Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Aesthetics of Gears

At the Exploratorium, there was an exhibit titled "Giant Ball Bearing," and all a person was supposed to do at the exhibit was turn it and feel the workings.  Words in the middle of the bearing read, "Some machines just feel nice," and after turning that bearing around and around many, many times, I have to agree.  Sometimes there is a visceral pleasure in interacting with machinery -- Apple has stressed that notion in their design -- and after watching the video below, I now feel certain that there is also an aesthetic pleasure in watching machinery.  Let me know what you think.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Play with Your Food

Jello has always seemed like it could be something besides food: it's too fun, and too weird, not to be.  Now two people have found a way to use Jello to create music.  Raphael Pluvinage and Marianne Cauvard have created a game consisting of a board that is in essence a capacitive sensor, and when a person places tiny, elegant blobs of the gelatinous fruity dessert on the board and touches it with his fingers, the board detects the finger pressure and movement, as well as the ingredients of the Jello, and translates that information into sound.  Wow.  I see the potential for dinner-time concerts in homes across the country.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Oxford University, Science, and Eccentricity

It’s not often that an organization combines science and quirkiness: those of you who know me know that that’s one of the qualities that first attracted me to the Exploratorium. But the Oxford Museum of the History of Science seems to be another rare place where exhibit and event programmers seem especially inspired.

To see what I mean, peruse this fascinating page about a recent exhibition, on view from May to October 2011, the MHS had about eccentricity. Not content to display run-of-the-mill telescopes and such, these curators chose to display historical artifacts that are, well, curious.  For instance, visitors last year could have seen an astrolabe thought to have belonged to Nostradamus, or viewed an ingenious clockwork flytrap dating from early-twentieth-century Japan. The museum also held an eccentricity debate in which various eccentrics discussed “the nature and role, whether creative or disruptive, of eccentricity.”

 I love these people.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lego Man Helps Prove Rogue Wave Idea

Researchers at ANU, the University of Turin, and the Hamburg University of Technology used a fish tank, wave generator, and a Lego pirate to study rogue waves, giant waves that sometimes appear -- seemingly out of nowhere -- in relatively calm seas.  The power of Legos shines through again! Read more about the study here.

Giant Bubbles

There's something entrancing and magical about this bubble-blowing machine.   I love the idea of building a device that creates something so evanescent.  I still remember when I used to go to a summer day camp in North Carolina's SciWorks -- then called the "Nature Science Center" -- and all the campers used to dip string in bins of soapy water and blow through them.  So peaceful and yet so exciting.