Category Archives: Wednesday Wow

Smallest Actors

Quantum Corral

There’s an old saying (attributed to Stanislavski) that, “There are no small roles, only small actors.” (One might argue that writers do sometimes create small roles, but that’s another blog post and not really what Stranislavski was getting at. He meant actors must take any role seriously, no matter its size.)

What I have today approaches the smallest possible actor in the smallest possible role. Despite this being seven years old, I think it still holds the title of “World’s Smallest Movie” — at least until we can make one starring nucleons or quarks. (I especially like the electron banding; that’s quantum mechanics in action.)

For a Wednesday Wow, a movie starring a single atom.

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An Uprising of Robots

Back when I posted about Delores, the Westworld robot, I mentioned a question that once came up in a science fiction fan forum: What’s the collective noun for robots? A mechanation of robots? A clank of robots? I suggested an Asimov of robots, but maybe the best suggestion was an uprising of robots.

An uprising of robots could refer to the scary Terminator scenario, but could also be taken as just meaning the rising up of (non-killer, useful) robots. That latter interpretation being not just factual, but quite operative already.

So for this Wednesday Wow, an uprising of robots…

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Wow to the Wow

Wow. April First, but it’s no joke how much — and how quickly — life changed. March 2020 changed the world. Now we’ll see if we survive it.

Spirits seem high around here. On my morning walk, in the park I saw that someone had used colored chalk to write good thoughts on the asphalt path: “Stay Positive!” “Nature!” “Yay! Vit. D.” “Family Time” “Exercise!” (Maybe others will join in. I think I have some colored chalk…)

It’s hard to top the real life wows, but I do have a few interesting items that might at least offer something of a distraction.

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Tiny Measurements

When possible, I try to find a theme for the Wednesday Wow posts. Last time, for instance, the theme was aviation and fireworks (two things you wouldn’t normally think went together, but in one case they delightfully did).

The problem is that I’m jaded and have seen a lot, so I can be hard to impress. Not lots of things raise to my highest rating, Wow! Fortunately, I’m not so far gone I can’t still see a world filled with wonder, some of which drops my jaw.

The theme, such as it is, concerns measurements, especially tiny and precise ones. Like, for instance, Planck Length tiny.

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Flying Fireworks

I don’t know if YouTube’s algorithm handed me the Intel drones video due to all the aviation videos I’ve been watching or due to the Kīlauea volcano videos done using drones (which led to other using-drone videos — it’s amazing how the drone thing mushroomed).

Point is, the drones video probably isn’t synchronous with my recent interest in aviation — more a direct consequence. But I’ve followed Tom Scott’s channel for years, so his entry into this Wednesday Wow post definitely is a case of synchronicity.

It’s also an airshow I’d really like to see!

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Guitar Wow

There are, firstly, the unique sort of jaw-droppers I usually have in mind for Wednesday Wow. Secondly, there are the little, almost hidden, daily wonders with so much behind them. But it occurred to me there is yet another category, one that is both daily and also jaw-dropping.

It has to do with the human mind and the kind of art it can create. It also has to do with how we respond to that art. What is it that an artist puts into their best work, and what is it that we take from it? Whatever it is, profound or mundane, it can touch us deeply.

As with the greatest guitar solo, ever:

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Small Wonders

Two things that get me out of bed every day and keep me going through a world I often find brutish, mean, and stupid, are my sense of curiosity and my sense of wonder. It’s another Yin-Yang thing: the Yin of the world’s crap balanced by the Yang of so many neat things to discover and explore.

Those neat things exist on all scales, from the vast to the tiny. (The crap, on the other hand, tends to come in human-sized, in fact in human-shaped, packages.) From quarks to galaxies, the universe is an interesting place.

For today’s Wednesday Wow, I bring you some smaller wonders…

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Reflections in a Mirror

I’m feeling lazy today and not at all like working on a post. But since I’m shooting for 899 by year’s end, and have 16 15 to go, I’m returning to an idea I had long ago but never really pursued. The idea, called Wednesday Wow, is writing posts (on Wednesdays, obviously) about things that really wowed me.

The truth is, lots of things do. For all my cynicism and misanthropy, life and people still fascinate and enthrall me. The various mysteries of physics and consciousness are engaging on their own, but life — for all its ups and downs — is one hell of a ride. (And, of course, I’ve been both blessed and lucky.)

Anyway, here are some wow things and a nice Christmas tune…

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Fourier Curves

Fourier Curve 1

Don’t let the title put you off — this is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while. It’s because of math, but there’s no need to get all mathy to enjoy this, you just need to think about clocks. Or even wheels that spin ’round and ’round.

The fun thing is what happens when we connect one wheel to another in a chain of wheels of different sizes and turn rates. If we use the last wheel to trace out a pattern, we get something that resembles the Spirograph toy of old (which worked on a similar principle of turning wheels).

And if we pick the wheel sizes and spin rates just right, we can draw just about any picture we want.

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2018: Hawaii Gets Bigger!

The Goddess Pele, by Arthur Johnsen

The Goddess Pele
by Arthur Johnsen

The previous year was an interesting one for me. Last July marked five years of retirement, which has been great, but part of me misses the high information content and challenges work threw at me daily. I’ve tried to keep busy with my own pursuits, one of which was a temporary obsession with the Kīlauea volcano on the Big Island, Hawai‘i.

I wrote about this back in August, just after the (unprecedented) activity subsided. At the time, no one knew if the volcano was just taking a breath, or if the lava flow was really over. At this point we know it was over; there has been no activity since.

For two-and-a-half months, though, it was an impressive display of the undeniable power of Mother Earth and, in particular, her fiery daughter Pele.

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