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Particle Plushies June 30, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Physical and Chemical Reactions, Physics, Weird Gadgets.
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Particle Plushies

I’ve always been a fan of toys and I don’t think I’ll ever grow too old for this kind of neat novelty stuff. The toys in the picture above are called Particle Plushies and were created by Julie Peasley with the help of science consultant and physicist Derek van Westrum.

Tau Neutrino Strange Quark Photon

According to Julie:

I have had a lifelong interest in cosmology, the quantum world and theoretical physics. The Particle Plushies idea came about after attending a physics lecture at UCLA by Dr. Lawrence Krauss entitled ‘The Beginning and End of Time.’ A couple of difficult physics books later (including Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages), I realized that the individual particles seemed to have various ‘personalities’ that could be ‘felted out’ with relative ease.

The toys aren’t meant for really young children but they’re a fun item to have hanging around the house. Better still, these plushies combine art and science to provide education and understanding.

Particle Plushies 2

As for the weird science blog, these cute, smiling toys are hereby approved for coolness!

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A Wooden Bicycle January 24, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Environment, Technology, Weird Gadgets.
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Marco Facciola

We’re lucky here on our earth. Why? Because we have heaps of different materials that allow us to build and create almost anything our minds can conjure up! Ever wondered how we’d fare if our wasteful ways left us with only a handful of materials?

Marco Facciola, a 16 year-old high school student in the International Baccalaureate program, was required to complete a project on a non-academic topic. As he was reflecting on a story his grandfather told – when rubber was scarce during the war and his grandfather needed wheels for a bicycle – Marco thought about building a functional wooden bicycle. The full, original article can be read here.

There were many challenges although it seems that the challenges were what made the project so exciting and interesting for Marco to complete. His biggest one proved to be the design of a wooden chain that wouldn’t break. Another challenge was budgeting for the wooden bicycle. Marco described how he didn’t want to purchase new drill bits because of his tight budget. He explains how he got creative to keep on track with his project:

I could not sharpen the bits I was using because they were Forstner drill bits. So, to prevent them from overheating and dulling, I drilled only a little at a time. I would remove the bit from the partially drilled hole and while it was still turning, I would take a bar of soap and rub it against its side to reduce the friction in the hole. This also cooled the bit slightly.

Having enjoyed woodworking and design for a long time, Marco plans to challenge himself with future projects. For now though, he is going to focus on school, his job and sports.

Credit: Lee Valley.

Taking Care Of What We Have

I think that Marco’s project shows how an open mind and hard work can allow a person to build with only one material instead of the many different materials usually required. At the same time, the project was a challenging and time-consuming one. It demonstrates how important and valuable it is to have a wide range of materials to use for building and creating the items we use in our lives. If you’re not getting my hint there, I’ll say it more clearly! Reduce, reuse and recycle!

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The Light Drop July 25, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Environment, Neat Science Jobs, Physics, Technology, Weird Gadgets.
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Light Drop 1

The Light Drop was created by industrial designer Rafael Morgan, who currently lives in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. The goal is to get people reflecting on their natural resources and how they are used. With the Light Drop, people will hopefully think more about water and its important role in sustaining life. I asked Rafael what inspired him to create the Light Drop, and he replied:

Inspiration for me is everywhere, mostly in ordinary things. If you tried to watch your surroundings from a different point of view, you would be surprised at how beautiful and poetic our everyday world may be. I also do a lot of research. In the case of the Light Drop, I was surfing on the Internet-just googling for some random images-and I found an image of a burning candle. Instead of fire, it was casting an ice flame. It’s a very cool concept because the candle should cast fire but it was casting its opposite element. I just wondered if I could do something like this in my designs. So, after lots of researching and drawing, I designed the Light Drop.

In his portfolio, Rafael also describes his plans to leave Brazil and find work elsewhere. I asked him about his dream job, and he explained:

I usually dream about working in a place with a nice, fun and friendly environment, where I can create new designs and beautiful concepts without too many restrictions.

I get the impression that Rafael’s words reflect the need of many designers like him-to work as part of a team but in an unstructured environment that allows for full creative expression.

thelightdropside.jpg thelightdropfront.jpg

After viewing the Light Drop, I was also curious about Rafael’s plans, if any, for future projects. According to Rafael:

I am planning to focus on furniture, lighting and home accessories for a while but I intend to give all design branches a try in the near future.

Perhaps one day, the Light Drop and many of Rafael’s other designs will be seen in homes where people can admire the originality, creativity and passion that went into their creation.

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Avatar Machine July 15, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Human Body, Psychology and Behavior, Technology, Weird Gadgets.
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The Avatar Machine is an interesting contraption created by Marc Owens. The idea is that a person can truly be in the game by seeing him or herself in the third person. Gaming is hugely popular nowadays, which means that many designers and researchers want to find ways to make it as life-like as possible. According to Owens:

The virtual communities created by online games have provided us with a new medium for social interaction and communication. Avatar Machine is a system which replicates the aesthetics and visuals of third person gaming, allowing the user to view themselves as a virtual character in real space via a head mounted interface. The system potentially allows for a diminished sense of social responsibility, and could lead the user to demonstrate behaviors normally reserved for the gaming environment.

I can see how the concept is an appealing one for gamers. Although you’re out walking or doing some other ordinary activity in the real world, you’re seeing yourself in a totally different context. You might be a bit more daring and do stuff that you’d normally only do in a game. When gaming, the knowledge that it’s not real is what lets people take risks. In the real world, however, those risks could have positive or negative consequences. If it means you’re more confident and social, that could be a good thing but if it means you’re aggressive or combative, that could be really harmful. I also don’t know about you, but if I was out for a leisurely stroll and then encountered someone in the Avatar Machine, I’d scream and run the other way. It’s crazy looking!

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Watch Your Energy July 11, 2007

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Environment, Technology, Weird Gadgets.
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Power Aware Cord

Ever been curious to actually see your energy consumption? Well, now you can. Sorta. The Power Aware Cord, designed by Anton Gustafsson and Magnus Gyllenswärd, is meant to encourage people to reflect on their energy consumption. Unlike a typical power cord, the Power Aware Cord is designed so people can visualize energy rather than having it hidden. According to the description:

The current use of electricity is represented through glowing pulses, flow and intensity of light.

The idea is that when people actually see the flow of energy, they will have a greater awareness of energy use and will perhaps think of ways to reduce it. I’m not sure just how effective the Power Aware Cord really is for satisfying its goal, but I do think it looks cool. You can read more about similar projects on the Static website.

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