Harrison Farm

for now, the only thing we're growing on this farm is kids - not the goat variety

Category: Projects (page 1 of 2)

My shadow project

[A little introduction by Marathon: ]

We were talking about solar eclipse phenomena recently. I told the kids about my memories from eclipses that I experienced as a boy, especially about how all the leaves of a tree would cast shadows that looked like the shape of the eclipse.

After the conversation, I did some image searches so I could show them what I remembered.

I was stunned to find that the truth was nothing like I remembered it!

Instead, there are thousands of images showing pinhole-camera effects. That is, the light from the sun passes through tight squeezes between the leaves and casts itself on the ground as an inversion of the sun’s distorted shape. Here is a typical example (Photo by Neal Wellons):

I couldn’t find a single picture to support what I remembered!

But I couldn’t seem to let go of it either. Without being able to explain very well why, it just seemed to me that there would be an eclipse shadow effect separate from the well-known pinhole effect.

I muttered something to the effect of, “We’d need some fancy lighting or a computer program to know if there was any truth to what I was thinking.”

Little did I know that wheels had been set in motion…

Over the past week, I have been working on a project. A coding project.

Sometimes we would play games with light during supper, when the light from the sun would reflect off glass buildings. I noticed that the shadows were almost perfectly crisp, even though our shadows fell on a wall that was 15-20 feet away.

That isn’t the case when the light is coming straight from the sun.

In the morning’s direct sunlight, the shadows are all fuzzy, and they would do all kinds of crazy stuff, like jumping over to other shadows, or some shadow that is a lot thinner than it should be…

A week ago, I had a realization about why shadows seem to warp sometimes.

I had always assumed that it was from the light of the sun bending, slightly.

But that isn’t the case. I realized that if you have a small slit letting sunlight through, there will be a light spot on the ground that is a good bit wider than the small slit. I realized this was because of the light from the right side of the sun shining through to the left of the slit, and vice versa.

During an eclipse, also, a tree shows many mini eclipses on the ground, on it’s shadow. This, we found out, is due to the pinhole effect.

Marathon still felt that a normal object, without a pinhole might also give an eclipse-like shadow. We made this big sketch, we kept messing up, but finally, we were pretty sure that any object would give a slightly eclipse-like shape.

It would take a long time to explain it all in writing. It’s pretty complicated.

So, instead, I did this coding project to make it easier to understand:


I consider ~150 inches from the ground to be the best distance for seeing the eclipse-like shadow.

Hope you like it!

[Marathon: So, thanks to Doodle’s javascript program, we can see how a shadow of basically anything leaf-sized, that is positioned around 12 feet above the ground, gets distorted by parallax effects to look vaguely like the crescent of the eclipse.

Here’s a leaf-like shape’s shadow at 10 inches above the ground during an ~80% solar eclipse:

Now here’s the same shape’s shadow at the same moment if it was 12 feet off the ground:

Totally different!

Even the staple shape, that already is a crescent of sorts, will bend to roughly become a crescent in the opposite direction! Try it for yourself.

Here’s another neat effect we found. If you set the moon’s size to be slightly smaller than the sun so that it allows for a “ring of fire” at the point of complete eclipse, here’s what the shadow of a ping-pong sized ball looks like.

Another symmetrical shape that gets bent into a crescent:

And finally, I was able to find a photo that shows this effect. The key is to find and eclipse shadow photo of just a few leaves so that the pinhole effect doesn’t dominate. Thanks to Flickr contributor Paul Sableman. Notice how all the leaves have a distinct concavity facing right.

Monster Toilet Clog part 3

Continued from “Monster toilet clog part 2”

How did we clear it? Using the noodle, an air mattress pump tube, water, and some lungs. We needed a stool to stand on also.

(I drew this in Adobe Illustrator)

Monster Toilet Clog part 2

Continued from “Monster Toilet Clog part 1”

The great Idea was…. A swimming noodle! Cut in half.

Yes! The green thing! PEOPLE, THIS IS A REVOLUTION!

This thing is way better than anything mankind has come up with thus far. It is completely sanitary (we drew a smiley face on the top so we could keep the ends straight), very quick, and very powerful.

Clearing a clog that if done with a plunger would take 5 minutes and give you water on the floor, takes about 4 seconds with the noodle.

This thing is so cheap, so clean, and SO EFFECTIVE.

It worked perfectly for about 10 months. And then we had the Monster Clog.

Sadly, It was my fault. I still occasionally forget to put my toilet paper in the trash can, and that probably helped it clog.

I tried the noodle. I couldn’t clear it. This was very rare but had happened once or twice before, there being a clog that I couldn’t blow out but my dad could. He tried it, and couldn’t either. So we filled the toilet to the top with water, and let it sit overnight. In the morning, the water level was exactly the same. This meant that the clog was a complete seal! We tried blowing periodically throughout the day with no avail. Marathon poured some muiratic acid into the toilet bowl. The next morning nothing had changed. We tried many different things, using an old shower hose as a plumber’s snake, using an air mattress pump to provide pressure, and were about ready to get a professional involved when we had the breakthrough.

What was the secret to clearing the Monster Clog? Hint: It didn’t use any specialized equipment.

Monster Toilet Clog part 1

Here in Chile construction is generally not done to the quality level it is in the U.S. The cabinets are all made of particle board, The U.S. standard of using nominal two-by-fours (actually 1.5″ by 3.5″) for studs in the wall are shortened to two-by-twos (which seems odd because Chile exports a lot of pine), and the crown is made of, I kid you not….. Styrofoam (You could never guess by looking at it). One of these differences is reducing the diameters of the pvc drain pipes from 3 or 4 inches to 2 inches of outside diameter, probably because the pipes have to be that thin in order to fit in the 2″ space in the walls.

Because of the extra-thin pvc drainage pipes, the toilets have very squirrely trap routes to break up the poop before it gets to the main pipes. The protocol here is to put your toilet paper in the trash can, to lower the chance of getting a clog. Even so, we still get plenty of them. When we first got here, It was a nightmare. We bought a round plunger, the only option in the Walmart-owned “Lider” store a block from us. The problem was, the plunger didn’t fit well in the shape of the toilet hole. Sometimes it would work, but if there wasn’t a complete seal, a bunch of water would squirt out.

We had many overflows too, when we flushed it because we thought we had cleared the clog but in truth not. Overflows became such a normality during that time that Rosebud is still scared of flushing the toilet, 8 months after Marathon had the great idea that solved our problems.

What was the great idea? It involves one very inexpensive object that we bought at the grocery store a block away, it is quicker and cleaner than a plunger, and we bought it in November (important clue), but it’s not available year-round.

This is a normal U.S. toilet trap.

Here is our toilet.

My Workings in Adobe Illustrator

That is the Evil Robot, pulverized by Illustrator’s various warp tools.

I made this as a “computer game” that Doodle and Rosebud loved. Under the text “choose you weapon” There was a panel containing all the warp tools. They would simply select one of them, and start destroying the robot. Once it had been reduced to a meaningless blob (such as this), I would simply copy in the fresh robot figure out of the clipboard and the fun would be resumed.

This is the original.

Here is something else I made.

Floating Azalea Blossoms

The day before Easter, Sudoku brought in a couple of azalea blossoms from the yard. I floated them in a small bowl of water and put them on the table with some dyed eggs as our Easter centerpiece. I was surprised that 1 week later, they still looked great.

I dumped them out and brought in some more. These looked lovely for 10 or 11 days! Azalea blossoms will become a spring favorite centerpiece around here.

You might not be able to tell in the photo, but the peach colored blossoms are double blossomed blossoms. They look like a blossom within a blossom. (There’s probably a technical name for that, but I don’t know what it is.)

Valentines Day 2009

It is a nice, fairly warm day here today. Rosebud doesn’t need her hat on, but I wanted to get these pictures up for Valentines Day.

Mimi recently learned to knit and tackled this adorable pink “heart” hat for Rosebud. It is so cute with its roll brim and should provide years of service. Thanks, mom!

see more pics here. Continue reading

Yardwork in the Springtime

honeysuckle bush bloom

Right now there is a lot of green coming up in the yard – the grass, of course, the variegated monkey grass, shrubs and trees getting their new leaves…and there are little bursts of color from the ornamental apple tree and the beautiful honeysuckle bush. It’s a happy time outside for the birds and I.

I also like the rich brown color of damp dirt. I love working outside in the spring in anticipation of things to come. Of course, seeing the irises, daffodils, and tulips bloom, and the cleome and lily foliage emerge, just fans the flame. I wish I were as motivated to grow vegetables. Continue reading

Water Heater Woes

A couple of days after we returned from the North Carolina trip, our hot water heater kicked the bucket. We had hot water for showers and dishes in the morning. Then in the afternoon, when I turned on the hot water, nothing happened. No water came out at all. After flushing out the water heater in case sediment was the issue (but finding almost none there) and realizing the heater was over 10 years old, we replaced the thing.

Not a very exciting way to spend money. But, boy, that hot water sure feels good.

Sewing Sudoku’s Skirt

christmas appliqued turtleneck

It has been a LONG time since I have done any sewing other than mending or minor alterations. But last week, I decided to make a skirt for Sudoku. I wanted to make something that would go with a cute Christmas turtleneck shirt that my mom appliqued for her. I was hoping to find a green corduroy to use, but settled for a medium weight cotton with embroidered polka dots (the same color as the material) that will be appropriate for most of the year here in the south.

My sewing skills being rather cold, I made a few amateur mistakes that, thankfully, didn’t cost much more than time. When cutting the material, Continue reading

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