Currently viewing the category: "Citizen Science"

Plutopalooza from Dynamic Patterns ResearchJoin us on Tuesday evening to watch together as the NASA’s New Horizons makes its historic close approach past Pluto. We’ll feature live updates, guides to watching with NASA, and we’ll learn more about what we know and don’t know about our planetary neighbor 3 billion miles away.

↬ The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and NASA

Follow DPR on Facebook FB-f-Logo__blue_29

 

Update 8:15:19 PM 07/15/2015:

For our wrap-up of Plutopalooza from DPR — although New Horizons will be bringing much more for many months! — we’ll share this inspiring sequence of images of Pluto from its discovery by humans on February 18, 1930 through our flyby from 7,750 miles away at 31,000 miles per hour on July 14, 2015. ᔥ NASA

Pluto observations through the years


Update 7:59:55 PM 07/14/2015:

New Horizons is locked and data is flowing. “Just like we planned it.” — ‘mom’ from Mission Operations.

 

New Horizons Locked! 

Update  7:37:52 PM 07/14/2015:

Earlier today, NASA released this false color image of Pluto and Charon — separation not to scale — taken by one of the instruments on board New Horizons. The coloring helps exaggerate the different features on the surface of the planet and its moon to help more clearly identify the various structures. Read more from NASA… 

Pluto and Charon False Color

 


 

Update 6:53:01 PM 07/14/2015:

The “phone home” signal from New Horizons is traveling at the speed of light right now… and is over half-home to Earth. We’ll begin streaming the live feed from NASA around 7:15 pm CST right here.

New Horizons phone home half-way home


 

Update 7:21:23 AM07/14/2015:

NASA released a “sneak peak” image this morning of the latest image taken by New Horizons before it entered into its closest approach routine. Resolution at 4 km per pixel.

Pluto July 14, 2015


 

Update  06:50:51 07/14/2015:

Good luck New Horizons during closest approach!

New Horizon at Closest Approach


 

Update 8:16:25 PM 07/13/2015:

In a little over ten hours from now, New Horizons will make its closest approach through the Pluto system. The many scientific instruments on board will begin a carefully orchestrated “dance” that has been pre-programmed and automated to focus on Pluto and Charon. They will cycle through routines to gather as much scientific evidence before the spacecraft zips by. Watch this simulation from NASA stepping through the data collection and then plan to return right here Tuesday evening at 7:15 pm CST to join us as we listen with NASA as they receive the first batch of data from New Horizons.


 

Update: 3:33:05 PM 07/11/2015
Welcome to Plutopalooza from DPR! We’ll be posting more details and educational information right here and on our Facebook site before the event begins.

 

 

 

Recently, I enjoyed the opportunity to solve and implement a simple web interface problem. The result would not be considered profound or unique by Internet professionals, but nonetheless, it certainly is a powerful application of basic web technologies that allow the seamless flow of information making each of our lives richer and more efficient. Most importantly, I started from scratch and figured out how to do it.

The project was to interface with the FAA live feed of current data and status for airports across the United States and take the user’s airport of choice and instantly present the up-to-the-minute information. I developed a short bit of code, mostly with JavaScript, with a very simplified user interface and completed the project over just a few days, which may be previewed online at the DPR Airport Status page.

Now, I will emphasize, once again, that this project was not revolutionary or particularly complex. However, for my personal skills it was an exciting project to learn techniques and scripting technologies that I have not yet had the opportunity to experiment with before. So, for me, it was new. It was interesting.

The development process did not follow a simple trajectory from starting point A to ending point B. Rather, it was a swirling mess of discovery, error-checking, problem solving, more discovery, more problem solving, and even more problem solving. I fell deep into a pool of experimentation and testing without a clear map of what route to follow. I did not know for certain that I would be able to solve the problem within a reasonable time frame or without a more experienced coder handing me the solution. So, my personal morale sank a bit, yet, I tried to stay focused and dedicated to solving the problem on my own.

Then, in a near sudden moment of clarity or luck — or something — my head reached above the surface of the pool and I discovered the one particular bit of code that would solve the problem. It was a rather satisfying moment.

This rather sloppy process which I experienced is not uncommon in the community of research scientists, both professional and amateur, although not necessarily frequently admitted nor acknowledged. It is a process that can be quite debilitating to many, with constant discouragement and setbacks that might cause one to question their own worthiness to be employed in a scientific field. However, it might be this unnerving and irrational path toward discovery that is the very essence of what is required to stumble upon something new in Nature. Recently, Uri Alon of the Weizmann Institute of Science presented an inspiring talk for TED that links the realization of new ideas to the stumbling through a messy path of discovery that he terms “the cloud.”

[ted id=2020]

While one is fumbling around inside this “cloud” of research, the key element is to remain positive and creative. Prof. Alon takes his own experiences from improvisational theatre and music and connects performance tools from these creative arts directly to the creative processes that occurs inside the research cloud. As Dynamic Patterns Research is a proponent of and an active participant in the mixing of science research, education and outreach with the creative arts, the Alon approach of creative cloud scientific research is quite inspiring to our own interests. Even with the simple coding project of creating the Airport Status interface, this experience was a creative opportunity. Here, the developing of the underlying code resulted in a presentation of interactive art: a creative process that other people can play with and respond.

Taking a random walk through any creative process, from science research, code development, performance art to the written word or the integration of all of these expressions — and having the confidence to do so — should not be a scary or disappointing approach to progress, but one that is embraced, encouraged, and even required for discovery.

 

 

 

Dynamic Patterns Research admittedly is not much of a follower of the art forms of hip-hop and rap, so we cannot express any expertise in the artists who work in this genre and their songwriting. However, one of the early hip-hop stars, GZA, or “The Genius,” a founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan is currently marketing his latest album Dark Matter being released in early 2014… this album is apparently inspired by science as it makes an exploration of the cosmos through rap.

Now, our efforts here through Dynamic Patterns Research focus primarily on reaching out to a broad public to bring a greater appreciation for our Universe, and we have already experimented with merging physics and live theatrical entertainment through our first “Science at the Theatre” series production from Dynamic Patterns Theatre of QED: A Play, which had successful showings in Springfield, Jacksonville, and Decatur, Illinois.

GZA, Hip-hop Star

GZA performing at the Paid Dues hip hop festival at the Nokia Theatre in New York City. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

But here, at a national level, GZA boldly brings physics appreciation to the genre of hip-hop, which we are extremely excited to see as an unexpected approach. Although hip-hop is out of our skill set, it provides a wonderful example of how mixing informal science education (no matter how informal it might be) with popular cultural artistic forms is an exciting and effective method to increase understanding and appreciation of science to our citizens.

“A Rapper Finds His Muse in the Stars” :: Wall Street Journal Online :: May 30, 2012 [ READ ]

On November 15, 2013, GZA visited a lecture hall at the University of Toronto to provide a sneak peek of his new album. It is a rather unique marketing technique for a hip-hop artist, but one that is entirely appropriate for his latest work of art. Watch this amazing clip … and be inspired:

 [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrSGXS_73ws]

This just might be an album that Dynamic Patterns Research will have to invest in not only for our archives… but for our own inspiration. It is so refreshing to see informal physics appreciation spread further into the arts. This will help excite more people into considering a little more about how our world works, which will only result in better decision makers, smarter consumers, and more knowledgeable voters.

 

 

01-WP_20131109_012We attended the Third Annual “Science of a Cocktail Party” supporting the Illinois Science Council in Chicago, Illinois on November 9, 2013, and had a great time spending an evening in the city sipping cocktails, performing scientific experiments and supporting the ISC’s efforts for science outreach.

isc-logo

Having started in 2006 by Monica Metzler, the Illinois Science Council (ISC) is a young non-profit organization that is filling a unique niche in our culture that is vital to the growth and success of our society: science education and outreach to the adult public. This mission was designed from the realizations that the kids seem to receive lots of science education and entertainment opportunities and the kids and adults alike have access to so many wonderful programs for the arts, like through the Illinois Arts Council (of course, we do agree that there needs to be more!). But, for busy adults, keeping tabs on the latest developments in science and technology and enriching oneself with new scientific appreciations is something entirely left to the individual.

With this goal mind, the ISC is similarly focused to the long-term efforts of Dynamic Patterns Research of bringing a greater appreciation to science to a broader public, which is why we were so pleased to have the opportunity to participate and support this particular fundraising event. Both ISC and DPR strongly believe that with an increased appreciation of science and technology, we will have a culture of better decision makers, smarter consumers, more knowledgeable voters, and more well-informed citizens who have an enhanced appreciation of ourselves and our Universe. (Read more about the complete mission of ISC.)

03-WP_20131109_015We started off the evening watching the creation of a fascinating cocktail — carefully measured in a beaker, of course — that featured shots delivered via syringe and a beaker lined with pop rocks. It was finished off with a the crack of a glow stick that certainly enhanced the taste and effect (psychologically speaking) of this “totally scientific” and tasty mixed drink.

04-WP_20131109_016The event was hosted at the incredibly inspiring showcase office center for the engineering company DIRTT (“Doing It Right This Time”), an international company that provides custom prefabricated interiors. Their engineering philosophy focuses on a 21st Century approach that moves beyond conventional construction to use computing power to go from design, to real-time 3D, to specifications, to the production floor. Environmental sustainability is tied to their bottom line. The aesthetics of this showcase space was outstanding and it was a perfect atmosphere to get excited about science.

Throughout the office space, interactive experiments were setup hosted by volunteer graduate students from Northwestern University. We first hooked our biceps up to custom designed electrodes connected to a cute robot rover, and with each flex of a muscle could control the right or left-handed acceleration of the car. The stronger the contraction the faster it moved. Maneuvering around obstacles meant carefully controlling the timing and strength of each muscle contraction. This seemingly simple electric device showed the power that is already being developed for providing extended limb control to amputees.

05-WP_20131109_017

13-WP_20131109_036Next up was a demonstration of an updated version of the Sesame Street classic “which of these two aren’t like the other” where two seemingly identical images projected on big screens were flashed back-and-forth and you had to visually identify what subtle element was different between each image. This was an interesting test of “spacial blindness” where our brains like to average visual information across our field of view, which can make it challenging to identify little changes that might be obviously sitting right in front of our eyes.

Our neurological faculties were continued to be tested as we sat down to train — within only a few seconds — a specialized infrared sensor with computer software (think Kinect) to track our subtle eye movements with great precision. Using this “wireless control” system, we opened up the favorite game app Fruit Ninja and sliced away at various flying fruit by moving the cursor / machete with only our wiggling gaze. 

06-WP_20131109_018

Our two kids are pretty good at this slicing and dicing game using their fingers on a touch screen, and would certainly have been excited and jealous to see their parents concur the game with only their eyes. Needless to say, Michelle beat out Matthew’s score by a few points to rein champion in this fun visual remote control game.

Equilibrium and balance are essential feelings that we certainly take for granted. So, to better appreciate how our inner ear keeps us on our toes, we allowed Northwestern graduate students to connect two electrodes behind our ears (waivers had to be signed with both our printed name and our signature, so we knew it was serious) that were connected to a little black box with a switch. Electrical signals were passed through on one side or the other — a little tickle could be felt — and with eyes closed the body soon started falling without any awareness from the brain until a saving hand was felt on the shoulder to stop the tumble before it was too late.

07-WP_20131109_022 08-WP_20131109_023

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We next tested our visual system’s interpretation of color as we crowded into a small closet — one which DIRRT likely did not design with the original intent for use by multiple bodies — that was illuminated by only a single wavelength of light somewhere in the green-yellow spectrum. We each inspected a handful of jellybeans only to realize that their individual colors were indiscernible as only a limited number of wavelengths were reflected (or re-radiated) from their surface atoms since they were only being excited by a single incident wavelength. 

14-WP_20131109_038

Our skin tones also made it look like the zombie apocalypse was going to originate from this very closet as a grayish matrix pattern appeared making us look rather un-dead.

16-WP_20131109_014

The final technical demonstration we enjoyed was the MakerBot 3D printing system, which was creating before our very eyes a detailed three-dimensional model of a mansion with spires, windows, and brick walls. The detail and resolution being swiftly layered on the platform was quite exciting and the efficiency of creating an effective “solid” structure by forming a honeycomb pattern on the inside of the building was ingenious. Since Matthew performs 3D model printing routinely in his professional career of fine jewelry design and manufacturing, which requires much higher resolution than displayed by this MakerBot, it was also interesting to see that the printed material would cool and solidify fast enough to essentially be printed in “mid-air” allowing for overhanging structures to be printed without a supporting material.

17-WP_20131109_04716-WP_20131109_046

 

 

 

 

 

15-WP_20131109_040A great deal of kudos must be showered down upon Monica Metzler and the ISC organization for not only hosting a wonderfully geeky, interesting, and fun evening in Chicago, but for the great mission and efforts that they have taken on to support science outreach to a broader adult population. Along with the many sponsors of the evening, including American Science & Surplus and the Hogan Marren, Ltd. law firm in Chicago, Dynamic Patterns Research is proud to be an attending supporter of the event, and we do anticipate continued support and interaction with the organization moving forward.

It is groups like the ISC that should become prevalent in every state to help launch new initiatives in science appreciation that will drive — with its effective grass-roots approach — more of our citizens into a higher-level understanding of how our Universe works, with advantages that will trickle down into our every days lives of choices and behaviors.

And what better way to complete the evening filled with science, friends, and fun … and complimentary wine from Terlato Wines International and wonderfully tasty beer from Metropolitan Brewing of Chicago … but to pick up a chisel and hammer and break off our own chunks of fine chocolate courtesy of the Blommer Chocolate Company.

18-WP_20131109_049

If you are interested in learning more about the Illinois Science Council and how you can participate and support their efforts, please consider getting involved with the ISC. If you would like to connect more with Dynamic Patterns Research and find out what sort of goals and activities we are working on in Central Illinois, please contact us today with your interests and ideas, and socially connect with us on Facebook.

09-WP_20131109_027

Supporting science outreach with friends and cocktails in Chicago.

… …

20-WP_20131109_058

Alexander Graham Bell must have loved Science and Cocktails!

 

 

 
"Ask a Physicist" Panel at QED in Springfield, Illinois

Professors John Martin, Joanne Budzien, and Brian Carrigan

Dynamic Patterns Theatre recently launched their first production in the new Science at the Theatre SeriesQED: A Play. This funny, touching, and educational show featuring a day in the of life Nobel Laureate Prof. Richard Feynman is written by Peter Parnell and stars central Illinois actor Al Scheider.

With their combined background of art, literature, and physics, Matthew and Michelle Dearing have wanted to develop a unique and interesting theatrical experience that merges quality live entertainment with an element of informal education that is primed for a broad public audience. Interestingly, there is a significant library of great theatre that revolves around scientific themes and ideas, and dynamic patterns theatre explores this genre in its new “Science at the Theatre” Series.

“I believe it is critical for a broader public in our culture to have an increased general appreciation for science. By using creative venues for informal education opportunities, which is currently a major goal of the National Science Foundation, we can reach out to audiences searching for quality and memorable theatrical entertainment, while exposing them to inspiring and exciting ideas from science,” said Matthew T. Dearing, co-producer of dynamic patterns theatre and director of QED: A Play.

Al Scheider stars as Richard Feynman

Al Scheider stars as Richard Feynman

In the show QED, which stands for quantum electrodynamics, the physics model that describes how light and matter interact for which Feynman was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1965, the script weaves Feynman’s professional biography, including the Manhattan Project and the Challenger inquiry, and provides a window into many of his personal emotions and challenges. All the while, the story integrates several great discussions of physics ideas presented for a general audience.

Through a collaboration with local physicists and teachers from regional academic institutions, dynamic patterns theatre developed a new educational and entertainment outreach program. Patrons experienced an informal forum highlighting aspects of Feynman’s life, career and featured science topics discussed during the play. The forum was directed toward a general audience and the panel facilitated informal science interactions with the goal of increasing patrons’ appreciation for science and how the Universe works, if only just a bit.

University of Illinois at Springfield

Illinois College

Glenwood High SchoolThe panelists included Dr. John Martin, Associate Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of Illinois – Springfield, Dr. Brian Carrigan, Assistant Professor of Natural Sciences at Benedictine University, Dr. Joanne Budzien, Assistant Professor of Physics and MacMurray College, Dr. Jeff Chamberlain, Associate Professor and Chair of Physics at Illinois College, and Laurie O’Brien, physics teacher at Glenwood High School.

MacMurray College Benedictine University

“My academic background is in physics, so I am personally excited to merge my theatre and science interests into a new cultural event that has not been attempted before in Central Illinois”, said Mr. Dearing.

During the opening weekend of the show at the Hoogland Center for the Arts in Springfield, Illinois, the live panel of regional physicists responded to outstanding questions posed by patrons. With two full-houses in attendance, inquiries from the infinitely large to the infinitesimally small were interactively discussed, and geared toward an informal and non-technical audience.

Supporting role, Miriam Field, portrayed by Lynexia Dawn Chigges

Supporting role, Miriam Field, portrayed by Lynexia Dawn Chigges

Over twenty-six questions in all were sorted through on the spot and selected to feature during each performance. From “how many galaxies are in the known universe?” to “why does warm air rise?” and “how is Voyager 1 able to communicate from outside the solar system?”, the panel was energized and tackled each question with their combined years of experience studying the field. Several questions even tested the limits of our current understanding in physics, such as “why is there more matter than anti-matter?” with the only response being: “if you could answer that one, then you’d have the Nobel Prize!” We aptly completed the discussion on Saturday night with an extended explanation on the many options to “how does the Universe end?”

Mr. Dearing said, “This experiment in merging informal science education with live theatrical entertainment has been so interesting to develop, and the lively interactions between the patrons and the panel was exciting to witness. People were truly inspired to dive right in and ask about our universe and wonder about it what it can reveal.”

Additional questions provided by the audiences during the opening weekend are listed below, and we invite you to respond by commenting after this article as to what you think about this experience as an informal educational opportunity.

 … …

“Why does the tail of a comet not end? How does it stay ‘alive'”?

“What is the physical difference between a living creature and the same creature when it is dead?”

“Is there any dark matter in the solar system? If not, then how likely is it that there is a huge quantity in the galaxy?”

“How is God in the ‘god’ particle?”

“Can you explain the new age theory that everything comes from nothing as made famous by Dr. Lawrence Krauss?”

“What is the ‘friendliest’ sub-atomic particle?”

“How many fundamental forces are there at last count?”

“Do atoms that are part of a living organism behave differently than those that are part of, say, a rock or a pool of liquid steel?”

“Please discuss the concept of a continually expanding infinite universe. How can something infinity small (the universe at the moment of creation) be uniform in extent? What does it mean to expand infinitely?”

“Did Feynman write a popular text book?”

“What are some of the great discoveries by physicists?”

“Politics and ‘public policy’ aside, what is the reality of global warming: is it real? If so, is modern man to blame?”

“Have there been any major errors discovered in Feynman’s work?”

“Space and time may not be fundamental… comments?”

“Is it true that slide rules are coming back?”

“If all living individuals are a pile of atoms, then how do we define life from non-living things?”

 … …

These are some rather impressive questions, and dynamic patterns theatre is honored to have been the first to bring such an IN-TER-ES-TING and unique experience to a general audience in Central Illinois.

QED: A Play from Dynamic Patterns Theatre

In QED: A Play from dynamic patterns theatre, Richard Feynman was portrayed by Al Scheider, a long-time regional actor from Decatur who has performed in over sixty community theatre productions in thirty-seven years, and has directed theater for twelve years. The supporting role of Miriam Field, a young Caltech student, is played by Lynexia Dawn Chigges, who is a LPN with Memorial Physician Services, and has performed on stages from San Diego to Springfield, Illinois. The show was directed by Matthew T. Dearing.