Tag Archive for 'fun'

How large is the broad side of a barn, anyway?

Of course you know the idiom “can’t hit the broad side of a barn” of someone who has poor aim. That’s from 1852.

But how large is the broad side of a barn, anyway? Would you be surprised to learn that scientists have actually worked that out? And why do I know this??

Some time ago, I was trying to find a way to remember my license plate that ends with the letters “FB”. I don’t like a particular social media site so I was googling for other things that use those letters and discovered that it is also a unit of measurement used in particle physics: fb means femtobarn. I immediately chose that as my mnemonic simply because of its nerdy obscurity.

What I want to share here is its ridiculous back story: what the hell is a femtobarn?! Continue reading ‘How large is the broad side of a barn, anyway?’

Get fooled by this photo

“Big boys have big toys,” as they say. The obvious downside is that big toys are expensive. I’d love to drive around some tricky off-road terrain in a Land Rover Defender, but solid off-road trucks cost at least one year’s worth of salary (or two, or three…). Luckily there’s a loophole here: Radio-controlled models are much cheaper and still provide lots of entertainment.

The RC hobby gives me all of the fun for a fraction of the cost. Mind you, RC models aren’t toys. They can easily cost upwards of €1000 and contain a lot of real-world mechanics that requires the same skills to use and maintain, just in a smaller scale.

So here I am: having fun driving this awesome model Defender. It’s 1:10 scale so it’s about 65cm long and nearly 25cm wide, and weighs nearly 5kg. It is so detailed that many people can’t tell it’s a model by looking at a photo. And that’s what today’s article is about: fooling people.

(click images to enlarge them)

This is a photo I took at an off-road event this April. That Pinzgauer in the background is indeed full-scale and I rode it to the event. Full-scale cars were doing what they do best and my model car did the same in between them, to cheers from the full-scale drivers.  Continue reading ‘Get fooled by this photo’

Ticking items off of lists

… seems to happen a lot this month: gifts, special groceries, greeting cards, and so much more. We’re not done yet but I’m happy that I’ve now completed one traditional task:

work-in-progress

Continue reading ‘Ticking items off of lists’

Presenting Percy the Persistently Peering Paper Dragon

In case you haven’t seen it before, here’s a sweet and fun optical illusion: a paper dragon that seems to always turn its head to look at you.

Curiously, this illusion works much better on video than in reality. In reality, you need to close one of your eyes to fool your depth perception.

This originated as a conference give-away made by Jerry Andrus in 1998. Fans meet biennially to celebrate the life and work of Martin Gardner, and an American popular mathematics and popular science writer. Each participant must bring 400 copies of something they made, and everybody leaves with one copy of each item. Fun!

Want to make one yourself? Here are three versions, ready to print, cut, and glue:

Oh, and “Percy”? I made one of these to show my kids, and Daniel named it Percy. It sits on my desk and watches me carefully.


I dedicate this post to my grandmother Lizzi who would have been 97 today. She would have enjoyed this illusion.

We caught a dragon!

wpid-wp-1443943232096.jpgOkay so maybe the title isn’t completely true, but I got your attention :-)

For my son’s 6th birthday, my wife got the idea to create a dragon cake for kindergarten. Because this has received so much positive feedback, as well as questions about how we did it, I decided to publish our secret here.

Continue reading ‘We caught a dragon!’