2014/07/30

Pleasant Geometric Surprises

I'm working on version 11 of Gliftex (a Windows pattern and image maker), and sometimes, after all the thinking and geometry and programming nice experimental images pop up:



This image, and the ones which follow, all look a bit like colorful mosaics...




It makes the sines and cosines and intersections and tangents and for loops and matrices and vectors all seem worth while! 

One last surprise:


2014/07/23

Unexpected consequencies

In an earlier blog entry I mentioned how I was making a medal like object in software using two different sorts of geometry. I faffed around with a complex one, then settled on a simple one, but that simple one had consequencies. Consequencies I could have forseen if had more than three neurons in my brain.

The work was for PhotoToMesh V5, released last week...


...It creates bas relief files for 3D printers. There is a smoothing setting in the program, explained here, which makes the bas reliefs which the program creates less ragged.

When I finally settled on the "correct" medal geometry I'd forgotten about the smoothing. It works by taking the topologically (not neccessarily geometrically) nearest 3d point to the 3d point under consideration, and averages them.

With rectangular meshes topologically and geometrically are practically the same thing. With the medal mesh geometry which I'd decided on, they're not. This is because there are fewer distinct points at the edge of the mesh and many more near the center:





So when I smooth the bas reliefs I get a "pleasant"(?) concentric rings effect, noticeable at the edges of the medal:




You can get rid of the effect by having many more samples, but the resulting large file size can cause some 3d printers to choke. 
Here's another example showing the same effect:

Again increasing the density removes the strange smoothing effect.

By the way...I'm waiting for some of the users of V5 to send me some of their 3d printed creations. I'd love to see something like this:

 ...or...

The partial cylinder and the hemisphere were specifically requested by users...


Men In Black, where did you get the monster ideas from?

I guess they had a 200x, 40Euro, USB microscope (I keep saying that because I find it amazing value). No insects were killed, all found dead or later released.

Something that crash landed on a leaf:

 
Two things found floating in my cat's drinking water:



A dead moth found on the stairs, what a lovely curly nose/mouth it's got!


...and what lovely wing textures too...

A creepy crawlie found struggling in a puddle of water. This is really Men In Black:


Lovely legs and antenna! I released him afterwards. Probably having a drink at a bar on Venus right now.


2014/07/19

Turning the bathroom into an operating theatre.

My family have accused me of turning the bathroom into an operating theatre, because I changed a light bulb. The light in the bathroom contains two bulbs, and for years they have been normal incandescent light bulbs (the type with the coil which glows).

One of the pair burned out and I thought I'd so some energy saving so I put in one of those replacement neon lamps, coiled around itself to make it fit in the same space as a normal incandescent lamp. I noticed it had a bluish tinge, but thought nothing of it.

There was a small revolution, it was decided by the rest of the family that the neon light made the bathroom look like an operating theatre or mortuary. Every single time that light was switched on I got a "this is a horrible terrible light" comment. Every single time!

Eventually I gave in and bought a warm white LED lamp.

But why was the neon bulb so badly recieved? I have a spectrometer I use for work, so I decided to look at the spectrums. Hells bells if evolution doesn't come into it!

A spectrum just shows the combination of all the colours in a light source. There are an infinity of them, even in the visible part. From deep violet to deep red, passing through various blues, greens, yellows and oranges in the middle. So you can make a graph of how much of each color there is in a given light source.

Burning light sources, like the sun or incandescent lamps, have a lovely smooth spectrum, with an emphasis on the red end:


(Look at the white line in all these images, ignore the dotted line.)

The new warm white LED bulbs also sort of roughly follow the "less blue more red" shape:


But the neon! Look at this:


The spectrum above clearly has too much blue, not enough red and it also has peaks where natural sources don't.

Even though the fixture had a incandescent lamp near the neon it only lifted the red a little bit:


So now I make sure I always buy warm white light bulbs, to avoid general disgruntlement in the home. Our eyes have probably evolved to work best with light which is, well, the same colour as the sun. In the end the light fixture had one warm white led and a surviving incandescent bulb, lifting the red end a bit:



And did the family notice? Did they?! Like hell they did, but they stopped complaining at least.


2014/07/14

New. Improved.


I lived in Japan for a total of four years, in the 1980s. I learned 600 kanji, (Japanese ideograms) in those four years. Only 600. That meant I would not have been able to graduate from high school. High school graduates must know the 2000 standard kanji to graduate. And now I can remember maybe 100 and can write maybe 25.



But foreign students of Japanese who live in Japan learn some kanji very quickly, like "exit", and "entrance", "restaurant", etc. And some kanji combinations ("phrase" is not the right word) stick in your mind too.



This all came back to me on the Milano metro a few days ago when I saw a bloke with some badly copied kanji tatoos...






…I looked and looked and was sure that I knew what they meant. I took a surreptitious photo (blurred and shakey as a consequence) so I could look it up when I got back home. But I didn't have to, the meaning of the mysterious kanji just popped back into my memory. 

They are pronounced "shin hatsu bai".

These kanji are used in advertising often...






...and what they mean is "new product!" . To translate the spirit of the kanji I'd say "New! Improved!"






So either the tatooist did not know what he was doing, or he was playing a joke on his customer.



Not everything in "the East" is "mysterious", especially when you understand the lingo.




2014/07/11

What do we want?

- What do we want?!

- Hearing aids!

- When do we want them?!

- Hearing aids!

Dandelion seeds

The other day I noticed the dandelions on our lawn were ready to have their seeds blown away by the wind. Aha! Another target for my 40 Euro USB microscope!

Look what nature has made...no words needed:


Clouds to an infinite paradise.

I can't help it, I love clouds and could stare at them for hours. And I think it demeans them to say "oooh, that one looks like a duck and that one looks like a face." They are amazing abstract shapes which exist in reality and don't need a petty narrow "imagination" to force them into something else.


I mean, how can anyone not imagine going beyond these huge distant structures into some other world? I saw this scene coming back from work and drove around the block again so I could get a good photo of it.

I think it must have something to do with the brain knowing that these things are huge, compared with the trees and other things on the horizon, but it just does not know how huge. And they, in our imagination, do not stop at the horizon, they carry on forever beyond it. It seems. To. Me.

And when the huge clouds hang over and beyond a road with a vanishing point, I get the idea that the road could go on forever, again into some new and strange interesting place.

2014/07/03

The day becomes more ragged as it moves from morning to night.

The first time I came across this idea was in an introduction to the I Ching. (I was an adolescent and stupid with it.) 

I can remember a Chinese philosopher was quoted as saying something like:

"A man wakes up in the morning full of energy and good intentions, but there is only tiredness, irritation and failure by the end of the day."

(Being a teenager I harumphed at that and threw the three coins to tell the future. I eventually woke up and realised that the I Ching is totally useless at predicting the future or being a guide to future actions. At most it can be used as a seed for lateral thinking.)

The next time I remember coming across the same sort of idea was when reading "The Evolution of Consciousness" by R Ornstein. 


He asked the question of why we can't keep to diets, or stop drinking or smoking. His answer was that we are not one unity, we are many people all mixed up in the same body, and the person who swears to go on a diet is not the same as the person who overeats.

And finally, a few years ago, I read The Origin of Everyday Moods by R. Thayer. 


It is not well known, but I think it is a brilliant theoretical and practical book. Very very simplistically there are morning people and evening people (not his words) and he has a technique where you note down how you are feeling at different times over several days. You come to know when you have the most energy, when you are most tired and so on. For me the day becomes more ragged as it moves from morning to night. I'd better do the important things in the morning. And the routine grunt work (tax returns, bills, timekeeping etc.) should be done in the afternoon.

Thayer has invented this simplification of mood which is very clever:





At every point during your waking life you are somewhere in the space shown above.

Calm Tiredness comes when you have been working hard, but have had good results. You can relax, satisified with a good day's work done.

Calm Energy comes as you are working well and feel a little stretched but have the ability to complete the job.

Tense Energy is when you are working hard, maybe against an almost impossible deadline, but you have the energy to confront the task.

Tense Tiredness is the one to avoid. If you are tense and you are tired you are not going to be able to fly that passenger plane well.

To be honest I try to avoid Tense Energy too, I like the Calm side of the map.

2014/07/01

Mosquitoes, melissa and limits to vegetarianism.


I've always told anybody who will listen that I'm a vegetarian, but if it ever came to a fight and the choice was death for me or death for the animal, well, I'd prefer it if the animal died.



And I have doubts that the few neurons a mosquito has can have conciousness, so when I found one sucking my blood this morning – SLAP! And for once, I got it, and even better it was not too badly damaged. "Out with the microscope!" was my immediate thought, and here is the little sod:




You can see the blood sucking instrument between the two antennas, one antenna broken presumably by my slap. Can you see those white things between the antenne? They are the palps, the mosquito's nose(s). You can see them better below. So that is what she used to find my sweaty body.




My friend Klaus gave me a Melissa plant (Lemon Balm or Mint Balm in English). The smell is incredible, and makes me smile without even realising it. Must go straight to the pleasure centers of the brain. Anyway, I noticed a caterpiller on it, and brought in the pot to where the computer, USB microscope and dead mosquito was. The amazing thing about the Veho 200X device is that it is very light and you can remove it from its stand, which I did to take this photo of the little furry fella:





You have to have a steady hand, and this is the best of about five photos I took. I think it must be making a cocoon, because there is a ton of whispy stuff in the same places as the caterpiller.




"Only connect!" said E M Forster. Apparently melissa is a good way of keeping mosquitoes away from skin. Maybe next year, when I have more, I'll rub one leg with melissa and the other with a normal repellant. We'll see.



(I can't stand E. M. Forster, we had to read his novels at school. I object to his story "The Machine Stops", presumably he wanted all machines to stop. Well, he had a large private income, servants and presumably never had to wash a pair of underpants in his life. I like machines.)