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Happy Towel Day 2016!

Today is Towel Day. Happy Towel Day!

The Galactic Hitchhikers have tallied the contest votes and have declared a winner!

You sass that hoopy Lisa Orozco? Our very own Lisa has been chosen to represent Earth as our new and shiny Towel Day Ambassador! Lisa will be assisted by Stefan Gemzell, representing Sweden and Norway, and Andrew Pithie, representing the UK and the Commonwealth.

Congratulations, you froods! Don’t Panic!

As Douglas Adams reminds us in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost.” What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Big Data’s Other Dangerous Video

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Source: Big Data

Big Data is an American electropop music project of Brooklyn-based producer Alan Wilkis and friends. Big Data explores contemporary themes involving humans and their growing dependence on and general distrust of technology, especially the Internet.

Big Data is best known for its single “Dangerous”, from the debut 2013 EP 1.0 and the debut 2015 studio album 2.0. The single features Rochester, New York indie band Joywave, with vocals being performed by the band’s lead singer Daniel Armbruster.

Watching the music video below reminded me of Kansas State University professor Michael Wesch’s video from eight years ago. My previous post mentions Dr. Wesch and his ideas about emergent Web 2.0 technologies. Now, here was a music video that illustrated just how far our use of those technologies has progressed in a timeframe of less than a decade!

While it’s not the most famous version of the “Dangerous” single, the Internet is the subject of the music video below. It is a lyric video created by SCANTRON and Greg Yagolnitzer. It’s vaguely NSFW.

Eminemium (Parody of Choose Yourself)

Tim Blais montage

Tim Blais of A Capella Science Source: YouTube

Eminemium is a parody of Eminem’s Choose Yourself by Tim Blais on his A Capella Science video project. You can watch the video below.

Tim Blais captures the scene of the Manhattan Project on that fateful day, July 16, 1945:

They’ve armed the weapon
Countdown clock is set and
J. Robert Oppenheimer is sweatin’.
Eyes are red and he’s nervous
‘Cause on the surface this is Armageddon.
The shock bomb, but we’re set upon and threatened
And with no sound, the whole Alamogordo ground
Is glowing and cowed under one smoldering cloud.
He’s choked and wowed, everybody’s open-mouthed,
And over the ground the shock front blows, kapow!

Blais is a physics master’s student and musician who resolved the tension between his creative and academic side by allowing these two aspects of himself to work together. His musical creations result from unaltered sounds from his mouth, throat, and vocal cords.

He continues:

Snap back to the alchemy,
Hope before tragedy,
Showed with bold math that we broke the whole atom.
We choked; controlled action with poles of cold cadmium coat
To go capture neutrons and slow fracture
We broke, postponed that and we chose to go fashion
A most radioactive plutonium gadget then
Fat Man and Boy and Enola goes laughin’
As Nagasaki is blown and Hiroshima’s blasted…

The rest of the song is a historical distillation of the Cold War with the admonition “You gotta choose yourself how to use it / The knowledge you hold” because “So here we go, it’s our shot / Feel frail or not / This is the only world and humanity that we got.” Tim Blais manages to take a brilliant work by a brilliant artist and transform it into a clever piece about the social responsibilities of scientific discovery. Brilliant!

If you like him as much as I do, all of Blais’ tracks are available for download at Apple Music.


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Love and Chemistry

This ad spot is from the German chemical company BASF (Badische Anilin- und Soda-Fabrik or “Baden Aniline and Soda Factory”).

Love and Chemistry

The LEGO Movie

lego movie

I just saw The LEGO Movie with my son Alton and everything is awesome!!! It is The LEGO Group’s first feature-length comedy adventure film, although they have come out with other, shorter LEGO films before this one, covering such subjects as Bionicle, Hero Factory, Clutch Powers, Indiana Jones, and Star Wars. The LEGO Movie is directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Chris Miller and is distributed by Warner Brothers Pictures.

The movie is about Emmet Brickowski, an ordinary construction worker with no special qualities. He builds things with the aid of instruction manuals, and even uses one to manage his daily life. He meets Wyldstyle, a woman who is searching for the Piece of Resistance, an object capable of stopping a doomsday superweapon called the Kragle. Wyldstyle takes Emmet to Vitruvius, a wizard who explains that he and Wyldstyle are Master Builders capable of building anything they need, both with great speed and without instruction manuals.

The ability of these LEGO characters to manipulate their own LEGO universe offers the adult viewer some ontological questions that is in part what makes this movie clever and funny. The conflicting worldviews between conformist building (do not deviate from the instructions) and creative building (construct your desires from anything available) are expressed throughout the movie and remind me of how different people treat LEGO bricks.

Also, several websites come to mind. LEGO Education is the part of The LEGO Group that offers several STEM building kits for students to explore and to work hands-on through practical experience and demonstration.

LEGOengineering is a website developed by the Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach with the support of LEGO Education to inspire and support teachers in bringing LEGO-based engineering to all students.

Besides the obvious use of using LEGO building materials for design and construction, LEGO bricks can also be used to provide an analogy for atoms, molecules, and their reactions. Scott Halpern at ChemistryUnderstood.com has used LEGO bricks to explain atomic theory.

Texas Tech University’s GK-12 Building Bridges program participants Arla Jo Anderton Gideon, John Como, and Jennifer Hortman (a high school chemistry teacher, a science PhD candidate, and a master’s candidate in math, respectively) developed a lesson module for using LEGO bricks to teach balancing chemical equations.

Along those lines, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Edgerton Center offers a Chemical Reactions lesson that introduces to students molecules, atoms, chemical notation, and chemical compounds through an engaging hands-on wet lab and LEGO brick models of atoms.

Remember, LEGO is not only from the Danish phrase leg godt which means play well, it is also Latin for I study or I put together.