Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cold Aire II

Here's another test - in which I manage to break my insulated mug:

Cold Aire Duex from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

I tried adding food coloring - interesting effect with the water, but as it changes into steam, it no longer retains the green color and is just white. Not a "flaw," but a "feature" that will have to be accounted for in the future.

Monday, December 13, 2010


It was cold enough this morning (ca. -10°F) to do this:

Cold-Air and Boiled Water from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

I'll have to figure out how to "kick this up a notch." Perhaps some kind of trebuchet or something...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A wee bit o' snow

We got a little more than 18" from the snowstorm that blew through. Hope everyone trying to get to AGU can find a way around the mess and have fun in San Fran...

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Geomorphically "Correct" Art, Part One

Among my various side-projects, I've been drafting a map for my friend and awesome author, Kelly McCullough. He's working on a new series, set in a far-away land (TM). One of the challenges for the map was a forested area, surrounded by rivers. There was also a mountain jutting out from the middle of the forest. Adding to the complexity, the region is bound by mountain ranges. The trick was to combine these features into a visual representation that looked good, but also didn't obviously break any "rules" regarding how landscapes evolve and relate to each other:

At some point, once the first book is published, I'll revisit more of the features, including how I managed to fit country and city names into these features, without making any one piece too hard to read.

This post was inspired by Riparian Rap's "Geomorphically Incorrect Art" series. I've always looked at fantasy maps as serving two masters. First, it needs to supply the necessary elements that enhance the storyline. Second, it has to contain sufficient realism so as not to destroy the readers' suspension of disbelief. If the map looks like it depicts a real place, the story benefits. If the map looks like it was thrown together by someone who wasn't there, the story suffers. The maps in J.R.R. Tolkien's books are examples of the former - even though they aren't always geomorphically plausible, they have a sense of place and history that serves the tale.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The role of "Geofabrics"

I ran a demonstration in my soil mechanics class today, showing the role of "geofabrics" in Mechanically Stabilized Backfill (MSB) retaining walls. The basic premise is that the soil particles behind a retaining wall are trying to slide past each other and move downhill. This sliding motion (called shearing) is how soils typically fail - soils are weakest in shear. If we can increase the shear strength of soils, we can greatly enhance their overall strength. By adding "geofabrics," which are often woven or extruded plastic grids, the soils transfer the shearing to these sheets.

I started by packing layers of plastic BBs between pieces of damp paper towels. The BBs will try to roll & slide past one another - but this motion (shear) is opposed by friction with the paper towels. Result: the BBs don't move. When I flipped over the stack of BBs/Paper Towels, the stack of BBs stayed put. Some BBs near the sides fell out, but most of them remained - prevented from sliding past each other by the paper towels.

The first attempt didn't work well. But by packing them more evenly and lifting the container slowly, I was able to keep the pile of towels/BBs stable:

It's surprisingly strong: it was able to support the weight of several large textbooks:

Thursday, December 02, 2010

AW #29

AW #29 is up over at Ann's Musings. Check it out. I like her use of landforms as a way of organizing topics. Thanks Ann!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Creationist Theme Park?

So, it appears the wacky entrepreneurs over at Answers in Genesis are planning on building a theme park next to their albatross "museum."

Check out the fancy press kit and video of the Governor of "Bedrock" (nee "Kentucky") over at Barefoot & Progressive.

There will be a full size* replica of Noah's Ark, a Tower of Babel, but no roller-coasters.

So, do you know why there won't be any roller-coasters at the Creationist Theme Park?

Because Gravity is "Only a Theory."

*full-size varies greatly depending on how you define "cubit." Among other variables...