The Kid Should See This Smart videos for curious minds of all ages: Science, art, nature, animals, space, technology, DIY, food, music, animation, and more Thu, 26 Nov 2015 19:09:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Meet the Balloonatics – SciFri goes to Macy’s Parade Studio Thu, 26 Nov 2015 19:03:31 +0000 How are Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons designed, calculated, fabricated, tested, and retested before they show up on the streets of Manhattan on Thanksgiving morning? From Science Friday in 2011, visit the ‘balloonatics’ at Macy’s Parade Studio in New Jersey:

John Piper and Jim Artle take us around the studio and spill the secrets of inflation, explain how to calculate whether your balloon will float, and explain why the balloons look better after a little time in the sun.

There’s more Thanksgiving Science at Science Friday, plus more holidays, more helium, and more balloon videos on this site, including recreating the balloon house from Pixar’s Up.

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Squeeze in where you can! – The World’s Busiest Railway Fri, 20 Nov 2015 06:14:46 +0000 Where can you find a seat on a crowded train from Mumbai to Kolkata? The answer: Anywhere you can… including a baggage rack or another person’s lap. From The World’s Busiest Railway on the BBC, Anita Rani talks and rides with passengers making their way across India.

Yet the cross country train above is not nearly as crowded as these crush load crowded commuter trains, where Rani, Dan Snow, and Robert Llewellyn discover that personal space is not the priority. Watch them each try to hop on:

Next, from a Mumbai local: Railway Days. Plus more public transportation around the world. ]]> 0
Bats flip like Tony Hawk to land upside down Fri, 20 Nov 2015 04:59:14 +0000 Like pirouetting figure skaters, twisting high divers, or a skateboarder trying to land a 900, bats use inertia to flip upside down before they land. Brown University evolutionary biologists Sharon Swartz and Kenneth Breuer filmed Seba’s short-tailed bat and the lesser dog-faced fruit bat in slow motion, 1000 frames per second, to analyze how they can reorient their bodies in flight. From

“We know all of its angles, joint angles and wing postures that happen during this two-second maneuver,” Breuer said. “What they do is move their wings in very characteristic ways in order to manipulate their center of mass and moment of inertia…

As the bat approaches that landing site, it slows down and brings its posture vertically, using its wings in an asymmetric manner. It brings its left wing in, flaps, is able to rotate and then it brings its wings forward and that enables it to pitch, so the body rotates. It stretches its legs out, and it’s able to grab onto the gauze with its feet and land.”

In the archives: More bats, including these Baby Bat Burritos. Plus, all sorts of flying and some skateboarding, too. ]]> 0
Multilayered, mechanized music-making by Graham Dunning Thu, 19 Nov 2015 21:38:56 +0000 Experimental music artist Graham Dunning plays with how music can be created through a mix of found objects and sound experiments. In Mechanical Techno Demonstration, he rigs up multiple layers of sound-making interactions on a turntable. From his site:

Several looping records spin on the same axle, ensuring they stay approximately in time with each other. I layer up locked groove records, audio triggers to analogue sytnhs, mechanically played percussion such as a cowbell or a cymbal, and mechanically triggered drum machines…

The technique is inherently clumsy and delicate, leading to frequent and multiple mistakes and accidents. The chance elements and unpredictable aspects lead to compositions I would never think to deliberately make.

You can see many of his “sketches” of the experiments in shorter clips on his YouTube channel. Check out his automatic cowbell:

Brutal autoreturn, in which a weight on the record knocks the tonearm back to an earlier part of the recording:

This laser cut plywood contact/stylus creates different rhythms over different patterns of adhesive copper on a record:

And in this one, entitled Music by the Metre, Dunning’s mix of contraptions make more of an irregular yet jazzy sound:

On this site, enjoy CYMATICS: Science + music = audio frequency visualizations, Hit the Beat: A drum machine sound experiment, Beat Blox, and an easy-at-home audio exploration: Lullatone’s Experiments Around the House. ]]> 0
How does a retractable ballpoint click pen work? Thu, 19 Nov 2015 18:14:41 +0000 Click. Click. The two clicks that you hear when pressing the top button on a retractable ballpoint ‘click pen’ are a key to understanding the mechanics happening inside of it: A rotation, extension, and lock of the spring-loaded ink cartridge, pushing the ballpoint tip into place outside of the casing. The two clicks that follow, the sound of pressing the button a second time, rotates and retracts the tip. How exactly does this ubiquitous writing tool work?

Take a look inside the Parker Jotter ink pen, introduced by the Parker Pen Company in 1954, with Engineer Guy Bill Hammack.

Watch these next: A Quill from the Museum of Obsolete Objects, The Writer automata by Pierre Jaquet-Droz, The Ingenious Design of the Aluminum Beverage Can, and How is an Etch A Sketch made? ]]> 0
A time lapse of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing 797 Wed, 18 Nov 2015 15:17:46 +0000 How does one person’s actions influence the next person’s actions in a shared space? Sol LeWitt‘s wall drawings explore this intricate visual butterfly effect in the collaborative art entitled Wall Drawing 797, a conceptual piece that can be drawn by following LeWitt’s instructions. (He died in 2007.) From MASS MoCA:

The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line near the top of the wall. Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker. The third drafter does the same, using a yellow marker. The fourth drafter does the same using a blue marker. Then the second drafter followed by the third and fourth copies the last line drawn until the bottom of the wall is reached.

In 2014, 49 University of Texas students spent 11 days creating a version of Wall Drawing 797 at the Blanton Museum of Art, recorded in the time lapse above. Art History major Julie Timte described the experience:

When I was close to the work as I was installing it, I focused on the distance between the lines and where one line deviated from the next. However, when I stepped back to watch the other students work, the distinct colors were barely visible. At a distance, the waves almost appeared three dimensional, undulating in space. The whole time I was installing the work, I was thinking of the childhood game “telephone,” where one person whispers a message into the ear of the next, and the sentence is completely transformed by the end. The same process occurred in our work on the wall drawing. With the touch of many different, and imperfect, hands, lines were transformed to create a dynamic piece.

Watch these next: Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room, Karina Smigla-Bobinski’s ADA, and Motoi Yamamoto’s intricate, temporary salt installations.

via Jenni Holder. ]]> 0 Australia’s budgie super swarms Wed, 18 Nov 2015 06:14:46 +0000 The wild budgerigar of Australia is a social bird who normally gathers in groups of a few hundred. Ever in search of food and water, often in areas of limited resources, these smaller flocks of insect, grain, and seed-eating parrots become an undulating swarm of thousands… perhaps even millions, as seen in this clip from episode 5 of the BBC’s Earthflight.

Plus, a bit more from

Even though budgerigars are typically called parakeets, especially in the United States, they are just one of over 100 species commonly referred to as parakeets, a widely diverse class of tiny, slender parrots spread out over more than a dozen genera in the subfamily Psittacinae of the family Psittacidae

There are more than five million budgies in the wild today. In the wild, budgies are generally a lot smaller than their captive counterparts. As nomadic birds, they stick to open habitats like scrublands, woodlands and grasslands in dry parts of Australia, and they have inhabited this part of the world for more than five million years. The availability of water and food determines where they go.

Related exploration: Nature’s The Gathering Swarms and swarm behavior.

Watch these next: The Kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot, and these incredible starling murmurations.

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How to make a DIY ‘drone’ with balloons & a fishing rod Wed, 18 Nov 2015 05:14:19 +0000 How do you get a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape when you don’t have an quadcopter or drone? In this episode of Earth Unplugged, Sam Hume cobbles together his own ‘drone’ for less then £50 (around $76). Sometimes all you need are some balloons, a fishing rod, and a homemade crash rig (or two) for your smart phone or GoPro:



If you want to make one of the rigs, or one of your own invention, remember: One liter of helium can lift 1.03 grams, or around 0.036 ounces.

Related reading: How many regular-sized helium-filled balloons would it take to lift someone? and How much lift does helium have?

Related watching: Recreating the balloon house from Pixar’s Up, and more smartphone DIY. ]]> 0
Odd – Mysteries of Vernacular Tue, 17 Nov 2015 16:11:56 +0000 Odd. Odd. Say it a few times, and the word ‘odd’ sounds odd. Peculiar. Different from what is usual or expected. Of course, we also know that odd numbers can’t be divided evenly into two groups. But where did this odd word come from and why does it have multiple meanings?

Whether we’re talking all things unusual or mathematical, the origins of the word odd point to the Indo-European root uzdho, which means pointing upwards. Jessica Oreck and Rachael Teel explain the evolution from the term for a triangle to a number indivisible by two and, eventually, to the peculiar.

Enjoy this episode of TED Ed’s Mysteries of Vernacular.

Next: watch a few more.

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New York to San Francisco by train in five minutes Tue, 17 Nov 2015 15:30:57 +0000 On a three day train ride across the United States — New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California — Brooklyn-based designer Tom Harman recorded the landscape passing by his window. This five minute iPhone video is the result.

Watch these next: One Minute Vacation – One second per day for 2 months and Landscapes – Exploring Arizona and Utah in time lapse.

via Kottke.
]]> 0 Emperor Penguins keep warm in an ever-shifting huddle Thu, 12 Nov 2015 16:50:17 +0000 With brand new baby chicks sheltering in so many of their brood pouches, warmth is imperative for Emperor Penguins in the coldest place on the planet. But how do you stay warm enough to survive in -40 degrees or colder?

In Adélie Land, Antarctica, this group of penguins demonstrates the dynamics of staying warm: ever-shifting positions within a massive huddle. This constant traveling wave of spiraling movement ensures that no penguin is on the outside of the mass for too long. From LiveScience in 2013:

…biologists and physicists based at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany have collaborated to create mathematical models based on time-lapse camera footage of emperor penguins to try to understand the physics behind the huddles…

The team’s mathematical models showed that the huddles behave as waves instigated by any individual in the pack, no matter that individual’s location. If two waves travel toward each other, they merge, rather than passing one another. Gaps just 2 centimeters wide (0.8 inches) appear to instigate a reorganization, in order for the penguins to stay warm…

Watch them in this time lapse clip from PBS’ The Gathering Swarms.

Watch these next: Emperor Penguins Speed Launch Out of the Water and penguin babies taking their first steps. Plus: More videos in Antarctica and more incredible swarms. ]]> 0
How to make individual Mac & Cheese cups Thu, 12 Nov 2015 07:46:40 +0000 This recipe looks delicious for all ages, especially in autumn and winter weather: Individual Mac and Cheese Cups. Watch Sarah Carey make these small and easy comfort food servings with elbow mac, white cheddar, cream cheese, salt, butter, milk, and breadcrumbs. Recipe here.

Want to make some garlic, broccoli, smokey bacon, or artichoke heart variations? Check out The Mac + Cheese Cookbook by Homeroom in Oakland. Just chop up the extras so they fit into muffin tins, and swap out breadcrumbs for panko.

Related reading at NYT: Cooking With Kids – 5 Reasons You Should Be Doing It + more kid-friendly recipes.

There are more video recipes on this site, too, like how to make pickles, ketchup, and Totoro Steamed Buns. ]]> 0
The physics of ‘skydiving’ wind tunnel acrobats Thu, 12 Nov 2015 06:54:42 +0000 In a vertical wind tunnel that’s blowing air upward at 270 km/h (168 mph), four ‘skydiving’ acrobats perform a twisting, turning flying routine without ever colliding into each other. How do they perform epic looking stunts with so much control? The physics is explained in this clip from Outrageous Acts of Science.

In the archives: This Prague-based wind tunnel is internet famous. Watch more flying, plus a lesson where you can see more of the wind dynamics in play.

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Patrick Dougherty’s Stickwork in Salem and Sausalito Thu, 12 Nov 2015 04:29:57 +0000 Are they nests? Cocoons, forts, beehives, ancient huts, forest castles? All of the above and more? From the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, watch how artist Patrick Dougherty planned and built ‘What the Birds Know‘, PEM’s first environmental art installation. The intertwined tree saplings came together in mid-2015 with the help of volunteers:

Dougherty has woven over 200 of these architectural sculptures all over the globe. This time lapse video of his ‘Peekaboo Palace‘ installation at the Bay Area Discovery Museum in Sausalito, California gives an all-weather overview of how they come together. File under: DIY inspiration.

Related reading: Stickwork, Dougherty’s first monograph.

Explore more installations via video: Red PaperBridge, Beam Drop Inhotim, The Chandelier Tree, and Motoi Yamamoto’s intricate, temporary salt installations. ]]> 0
How Far Do Sneezes and Vomit Travel? – Gross Science Wed, 11 Nov 2015 08:20:30 +0000 Let’s enter the world of sneeze experiments and vomiting machines with Anna Rothschild as she explains just how far the tiny liquid particles from sneezes and vomit can travel… and it’s farther than you think. ‘Vomiting Larry’ demonstrates with fluorescently dyed water in this Gross Science episode.

A related reminder about how to avoid the spread of germs: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or the crook of your elbow when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands often with soap and warm water.

Next: The beautiful physics and math of sneezes, the MIT research mentioned above, and Cell vs. virus – A battle for health. ]]> 0