June 30, 2014

The infinite jukebox

The infinite jukebox seems simple enough, but the results can be fascinating if the right song is chosen.

The site takes any song you upload or that you choose from their already uploaded list, analyzes it to find all the beats in the song, matches those beats with other beats in the song, and plays the song on a near-infinite loop, jumping from identical beat to identical beat in entirely different places within the song.

That means that "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson sometimes plays through jumping from five seconds in to a minute and a half, plays for ten seconds, then jumps back nearly to the beginning to continue the process. Not every jump happens, but every possible jump is marked by a connection within the visual representation of the song. Here, for example is "Billie Jean"...

Each connection across the circle shows a possible jump when one part of the song sounds identical to another part. The highlighted green link is the moment that was playing when I took the screecapture, and the highlighted arc is a jump not taken. Right now, "Billie Jean" has been playing for seven and a half minutes on my computer and has played through 585 beats, two other interesting bits of data on the track.

It's a blast to play around with, but check out the already uploaded tracks. Most any song you would want to try has been thrown on their servers already.

What songs did you find that worked the best?

June 29, 2014

No link you click on should be the best part of your day

June 25, 2014

Let's play the alphabet game

Threadless has a t-shirt for sale with the following design, an alphabet of male musicians...

Let's see how many I can name.

June 18, 2014

A photo retrospective of our pets...so far...

This post is very photo-heavy, so I'm putting in a jump after the first pic of Aylah. Consider yourself warned.

I know you've been desperate to see what's up with the animals at Case de ChemGuy, so here you are.

Our first pet was Aylah, a white cat who was with The Girl in college and moved with us to Cincinnati, Aylah passed away last summer on the morning of July Fourth after fighting cancer and eventually having her leg amputated.

June 16, 2014

I can see the future

Ah, Buttersafe, you slay me...

There are more panels than what I'm showing you, but I want you to go to the Buttersafe site to see the full, brilliant comic.

June 14, 2014

We ain't got no room for boring...

June 13, 2014

Reflections about teaching #6

#6 How do you incorporate diversity or moral education in a science/math classroom?

Eesh...the moral part is something that I firmly appreciate pretty much entirely avoiding.

Yes, there are areas where chemistry and morality can overlap, but those are areas that I tend to skirt. I tell the story of Fritz Haber developing chemical weapons for the German government during World War I and his wife eventually killing herself, not being able to live with her indirect involvement. I tell the story of Neils Bohr having to dissolve his Nobel Prize in aqua regia before the Nazi's took Copenhagen. I also relate very tangentially the decisions that had to be made by chemists/physicists in taking part in the Manhattan Project.

These are direct, dramatic examples where chemists have had to make choices of whether to continue with research or to turn away. (Well, the Bohr story isn't, but it's just freaking cool.) In each case, knowledge won out over possibly more moral choices. In the long run the philosophy of science says that the pursuit of knowledge is, of itself, the highest pursuit. Nothing else tops that, and how that knowledge is used is almost always of secondary concern.

I do discuss environmental concerns, and those are - to me - moral concerns. We discuss what should and shouldn't go down the drains and why. We discuss why we should or shouldn't pursue nuclear power. We discuss the greenhouse effect. Those seem natural connections to chemistry education for me.

Now, about diversity, I try to make connections to my students' backgrounds and interests. Sometimes that means mentioning how the topic connects to sports (what electrolytes are, for example), to beauty (soap making and hair straightening), to explosives (the reaction of nitroglycerine), to cars (why different fuels react differently), and to anything that I know interests them.

It also means pointing out that even though most of the scientists we study are white men there were many others involved in the discovery of some of our concepts - Nagaoka theorizing the existence of the atomic nucleus, Meitner and Curie helping discover elements and radioactivity, the research currently ongoing in India, Japan, China, and many other countries.

I don't do a lot of moral teaching, I don't think. Partially because I don't always feel comfortable doing it, and partially because it often feels forced to include it in chemistry.

June 11, 2014

The dome's never looked so good

My summer job is traveling the country presenting week-long workshops for teachers (primarily science teachers) on behalf of the ASM Materials Educational Foundation. As such, I get to spend a couple of April days at the ASM headquarters in Materials Park, OH in a southeastern suburb (or maybe exurb, I'm not familiar with the area) of Cleveland.

This year we were up there just after ASM had announced their new logo. You can see it in the video up above, but here's a still of it...

It's a needed update from their older logo...

...and gives them an opportunity for some new branding, such as in their six posters that we were able to see sitting in the dome's employee lunch area...

None were ready for production while we were there. I know, because I asked. I particularly love that second one, with the tagline "Make big plans!" referencing a quote by architect Daniel Hudson Burnham:
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work.
It's a quote that is engraved on the Eisenman Fountain underneath the geodesic dome that rises above the ASM headquarters - and referenced in an editorial from Michael Connelly, one of the ASM trustees.

If you're ever in the area, stop by and check out the dome. It's a sight to see.

June 9, 2014

Did Bill Watterson see his shadow?

In case you haven't seen it all over the web, Bill Watterson poked his head above the surface of the Earth this past week, collaborating with Stephan Pastis, the author/artist of the entertaining Pearls Before Swine comic strip.

Pastsis waited - at Watterson's request - to reveal the collaboration on his blog until after the third of the Watterson-drawn strips had shown up in the funny pages. In the blog, he wrote (among a lot of other words which are well worth reading):
Let me tell you. Just getting an email from Bill Watterson is one of the most mind-blowing, surreal experiences I have ever had. Bill Watterson really exists? And he sends email? And he’s communicating with me?
Apparently - to the shock of us all - Watterson does, indeed, exist and sends email, though that's apparently the only technology he uses:
And this is when I found out that Bill Watterson is not comfortable with scanners or Photoshop or large email attachments. In fact, by the end of the process, I was left with the distinct impression that he works in a log cabin lit by whale oil and hands his finished artwork to a man on a pony.
Watterson did pop his head up in the recent year by drawing the poster for Stripped, a documentary about the comic strip industry - and to win the Grand Prix, but to get a series of three strips drawn by Watterson is a revelation for those of us who grew up loving Calvin & Hobbes.

Here's the first of the three strips, but you can see all six strips in the series (two introducing the Libby character) at this link.

They're pretty well perfect, and Pastis even referenced the final Calvin & Hobbes strip with the wrap up.

Thank you, Stephan Pastis...and for so many spectacular strips in your career, thank you Bill Watterson.