Happy Holidays – from Mandy

I am teaching Mandy to sing (sort of).  Here’s Mandy playing along to Carol of the Bells in what may be the worlds “first” Periodic Table spectrum visualizer.  Now, before we blow up the Twitter sphere with allegations that Mandy belongs on the Top Ten List of Most Infamous Lip Syncing incidents, I’m not claiming that this is live.  Mandy wasn’t designed to do real-time spectrum analysis (she’s a Periodic Table, after all) but I wanted to see if some geeky visualizations would be possible.  So, I created my own version of Carol of the Bells (written in Sonic-Pi) and then analyzed the audio file using Mathematica, which has a neat function, SpectrogramArray[], that provides easy access to the frequencies in an audio file.  I then binned the frequencies into 118 buckets – one for each element on the periodic table, and converted the intensities into colors (blue for high amplitude, red for low amplitude).  I probably should have thought a bit more about which elements should display which frequencies, but time was running short so I simply made the heavier elements have the lower frequencies.  In any case – enjoy.

 

What the heck’s a popsocket?

I asked my students what these silly things on the back of their phones were, and why they were needed.  Apparently, phones are sufficiently heavy that you’ll drop them on your face while trying to read/text while lying down.  They also seem to help with taking selfies.  It turns out that they were thought up by a philosophy professor so tell that to your Mom and Dad when they ask why their paying so much money for your liberal-arts education.  Heck, I’ll even give you some inspiration, because one of my students bought me my very own popsocket (I feel sooooo millennial) and I just had to customize it.

My kickin’ T-Mobile slider phone – unlocked and now Popsocketed.

Continue reading What the heck’s a popsocket?

A Maker Family

A few weeks back, my wife (Rozenn) came home with a broken cane chair, which looked something like this, and wanted to try repairing the seat. A few tours through youtube videos, a visit to Amazon and some time with my Dremmel (she’s logged more hours on that thing than I have) and she managed to replace the seat.  Even I can sit in it!

Now that it’s completed, I think we both agree that the project was very doable.  The hardest part was removing the old spline (don’t believe those Youtube videos where it comes out with one tap of a chisel).  Once the spline was removed, however, the rest of the process was a breeze.  Yard-sale season may be wrapping up, but I’m sure we’ll find a few more broken chairs at rock-bottom prices that will not only give us a fun project, but also result in a nice-looking chair in the end.

Mandy gets some street cred

The staff over at the Wolfram Community have recognized Mandy – the bright Periodic Table as one of their Staff Picks.  The forum post, which can be viewed here, highlights how Mathematica was used in various parts of the project.  In the design phase, Mathematica was used to create the layout of the periodic table, which then could be exported to Inkscape/Adobe Illustrator for final processing of an image that could be recognized by the laser cutter.  The curated data provided by the Wolfram platform is used to create the trends, and I used some notebook Manipulate commands to visualize the RGB-LED output for (rapid) rapid prototyping.  The actual operation of Mandy uses a Python-based speech recognition script that calls on Mathematica to communicate to the Arduino controlling all of the LEDs.  (Yes, this is an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ project.)

Thanks, WC Staff, for the recognition.

Amazon hurts consumerism in Western New York

I just recently completed my move from Chicago to Brockport, NY.  Happily, all of our belongings survived the move more-or-less undamaged, and we are close to having everything unpacked and in its new location.  One problem we had during the unpacking was the box spring for our bed; there was no way that a queen-size box spring was going to make it through the small space occupied by our stairway.  The box spring is ancient and we had intended to leave it in Chicago, so purchasing a new one was in the plans.  I didn’t realize what a pain it would be.

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Sankyu very much

This past weekend, I successfully tested for my brown belt (Sankyu) in Judo.  I had started Judo in college (last century) and for over 15 years couldn’t find the willpower to get back in to the sport.  Then Kayla Harrison won gold in the 2012 Olympics.  Something about an American finally winning Judo gold gave me the motivation I needed to find Sensai Barnett at the Jiu Jitsu Institute in downtown Chicago. Searching the internet for judo clubs in Chicago, you’ll find the current web page is optimized for the Mosaic browser — (note: a new website is in the works) — but perhaps the club’s web presence is an allegory for the style of training one will receive: traditional.

Roneye (left), James (Right) and me (the only guy who broke a sweat).

Continue reading Sankyu very much

Mandy: The periodic table (teaser)

About six months ago, I started working on a project I like to call my piece de resistance. It combines a number of maker skills that I’ve learned over the past few years.  I call her Mandy, and she’s a laser-cut periodic table that has a bunch of three-color LEDS, an Arduino that controls the individually addressable LEDs, and a Raspberry Pi that stores information about the elements.  To make it stand out from being “just another bright periodic table”, I added a voice activation component, so Mandy is able to display different periodic trends at your verbal command!

I’m getting ready to move to a different part of the country, so I do not have time to provide more information about Mandy.  In the meanwhile, I created a teaser-trailer for your (OK, my) personal enjoyment.