Wednesday, June 27, 2007

A Great Spinning Optical Illusion

If you look at the spinning girl's silhouette below, you will think it is spinning clockwise, probably. When you check her shadow below, momentarily the spinning direction changes in your mind, and now the girl is spinning counter-clockwise. It can be quite hard at the beginning to notice switch of the spinning direction, but eventually you'll manage.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More Rooms With a View on the Space Station

From APOD,

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download  the highest resolution version available.

The International Space Station Expands Again
Credit: STS-117 Shuttle Crew, NASA

Explanation: The developing International Space Station (ISS) has changed its appearance again. During the past week, the Space Shuttle Atlantis visited the ISS and added pieces of the Integrated Truss Structure that mirrored those added in September 2006, including a second impressively long array of solar panels. The entire array of expansive solar panels are visible at the edges of the above image taken by the Shuttle Atlantis Crew after leaving the ISS to return to Earth. The world's foremost space outpost can be seen developing over the past several years by comparing the above image to past images. Also visible above are many different types of modules, a robotic arm, another impressive set of solar panels, and a supply ship. Construction began on the ISS in 1998.

Only in Japan: Bubble Wrap Toy

via Gizmodo...


"...the pocket device simulates the feel of popping bubble wrap while using a tiny speaker to make that ever so satisfying popping noise. What bubble wrap aficionados will find disturbing, however, is that every 100 pops bestows the user with a fart, barking dog, door chime or sexy voice."
Get it here.

Twilight Turtle: a Planetarium Night Light

Too cute for words. Start conditioning those young scientists early!

An Aurora from Outer Space

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Mechanical Marble Computer

Matthias Wandel has developed a fantastic mechanical binary adding machine using a simple series of cascaded chutes to store numbers and perform carries through mechanical toggles. Don't miss the video embedded below to see it in operations.

Marble Adder


More details can be found on his web site: along with all manner of interesting contraptions.

A Catapult Watch: For the Geek that has Everything

Do you have friends who still play Dungeons & Dragons? Well, then this is the perfect gift for them. The Catapult watch. Co-workers will never again sleep within range.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

FIRST Lego League Registration is Open!

Have all of you student and teacher readers out there already registered for the FIRST Lego Robotics League? Well, what are you waiting for? Register for the First Lego League Here.

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This awesome robotics contest registration opened May first (and will likely fill up by the end of the summer: 1,715 teams have already signed-up!) so get those applications in!

Here is the tentative schedule for the year:

May 1
Registration Opens

Registration Materials and Robot Sets Begin to Ship

Field Setup Kits Begin to Ship

September 5
International Challenge Release

Team Registration Closes/Last Day to Order Products

October 1-12
Tournament Applications Accepted (If FLL is handling applications)

November- January
Tournament Season

April 2008
World Festival

Registration costs $200 per team, but also be sure to order the Field set-up kit (which should start shipping around August first) when you register, or it will be difficult to practice.

Click on the following links to find:
And don't forget the opportunities for the younger and older set with the JFLL [Junior First Lego League], and their community web site. Check out these budding scientists!



And, of course, there is the FIRST league proper for the older kids.


Hell, I want to sign-up. Why don't they have a league for us grownups?! I guess I'll have to live with being a mentor or something. It appears as if there are plenty of volunteer opportunities in support for frustrated teachers like myself.

I just love the fact that these tournaments are becoming better attended than the school basketball games! I can only hope now, that FIRST will rise to eclipse football as well. Just imagine a nation of youngsters innovating instead of bashing into each other!

If you can't tell already, I'm a big fan of this program. I've always been of the opinion that this is exactly the sort of open-ended creative challenge that nurtures the seeds of inspiration, and that these sorts of activities should be fostered at an early age. Now there is some data to back up my faith. From a recent Brandeis University study, the impact of the FIRST program is astounding. From the study:
When compared with the comparison group, FIRST students are:
  • More than 3 times as likely to major specifically in engineering.
  • Roughly 10 times as likely to have had an apprenticeship, internship, or co-op job in their freshman year.
  • Significantly more likely to expect to achieve a post graduate degree.
  • More than twice as likely to expect to pursue a career in science and technology.
  • Nearly 4 times as likely to expect to pursue a career specifically in engineering.

Impact chart

How can you turn your back on statistics like those, even if there is a bit of self-selected sample group?

Go forth and Innovate!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

ISS Fly-by Images Taken From Earth


Mike Tyrrell photographed the expanding spaceship through his 10-inch Meade LX-200. The new panels are indicated by the arrow:

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Meanwhile in the Czech Republic, Martin Popek photographed an "ISS flare" from his hometown of Nýdek:

Monday, June 04, 2007

Track the Hubble Space Telescope and ISS

From the European Space Agency web site comes a nice Google Gadget mashup that shows the ground track of several noteworthy satellites including the Hubble Space Telescope [HST], and the International Space Station [ISS]. Just click on the links in the table below to see exactly where overhead any one of these satellites fly displayed on Google Maps.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Teach Both Theories, Let the Kids Decide

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