Book review 12) Thing Explainer

Hi,

Cover of the book Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe is a great guy. Creator of XKCD (totally free nerd comics) and the author of What If which you can also read on the internet maybe only some parts… Now one day about two weeks ago I noticed in our school library that they bought his “new” book Thing Explainer. I wanted to buy it earlier but I found out that it costs like almost two new books and was quite discouraged (and I did not have the money anyway). So for some reason the people in the library bought it and I have read it in few days.


Book: Thing Explainer

Author: Randall Munroe

Genre: Science

Pages: dunno

Rating: 10/10


Thing Explainer is a book that explaines complicated stuff in simple words, simple means ten hundred most used words. Great idea I admit. Randall says that when he was younger he purposefully used complicated words so that nobody thought about him, that he did not know them, but in this book he does not need to care about it.

Inside you can find explanations of: Saturn V (Up Goer Five), Keyhole (Shape Checker), Periodic table, Sun, Washing maschine, Car and many many more. There are I think two or three double pages which extend the books already giantic size to double and the page about Skyscraper (Sky toucher) is of the format A2

1000 words is not much. Most technical terms do not exist and even if you know them IRL (in real life) you may find yourself wondering what some things mean. “Fire water” took me some time indeed. Or helium is “kind of air that makes your voice funny”.

Basically there is no objection from me, hopefully the author will write 2nd part since there is lot of stuff outhere that still needs to be covered!


Here is in the same style Einstein and Theory of Relativit explained.
Here is Up Goer Five.

This video is from Minute Physics about getting to space:

Dragallur

Do we see in 3 dimensions?

Hi,
its been quite long time since I wrote about dimensions. Just a quick recap since people do not click on links much: 0th dimension is point, 1st dimensions is line, 2nd dimension is plane and 3rd dimension is space. We are talking about spatial dimensions, another thing is atime dimension, but that is not important here.


So I got into this argument if humans see in 3 dimensions or not, I got no clear conclusion though so I am just going to discuss it here. We live in 3 spatial dimensions, proof, cubes exist. How do we see though? We can see cubes but I would argue that we see in 3rd dimension.

  1. Retina does not capture depth, it is 2 dimensional detector so we simply can not have a 3 dimensional vision.
  2. We have two eyes though, lot of people seem to like to point this out. With second eye you have what is called a stereoscopic vision.. the second eye has little bit different point of view and when brain combines it stuff gets depth. This does not mean that we see in 3D though. Still it is just two 2 dimensional pictures put together. Brain interprets this picture as 3 dimensional and based on experience judges distance. Also colors and shades can help us with that.

    File:3D stereoscopic projection icositetrachoron.PNG

    This is stereoscopic picture, disalign your eyes and match the pictures so you see 3 of them.

  3. You can draw anything you see on piece of paper and it will be exact representation of what you see, all angles same and so on. This I think would be impossible if you actually wanted to transfer 3D image to 2D plane because by definition 3D space is made up of infinite 2D planes put on top of each other. Same as you can not take infinite picture and store it in 1D line.
  4. If we could see in 3D we would see all angles as they actually are. If you look into corner you do not see 90° angles though because you remember the way that walls work you know that they are there.

Thats about the arguments I have, hope you enjoyed reading,

Dragallur

Sunset elevator

Hi,
today I will write about one particular physics problem that I was solving during weekend. It was pretty hard, but quite interesting set-up. (It is originally from Czech physics seminar called Fykos)


You and your boyfriend/girlfriend are sitting on a beach watching sunset. Luckily you are prepared to extend the romantic moment with elevator that will drive upwards. How fast does it need to drive for you two to be able to watch sunset continously?

Normally sunset related problems are about plane or car driving and how fast does it need to be for you to watch sunset all the time. That is freakin’ easy because you just need to drive at the speed that the Earth turns in your place. For Prague this is roughly 300m/s which is about the speed of sound.

This problem is way more unique. I do not know if my solution is correct since the people from seminar did not release solutions yet.

Basically you are standing on top of circle that is rotating at 300 m/s or also 0.00417°/s. You are soon leaving place from which you could see the sunset so you need to go up. The problem is that you are not actually going directly upwards to this place but as Earth turns your elevator rises in a line perpendicular to tangent of Earth at your paricular location, check out this desmos graph which helped me a lot to understand it (my creation): https://www.desmos.com/calculator/oftnm48s3b

Here is a picture though it is better to go on the original link which is very interactive:

(Check out complete end of post for explanation of picture) What does it mean for you in practice? In one hour you will be going almost 100 m/s. After 6 hours you will certainly be dead because the acceleration will kill you. At this point Earth would still be bigger on the sky though you would already be 500,000 kilometers away. After another three minutes from what I have considered last time you would be almost 3 million kilometers away and Sun and Earth would be the same size, at this point you would also ride in 1/3 of speed of light. But this journey still continues. After another 13 seconds you would go faster than the speed of light with acceleration of 14 km/s. There is not much time left but lets see.. 10 million kilometers would be reached by next 9 seconds. 5 seconds later you would go in freakin 10 million kilometers per second if it would be possible. One second before the journey would end you would reach 0.5 of AU. Soon after you would divide by zero which is dangerous[1]. After exactly 21600 seconds which is 1 quarter of day your elevator is perpendicular to this horizon, which sucks.

I bet your girlfriend/boyfriend would not be so happy about this trip though the first few hours would be amazing.

Dragallur

Explanation: black circle is Earth. Green line is elevator that with you turns left, after 21600 it will go 90 degrees. Red dot is the spot where you need to be in order to see sunset. Blue line is the original horizon.

[1]Do not be discouraged by only 0.5 AU. In the next mili and microseconds you would whizz through whole Milky Way and Observable universe as you would reach infinite speed.

Why do stars twinkle (and planets not)?

Hi,
I felt so embarassed that I finally had to find it out and now I am writing this short post about it. For few years, roughly, I am studying astronomy yet, I never knew why stars twinkle and planets not. I confess.


Stars twinkle because the light that reaches us goes through atmosphere and atmosphere is not very homogenous – smooth. Air refracts light and there is different temperature once in a while, humidity and so on, I think that lot of factors play the role. This causes the light of star to scatter a bit and creates the twinkling effect.

Planets do not do it. This is great because you can identify them extremely fast on the sky and you do not mistake them for some other bright star. Why? Their light still goes through atmosphere. Because they are not “point sources”. Stars are so far away that even with best telescopes we see them only as points. Planets with simple telescope on backyard already have shape. Some of their light scatters one direction, some the other and it basically cancels out creating nice image. This is also why it is better to go star-gazing in the winter, colder air does not create so much “noise” on the picture.

Dragallur

Why golden trash bins do not help (modern equipment in schools)

Hi,
(few days back) I am sitting in a classroom, slightly bored by the teacher saying what I heard the day back. After few minutes I am being offered to do experiments alone. I agree with the hope that it is going to be more fulfilling. Instead of getting full access to the laboratory[1] I sadly accept white box, aka trash bin.

https://www.fdgate.com/photo-2/high-school-physical-optical-experiments-box-experiment-box-lens-optical-instrument-physics-experiment-equitment-m-0915.jpg

This is kind of similar, the fact that it is chinese[2] kind of fits the situation since my german is not so good yet.


Such a box contains “scientific” equipment for the study of electro-magnetism. This consists of few cabels, power source, resistors, capacitors, all properly laid on green boards. Function generator, some frequency and amplitude thing, two coils, magnet and some stuff to hold it together. This is probably almost perfect list of things that costs the school hunderds of dollars. I took it with the manual that contained roughly 15 experiments and decided to do one of them. I put components together as it said, found out the thing it said I am supposed to find out, it gave me the formulas to calculate it.. that is all.

So now the rant against these boxes (thrash bins as my host-brother pointed out).
The problem is that such a box with set up equipment and set up experiments does not enhance any creativity in students. Especially building circuits could be one of the cool things where you try what happens when you connect this and that. That is probably the biggest problem, you can just follow some manual and not understand what is going on. Also these components are totally dependant on each other and you can use only this box alone, there is no room for expansion or only limited. Not speaking about the cost, there is another trash bin like this for 800 euro. It had wagon, line on which the wagon could drive, two movement sensors and some things to hold it together and so on. We used it during physics class to demonstrate Newton’s 2nd law (F=ma). It took so much time to set it up, to measure it all to 3 decimal places. Actually it took 90 minutes and we did not get even to the formulation of the law. People were bored and I bet that if you asked half of them what was this whole about they would not have a clue.

This is modern equipment.. and it is useless. If they bought separate components boards to built circuits on, they even have those in the school but they are not used anymore. These days teachers probably think that they can not get better with chalk and a board.

Dragallur

[1] I do not think it would be a good idea to let me there alone though I go there anyway every monday with my host-brother.

[2] I do not know if it is chinese.

Eating the spiciest natural chilli

Hi,
last Sunday I was at neighbors with my host family for dinner. We ate some pumpkin soup and then I noticed these nice small peppers piled up in the bowl. Already I heard that it is not good to put them in your food so I decided to take it as challenge and take one. People at the table noticed and warned me that I probably do not want to eat it. I was soon persuaded not to take it and rather wanted my host brother to try it and see how it goes.

Yup, this is what it looks like.

“These peppers are the spiciest natural growing peppers.”
“Oh, ok then.”

He said that he is going to split with me. I finally agreed and stuffed half of the pepper into my mouth with some milk next to me and bread with thick layer of “Philadelphia”

https://i2.wp.com/groceries.iceland.co.uk/medias/sys_master/root/h8e/h01/8830465802270.jpg

This is called lifesaver.

After few bites it started to burn a lot. It is quite nasty but the real pain came when I swallowed for the first time. When it hurts in the mouth you can just calm it with bread as it touches the sides of your mouth but when you throat starts to burn it is way more difficult. In something like 15 minutes it was over. Not so much because of pain but simply the pepper, I cried a lot but hey it was quite interesting.

If you decide to try it out, there is one thing to keep in mind. The pepper is going to burn more than one time, actually it might burn three times.. you will know what I mean after you eat it 😉


Anyway there is a chart called Scoville scale, I thought I already wrote about it but then could not find it so here you go.

Spicy peppers have inside neurotransmitter called capsaicin. It fakes your feeling as it bounds on the nerves that are responsible for you to experience heat. Capsaicin is not solluable in water which explains why it wont help you to drink it when you eat something spicy. Milk is better and dairy products generally help. HCl of course helps too.

Capsaicin itself has 16 million points on Scoville scale which is about 8 times as much as the spiciest pepper which is right now Carolina Reaper with individuals well over 2 million. The pepper that I was eating is 1.5 million almost (which is average) and it is called Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper.

Dragallur

Jerks are even in physics

Hi,
the title is a pun. There are probably jerks yes, but what I want to talk about is physical unit[1] called jerk, it is named like this because jerk not only means, idiot or stupid, but also to move suddenly, because of surprise.


It will be nice, if we first recall that derivation describes the rate of change of something. For example, speed is the first derivative of position because speed describes the rate of change of position, the higher the speed the more position changes!

{\boldsymbol {v}}=\lim _{{\Delta t}\to 0}{\frac {\Delta {\boldsymbol {x}}}{\Delta t}}={\frac {d{\boldsymbol {x}}}{d{\mathit {t}}}}.

1st derivation of position “compared” to time

In the picture above you can see how speed is defined compared to position (x) and time (t). It is its derivative as I said before. Now of course you can define something, that describes how velocity changes over time. That is called acceleration.

\mathbf {a} ={\frac {d\mathbf {v} }{dt}}={\frac {d^{2}\mathbf {x} }{dt^{2}}}

Again, “d” simply means derivation and when it is “squared” it means that you need to derive it twice. Acceleration describes, how velocity changes over time.

This is all you might need for daily life. Of course though, scientists defined next derivations, the change of acceleration in time is called jerk. The change of jerk is called jounce the change of jounce is crackle, next follows pop and then possibly lock, drop, shot and put. The SI units of all of these time, position related things are similar. With each derivation you add one to exponent of time.

v=m/s¹
a=m/s²
j=m/s³

and so on..

Just to remind you, if you have lets say “pop”, which is 6th derivation, of 10 m/s^6 you will have a tremendous speed extremely fast. From this next equation it should be pretty clear:

{\displaystyle {\vec {r}}={\vec {r}}_{0}+{\vec {v}}_{0}\,t+{\frac {1}{2}}{\vec {a}}_{0}\,t^{2}+{\frac {1}{6}}{\vec {\jmath }}_{0}\,t^{3}+{\frac {1}{24}}{\vec {s}}_{0}\,t^{4}+{\frac {1}{120}}{\vec {c}}_{0}\,t^{5}+{\frac {1}{720}}{\vec {p}}\,t^{6}}

The power of the higher derivations is that the exponent does extreme changes in a moment. r is the position, v speed, a acceleration… p is pop and t is time.

This is probably not used much, if at all, even in engineering.. but hey, fun!

Dragallur

[1]It is not a unit. It is physical quantity or something like that. I do not really know how it is called in english.

How long is a year actually?

Hi,
today I will write about a year. The thing is that as in many other subjects when you look down into the simplest things you might find that they are not as simple as they seem. So how long is year? 365 days? 366 days?


You very well know that every 4 years we have 1 extra day in February. You might also know that this is because year is not 365 days long exactly but roughly 365.25 .. its important to say roughly because it is not perfectly true and it matters how you define one year.

First lets see how we define one day. One would say that it is the time that it takes for Earth to rotate once. Problem is that we need to define some object to compare it to, some ground, some reference point. It might be the Sun, but Sun is too close and since we go around it, this would change the length of the day.

Sidereal day is the day that is defined as a rotation of Earth around its axis compared to very distant stars that are relatively stable. 23.9344699 hours… that is pretty close to 24 that we use, but it is not what we use.

The thing is that we decided to use what is called solar day, which is in fact compared to Sun. As Earth rotates around its axis, it also rotates around Sun, which makes the solar day different length.

This is how the effect looks like. You need to turn Earth n.2 by little bit more since it moved around the Sun too.

Problem is that the length of solar day changes since our orbit is sligthly elliptical and when we are closer to Sun we are faster which means that the solar day is shorter and there is more time needed for the same spot to face Sun again. This effect adds up to almost 365.25 solar days in a year. If it was so simple we could just add one leap day every 4 years to make up this 0.25 difference but it is actually 0.242181 which makes difference over time.

 

Julian calender ran with 0.25 for a long time but after about 1500 years it was already 10 days behind of the real date and Christians wanted to predict Easter exactly so they changed on Gregorian calendar. This calendar is the same, except that if the year is divisible by 100 it wont be a leap year, though if it is also divisible by 400 it will be a leap year. This almost fixes the problem, though every 3216 years one day is still off from the real time. Yup. Check out this video to see how we can improve this slight mistake:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkt_wmRKYNQ

So thats it. But you can not really capture the length of year or day since it changes all the time (effect of other planets and what happens on Earth). Check out this video which I used mostly as a source, it has got cool animations that will help you understand it:

Dragallur

Solution to 12 coins balance problem

Hi,
in the last post I described this cool balance problem with 12 coins where one of them is false one (heavier or lighter than others). You are allowed to weight them 3 times to find out which one of them it is and if it lighter or heavier.


The hint that I gave you is to separate them on 3 groups of 4 coins. Otherwise it is not possible to solve it. For the first one there are two options as you weight 4 coins against 4 coins.

If the outcom is even it goes as follow:

  1. If nothing happens the 4 coins that you have not used must have the false one. Now this is quite tricky. You have probably come out to this part but you have to use all the facts that one weighting will get you as you will see. If something goes down, it is good to know it and vica versa.
    1. a) Now you know that the rest of the coins (4) have to have the false one since it was even. You take one away and put the three against 3 that you are sure about (you have 8 of those). If it is even you know that it is the last coin and you just weight it against one of those normal ones to see if it is lighet or heavier. If you find out that one of the three has to be false you will remember if they were heavier or ligher. Then you take two of them and weight them against each other. The one that did the same thing like in the last weighting is the false one. (If in the 3 vs 3 it was heavier you are searching for the heavier side again.) If they are even you know that it is the last one.
  2. Now it can also happen that one side from the first weighting is heavier than the other. All of the 8 coins are unknown but you can use the fact that one went down and the other up so you need to remember that fact. You also need the 4 coins that you know must be all ok. Put three of those on the “lighter” part. From the lighter part move three original to “heavier” part and from there away three.
    1. b) The easiest thing is when the heavier part is again heavier. Then it has to be one of the original coins from both side which are only 2. You weight one of them against any other coin to get the result.
    2. b) If the part that was heavy is lighter this time, one of the three coins that you moved from lighter to heavier last time must be the wrong one. It is also lighter as you know. Weight two of them against each other. If they balance it is the third one if they do not it is the lighter part.
    3. b) If they balance it must be one of the three coins that we removed completely. We use the procedure described in the last post to find the solution, it is heavy coin then.

Now that is for solution. It is not easy to come up with it and there are some even more difficult versions. Thanks for reading and thanks to Wikipedia for the solution.

Dragallur

12 coins balance problem

Hi,
today, in this short post I want to show you this cool puzzle that I first encountered on my summer camp. The problem goes like this:


You have got 12 coins. One of them may be false one. You can not know by looking but you have a balance weights. You are allowed to use it 3 times and find out which one of the coins is heavier or lighter (you do not know and it might happen that none is).

I really recommend you to try it out. I almost had a solution though when I checked it I saw that I had mistake in one of the scenarios. Try it out for yourself and in next post I will reveal the solution.

Dragallur

HINT BELOW:

 

Try to take first step of weighting 4 coins against 4 coins, it will help you 😉