Solving the Motorway Problem naturally

Simon learned this from the SingingBanana channel:

In this video, Simon solves the famous Motorway Problem (or Steiner Problem) naturally, using soapy liquid. The problem is about four towns located in a one mile squared and looking for the shortest and most efficient way to connect them. Simon goes through the possibilities and then uses his homemade prop to find the shortest path to connect four points. Sometimes, the prop manages to show the local minimum instead of the solution, Simon explained, so make sure you get rid of the extra bubbles and pull the prop from the water vertically, not horizontally.

Simon also explains the physics behind the experiment: The trick works because a bubble minimises its tension.

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Simon and Daniel Shiffman

Today is one of the most beautiful days in Simon’s life: NYU Associate Professor and the creator of Coding Train Daniel Shiffman has been Simon’s guarding angel, role model and source of all the knowledge Simon has accumulated so far (in programming, math, community ethics and English), and today Simon got to meet him for the first time in real life!

Daniel Shiffman posted:

Wobbly Circles and the Center of Mass

What shape can roll well, other than a circle (wheel)? Two circles, attached together according to a formula involving a square root of two! Simon made these “wobbly circles” inspired by a Numberphile video where Matt Parker talks about how the ability to roll well (as in a wheel) is caused by the constant height of the center of mass (as opposed to a square wheel, whose center of mass goes zigzagging up and down). Wobbly wheels also have a stable height of their center of mass, hence they roll!

Simon also made a transparent version (with mom’s help):

 

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The Snowball Throwing Game in Processing

Simon invented this fun game in Processing after he and his little sister had some proper winter fun outdoors in the fresh December snow (quite rare for the local climate and thus immensely cherished by the little people). The game is about throwing  snowballs in such a trajectory that they stick to one another, forming a super-snowball. After I finished filming this, the two snowball throwers had such a great time with the game that I dare say the giggling effect from of this 2D simulation overshadowed the real snowball fight that had originally inspired it. They did love playing in the real snow on the next day though, until it melted away.

 

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Playing with light and mirrors

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Its Highness Magformers S.T.E.A.M. Master Set, Simon’s long aspired gift for Sinterklaas (the biggest holiday of the year for the Dutch) and what he built with it. The set mainly focuses on studying the way light is reflected by mirrors (such as in a camera or a periscope).

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Simon and Neva had been singing the traditional Sinterklaas songs (with new non-racist and non-violent lyrics) every evening and finding small gifts in their shoes every morning for two weeks, this whole roller-coaster culminating in the Sinterklaas “pakjesavond” (the night of the presents) in early December with the extended family in Utrecht, where the “real gifts” were secretly delivered by Sint Nicolaas and his helpers. In the picture above, Simon is reading one of the poems (there are poems accompanying every gift). Sinterklaas was up all night last night writing poems.

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At home unpacking the gift.