it for your mild enjoyment, but I think this is an instance where I can say more with less:
That's right, it's got a mother-loving bell.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Egg Salad

I enjoy a good egg salad, but I got a little tired of boiling two or three eggs at a time, so I started boiling larger batches of eggs and just peeling them as needed. This of course left me with the dilemma: How do I mark hard boiled eggs so my roommate doesn't try to make a cake with it? I think the answer was obvious:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

YouTube Calligraphy Channel

Found a user on YouTube who just uploads calligraphy writing samples. I've tried getting into calligraphy a few times, but it just makes it all the more noticeable that handwriting was designed for right handed people. Sure, I could do it, but to make the shapes I was meant to just felt all wrong.

I can still appreciate it though. Have to give this guy some props for that.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Davis Bike Auction

Yesterday was the biannual Davis Bike Auction. This is when TAPS sells all the bikes that have been abandoned to get rid of them. There was something along the order of 400 bikes to be sold.

To be successful at one of these means planning ahead. It officially starts at 8am, but if you don't want to be rushed and fight crowds, show up something more like 7:30. Look through all of them and write down the numbers of ones which seem like they'd be functional. Once they go up for bidding, you've got maybe 30 seconds at a distance to decide if you want it or not. Mountain bikes were going in the $20-$50 range depending on how many parts they're missing and how catchy the paint was. Road bikes and cruisers were going in the $150-$200 range, almost regardless of their condition, even just frames. Couldn't believe it.

Looked like there was a lot of people who planned ahead. I didn't get there until 11:30 (since I had no plan on buying anything), and from then until I left, the crowds got noticeably larger, though apparently not anywhere near what it was in the morning. I saw bidding numbers as high as 250, but there quite possibly could have been more.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Where's the Sphere?

Today, Kate was examining the philosophical concept of balls EXACTLY 1 inch across in mathematics, with pieces of string wrapped around them, which one must inevitably conclude to be exactly π inches long. Luckily, she was kind enough to point out how absurd this concept is to us engineers [pretentiously gestures towards bookshelf full of engineering textbooks]:
Therefore, if I am thinking like a scientist or engineer (possibly using math but not thinking like a mathematician) dealing with only objects I can hold in my hand, I don't think you can point at a piece of string and say "that string is exactly one inch long".
--Kate Nowak

Luckily for you, my endearing reader, I am currently studying the implications of this lack of exactness in the very non-classical Real World™.

If one were to wrap a string around a sphere to measure the circumference of it, ignoring all the difficulties of actually getting the string around a great circle of the sphere, at some point you would need to lay the crossing ends upon the sphere and cut it to get the final length. If it weren't perfectly upon the sphere, the string would be slightly longer than π, and thus, not exact, as per our exacting standards for the exactness of exact measurements. Unfortunately, cutting the string while it is laying upon the sphere requires knowing where the sphere it, which is precluded by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.

Given the root mean square of the certainty of the position and momentum of an object, their product will never be less than a fraction of Planck's constant.
For this example, I'm going to use an aluminum sphere, which generally has a density of 2.70 g/cm3. Since it's an inch in diameter, the radius of the sphere will therefore be 1.27cm. Let's say we also manage to keep the ball pretty well stopped, with the velocity uncertainty of it in the quite admirable order of 10-6 m/s in our super aluminum-ball-holding-string-wrapping-experiment machine, since we can't wrap string around a sphere when we don't even know which way it's going. Calculating the momentum follows:
Δp = mΔv (the unfortunate use of m in this case is mass)
Δp = 2.70 g/cm3 × 1kg ⁄ 1000g × 4 ⁄ 3 π r³ × 10-6 m/s
Δp = 2.317×10-8 kg⋅m ⁄ s

Solving for Δx in the original equation gives our final uncertainty in position of the sphere as:
Δx ≥ 2.277×10-27 meters

Which is pretty dang small. But the question wasn't "A piece of string π inches long to within more orders of magnitude than one could ever dream of measuring," was it? And this is just the best case; you happen to be unlucky, and you could very well be even farther from π.

This is of course ignoring every other source of uncertainty other than where to have the string when you cut it. You could even argue that just the uncertainty of the string would make it impossible to cut it at a specific place, but I'll leave that one as a challenge for the reader.

Link Dump

Best stuff from the last month, in case you don't read Reddit, mostly...

Tweenbots - This one got wide coverage when it came out, but I still think it was amazingly cute.
Everything's amazing, nobody's happy.
Super efficient stove designs.
Adam Savage is my hero.
Protect your site from the Digg toolbar.
Setup a computer as the smartest router in town.
I've been meaning to play with mmap on one of my projects.
Top 10 people in FOSS.
Look at that, legalizing drugs helps...
People make me want to cry.
The Way Engineers Think.
The Way Engineering Students Think.
Eddy currents in a copper tube.
Republicans hurt my soul some times.