Saturday, March 22, 2014

Making Sounds

Last weekend Nicholas studied a bit about Sound.

From the reading, he knew some facts about sound: sound is produced by vibration of materials - sound of piano comes from vibration of strings, his voice comes from vibration of his vocal chords....sound has to travel through materials. Sound travels very fast in air, faster in steels, but it can not travel through vacuum!

To make physical sense of what he read, we did a couple of experiments given in the book together. One is about the Glass music.

Nicholas took a wine glass, pour some water in it, and wet his finger. Following the instruction, he rubbed the glass' thin rim slowly with the wet finger while holding the base of the glass firmly on a table. Some sound was made. After a couple tries, the sound made from the glass became smooth and interesting. (Question: One has to wet his finger to make the sound, why? what would happen if one rub the glass rim with dry finger?)

Making sound from a wine glass

Justin was attracted to our experiments. He started to make some better sound; I commented that if he changed the water level, the sound he made would change pitch as well. He took my advice, rubbed the glass rim with full cup of water, poured some water out, rubbed the rim again,the pitch of the sound was higher; he poured some more water out, the pith was even higher; the pitch was highest when the glass was empty.

Nicholas then commented that if we had a lot of glasses with different water level of water in it, we could play music with the glasses. Indeed we can, in fact it has been done for some time - Nicholas found this moonlight sonata on glass harp online, right after the experiments. In the video, the music was made on different sizes of glasses.

This was a very interesting experiment - which made Nicholas learn, think and discover the secret of sound.

Note: change the water level in a given size glass, or change the size of glass sizes both change the glass' natural frequencies - i.e. the effect is the same, but change in size makes a more appreciable change in glass natural frequencies, and more obvious change in sound

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Trip to Taos

We went back to Taos, NM for our ski trip after two consecutive year skiing at Wolf Creek, CO.

We stayed at the previously favorite hotel Kachina Lodge, which used to be Best Western Kachina Lodge. The familiar excellent hot breakfast was gone; the internet was extremely slow or not working at all. We guess that the change of ownership of the hotel led to the deteriorating service.

What is not changing is the magnificent mountains at Taos Ski resort. The day before we arrived at Taos, a winter storm added 4" snow to the already good snow base at the ski resort. Nearly 95% ski trails were open when we were there, and the crowd was not as big as we had in previous visits. So it was nearly an ideal condition to ski there this time.The three thousand foot vertical drop, the long trails and steep slope made it so much more fun than it was at Wolf Creek,

Since we all can ski blue trails comfortably, we explored many more trails at the ski resort from lower front side, upper front side to backside.  As the boys went skiing on their own or with friends as usual, Lily and I skied at our own pace. We took lift #1 to white feather trail, and came down in five minutes! We took lift #1 again to transfer to lift #2, and went to the highest point the lift can reach, and went to the more beautiful, less crowded backside. We mixed green and blue trails, and attempted harder blue trails between runs.

A couple times when Lily and I got separated due to the many branches and turns of the trails, she could enjoy herself and find the way back to the main base.

My plan to hike to Kachina Peak with Lily on the last day at Taos was not realized due to the close of Kachina peak to skiers. We instead swept through all the lifts to get to many favorites trails one more time.

Lily on Lone Star Trail

Allan paused to enjoy the scenery
We tried to enjoy some good food at Taos as well this time.  Guadalajara is a very popular Mexican food restaurant - we went there for  dinner the first night. The setting is casual, the price is good, the serving is large, and the food is delicious. We went to Song's Asian restaurant which provides some authentic good Chinese food; Sushi there is good as well. The price is good, but the servings are relatively small. Because the mom-pop shop owners do not have helpers, we had to wait sometime after finishing our meals to get the check. No complaining about it though as we and friends enjoyed our after meal conversations. The third night we planed to go to Taos Pizaa Out Back. The pizzas there claimed to be excellent. We arrived at the restaurant at 7pm - the wait time to be seated was 40 minutes! We went to Pizza Hut instead.

Lily made a special arrangement for the trip home - a dinner with our graduate school friends Nancy and Joe at Blue Corn Cafe, Santa Fe. They live at Albuquerque  - so they had to drive 1 hour or so to have dinner with us. Good food, nice conversations. It felt special.

Friday, March 14, 2014

On the Road - The Woodlands Waterway

I had a 4 day business meeting at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott Hotel and Convention Center the first week of March. The first night at the hotel I noticed that there is river with lighted trees behind the hotel. I was curious. I looked it up in a map. The river's official name is The Woodlands Waterway. It is connected to Lake Woodlands.  The next day the meeting ended at 4pm. There was still sometime until dinner. I decided to check the river out.

The waterway of Woodland at night

The Woodlands Waterway
There was few people along the waterway on this especially cold afternoon. The grass along river is unseasonably green, and the place emits a man made elegance.

There is a small garden right across the river from the hotel - the Koi Pond. It is a tiny garden with a gold fish pond. The water is so clear that the gold fishes seem to swim in the air!

The entrance to Koi Pond
Gold Fishes  in Koi Pond
I walked  east first from the hotel toward the highway 45. In about 15 minutes or so I reached the end of the waterway. A pedestrian bridge allowed me to cross the waterway, walking west. on the other side of the waterway from the hotel.

Unexpectedly I saw a big grey heron standing by the waterway. 

A grey Heron by the Waterway
The waterway is stopped by a dam  - the lower section is actually connected to Lake Woodlands. I was pleasantly surprised that there is a boat/kayak rental shop by the south end of the dam. A pavilion, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion - a unique outdoor performance space, is on the north end of the dam.   It must be a very busy place in summer here.

Lower section of Woodlands Waterway
The Grey Heron 
As I finished up the loop along the waterway, I noticed that the grey heron was still patiently standing by the river waiting for a fish to come.

If I have opportunity to come back to Woodlands for another meeting, I will bring my running shoes for morning exercise along the waterway, I will also bring my swimming pants and sandals for a sunset paddling toward Lake Woodlands.