Entries : Category [ Miscellaneous ]
Abritrary unclassified topics
[Miscellaneous]  [Computers and Technology]  [Travel]  [Education]  [Hacks]  [Robotics]  [Science]  [Programming and Software]  [iPhone]  [Digital TV and Video]  [Intellectual Property & Copyright]  [Personal]  [Futurism] 

26 March

Competition-worth attractive and functional hard-boiled eggs.

My family, of Polish descent, celebrates Easter as one of the big holiday of the year despite the fact that we are all atheists. A key element of our Easter tradition is to eat colored eggs, and to precede the meal with an egg-cracking competition. Each person takes and egg and pairs of people gently tap their eggs against one another. The first egg to crack loss and the winner compete with one another until only one egg survives.

Colored eggs. The brown ones were colored by
using onion skins, the rest with commercial egg dyes.
(Click to expand)

Here are a few tips to competition-worth attractive and functional hard-boiled eggs.

The eggs should be hard-boiled. There are 3 ways to do this (in additional to crazy new-fangled approaches like steaming them).

1) If boiled water is used (as opposed to steaming), it means the eggs should be boiled for several minutes. If you start with cool water, put the eggs in, heat it fairly slowly, and then the eggs cool in the water, then the amount of time actually boiling is only a minute, but the cooling period in still-hot water needs to last 9 to 15 minutes (15 is for extra-large sized eggs). Putting the eggs in the water before it gets hot lets them warm more slowly and reduces the chance that they crack due to thermal expansion of the egg and the air cavity.

2) An alternative is to get the water boiling first, then lower the eggs into the hot water and let them boil briefly, and then let them cool in the water for the same length as time as above.

3) My own approach, however, is to put them in cool water as in method #1 above, let them boils for 7 minutes and then cool them rapidly in cold water which may allow them to peel more easily.

Despite years of speculation, we do not have a consensus yet on whether the pointy of the round end of the egg is stronger with respect to our competition. I am a pointy-person, but I have sometimes been beaten by a round-ender. It' hard to do any controlled study since every egg is different, but that makes the game more fun. ( Notably, there is real scientific analysis on idealized egg shapes that suggests the pointy end has greater rigidity and this should stand up better, but it might not apply to real eggs [see reference below].)

The Ph (acidity) of an egg apparently effects how easily it is peeled. Eggs what are more then 4 or 5 days old are more easily peeled after being cooked (they apparently have a Ph of over 92 which is the key value according to other sources). I don't know (yet) how this effects their robustness in the competition.

Egg shells are made primarily of calcium carbonate embedded in a protein substrate. The protein and an underlying collagen layer also help the egg hold together.

Boiled eggs go well with home-made horseradish. Making good strong horseradish is itself an interest undertaking. It is truly incomparable to the insipid store-bought stuff. Be prepared to cry -- a lot.

Egg-tapping and egg-cracking culture

Louisiana has a regulated egg knocking competition. According to this article, this custom is carried out in several Cajun communities throughout South Louisiana. In Marksville, there are cash prizes for the winner. The article suggests that some people believed that boiling the eggs in coffee grounds made them stronger. I've tried that and have not see a difference, but I wasn't rigorous.

Wikipedia this kind of contest is alternatively known as egg tapping, egg fighting, egg knocking, egg pacqueing, egg boxing, egg picking, or egg jarping, although no authorative source is given. It suggests the practice is or was popular in England as well as many other regions.

This reference suggests that some people think boiling the eggs in onion skins makes them stronger. I don't buy it.

Hard code shell science

The energy required for fracture of an egg shell for the narrow pole is greater than for the broad pole, but there might also be systematic differences in shell thickness as well as curvature.


The hen's egg: Relationship of mean strain energy at shell fracture to shell compression speed, the nature of the compressing body and the location on the shell of the point of contact
(full article requires subscription or payment).

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
17 April

Another study appeared recently on climate change and its basis on human activity. This one was a meta-analysis of other papers showing that there is a vast consensus among experts (97% agreement) that climate change is real and caused by humans (excellent video embedded below).

How is it, in the face of very solid evidence not only for climate change itself, but for a consensus (based on at least seven different meta-analyses) that there is so much political discussion over the validity of a consensus. Both Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin have recently claimed no such consensus exists, or worse. This is a very important issue and they have discussed it repeatedly.

The most generous hypothesis to explain their comments would be that they are so utterly incompetent that despite serious attention to this issue they were unable to discern the consensus among scientists or the credibility of the people making claims. Even if they are complete imbeciles, however, they have substantial staffs, so I cannot believe it was mere incompetence. In that case, the unavoidable conclusion seems to be that they realize that competent scientists agree on the existence of anthropogenic climate change, but are these "climate deniers" purposely distorting the facts. This is a much more disturbing realization.

If there was nothing else to make Cruz a poor choice for leader, his willingness to widely promote a dangerously incorrect understanding among the public would be more than enough. That such lies about reality undermine not only support for basic science, but even human welfare is extremely frightening to contemplate.

Supplementary reading

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
06 April

Event for startup company founders and possible investors

I attended LaunchFestival in San Francisco. It was a startup event with pitches from, services to small companies and talks on topics from fund raising to hiring. It was another interesting example of the hyper-energetic startup scene here and attracted a large range of founders and service companies. Apparently as many as 12,000 founders and funders purchased a ticket to got a free pass.

On the other hand the noise level in the startup scene is very high with a plethora of silly ideas, wannabes and short-attention-syndrome. That's the nature of the startup scene and by-and-large the organizers did a great job of selecting interesting participants, especially since it's almost impossible to accurately predict which zany ideas will eventually get traction.

I got to meet a couple of different representatives from Chinese investment houses who seemed pretty interested in some of the robotics ventures that I also liked. Overall Launch Festival was great and provided an interesting aspect of the scene here at an exceptionally large scale. I also made a couple of useful contacts and saw a couple of cool demos.

San Francisco Launch Festival presentation on scaling up
Sponsored by SeedInvest (Click to expand)

San Francisco Launch Festival demo pit
(Click to expand)

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
21 August

Watching the eclipse was a real pleasure, as a social event. The level of engagement was a wonder. What a refreshing component of the news cycle.

Partial eclipse with sunspots, from my telescope

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
10 December

My first computer

The first computer I built, or at least one of the earliest, was made without any electrical of electronic parts, and learning to play a game at superhuman level. It's a story I've occasionally told in class, and I thought I should document it here. It also has many common threads with modern reinforcement learning.

The idea was based on an article by Martin Gardner, and is based on explicitly representing every possible state of a game called hexapawn. Each box contained a bead for each possible code (with moves shown on the outside of the box by colored lines, each bead inside having a corresponding color). To play the computer, you select the box matching the current board state, shake it and select a random bead. If there is not bead, the computer resigns (and thus loses). You make that move on behalf of the computer.

If the computer loses the game, you find the last bead that was used, and throw it away, thus preventing the computer from event making that move again. As you play, moves that lead to a bad outcome are gradually pruned away and with time, the "computer" becomes unbeatable.

I've tried to replicate this game as a course assignment a few times in various forms, but nothing is as compelling as a computer made only of wood, beads and paper.

By Gregory Dudek at | Read (1) or Leave a comment |    
31 October

I had to opportunity to attend the tribute to Louis Dudek, held at the writer's chapel of St. Jax Church in downtown Montreal. He was, of course, my father and a famous Canadian poet, writer, critic and scholar. At the event a plaque was unveiled and a selection of writers and other people gave short presentations or readings, including Michael Gnarowski the organizer, publisher and writer, Bernhard Beutler who studied and translated my father's work, and poet Stephen Morrissey who gave a great presentation and also read a new poem for the occasion.

Stephen Morrissey's
gives more detail and the beautiful text of his speech.

By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
Prev  1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   [10]   11   Next