Thursday afternoon: received an email from Professor asking for an abstract to submit by the next day. Had no idea how or what to write. Professor not in her office. FREAKED OUT
Friday morning: got to lab and checked email to find that I was expected to attend a symposium that had started 15 minutes ago.
Friday afternoon: had one hour to eat lunch and prepare PowerPoint. Went to meeting with Professors. Finally get background info on material I had been working with for two weeks. Find out that sample’s not actually what we thought we had been sent. Find out that I had been staring at salt crystals for three days when I thought they were collagen.
Frustrating. On the other hand, today my professor gave me permission to “play” with the material while she’s away for a week MWAHAHAAH let the mad scientist experiments begin!!!
But actually, despite the terrible communication and things going wrong, I’m actually starting to love my job.
Vi Hart covered fractals in plants a while ago (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahXIMUkSXX0) but this new explanation of how they form is fascinating! I love it when math and physics are used to describe how something we see in life happens.
Sunflowers Do the Math
The spiraling shapes in cauliflower, artichoke, and sunflower florets (above) share a remarkable feature: The numbers of clockwise and counterclockwise spirals are consecutive Fibonacci numbers—the sequence 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and so on, so that each number is the sum of the last two. What’s more, those spirals pack florets as tight as can be, maximizing their ability to gather sunlight for the plant. But how do plants like sunflowers create such perfect floret arrangements, and what does it have to do with Fibonacci numbers? A plant hormone called auxin, which spurs the growth of leaves, flowers, and other plant organs, is the key: Florets grow where auxin flows. Using a mathematical model that describes how auxin and certain proteins interact to transport each other around inside plants, researchers could predict where the hormone would accumulate. Simulations of that model reproduced patterns exactly matching real “Fibonacci spirals” in sunflowers, the team reports this month in Physical Review Letters. Based on their results, the researchers suggest that such patterns might be more universal in nature than previously thought, so keep an eye out: Fibonacci numbers might be spiraling in every direction.
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Is this a new way of bringing the Mandelbrot set to life? Each number on the complex plane, c, is repeatedly squared to give a new value, and then added to the original value c. This gives a path for each c that takes it around the plane. Those that don’t run off to infinity are in the Mandelbrot set. This animation allows the c to move along its path, and colours the plane at the starting position c with the colour of the plane at the end of the path. The plane is coloured so it is black everywhere with a rainbow disk in the centre [so at time 0, when the points haven’t started moving, we just see the rainbow disk]. As time progresses, after a series of bifurcations and pulsing beats, we see the familiar Mandelbrot set take form. [interactive] [code] [more]
I don’t understand but it’s pretty!
How typeface influences the way we read and think
Last summer, CERN was on the verge of announcing a discovery so critical to understanding the basic building blocks of the universe that it had been given a divine name: The God particle.
The hunt for the Higgs boson was one of the most expensive and labor-intensive particle physics projects ever undertaken, and promised to answer the fundamental but elusive question of why our atoms stick together in the first place. And yet, when CERN researchers finally announced that they’d glimpsed the Higgs, the world’s first reaction wasn’t to cheer; it was to stifle collective laughter. The institution’s scientists, cradling the most important scientific discovery of the decade, had chosen to present their findings to a breathless public using a peculiar font face: Comic Sans MS.
The whole kerfuffle underscored just how important typefaces are to the way we process information. Words hold power. But the aesthetic manner in which those words are presented can affect the way we read, and the way we think about the information presented.
“Typography is one ingredient in a pretty complicated presentation,” Cyrus Highsmith, a typeface designer and author of the book Inside Paragraphs, told me over the phone. “Typography is the detail and the presentation of a story. It represents the voice of an atmosphere, or historical setting of some kind. It can do a lot of things.”
I’ll be writing all my reports in Baskerville from now on.
Three Reasons Why Voyager I Is Badass
- As of this writing, Voyager I is over 18,000,000,000 km away from Earth - for comparison, that’s about the distance one would travel if one went from California to New York about four million times.
- When Voyager I was initially launched, it was only expected to survive for four years - it’s been active for over 35 years.
- Currently, the craft is travelling in a region of space that may well be beyond our solar system - although this is unclear at the moment.
Youtube user Brusspup (previously here and here) who often explores the intersection between art and science just released this new video featuring the Chladni plate experiment. First a black metal plate is attached to a tone generator and then sand is poured on the plate. As the speaker is cycled through various frequencies the sand naturally gravitates to the area where the least amount of vibration occurs causing fascinating geometric patterns to emerge. There’s actually a mathematical law that determines how each shape will form, the higher the frequency the more complex the pattern.
Chladni plates are beautiful and fascinating. It’s really interesting that not all the patterns are symmetrical as I would’ve expected
There are lots of ways to create visible light, but not all methods are created equal. While light created by sound is a cool phenomenon, it happens on such a tiny scale that we probably won’t be powering flashlights with sound waves any time soon. And light created from intense pressure on a material results in some pretty strange effects — anyone heard of earthquake light? — though it could be hard to harness those effects in a useful way.
Most commonly, our daily lives are lit by incandescent light, but heat as a light source is terribly inefficient. That’s why at Brookhaven we’re exploring the properties of electroluminescence and pushing LEDs to near-perfect efficiency.
I didn’t know sound could produce light! Very interesting and helpful summary.
Edit: Minutephysics made a video explaining sonoluminescence more in depth. It’s even cooler than I thought, mostly because it’s not fully understood.
WOWWOWwow (<—- fractal wow-ness)
The creation of a fractal Brownian tree. Particles move around on random walks, but can become stuck starting at a seed in the centre. This creates intricate patterns similar to those created in certain chemical reactions and electric discharges. [more] [code]
Lord of the Rings : Gender Swapped
My heart broke a little at the thought of Ewan McGregor as Eowyn
A robot in Cornell’s Personal Robotics Lab has learned to foresee human action in order to step in and offer a helping hand, or more precisely, roll in and offer a helping claw.
Understanding when and where to pour a beer or knowing when to offer assistance opening a refrigerator door can be difficult for a robot because of the many variables it encounters while assessing the situation. Well, a team from Cornell has created a solution.
Gazing intently with a Microsoft Kinect 3-D camera and using a database of 3D videos, the Cornell robot identifies the activities it sees, considers what uses are possible with the objects in the scene and determines how those uses fit with the activities. It then generates a set of possible continuations into the future – such as eating, drinking, cleaning, putting away – and finally chooses the most probable. As the action continues, the robot constantly updates and refines its predictions.
“We extract the general principles of how people behave,” said Ashutosh Saxena, Cornell professor of computer science and co-author of a new study tied to the research. “Drinking coffee is a big activity, but there are several parts to it.” The robot builds a “vocabulary” of such small parts that it can put together in various ways to recognize a variety of big activities, he explained.
Saxena will join Cornell graduate student Hema S. Koppula as they present their research at the International Conference of Machine Learning, June 18-21 in Atlanta, and the Robotics: Science and Systems conference June 24-28 in Berlin, Germany.
In tests, the robot made correct predictions 82 percent of the time when looking one second into the future, 71 percent correct for three seconds and 57 percent correct for 10 seconds.
“Even though humans are predictable, they are only predictable part of the time,” Saxena said. “The future would be to figure out how the robot plans its action. Right now we are almost hard-coding the responses, but there should be a way for the robot to learn how to respond.”
So we’re getting closer to a robot like Serge from Caprica! (Which I am currently watching and I don’t know how I forgot about it after watching BSG until now but it’s great and has some really interesting science ethics issues.)
Planetary Resources, the Planetary Society, and The Museum of Flight are partnering in the crowd sourcing of a “Space Telescope for Everyone.” And the perks are amazing and, frankly, cheap. $25 for a picture of yourself in space. $200 for the ability to photograph an astronomical object from an observatory in space.
I purchased package that gives time on the telescope to a classroom as well as curricula and other resources.
These are opportunities that not only didn’t exist until recently, they COULDN’T EXIST! Without the cultural concept of crowd funding and the technological progress in optics and computing, this would literally be impossible.
In fact, it still seems a little bit impossible to me…but these people are very very serious…and the cooles thing is that they’re serious about making the world a better place, educating future scientists, and building an optimistic, abundant future. This is a pretty inspiring place to be…and a pretty inspiring time to exist.
Maybe crowd-funding is the next big thing for science, given the shortage of money and budget problems. Maybe not, but this project is still SUPER COOL!!