There’s a really interesting experiment you can do in the comfort of your own home that demonstrates an effect I’m about to show you. All you need is a frying pan and some water. Heat up the frying pan until its good and hot and then flick droplets of water onto the pan. Curiously the droplets won’t instantly burst into little puffs of steam, instead they’ll skitter around on the surface of the pan in apparent defiance of the blazing surface that’s underneath it. This effect happens when any kind of liquid comes into contact with a surface past a certain temperature but I hadn’t really considered what would happen if you put the surface in the liquid:
The phenomenon at work here is called the Leidenfrost Effect. It’s a pretty cool reaction whereby an initial layer of vapour formed by a liquid hitting a sufficiently hot surface forms a protective barrier which is what allows those water droplets I described earlier to skitter around rather than turning into steam. It’s clearly visible in the video at the start where a pocket of water vapour forms around the outside of the red hot sphere. It eventually collapses as the vapour isn’t a perfect insulator but it does manage to stay quite hot for a lot longer than you’d expect.
One thing I can’t figure out a good explanation for those is the incredible sounds that are produced. The rapid generation of steam could possibly explain part of it as some of the sounds are similar to what you hear from say a steam wand on a coffee machine but most of them have a definite metallic twang to them. It’s quite possible that all of the noises are coming from the ball itself as it cools down much like some cars which make a distinct “tink” noise when turned off (the noise comes from the exhaust pipe cooling down). I wasn’t able to track down a name or reliable explanation for this effect however so if you’ve got one I’m all ears 😉
I recently made a comment about Newsbots and gave a brief definition of the term. Whilst that was appropriate in the context of the article I feel that the subject warrants a more further investigation into the culture of blogging, journalism and the ability for people to self-publish and re-publish news on the web. The last few years has seen an explosion of Newsbot type blogs, in both number and popularity. Whilst I generally feel disdain towards these types of news regurgitation machines they do have their place, as I will attempt to explore here.
First let’s consider the origins of the modern Newsbot. A great example of such a site, which has been around for many years, would be Slashdot. Formerly know as Chips ‘n’ Dip back in the pre 2000 days it quickly became a hub for the technologically inclined to gather and share news reports for one another. Over the years it formalized its reporting style and is now a giant news reporting site focused on generating (not always constructive) discussion between the geeks of the world. They are in the very essence of the term a Newsbot, as they seek out (or more accurately are sent) news from various sources which they then add their own little bit of flavour text to. Since this site is designed around this ideal and people use it as such I don’t consider their newsbotting a bad thing. I am in fact a daily reader and poster on the site.
However it would seem that the popularity of such sites spurred others to try and mimic the success, often by blatantly copying the style. Just to see what I mean about this head on over to Google’s Blog Search and have a look at the technology section (tech people are often the worst offenders since they can set up a blog in minutes). When I went there not 5 minutes ago the top 10 results were about Skype coming to the iPhone or Blackberry. Searching through the blogs shows that probably half of them are just dedicated to reporting news (why is it a blog then?) and the other half add no more then about a paragraph onto the actual story itself, most of them just quoting it from another news site verbatim. It would seem that many of them are content to rehash news that anyone in the field would know about already, and hope that they will go to their site rather than someone else’s.
It’s this kind of low value reporting that adds to the noise of the Internet. When I first created this blog (and its many predecessors) I wanted to create an unique aspect on subjects that peak my interest. Initially I fell into the easy world of newsbotting, but I quickly realised that the people I was writing to (mostly my friends) would have heard the news from other channels, and my small bit of flavour was of little to no value. After struggling with the idea of providing original content for this blog I eventually found my muse in analytical education on my various interests, something which has proven to strike a chord with like minded individuals.
I won’t hide behind the fact that many times I’ve become inspired by a certain news article or other blog. However, when I do I try to find the unique aspect behind the inspiration and bring it out to explore on this blog. In these days of instant information it is so hard to find content that isn’t just rehashed or paraphrased from some other source, and I hope that this blog provides just one more bit of signal in the noise that is the Internet.
It would be ironic if this post was newsbotted, however flattering that might be 😉