Lobster traps, shadows create a cool matrix.

I got some cool photos yesterday when I walked past new lobster traps on a pier. The cage-like traps and their shadows, which were cast on a clean flat surface, created an illusion of strange dimension and space that captured my eye.

These grids of metal and shadow remind me of some unusual sculptural artwork I recently blogged about in the gallery of San Diego’s Central Library.

The following images almost look like molecules arranged in a matrix. Intersecting parallel lines seem to form an abstract, mathematical, three dimensional space.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Life is a stimulating adventure!

San Diego students learn STEM through aviation!

Cool aircraft are displayed during an event at Gillespie Field by Air Group One of the Commemorative Air Force.
Cool aircraft are displayed during an event at Gillespie Field by Air Group One of the Commemorative Air Force.

Today I headed to Gillespie Field in El Cajon and checked out an Expo organized by Air Group One of the Commemorative Air Force. As I walked among all sorts of restored World War II aircraft and a wide variety of fascinating exhibits, I made a very cool discovery!

Students in San Diego are invited by Air Group One to participate in a special aviation-themed STEM educational program! The special program is designed for middle and high school aged youth. Ricardo Sevilla, the friendly A-STEM Educational Officer, walked over to introduce himself to me, and I learned a little bit about this truly amazing opportunity.

S.T.E.M subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math) can be taught to students in San Diego classrooms or at Air Group One’s super cool Gillespie Field headquarters, where there are a variety of potential hands-on activities. Topics that are featured include how to become a pilot, how to operate a drone, how to build a rocket, and the aerodynamics and design concepts that enable an airplane to fly. Potential careers in aviation and the aerospace industry are also introduced. Sounds like lots of fun!

Are you a teacher in San Diego who’d like to learn more? Wouldn’t your students be thrilled to visit an actual airfield? Check out this page of the Air Group One website!

Banner promotes Air Group One's Aviation Educational Programs.
Banner promotes Air Group One’s Aviation Educational Programs.
Air Group One's historic 1943 SNJ-5 "Sassy" on the tarmac at Gillespie Field.
Air Group One’s historic 1943 SNJ-5 “Sassy” on the tarmac at Gillespie Field.
Flyer describes an exciting ASTEM educational program offered by Air Group One.
Flyer describes an exciting ASTEM educational program offered by Air Group One.
If you're interested, use the email shown in this photograph.
If you’re interested, use the email shown in this photograph.
Learning about aviation can help a student take flight and discover new horizons!
Learning about aviation can help a student take flight and discover new horizons!

I’ll be blogging about today’s fantastic event at Gillespie Field as soon as I get my photographs together!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Computer Science and a boom box at UCSD!

Father of the Computer, Charles Babbage, 1791-1871.
Father of the Computer, Charles Babbage, 1791-1871.

There are two electrical boxes near the UCSD Gilman Transit Center that caught my eye last weekend. One features tributes to three early pioneers of computer science. The other is painted to appear like a gigantic boom box. Technology and music are central to the life of many students at UC San Diego.

I always love revisiting the campus of UC San Diego. It’s a very beautiful place, bustling with energy. The university is rated one of the finest in the world. When I see the inventors of tomorrow, walking with smiles in the La Jolla sunshine, I feel hopeful.

Enchantress of Numbers, Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852.
Enchantress of Numbers, Ada Lovelace, 1815-1852.
Father of Computer Science, Alan Turing, 1912-1954.
Father of Computer Science, Alan Turing, 1912-1954.
An electrical box painted like a huge boom box near UCSD's Gilman Transit Center.
An electrical box painted like a huge boom box near UCSD’s Gilman Transit Center.
Musical notes stream from an enormous boom box at UC San Diego!
Musical notes stream from an enormous boom box at UC San Diego!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Strange geometry: windows reflected in glass windows.

Two buildings reflected in the windows of 101 W. Broadway in downtown San Diego. On the left is the Spreckels Theater Building; on the right is the Sofia Hotel.
Two different buildings are reflected in the glass windows of 101 W. Broadway. On the left is the Spreckels Theater Building; on the right is the Sofia Hotel.

I confess that I love reflections. They often seem magical, like a glowing vision of intermingled dimensions. So I had to take more photos today of windows reflected in glass windows.

Walking down Broadway in downtown San Diego is like moving through a funhouse maze. Left and right, the mirrors rise into the sky. One passes through an otherworldly geometry of reflected forms; light dances like the spinning sun upon bright buildings.

Strangely distorted reflections in the windows of a San Diego high-rise.
Strangely distorted reflections in the windows of a San Diego high-rise.
The old Armed Services YMCA building is reflected in glass windows above the entrance of 501 W. Broadway.
The old Armed Services YMCA building is reflected in the glass windows above the entrance of 501 W. Broadway.
One America Plaza, San Diego's tallest building, seen in a grid of windows across Broadway.
One America Plaza, San Diego’s tallest building, seen in a grid of windows across Broadway.
San Diego's distinctive Emerald Plaza reflected in the windows of 501 W. Broadway.
San Diego’s distinctive Emerald Plaza reflected in the windows of 501 W. Broadway.
The Westgate Hotel building rises in the windows of 225 Broadway in San Diego, the former NBC building.
The Westgate Hotel building gleams in the windows of 225 Broadway, the former NBC building.
Unusual geometry caused by multiple reflections seen from street level.
Unusual geometry caused by multiple reflections observed from street level.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Reflection, geometry, complexity. One iconic dome.

Photo of a unique downtown landmark. The shining lattice dome of the San Diego Central Library, as seen from the ninth floor's outside deck.
Photo of a unique downtown landmark. The shining lattice dome of the San Diego Central Library, as seen from the ninth floor’s outside deck.

Many old redundant photos are being purged from my computer this weekend. But I had to definitely share these!

I’ve blogged about San Diego’s relatively new downtown library several times. I’ve posted more than a few pics of its unique lattice dome. You might recall some weirdly halo-like photos I took in the darkness early one night last year.

Well, check these out! The curving lines of steel reflected in the building’s windows look like a lesson in complex geometry. You know, in a strange way the dome reminds me of a graph or diagram demonstrating how time and space can be warped by gravity! Am I crazy? What does it look like to you?

A collection of rare books is housed in a room on the ninth floor of San Diego's public library.
A collection of rare books is housed in a room on the ninth floor of San Diego’s public library.
The visually impressive steel lattice dome tops an airy two-story high library reading room. An architectural marvel.
The visually impressive steel lattice dome tops an airy two-story high library reading room. An architectural marvel.
Reflections in the windows create a fantastic, mysterious image.
Reflections in the windows create a fantastic, mysterious image.
Looking upward at the metal dome and blue sky. Amazing views can be had of downtown from the library's ninth floor.
Looking upward at the metal dome and blue sky. Amazing views can be had of downtown from the library’s ninth floor.
Lots of geometric complexity and dazzling light for my camera's lens.
Lots of geometric complexity and dazzling light for my camera’s lens.
Peering down into the spacious reading room on a bright sunshiny day.
Peering down into the spacious reading room on a bright sunshiny day.
Filtered light and shadows form unusual grid-like patterns inside the reading room. The perfect place to study a math book, maybe.
Filtered light and shadows form unusual grid-like patterns inside the reading room. The perfect place to study a math book, maybe.
A three-dimensional delight. Intersecting lines fascinate the eye.
A three-dimensional delight. Intersecting lines fascinate the eye.
One last cool photo. I feel like I'm floating through some sort of mathematical dreamscape.
One last cool photo. I feel like I’m floating through some sort of mathematical dreamscape.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you like to read short pieces of thought-provoking fiction? You might enjoy checking out Short Stories by Richard.

How to make fun, simple science stuff for kids!

A mad scientist at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering shows a kid how to have some fun with magnets!
A mad scientist at the San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering shows a kid how to have some fun with magnets!

Here are 14 different simple science and engineering projects that kids are sure to love! I’ve included lots of instructions and photographs–courtesy of many exhibitors at this year’s San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering Expo, held yesterday at Petco Park. I also blogged about the event last year.

Check out this fun stuff! Feel free to share! First up . . . how to make slime!

HOW TO MAKE SLIME

Who doesn’t love slime? Slime is fun! And making it is easy! These instructions are courtesy of Vertex Pharmaceuticals, who had a fascinating exhibit at the big STEM education event held at Petco Park.

Just click the image with easy directions to enlarge it! You can enlarge the other images on my blog in the same way, if you want a closer look. Feel free to share these useful how-to photos on Pinterest or with your friends, if you’d like!

How to make slime. You need borax powder, water, white glue and food coloring. Click each image to enlarge instructions.
How to make slime. You need borax powder, water, white glue and food coloring. Click each image to enlarge instructions.

HOW TO MAKE A FUN PAPER ROCKET

Follow the diagram to cut and fold a simple paper rocket with paper clip! These instructions are courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park. Kids love the world-class museum. It’s one of the coolest places in San Diego!

How to make a cool paper rocket, using a rectangular piece of paper, scissors and a paper clip.
How to make a cool paper rocket, using a rectangular piece of paper, scissors and a paper clip.

HOW TO FOLD AN ORIGAMI BOAT

Look at these instructions on how to fold your very own origami boat! My friends at the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park provided this information! I even once made one! (And if I can succeed, believe me–anyone can do it!)

How to fold an easy origami boat that really floats!
How to fold an easy origami boat that really floats!

HOW TO MAKE MATCHBOX ROCKETS THAT REALLY WORK!

Here’s how you can make a tiny rocket that actually works in much the same way as a real solid-fuel rocket. Wrap a single matchstick in a small strip of tin foil, then crimp one end. Look at my photos to get an idea of what to do. Be careful! You know what they say about playing with matches! Have an adult help out!

Oh, I forgot to mention. This cool experiment is courtesy of the Magnolia Science Academy!

How to make matchbox rockets and why it works. This is for older, supervised kids. Fire can be dangerous.
How to make matchbox rockets and why they work. This is for older, supervised kids. Fire can be dangerous.
Wrap a match in a small strip of aluminum foil.
Wrap a match in a small strip of aluminum foil.
Crimp the match head end of the tube (the rocket's nose) so exhaust pressure doesn't escape in that direction.
Crimp the match head end of the tube (the rocket’s nose) so exhaust pressure doesn’t escape in that direction.
Prepare for lift-off from a clever, fireproof launching platform! Safely apply flame and let fly!
Prepare for lift-off from a clever, fireproof launching platform! Safely apply flame and let fly!

HOW TO MAKE AN “AIRZOOKA” THAT SHOOTS CO2 RINGS!

Here’s another cool project I discovered at the Magnolia Science Academy booth. A student had created a simple “Airzooka” that shoots perfect white cloudy rings of carbon dioxide!

The trashcan with a hole part looks easy. To create the membrane that launches the CO2 rings, you’ll need to use a somewhat flexible material, like a plastic sheet. Once the can is filled with gas, just slap it with your hand and out comes a “smoke ring”!

How to make an "airzooka" using a plastic trashcan with a hole at one end and a pliable membrane on the other. Fill with carbon dioxide and shoot rings by hitting the membrane!
How to make an “airzooka” using a plastic trashcan with a hole at one end and a pliable membrane on the other. Fill with carbon dioxide gas and shoot white rings by hitting the membrane!
The "airzooka" is loaded with carbon dioxide gas, using either dry ice (be careful) or a fog machine.
The “airzooka” is loaded with carbon dioxide gas, using either dry ice (be extremely careful) or a fog machine.

HOW TO CRAFT A FUN PAPER BAG HAT

What can you do with a paper grocery bag? Crumple it up a bit and form a Mad Hatter hat! Use your imagination and maybe a bit of glue!

This crafty idea is provided by the San Diego County Fair. This summer’s fair will have an Alice in Wonderland theme! I can’t wait!

How to make a Mad Hatter hat with crumpled paper bags and lots of fun stuff tied and glued on!
How to make a Mad Hatter hat with crumpled paper bags and lots of fun stuff tied and glued on!
You can apply ribbons, glitter, feathers, playing cards, whatever you like to fashion your crazy Mad Hatter hat! Okay, I don't suppose this really is science, but who cares!
You can apply ribbons, glitter, feathers, playing cards, whatever you like to fashion your crazy Mad Hatter hat! Okay, I don’t suppose this really is science, but who cares!

HOW TO MAKE A TINY PARACHUTE

I remember creating one of these when I was a kid. I made my parachute for a toy action figure! Just look at the picture and go to work! Pretty simple!

This parachute was put together by to the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. The Fleet, located in Balboa Park, is a super cool place with loads and loads of fun hands-on science exhibits for kids, plus an awesome IMAX theater and planetarium!

How to make a simple small parachute with a Dixie cup or object providing weight, string (or similar material) and coffee filter.
How to make a simple small parachute with a Dixie cup or object providing weight, string (or similar material) and coffee filter.

HOW TO MAKE A SUPER COOL STAR WARS COSTUME!

Okay. No instructions here. Just imagination. That cool costume is actually made of all sorts of Star Wars toys! Incredible. I’m guessing that wicked-looking dude is on the Dark Side.

I believe this guy was part of the STAR WARS Steampunk Recycled Fashion and Engineering Challenge.

Yeah, making a cool costume out of Star Wars toys might take a bit of glue. But all you really need is determination and imagination! (And maybe a credit card.)
Yeah, making a cool costume out of Star Wars toys might take a bit of glue. But all you really need is determination and imagination! (And maybe a credit card.)

HOW TO USE YOUR IMAGINATION TO BUILD ANYTHING!

What are we building here? Absolutely anything! It just takes some imagination!

Just look at some of the common household items one can use to invent cool things. I’ll bet you have some of this stuff in your own home.

I took this pic at a fun table display in the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab tent.

What can a person make with this stuff? Anything!
What can a person make with this stuff? Anything!
Objects you can use creatively include popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, straws, tubes, tape and buttons.
Objects you can use creatively include popsicle sticks, plastic spoons, straws, tubes, tape and buttons.

HOW TO MIX UP SOME SNAIL GOOP

Slime…snail goop…boogers…it’s all the same good stuff. At least it’s the same mixture of borax powder, water and white glue. A truly yucky and wonderful substance. Science rocks!

Thanks (maybe) to the Steam Maker Workshop for this gloppy sight.

Okay, snail goop is pretty much the same stuff as slime. But I like the name!
Okay, snail goop is pretty much the same stuff as slime. But I like the name!
If a snail made that much goop, it would be a monster. Fortunately, that monstrous snail would be slow.
If a snail made that much goop, it would be a monster. Fortunately, that monstrous snail would be slow.
Kids and curious adults were learning all sorts of cool concepts at the 2016 San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering at Petco Park.
Kids and curious adults were learning all sorts of cool concepts at the 2016 San Diego Festival of Science and Engineering at Petco Park.

HOW TO CREATE A 3-D OPTICAL ILLUSION WITH STRING

Here’s a cool experiment that demonstrates concepts in math and spatial geometry. Perhaps imagine that the string is a ray of light. From the “tower”, stretch the string so that it touches each of the four top corners of your cube, and plot where the string finally reaches your piece of paper. Connect those points with lines the way my photographs show, then look at the image from the end of the string! It looks like some sort of weird optical illusion, but you’ll see the result actually makes sense!

This exhibit was provided by San Diego State University’s InforMath Collaborative.

By using a string attached to this tower, you can plot the projected corners of a cube or other three dimensional object onto a flat two dimensional surface.
By using a string attached to this tower, you can plot the projected corners of a cube or other three dimensional object onto a flat two dimensional surface.
After drawing the cube's base and drawing lines to connect the square with the projected corners, I ended up with this cool figure.
After drawing the cube’s base and drawing lines to connect the square with the projected corners, I ended up with this cool figure.
When I peered at the image through a hole near the end of the string, I saw a perfect cube! Cool!
When I peered at the image through a hole near the end of the string, I saw a perfect cube! Cool!

HOW TO ASSEMBLE A COOL TENSEGRITY CONSTRUCT

Oh, man! I think you could construct most of this cool stuff with Tinkertoys. Look at the diagrams and go wild! You’ll need lots of rubber bands!

Tensegrity is another science concept that was being demonstrated at the STEM education event. A friendly gentleman explained that the sticks are like bones and the rubber bands are like muscles. So human beings and other critters are examples of tensegrity!

Oops. I apologize for not knowing who put on this exhibit.

What the heck is tensegrity? A funny word created by Buckminster Fuller. You can use rubber bands to add tension to popsicle sticks and create cool stuff.
What the heck is tensegrity? A funny word created by Buckminster Fuller. You can use rubber bands to add tension to popsicle sticks and create cool stuff.
Check it out! Tensegrity is also sometimes called tensional integrity or floating compression.
Check it out! Tensegrity is also sometimes called tensional integrity or floating compression.
These guys formed a huge tensegrity thingamajig using pipes and big rubber bands. I suppose one could use bungee cords, too.
These guys formed a huge tensegrity thingamajig using pipes and big rubber bands. I suppose one could use bungee cords, too.
Look at all the tensegrity objects you can make!
Look at all the tensegrity objects you can make!

HOW TO MAKE A VORTEX CANNON

Here’s a pic that has exact instructions on how to build a vortex air cannon. Looks really easy! (As usual, click the image to enlarge it.)

Uh, oh. I don’t know who created this exhibit, either. I forgot to take a picture with their name. My research got a bit sloppy. Sorry about that. Whoever had this table–very cool!

The vortex cannon shoots air in--you guessed it--a vortex.
The vortex cannon shoots air in–you guessed it–a vortex.
To make a vortex cannon, insert a cut water bottle into a plastic Solo cup.
To make a vortex cannon, insert a cut narrow water bottle into a larger plastic Solo cup, just like the photo.
Then cut off the nozzle of a balloon, and stretch the balloon over the open end of the cup.
Then cut off the nozzle of a balloon, and stretch the balloon over the open end of the cup.

HOW TO STIR UP LAVA IN A CUP

Finally, I’ve heard of java in a cup. But lava in a cup? Why not?

Adding salt to the floating oil makes the blob sink. It has become more dense than water. When the salt dissolves, the oil rises again!

Those instructions look super simple!

To make "lava in a cup", use food coloring, vegetable oil and salt! It's easy!
To make “lava in a cup”, use food coloring, vegetable oil and salt! It’s easy!
You can then use that colorful lava in the cup to make some colorful art! Awesome!
You can then use that colorful lava in the cup to make some colorful art! Awesome!

That’s it! You now have a whole bunch of cool and creative science projects to try out! Have a blast!

Hey! Are you a kid? (Or even a boring old adult?) Try starting a blog like Cool San Diego Sights! You can blog about anything in the whole wide world. It’s free and fun! And it’s pretty easy, too!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! You can enjoy more Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Do you want to make the world a better place? Please join Bloggers Lifting Others Generously.

A short story to make you smile and cry.

sunflowers

Every few years, it seems, an unexpected sunflower springs up near the place where I live. So I decided to write a short story…

AN UNEXPECTED SUNFLOWER

(a small story)

by Richard

Lucy was surprised to see that an unexpected sunflower had sprouted in a corner of her backyard. Where it came from, she didn’t know. Every day she carefully watered the plant. It quickly grew.

When the bud opened the bloom was just glorious. Large, yellow and beautiful, like a cheerful sun in a small green world.

Gazing at the sunflower, Lucy felt that life was indeed good.

Every person on Earth, she thought, deserved the feeling that life is good. Why not? Suddenly she had an absurd impulse: to give that one magical flower to the entire world.

Every person should see it. Smell it. Touch it.

At last Lucy settled on her best idea. She’d give the sunflower to a friend, who would then pass the flower to another friend, who’d pass it to another friend… And so on.

Seven billion people on an impossibly big planet wouldn’t see her flower, but a few would. That’s the best she could do.

Several days later she carefully harvested the sunflower and placed it in a tall vase. She brought the flower across town and gave it to her Uncle Carl, who was under blankets with a bad case of the flu. A note was tied to the sunflower’s stem: Once this small bit of sunshine has been enjoyed, please give to a friend.

“Thank you,” he said, sincerely.

The next day Uncle Carl was visited by Alfonso, one of his war buddies. “Now you have to give this to one of your friends,” he said. “And add a little water.”

The sunflower descended like a beam of golden sunshine when Alfonso handed it to his daughter, Maria. She rose from her dining room chair, stunned. “That’s for me?” she asked, with absolute disbelief. “Seriously?”

“Yes,” he smiled. “You’re my friend, right? But read the note. You now have to give it to someone that you think is special.”

Maria gave the flower to William.

William gave the flower to Jerry.

Jerry gave the flower to Daniella.

Before class, Daniella handed the sunflower to her Geometry teacher. Mr. Harrow didn’t know how to react. “Read the note,” she explained.

“But the flower is drying out,” he said. “It won’t last much longer.”

“You’re the best math teacher I ever had. So take it.”

Mr. Harrow took the vase containing the sunflower home. He read the note attached to the stem: Once this small bit of sunshine has been enjoyed, please give to a friend. He wondered who the blue vase belonged to. He placed the vase by the television and thought of his late wife.

Next morning the flower had entirely wilted. The crumpled petals had lost their brilliant color and several had fallen off.

Mr. Harrow removed the note from the stem and put it in a drawer. He carried the vase out to his compost pile, and quickly tossed the flower onto the heap. The vase he carefully cleaned and placed in a corner of his quiet house.

The following spring Mr. Harrow took a slow stroll through the backyard on a gloomy, gray day. As he came around the garage he was taken by complete surprise. Two sunflowers were rising from the dead compost.

The small miracle caused Mr. Harrow to wipe away a few tears.

Perhaps, he thought, being a teacher of math wasn’t such a useless thing. Because he appreciated the revealed meaning of the sunflowers. And it was: simple multiplication can quickly encompass the world.

If seeds were carefully harvested from a dying bloom–and just two seeds sprouted–one sunflower might become two. Then, repeated, two sunflowers might become four. Four sunflowers might become eight. Eight sunflowers might become sixteen. And in 33 generations–33 years–one seed might produce well over seven billion sunflowers. Enough sunflowers for everybody. Everybody in the world.

Mr. Harrow found the old note in the back of the drawer. It still read: Once this small bit of sunshine has been enjoyed, please give to a friend. He then added in his own writing: When the bloom finally fades, harvest the seeds and grow more sunflowers. He made two photocopies of the note, one for each of his miracle sunflowers.

In math, even the smallest fraction contains world-changing power.  One in seven billion seems like nothing, until it is turned upside down.

. . .

Lucy lay in a dark hospital.

The memory of her miracle garden had long vanished.  She had become very old.

Judy, her granddaughter, came to visit one late Thursday afternoon. She was holding a surprise behind her back. She presented a sunflower, like sunshine, in a tall, new vase.

“Can you believe it? Out of the blue my best friend gave me this! Isn’t it amazing? And it has a strange note. I’m supposed to give this flower to someone I love. I would like you to have this.”

Attached to the stem of the sunflower was a small photocopied note. The first half of the handwriting Lucy recognized. It was her own.

To read more stories like this, visit Short Stories by Richard.

You might also want to check out my Foolyman Stories blog, for some creative writing that’s just plain silly!