Theo Jansen’s Strandbeest

What are Strandbeest?

(Originally published on 2016/08/31.)

Theo Jansen invented the strandbeest. He describes them as “new forms of life” that “live their own lives“. That’s not accurate though. These aren’t alive by any scientific definition of the word.

Most of the strandbeest leg-bones share the same relative lengths. Mr Jansen calls these ratios “the holy numbers“. Trying every possible combination of ratios was an intractable problem, so Mr Jansen used an evolutionary approach, with a computer simulation, to get to the optimal ratios in a reasonable amount of time. 

There are many full-sized, strandbeest videos, but I am only going to post one here:

 

The remaining links will be to smaller strandbeest that you-too can own.

I Built My Own Strandbeest

I have three kits. I finished the first one (minus the propeller). Here are Adam Savage’s builds of the same three kits:

All three kits are available from multiple sources, at a wide range of prices. The Amazon.com links (below), are some of the more affordable versions.

Kit #1

My first build was a scale working model of Animaris Ordis Parvus. It’s the Vol. 30 Gakken kit. You can find it here:

Here’s another version of Animaris Ordis Parvus. This one is in English:

Kit #2

The second kit is Gakken’s “Biped Walking Robot”. It comes as a Japanese “mook” (model+book):

Kit #3

The third kit is Gakken’s scale model of Animaris Rhinoceros Parvus. The English edition is branded as “Jr. Scientist”, but it’s actually the Gakken kit:

Hexbug’s Motorized, Steerable, Strandbeest

Hexbug sells two sizes of strandbeest. They are four legged versions similar-to Animaris Ordis Parvus. They go forwards, backwards, and turn. They do this by using two motors and crankshafts instead of one.

The Animaris Ordis Parvus Gakken kit’s crankshaft is actually split-able in the center, so one could potentially create something like these from that kit.

Here is the larger version, called Vex Robotics Strandbeast XL, which is a kit:

Here is the smaller version, called Hexbug Tarantula, which is pre-built:

Lego Strandbeests

Jason Allemann from JK Brickworks has created a Lego steerable strandbeest. It’s web page is here.

Jason shares step-by-step PDF instructions on how to build the legs here.

This is my favorite Lego steerable strandbeest. It’s Lego Ideas page is here. Unfortunately Lego will not be releasing this as a kit.

Here’s a Lego version of Theo Jansen’s Animaris Rhinoceros Parvus. It’s Lego Ideas page is here. Unfortunately Lego will not be releasing this as a kit.

Here is OSchoe’s Mindstorms Lego steerable strandbeest. It’s web page is here.

Blender and Bullet Physics Engine Simulation by Phymec

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Aspergian Prosopagnosian

(Originally posted on 2016-02-21 as /archives/10770)

At least I don't have that Aspergian glassy stare. Oh. No. There it is.
At least I don’t have that Aspergian glassy stare. Oh. No. There it is.

Naturally I have some reservations about sharing this information, because people have prejudices, and prejudices can keep you from getting jobs. Also: most social interaction makes me uncomfortable, and putting something like this on the Internet? That’s a big deal. That said, John Elder Robison did it, Temple Grandin did it, and Dan Aykroyd did it too. It’s not like my introvert-ed-ness is some kind of dark secret, but where does it come from?

I recently learned that I was born faceblind (congenital prosopagnosia). I also learned that I have Asperger Syndrome. These two facts explain a childhood of wondering why “complete strangers” insisted on talking to me.

I made a long list while reading John Elder Robison’s (JER) Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s. This was a list of “things that JER says are Aspergian, but are true of most introverts, computer programmers, engineers, and cats.”

A few years later I took one of those screening tests, and scored way into the you-are-autistic range. I was surprised, because I answered all of the list-making questions with the equivalent of I’m-not-Rain-Man, but as I later realized I actually do keep lots of lists.  From time-to-time, I wonder, “Who will maintain my lists when I die?” (The answer should be: who cares.)

The irony of keeping a list of all my attributes, that in my opinion at the time, were not actually related to autism, is not lost on me now.

This Asperger’s thing also explains why, in the past, female friends have asked me “why don’t you like me”, or told me, “you are not like other guys.” They could never tell me how I was not like other guys. Well, “It’s not you; it’s me,” is not a cliche in my case. I really am different from other guys, and no, there’s nothing wrong with you at all.

How about those Mets?

None of this stopped me from being successful, JER designed the first fire-spitting guitars for KISS, and that Dark Tower game, and shot a snake with a pistol… or something: you don’t get more successful than that.

But really the only thing keeping me down is the CFS/ME. It’s like being drunk and having influenza all the time. I have been sleeping 20 hours per day most days for a few weeks, and 16-20 for more than five years.

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DANGER _IS_ MY MIDDLE NAME

(Originally posted on 2009-07-20 as /archives/2464)

IMG_9397

I wanted to have the same last name as my spouse and daughter, I have been called Paul since 1985, and Kay insisted that I have a middle name, so I changed my name from “William Paul Caligiuri” to “Paul Danger Kile”. As a bonus I no longer have to spell my last name over-and-over again. “Danger” is my  legal middle name as-of 2007-02-02.

I am not the only one. “Brian Danger r.” (not his real family name) left the following quote on the last version of this website: “I just legally changed my middle name to danger and was googling around to see if I could find others like me. I’m glad I’m not the only one!”

Here are some “danger is my middle name”, and similar, quotes

Books and Magazines

These are the earliest “Danger is my middle name” book quotes that we could find.

1954

“The Cactus Wildcat, A One-act Rip-roaring Western Comedy for Children”, by James S. Wallerstein (published in 1954) says: “Danger is my middle name.” on page 22.

1970

The Trumpet of the Swan by E B White (published in 1970) says: “Danger is my middle name.” on page 227.

These are the earlies “…is my middle name” book-and-magazine quotes that we could find.

1897

Munsey’s magazine, Volume 18 (published in 1897) says “Deserving is my middle name” on page 64.

1909

The Submarine Boys’ Trial Trip: Making Good as Young Experts, by Victor G. Durham (published in 1909): says: “Porpoise is my middle name…” on page 172.

1925

Pearson’s Magazine, Volume 33 (published in 1925) says “Transportation is my middle name” on page 117, and “Wisdom Is Our Middle Name” on page 253.

Television and Movies

This is the earliest TV quote that I could find.

1968

The Monkees Monstrous Monkee Mash (1968)
Micky: [speaking with a masculine voice] Well, don’t worry, my middle name is ‘Danger’.
Micky: [the Wolfman lets out a growl from behind the door] Aaah! Of course, my last name is ‘Chicken’.

Renaissance Poetry

1500’s

The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser, Book IV, published in the 1500’s says, “His name was Daunger dreaded ouer all”.

References

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Lens Compression and Lens Distortion

(Originally published 2016-03-16 as /archives/10930)

This lens-compression-thing: we all agree on it correct?

Lens Compression

The definition of lens compression is this: if you use a longer focal length, then the background will appear to be closer to the subject. There are numerous examples of images that “prove” this out there (including the GIF below), but guess what? Lens compression doesn’t actually exist.

Here’s how the prove-it examples work:

  1. First the photographer makes a photo of a subject, standing in front of a background object, with a short focal length lens (wide angle, less magnification).
  2. Then the photographer takes the same picture, of the same subject, at the same distance from the camera, but with a longer focal length lens (telephoto, more magnification).
  3. Then we compare the two images, and note that the background object appears to be closer to the subject in image #2.Here’s the kicker:
  4. If we then crop image #1, so that the subject takes up the same amount of space in each image, we will note that the subject now looks to be the same exact distance from the background object as in image #2.

In other words: lens compression is just an optical illusion.

Lens distortion

Barrel Distortion, Pincushioning, Bokeh, etc., may be different with each of the two lenses. Generally the wider angle lens (shorter focal length, less magnification) will distort the image more and cause more foreshortening relative to the telephoto lens (longer focal length, more magnification), but not always. A lot depends on lens design, and post processing software is really good at removing distortion these days.

The following GIF was shared at “reddit /r/educationalgifs How different lenses affect portraits“. It shows the foreshortening issue and the so-called-lens-compression-issue at various focal lengths of a telephoto super zoom lens. For many people this will be proof that lens compression is real. It still isn’t real, and not all wide angle lenses will cause such drastic foreshortening.

OK: so if the focal length is changing, then why is the subject’s head mostly the same size? Because the photographer is moving physically closer to the subject, for the wider angle shots, and farther away for the telephoto shots.

Here’s the GIF:
XBIOEvZ - Imgur

Back to the Lens Compression Example

OK, so Paul must be wrong about lens compression. I mean look at how that tree in the background of that GIF moves closer to the subject: right?

In the following video, Dieter Schneider does the steps (from above) to prove that lens compression does not exist.

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Two Famous Big-plane Barrel Rolls

(Originally posted on 2016-11-19)

A barrel roll is a 1g maneuver. If done right, there’s no stress on the airplane, or more accurately, the stress is identical to that of not doing any aerobatics at all.

It’s so gentle that that late Bob Hoover doesn’t even spill his drink while pouring it:

Here’s Tex Johnston’s famous Boeing 707 Dash-80 Prototype Roll:

By Boeing Dreamscape (Flickr: Dash80TaxiTestK62712-5) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Boeing Dreamscape (Flickr: Dash80TaxiTestK62712-5) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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My Coursera Accomplishments —and— thoughts about MOOCs

(Originally posted on 2016-06-09, 2016-06-19, and 2016-07-28.)

I recently participated in online non-credit courses (MOOCs), and I did well. This gave me a real sense of accomplishment. That’s something that I miss from my software development days.

I have a college degree, but my disability makes homework a real challenge. This format allows me to study, and attend lectures, when I am at my best, which is rare.

That flexibility makes online lectures better than live college lectures. Although, yes, you would also want access to your instructors.

The first course was Survey of Music Technology.

Dr. Jason A. Freeman taught the class. He is from the Georgia Institute of Technology. I completed it on June 1, 2016.

This was like a recording studio engineering course that I took at the Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam (back in 1990?). Back then we did the recording on tape, and when we needed to splice it? We used razor blades, and we walked uphill, both ways, and we liked it!

Here is a video that shows what we did in the Crane class. We also spent a lot of time doing wacky things with analog synthesizers. I was always able to figure out what the sound would be just by seeing how the modules were hooked up.

The course had one quiz each week, and two projects. The first project involved using the Reaper DAW as a virtual recording studio. For the second project we did something similar, but we used the EarSketch instead.

EarSketch allows us to write software in place of the DAW. It’s a Python API and runtime environment.

I earned 100% on all tests and assignments.

survey

The second course was The Blues: Understanding and Performing an American Art Form.

Dariusz Terefenko taught the class. He is from the Eastman School of Music, the University of Rochester. I completed it on June 8, 2016.

This was like a Jazz Improvisation course that I took at at SUNY Plattsburgh back in 1988. 

Dr. Terefenko’s version was much deeper with regards to composing and improvising on the piano. I suspect that he has covered everything. If you are a piano player, and you love the blues, then you need this course.

It’s pretty amazing how much information was in the lectures. This would have been difficult to do in a live classroom setting. The logistics of getting everyone into the class, out of the class, and on the same page, eats up way too much time in a traditional setting.

Blues

The third course was Programming for Everybody (Getting Started with Python)

This is a basic beginner’s programming course taught by Charles Severance from The University of Michigan. I would recommend it to any beginner. You really need to take all five courses in the Python for Everybody specialization, in order to get the full benefit though.

What’s “For Everybody” mean? For some reason, in academics, there’s a stigma attached to anyone using relational databases to create computer programs. Outside of academia? Everybody does this, but inside academia, there’s Computer Scientists, and then there’s “everybody” else.

I believe that this is a bad name for the course. It makes it look as though it’s not as serious, and the name itself undermines the accomplishment made.

I earned 100% on all tests and assignments.

python-for-everyone

Lastly there’s Python Data Structures.

This was about how to use the data structures built-in to Python’s standard API.

It was very different from my previous data structures courses which involved using pointers, and other techniques, to build our own data structures.

I earned 100% on all tests and assignments.

Python Data Structures

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