This blog is about Simon, a young gifted mathematician and programmer, who had to move from Amsterdam to Antwerp to be able to study at the level that fits his talent, i.e. homeschool. Visit https://simontiger.com
In October and early November, Simon was busy with another attempt to simulate SAP-1 (simple as possible processor, an 8-bit computer) in Circuitverse (something that he hadn’t managed to complete when he tried it last time). I’m not even sure if anyone uses Circuitverse for such large-scale projects.
On November 7, Simon finally managed to finish the RAM on his simulated 8-bit computer (a computer where every general-purpose register contains 8 bits and therefore can only process 8 bits of data)! Although he is far from the end of the project, he is convinced that the RAM is the hardest part, so “now everything is going to be okay!”
“RAM was the hardest mainly because I have been trying to build the subcircuit for the RAM myself, which is not going to do it for SAP-2”,(Simon’s next ambition, also an 8-bit computer but with 64K memory, 2K PROM + 62K RAM). “This time the RAM I needed was particularly small, so I built a mini-RAM myself”.
Simon’s way to celebrate Helloween: a little demo about how red marker reflects red LED light and becomes invisible. A nice trick in the dark!
We also had so much fun with the blue LED lamp a couple days ago when Simon discovered that it projects perfect conic sections on the wall! Depending on the angle at which he was holding the lamp, he got a circle, an ellipse, a hyperbola and a parabola! Originally just a spheric light source we grabbed after the power went out in the bathroom, in Simon’s hands the lamp has become an inspiring science demo tool.
Guess who was in town in mid-October? The amazing Vladimir Krasnoukhov, a one-of-kind puzzles inventor from Russia! (I know, I should’ve written about this earlier, but I’ve been lagging behind with my blog posts because of a really wicked bronchitis). He stopped by for a coffee and literally showered Simon with new mind boggling gifts!
Simon was especially impressed by the two physics demos that look like stuffed surfboards (Vladimir calls them “oysters”) and can only rotate in one direction due to the moment of inertia. Vladimir told us there have even been research papers written about these demos! Simon has been showing the trick to just about everyone who has visited our home ever since.
We have also received an especially difficult puzzle that took famous Russian physicist Sergei Kapitsa two hours to solve (Vladimir told me the answer, he didn’t want me to waste two months of my life) and several more colourful and elegant models. Simon is not even particularly keen on puzzles (when it comes to recreational maths, I think he is more into riddles and proves), it is Vladimir’s friendly disposition, his selfless devotion to mathematical beauty and his deep respect for a child’s intrinsic interests, his deep respect for children’s play in general, that have made our hearts melt. You can find out more about Vladimir Krasnoukhov’s puzzles on planetagolovolomok.ru
In the Foil Etching experiment we had copper burn a whole in the aluminium foil.
As you can see, aluminum Al is much more reactive than copper Cu, but nothing happens when aluminum foil comes into contact with the copper sulfate CuSO4 solution! How come? Unfortunately, it’s all a bit more complicated than it first looks. Being quite an active metal, aluminum Al reacts with oxygen O2 in the air, forming a very strong film of aluminum oxide Al2O3 on its surface . This film protects the metal from reacting any further.
When you add some sodium chloride NaCl, a vigorous reaction starts as Cl– ions are able to compromise the otherwise-strong Al2O3 shield. Once Cu2+ is face-to-face with the aluminum Al itself and not its Al2O3 shield, the reaction can proceed, and quite spectacularly!
In the next experiment, we obtained a magnetic substance from two non-magnetic ones, magnesium Mg and iron sulfate FeSO4, via a simple chemical reaction! The Fe2+ from the FeSO4 solution turned into metallic iron Fe on the surface of the magnesium particles, so we ended up with magnesium shavings covered with a thin layer of iron! The picture below shows how the magnesium shavings actually hold a heavy neodymium magnet in the air!
And lastly, we did what MEL Chemistry calls a “Metal Contest”, because here too, three metals (zink, copper and tin) were competing in reactivity. “If you arrange metals from more active to less active, you’ll see that zinc Zn is a more adventurous fellow than tin Sn and copper Cu. That’s why, when you put a zinc rod into a solution containing, say, copper ions Cu2+, the latter are happy to settle inside the comfortable cloud of electrons, forming metallic copper Cu on the surface of the rod. Zn ions Zn2+, in turn, go swimming in the solution. The reaction with the tin chloride SnCl2 solution is essentially the same”, MEL Science website explains.
The most important experience was actually simply to see how huge the Large Hadron Collider is. We totally didn’t expect the site of every experiment on the 27km ring to resemble an industrial town in its own right, scattered miles across a desert-like terrain with the Mont Blanc and the Jura mountains as the scenic back drop. It was a challenge to walk between the activities we had carefully planned in advance only to find out that some of the were full or required an hour of waiting in line. But the kids have withstood these challenges heroically and were rewarded with a few unforgettable impressions.