Thursday, February 20, 2014

Snow Science & More!

Mother Nature is making it pretty clear that winter isn't over yet, so why not embrace it? Whether you're loving the extended chilly weather or you're so ready for the thaw that you've considered relocating, there's one thing we can all agree on: In all its wonders, snow is pretty fascinating.

Goli Mohammadi of put together a great compilation of snow-related projects, a collection of interesting articles on the science of snow, maker-made snow videos, and eye candy snow art. Here are some of our favorites.

Mohammadi says it best: "Are you feeling left out of the snowmageddon but live in a cold environment?" Well take a look at how former Make: Labs intern Steven Lemos shows you how to make your own snow gun. This project is a bit on the pricey side, requiring about $90 worth of parts: a few items from your local hardware store, some quality spray nozzles, and access to a pressure washer an an air compressor. Price aside, the end result is impressive.

No, you don't need to rub your eyes. What you're seeing is really what you're seeing. Caltech physics professor Ken Libbrecht is one of the most well-known snowflakes scientists and photographers. Check out the details of his photo-microscope rig and see how you can emulate stunning shots like his.


Last but not least on our brief list of favorites from Mohammadi's collection is this awesome video from fashion photographer and filmmaker Jacob Sutton, featuring pro snowboarder William Hughes riding the slopes of Tignes in the Rhone-Alpesregion of south-eastern France wearing a suit made by John Spatcher. What better way to light up a snowy night than to slash deep powder turns with a custom LED suit, right?!

For nine more snowy projects and much more snow science, videos and art, check out Mohammadi's full article.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Science Behind the Olympic Torch

It's that time again. The time that the world anxiously awaits to come every couple of years. With an opening ceremony that has been guaranteed to awe, tonight marks the beginning of the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

At the center of the games, whether they be winter or summer competitions, is always one thing: the Olympic torch. So how do you ensure that the torch stands up to the elements; remaining reliable in difficult conditions like strong winds, heavy snows, or any surprises that a Russian winter can throw up? Well, with science and a great team of designers and engineers of course!

This year's Olympics torch is red, the traditional color of Russian sport. Getting away from aesthetics, the designers of the Sochi torch paid specific attention to the torch's construction and flame lighting system, ensuring that it remains lit. 

The body of the torch is made of aluminum. The color is light silver, and the finish is a low-dispersion matte. The torch's handle and central decorative stand are cast using a high-density, highly transparent polymer. 

The designers didn't forget about the carriers of the torch! The torch weighs nearly 1.8 kg, is 0.95 m tall and 54 mm wide. Its weight and center of gravity were carefully calculated to make the torch as comfortable as possible to carrying while running. Learn more about the 22nd Winter Olympics torch here.

Looking back to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, engineers made sure that the torch would be able to cope with British weather conditions by testing it at BMW's  Energy and Environment Test Center in Munich. Take a look at their impressive results.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Science Mystery: Valentine Vexation

What's sweeter than a good, ol' fashioned mystery? This entertaining and educational mystery was selected from the book One Minute Mysteries: 65 Short Mysteries You Solve with Science and put out by Science, Naturally. Great for kids, grown-ups, educators, and any one who loves good mysteries, try your science sleuthing skills at this one!

Mystery #11: General Science
Valentine Vexation

The school student council was putting up decorations for the Valentine's Day party later that day in the multi-purpose room.

Elinor came into the room a bit late. As council president, she had been talking with the principal about some of the details.

Her friends were sitting around a table, blowing up balloons and snacking on the food some parents had brought. Soo was sipping fruit punch, Jada had a cupcake, Olivia was munching on carrot sticks and Cimone was eating a peanut butter sandwich. As each girl blew up a balloon, she used a marker to decorate it.

When they finished, Soo headed off to a corner to put up pink streamers while Cimone started to arrange flowers on the tabletops. Elinor, Jada, and Olivia gathered up some red, pink and white balloons and started to tape them onto the walls.

As she was getting ready to tape up one of the balloons, Elinor saw that a message had been written on it: "Elinor likes Gary."

"Who did this?" Elinor called out.

"That's for us to know and you to find out," Olivia said.

"I will find out," Elinor said, taking the balloon out into the hallway.

She soon returned and said, "Okay, Cimone, confess. I know you did it."

"How do you know," Jada asked?

Can you figure out how Elinor knows? Here's the answer:
"In the hallway, I unknotted the balloon and let the air out slowly, sniffing it as it came out," Elinor said. "I knew that the air in the balloon would smell like anything that was on the breath of the person who blew it up. The air smelled like peanut butter."

You can find the January mystery on Science, Naturally's website.