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Rube Goldberg

Posted by tigerhawkvok on July 29, 2009 19:59 in lhs , teaching

So for the past month or so I've been teaching summer camps again at the Lawrence Hall of Science, and I thought I'd put up last week's group's final Rube Goldberg project with the Lego Mindstorms kit:

They got really close, and if they had 30 more minutes I think they could have pulled it off, but getting that far in about 5 hours total is pretty impressive.

On an aside, for anyone that wants to embed YouTube code that doesn't use that pesky, invalid "<embed>" tag:

<object width="500" height="405" data='EMBED_URL' type="application/x-shockwave-flash">
<param name="movie" value="EMBED_URL_AGAIN"></param>
<param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param>
<param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param>
</object>

Remember to escape ampersands (&) in the URL with "&amp;". This method is verified to work on Safari, Firefox, Chrome, IE6+, and Opera.

Websites & Evolution

Posted by tigerhawkvok on August 02, 2008 18:32 in computers , lhs , evolution

Wow, I didn't think I hadn't updated in a month. I've not even updated LJ much. I suppose I've actually been a bit busy. The macro site is getting along quite nicely. I'm a fair way into it, but certainly not done. Much of my work has been directed at building the collapsing, (soon to be) pop-outable phylogenetic tree and navigation, as well as the live-preveiwing contribution page. With this site, I've gotten a lot more up-to-date in my knowledge of CSS and its failing across browsers, particularly in implementation of psuedo-elements, floats, and CSS3.

Meanwhile, my work for LHS has been coming to a head. I start teaching Adapt or Die next week, which has been intense to gather all this information, make sure I'm up-to-date, and marshal it down into what a 4th or 6th grader can understand. Of course, much comes in the way of actual live critters, and some in the way of games, etc. Here, intrepid reader, I give you a tiny preview: an evolution game that will, over the course of six disasters, give you a feel for how evolution works. Some weird things get put in, some "good" things get taken out, and all in all, you get something that works better than its competition but is by no means perfect. Rob, Alyssa, and I tested this, and it seems that about 3/4 of the population has gone extinct every 3 rounds or so, which can lead to population bottlenecking (sound familiar?) if too small a playgroup is used. I reccommend at least six. Also along the LHS lines, I provide you with a graphical tree of life!

Graphical Tree of Life (click for 32 MB PDF)

Its admittedly weak in places, and doesn't show all kinds of interesting diversity points I feel its most notable in Carnivora, Afrotheria, Metatheria, and Perissodactyla, but I'm a tetrapod man. I know it lacks in Dinosauria, but only so much one can put in with images. Also lacking is inverts (using the paraphyletic definition here), rather obscenely actually. Still, impressive looking.  Catch: most CGI images are screens from BBC's "Walking with" series.  I think this is still fair use, but just a noteworthy caveat.  The other images are either my own or Wiki images from the appropriate articles, with a slew of CC variants.

Now, I will try to update at least once a week, and include an intersting science or technology tidbit each time. So, let's go ahead and start high-rolling. Science has a rather interesting tidbit about snake fangs this week, in which analysis shows that that advanced (Caenophidian) snakes have their various fang morphologies derived from a rear-fanged ancestor. The nifty part? Selective expression of the "sonic hedgehog" gene (shh) relating to the anterior development of the maxilla meant the fangs moved effectivley forward, giving the "front-fanged" appearance of Viperids & Elapids, but these front fangs are actually the rear fangs -- and this single change was utilized twice! Cool stuff.

Now, lets see if I actually follow through with these updates ...

Hawai'i, Move, and Internet

Posted by tigerhawkvok on June 08, 2008 14:10 in General , kepler , computers , lhs

Having just returned from a trip to Hawai'i, I would very strongly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about going -- O'ahu in particular is a beautiful island, and the ocean is beautiful. I've uploaded many photos to my Flickr page, should anyone be curious.

Tomorrow I return to Berkeley via Amtrak. Thankfully, there are power cords -- I fully intend on working more on sauropods and doing some course outlining for the LHS Adapt or Die camp. Later this month, I will talk with Jim, Kevin, and Gibor about recommendations; and, around August, if things go well, I will talk to Erica about recommendations as well.

What will be irritating about the next few days is lack of internet -- its not getting activated until the 12th, which, needless to say, is painfully long from now. I suspect much of my days will be spent setting up the new place, but if I have down time, I will see about working on the stellar models from the UGAstro room in Campbell. I have a few colortable ideas, and in addition I will probably rewrite some of the interface when I get it done in my head. No use having so many programs to call and save files when you can do it better internal to one program or by passage of variables. Relying on saving of structures almost obviates their use.

It really is strking how internet dependant everything is nowadays -- my work with Kepler is strictly network based, and I rely on the internet to keep copies and synchronized versions of my biomechanics work across multiple computers. No internet will be hard, indeed.