Log in

No account? Create an account

Matt's Blog

A Most Stupendous & Audacious Undertaking

Adventures on aerial dance equipment
Long time no blog.  I've been busy with an engaging combination of work, adventures, and relationships.  However, I think it's important to document and share my life as I go.  It gets my head out of the minutiae of the day-to-day and helps me think about the longer term.


The innovative dance troupe Capacitor opened their studio for their fans to play on their aerial dance equipment.  They also sold off a bunch of their old costumes for cheap.  The end result was a lot of fun, a playground for adults.  The rock climbing muscles certainly came in handy.

Playing on Capacitor's dance equipment  Playing on Capacitor's dance equipment

If you get the chance to see them live, you should.  The leader of the troupe does a great job of creating innovative devices that allow new kinds of movement, and then getting some very talented dancers to exploit the equipment to its fullest potential. 

I also now own a pink salmon unitard and some shiny blue pants.  Huzzah!

Realities of physics we don't normally think about
Right now, you're sitting on a thin solid creme brulee crust of a few miles of sturdy rock.  Below that is thousands of miles of squishy-to-liquid rock, a vast, extremely hot rock ocean.  The Earth's core has been hot for billions of years, and will likely not cool down before our sun burns out.  Large reservoirs of heat are very slow to cool.  The engineers at Hoover Dam realized that they would need to embed cooling pipes throughout the dam or it would take close to 100 years for the concrete in the dam to cool.  Hoover Dam is, of course, far smaller than the Earth's core.

Because the crust is thin but the core is molten, the pieces of crust shift around from time to time, causing earthquakes.  When this shift happens underwater, the effect is not unlike moving your leg around in a bathtub or tossing a stone in a pond.  The Pacific Ocean is really just a very big bathtub, and sloshing around in that bathtub will lead to ripples slapping against the edge.

It ends up looking like this:

I will say that I'm really impressed by what I can see of Japan's preparedness and response to the disaster.  Without good building codes, early-warning systems, and education about tsunamis, the death toll could easily have been 10-20x higher, as it was in Indonesia in 2004.

How our minds estimate the scale of scenes
It's amazing how much our vision can be fooled by lack of adequate contextual cues when looking at an image.

This really looks like a bunch of toy cars and airplanes that some kids accidentally left on a beach.

Toy cars and airplanes left on a beach

Because our minds aren't used to seeing scenes like this at full scale, there's a prior probability on the scale the leads us to think that we're looking at a bunch of toy cars.  I'm trying hard to intuitively see it as full scale, but it's just not happening. 

Not-Ephemerisle Platform Test Build
We're working on a design for a shared community platform for Ephemerisle 2011. 

The platform needs to be:
- Final size around 20x20ft
- Transportable in a compact way, with pieces that can be handled by a pair of people. 
- Assemblable piece by-piece while standing on the assembled portion. 
- Not a lot of work... anything we do at a single module will have to be repeated several times. 

After much discussion we tried out a couple of designs. 

In one design, we simply have two layers of overlapping plywood offset by 2ft in x and y directions.  (our test just offset it in x, and was half size)  Each module can slide onto another one in the water.  Bins are attached on the bottoms, and a heavy grade construction bag is used to keep water out of the bin.  The bin lids are screwed to the bottom of the wood, allowing us to snap on the bins on-site.

Platform test build  Platform test build 
Platform test build  Platform test build
Platform test build

On-water assembly of the two pieces:

Platform test build  Platform test build

We also tried an alternate design, attaching 2x4 beams to the module instead of doing a second layer.  The larger-scale assembly pattern for this setup is unclear, but it did improve stability to have a thicker cross-beam.

Platform test build

Early findings:
- 1/2" plywood is too flimsy, and we'll likely need to move up to 3/4" in order to get the right amount of sturdiness.
- It's debatable what density of people we'll need to support, but it seems like 8 14-gallon bins per 4x8 section is not enough.  It supports 3 people on a 4x8 module, but 4 is hairy.  Unfortunately, that's all we can squeeze in with the current bin design.  In order to get really good flotation, we'll need to find a deeper bin.

Want to help out?  There are still several design iterations left! 

Here's where we need help:
- We need a vehicle that can easily handle 4x8ft sheets of plywood
- We need a storage site where we can store the 6x10ft modules
- We need to find a sturdy, cheap bin with a depth of greater than 12 inches. 
- We need to iterate and refine the design.
- We'll need builders and on-site assemblers when the time comes. 

If you're interested, let us know