Saturday, November 30, 2013

You see some pretty strange things sometimes

Every now and then I get a bit of a creative "itch" that needs scratching. I was strolling through the hardware store last month and they had plastic lawn flamingos on sale. I already had some other items like black and glow-in-the-dark spray paint, and a few plastic skulls. The nucleus of a project began to form in my head.


What now?


Together with my pal Kelly, we just installed them and are currently waiting for them to be noticed.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Cool, there are some photos of me at TED Youth

There are some pretty awesome pictures of me giving my talk about sand to the kids attending TED Youth in New Orleans a few weeks ago. I'm hoping a separate video of my talk will go up in a few weeks.



I hope all of you in the US had a grand Turkey day yesterday. I'm thankful for the opportunities to share how amazing the world is through this blog.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some dancing water droplet slo-mo

Inertia. I has it. You has it. A drop of water has it. If, say the floor were to suddenly drop out from under you, it would take time for you to start falling downward. Once the floor disappeared, the force of gravity would start accelerating you, but you would start moving slowly, then continue to move faster. Inertia is the tendency of an object to keep doing what they were doing (motion, rest, etc.) unless acted upon by another force. The water drops in this video are sitting on a hydrophobic material, so when the fabric is pushed down, the water drops stay where they were until gravity starts accelerating them downwards.

The effect is pretty cool, because normally water's surface tension tends to allow water to adhere to the surface it's on and the force of the surface tension keeps the water drops moving along with the material. This is why those cool "shaking wet dog" videos show the water flinging out in every direction - the water adhered to the animal's hair is moving with the animal - and gets flung out in whatever direction it's headed when the shear stress exceeds the water's surface tension.

Water Drop Dance from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.
Nano-coated fabric stretched over the mouth of a bucket provides a flexible surface on which drops of water are able to bounce around easily.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TED Youth 2013: Talk Archive

If you're interested in seeing what I had to say - or what any of the other speakers talked about, go on over to the TED Youth streaming video page. My talk is at about 48:07 of Session 1. But there are enough awesome talks that it might be cool to let them just play through.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Whew! My post-TED-Youth recap.

Wow, what a weekend. It started with me getting a really bad head cold in the middle of last week. I stayed home Wednesday and Thursday in part because I needed to save my voice for the weekend, but also because I was so fatigued, I wouldn't have been able to do much those days anyway. But I was getting a little nervous, because I was going to be talking to 400 kids as part of the TED Youth 2013 event and if my voice wasn't going to be working...

So Friday morning rolls around and I'm getting ready to leave for New Orleans, my voice works reasonably well, but not for prolonged talking. So I didn't contact the TED people to try and revise the side-show and other events I was planning on doing. But I wanted to talk as little as possible. Fortunately, most of Friday was spent flying down to the Big Easy. But I didn't account for the cabin pressurization messing with my head, so that when I got in to New Orleans, I felt like I was talking to everyone through the other side of a diving helmet filled with water. Aside from feeling disoriented from the trip and the congestion, the Friday evening rehearsal went fine, then it was straight to bed.

Up early Saturday morning and my voice was strong enough that I knew it would last for six minutes. Fortunately, I was in the first session of speakers, so my big, important talk would be done before I would need to do some smaller side-show demos and activities. Spent six all-too-short minutes talking to kids about sand - what it is, where it comes from, why it's important, and how can geo-engineer things with it.

The collective "whoa" from the crowd when the reinforced sandcastle didn't budge when a bowling ball was dropped on it was fun to hear. As a presenter, you're usually not able to get detailed feedback about the audience since the lights are dimmed. But getting the whole theater to gasp is a good sign you've hooked 'em.

I spent time in between sessions demonstrating a fun water drop maze and talking to kids about sand. This pretty much destroyed what was left of my voice, however. So the after-party I spent nodding and smiling and not saying a whole lot.

Now I've flown back home and I'm recovering/prepping for the upcoming week.

Monday, November 11, 2013

An ode to silica/silicon

I just set up this photo as part of my talk about sand. One of my friends said that this was a very "meta and recursive" photo. I think he's probably right.

Another week, another talk: TED Youth, 2013

I've almost completely recovered from GSA in Denver. Almost done with grading the midterms that were handed out during my absence from classes, I've almost figured out what material I have to cover and how I can adjust to having missed a week of lectures while I was meeting fellow geologists and talking about science stuff.

This probably means that it's about time for me to head out again and give another talk. This time I've been invited by the TED organization to talk to a whole bunch of High School & Middle School students about sand as part of the 2013 TED Youth event in New Orleans, Louisiana. I'm super-excited and honored to be asked. I get to travel to New Orleans and get about 400 students to think about "sand." In between sessions, I'll have some examples of sand and their source rocks (think basalt, evaporites, granite, and glaciers), plus I will reveal a brand new demonstration/game that I just came up with last week! Not to mention, I've lived up near the headwaters of the Mississippi River all my life - it will be great to be able to see where all that water ends up after it's 2,300 mile journey south.

Speaking of sand, here's an example of where sand might come from: The weathered and eroded granite batholith of Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado. The physical weathering (ice, water, wind, thermal expansion, exfoliation) of that rock creates tons and tons of small particles of rocks and minerals that will eventually be carried downstream and transported across the continent as sand (and mud/gravel too!).

The last few times I've visited RMNP, I've hiked up the Longs Peak Trail. It's a fabulous hike. Most people who make that trip start at 2 in the morning and try to reach the summit, or at least the keyhole (on the other side of the mountain from here). But I've taken to turning off to the west and going to Chasm Lake. If you leave at 2AM with all the summit hopefuls, you reach Chasm Lake before dawn. And when the morning sun rises above the horizon, the mountain puts on this amazing light show. First it's a washed-out blue-gray, then it gets a little paler, then it starts getting orange-red (you can tell the sun angle is below the sill of Chasm Lake in this photo). After a bit, the red fades away and for another half hour or so the mountain is lit by full sun and gets this incredible gold light.

If you're attending TED Youth, or watching the live stream from somewhere in the US, I can't wait to say hi. If you can't see the talk, stay tuned...

Saturday, November 02, 2013

More Emflume high speed

I've uploaded a few more videos of LRRD's "Emflume" in operation. The potential for amazing slow-motion sediment transport and fluid dynamics visualizations with this thing are endless.

gx8 1917-Emflume9-sed-trans from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

gx8 1917-Emflume6-sed-trans from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

gx8 1917-Emflume7-paddle from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

Flow over an obstruction in the LRRD "Emflume" from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.
1000 fps, flow velocity ~1m/s

gx8 1917-Emflume10-paddle from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.

gx8 1917-Emflume11-sedtranstest from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.
Sediment transported through the Emflume, Note the fine strath (red) covered by a traction carpet. Saltating and supspended load also visible.

The only thing I would wish for in the design is a little more working room so that you can develop bedforms like climbing ripples, laminations, and antidunes, although I didn't get a lot of time to putz around with the flume itself, so it might already have these capabilities by adjusting some of the parameters more carefully.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Our GSA 2013 Poster is now a movie

I uploaded our GSA Poster as a video file so that people could see some of the images and get some of the information that I talked about at the 2013 conference.

Kuchta & Zimmerman, 2013 - 3D Scanning w/ Kinect from Matt Kuchta on Vimeo.
Movie file of my 2013 GSA poster on scanning stream tables with the kinect scanner. Until we get our act together and formally publish the work, here's a movie of the poster slides shown at GSA in October, 2013.

I plan on updating the list of software options (a few people gave me some great suggestions on how they were using 3D data in their courses) and workflow once the new Kinect scanner is released.

But if you're navigating to this site because you're interested in using the Kinect for teaching geomorphology, leave a comment below. Or "follow" this blog (either blogger or via google+) and keep in touch. There is too much for one person to track down by themselves, so I'm hoping people will be able to contribute their knowledge.

Cat Scan

So, did anyone notice the picture of my cat in my GSA poster this year?