Monday, February 7, 2011

Fun Fact: Lebron James Plays Basketball

Between building airplanes and playfully destroying everyone else in my apartment at Super Smash Brothers, my roommate Nathan brought up an interesting recent fact about LeBron James. He told me that LeBron scored 11 consecutive field goals (not in football... you know who you are) in one game. Apparently this was a pretty special event, but how rare is it for a player of LeBron's caliber? TO THE SCIENCE-MOBILE!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Problem of the Month: Gilligan Physics

So, some of us over here at Virtuosi Central have organized a challenge problem for the physics community here at Cornell. Well, we thought we would open up the challenge to the great wide world. The more submissions the merrier.

The deadline is March 1, and submissions can be sent to our email.

Details can be found at

Good luck and happy hunting.

Life in the Infrared

Corky, Matt, and Jared, with the experimental apparatus.
There's a place where TV remotes are flashlights, Wii's are torches, and Snuggies are translucent. It's our kitchen. We modified a 3 dollar webcam to view in the infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. We'll show you how, and what you can do with it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Free data set of the month: Imaging Spectroscopy

There's a lot of free data sets floating around the internet, and while things like funny cat videos and the results of color-naming surveys get a lot of play, many others don't get used for much. Recently I've been playing around with one such data set: images from the Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS).

I've always found it interesting that the way we perceive color is very different from how light actually works. Most of us have three different types of cones in our eyes and we perceive different colors as different combinations of stimuli to these three types of cones. In a very rough sense, when we look at a color, our brain gets three different numbers to figure out what it is. Light, on the other hand, is a bunch of photons with some distribution of wavelengths. To fully describe the light coming from an object you need a function that shows how many photons are at any given wavelength, which is way more complicated than just the three numbers we get.

So what about all that information that gets thrown away on the way to our brain? Are we missing out on a magical world of super-duper colors and wonder? Not really, but skip past the break anyways to find out more.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Exploration of Cameras I

In the next posts, I'd like to attempt to make a camera from 'scratch.' And by that, I mean explore the creation of cameras from their components and then create a very primitive one from readily available materials.