Friday, September 30, 2011

FF - Pottermore

As a huuuge fan of Harry Potter I had to sign up to be one of the beta users of Pottermore.  I recently got my acceptance email!  

It's been fun, but there's not much to do there once you've gone through the first book, apart from brewing a few potions and learning a few spells.  I was fairly disappointed at the lack of interaction and the fact that house common rooms were nothing but noticeboards, but overall the graphics are great and it's a fun way to kill time, at least for a few days.

I was sorted into Slytherin which was not at all surprising! I've known for ages that I'm a Slytherin, so I'm very pleased.  My husband's a Gryffindor.


This is a screenshot of the gateway. It displays the journey through the books.  Only the first book is active right now. Each node is a chapter, and the tiny avatar squares show the progress of people you 'friend' who are currently online. User names are automatically generated for people when they register (mine is FlightDraconis122) but if you 'friend' someone you know, you can add a nickname so that you remember who they are.

For those of you who haven't heard of Pottermore or haven't gained access to it:

Each important moment in the first Harry Potter book is illustrated, and objects are hidden in the illustrations to collect and store in a trunk -- things like chocolate frog cards, books, galleons (these are added to your Gringott's vault automatically) and potion ingredients.  A lot of the chapters include J.K. Rowling's explanations behind names as well as background stories of certain characters, details we don't get to see in the books.  Those are quite interesting and inspirational!

As you move from chapter to chapter, you get to do the things Harry did, including buying a wand at Diagon Alley and getting sorted into a house at Hogwart's.   Once you've gone through all of the chapters, you can brew potions to gain house points, or you can practice spells so that you can eventually challenge people to wizard's duels -- for now, the duel option is disabled.  They're probably working on it.

Overall it's pretty fun, but I feel once the novelty wears off I won't visit it much due to lack of activities.  I've heard the second book is scheduled to come out only in 2012, which is disappointing. I'm not sure what we're supposed to do till then. :P

Friday, September 23, 2011

FF - 3 fun music sites to procrastinate with

This site lets you conduct a beatbox band.  Quite fun!

Here you can compose a song for a whale and have an orchestra perform it!  You may just make a new friend. The animation is awesome.



3. Ball Droppings
On this website the source of music isn't your keyboard or webpage buttons you click: the music is created by balls bouncing against lines you draw using your mouse.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

QS - The Atom




More often than not, when I tell someone that I've studied physics, they look at me as if I'm some sort of alien.  Or a genius.  Or a mixture of the two.  Unfortunately, I am neither.  
Since a couple of people have asked me for posts on basic physics, I thought I would start with the atom.  

A lot of people seem to get scared when they hear the word 'physics'. Perhaps you're one of them.  But I've got news for you: physics isn't scary. It's actually a rather beautiful subject.  A student of physics is a student of the universe; studying physics consists of figuring out how this universe ticks.

Now, a lot of what makes physics 'intimidating' is the math.  All those scary equations, and yes, I admit even I feel like hopping on the next spaceship to the End of the Universe when I see one I haven’t studied. But without using math as a tool, there's only so far you can delve into the workings of the universe.  However, we're not going to discuss math here.
Unless you have studied physics at some point or like to read up about it for fun, you probably only know that an atom consists of electrons revolving around a nucleus.  And that the nucleus is made up of neutrons and protons.  
Well here, goes.
Interesting things you may not know about atoms:
-- Atoms look NOTHING like this:
First off, an atom is made up of space. Lots and lots and LOTS of space.   99.9% of an atom is space. Suppose you were holding a nucleus that is blown up to the size of a golf ball.  The nearest electron would be around one kilometer away from where you’re sitting.  That's how much space there is!
This excellent video clip explains why we appear solid even though we’re all, literally, full of space.
Secondly, the electrons that revolve around the nucleus aren't really tiny spheres that move around in space like planets. (Though, planets aren't actually perfect spheres, but that's a whole 'nother story.) 

Depending on what type of experiment we perform, electrons behave either as particles or as waves. That means they look at our experiment and then decide to respond just like light does or just like billiard balls do. So, basically, they're both, despite how unimaginable that might seem.

-- As of now, we think electrons are fundamental particles.  That means if we take a teeny tiny knife and slice one open -- provided we're actually able to isolate one and cut it like an apple -- we won't find anything inside.
-- The two particles that constitute the nucleus -- protons and neutrons -- aren’t fundamental.  They can be broken further, and they do into little things called ‘quarks’. Each of them has 3 inside.  The combination of the 3 determines whether the particle is a proton or a neutron.
-- If you asked an atom how tiny it is -- a question I suggest that you refrain from asking to non-atomic folk -- you may be surprised to hear the answer.    Atoms are supremely tiny.  A single drop of water has about sextillion atoms of Oxygen -- that’s 1 followed by 21 zeroes --and double that amount of Hydrogen atoms!
Can you imagine how many atoms are in the ocean?  On Earth?  In our universe?
But, interestingly enough, atoms, and therefore visible matter, constitute only about 4% of our view of the visible universe. 
The Greeks were correct when they said atoms were the building blocks of matter.  However, ‘atom’ comes from the word ‘atomos’ which means “indivisible.” That's misleading, as we now know.  They can be divided.  

And who knows? Perhaps they can be divided further still.





Images from:
http://www.msad49.org/ljhs/WonWorld/MightyAtom.html
http://www.123rf.com
http://iain.codejoust.com/2009/05/wallpapers-galore/

Monday, September 19, 2011

Design Spew

So, I've decided to start logging my Photoshop adventures in the form of a blog: http://designspew.blogspot.com

This will help me keep track of what I've done and what tutorials I've looked at.  It will also allow people to give me feedback so that I can improve, and perhaps become a kick-ass graphic design hobbyist one day!



This is my latest experiment. I've logged it here.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

NUMB3RS

You know, I think my husband might come to regret introducing me to NUMB3RS. It's a tv serial in which a math professor uses mathematical models to help his brother, an FBI field agent, solve crimes.  And I'm OBSESSED.

What thrills me is that a lot of the models the math genius employs are soft computing techniques I've heard about or studied or even used!  I end up smacking my husband without knowing it, in excitement, shouting things like "OH MY GOD HE SAID SUPPORT VECTOR MACHINE!! I KNOW WHAT THAT IS!"  As a result, the poor guy is left very bruised -- though slightly amused. :P

The models are explained using very simple, lucid analogies, so just about anyone can understand them. Even if you're someone who is afraid of the word 'math' you should watch at least one episode.  You may just form an appreciation of how beautiful it can be!  I know that watching this show has made me miss some of my favourite courses in college even more.

And then, of course, I end up daydreaming about how bloody awesome it would be if I were a kickass math genius whom the FBI turned to for help.


Image from http://atnzone.com

Sunday, September 11, 2011

SS - Water drops and polka dots



So. Beautiful.

Photographer Licht~~~~ on Flickr captures various backgrounds refracting through water drops. Take a look at the rest of his Microworld album -- it's friggin awesome!

Friday, September 9, 2011

FF - Goodreads

Goodreads is my latest geeky obsession.  I have always been an avid reader, but have never really kept track of what I've read. Until now, that is! Goodreads provides virtual shelves for people to keep track of what they've read, what they want to read, what they're currently reading, etc.  Adding a book to my shelves gives me a thrill that is similar to what I feel when browsing libraries.

Just about every book that you can think of is listed, along with reviews and ratings. Authors often have pages for themselves, so you can view the books they like.  There's also an option to recommend books to people you've added as a friend.



  If you're obsessed with reading, you should really, really sign up.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TCT - 10 Interesting Mental Disorders

Have you ever wanted to open a pressure cooker before letting it stabilize?  I know I have.  Of course, I know that it would be dangerous and that there would be one hell of a mess to clean up. Doesn't keep me from being curious, though.  I wonder what would it look like, how it would sound, and whether the food really would reach the ceiling.

Yesterday, I stood staring at my pressure cooker, desperately wanting to open it...  and I wondered just why I held back.  I somehow doubted that every other person in the world would have restrained themselves if they were suddenly overcome with curiosity.  

Yes, many many of them would have been aware of the danger factor which would, in turn, leave them floundering in a state of unrequited curiosity, but I bet quite a few of them would have taken the risk.  Everyone has different levels of restraint, for whatever reasons.

My thought process went one step further: I wondered if there were certain mental conditions that actually made people take risks based on curiosity.

And suddenly it dawned on me that just about every potentially dangerous (or dirty!) thought could be amplified and linked to something someone does and maybe enjoys out there, whether or not they’re aware of it.  The reasons could be extreme tastes, mental disorders, etc. Rule 34 comes to mind, i.e., that a fetish exists out there for just about any conceivable subject, but I won’t go into that here.

Overcome by curiosity - and this time I didn’t restrain myself! - I decided to google interesting mental disorders.  I’ve put together a list of the strangest or funniest ones I could find.  This list is subjective, of course.

Here goes.




1. Gamomania. a disorder that causes people to make spontaneous, preposterous marriage proposals - even to random strangers. Let’s hope that if you marry one you’re open to a polygamous relationship!

2. Doromania. an obsession with giving gifts.  Kinda makes you want to find one to befriend, huh? Although it wouldn’t be as fun if the person decided to give paperclips and bottle caps.

3. Cotard Syndrome. People with this syndrome believe they don’t exist. Yup.  They think they’re dead. 

4. Body Integrity Identity Disorder. People with BIID believe that they will live better lives if they remove one or more of their body parts.  Usually, they don’t try to remove the body parts themselves; they simply pretend that they don’t have it, like pretending they don’t have a left arm.

5. Capgras' syndrome. If you are convinced that someone is using polyjuice potion to impersonate a close friend or relative, then you might be suffering from this syndrome.  It involves a delusional belief that someone close to you has been replaced by an imposter.

6. Autassassinophilia. This is a disorder that causes some people to get aroused only when in grave danger.  I wonder how someone with this syndrome would feel about opening a pressure cooker before it’s ready to be opened...

7. Folie à deux (French for “a madness shared by two”).  This is when two or more people are living in close proximity and symptoms of psychosis are shared by them.  Imagine! Some delusions can be contagious. :-O

8. Foreign accent syndrome. Yup.  It’s exactly what it sounds like.  Usually, it follows a severe brain injury, such as a stroke. I think I would find it extremely funny if someone developed this syndrome without any sort of injury.

9. Strange fears.  Originally I had written Androphobia (fear of men) here, but then I realized that there are tons of strange, inexplicable and often hilarious fears out there.  

10. The Jumping Frenchmen of Maine. First of all, I just love the name of this one.  Secondly, it’d be awesome to have someone with this mental disorder at your beck and call, because it means that they jump up and obey any command you give them.  Even if you tell them to drown themselves, but that’s just mean.  Imagine telling someone to learn how to make the world’s best cup of coffee and have them make it for you every single day.  Sigh.  Now, off to find my husband...





Sunday, September 4, 2011

SS - The Royal Mile

A friend of mine and his bike often go out adventuring.  I stole a picture of the Royal Mile from an album of their recent explorations and played around with it using Photoshop:



It's not *exactly* what I had in mind, but it's pretty close! I've rekindled my Photoshop obsession, and have probably looked at eleventy-one tutorials over the past few days.  Let's see how that goes.

The original.




Saturday, September 3, 2011

Hot Chocolate


Here is a short story I wrote a couple of weeks ago (~700 words, ~5 min. read). It was inspired by the following picture  from one of Ozlem Yikici's writing prompts.




Hot Chocolate

I hate it when Mama gets her hair done.  It’s so hard to sit in one tiny corner of the stuffy, smelly salon, especially when it’s snowing.  I tell her it’s awfully cruel to keep a child trapped inside when there’s a white world of wonder waiting to be explored.  But she just laughs.  An evil laugh.  She’s evil.
I’m supposed to keep from pressing my nose on the window and making fancy breath patterns on the glass, and just sit still with my storybooks like a proper little girl.  Even the little girls in my storybooks are allowed to go play outside.
How absolutely monstrous of her to keep me from the snow!  She says that I’m too little to cross the street by myself, that the horses and carriages will not see me until it’s too late and that by then I’d be as flat as Aunt Margaery’s notes.  I just know that would never happen, though.  The constables in their sharp uniforms and shiny brass buttons would protect me.  They might even agree to have a snowball fight with me! Mama’s paranoid.
Oh how much I could be missing, sitting on this uncomfortable hard chair, swinging my legs back and forth, next to this horrible row of gossiping ladies!
Why, a unicorn could be frolicking about just outside right now! Unicorns love snow because snow is white just like they are.  I would have hot chocolate with the unicorn.  I’d name him Cocoa, because hot chocolate is brown even though he’s white, which is what Papa would call ‘ironic’.  I would ask him to make snow angels with me. But I can’t and it’s all Mama’s fault.
The bare trees outside could be lonely and cold, right now.  No one ever pays attention to trees once their leaves have fallen off.  I could be chatting with them, keeping them company so that they forget all about the snow that’s caught in their branches.  But, no, I’m stuck inside this salon.  Oh look, Mama’s giggling with her friend.  Doesn’t she realize it’s snowing outside? Mama obviously doesn’t care about the trees.
I could be missing a lady passing by in a pretty pink carriage.  She could be wrapped in red furs to match her red lips.  I’m sure she would take pity on me if she saw me.  She’d tell me to climb on up and snuggle me to keep me warm.  Then she’d take me back to her manor, which would have rooms and rooms and rooms, and feed me tarts and tea.  Mama never gives me tea.  She says tea is for grown-ups.  I’m sure the lady’s tea wouldn’t be as bitter as Mama’s tea.  I tried it once and hated it. I bet tea’s not supposed to be bitter at all.
Right now, little dwarves could be frantically searching for stones along the road.  Everyone knows dwarves collect stones for their rock gardens.  But they are so simple and daft that they get confused when it snows because they can no longer find stones.  And then they become careless and wander the streets in daylight, forgetting that they’re not allowed to let humans see them.  But I haven’t ever seen one, yet.  I could be missing my chance!  Silly Mama.  She doesn’t know anything. I would help them find stones, I would!
The road could be turning into a frozen river with mermaids and brightly coloured fish trapped underneath, so that it would look like a painting on the ground.  But I’m missing it.  By the time we leave the salon, the river would be covered with snow and the road would look ordinary again. I hate Mama.
I bet that right now a snowman is landing his hot air balloon just across the street.  He could be calling children for a ride!  Oh, I just know he’s out there and -   
“Come, princess!  You’ve been such a patient little girl.  Let’s go to the cafe and have hot chocolate with marshmellows and plan the snow castle we will build at home!”
You know what I think? I think Mama’s the best person in the whole wide world.


Friday, September 2, 2011

FF - Physics and Physicists




One of my favourite blogs on the web is Physics and Physicists by ZapperZ.  If you want to know the latest happenings in the world of physics along with lucid explanations and links to good resources, then you should definitely check it out.