Wednesday Wow!

Time to lighten the mood!

This edition of Wednesday Wow features a Japanese island that looks like the perfect setting for retirement or for the secret base of a James Bond villain! It also features a nifty way to grow food and art at the same time.

After we visit Japan, we’ll zip out to Saturn for one of my very favorite space photos. It’s one of my more frequent desktop wallpapers. Then, back on Earth, we’ll zoom in close for a microscopic look at a couple of common items and finally end on the real star of today’s Wowishnessosity: a piece of video that’s a ton of fun.

Ready? Let’s go!

If you spend much time exploring “cool” stuff on the interweb, you may have seen these first two entries from Japan. They impressed me enough to keep them as things to enjoy repeatedly and share with others.

Check this out. Believe it or not, it’s a suburb of Tokyo:

It’s the island of Aogashima (GPS: 32° 27′ 11″ N; 139° 46′ o4″ E). It’s located 207 miles due south of Tokyo. It’s on the same oceanic ridge that leads south to Saipan, Guam and eventually the Mariana Trench (deepest spot in the whole ocean).

Can’t you just see the latest Jame Bond villain’s lair hidden under the double volcano in the island center? (If you Go Ogle for images of [Aogashima] you can find some nice big ones suitable for wallpaper!)

While we’re in Japan, check out the artwork made of growing rice in a rice field:

It’s not Photoshop, it’s not magic or paint, it’s very careful planting of different-colored rice plants. Here’s a closeup of the rice plants:

(Thanks to my friend, NB, for sending me those a while back!)

Now let’s blast off and zip out to the Cassini spacecraft that’s been checking out Saturn. It’s taken some awesome pictures, but none wow me so much as this one:

(click for APOD)

What you’re seeing is Saturn from “behind.” The Cassini spacecraft was behind Saturn, and you’re seeing the planet back-lit by the sun, which is on the other side.

Can click on the photo to go to a much bigger version on the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) site, which is one of my daily interweb stops. Being a “space nut” (and a “spacey nut,” but that’s a different discussion), a lot of my computer wallpaper comes from APOD!

Back on Earth, as the great Steve Martin once said, “Let’s get small!” Have you ever wondered what silk looks like really, really close? It looks like this:

You can almost see why silk is so smooth! Pretty tightly woven, too!

I’m mostly a beer man these days, but I used to be The Margarita Mixin’ Man at our parties. I spent years perfecting a great margarita recipe. The key ingredient, of course, it tequila. Which is crazy stuff. Maybe because of this:

That’s either a photo micrograph of tequila or what you see when you drink too much!

But those are all just the opening acts. Now here’s the real star of this Wednesday Wow! It’s a brilliant bit that took some real planning and a lot of friends to pull off:

The “making of” is as much fun at the actual production! (Reminds me of how I enjoyed the Making of March of the Penguins way more than I did the actual film.)

You can do some really clever stuff with stop action. I made a couple of the usual student films involving inanimate objects moving about. If you have a motion camera that can take a single frame at a time, you can make your own. Here’s a fun trick to try:

Have a friend (one who’s in good shape) move around by jumping. They don’t need to jump high, they just need to get their feet off the ground. Also, at the high point of the jump, they need to extend their arms out to the side. What you do is take one frame of them at the top of each jump.

When you run the film (video) what you see is your friend apparently flying around, feet off the ground (since that’s the only images the camera took). With their arms extended, it’ll look a bit like they’re flapping their “wings,” because their arms won’t be in quite the same position each frame (it can end up having a hummingbird look).

Los Angeles – Wilshire Blvd (in red)

I’ve had an idea for something a lot more complicated. I still hope to some day pull it off, since I really want to know how it looks.

First step is epoxying magnets to one wheel of a vehicle. Second step is mounting a Hall effect sensor that will read the magnets. We’ll also need an op-amp circuit to amplify and shape the signal. What we end up with is a timing signal that tracks the turning of the wheels.

Then we mount a single-frame capable camera on a pole or tower as high as possible over the car. (As high as possible meaning, it can safely go under signs and such. There may also be legal considerations if we want to be totally legit.)

The idea is to use the timing signal to drive the camera. The goal is to take single images at a rate that reflects the actual vehicle motion. That means we take fewer frames when going slow and more when going fast. The effect on playback should be a sense of flying down the street, at some distance above the street, going a constant speed.

No slowing down for stop lights or traffic, just a constant flight down the street. What I really want to see is the effect of other traffic and pedestrians. When the frame-taking rate slows, everything else should speed up. When you approach a red light (and slowed down when you shot this), the world should speed up and then slow down as you move on ahead.

There’s a very long street in Los Angeles, Wilshire Boulevard, that extends all the way from downtown L.A. to the beach. That’s the street I wanted to try this on.

Someday, I will!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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