A new toy/to keep my head expanding

First, a request: someone (YouTube, listen up)  needs to develop a framework for displaying synchronous graphic data streams. I’m envisioning a thumbnail(s) embedded in main screen – clicking on a thumbnail embiggens it while returning whatever was on the main screen to thumbnail status. It would be nice for videos like those below and for something I’d like to mess with this summer – synchronous heads-up videos, GPS/map data and maybe even heart rate info from a bike ride.

I recently won a Parrot AR drone at a benefit auction. I’ve been wishing for one since discovering them on a gagdet blog last summer? fall? and the auction was too good a chance to miss. The drone is a quadcopter with 2 video cameras (forward-facing and down-facing) that feeds video to and is controlled by an iPod/iPhone/etc. There are good videos on the Parrot site showing how the control system works; I just wanted to mess around a bit with the 3rd party control app that allows one to record the video stream from the drone. Aside – why this is not part of the standard Parrot software is beyond me.

Here’s what an innocent bystander would see (the 1st minute is crap – I’m trying to set off a flash on the cell phone to act as a visual clap-board):

*

And here’s the view from the drone:

*

Finally, the theme song:

*

It’s an amazing little device – I may not have a jetpack, but…

 

Charismatic megafauna – six legged variety

More often than seems reasonable/random, the internet zeitgeist throws a number of seemingly unrelated references to an interesting topic my way. Today’s theme was robots; a couple weeks ago it was butterflies. The title of the post comes from a tweet from @debcha, “I often describe dragonflies and butterflies as the ‘charismatic megafauna’ of the insect world…” This post will be light on Odonata; expect loads of Lepidoptera.

First up, a book I had high hopes for: The Dangerous World of Butterflies, The Startling Subculture of Criminals, Collectors, and Conservationists.  Short version – I was disappointed. I found the book to be superficial, not very well written and more than a little narcissistic. I don’t know appreciably more about butterflies or butterfly conservation issues than I did before I picked the book up – there didn’t seem to be a thread tying things together or even relating one vignette to another (I’m thinking of Sy Montgomery’s Birdology as a polar opposite). There were tangents that I would have liked to have seen pursued: Laufer touches on the internal mechanisms of metamorphosis and moves on quickly saying, in effect, “it’s an area scientists are still investigating.” Interview a few more scientists? Try to do some science writing? The writing itself is a bit of an issue. It’s published by Lyons Press – if this is the current incarnation of Nick Lyons’ operation, I’m saddened. “And in a box padded with wads of tissue paper for padding…” Ouch. “Item: ‘Take the Lunesta 7-Night Challenge,’ offers an advertisement for a sleeping pill. A floating butterfly illustrates the ad.” The Lunesta (hmm, what might the root word be?) mascot is a large green night-flying lepidopteran. I wouldn’t give Laufer (and the Lyons editors) so much grief but a couple pages earlier he dismisses the other fliers, “I was not seeking dragonflies or even moths. My target was butterflies.” The situation is made even worse by the “Item:” immediately preceding, which mentions -wait for it- a Luna Moth! Sorry. Thumbs down.

*

Next on the bookshelf, Klea McKenna’s The Butterfly Hunter. Klea’s father, Terrence, collected butterflies in Southeast Asia and South America in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  The few words and many beautiful images in this book do much to illuminate the desire and the remorse of the hunter. Highly recommended – and Terrence deserves a series of posts as well.

*

*

*

From the emotional, we move to the practical. Way back at the beginning of the Lepidopteran info storm, @debcha twote a link to Mechanisms of structural colour in the Morpho butterfly. I remember reading a bit about Morpho color a long time ago in The Splendor of Iridescence, but it was a long time ago and retention is an issue. The linked article is technical, but interesting nevertheless.  There’s a cool interplay between structure and underlying color going on in a Morpho‘s wing – makes me want to watch some flutter about.

A side note – I think this xkcd applies pretty well to me (and @debcha thinks it might accurately characterize her as well).

*

And I’ll close out this already overlong post (tl;dr) with some amazing work. I’ve seen some of Paul Schmookler’s butterfly and full-dress Atlantic salmon fly pieces in person and they are stunning.

“An extraordinary display of butterfly and fly by Paul Schmookler, thought by many who have viewed this gifted American artist’s work to be the king of the ‘extreme’ full-dressed salmon fly. Measuring 17 1/2″ x 13″ overall, the gold painted wood frame houses two sunken mounts, the upper with an actual vibrant green/black Trogonoptera brookiana butterfly, a species native to Malaysia, and the lower, a striking 3 1/8″ salmon fly with corresponding colors. The remarkable fly is an original creation of Schmookler’s, tied for the consignor’s collection. In excellent condition throughout, signed on the bottom right. A rare opportunity to own an example of Schmookler’s genius with feather and thread, as this master tyer’s work seldom comes to auction.”

*

*

And one more fly – not butterfly-linked, but I can’t resist.

Lampwork insects

Let’s combine  two recent themes: internet-as-connection-engine and internet-as-repository-of-just-about-anything-imaginable! Last night Wesley Fleming favorited some of my photographs of the Blaschka’s work; as I always do, I backtracked to see what sorts of things he’d posted to Flickr. Turns out he’s an amazing lampworker himself. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that folks were still making lampworked representations of nature – my ex (among many artistic talents) made beautiful lampwork beads. I’ll put it down to the impossibility  of successfully thinking from a fire hose; there’s so much cool stuff going on that keeping up with all of it just ain’t going to happen.

Some of Mr. Fleming’s work:

We’ll start with a favorite – a leafcutter ant (timely, too – there’s been a link to a leafcutter nest casting and excavation making the rounds).

Atta (leafcutter ant)

*

Japanese Hornet.

Vespa mandarinia (Japanese hornet)

*

And a variety of stag beetle that’s, as far as I know, new to science, Lucanus alces – the Moose Beetle.

Lucanus alces (moose beetle)

*

It strikes me that thumbnail dart frogs might make good lampwork subjects. Quite a few of them have a very shiny, almost metallic, body color with dark spots or blotches seeming to float above in a separate layer.

Boardtrack moped and Rule 34

Here, here and here I went on about the possibility of an early racing motorcycle inspired moped. I should have known. I’d already figured out (second link) that is wasn’t an original idea – now I discover that there’s at least one forum with a section devoted to the notion. My peregrinations started at Ride the Machine, with a post that led to Boardtrack Builder, Tobias Björklund’s blog:

*

*

Which led to this build thread:

*

I very much like this picture (used for frame layout).

*

Which led to Halcyon Cycle Works, where one can get a frame, leaf spring fork or the whole enchilada:

*

First things first – I have a bicycle project (100% human power) to work on, but dreaming doesn’t cost a nickel. I wonder if there was a board track sidecar class…

A BLAST of Dazzle Camo

Via @roundmyskull, a post on a British dazzle camoufleur and Vorticist: Edward Wadsworth. The Design Student has indicated an interest in model building/painting (we’re going to ransack the house for his old Warhammer figurines – could be a nice side job); perhaps I should build a WWI ship model or 2 for him to dazzle up.

*

*

And a print from RISD’s dazzle plan collection. I reiterate – I need more wall space.

Three two-wheelers

If I do a three-fer on bikes, does that make it a tricycle post?

A nice old Mercian spotted at the Portsmouth Farmers Market:

*

Campy downtube shifters – the retro-grouch in me is well pleased.

*

A blast from the past logo (good memories):

*

The Mercian badge:

*

And a better version from elsewhere on Flickr:

Headbadge decal

*

My guess is that the pilots of these babies were next door at the coffee shop – getting their fill of hot drinks before the cool and breezy Halloween Parade.

*

Via Ride the Machine, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and the Simpson chain.

A draft:

via

The Guvnor Owner’s Club tells us the cyclist depicted is Jimmy Michael. Wikipedia’s entry on Michael includes this interesting bit:

His biggest engagement in Britain was the so-called Chain Race at Catford track in 1896. William Spears Simpson had invented the Simpson Lever Chain, which he was so insistent was an improvement over conventional chains that he staked part of his fortune on it.Pryor Dodge wrote:

“In the fall of 1895, Simpson offered ten-to-one odds that riders with his chain would beat bicyclists with regular chains. Later known as the Chain Matches, these races at the Catford track in London attracted huge crowds estimated between twelve and twenty thousand in June of 1896. Simpson’s team not only included the top racers – Tom Linton, Jimmy Michael, and Constant Huret – but also the Gladiator pacing team brought over from Paris. Pacers enabled a racer to ride faster by shielding him from air resistance. Although Simpson won the Chain Matches, they only proved that the Gladiator pacers were superior to their English rivals.[5]”

Michael was pitched against Charley Barden in the five-mile race. What happened next – indeed whether it happened in London or at another Chain Race in Germany – is now lost. But stories start with Michael taking a drink offered to him by Warburton[6] and end with his riding poorly to his falling off his bike, remounting and setting off in the wrong direction.[7] The one thing accounts agree on is that the crowd shouted “Dope!”[8]

Michael’s strange behaviour at this meeting, and his withdrawal, led him to accuse Warburton of doping him. Many rumours surrounded Warburton but none had been proven and he sued for libel.

*

And the approved ad – note the quints in the background and -I assume- pacing le Boulanger. Quads and quints were used for pacing before being supplanted by dernys.

via

*

The Simpson Lever Chain is a bit of oddness – equal parts unnecessary complication and perpetual motion machine. The chainwheel interface operates more or less conventionally, but the cog engages the top of the triangular link – thus the ‘leverage’?

The Simpson Chain, of which so much was heard at the last Stanley show and so little since, has entered the cycle field in a practical way through the medium of a company by whom it is to be promoted. Whatever may be its ultimate fate and merits it has friends and opponents whose views are as fervid as they are diverse. The Cyclist condemns it, denies the genuineness of the victories it undoubtedly has recently gained in contests and roundly contests its value. On the other band, so important and disinterested an organ as The Sporting and Dramatic News is one of the ardent supporters of its claims, says of it, that “There is nothing simpler than the Simpson chain, which can be applied to any safety cycle now in use at a very moderate cost.”*

A super secret preview of the KPK Wunderkammer

My partner in sciencecrime is pulling some of his collections out of mothballs and displaying same. We’re assembling quite an interesting little wunderkammer. I’m responsible for most things that respire, he for the things that don’t or have ceased to. The name we’ve assigned to the project is both a geologic descriptor and a mashup of our initials (the last K is for kolossal!!). I’m hoping to take a panorama shot in a bit, but for right now, a sneak peak:

The Hall of Local Skulls

*

The Hall of Porifera, Vespids and A Fish

*

Don Coyote

*

Lucy

*

Nepenthes truncata Paisan Highlands

*

“Atoms for Peas Piece Peace” Chemistry Set

*

The Siege Engine and Robot Annex

*

The Snowbird Ornithopter

Seems like it wasn’t all that long ago when any kind of human-powered flight was a very ambitious goal.

The Snowbird Human-Powered Ornithopter was designed and constructed by a team of students from the University of Toronto. On August 2nd 2010 it sustained level flight for 19.3 seconds, becoming the world’s first successful human-powered ornithopter.

*

More info at hpo.ornithopter.net.

Via a tweet from @bruces.

Yurt raising

Popped over to a yurt (ger) raising Tuesday. White Mountain Yurts were putting up a 24 footer not too far from work, so I did a quick lunchtime run.

The site is well back in the wood – maybe 800 feet from the pavement. There’s a trail leading back; you can get a pickup truck in, but I don’t think there’s going to be an eight car garage going up anytime soon (thumbs up).

*

Lattice wall, cable (transfers the roof load to the walls and keeps the roof/wall interface compressed – traditionally done by a woven band), crown/roof wheel and in the lower photo the roof wheel filler.

*

*

Lots of progress in the short time I was there.

*

And a picture of the finished product (via White Mountain Yurts’ FB page).


*

One possible plan I’m turning over in my mind for a few years down the road – big platform/deck with a bathhouse/kitchen/greenhouse hanging off one side and a yurt next to it as living space – maybe up (down) in Hancock or Washington counties (Maine).