Jan 242017
 

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Newton!

If you have stopped in Whistle Stop Books or the Cambria Toy Station in the last few years, there is a good chance you stopped for a minute and  played with the Newton’s Cradle, a desk toy named after Sir Isaac Newton and based on one of the key principles of Newtonian physics. The “toy” illustrates the laws of inertia (Newton’s 1st Law of Motion), conservation / F=ma (force=mass * acceleration-Newton’s Second Law of Motion),  and Newton’s Third Law of Motion: “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” 

Want to know more about Newton’s Cradles?  (None of which are appropriate for the average elementary student–above their pay grade, but interesting reading if you want to know more before you talk to the said same six or eight year old)…

Try This @ Home

Pick a couple of projects from the Harvard Natural Sciences Lecture Demonstrations Collection. A great collection of science projects and experiments for home and science fairs…some very cool stuff.  Start with Newtonian Mechanics.

Build your own Newton’s Cradle from Scratch (Compliments of the folks at Cornell). If you want to do Newton’s Cradle experiments, but you don’t want to go to the trouble of making one, swing by the Cambria Toy Station and pick up a Newton’s Cradle of your own.

 

Geek Birthdays and Adventures

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  • Alan J. Heeger (b. 1936). Physicist and Mathematician.
  • In 1992, Dr. Roberta Bondar became the first Neurologist (& Canadian Woman in Space.

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  •  In 1849, Elizabeth Blackwell became Doctor Blackwell, when she was awarded her M.D. from Geneva Medical College. She was the first female doctor in the United States.
  • In 1997, Madeleine Albright is sworn in as the first female U.S. Secretary of State. Learn what is involved in being Secretary of State…play “Crisis of Nations” on iCivics (requires Flashplayer).  Note, be sure to go through the tutorial before you start. You may also want to explore the other games in iCivics. Suitable for both adults and kids and is a great way to learn how government works!
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  • Michio Kaku, American physicist and academic was born in 1947.

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  • Ilya Prigogine, a Russian-American chemist and physicist, was born in 1917 and won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1077 for his dissipative structures and how they fit into thermodynamic systems and beyond equilibrium. Back to Newton…Prigogine, in his book The End of Certainty argued that “Newtonian physics has now been extended three times, first with the use of the wave function in quantum mechanics, then with the introduction of spacetime in general relativity, and finally with the recognition of indeterminism in teh study of unstable systems. (Wiki)  You can thank Prigogine for chaos.
  • In 2004, the Opportunity Rover (MER-B) landed on the surface of Mars. Opportunity is still scuttling around the Red Desert on Mars.

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  •  Polykarp Kusch, German-American Physicist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in
  • In 1949, the Palomar Observatory’s Hale Telescope, the largest aperture optical telescope (until 1976 when the BTA-6 was constructed) becomes operational.
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  •  And, finally, in 1958, the Lego company patented their bricks, however the original wooden bricks were developed in 1932 by Ole Kirk Christiansen. Take a quick tour of Lego’s new design headquarters and factory in Billund, Denmark. Better yet, visit.

Physics and Math @ the Depot

Check out some of physics and math toys, kits, and books at the Cambria Toy Station…

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Jan 222017
 

One of the joys of a used bookstore is discovering wonderful books you would never think to read or new genres you would never explore. While I have long been a fan of history (evidenced by the fact that we own a 149 year old train station), I have not generally picked up”history” books for pleasure reading. They are not the types of books that one grabs on a cold winter’s night, to be read while sipping hot chocolate or a hot buttered rum. This fall, however, I have discovered that a great many “history” books are as entertaining as a good Agatha Christie or as gripping as Robert Ludlum. Most are not about great people. Indeed, the most gripping are about the everyday sorts rather than Presidents or Kings or decorated Generals.  They tell a specific story rather than providing an overview of dates and times and places.

Some cases in point:

The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.  This one came not through the bookstore but from a friend’s recommendation. Set in the Dust Bowl of western Oklahoma, Southwestern Kansas, and Northwest Texas, The Worst Hard Time tells the story not of those who fled the Dust Bowl for opportunities in California, but those who stayed. Those who watched their family members choke on the black air of the dust storms and battle to hang on their farms and their dignity. It also tells the story of a place that should never have been plowed under and the follies and greed of men in thinking that they could control such a place.  Like many of the most readable histories, The Worst Hard Time was written not by an historian but by a journalist and is based on the memories of survivors.  Even if you are not a fan of history, this one is hard to put down. Winner of the 2006 National Book Award for Non-Fiction. Good Reads Rating: 4.04

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Eric Larson. In 1893, Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair), a fair designed by Daniel Burnham and Frederick Law Olmstead to celebrate American innovation and progress (as well as good taste); it also unknowingly hosted a serial killer who used the Fair to find his victims.  The meticulously researched book reads like a suspense novel.  International Horror Guild Award for Nonfiction (2003); National Book Award Finalist (2003); CWA Gold Dagger Award (2003), and the list goes on.

Author of the Week: Studs Terkel

Keeping with the historical theme, our author of the week is Studs Terkel (1912-2008). In 1985, Terkel, a oral historian and writer, won the Pulitzer Prize for The Good War, an oral history of World War II.  Over the course of a 50 year career, Terkel wrote 18 books, including Hard Times, a history of the Great Depression; Working, a study of what folks do for living and what they think about their jobs; and Will the Circle be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith. What set Terkel’s histories apart was his focus on the ordinary, on the every day. rather than the great voices and the famous faces. He learned about history by listening to the people who put one foot in front of the other and survived even the most difficult of times.

In Other News…

Mark your calendar now for the 611. The Roanoke Transportation Museum and the rail historical folks are sponsoring  Roanoke to Walton excursions on May 27, 28, and 29th–over Memorial Day Weekend. We are busy working on creating a community festival to coincide with this year’s excursion. Check back at this site or on the historiccambria.com site for updates as we get closer.

 

 

 

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Jan 082017
 

Before robots…

Before computers…

There were clockmakers…

The next time you are driving north through eastern Pennsylvania, add a trip to the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia and take a look at the Automaton by machinist and clockmaker Henri Maillardet, c. 1800. Featured on CBS Good Morning in 2012, Maillardet’s brass automaton has the largest machine memory ever constructed; can produce four images and three poems, two in French and one in English; and provided the part of the  inspiration for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick.

Automatons (automatas), machines designed to duplicate pre-determined (programmed) real life movement using a complex combination of cogs, cams, pistons, gears, belts, pulleys, and other assorted mechanical elements, are not new. References to moving mechanical devices can be found both in Ancient Greece and Ancient China, but the real heyday of automata coincided with the development of increasingly complex clockwork mechanisms during the Renaissance and the early Modern era (1450 to 1900).

Projects & Activities:

Start with a paper model. There are a number of interesting projects available online.

Most automata models are from European, British, and Japanese sources. As with a lot of companies in the modeling industry, ourselves included, a significant portion of the available paper models and instructions can now be purchased online and downloaded. Be sure to read the instructions before you print the model. Different models use different weights of paper, although typically they use a medium weight cover or card stock. Regular 20 or 24 lb. paper is generally too light for paper modeling.

Swing in and check out the Wooden Kits, available at Cambria Toy Station:

 

Automaton, Paper Engineering, and Mechanics Resources

  • My Brush with Hugo and the Automaton” Andrew Baron, 2008. Baron restored Maillardet’s Automaton for the Franklin Institute.
  • Paper Engineering from RobIves.com.  If you are interested in learning about Paper Engineering and Automata, robives.com is probably the best place to start. A one year subscription ($30.00 US Funds per Year) provides you access to all of their downloadable projects, as well as a wealth of information of paper mechanics. It is well worth the cost of a subscription.
  • Devices of Wonder. Getty Museum. A great collection of mechanical and optical devices, including how they work.  Take a look and interact with all of the devices and then explore the other materials included in the site.
  • Wonders of the Clockwork World. A short film (45 minutes) on the development of the Automata and world in which they were created.
  • Animations of every mechanical device you can think of from Noah Posner and Thang010146 (Youtube channel). A great collection of short videos that illustrate how mechanics work. From basic cogs and cams to turning a right hand thread–this is an excellent reference resource.
  • Mechanical-toys.com. Another excellent site that covers the types of mechanisms used in creating automatons, including an excellent overview of tools and construction techniques.

Cool Videos

Our favorite automaton:

and how it works:

To learn more about Wintergaten and their Marble Machine, check out their Youtube channel.

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