World’s Largest LED Chandelier

How does a 7000 pound, 35 foot diameter chandelier using high-brightness LEDs sound to you? Well that’s what was installed the other day at the Stanley Theatre in Utica, NY. The manufacturer, Meyda Tiffany based in nearby Yorkville, claims that it is the world’s largest LED chandelier. Here are details from the local newspaper and from an industry magazine.
The Stanley is one of those grand old movie houses from the 1920s, in an opulent style called “Mexican Baroque”. It’s one of the jewels of Central New York. I love going to the place and just looking around. Recently it has undergone a major renovation, including the creation of this world-record lighting fixture. There are two huge advantages to using high brightness LEDs over traditional incandescents: energy efficiency and lifespan. Typical household incandescents last around 1000 hours. By comparison, compact fluorescents last in the neighborhood of 5000 to 7000 hours. LEDs beat both by wide margins, lasting in the vicinity of 50,000 to 100,000 hours.
It is estimated that using traditional incandescents the chandelier would draw around 7400 watts. The LED version draws about 1100 watts for a 6300 watt savings. Assuming the unit is on for 10 hours per day, seven days per week and energy costs 12 cents per kilowatt hour, that’s an annual energy bill savings of nearly $3000. On top of this, the maintenance time is a very small fraction of a traditional system.
Of course, none of this even begins to touch on how beautiful it is.

A Lake Effect White-Out

Check out this composite radar image from the National Weather Service, 20:18 UTC, February 10, 2008:
LakeEffectSnowRadar.jpg
This is great imagery of lake effect snow bands. For folks who live to the immediate east of any of the Great Lakes, this is a well-known effect responsible for significant accumulations of snow. The basic idea is that cold arctic winds blow across these large bodies of water and pick up moisture. This moisture is deposited on the opposite shore, particularly if the land is considerably higher than the lake surface.

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A Lake Effect White-Out

Check out this composite radar image from the National Weather Service, 20:18 UTC, February 10, 2008:
LakeEffectSnowRadar.jpg
This is great imagery of lake effect snow bands. For folks who live to the immediate east of any of the Great Lakes, this is a well-known effect responsible for significant accumulations of snow. The basic idea is that cold arctic winds blow across these large bodies of water and pick up moisture. This moisture is deposited on the opposite shore, particularly if the land is considerably higher than the lake surface.

Continue reading “A Lake Effect White-Out”

DIY Neuro-Motor Experiments: When the Left Hand Knows What the Right is Doing

In previous installments in the DIY NME series, I’ve looked at the application of symmetrical motor patterns using the drum kit. For this entry, the approach is a little different and says something about “handedness” as well. A few months ago I rearranged my semi-symmetrical drum kit into what I call the super symmetrical kit. The original semi-sym kit offered a centered hi-hat and three toms on each side, decreasing in pitch from front-center to rear. The remaining cymbals were arranged in a more-or-less typical configuration for a right-hander (ride to the right, crashes arrayed as desired, but split evenly on left and right sides). Here is photo of the new super-sym kit (either the wide-angle wasn’t quite wide enough or the ceiling wasn’t high enough to get the whole thing):
SuperSymKit.jpg

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DIY Lab Gear: Vibrating String Apparatus

Sometimes I can’t seem to find just the right lab equipment I want for a particular experiment so I design it myself. Such was the case recently for a course I developed and teach entitled Science of Sound. This course is a natural science elective and deals with the physics of audio and acoustics. We start with a few very basic concepts such as harmonic motion. One of the laboratory experiments involves vibrating strings. I like this experiment because students can relate to it as most are at least familiar with guitars and other stringed instruments (the guitar players really like this one). I had some difficulty in designing a good experiment though. The basic idea is to verify the equation for the fundamental vibratory frequency:
VibStrFormula.jpg
where f is the fundamental frequency, l is the string length, T is the tension, and m-sub-l is the mass per unit length of the string.

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Esoteric Audio Cables

I’m just interested in whether this gear is sonically superior or simply audio woo.

A previous post featured a short film about members of the Audiophile Club of Athens and the rather extreme sound systems their members have created. Some members spent in excess of $300,000 to build their systems. You may be wondering just what manner of gear that sort of money would buy, and would it really sound that much better than a more modest (yet still comparatively “high end”) system of say, several thousand dollars. Before we go any further, let me state that in no way am I making fun of the way people spend their money. Heck, I’ve been known to drop some coinage on musical instruments and Kevlar kayaks, things some people find frivolous. No, I’m just interested in whether this gear is sonically superior or simply audio woo.

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Cthulhu Fhtagn Peruvian Meteorite

Steinn (Dynamics of Cats) reports that Mars Invades Peru.
This must be smack-dab in the middle of physical-type scientists’ radar screen since my Rocket Scientist(tm) friend sent a similar blurb from Yahoo News.
I expect Scully and Mulder have been called in to investigate. Rocket Scientist(tm) mysteriously alluded to the Colour Out of Space in his e-mail, signing off with the baffling words:
Ph-nglui mglw’nath Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.
The Thing From Beyond the Stars is either a meteorite that released volatiles or a man-made object containing similar gaseous substances as Steinn rationally suggests. Rocket Scientist ™, who has experience in these matters, likewise remarked that a man-made object was a possibility. Now my friend is also usually quite measured, but on occasion, he claims that he is the reincarnation of Abdul Alhazred. So I’m worried. Maybe – just maybe – Cthulhu Fhtagn Cheezburger.
My hat’s off to Steinn for that masterful alliteration and to gwyn for directing me to the LOLTHULHU site.
—————–
Footnote:
Purchasing that collection of Lovecraft short stories the weekend before last wasn’t such a great idea. I blame Warren for spinning me off on a Lovecraftian trajectory
Note added in proof.
LOLTHULHU was previously cited on Pharyngula. I should have known.

What the…

It’s amazing the things you trip over while cruising the ‘net. Consider this site. There’s some fun stuff here, some good stuff here, and some downright crazy stuff here. For example, go to this page. You’ll find the following passage:

What are angels ? According to the Bible they are Gods messengers of light. But what are they really ?
If you look up the words angles and angels you will see they connect to one another. Light comes down to the earth on an angle because of the gravitational pull of celestial bodies it passes.
These angles of light are photons which scientifically are messenger particles.
Angels of light

Kind of funny, kind of scary, but until now I didn’t realize that the sun’s rays reached Earth at an angle due to gravitational lensing.
Yeow.

Audio Obsession

Who are the audiophile extremists? To what lengths will they go in their search for audio nirvana? Is 230,000 Euros enough, and what do they spend it on?

Regular readers of the refuge know that I’ve got a “thing” for audio and music, and that I’ve had some harsh comments regarding the poor quality audio that so many people tolerate these days in the name of convenience. But what of the other extreme? Who are the audiophile extremists? To what lengths will they go in their search for audio nirvana? Is 230,000 Euros enough, and what do they spend it on? Check out this short film of the Audiophile Club of Athens:

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Whip(key) It Good!

A 53 year old Colorado priest faces indecent exposure charges for jogging naked at a local track according to the AP. The priest, Robert Whipkey, claims that he sweats profusely while running, and as he was running in the very early morning prior to sunrise, he didn’t think anyone would be around to notice.
Why does this sound like an old Monty Python skit? I can just see Terry Jones wearing nothing but the collar and shoes running away from a Bobby (Graham Chapman or John Cleese) who surprises him with a “What’s all this then?”

Help: DV Camera Recommendations

I am looking for some recommendations on a DV camera. I am looking for a fairly basic unit but not one that is totally stripped. Top end is right out.

And now for something completely different:

There are a lot of intelligent folks out there in sci-blog gadget land, so please allow me to pick your brains for a moment.
I am looking for some recommendations on a DV camera. I am looking for a fairly basic unit but not one that is totally stripped. A top end unit is right out. By comparison, I have two digital still cameras: a Fuji FinePix F440 which is a very compact point-and-shoot and a Canon Digital Rebel XTi SLR. I am looking for the DV version of the Fuji. I can throw the Fuji into my pocket when we go skiing or whatever and it takes up almost no room. It’s very convenient, easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and the pictures are good, but for some serious photography the Canon wins hands down.
Features-wise, I’d like it to be fairly small if possible, decent optical zoom, ability to upload via USB 2.0, and a jack so I can override the existing mic with one of my studio mics or the output of my audio mixer. As far as media, I’m thinking solid state as I don’t want to have to deal with blanks (i.e. if I don’t like a take I just erase it).
Also, I’ll need some basic software for editing: cropping, swapping, fade in/out, titles, ability to export to other formats at lower resolution and frame rates (like making a 10 fps 320×200 AVI), and similar. Being able to bump or nudge (or even replace) the audio would be welcome.
And out of curiosity, does anyone make a DV with extra high frame rates so that you can do slow-motion?
Thanks.

Cryptography 101

I am not a cryptographer but it is an area I have studied a little. It’s a great topic to introduce to my first and second year programming students. Some of them really perk up when we start talking about it. Invariably, someone will ask if I can show them how to “crack” protected software. I always tell them that, although I have the knowledge, it would not be ethical. Some of them give me strange looks at this point.

This week’s NOVA Science NOW on PBS has an interesting piece on the Kryptos sculpture in front of CIA headquarters. The segment does a decent job of showing some of the basic techniques used such as substitution and transposition, in just a few minutes.
I am not a cryptographer but it is an area I have studied a little. It’s a great topic to introduce to my first and second year programming students. Some of them really perk up when we start talking about it. Invariably, someone will ask if I can show them how to “crack” protected software. I always tell them that, although I have the knowledge, it would not be ethical. Some of them give me strange looks at this point.

Continue reading “Cryptography 101”

Boilermaker, One Week Later

This is certainly not something you’d want to eat during a marathon. Or right before a marathon. Or immediately following a marathon. Or as a regular part of a marathon training diet.

Last Sunday was the 30th annual Boilermaker 15k road race in lovely Utica, NY. This is perhaps the biggest event in central NY during the summer. This year, the Boilermaker attracted over 12,000 entrants along with an elite field of national and international talent. In other words, it’s not your average Sunday morning 5k benefit run won in a blistering 19:36 by a guy wearing Teva sandals. If you’re interested in the results, you can find them here or use the database found here to find results from prior years along with news clips and such.

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Apple iPhone Guts

Curious about what’s inside an iPhone? Well, the good folks at audio design line have a teardown.

Curious about what’s inside an iPhone? Well, the good folks at Audio Design Line (via EE Times) have a teardown.
Mind you, it’s not like the old days when you could just pop off the cover of your new electronic doohickey and look at the manufacturer’s part numbers on the chips. These are the days of self-branded ICs. So what did the folks at the technology evaluation/investigation company Semiconductor Insights do?

To get inside the chips, SI resorted to decapping, a process that involves immersing the chips in acid to dissolve the outer packaging and then manually scraping away any residual packaging material.

Sounds like fun! Check out the video of SI’s teardown:


I must admit that I had a little sinking feeling after reading this:

Despite the phone’s “external simplicity and serene look and feel, the internal implementation is actually quite complex,” he said. “There are many secondary operations, fastener screws and difficult orientations needed for final assembly, making the manufacture of the iPhone in China a near-must.”

Not only can’t we afford to make socks in the US anymore, it seems we can’t afford to make almost anything that isn’t prohibitively expensive to ship.

Name that dolphin — and toss it a wide-brimmed hat

Some folks taking part in a chartered fishing trip on Calcasieu Lake in Louisiana two weeks ago were treated to very rare sight — an albino bottlenose dolphin.
pinko.jpg
Apparently, the pink coloration arises from blood vessels just below the surface of the dolphin’s skin. Ordinarily the skin itself would be grey and thus the effects of the mammal’s vasculature on its presentation to the world would be concealed.

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Bypass Capacitors

Proper usage of capacitors in audio circuits almost seems to be a black art. This article should offer some insight.

Shifting gears from the usual ranting at the Refuge, I came across a nice series of articles from Audio Design Line on the usage and selection of bypass capacitors in electronic circuits. This is a topic with which my students often seem to have difficulty. There is a nice tutorial on the modeling and behavior of capacitors and some practical info regarding the various types, with strong and weak points for each. One of my favorite bypass tricks is dealt with in some detail; namely placing different types and sizes of capacitors in a parallel arrangement to create a sort of “super cap” that exhibits superior performance when compared to any of the component caps.
Proper usage of capacitors in audio circuits almost seems to be a black art. This article should offer some insight.

Identify My Little Snake

No, this is not some weird porno contest, I really want you to try to identify a couple little snakes I found in my garden. First an explanation. I have a couple of large four foot window boxes with everbearing strawberries in them that I leave on an elevated deck during the summer (no problem with bunnies until they learn how to fly). I don’t get a ton of berries but it’s nice to walk out and occasionally grab a few for breakfast. During the winter I bury these boxes up to their rim in my fenced in garden. They over-winter with no problem.
Today I went out to dig them up and when I pulled them out I was greeted by the sight of three small snakes that were underneath the boxes. Two of them were maybe six inches long if stretched and no larger around than a pencil. The odd part is that they had very distinctive pale salmon-corral colored bellies. I’ve never seen that before. All I ever see around my house are dull green or brown grass snakes, sometimes a foot long.
The third snake got my attention by its manner. At first I thought it was just a baby grass snake, maybe six to eight inches long. On closer inspection it had a definite pattern of light/dark brown along its back, and here’s the weird part, it sort of coiled back and opened its mouth (all white inside) as if to strike. It was like watching a Discovery Channel show on rattlesnakes or something. It didn’t strike and I couldn’t see little fangs or even little rattles, but I never saw a grass snake behave that way. And one other thing, it had a head somewhat larger than its body, sort of that lumpy, almost triangular shape of rattlers.
Now I’ve never come across a rattlesnake where I live or at any time while hiking the Adirondacks. I don’t know how small they start out and I suspect that this was not an Eastern rattlesnake, but like I said, it was an eye-opening performance. And what’s the deal with its colorful buddies? So, all you snake lovers out there, please give me a clue. This area in question is central NY (Utica). I live on top of a hill (about 1200 feet) surrounded by woods.