Can you imagine a life without tools? We can’t! And you don’t have to! We have approximately 233 tools in our Tool Library – and are always adding more!
We have all sorts of things! We have laptotps and iPads, chargers and cables, hammers and screwdrivers, 3D scanners and hot glue guns, GoPro cameras and Raspberry Pi – all available to check out! We also have an Occulus Rift for use in the library!
Need a video game screwdriver set? We’ve got that! Wire cutter/stripper? Yup, we’ve got that. Sound level meter? We have that, too! Multimeter? Projector? Heat Gun Kit? Oscilloscope? Yes, yes, yes, and yes! We have those!!
We have 3D scanners, cables and chargers (63!), 5 laptops, 12 iPads, calipers, a 25-foot tape measure, speed gun, wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, socket set . . .
And, we have just added 2 Video Conference Meeting Cameras (Owls) and a vibration meter!
Check our Tool Library to see everything that is available!
Do you remember lying on your back on the grass and looking at the clouds – finding the shapes, marveling at all the differences? The types, the colors? Looking through old family slides and photos I discovered my father took a lot of pictures of clouds – as do I, my brother and my daughter. There is just something endlessly fascinating about them.
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s clouds illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all
– Joni Mitchell, 1967
Here in the library we have, not surprisingly, a lot of books on the physics and chemistry of clouds (for resources, check the list below). But for this blog, I’m going to draw on the appearance of clouds in arts and culture. Perhaps it is their beauty and majesty that has attracted scientists to the study of clouds, for that has what has drawn poets, painters, songwriters, and photographers throughout the ages. (Interesting fact: The art of seeing shapes in shapeless forms is pareidolia.)
An example of how far back clouds appear in literature, back in the fifth-century, the playwright Aristophanes, “cast a chorus of clouds as the source of ‘airy’ thinking. (pg 7, Clouds). Indeed, there are many sayings about clouds: “head in the clouds,” “nebulous,” “foggy,” and “cloud the issue.” Richard Hamblyn, author of Clouds, wonders if the saying “on cloud nine” might come from a story from the early life of Buddha. The story is that Buddha summoned a small cloud which ferried him over the Ganges, and “the Buddhist cosmology contains a tenfold cloud taxonomy whose stages mirror the tenfold ascent to enlightenment.” The 9th step is “the great bright clouds of refuge,” hence (perhaps) being on cloud nine! There are also frescoes and paintings as clouds from as far back as the 1200s. The fascination with clouds has a long history!
From the early days of photography, photos have been taken of clouds and storms. We may be used to taking cloud photos with our DSLR cameras, or our phones, but the technology in those early days made taking good photos very difficult. It took minutes, not seconds, to take a photo using the photographic plates, and those minutes often made the sky overexposed. One solution, used by many photographers, was to take extra, under-exposed photos and superimpose them over the overexposed plate. Superimposing one photo over another can be used in digital photo editing programs – there has been some controversy concerning the use – and overuse – of digitally edited photos. However, that practice has been going on a long time!
Talking about clouds and photography wouldn’t be complete with touching on clouds and storms in movies and videos. While we are talking tornadoes (see photo at left!), the famous tornado in The Wizard of Oz was constructed from a muslin wind-sock which was suspended from a metal gantry. It is still considered to be one of the most convincing tornadoes in Hollywood history!
And then there’s the music – see the Joni Mitchell quote above. Music and clouds just seem to go together. In 1867 the French astronomer and science writer Camille Flammarion was floating in his hot air balloon. He drifted into a high, thick cloud and could no longer tell in which direction he was traveling. Suddenly he heard instrumental music “which seem[ed] to come from the cloud itself and from a distance of a few yards only from us.” There was high humidity in the cloud and this helped funnel a band concert which was playing in a town square far below. Recently artists have begun to explore the acoustic resonance of the upper atmosphere. In 2004 Usman Haque launched Sky Ear – a cloud of 1,000 helium balloons with a payload of mobile phones, sensor circuits, and flashing LEDs. The phones picked up the whistles and hums that fill the sky – the phones were set to automatically answer therefore letting observers call the phones and listen to the “music of the spheres.”
Musicians and songwriters have long gotten their inspiration from clouds. Here’s a (very) short list (in no particular order)!
Get Off My Cloud; The Rolling Stones
Both Sides Now; Joni Mitchell
Cloud 9; George Harrison
Kickin’ the Clouds Away; George Gershwin
Small Dark Cloud; Kenny Rogers
Three Piano Pieces, EG 100: Storm Clouds
Floating Clouds; Rick Wakeman
Heavy Cloud No Rain; Sting
And the list goes on and on!!
If you are someone who goes around with your “head in the clouds” most of the time there is The Cloud Appreciation Society. Really! It now has over 40,00 members from nearly 120 countries! The society has recently teamed with NASA and have a Cloudspotter app. The information gathered submitted by the app users (from around the globe) will be used by NASA to help calibrate their CERES cloud-observing satellite instruments! You can continue to look up to the skies and help NASA at the same time!
If signing up with the Cloudspotter app isn’t your thing, but you still want to know which clouds are which and what differentiates one cloud from another, The Cloud Book : How to Understand the Skies, has a wealth of information about clouds accompanied by stunning, full-color photographs of each type of cloud.
Here’s a Sky Watcher Chart. Go out – look up! How many different types of clouds can you see?
How did Han Solo and the Millennium Falcon make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs, when a parsec is a unit of distance and not of time? Is it possible to build a podracer with our current technology? How about lightsabers – are they laser (i.e, light) or contained plasma? Could we possibly live in a cloud, like Cloud City on Bespin? And, in my mind at least, the ultimate question – is there actually a Force, a field what surrounds and penetrates all beings?
Author Patrick Johnson explores these and oh, so many more fascinating topics in The Physics of Star Wars. In sections ranging from Space, Planetary Science, Space Travel, Handheld Weaponry, Heavy Weaponry, the Force, Robotics, and other tech, Johnson provides a brief introduction, and then the backstory, before delving into the actual physics. He then progresses into “the physics of real life.”
Let’s look at the climates on various planets. For example, Hoth is an “ice planet.” The fact that Hoth is an ice planet is consistent with its distance from its star – that’s what we see in our own solar system. A big difference, however, is that Hoth has snow and frozen planets are generally made up of frozen nitrogen or methane, and not water. No water, no snow. Also, the temperatures would be so low that surviving in a tauntaun would be impossible…. Tatooine, on the other hand, is very hot and dry – consistent with having two suns. And that leads us to moisture farming. If an environment doesn’t provide easy access to water, organisms (in this case, humans) are inventive and find other ways to distribute the water necessary for life. Thus, moisture farming is developed on Tatooine. Luke Skywalker’s Uncle Owen’s moisture farm uses moisture vaporators. Basically, ambient air flows into the vaparator, the air comes into contact with a coiled pipe using some sort of coolant, which causes some of the moisture in the air to turn into water which is then collected and saved for later. Possible here on earth? Peru’s University of Engineering & Technology has combined atmospheric water generation and advertising. Yes, advertising. They designed a billboard which pulls water from the air, filters it, then delivers it to a cistern. Moisture farming on earth? Possible and happening!
Now. The Millennium Falcon. How can it make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs when a parsec is a unit of distance? Johnson explains it using an ant analogy. Two ants are walking at the same pace and moving from point A to point B. In the direct path is an antlion (think sarlacc). Ant 1 walks the long way around the antlion for safety. Ant 2 walks a bit closer to the antlion. Ant 2 will have traveled to point B in fewer parsecs than ant 1. Now add in varying speeds (because what would a race be if everyone was traveling at the same rate of speed?). So ant 2 is not only braver (by walking closer to the antlion) but also faster than ant 1. Voilà! The Millennium Falcon has now made the Kessel run in fewer than 12 parsecs!
How can twins, Luke and Leia, be different ages? In A New Hope, Luke is described as being 20 years old, while Leia is supposedly 18 years of age. What about Jedi mind tricks? Or the fascinating robotics of R2-D2, C-3PO, or BB-8?
For answers to these, and many other, fascinating facets of the Star Wars universe, you’ll have to check out The Physics of Star Wars! I shall share no more physics spoilers!
If you are like me and are driving through a rock tunnel (like the one below in Custer State Park, South Dakota), you might be amazed at how sturdy it is and a little afraid of the “Falling Rock” sign. But, again, if you are like me, you’ve probably not given more than a passing thought to how the tunnel was created and what keeps it from collapsing…
Part of the answer is “rock bolting.” According to dictionary.com, the term “rock bolt” was first recorded between 1955 and 1960 and is the “steel or fiberglass bolt inserted and anchored in a hole drilled in rock to prevent caving of the roof of a tunnel or subterranean chamber.” The use of rock bolts goes back much further than 1955, however. The use of rockbolts was documented at the end of the 1800s, and in the 1900s, it was introduced in coal mines.
And, in November 1930, the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was dedicated. It is a 5,160-foot-long tunnel between the cities of Detroit, Michigan, and the Canadian city of Windsor, Ontario. The first passenger car to drive through it was a 1929 Studebaker. The first Michigan-to-Canada tunnel opened in 1891 – the 6,000-foot-long Grand Trunk Railway Tunnel. During the first 9 weeks the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel was open nearly 200,000 cars passed through it. Today, around 9 million vehicles use it each year!
On December 1st, 1990 workers – 132 feet below the English Channel – drilled a car-sized opening through a wall of rock! The “Chunnel” (Channel Tunnel) connects Great Britain with the European mainland. It took nearly 13,000 workers four years to dig 95 miles of tunnel. The average depth of which is 150 feet below sea level. The cost? $15 billion….
As one might expect, the process of rockbolting is complicated and there are different types of rock bolts for different situations. The reinforcement function of a rockbolt depends on the load carried on the bearing plate. That loading pattern is dependent on rock mass quality, rock joint pattern, rock stresses, and the anchoring mechanisms of the bolt.
Rockbolts are generally made of steel and their design is based on how they are used. Some typical rockbolts include the mechanical rockbolt, slot-and-wedge rockbolt, and a grouted rockbolt. There is even an inflatable rockbolt! For more information on these, and many more, refer to the chart (left) and our resource Rockbolting: Principles and Applications.
Rockbolts do fail – especially during dynamic load shifts, often after a rockburst (a sudden, violent, rock fracture). For a quick look at a rockburst check out this video! Needless to say, there is a lot of quality control and testing which must happen with rockbolts. The quality and composition of the steel used in rockbolts is obviously critically important. There are also design proof tests, and viscosity tests of the cementitious grout. Along with the quality control on the mechanical properties of the rockbolt, there are many tests that are done on-site. These include pull tests, proof tests, and the inspection of boreholes.
If you are thinking of building a rock tunnel, there is, not surprisingly, lots of pre-planning, site investigations and testing that must be done before the actual building can begin. Practical Guide to Rock Tunnelingis just that, a guide explaining the planning process and what needs to be taken care of – including the design, drainage requirements, rock strength, and practical considerations (among many others!). It is full of photos – many in color – of the various stages of tunneling and the equipment used. There are also a number of tables and graphs detailing everything from historical failures of hydraulic pressure tunnels (figure 6.3) to a critical path construction schedule example (figure 14.1) to a risk matrix for quantitative assessment (16.3).
Whether you are planning a career in tunnel building – or thinking ahead to tunneling out of a snow fort this winter – be sure to check our resources. We’ll help you dig through . . .
International Symposium on rock Fragmentation by Blasting. A.T. Spathis. 2013. Tunnelling in rock by drilling and blasting : workshop hosted by Fragblast 10 : the 10th International Symposium on Rock Fragmentation by Blasting, New Delhi, India, 24-25 November, 2012. Boca Raton : CRC Press. Engineering Library TA800 .I58 2012.
Kaiser, Peter, K.; Ming Cai. 2015. Design of rock support system under rockburst condition. Journal of Rock Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering. vol. 4, issue3, 25 Sept. 2012, pgs 215-227. Science Direct .
rock bolt: Word origin: 1st recorded in 1955-60. noun, Mining, Civil Engineering. 1. a steel or fiberglass bolt inserted and anchored in a hole drilled in rock to prevent caving of the roof of a tunnel or subterranean chamber. — dictionary.com
So, it’s winter. You are tired of being cooped up inside. You need exercise (and not on a treadmill). You need fresh air. Got snow? Why not build an igloo?
A great way to spend some time in the great outdoors – fresh air, exercise – fun with your family and friends! So, let’s get started!
According to Norbert E. Yankielun, author of How to Build An Igloo and Other Snow Shelters, the first thing to do is “make friends with winter.” Which makes sense since you’ll be outside working with snow – it’s cold out there and you don’t want frostbite, dehydration, or hypothermia. To protect yourself, you’ll want to be sure to have the right clothing, nutrition, and water. You may already know that several layers of clothing are the best way to insulate yourself from losing body heat. But, you do want to avoid wearing cotton clothing because it absorbs and holds water and moisture. Similarly, you’ll want to wear mittens (which are warmer than gloves) that have a waterproof shell to keep your hands dry. And, don’t forget the sunscreen and UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles – the sun glaring off white snow intensifies the damage to skin and eyes.
So, what else do you need to know to make your own backyard igloo? It is possible to build an igloo by yourself – but what fun would that be? It is also much safer to build with another person. If you are building in an urban setting there are some “don’ts” about which you should know. Avoid the piles of snow near parking lots, streets, driveways, etc., a plow driver could easily mistake an igloo for another pile of snow. You also don’t want to build too close to parking lots, roadways, or driveways to avoid the possibility of car exhaust and carbon monoxide poisoning.
So, you have a safe spot picked out and a group of your friends/family. What else do you need?
Snow. You have to have snow to build an igloo (obviously). There are lots of different types of snow – which are beyond the scope of this blog. What you want for a good, strong igloo is sintered snow. Sintering is what happens when you compress snow into a snowball – it squashes the flakes, briefly melting the edges and then re-freezing into a snow mass. It also occurs when snow goes through melt and freeze cycles. Don’t have sintered snow in your yard? Stomping the snow underfoot is one of the easiest ways to create the snow blocks you’ll need for your igloo.
Now, what tools do you need? For the recreational igloo builder, ordinary tools will suffice. A carpenter’s saw will work nicely to cut blocks of snow – but cutting snow will ruin the blade for much of anything else. Buy an old blade at a garage sale! A flat-handled show shovel – the kind used for clearing sidewalks and drives – works great (avoid the “pusher” type shovels). The ideal shovel is a grain scoop…
You are with your family and friends, have snow, are dressed in layers and have assembled your equipment. What’s next?
Once you find a nice, flat area for your igloo, you’ll need to size your igloo and flatten the floor. An igloo large enough for 2-3 people should have a diameter of at least 6 feet. Have ski poles? Plant one to use as the center and use the other to draw the circle around it. Or for more fun, have the tallest person in your group make a snow angel – that will give you approximately the right sized igloo for two people! Then if you all get together and stomp around inside the circle, you’ll tromp down the snow into a nice foundation!
If you have sintered snow, take your saw and start cutting your blocks! Blocks need to be the same size and it is suggested they be about 18 to 24 inches long, 9 to 12 inches thick, and 12 to 18 inches tall.
Don’t have sintered snow? No worries, you can also use a clean bucket, or storage tub and pack the snow in that. When you turn it upside down you have your snow block! Got those ice blocks made? Time to start building that igloo! Place them, edge-to-edge, on your circle. Once you have the first layer made, you’ll want to cut the blocks into a ramp which should go at least halfway around the block circle. Now you can begin stacking the blocks on the ramp base. You’ll probably have to cut the edges of the blocks so they will fit tightly together. In order to form a stronger structure, you’ll want to be sure the block bridges the seam of the two blocks beneath it. It is helpful to have one person inside the igloo to help place and shape the blocks and to help place the cap block (or King Block) on the top of the igloo! The cap block has to be carefully shaped so it will support the inward leaning of the walls.
Yes, you have now enclosed one of your party inside the igloo with no way out! Making the entrance before the dome is complete weakens the entire structure, so that part of the construction must wait. (Might be a good idea to make sure the person on the inside isn’t claustrophobic!) There are a couple of options to consider when planning your entrance. One option is the “gopher hole.” A gopher hole is basically building a tunnel under the wall of the igloo – an advantage is it helps keep the heat inside the igloo! The other option is a surface entry, which I suspect, is what we think of when we visualize an igloo. It is an arch-shaped entry cut into the side of the igloo. Using an arch shape helps reduce the stress on the shell of the igloo when creating a hole in the wall. It shouldn’t be larger than 2’x2′ – just large enough to crawl through.
These are the basics of igloo building – be sure to check our resources before you start your own! Learn from the experts!
There are other types of snow shelters: quinzees (a hollowed out, dome-shaped mound of well sintered snow); slab shelters (looks like a pup-tent or A-frame); drift caves (similar to a quinzee – only in a hollowed snow drift); and spruce traps (using the umbrella of a spruce, pine, or other evergreen tree as a shelter). How to Build an Igloo and Other Show Shelters is a great source of information about these shelters and how to build them!