The Place For All Things Fran
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Welcome to my new daily update page!  What does this mean?   This is the place where I will post things of interest, stuff about corsetry, science, the purely entertaining, my side projects both past and present, and any other thing that I feel like sharing.  Enjoy!

September 30, 2012
It is now official - Water once freely flowed on Mars.  Curiosity was sent to a very specific location on Mars that geologists had selected as the best chance for revealing the red planet's watery past, and this week the MSL rover found the first solid evidence of water on Mars in this ancient stream bed.  The aggregate of rocks that make up this cement-like substance, known as a conglomerate, is only created on Earth by sedimentary deposits left by flowing water.  Judging by the size of the pebbles in this conglomerate it is estimated that the water that created it was at least 1-3 feet deep, and flowing at about 3 feet per second.  Mars it seems was once a very wet place, and of course everyone is excited to see what the upcoming chemical analysis of these sedimentary rocks throughout Gale Crater will yield. 

September 29, 2012
Accidental Science!
Here is a photo I that took of an interesting optical illusion that occurred when I was cutting fabric this week.  The ruler is laid on some gray twill cloth, creating an illusion.  Which lines are straight and which are staggered?  In fact, all of the vertical lines in the picture are straight - but the brain is just not suited for processing these kinds of highly ordered interference patterns, so the diagonal lines convince your mind that the white lines are rotated slightly clockwise, but they are not. I found that increasing the mid-tone contrast intensifies the illusion too, so posted below are two versions to confuse your visual cortex.  Don't blame me - you have your own brain to thank for this!

September 28, 2012
Here is one amazing Rube Goldberg type sorting machine - made of LEGO!

September 27, 2012
Before The Muppets became a legendary prime time television show, Jim Henson did a series of short films and television guest appearances that showcased inventive puppetry, many of these projects done in close collaboration with music genius Raymond Scott.  Here is a skit that features some really great technobabble - as complement to my post from last week.  Enjoy!

September 26, 2012
This is the first short introductory installment of my new weekly podcast discussion show, The Fransworld Internet Radio Program.  In this episode I discuss the return of the Superhappyfuntime Show, and the return of Frantone in 2013.

September 25, 2012
Earlier this month I posted a video about the spontaneous camouflage of the octopus, and now here is another set of videos about another cephalopod - the cuttlefish.  Like the octopus, the cuttlefish is a master at spontaneous camouflage - but also, a supremely mesmerizing predator, as you will see!

September 24, 2012
Here is the only Rock 'n Roll song (that I know of) to ever mention Werner von Braun -  He's Just A Scientist!  Written by John D. Loudermilk, and performerd by Newark New Jersey's very own Connie Francis.

September 23, 2012
Cats and humans have existed in an agreed relationship for thousands of years.  Cats are not domesticated animals - every house cat is born a wild predator, and this is proven in every neighborhood by feral cats that live in the wilds of the human world.  Any cat can be raised to be a faithful companion, or a wild hunter.  Cats of all sizes have this tenuous relationship with us, to either live peacefully or not with humans.  There is an interesting twist to this that is part of a very sensational news story this week.  A couple days ago at the Bronx Zoo a man jumped into the tiger habitat, and aroused the attention of an 11 year old Siberian Tiger named Bachuta who defended his nearby cubs from the human intruder with non-lethal force.  Zoo officials stated that the 400 pound tiger could have very easily and quickly killed the young man, but that the tiger chose not to do so.  It was determined later that the majority of injuries the man sustained were due to the 17 foot fall he took when leaping from the monorail.  Despite the unwarranted intrusion the tiger left the man with only a badly chewed ankle, and I would hope too a newfound respect for one of the world's most perfect predators.  Which reminds me - I had better refill Missy's water bowl now....

September 22, 2012
I often reference this handy instructional video by Rockwell Automation that overviews their advanced retro encabulator, mostly because the encabulators that I was used to had quad phase detractors on each node of the synosoidal flan, but the retro encabulator changed all that by utilizing the modial interaction of magnetoreluctance and capacitive derractance.  The result was an encabulator that not only provides inverse reactive current for use in unilateral phase detractors, but also would be capable of automatically synchronizing cardinogrameters.  This is the leading edge of technobabble, and complete nonsense.  Enjoy!

September 21, 2012
Back to Mars again with this series of images that document the first eclipse ever witnessed on another planet.  It comes from our good friend Curiosity, which observed the transit of the Martian moon Phobos as it passed in front of the Sun on September 13, 2012.

September 20, 2012
 Written by George M. Cohan in 1904 for the Broadway musical Little Johnny Jones, and this rendition was recorded for Victrola by Cohan on May 4, 1911.  Wisdom from the dawn of the 20th Century. 

September 19, 2012
Those of you who read my posts know that I am all-gaga for the Mars Science Laboratory and other space science stuff, and today I am going to tie it all together for you.  Yesterday I posted a video about tardigrades that explained how the panspermia hypothesis can work - that life could be seeded by hitchhiking on rocks that are ejected from the impacts of asteroids that smack into a planet that has life, floating around in space for a long time, and landing on another planet.  This concept of space seeding, if it were true, would mean that asteroids slamming into any inhabited planet could seed other nearby planets with these life encrusted planet bits, or perhaps even propagate to other star systems. 

People may remember back in the 1990's when NASA had released an article that suggested that known Martian meteorites that had been found on the Earth might have fossilized bacteria in them.  It caused a big media frenzy, and controversy, but a more recent revisiting of the data shows that the bacteria theory still holds up.

Move to 2012 and an article in that revisits the iron 'blueberries' that the Martian rover Opportunity discovered in 2004.  It turns out that there is a counterpart to these tiny iron balls on Earth, and here they are deposits created by colonies of microbes. 

Which leads to the main stage of space science today - the Martian rover Curiosity was designed specifically to gather more essential data about the possibility of life on Mars, whether it was ever there or perhaps is there today in some dormant state.  The MSL is sporting some very state of the art equipment, and it can be active on Mars for many years, perhaps even decades, so the answers that scientists seek could very well be found in the near future.  What does any of this mean for us?  Well, if it turns out that Mars had life - any life at all - at any time - then we will know beyond any doubt that life is common in the Cosmos, and that we are not alone.  This understanding would change humanity forever....  I hope.    So, Go Curiosity!

September 18, 2012
Okay - what is the single most adorable and completely indestructible animal on Earth?  Is it tribbles?  No - that is sci-fi - but this animal is something completely real and utterly amazing....  It's those lovable 'ol Tardigrades!
Wait.... what are tardigrades and what makes them so amazing? 
Well, watch the video and find out!

September 17, 2012
Back to Mars once again for today's post as I just love this picture taken last week by Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory.  Just click on the photo for the NASA page or view the full size image.  The rover is still going through the last phases of checking all of its equipment, cameras, and sensors, and this photo (which is actually a mosaic of two separate photos) was taken by a camera on the MSL's robotic arm, which was checking out the underside of the rover.  The detail and perspective of the ground, soltime sun (a sol is a Martian day) and landscape is amazing, and please remember - those wheels are off-roading on friggin Mars, man!  How cool is that??

September 16, 2012
The octopus is one of the most amazing (and ruthless) beings on the planet.  Its eyesight is much sharper than ours, and it sports the largest brain of any invertebrate (one of the largest brains per body size on earth in fact) which it needs to power one of the most impressive and highly evolved defense mechanisms imaginable: instantly variable camouflage. 
Watch closely.......

The octopus is truly wonderful, and totally amazing!

September 15, 2012
Tomorrow HBO starts season 3 of Boardwalk Empire.  Those of you who follow this fantastic show know that Agent Sebso was among the unfortunate souls taken out in the first season, but after the fulfillment of his contract, the actor Erik Weiner who played Sebso took the opportunity to use the Empire sets to make this hilarious parody video about his demised character - but be warned, strong language ahead!

September 14, 2012
Today I have Asimo on the brain.  What is Asimo you ask?  Or perhaps, who??
Rather than gush about how absolutely impressive this is, I shall let the video speak for itself. 
You are looking at the future.....

September 13, 2012
In all my years in NYC there was but one truth: The only constant in New York is constant change.  Within a decade I saw every one of my favorite institutions disappear - CBGB's, Meow Mix, Religious Sex (it was a store!), Zen Palate, Coney Island High, Mondo Kim's, and most recently the Lakeside - just to name some favorite haunts among countless others now gone. 

Mondo Kim's was especially surprising - it was without a doubt the most recognized cultural center in the East Village for two decades, and I was a regular customer.  In the late '90's I used to rent laserdiscs there, and later DVD's.  At Kim's you could get films and music that were unavailable anywhere else.  In today's internet world of the readily available obscure it is hard to relate now special a place like this was in 1998 - but let me say, it was really something.  Where else in the US could you rent VHS episodes of Fireball XL5, or peruse the complete works of Herschell Gordon Lewis?  Nowhere.

One day I went to Kim's to buy a DVD, and a week or so later returned to buy another that I had seen but hesitated purchasing.  When I arrived at the store on St. Marks I found myself in front of an open hole...  The building was gone!  You could see the back wall, and some floor beams - but essentially the facade was off and the building was empty.  A stunning but uneventful end to the great Mondo Kim's.  Later, a small retail outlet would open a few blocks east, but it was a Kim's in name only.  Another New York institution had vanished off the face of the Earth. 
Or had it?

This article in the Village Voice today tells the whole intriguing tale of the fate of Mondo Kim's massive collection, with the involvement of international politics and the hand of the Sicilian Mafia....  Sort of.  As the atricle states: "In a way, it adds to the legend of Kim's. Because there were so many stories about it—who knows where the truth ends and the fiction begins. That's part of the reason why it's such an iconic part of New York history."

September 12, 2012

September 11, 2012
No long winded posts for the next few days while I catch up on work.   My thoughts this week reflect on the contrast of my life today and the days of my life 11 years ago.  Just one small story among millions in New York.

Me on NBC - I was interviewed while in line to volunteer at the West Side Army Depot, at the Javits Center in Manhattan, September 13, 2001.

A still taken from the video I shot on Sept.11, 2001.

September 9, 2012

September 8, 2012
As an engineer and designer I am aware of the complex inner workings of making things, and my knowledge of the toil of so many anonymous geniuses that invent our technology and make our world what it is, many of whom I have had the privilege of knowing and working with over the years.  One such hero has recently past - Hans Camenzind - a man whom I never met, but who's innovations I am most familiar with, as I made them a part of many of my own creations.  He was a prolific developer of integrated circuits, and his most used chip was the ubiquitous 555 timer, which every electronic tinker knows well.  When I was 12 years old I used 555's to blink LEDs and make oscillators.  Currently I have a bag of several hundred of them in my shop that I bought on Canal St in Manhattan back in the 1990's.  You always should have some around.

These days integrated circuits are not designed by a single person, but teams of engineers.  The wild west days of electronic exploration and innovation are long gone.  But if anything blinks in your world, think of Hans.  You have him, and so many of his unknown peers to thank for it.

From Elektor Magazine:

September 7, 2012
A lot of people have seen the Hubble Deep Field images, considered by many to be the most important photos ever taken (and a really great poster to have on your wall too!).  But in the Hubble Ultra Deep Field image from 2009-2010 it was recently discovered that among the thousands of galaxies in this image (the deepest image ever taken of the visible universe) is the oldest (most time distant) galaxy ever discovered - 13.2 billion light-years away.  In the NASA article about this discovery it states that: "The tiny, dim object is a compact galaxy of blue stars that existed 480 million years after the big bang. More than 100 such mini-galaxies would be needed to make up our Milky Way. The new research offers surprising evidence that the rate of star birth in the early universe grew dramatically, increasing by about a factor of 10 from 480 million years to 650 million years after the big bang."

September 5, 2012
 I accidentally found a dangerous exploit of Adobe Flash when I was Googling websites looking for a new industrial plastics supplier, and clicking on a Google link for a PDF catalog from one company I was surprised when my webcam instantly 'clicked' a photo.  I saw the LED blink and heard the telltale click-took-a-photo-sound, but I found no record of the photo in my webcam directory, and discovered that this is a common exploit of Adobe on some systems by predatory websites - I found the explanation here and it made me decide to keep my webcam UNPLUGGED when not in use.  I suggest that anyone reading this do the same.  Surfers Beware!

September 4, 2012
Hot off the presses - from the highly anticipated (at least by myself) upcoming new album from Aimee Mann....  With Laura Linney!  Super Pop!

September 2, 2012
No posts for the next couple days as I do more needed work on the building,
but I will leave you with this - and remember Carl....

September 1, 2012
Here is some more interesting science about photography - earlier I posted a video about the fastest photography possible, and this article from Scientific American is about making photographic prints at the limit of color resolution.  The phenomenon is known as structural color, something which is found naturally in the wings of insects and the plumage of birds.  When used for this printing process the highest possible resolution color images are created, where each pixel is the size of the specific wavelength of light which assigns its color.  The picture below may not seem 'high resolution' until you realize its size - just 50 micrometers wide - or about the width of 6 human red blood cells end to end.  The benefit of this kind of printing is that because it is created by etching solid material and not using pigments the colors can never fade, and the resolution cannot be exceeded in visible light, making this the ultimate archival method for color images of any size or scale.  I would not be holding my breath for a desktop structural color printer though. 

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