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Friday Fun: Things you can microwave July 17, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in Friday Fun, homeschooling, science, younger son.
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Most people are familiar with the concept of microwaving a grape to make an arc.  If not, the procedure is very simple: cut a grape in half but leave just a small bit of skin to connect to the two halves.  Put the grape on a plate in the microwave, turn it on, and watch the sparks fly.  (As a side note, I’ve been able to replicate this on a smaller scale when microwaving green beans.)  This video explains it fairly clearly:

This week, we discovered another fun microwaving activity: soap.  I can’t be just any soap: it specifically has to be Ivory soap.  Apparently it gets hot and the gas bubbles expand causing it to create a hot foam which grows fairly quickly.  You can’t do it with other soaps, however, because they’re too hard and will explode.

We used a whole bar of soap with our experiment, but the younger son told us later that the demo he saw only used a smaller chunk.  Be careful after you pull it out of the microwave: it’s hot!  Also, once it’s cooled, you can use the soap, although it may be more useful to stick it into a soap sleeve than try to use it directly.

It looked like this when we were finished:

Ivory soap that has just been microwaved.

Ivory soap that has just been microwaved.


To see the whole process, the video is here.



Friday Fun: Old (pirate) Movies January 2, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in Friday Fun.
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Over the holiday break, we were on a bit of a pirate kick.  We watched the first three Pirates of the Caribbean (PotC) movies.  On New Year’s Eve, we were trying to pick out another movie and I found an old VHS tape of Cutthroat Island, one of my favorite movies from my teen years.  Despite having the tape, I can’t honestly remember the last time I watched it.

Apparently, this is one of those movies that had really poor advertising when it came out.  People either have never heard of it or saw it and loved it.  I’d heard of it because I was on a big Geena Davis kick at the time.  Who didn’t want to grow up to be like Geena Davis twenty years ago?Cutthroat-Island-geena-davis-32511932-647-1000

It was a lot of fun after watching PotC.  It was very obviously made before widespread use of CGI, which led to a lot of interesting cinematography.  First, the ships were beautiful and incredible, and there were lots of gorgeous scenes of sweeping around the ships from the air…something that you didn’t see a lot of in PotC.  Second, there were lots of real explosions, and the stunts were obviously done by stunt doubles.  With the exception of one scene where Matthew Modine was running away from an explosion and was conked on the head unexpectedly, there are a lot of scenes where they obviously pan back from the actors (especially Geena Davis) and you just somehow can tell it’s a double.  And then there’s the whole thing you start to realize watching pre-CGI movies: CGI makes everything so clean and polished…and this movie wasn’t…which made it seem more real.

The thing I loved most about it, though, had nothing to do with CGI:  it was that Geena Davis’ character never needs rescuing…and was often the rescuer.

Obviously it’s not a ‘classic’ pirate movie nor did it have the polish of a Disney-fied film, but it was a lot of fun.  And it was a bit of time travel – backwards to the age of pirates but also backwards to the pre-CGI era.  It makes me want to pull out some other “old” movies to share with the kids.  What are some of your favorite “old” movies?

Friday fun: The Rubik’s Cube November 21, 2014

Posted by mareserinitatis in math, younger son.
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As a freshman in college, I remember going to a toy and puzzles shop in Old Town Pasadena.  I became engrossed in a 3D puzzle display.  You know the horseshoes connected with chains that have a metal ring?  That’s the kind of puzzles in the display.  I spent an hour and a half looking for one I couldn’t solve because I decided that if I couldn’t solve it, I would actually buy it.  An hour and a half later, I’d gone through almost 30 and the store owner was giving me the stink eye, so I left.  My date was also rather annoyed, too, though apparently impressed with my puzzle skills.

The one puzzle I have never solved, however, is the Rubik’s cube.  The younger son just received one about a week ago, so I decided to go ahead and buy him a book to solve it.  I had one as a youngster, but was never able to solve it except through the brick removal-and-replacement method, which, while extremely efficient, kind of defeats the purpose.  I’ve decided, however, that it’s about time I learn how to do it, so this will probably be something we can do together over Thanksgiving.  I did some searching for a video tutorial, as well, and came across several as well as a lot of fun videos.

This was one of my favorites, and it makes me wonder what are some other unusual ways that people solve Rubik’s cubes.  While I think I could feasibly do it one-handed (at some point), juggling with the other hand is probably out.  I’ll have to see what the younger son thinks his chances are.


Friday fun: It’s a trap! August 23, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, Friday Fun, humor.
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I actually had planned another post for today, but I’m too short on time to write it out.  Hopefully next week…

In the meantime, Mike, the older son, and I were having one of those philosophical discussions one has when one’s brain cells are fried because it’s the end of the week and you’re all suffering from the dreaded summer cold.  The comment that excited this discussion was a Far Side comic (which I can’t find).  The comic shows a couple guys walking through a jungle, and one of them has been caught in a death trap.  Meanwhile, one of his fellow jungle-goers is telling another that this is why he tends to walk near the back.


If they’d had Admiral Ackbar with them, he would have pointed out that the first guy was caught in a trap.

This led into a long discussion about what the safest position in a hiking party is, particularly if one is going through an isolated jungle.  From the movies, we know that the first guy always trips the net or falls into the pit or what have you.  The guy in the middle always ends up succumbing to the rocks on the cliff or bridge that have been weakened by the first guy.  The last guy always gets picked off by the natives.

As far as we can tell, this seems to hold unless you’re the protagonist in a non-George R. R. Martin book/show/movie.  And, of course, the doubters are all hosed regardless of position.

So what do you think: what is the safest position in a jungle-venturing party?  If you have a reason why, I’d love to hear it.

Friday Fun: What is your favorite wavelength? August 2, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in electromagnetics, Friday Fun, physics.
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I want to know everyone’s favorite color…by their wavelength.  If you need help, here you go:


My personal favorite is right around 400 nm.  And it’s entirely for aesthetic reasons.

So what is yours and why?

(Yeah, I know…everyone is going to pick some non-optical frequency.  And yes, you have to stick to photons.  Maybe we can do sonic waves another week…)

Friday Fun: Minion Posters July 26, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in Friday Fun.
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I need to print these out and hang them up in my office.  (Apologies to my Facebook friends, who have already seen these…depending on whether or not FB lets you see all my posts.)





Friday Fun: How dogs keep cool & cool things with control theory June 22, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, Friday Fun, pets.
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A friend posted the following video on facebook.  I think I may use this with my class this fall, so they can get a good handle on the cool things you can do with control theory:

This is based on the following video created with computer animation.  (I find it amusing that for so many  years, we’ve been trying to master creating animation that looks real, and now Intel tried to make something real that mimicked an animation.)

Once you’ve finished watching those, you’ll want to check out the latest cartoon featuring Gigadog.  (I think all Newf owners understand this one…)

Friday Fun: It reminds of having a conversation with a toddler May 18, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in Friday Fun.
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Friday fun: Falling in love with physics May 11, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in physics.
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I know this may sound strange, but I get a little giddy every time I hear a song that uses physics (or the lack thereof) to describe how people feel when falling in love.  In fact, I’ve started making a collection of such songs.  I’m going to put a couple of my favorites below, but if you have any others you’d like to suggest, please do so!

So why do you suppose physics is such a good way to describe it?  I guess that, personally, I’m not poetic enough to appreciate the similarities.  However, if you fall in love with someone who likes physics, there are multitudes of bad pickup lines that can be generated which will make that person laugh.  So…if you have any bad physics-related pick-up lines, I’d love to hear those, too.

Friday fun: Encabulator madness February 17, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in Friday Fun, humor.
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If you ever need practice speaking jargon, I’d suggest studying one or the other of the two following videos.

And more history on the whole concept of an encabulator.

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