Category Archives: Science Fair Projects


Father’s day tides at Moss Beach:

Here’s the tide table for this coming weekend at Moss Beach, just north of Princeton By The Sea, at the north edge of Half Moon Bay. High tide, +6 feet, at Midnight between Friday and Saturday, 1:00am between Saturday and Sunday. Low, low, tides at 7:00am, -1.5 feet!! on Saturday, -1.25 feet, at 7:48am, Sunday.
So, by crackie, we’ll be there as early as we an on Sunday. Sunrise is before 6:00am, so no shortage of light. Do a web search and you’ll discover this place has the best tidepools that ever existed- perhaps 1/4 mile or more along the coast, as much as 200 yards off shore of the normal high tide mark. A huge shelf of very low quality rock, normally around or perhaps a bit below the 0 foot level, that will be a good foot above sea level on Sunday Morning.

What the People want:

So, for example, here’s what brought people to my blog yesterday:
More editing tomorrow.

— Information pointed to from here:
mosquito bomb aimers position 23
boeing 707 gray 2
hobby store bay area 2
dh mosquito

— Information here for airplanes and other subjects for modelling:
mosquito bomb aimers position 23

— Information here for paint and finishing:
boeing 707 gray 2
how to sand down excess plastic modeling 2
how to thin model master acryl paint 2
remove decals to model aircraft 1
tamiya paint sets 1spraying with water based paint 1
water based paint diluters

— Information here about Bay Area hobby shops
hobby store bay area 2
san francisco rc plane shop 1

“wwii” and “model kit” and “kids” 2
“air international” magazine index 1

dh mosquito cockpit door 1
grumman f7f tigercat/cabin view 1
radio shack electric motor rf-500tb-182 1
thinning water based paint for spraying 1
tamiya acrylic remover 1
dh mosquito 1
model paint stripping 1
and dilute acrylic paints for models 1-20 y 1
boac mosquito 1
removing future floor wax 1

I— nformation *not yet*here
italeri c 27 1/72 2
spray paint for pots and pans 1
système de trim wheel en cockpit 1
misquito twin engine bomber three view 1
revell constellation lufthansa blue tamiya colours 1
cockpit/grumman tigercat/images 2

Anyone have expereince running NetBeans’ Profiler from command line?

Just found the following about running the NetBeans Profiler with Eclipse…  not command line but headed that way, maybe…

I left the following comment for Mario and I wouldn’t mind answere from anyone who reads this plea anywhere!
I’m trying to find a platform neutral profiling tool for Java- I need to support *nux, Windows and Mac OSX (yeah, BSD, but…) and I need to run from a command line so I can automate it. The Java library I’m testing is a thin client that talks TCP/IP to a server, all I care about is the client library performance, but I care on all three major platforms.

I tried to get JMeter going and realized it wasn’t aimed at what I was doing. I installed TPTP and was really hoping it would do the job but then discovered it has NO agent for Mac OSX and hasn’t for years. Phoey!  So I got NetBeans, imported my code (trivial, why can’t Eclipse be this easy?) and happily profiled on my Mac. Good so far.

Does anyone have experience running the NetBeans Profiler from Solaris, Linux, Mac OSX and/or Windows command lines?

Other all-platform Java profilers?

Many thanks for any help!!!


50 books every geek should read- from

Ok, lets see: I’ve read 16 of these, gave up on another and have 2 in-progress.

I think there are a few good books missing:

1) “The C Programming Language” – Kernighan and Ritche. Not only a great book about programming, especially for beginners, it also shows how clear a programming text can be, how little needs to be said, and how to spiral around the same problems with increasingly capable and complicated programs.

2) “The C++ Programming Language” – Stroustrup. By comparison to C, a much thicker book, containing K&R’s language and a whole lot more, for practical coding and for object oriented techniques.

3) “The Codebreakers” – Herman Kahn A huge book and one that ends in the era where crypto was still a government issue, mostly. But a great history, and clear proof that no cypher system, or code book, is 100% unbreakable.

4) “Seizing the Enigma” – most complete discussion of BREAKING Enigma I’ve seen so far. There are any number of good lessons here, starting with, a small, motivated, team can accomplish what is considered impossible. Never treat the opposition with contempt. Define your requirements as well as you can, do what you can to satisfy them, pay attention to what actually happens.

The actual analytic technique to break Enigma was cooked up by two Polish intelligence officers who could see how the wind was blowing in the late 1930s. When the Germans invaded, they escaped with their method and presented it to the French. The French passed it on to the British before they collapsed. The technique wouldn’t do for rapid recovery of plain text from a well operated system but it could break in by brute force, with some time, and it could also rapidly exploit any laxness in technique by the cypher users. Whereas the Germans believed that Enigma was essentially unbreakable and never seriously looked for its weaknesses, or their own in using it.

Code and cipher trade-craft was good in the Kriegsmarine, so-so in the Wehrmacht and lousy in the Luftwaffe, oddly echoing Hitler’s complaint that he had a Christian Navy, a Reactionary Army and only one National Socialist (Nazi) armed force, the Luftwaffe. The Brits mounted a frontal assault on Luftwaffe Enigma traffic and got what they needed because of bad practices by the users. With the Wehrmacht they got enough to combine with conventional intelligence, what the Soviets gave them from “Lucy”, from the Italians sending cables to each other, etc., to get the job done. The Kriegsmarine used Enigma intelligently, so that frontal assaults hit a blank wall. Fortune gave the Brits the keys, the initial rotor position for each message, occasionally, and they knew what they were missing, so they made it their business to GET the keys, through espionage, Soviet salvage of a sunken German ship, the capture of a shipboard weather station in the North Atlantic, the US Navy’s capture of U-505. Every six months when the key changed, they had to get the new one and did, EACH TIME. And tight security at the Allied end allowed the Germans, all of them, to ignore any suspicion that their cyphers and codes were less than 100% secure. They had no “Red Team”s, or even someone looking at the pattern of Allied luck in finding lone U boats, bombing the right place at the right time, etc. Convinced of their own superiority, like the Japanese, they caught “victory disease” and when the tide turned, retained a confidence that events did NOT justify. Lucky for us.

“Snow Crash,” Neal Stephenson
“Neuromancer,” William Gibson
“I, Robot,” Isaac Asimov  <———- 1
“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Douglas Adams  <———– 2
“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip K. Dick  <————– 3
“Ender’s Game,” Orson Scott Card
“The Time Machine,” H.G. Wells  <————– 4
“Microserfs,” Doug Coupland  <————— 5
“Flatland,” Edwin A. Abbott  <——- tried, couldn’t get into it. Should try again I suppose
“1984,” George Orwell  <—————- 6
“Brave New World,” Aldous Huxley  <————— 7
“iCon,” Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
“iWoz,” Steve Wozniak and Gina Smith
“Hard Drive: Bill Gates and the Making of the Microsoft Empire,” Jim Erickson
“The Visual Display of Quantitative Information,” Edward Tufte  <——————- 8
“Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability,” Steve Krug
“The Non-Designer’s Design Book,” Robin Williams
“Tog on Interface,” Bruce Tognazzini  <—————– 9
“User Interface Design for Programmers,” Joel Spolsky
“Revolution in The Valley: The Insanely Great Story of How the Mac Was Made,” Andy Hertzfeld
“The Soul of a New Machine,” Tracy Kidder  <——————- 10
“Where Wizards Stay Up Late,” Hafner and Lyon
“Dealers of Lightning: Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age,” Michael A. Hiltzik
“The Cuckoo’s Egg,” Cliff Stoll  <—————- 11
“The Perfect Thing: How the iPod Shuffles Commerce, Culture, and Coolness,” Steven Levy
“Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time,” Dava Sobel  <– 12
“The Code Book,” Simon Singh
“Cryptonomicon,” Neal Stephenson
“Crypto,” Steven Levy
“The Pragmatic Programmer: From Journeyman to Master,” Andrew Hunt, David Thomas
“Code Complete: A Practical Handbook of Software Construction,” Steve McConnell  <—— working on it
“Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software,” Erich Gamma, Richard Helm, Ralph Johnson, John M. Vlissides  <— working on it
“Dreaming in Code,” Scott Rosenberg
“The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering,” Frederick P. Brooks  <———- 13
“Beautiful Code: Leading Programmers Explain How They Think,” Andy Oram
“Cathedral and the Bazaar,” Eric S. Raymond
“The Long Tail,” Chris Anderson
“The Future of Ideas,” Lawrence Lessig
“On Intelligence,” Jeff Hawkins
“In the Beginning was the Command Line,” Neal Stephenson
“Code: Version 2.0,” Lawrence Lessig
“The Wisdom of Crowds,” James Surowiecki
“The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,” Ray Kurzweil
“Gödel, Escher, Bach,” Douglas Hofstadter  <——— 14
“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer
“A Brief History of Time,” Stephen Hawking  <————- 15
“Hackers and Painters: Big Ideas from the Computer Age,” Paul Graham
“The Evolution of Useful Things,” Henry Petroski  <————– 16
“Getting Things Done,” David Allen
“Upgrade Your Life: The Lifehacker Guide to Working Smarter, Faster, Better,” Gina Trapani

“Gut Feelings,” Gerd Gigerenzer

Great nerdy films: The Way Things Go, Rivers and Tides, Rendezvous

The Way Things Go – Fichelli and Wiess’ finest moment, so far.

Probably the most demanded “Play It Again!” film of all time. It has its own Wikipedia page, and the Honda Cog ad was found to violate Fichelli and Wiess’ copyright of the image of tires bumping into each other and rolling uphill….See it too, but see the original first. Repeatedly. With a child, age 5-105…

Product Details The Way Things Go 100 feet of physical interactions, chemical reactions, and precisely crafted chaos worthy of Rube Goldberg or Alfred Hitchcock – a discussion starter for … – Cached – Similar – Trailer:

Retail $18, used from $9.13… Amazing Chain Reaction – The Way Things Go 4 min 34 sec – Jan 15, 2007 – Rated 4.6 out of 5.0 TO BUY THE DVD of the complete 30 minutes of this chain reaction called The Way Things Go go here: IN THIS SCENE: Fire is … – Related videos – And Here’s Cog: Results include your SearchWiki notes for Honda Cog. Share these notes Copy and paste this link into an email or IM: See a preview of the shared page 1.

Honda Accord Cog Commercial 2 min 1 sec – Mar 3, 2006 – Rated 4.7 out of 5.0 High res Quicktime file (original commercial). – Related videos – 2. The Making Of “Honda – Cog” 4 min 4 sec – Oct 4, 2006 – Rated 5.0 out of 5.0 The Making of Honda’s “Cog” commercial (Honda Accord) – Related videos – 3. Cog (advert) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Cog is a British television and cinema advertisement launched by Honda in 2003 to promote ….. Honda ‘cog’ ad at centre of rip-off debate over 1987 film, … Sequence – Production – Release and reception – Legacy

A n d W h i l e W e A r e O n e T h e S u b j e c t . . . . Product Details Rivers & Tides ~ Andy Goldsworthy working with time. (DVD – Sep 28, 2004) Buy new: $26.95 $14.49 42 Used & new from $11.52 Watch It Now:  4.5 out of 5 stars (103) DVD:

If you don’t know Andy Goldworthy’s art, I think you’re in for a treat. Also QUITE child-friendly. HIs basic brief is to go out into the world and make something from what he finds there. Then he photographs is, and then lets it return to what it was. Some of his installation pieces in galleries have been stacks of slate, some have been album covers for Tori Amos’ early records. Once he made a collection of snow balls with various contents, stored the, and the put them out in the gallery to melt and reveal their content. Its all about using what’s actually there, but also all about time and how impermanent the world is. Nothing we see, not the rocks, not the mountains, not even the sea, will last for ever. Ok, ok, and the point is???? Ok. The first piece in this film is filmed before dawn, in Newfoundland. Goldworthy is out with a little bowl of water, and he’s collected a bunch of carrot-sized icicles, and he’s breaking them into segments and using the water to stick them back together to make an arc that starts and ends on the side of a big rock down by the ocean- like a letter C stuck to the rock as if: / C| / then the camera pulls back and you can see he’s made a series of these, like the old arrow-though the head gag, a series of loops on both sides of the rock

…….L/ \

…..C/….. \D

C/………. \D

so it looks like the icicle is threaded back and forth through the rock and the at the top it turns and goes up a couple of feet straight up. Nice. He’s got gloves but he’s working with bare fingers because he gets better control of the ice pieces that way. It looks COLD. Just as he’s about to take the picture, the sun comes up, its been twilight as he’s been working, and the sunlight falls on the icicle pieces and they turn on with the golden light as if they’re neon tubes or something like that… completely unexpected.

I find this charming, and it may not be the best piece in the film. Maybe the failures, the stack of rocks that keeps collapsing, the screen of sticks pinned together with thorns that a tiny breeze destroys, are the best. Good lesson for kids- some ideas don’t work out- give it your best, and if it isn’t going to happen, do something else. Its like going back 50,000 years to when art and engineering and science were more or less the same thing… What happens to the gallery wall he covers with mud is so cool I’m not going to reveal it. Suffice to say, its cool.

A n d N o w F o r S o m e t h i n g T h a t F i t s R i g h t I n . . . Product Details Rendezvous (DVD – Feb 20, 2003) Buy new: $29.95 $26.99 5 Used & new from $24.95  4.5 out of 5 stars (38) DVD: Another really good one in my personal collection is Rendezvous, an inexcusable but wonderful 9 minute drive across Paris, at about 5;30am, in a Ferrari with a camera fastened to the hood. The driver, never identified by director Claude Le Leouch, assuming it wasn’t him, doesn’t even lift has he blows the red lights down the approach to the Arc de Triumph. Then a quick jaunt to the Louvre, turn north and through the various districts (1st to 9th to 18th I believe) and ends up at the Sacre Coeur, where Le Louch steps into the headlights of the car and embraces his wife. A Rendezvous.

To quote one review on Amazon: “…nearly 30 years ago I saw the film on 35mm, and it was so intense, that the memory of it has never left me. It’s like watching Leo Kottke in full flight on his 12-string; you see it, you hear it, but nonetheless your mind refuses to accept that it’s possible. Buy it. Buy it now. And while you wait for it to arrive, practice holding your breath for 9 minutes, as you’ll need that ability….. ”

Another reviewer notes: “…No streets were closed, for Lelouch was unable to obtain a permit…. …Upon showing the film in public for the first time, Lelouch was arrested…” Reckless driving of course… and he was convicted, although he has always maintained it was a professional driver… whom he has never named. The sound is simply the car, tires, street noises, pigeons, garbage trucks, etc. There’s nothing quite like it, and probably never will be.

And when all else fails:

Where To Get Small Electric Motors, San Francisco Bay Area, for science-fair projects, etc.

Partial lineup, Mabuchi Motors

Some, but not all, of the motors Mabuchi make today. From 5 people 50 years ago to 40,000 today….

So I now have some data to back-up my speculations:

Mabuchi Motor Co. US Product catalog

1) Aristo-craft pack a line of Mabuchi or Mabuchi-like electric motors, sizes 130, 140, 260 and 280, which have a retail price for $2.85 to $3.95, depending on size and whom you buy it from. They’re a great deal because they each come with a little stamped steel mount that holds the motor and which you can use to attach it to your project. Better than rubber bands or hot-melt-glue. You can take them off and use rubber bands or hot melt glue if you want.

They also come with 3 plastic gears to fit on the common 0.079″ (2mm) motor shaft, making it easier to connect the motor to something. Other gears, or push a sewing machine bobbin over the gear or hot-melt-glue something (K’nex, Lego) to the gear… They’re in a little clamshell blister-box with a yellow sheet of paper giving the model number on the front and the specifications for the whole range on the back. The packs are about 3″ X 3″ (aka 75mm square).

All four sizes, the small ones for 1.5V typically, the larger ones for 3V, typically, are available at Hobbies Unlimited in San Lorenzo and J & M Hobby House in San Carlos. I’ll report on what other stores stock them as I know it. $2.85 or $3.35 for a 130 size motor with a mount and three gears is a pretty good deal, considering the purchasing power of $3. The 130 runs willingly on a single AAA cell

1a) There seems to be a Japanese-originated standard for small electric motors. I’ve seen 130s to 540s and many sizes in between. I’m not sure if its a measure of optimum energy output, length * diameter in mm or what.

2) There are larger motors in the same series, up at about $9 and then there’s another price point around $12. Dumas packs motors in the $9-12 range for battery powered model boats. After that you’re looking at the standard RC Car motors, from $15 to the sky’s the limit. MAJOR power, drawing on MAJOR batteries! If you want more, or more efficiency, look at the “Speed 400” and “Speed 280”, which are based on standard electric motors from rechargable battery powered tools. A “Speed 280″ is about the same size as the 280 that Aristo Craft packs for $3.75-3.95 retail, but costs more, and can both draw and produce more power. Beyond that, you’re into the brushless motors used by electric model airplanes- much more efficient than DC brush motors, for the same battery power. But you’ll need a controller. Figure $25-50 for something that works, before you buy the battery. You’re paying for the low wieght and high efficiency.

For that kind of money you could buy a rechargable tool AND battery and perhaps a spare battery and use it for motive power in your project. And you’d have the tool to remember it buy when you’re done. Almost any electric tool will have a robust reduction gear set along with an on/off switch, possibly variable speed, possibly reversing. In their last year, the Odessey Of The Mind team that I coached used two rechargable drills to power a one-person vehicle that drove around on patios, quiet streets, and high school gyms. 3/8″ steel axles were chucked to the drills and very small tires and wheels fastened to them as well. The wieght of the vehicle was carried on some kind of bearing the axle ran through on both sides of the wheel- copper tubing fitted snugly into a block of wood might have been the bearing- I didn’t invent it! The drills ‘floated’, other than being restrained from turning in reaction to the torque they applied to the wheels. They were mounted upside down and the tires and wheels used were a compromise between what would let the drill run at its optimum speed (about 1/4″) and what would allow the drill to clear the ground! (about 3/4”)

3) I’m pleased to report that Radio Shack also sell electric motors, with several available in the 1.5-3.0V range and for a $4 or a bit lower price. My local Radio Shack had a ‘260-like’ motor, 250mA, 3.0V, for $3-something, a smaller, higher voltage motor that came with a metal gear, and some larger motors at the higher price points.

4) Of course, you can also shop on the Internet, starting by searching for Mabuchi in titles AND descriptions of all items at eBay. You’ll find everything from 540 series motors used in stock RC cars by companies like Tamiya, to people selling the little tiny motors used for pager and cell phone vibrators. You can get the $1 motor this way, but you’ll pay shipping.

5) If you’re willing to pay shipping, Did You Know that K’nex has a catalog and will sell loose pieces? Like gears, wheels and tires. Wheels and tires are opportunities to scrounge and invent but gears are more hassle when you’re inventing. Its never bad to know where they can be bought. They’re made to turn on or lock to K’nex “sticks” and that can be readily attached to other things.

6) Radio Shack sells battery holders for 1, 2, 4 and 8 AA cells, 1 and 2 C or D cells, closed boxes with lids as well as open holders. Single-cell AA holder is $0.99, the simplist versions of the larger ones are $1.99 or less. Before you say “Battery holders are for wimps, I’ll just tape some telephone wire to the button and bottom of my battery cells”, consider how easy it will be to change to fresh cells, or swap rechargable cells, with a first-class regulation battery holder. You could even have someone else do it for you!

7) Just like with restaurants, its worth your time to find out what’s local where you live, or where you are, and patronize them. Hence my leading with Hobbys Unlimited and J & M Hobby House. Try the yellow pages for your ocal electronics parts and/or surplus place when looking for switches, battery holders, etc.

8) Extra Credit: If you put an incandesant flashlight bulb in series between your battery and your motor (3V or more, with appropriate bulb…) it will light up in proportion to the current flowing through the motor- lots of current, lots of light. Little current, not much light. Spinning freely with no load, the motor won’t light the lamp very much. Put some drag on the motor and watch the light get brighter. Its brightest when you’ve completely stopped the motor. You can use this interesting behavior to show when your motor is being loaded and when its spinning freely… Can you apply that to your project?

9) Extra extra credit: Make your own motor!
Michael Faraday invented the homopolar electric motor, taking advantage of the magnetic field from a current running at 90 degrees to the direction of electron flow…

Wendell Oskay's take on Faraday's Homopolar motor

Windell Oskay’s homopolar electric motor, made from a drywall screw, powerful rare earth magnet, single “C” cell and a 6″/15cm piece of copper wire.
wire loop motor
There is a trick, and the trick is, not all the insulation has been removed from the two straight bits of the wire that stick out through the safety pins. When connection is made, an electric field is created and that change in the electrical field creates a magnetic field which attracts or repels the button magnet on the wooden base. The loop turns, the connection is broken, more change in electrical current, more magnetic field. The momentum of the mass of the wire carries it on until it connects again and the whole business starts again. Extra points for figuring out how to get it to do useful work, more for finding the optimum amount of wire that should be bare and that which should be stripped, and the angular relationship between the stripped area and the coil…