Foul Play in the Floral Department

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While walking through Home Depot on an unrelated mission, we happened to walk by a display of succulents, and were struck by the unusual blue color of some of the flowering cacti.

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But on closer inspection, we could see what was really going on: the flowers on the top were attached… with glue. In fact, most of the flowers on the cacti and succulents were glued on.  Some of them, like this winner here, even had globs of glue spilled down onto the spines of the cactus below.

This is a deceptive (yet sadly common) practice— and apparently many people do get fooled by it —as we found garden forum posts and warning articles about it, including here, here, here and here.  This seems not so far away from buying a fruit tree at a nursery, only to find out (once you get it home) that the fruit was only glued to the tree.

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It looks like they are trying to make the less showy cactuses compete with the brightly colored grafted ones that they sell, like the ones shown pictured here. (This may not be a naturally occurring configuration, but at least it is a real, living plant.)

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Strawflowers are used because they keep their color well after drying. They also open and close as the humidity changes and they absorb more water or dry out more, giving the illusion of being part of a living plant.

And if it’s not bad enough that the customer is being deceived about the nature of plant they are buying, the glue can often damage the plant below, especially during the removal process.

Introducing The WaterColorBot

Today we’re thrilled to be launching our newest kit: the WaterColorBot.

The WaterColorBot is a brand-new project from Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories and Super Awesome Sylvia — a friendly art robot that moves a paint brush to paint your digital artwork onto paper, using a set of watercolor paints.

We’ve previously written about how we got started on this project (in a guest post by Sylvia), and about Sylvia’s visit to the White House Science Fair, where she was able to give President Obama a personal demonstration of the WaterColorBot.

And now, you can get one too!  We’re launching the WaterColorBot today on Kickstarter, and we’d like to ask for your support in getting it out there.  The WaterColorBot is an enormously powerful tool for helping to get young people interested in technology:

Beyond simple fun, we think that the WaterColorBot has enormous potential for STEM and STEAM education, especially as a way to get young people engaged with hands-on technology and robotics. We are particularly interested finding ways to inspire young women to pursue careers in science and technology. We cannot imagine any better way to do so, than starting with a robot co-designed by a 12 year old girl.

Perhaps more than anything else that we’ve done, we think that the WaterColorBot really can make the world a better place, one (young) Evil Mad Scientist at a time.

Time Lapse Fog over San Francisco

Adrift is a beautiful short film by Simon Christen chronicling the fog of the San Francisco bay.

I spent many mornings hiking in the dark to only find that the fog was too high, too low, or already gone by the time I got there. Luckily, once in a while the conditions would be perfect and I was able to capture something really special. Adrift is a collection of my favorite shots from these excursions into the ridges of the Marin Headlands.

Via @drwave.

The Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt

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Introducing the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories STEAM T-shirt. Featuring high quality screen printing on 100% cotton tees from American Apparel.

Front side: Science & Technology & Engineering & Art & Mathematics. (Black ink)
Back side: The Evil Mad Scientist logo. (Red, brown, and black inks)
Shirt color: “New Silver,” a uniform light gray.

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These are Great Shirts

Beautiful quality screen printing by Social Imprints of San Francisco (“Printing with Purpose”).

The shirts themselves are comfortable 100% cotton tees, made in the USA by American Apparel. (Mens Fine Jersey Short Sleeve T-Shirt and Womens Fine Jersey Short Sleeve Women’s T.)


Inspiration

The design of the front is an homage (like so many others) to the John Paul Ringo George shirt by Experimental Jetset.

Why Science & Technology & Engineering & Art & Mathematics?
It’s who we are, and it’s what we stand for.

Why not just STEM?
We, like many, many others believe that art is a critical component of good design, of good engineering, and of beneficial technology.


Get yours

The Evil Mad Scientist STEAM T-shirt is in stock and shipping now!

Field Trips: Tide Pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve

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Fitzgerald Marine Reserve
 is a protected marine and intertidal park located at Moss Beach, California, about 40 minutes south of San Francisco, just north of Half Moon bay.  It’s a spectacular place to visit at low tide, for some of the finest, most accessible tide pools in the region.

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And as you’ll see, there’s definitely a lot to look at.

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Meteor Alert for North America Tonight

2009 Leonid Meteor by Navicore

Photo by Ed Sweeney under CC-BY license.

From spaceweather.com:

METEOR ALERT: Sky watchers in North America might see an outburst of meteors during the early hours of June 11th when Earth passes through a stream of cometary debris last seen in 1930. Forecasters Peter Jenniskens (SETI Institute) and Esko Lyytinen (Helsinki, Finland) predict the return of the gamma Delphinid meteor shower this Tuesday morning around 08:30 UT (04:30 am EDT). The shower is expected to last no more than about 30 minutes with an unknown number of bright, fast meteors.

Field Trips: Fern Canyon

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Fern Canyon is a lush little feature of Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park— a tiny winding canyon whose dripping walls are lined with soft ferns and vibrant mosses.

The park is located very northwest corner of California, nestled against Redwood National Park.  The two parks are managed together, as part of the “Redwood National and State Parks.”  It’s a substantial six hour drive north from San Francisco or Silicon Valley, but as you will see, it’s unique, and arguably worth the trip.

 

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Kitty’s Morning Tea

Kitty’s Morning Tea: Kinetic Theory of Matter for Kids, by Christine Liu, is a remarkably charming book and physics lesson for young children.  It’s a short twelve-pages about tea, molecules, and kinetic energy that you can read (in its entirety) above, in a digital edition released by the author.   We love seeing science-themed educational materials for youngsters— and this is no exception.

Christine and friends are running an (already funded) campaign on Kickstarter to print the book and get it into the hands of children, and you can get your own printed copy as one of the rewards.  It’s also available in a Kindle edition, free for the short remaining duration of their campaign.

The Exploratorium on the Bay

Exploratorium Banners on the Embarcadero

We have been visiting the Exploratorium in San Francisco again and again since we were teenagers in the early ’90s.  And with good cause: The Exploratorium is an unparalleled museum of hands-on science, art, perception, and exploration.  It’s not a children’s museum (although it is an amazing place to take children), nor is it a place where you admire giant fossilized skeletons, nor one of those museums that always seems to have a traveling exhibit with a name like “The Science of Jersey Shore.”

Instead, it’s a place full of simple, often-amazing yet not-too-flashy exhibits that (for the most part) you play with to learn about various phenomena.  For example, at the Floating in Copper exhibit, you can get a feel for the un-earthly effects that strong magnets have in the presence of a large block of nonmagnetic, highly-conductive material.  It’s one thing to read about eddy currents in an article; it’s quite another to release a chunk of metal in mid-air, only to find that it floats down to rest, more gently than a dandelion seed.  You may have seen this exact exhibit at other museums (here, for example)— and if so, that’s quite likely because the Exploratorium makes many copies of its exhibits for other museums and publishes plans for others to make their own.

Since moving to the Bay Area in 2005 and starting the Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories blog, we’ve also been honored to present some of our own projects at Exploratorium events over the past few years, including the CandyFab, a Bristlebot workshop at the first Young Makers event, and some of our clock projects at the Open Make event on the theme of “Time.”

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Exterior of the Exploratorium, at the Palace of Fine Arts (2010).
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under CC BY-NC-ND license.

Reconsidered Materials

Interior of the Exploratorium, at the Palace of Fine Arts (2006).
Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid under CC BY-NC license

The Exploratorium has, since its founding in 1969, been located in the exhibit hall of the the Palace of Fine Arts— a huge arc of a building left over from the 1915 Worlds Fair, located in the Marina district of San Francisco, as pictured above. As the name implies, the building was designed to be a museum and was a remarkably suitable home for the Exploratorium. However, a few years ago, it came out in the news that they would be moving out of the Palace of Fine Arts, and into a space on one of the San Francisco Piers.  Of course, our hearts sank at hearing this, as we could not imagine any more perfect place for the Exploratorium. Nor could we imagine that they could possibly find a place as large and welcoming anywhere else in San Francisco. We were also worried about parking, as the Palace of Fine Arts was blessed with its own parking lots, a rarity in San Francisco.

We were wrong.

Pair of Vintage Street cars in front of the Exploratorium

Amazing space and lighting on the bay
On Saturday, we went to a member preview at their new location at Pier 15, which will be opening on April 17. We took a number of pictures as we explored, and in addition to sharing some of the highlights here, we have put up a flickr set from our visit.

The new location at Piers 15 and 17 on the San Francisco Embarcadero is right between the Ferry Building and Fisherman’s Wharf, in the shadow of the Bay Bridge.   A huge advantage of the new location is that it is much easier to get to by public transport than the Palace of Fine Arts was. There’s a MUNI train stop, and it’s just a few blocks from BART and the other public transportation that already comes to the Ferry Building.

There are also plenty of nearby parking garages and lots. We had no problem finding an inexpensive lot to park in for the day, and now taking the train is an option for us.

Looking down on plants and water exhibits

And it turned out beautifully. Here at the end of the pier, there are a number of new exhibits, many about biology and the bay.

Hall by the bio labs

The new location is much bigger: there is three times as much space. This view is looking down one of the corridors, from the location pictured previously. The museum is packed with exhibits as far as the eye can see.

So many exhibits!

All of the spaces are well designed, and extremely good looking, taking advantage of the abundant natural light.

Open areas between exhibits

There are many large open areas, as well as cozy corners and nooks. The Tactile Dome is being rebuilt on a larger scale (in a space with a higher ceiling than this) and will be opening this summer.

Carnivorous plants

Activity in the new bio labs is visible through large windows. In neighboring spaces, we saw them growing continuous replacement plants for the touchable plant exhibits and various organisms for people to look at under the microscopes.

 

The workshop at the Exploratorium

The new location has the same spirit, and despite our expectations, still feels like the Exploratorium. The workshop is just as prominent as before, and still out in the open so that visitors can see new exhibits in progress and old ones being repaired.

Playing with electricity

Our old favorites on electricity and magnetism (like Daisy Dyno) felt right at home, and were as popular as ever.

Generations exploring together

The acoustics are much more friendly, making conversations and discussions much more enjoyable.

Tidal exhibit

The one new building on the pier is the Bay Observatory, which has stunning views as well as brand new exhibits on bay topics such as geology, geography and tides. Above is a 3D tide table with the tides for each day represented by a the shape of each piece of plastic marked with the time and lunar information.

View of the city

Since this was an early preview, many exhibits are still in progress or yet to be installed. This outdoor space between Piers 15 and 17 will be opening soon and the museum plans to eventually develop additional space on Pier 17.

Bay Bridge

Congratulations to the Exploratorium on such a successful move and wonderful new home!

The museum will be opening to the public on April 17, and tickets will be available online soon. There are additional member previews coming up on April 6 and 9 as well— check the calendar for details and other upcoming events.