(Ugh, what's worse than painting a bad painting is painting a bad painting but not realizing it's bad until you've finished it all up and scanned it in at close to 7:00am the following morning. And then you see if you can rescue it by dashing black and white ink all over it, and of course that doesn't work (and the painting is now completely obliterated, which is just as well). So then you figure welp, time to start over from scratch. And thus we get to today's page. At least it has energy, only two badly clashing scale and perspective systems, rather than three. Man. Anyway just so I can say I salvaged *something* from the wreckage, here's the part of the rejected attempt at the page that, if you can ignore the zombie-like, dead pose, might not be completely and utterly bad in all aspects:
It's looking like Frame Up Studios in Seattle's artsy Fremont neighborhood will be hosting a show of my artwork in January--starting Friday January 6th, which is the day of the local "Art Walk." So that should be neat, and you can bet I'll bug you more about it as the date gets nearer. :D
Also there is a pretty yummy pie shop right next door to it, apparently called simply "pie"; their logo is a top-down view of a whole pie, with "pie" printed on it. Pretty effective advertising. :d
Feedback on the ad free GIANT COMICS subscription idea was generally positive, so I've been working on getting that hooked up--image file uploads and lost password retrieval it was today, mostly.
That's boring but fortunately people who've hooked up with A* on Google+ have been sharing some cool science things over the past few days!
First, you may remember that about three weeks ago there was a big flap having to do with a team of French and Italian scientists at CERN who claimed to have clocked a neutrino beam they fired from Switzerland to Italy as having traveled faster than the speed of light, which is supposed to be impossible--light speed being the fastest speed possible is one of the foundations of Einstein's General Relativity and modern physics in general, you might say.
So of course even uneducated nitwits like myself were like pfft yeah sure, and in fact it kicked off a big push to explain how they screwed up their result so badly. Well, The Physics arXiv Blog picked up on a paper with a plausible-sounding explanation: the team was coordinating the clocks timing both ends of the experiment by using clocks on GPS satellites passing overhead, but they didn't take into account the speed of the satellites relative to the ground: "From the perspective of the clock, the detector is moving towards the source and consequently the distance traveled by the particles as observed from the clock is shorter." So apparently once you take good ol' relativity into proper account, the speed of the neutrinos was in fact the speed of light. (This makes me wonder too if satellite clocks already take into account the faster passage of time at higher altitudes (being farther away from the time-dampening effect of the Earth's gravity well), and the slower passage of time due to higher travel speeds. ... Aha! They do.)
It seems like that would be a pretty elementary mistake to make for smart dudes at a place like CERN, so I suppose there are some French and Italian particle physicists with a certain amount of egg on their faces at the moment, if that clock thing was indeed the issue. I wonder if Einstein would have been amused by this or not. =p
And you've probably heard of how superconducting materials can levitate magnets pretty nicely over their usually liquid-nitrogen-cooled surfaces, but have you seen what happens when you put a superconducting material over a bed of magnets? What you get is apparently called "quantum levitation," which has been known since the 30's, but darned if I've seen a demonstration like this before. It's...pretty amazing, but don't take my word for it, just check out the video:
There's a lot of "it locks the magnetic field in place" talk in the video which doesn't sound very well explained to me, but the Wikipedia article is also rather rough going for the layman; something to do with the magnetic field ending up surrounding the superconducting material rather than going through it, and apparently we don't have a complete scientific theory for explaining the whole thing yet. Anyway the important thing is that it looks really cool.
^ This *would* have been a relatively disaster-free page, except that I realized just before I uploaded it that apparently I don't know how mirrors work:
If you tried signing up for the A* forum since about mid-May, you never got the confirmation email that the forum was supposed to send you; apparently phpBB's php mail function is notoriously finicky, and I suspect some email reconfiguration by my ISP earlier in the year displeased it. Fortunately I found a way to get it working by using gmail to send the forum mails, so you *should* actually be able to sign up and get going on the forum now, and I re-sent confirmation links to all those new accounts that had been stuck in limbo all this time. Sorry about that!
The effect demonstrated in this video is absolutely NOT the meissner effect (though this is a commonly made mistake). The meissner effect is the effect that a superconductor that is entirely in a superconducting state does not allow a magnetic field to penetrate at all, which would result in repulsion of any magnet brought close tot the superconductor. This does not explain the effects seen in the video, especially not suspending the superconductor below the magnets at the end.
Instead what's shown here is called flux pinning. Basically, superconductors like the one used in this video (probably YBCO, YttriumBariumCopperOxide) have an extra 'mixed' state (or 'vortex' state), where some of the material is not superconducting, but most of it is. The small, wire-like areas where the material is not superconducting is where the magnetic field is allowed to penetrate the material. In principle, these areas are free to move through the material, however, due to intrinsic contaminations or faults in the material, these "flux lines" (or "vortices") become trapped; once they are 'attached' to such a contamination, it's harder to move it around (think of it like this: a contaminated area disturbs the superconductivity anyway, so having the non-superconducting area at that spot has a lower energy than otherwise). Actually, since moving flux lines induce a resistance to current, contamination is usually added to these materials on purpose, so superconducting electromagnets (like the ones in MRI scanners) stay superconducting at higher magnetic fields.
What's happening in the video then, is that the superconductor is moved toward some (strong) magnet, and some of the magnetic field enters the superconductor in these flux lines, which are trapped in the superconductor. There is some resistance to changing the magnetic field, which is enough to suspend the superconductor, but not enough to completely resist moving the superconductor around with your hand, when applying enough force. The second and third demonstration, where the superconductor moves by turning above a circular magnet or by traversing a circular track, is possible because the magnetic field in the superconductor does not change when moving in that way (the field is symmetric). So "locking" the superconductor in place is really trapping a bunch of flux lines, induced by a certain magnetic field, in place inside of the superconductor.
Finally, some remarks about what we do and don't understand about superconductors. The simple kind of superconductor is called a "Type I" superconductor. These are metals that are superconducting at really low temperatures, usually lower than 20 K, and include tin, mercury, copper, lead, etc. These were discoverd in 1911 and are well-understood with BCS-theory, published in 1957. Other superconductors are "Type II" superconductors, high-temperature superconductors, or "unconventional" superconductors (these categories do not fully overlap, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superconductor_classification). In 1987 a new class of superconductors was discovered that worked at much higher temperatures than before (up to ~130 K), ao YBCO. These types of superconductors are still not understood; there is really complicated interaction between magnetic spins in layers in this material that already has interesting properties before it is superconducting, and we do not understand why superconductivity occurs here. However, we do have a pretty good grasp of what happens with flux pinning since this can be observed directly, so there are pretty good descriptive models of this. In 2008 another interesting class of superconductors was found, based on iron compounds (called ferropnictides). It is hoped that these can shed some more light on exactly what kind of interactions lead to superconductivity in these and other unconventional superconductors.
So I'm thinking that as I need to get "buy the original art" purchasing links going next to the new painted work anyway, and revamp the "buy hand-signed print" links to make them more user-friendly, I may as well throw in a "as wallpaper" buying link as well--once you've clicked it on an image you want done up as a wallpaper, and entered your desktop resolution and whether the art should be cropped or given side bars to fit your aspect ratio, I'd just go ahead and whip up the wallpaper according to your specifications (hum and I suppose I should add a small A* logo to it somewhere too) and email it to you. I haven't managed to find a good example of a webcomic selling their stuff as wallpapers like that, but I suspect I could only charge a couple bucks a pop. Still it might be something people would like. So if you'd be interested or not interested, or know more about the desktop wallpaper biz than I do, lemme know what you think of this idea.
At the beginning of September I wrote about findings that the comet Elenin, which was due to pass sorta in the vicinity of Earth on its way back into the outer reaches of the solar system from the Sun, appeared to have disintegrated. And apparently it did; its tiny remains made their closest approach--22 million miles--to Earth this past Sunday. The particles will come back around for another visit in about 12,000 years.
The article notes that about 2% of discovered comets disintegrate as they near the Sun, so Elenin's fizzle wasn't particularly surprising.
And just to show how much stuff is out there whizzing around, the very day after Elenin's fly-by--Monday--a small asteroid, 2009 TM8, passed far closer to the Earth: 212,000 miles out (341,000 km), or just inside the orbit of the Moon. That's still really far away, though, and given that there's no easily found mass estimate for 2009 TM8, it was probably pretty tiny.
At the other end of the space threat spectrum, scientists studying observations made by Mexican astronomer Jose Bonilla in August 1883 are saying that the 450 objects he reported crossing the face of the Sun were the remains of a mammoth comet that barely missed wiping out life on Earth; their calculations from his notes--and I think we have to take these with a huge grain of salt, of course--are that the fragments ranged from 164 feet to 2.5 miles across (those larger fragments being individually as large as comet Elenin was before it broke up), and that the comet they came from "must originally have tipped the scale at a billion tons or more"--in other words, it would have been on a scale similar to the asteroid thought to have wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
Who's got their comet insurance paid up? =D
Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:33 am
Joined: Sat Aug 07, 2010 8:18 am Posts: 71
What you failed to realize is that's not a mirror, but a display that shows the "proper view" instead of the reversed one we take for granted now... !
EDIT: If it was a set of 90-degree mirrors (also producing an upright-correct image) it would take up a huge amount of space in that bathroom! Why would they do that when a display would be much easier to use with an array of cameras behind it to produce an undistorted display?
Last edited by Glennnnn on Fri Oct 21, 2011 12:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wed Oct 19, 2011 1:09 pm
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2859
Aaaa I could've saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd thought of that!! =o
It was pointed out to me on Google+ today that instead of correcting the oppositely mirrored slipping dress strap yesterday, I could have just said that the mirror was a non-reversing mirror, which is a clever trick that's been around for at least well over a century. I set up my own little copy here at home to try it out; all you need is two mirrors placed together at one end at about 90 degrees; not having two mobile mirrors, I just held the shiny side of a CD up against my medicine cabinet's mirror, and behold and lo, the reflection, bouncing first off one and then the other, flips around twice and comes back looking "positive" as J.J. Hooker called it when he filed his patent for it in 1887.
Here's a screenshot from Photoshop showing the "actions" (aka macros) I use to generate the web page comic images from the 1200 dpi scans I take of my daily ink wash paintings. There are some steps in between with manually dragging and toggling layers; oh and that one "Make" step has the manual option entry flag set because otherwise a bug in Photoshop 4 prevents the Auto Levels parameter from working correctly. :P Can you spot the silly error I made in the second macro? I didn't notice it at first because this current part of the story doesn't have subtitles.
I'm sure everything will be fine. >_> Although actually the next week or so will be relatively hectic for me, what with another meeting with a local art gallery manager, a portrait commission, a party, and ehh a dental appointment--oh and a poetry reading! :D (I'm just listening, not reading :P)--in addition to trying to do regular comics plus all the back-end site work I want to do. Where's a nice friendly time warp when you need one?
Glad you're doing the giant comics; I'll certainly pony up. Regular smbha* looks so tiny on my T221.
Might go for some wallpapers, too -- as you can imagine they're a bit scarce at that size.
Thu Oct 20, 2011 10:28 am
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2859
!!! =oooo! *nosebleed* Wow that's big! And I'm glad you mentioned this 'cause I'd been thinking of saying 3000x2000 would be the max dimensions allowed when specifying wallpaper size (ya gotta draw the line somewhere after all) but I guess I'll have to up that by 1000 or so!
There's a little more info about this in the news post I made earlier, but the quick version is that you can now, by means of the "preview" link at the lower-right corner of the latest comics, try a free preview of the upcoming subscription mode, which (the actual subscription mode, I mean) will grant you comics so big you need a 1080p monitor on which to see them, delivered completely free of ads, for a whole year, for $25.
Oh and you can also get into it by clicking on this eye-catching large banner I made for the occasion:
You can exit the preview mode by clicking the "exit" link you'll have to the bottom right of the comics. Only the new, hand-painted comics will have giant-size versions available, but--in the real subscription mode, not in this limited free preview--ALL the comics--including the older, smaller, computer-generated ones--will be ad-free for subscribers.
I'm very curious to know what you think of the comics at large size.
When I opened this preview earlier today I was thinking I'd take it down once I get the full subscription service going--which will hopefully be some time next week--but now I'm thinking maybe I'll leave it going, just limited to what will by that time probably be the first dozen or so hand-painted comics.
Also spent some time tweaking the layout of things in the navigation bars above and below the comic in barely visible ways; far too much of that time was taken up trying to fix--or work around--stupid spacing problems suffered by Internet Explorer. GAR. Also the center bits--the drop-down menus on top and the bookmarking and networking widgets below--are now actually centered, b'gosh.
And that chain-link link button between the networking widgets always has a link to the permanent address of the current comic, even if it's being displayed on the front page, or in subscription preview mode, or in the "9999" latest comic shortcut page (I think once I get the subscription mode done and the site switched over to a dynamic front page I'll probably just have the comic viewing script default to showing the latest strip anyway, if not given any parameters--currently it defaults to the first strip), or whatever. I was actually prompted to do it a day or so ago when I thought I'd be using basic authentication for subscription mode security, because that would have meant running the script in a separate, secure directory, so if you were viewing a strip while logged in with your subscriber account, and tried sending a friend the URL directly from the address bar (rather than from the "SHARE" widget, which would give you a better one), it would have been inaccessible to them--not that I could have gotten around that limitation of basic authentication, so I was hoping people would notice the chain links and realize they might get a good sharing address from there.
But that's still kinda kludgy, so for that and other reasons basic authentication is out, and--assuming I can get it working--it'll be based on rather more user-friendly session IDs and cookies and all that like a real site, and you won't end up on strange secure pages you can't show to others.
Well I came across a pretty neat webcomic today that I wanted to show you, but it appears to have disappeared just as I meant to link to it. :| Hopefully it will come back just as magically; I've been corresponding with the author so presumably they will be aware of the problem shortly. Anyway it had a really lovely use of grays and lines and things like that that I'm not very good at.
Got a couple more kinks ironed out in the comic display scripts today--nothing you'd notice, hopefully, but just minor errors, some of which had been bothering me for some time. What was making this particularly bothersome was that I've had the comic display handled by two separate scripts: one that pushes out the news articles, updates the RSS, and writes out the site's front page, and another that displays all the *rest* of the comic pages; so they share parts in common but had a lot of different bits breaking up the common bits, and over time as I would tweak things here and there, errors would creep in where I tweaked one one way and one the other, and then other tweaks came in on top of those, etc, until I could look at the Perl scripts for them and hardly know what I was seeing. ;P I assume this is not proper scripting procedure. :PP
So anyway one reason then that I'm excited about converting the site to a dynamic front page thing (which will be going along with getting cookie-based subscriptions working) is that the comic display will all be handled by a single script. Whew! That will make future changes much easier, I think, and anyway will give rise to many fewer little annoying layout glitches and inconsistencies.
Oh and I've already changed those silly Photoshop macros for handling the scanned A* pages that I showed you just the other day--I removed the smart blur and unsharp mask steps. See, when I first started painting and scanning the page, the paper grain, which my scanner rather seems to amplify, sort of scared me and I wanted to try to minimize its appearance. But I like *painting* on grainy paper, and anyway it isn't really possible to get rid of all the grain and still keep the small details of the painting intact (pencil lines were coming through those extra processing steps quite spottily, for instance), so I think I just have to accept the grain and roll with it. Anyway the pages now have fewer processing steps between painting and web displaying, so even if grainy they look a bit more natural and preserve their detail better; I reprocessed all the hand-painted pages with them already, so they should be looking very slightly snappier than they were previously.
EDIT: Bleh, now today they look too soft without sharpening. Sharpened 'em up even stronger than before (and also no Smart Blur) now. I'm liking the crispness. Hopefully I'll still like it tomorrow! ;D
Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:19 am
Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 4:18 pm Posts: 2859
Aaaand today they seem too soft to me so it's time to go through them all and add Unsharp Mask back in, even stronger than before (and without the Smart Blur)! Yar!