Small Streams

Volvelle Possibilities
August 14, 2014, 4:08 am
Filed under: art, awareness, maps, math, media, toys, Uncategorized

Volvelle Possibilities

Just a little doodle to set me thinking. Even limiting myself to concentric circles for the most part, I kept coming up with possibilities for using Volvelles. I started with the idea of surveying what could be done with a circle and a pivot. Information can be obscured, indicated, or illuminated with a Volvelle. The second circle below could be a changing face. I’m not sure how you illustrate or derive a function with such a thing. But, like I say, “just a little doodle.” Transparent colored circles could illustrate combinations and layered traces could illustrate circuits. The final Volvelle on the bottom right plays with the idea of a spiral around a pivot, that is a turntable. Is the needle on the top or the bottom? Is there a needle guide? Maybe musicians could use them to demonstrate a musical passage. Just run an amplifying stylus through the grooves and you have yourselves a tune. 

The Gift of Science
December 6, 2013, 3:30 am
Filed under: business, education, math, mind, technology | Tags: , ,


I saw this lava lamp display at the V&A’s Museum of Science. Honest to Pete, I think there should be a whole room devoted to a lava lamp display. Who doesn’t love lava lamps? That and oil and glycerin on a projector, the psychedelic “wet show.” Maybe some polka dots and mirrors like the Mattress Factory‘s Yayoi Kusama installation.

The trick would be to create a room that excited the senses but didn’t make you physically ill.

If there’s any problem I have with lava lamps, it’s that science gift shops devote so much shelf space to them. Many science museums’ gift shops concentrate on the “ooh, shiny” distractions rather than objects that indulge people’s (not just children’s) love of the methods of science. I have to admit that people who run museum gift shops know more about what sells and what sells the experience.

If you’re just out for a happy trip, you don’t want to be scolded into homework at the end. No one likes to take a trip and bring home a memento that reminds them that they are not expanding their minds enough. So I really can’t advocate for a gift pack of Euclid’s Elements — though there are some great geometry puzzles that would make great gifts. The Science Museum does have a great book section and a lomography section and Technology Will Save Us shelves. When I was there last, they had someone demonstrating paper gliders.

I don’t expect science museums to check their impulse to cater to their audience any time soon. I just hope they can do more to indulge people’s desire to think about things. I will now stop ranting and leave you with the instructions for making your own lava lamp.

The British Library
October 26, 2013, 3:24 am
Filed under: drawing, eutechnics, math, observer, technology, Tourism | Tags: , ,


Yesterday I visited The British Library.

October 24, 2012, 3:51 pm
Filed under: education, math | Tags: , ,

Not unrelated to the Calcubot is the nomogram.


Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire
June 24, 2012, 8:53 am
Filed under: education, math, Uncategorized | Tags:

I will be applying to be an exhibit to Pittsburgh’s Mini Maker Faire. I hope you are, too. Here’s

a site that tells you how to make an interactive exhibit

20120624-141639.jpgMore evidence of my hackery, Calcubot Jr. I’m going to have to make measurements soon. Will have to go to school on Belsey’s Instructable.

Folding Paper
January 29, 2012, 8:45 pm
Filed under: art, math, research, technology, thinking | Tags:


Just finished watching Between the Folds, a gem of a documentary about origami. Lots of stuff about the art and science, the emotion and technique, and the history and trajectory of paper folding.

The documentary ends with a profile of MIT Professor Erik Demaine, who linkage computer maker Xiaoji Chen calls the “happiest genius in the world.”

I can see how one enthusiasm leads to another for Demaine: math, paper folding, genetics, and glass blowing — well, I’m not sure how the glass blowing fits in . . . but Demaine says it’s all about having fun. Maybe fun will lead to a cure for cancer as Demaine and others figure out how and why proteins fold, or maybe to nano computers in space.

I guess I should fold some paper while I’m inspired, but I’m more interested in approximating logarithms with musical scales.

Slide Rules
January 21, 2012, 8:43 am
Filed under: education, math, thinking | Tags: ,

Went to hear Doug present on how to use a slide rule at HackPgh last night. 20120121-084355.jpg

I found out how to use the scales for finding squares, square roots, cubes and cubed roots. I also learned that with the bigger slide rules there is no end of exponentiation.

I’m most interested in slide rules with elliptical functions. Pictured is a specialty slide rule for doing duct work.