Martial Science

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“Magical” Pencil Balancing

I have heard a quote going around lately that says something along the lines of “the difference between science and just screwing around is weather or not you have someone writing it down.” I find this quote to be oddly satisfying because it accurately represents what I do on a daily basis. I spend a lot of time learning through experimentation and screwing around, and it is a jolly good time!

However, today I will not be screwing around, but instead I will be doing actual science by writing it down. In my English class, I found that by bending a piece of paper by just a bit I can give that paper enough stiffness to hold up two pencils by their little tabs. What made me so proud of this little structure is that I actually knew a bit of the martial physics at play here even though I did not actively recognize them.

One of my mentors in robotics, Mr. Coulombe (only one letter away from the name of the Law!) works as a programmer and structural engineer, and it his jobs to run massive computer simulations of individual atoms in materials acting upon each other. He is the smartest person I know, and has given me the honor of having mini-lessons on this particular science.

Basically, to make this work I had to slightly alter the martial properties of the paper so the paper would stand up on its own. When a piece of paper comes out of the factory, the cellulose molecules that compose it form a fairly imperfect lattice. By rolling the paper into a circle and back out again, I was working out those imperfections so that the lattice would slowly become more and more perfect. This causes the paper to become more and more brittle (and less ductile), and this brittleness makes the paper tend to form in a certain shape that is more stiff than otherwise. Because the paper rests in a stiffer and curved shape, it is able to be put onto its side without falling over. In addition, the added brittleness allows the paper to support slighly more weight before it starts to fail. This extra ability to bear weight allowed me to place the two pencils onto the paper without the paper caving in on itself.

However, the paper’s ability to hold the pencils weight is only one part of the mechanics at play here. The other part can be assessed by asking: How does the weight from the pencils not cause the structure to fall over? The answer to this question is far more simple, as it has to simply do with the idea of center of mass and the position of the pencils. In the picture, the pencils can be seen to be on the inside part of the curved paper. This would typically case the paper to fall in the same direction that the more massive part of the pencil is on, but it does not do this due to the support given by the outer parts of the paper curved in the same direction that the pencils are applying the sideways force. The pencils are safe on the inside of the curve, but would cause the paper to top if they were on the outside of the curve.

The application of the rules at play here go beyond balancing pencils on pieces of paper; they are used in architecture, mechanical engineering, and even aviation. By learning and applying the knowledge science has recorded, humanity had engineered the most amazing devices that are taken for granted every day.

Memories

From the little evidence I can gather on this subject, I have concluded that my childhood was not as eventful as the ones of my peers. My mom tells me that I was later than my brother and sister to develop speech. My brother and sister started to talk in complete sentences when they were two years old (and never shut up after that), but I took an additional year to start talking in the same way. This is probably due to the close relationship that the three of us had at the time, as while they talked I observing the sort of things they did. I never needed to talk because they were so good at spotting the indicators for my needs before I said anything about them. They noticed what sorts of toys I played with, and whenever I seemed to be searching around aimlessly they would know what I was doing and speak for me.

However, what made my need to speak even lesser was the incredible level of independence all three of us possessed when we grew up. Whenever we had a problem to overcome, whether it was a need, social conflict, or even a physical barrier, we had, and still do have, a unique ambition to overcome it ourselves rather than seek the assistance of our parents. Overcoming challenges mattered to us as kids, and despite all the reasons I now know that motivate me to do that I do not know why I did it as a kid.

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When I was about four or five, I remember being particularly hungry on a Saturday afternoon. My mom was out of the house, and my dad was out mowing the lawn. While four-year-old Ben easily could have gone outside to ask for some lunch, climbing up the refrigerator door to drink some chocolate syrup flavoring made much more sense to me. My parents felt so proud of my new-found independence and ability to access the fridge that they did not even bother to ground me for it. Journeying through my childhood gave me independence that allowed me to endeavor school in a manner that makes me appreciate my education, and my parents were very lain back when it came to me overcoming bigger and bigger challenges. While the did step in when things got too serious, most of the time they let me figure out my own solutions, and that is a skill that everyone should be given the opportunity to grow up with.

Central Nine Adventures

My Central Nine experience can be summarized with one experience I have had with one fellow classmate named Luke. Leading up to this experience Luke had always asked me for help. Every time he asks for help he yells “Ben, help me!”, and I am forced to simply say “No”. After all, I have to get my own classwork done as well as him, but one day he stopped asking me for help. When I came to notice this I looked at my surroundings to find out why; It turns out that my buddy Talmage was playing a word typing game with him.

Their word typing game was a heated battle of glory. Their Words Per Minute counters were up and around 60. At first, I did not really care about their battles, I only cared about the nice peace and quit it gave me from the “Ben, help me!” interjections. However, after a few minutes there was a new disturbance in the area. Talmage had beaten Luke in the battle and Luke got triggered by this. Even now, typing that line triggers him because he refuses to accept my documentation of these events. This once peaceful typing competition had turned into a brutal testosterone fueled yelling match.

It did not take long for our teacher to break up the conflict. However, rather than doing anything about it administratively our teacher let them suffer through their in class assignments, and no “Ben, help me!” interjections were permitted. All of our class work is done in class, and those two had just wasted much of their time when they could have been doing their work. The moral of this story? Do not waste your ego on small unimportant things such as typing games while you have bigger goals that you should be focusing on.

My Rig

I am the sort of person who loves video games. In fact, I spent the greater part of a year working on saving up money to build a gaming PC. This was a unique experience for me because I had never dedicated to a project of this scale before. First, I had to spend a few months working to save the money I needed for the computer. Once I had done that, I had to pick out the parts I wanted and make sure those parts were all compatible. Then I had to go though the painstakingly long process of assembling and troubleshooting the machine.

However, once my work was all said and done, the product was amazing. The computer I built ended up something that would cost about three times as much if I had decided to buy it from a retail vendor. Knowing that my project beat most other options in both price and effectiveness made me feel like what I was doing was impressive, and I learned a lot by doing it. I know in the future I will see that DIY is not a scary option, but rather it is an opportunity to do something that most people cant just buy in a store somewhere and be left with a worse product.

Today, I use my computer for more than just gaming. I use it for Computer Aided Drafting, video editing, and as a general workstation for very computationally intensive tacks. In robotics, using the Computer Aided Drafting software that I have assists me in making parts with significantly more accuracy and significantly less faults, and that alone makes the thing worth carrying back and forth from robotics. The value of the computer’s work is far greater than the cost that it took to build it in the first place, and I’m glad I did.

The Vulnerability of Expression

 

Listening to this TED talk made me question a current trend that has been creeping around social media that has me slightly worried. Ill see many valid ideas that I agree with being spread around, but those ideas will be linked to the wrong words. The separation of the words “sex” and “gender” is a prime example of this. Before the big boom for equal rights of LGBT hit, “gender” had a specific meaning to biological and linguistic traits of word or being, but now it is being used to refer to something for which there already exists a word. In this instance, the meaning of “gender” has replaced “representation”.

This TED talk gives me the same feeling. I feel like “vulnerability” has replaced “expression”. All of the times she refers to herself as being vulnerable, you could easily just replace that statement to regard expression instead. It’s not that I disagree with anything that she is saying, it’s that I feel her made her point confusing by not referring to what she means to say properly.

With that out of the way, I also want to express that I fail to empathize with her on the difficulty of expression. In recent years, I have come to the realization that people hardly judge you for being expressive. Instead, people tend to applaud expressionism because of the interest in provides them. I like to think of an extreme example of expressionism as going out into the middle of a city, and fining a public area to start paining a canvas in. You might feel strange randomly creating a painting in the middle of a city, but people walking by you will be interested. It’s not every day they get to see someone doing that, and I’m certain most of them would not look down upon you for doing that.

This example seems extreme, but it does work in most social situations. If you be expressive and talk to someone about something interesting, the worst that can happen is that they might not care. If they don’t care,then  that’s fine, as that topic might just not be there cup of tea. It is rare for an individual to reject expressionism and look down upon it, and I can only say that I am sorry for the kind of person who does not like the things that bring joy to life.

Mandlebrots

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The Mandelbrot Set image rendered by my gaming desktop (7680 x 4320)

The Mandelbrot Set is proof that mathematics has the power to shine with beauty. When you look at a picture of a plotted Mandelbrot Set, you will see a black bulb that has many smaller circles and branches coming out of it. If you were to zoom in on any portion of it, all you would see is more and more circles and baby Mandelbrot sets. However, depending on where you zoom there can be other interesting patterns to see as well.

I created the images uploaded here using a Java Application that I wrote about two months ago. The mathematics behind its generation is complicated, but I will do my best to explain it briefly. What you are looking at is a set of complex numbers. The horizontal red line is the real number line (Numbers like 1, 2, -3, 2.7, or even pi). Anything above or below that red line is a complex number (a number that consists of a term with the square root of negative one). Complex numbers are written out with a real number (symbolized with A) being added to or subtracted by a complex coefficient (symbolized with BI where I equals the square root of negative one). This simplifies to A + BI.

To determine if a complex number is in the Mandelbrot Set, the program will put that number through a predetermined function over and over again. This can cause one of two things to happen. The first possibility is that as that complex number goes though the function over and over again, both A and B will get closer and closer to zero. If this happens, then the number is considered to be within the Mandelbrot Set, and the program will color that number black. The second possibility is that A and B will explode away from zero, and the number will bet further and further away each time. If that happens, then the number is not considered to be within the Mandelbrot set, and will be colored a shade of red depending on how slowly A and B explode.

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The Mandelbrot Set with a different function and a different color (7680 x 4320)

Because the program has to put a number through a function a large number of times to create these images, it can take a few minutes to even an hour to generate them depending on the quality of the image and the computer. All of the images here were rendered in 8K quality (7680 pixels x 4320 pixels), but were done on a monster computer; they each took about a minute to generate.

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Insanity (7680 x 4320)

 

You, Quantum Tunneling

When I read “You, Disappearing”, I felt very  bored at the idea behind the conflict itself. I am the kind of reader that likes to have some level of understanding with the nature of the conflict. Just having an environment where collections of objects suddenly fail to exists does not give me the closure I would like from a story. The old lady who can supposedly hear the voices of the disappeared does at least help bring closure for me, but it does not do it properly enough for me to enjoy the little closure that it gives. Besides, there were faults to the supposed explanation of what happened to the disappeared. How could all the people who were on the other side possibly be alive if the Earth itself and its air had not disappeared with them? If every item in the first world appeared in the second world, then would the earth have to appear twice eventually? Its at this point where I begin not to accept this idea, and I start to postulate my own explanations.

Although it should be noted that it is so unlikely for this to happen its almost not worth of discussion, in the real world there is a potential explanation for objects disappearing like this randomly. In the wonderful world of quantum physics, the study of how the partials the make up atoms work, there is a strange property that exists for almost all particles called quantum tunneling. To sum it up simply, all particles that make up atoms tend to seemingly randomly teleport in short distances in every instant of time. The longer the teleport is, the more unlikely it is to actually happen. In this story, we could assume that the individual particles that make up had have all teleported unfathomably far away from Earth. While the chances of this actually happening to even one particle are extremely low, it does still qualify as an explanation to me.

About Me

Hello! I am Ben Roeder. I am a computer programmer who is currently working on a Bachelor’s in software engineering. I spend much of my free time playing video games on my desktop computer I built last year. Much of my time that isn’t spent as free time is focused on school work. Right now, I am working on a capstone project for Central Nine. This capstone is an android application that lets their Emergency Medical Service teachers evaluate their students with an app rather than needing to record everything on paper. I take a lot of pride in making these applications because I can see the positive effects of the apps on other people lives.