Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sneezing Baby Panda

This has received 47,485,527 views. Based on that information Mr. Spanky predicts that the end of the world is imminent. See Revelations for details.


Friday, December 11, 2009

Alien is saved by Bran Flakes

If only Sigourney Weaver knew the power of breakfast cereals in the rehabilitation of bloodthirsty creatures from outer space. Mr. Spanky awards this video three LOLs and a snort. Luckily, he wasn't drinking his coffee at the time he was viewing.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Decorations

Alert reader SO sent in this pic/story which sounds like something Mr. Spanky would have done if I'd thought of it first:

"Good news is that I truly out did myself this year with my Christmas decorations. The bad news is that I had to take him down after 2 days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down.

First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by.

Second, a 55-year old lady grabbed the 75 pound ladder almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). By the way, she was one of many people who attempted to do that. My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Why trampolines are not safe in Alberta

From alert reader LO of Calgary, Alberta a dire warning: don't bounce until you've checked out the wildlife situation.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Zero Gravity Bow Wow

Dogs, planes, and zero gravity. A new trend of case of airplane-incited pet abuse? Regardless, the Spankster finds this hilarious. What, do you think, is going through the dog's mind at this point?


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear

The pholks over at Learn.Genetics, a website from the University of Utah, have a great interactive graphic on the size of things. It starts out with a coffee bean and ends up with a carbon atom. It's a very effective look at relative size and allows you to get an idea of scale. Who knew that our antibodies were so small relative to the bacteria they beat up? Go team! Check it out.


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Facebook Scam Artists

Normally I'll blog about interesting, funny, or preposterous nonsense that I encounter in my varied travels across the internet-o-sphere. But today is not such a day. I am appalled at the breaking story at TechCrunch which details how Facebook games like Farmville and Mobsters is nothing more than an attempt to trick users into buying useless goods and siphoning off personal information to create further spam.

Although there are a variety of offenders by far the worst violator is Zynga. You think I'm making this up? Check out the very words out of the mouth of the CEO of Zynga as he spoke at a start up meeting in Berkeley: I knew that I wanted to control my destiny, so I knew I needed revenues, right, [swear word], now. Like I needed revenues now. So I funded the company myself but I did every horrible thing in the book to just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this zwinky toolbar which was like, I don't know, I downloaded it once and couldn’t get rid of it. *laughs* We did anything possible just to just get revenues so that we could grow and be a real business…So control your destiny. So that was a big lesson, controlling your business. So by the time we raised money we were profitable."

I will note that after this story broke that the Zynga folks were nice enough to say that they would consider not scamming you any more. After all, they will make 100 million dollars this year by suckering you and can stop being immoral now. Much appreciated.

So kidz, how could you possibly do anything about this? The power of the internet is in numbers and word-of-mouth. Pass this post onto your friendz. Urge them to stop playing Zynga games like Cafe World, Dragon Wars, FarmVille, Fashion Wars, Mafia Wars, Pirates, Roller Coaster, Scramble, Special Forces, Vampires, Word Twist, and YoVille! You have to hit them where it hurts: their pocketbook.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Now appearing on Twitter

Kidz, if you are a fan of the microblogging site Twitter, Phunkidz blog posts will now appear on Twitter under the user id @phunkidz. Sign up and get the scoop on Mr Spanky and the Phunkidz blog live!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Free Stuff

You kidz are always aware that the Spankster is on the lookout for the unusual, humorous, or other cool bits of mind candy. There is another side of Mr. Spanky that is cheaper than a Chinese Rolex. So when he finds something free he gets a special tingle up his spine. Over at they are giving away free music: 1,351 songs to be exact. You'll need an Amazon account (ask your parents) but you can still get the songs for F R E E. It also comes with a nifty helper app that loads up the music into iTunes so that you don't have to: F R E E and E A S Y!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Da Blob

In the 1950s, long before Mr Spanky was a gleam in his Daddy's eye, there was a great push for campy sci-fi/horror films. This involved close ups of spiders, cockroaches, large rubber dinosaur-like creatures and giant amoebas made from soap suds. Great titles like "Attack of the Crab People", "Creature from the Black Lagoon", "The Giant Gila Monster", "Teenage Zombies", and the aptly named, "The Thing That Couldn't Die" filled the movie houses with plots that usually involved teenagers investigating dark places filled with dangerous creatures after they had split up in order to make the searching more "efficient".

None was more famous than "The Blob", a creature that descends onto earth from space in the interior of a meteoroid and engulfs the town's residents including Mr. Andrews the local grocer. Generally, the film is recognized as being "quintessential", which for you kidz means that the special effects would put you into a boredom coma. You do, however, have to put things into perspective, there were no computer-generated graphics in the 1950s. No laptops, CDs, iPods, microwave ovens, cell phones, or internet. Entertainment was watching black and white TV or hanging around with your pal Potsie at the local hamburger joint. So you can imagine that folks at the time would go nuts over some brown jello shots.

Luckily, life imitates art. Or what passes for art. The folks over at National Geographic, who specialize in nature photography and exploration, have posted an article entitled "Giant, Mucus-Like Sea Blobs on the Rise, Pose Danger". That's an attention grabber for sure. It's even more interesting that these blobs can be 100s of kilometers long! And they've been around since the 1700s. What's new is that scientists have finally gotten around to studying them and have concluded that they are not good for you(TM). The harbor all sorts of pathogens, bacteria, and viruses including our old friend E. Coli. Fortunately, a scientist named Farooq Azam, has let on that "few people would purposely swim into a mucilage". That means that if you were frolicking in the Mediterranean you wouldn't dive into a blob of green slime but your brother might throw it at you if he got a chance.


Thursday, October 1, 2009


There's something to be said about firsts. First in line, first in a race, first to create something that's never been seen before. How about being the first to be floating the farthest from a spaceship without a tether?


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

What Unicorns Eat

I've talked about Doug Savage at Savage Chickens before. He ranks as a cartoon genius in the Spankster's book of fun. Today's cartoon involves unicorns. Because unicorns are not real and are funny. Funny-looking, funny-smelling, and funny-haha!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Lego Makes Me Cry

Kidz, there's a classic set of illusions, including the Penrose triangle (created by Oscar Reutersvard), that look normal at any one junction of the picture but as a whole are impossible. M.C. Escher famously did a number of these in lithograph style and tremendous detail including Relativity in the 1950s.

A sharp eyed iPhone developer that I know sent the following lego instructions for making your own Penrose triangle. Don't blame the Spankster if you wind up crying in your milk after a few hours...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

APOD: Astronomy picture of the day

It's been too long kidz, since I've given you some eye candy to chew on. Nasa, the same guys that brought you the first man on the moon and Apollo 13, also provides an astronomy picture of the day suitable for goggling, framing, or setting as your desktop background. The universe is a beautiful brilliant place and these daily pictures show it. Included is an explanation by a professional astronomer that tells you what you're looking at.


P.S. for those of you with News Readers an RSS feed is available from the same link

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Psychic abilities

Kidz, I'm always reminding you to use your brain. Be skeptical. Question everything.

Don't get me wrong: Mr. Spanky would like to have psychic abilities. It would be brilliant if I could move a beer from the fridge and the chips from the pantry to the barcolounger without moving. And the chocolate. And the 20 yr old Scotch from the rec room upstairs. Yeah, Mr. Spanky is totally digging his telekinetic awesomeness.

Here's a video showing psychic abilities. A table is set up with a paper pinwheel beneath a glass bowl. The psychic moves the pinwheel with his mind. Astounding! Think a little bit before answering the questions that the author poses on his site:
  1. Does this video prove the paranormal? Note that paranormal is a general term that describes unusual experiences that lack a scientific explanation or that are supernatural.
  2. If this is not paranormal, how was it accomplished?
The answers will surprise you!

Is this a demonstration of paranormal psychic powers or is it bogosity? Eager to find out -> click this link.


Friday, July 10, 2009

Holy Hairy Sasquatch

I don't have any pithy words for this. It's like a mind virus burrowing deep into Mr. Spanky's old and crusty brain. I keep playing it over and over again. The bouncy music, the tie-dyed version of Big Foot, the faithful "dog", the moss... Please save me.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Make Your Very Own Mini-Catapult

You've heard me talk about ballistae before and other much larger siege engines. Ones that you'd want to launch pianos, dead farm animals, and large chunks of masonry from. Despite Mr. Spanky's penchant for the large and destructive today he focuses on the small cool and annoying. But still it's all about siege engines and specifically the catapult.

I really like the Instructables web site: people post things that they actually make with their own two hands, which is an art lost here in our shrink-wrapped bargain store consumer oriented society. This instructable is the step-by-step guide to creating your own mint-launching catapult. The materials are simple: Altoids tin, coat hanger, rubber bands, electrical tape, small piece of cardboard, measuring or other plastic spoon, paint, wire cutters, hot glue, scissors, and pliers. You can find them around the house. The tools you can find in Dad's toolbox and he won't mind if you use them AS LONG AS YOU PUT THEM BACK AFTERWARDS YOU LITTLE TROLL!

Sorry. It's a touchy point. Mr. Spanky's son has been known to leave a trail of discarded valuable tools all over the place like crumbs in a Hansel and Gretel story when he works on his projects. IT'S NOT TOO MUCH TO ASK THAT HE CLEANS IT UP, RIGHT? RIGHT?!!!


Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ant mega-colony takes over world and it's our fault

Humans own the planet, right? We're on every continent, masters of our domain, dealers of justice, and makers of those small plastic tips on your shoelaces. Nothing rivals us, nothing! Bwahahahaha! Sorry, my world domination gene kicked in.

We have competition and not only that we're helping them. From the Earth News desk of the BBC:

A single mega-colony of ants has colonised much of the world, scientists have discovered.
Argentine ants living in vast numbers across Europe, the US and Japan belong to the same inter-related colony, and will refuse to fight one another. The colony may be the largest of its type ever known for any insect species, and could rival humans in the scale of its world domination. What's more, people are unwittingly helping the mega-colony stick together...


Act now Kidz and save the world! Ask your parents for a magnifying glass and do your part to decimate the ant population on a sunny day.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Toilet Made of Poo

A savvy eco-designer named Virginia Gardiner has made a toilet out horse poo called the LOOWATT. Not only that, your poo is then collected once a week with neighboring poo and put into a poo digestor. The poo digestor turns the poo pile into poo diesel. You can use the poo diesel to light your home and cook your meals which you can then turn back into poo. This is like a "circle of life" sort of thing.


P.S. Mr. Spanky is secretly thrilled that he can use the word "poo" ten times in this short post.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Why Macs are better than PCs

My MacBook can't do this so I must need to upgrade to a Macbook Pro. Sweet!


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zooming In


After a bit of a summer break Mr. Spanky is back in action. His keen eagle eyes and insatiable curiosity have picked out today's science movie, a journey through a deep crevasse in the Mariana Trench at the bottom of the ocean.

Mrs Spanky says, "He's a liar and a crazy old coot."

Ahem. Actually, this photo is a snapshot at 69,000x magnification of something that is, right now, in your head. Not near your head: literally, in your head. You use them every day and you lose them once in a lifetime. Can you guess what they are without playing the video below?


Monday, June 8, 2009

Yet another product name challenge

This time from the holding area in Calcutta. Why is Mr Spanky in a holding area for 6 hours? The answer to that question is not as nearly important as to why someone would name their candy Kaju Barfi. Perhaps this person should meet up with the "Ugly Coffee Dome" guy in Hong Kong and start an innovative new business.
  • Drive new customer adoption through the use of repellent product names! We've helped Sweat Cheese Breakfast Drink, Fermented Kittylitter Clothing, and Crunchy Frog Chocolates become established household names!
  • Brought to you by Ugly Barfi Inc

Ugly Coffee Dome

Kidz, at the Starbucks in the Hong Kong airport they had some interesting pastry: Ugly Coffee Dome and Condensed Milk Pocket Panini. Mr Spanky was watching his ever expanding waist line so he stuck to his latte (non-fat). Still makes you curious has to how ugly it really tasted.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Barry Schwartz On Our Loss of Wisdom

Passed on to me by cerebral and celebrated reader AM, a short talk by Barry Schwartz on our why our reliance on rules and avoidance of common sense (which seems to be increasingly shorter supply) are problematic. For you kidz, there's a section on what is the most important thing for you to learn in school (hint: it is not algebra).

The video is hosted on the TED site. There are many TED talks that are also downloadable from iTunes as videos. Enjoy!

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader. The annual conference now brings together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes)...


Thursday, April 30, 2009

How Swine Flu Was First Transmitted to Humans

Alert reader RO passed this fine picture along. Although the technical details may elude some of you, you can definitely see from this photo how first contact was established.

You can get a relatively up-to-date map of the swine flu incidents here. The more caring of my readers will want to know that Mr. Spanky is taking great care to protect himself: washing his hands, donning a surgical mask, shaving his head, and bathing regularly in Purell.

But his neighborhood is not immune--the local high school has been closed due to a swine flu positive student. Take care, kidz, and keep those hands out of your known portals of entry for pathogens.*

* According to the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene these portals are the mouth, nose, and conjunctiva of the eyes.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


This reminds me of an old joke that I'm sure you kidz already know.
  • Johnny: Can I go to the bathroom?
  • Teacher: Say your ABCs first and then you can go.
  • Johnny: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
  • Teacher: That's nice, Johny, but where's the P?
  • Johnny: It's running down my leg.
Rhett Dashwood (sounds like a Hollywood rock star name) has way too much time on his hands and has cobbled together an image made from Google Maps photos that has all the letters in the alphabet. Even thought the "Q" is a bit of stretch it is clever which puts it squarely in the realm of Phunkidz material. At the bottom of his piece, you can click on each letter to see where it came from. I think that Rhett has a fascination with Australia.


Sunday, April 19, 2009

Om Nom Nom Nom

Purveyor of the wild wacky and almost insane--that's the tag line for yours truly, Mr. Spanky. Om nom nom nom, according to the Urban Dictionary is an onomatopoeical adjective based on the sound emitted when something is "oh so tasty" (either through hunger or flavorological value) that one gnaws through it without regard to cleanliness or etiquette. This sort of ravenous eating will often result in an "om nom nom nom" noise being emitted from the eater.

Why is this relevant? Because alert reader MO has passed on the following site as a candidate for stardom on the PhunKidz blog. Can you imagine a site devoted to completely random postings, specifically of pictures where eyeballs and teeth are drawn in complete with the tagline "Om Nom Nom Nom"? I understand. Not until now.


Monday, April 13, 2009

Your First Car

One of the things that my daughter, MO, is always on about is what her first car will be when she starts to drive this summer. I keep talking about second-hand Toyota Corollas and other reliable and cheap (yes, cheap!) cars. She's of a different mind. She wants something good for the earth and often talks about hybrids and electric cars (although I think she'd take a convertible Mini Cooper in electric blue if I forced her to). All of this confuses Mr. Spanky. AFAIK, there *are* hybrids but they cost $$$ more than a regular car. There are no reasonably priced electric cars (Tesla and Fisker included). It's an undeniable fact that what burns a gaping hole in Mr. Spanky's wallet can't possibly be good for the earth, unless you want to start turning dollar bills into compost.

My daughter's desires to help the planet and indulge in her God-given right to drive in the US of A are, gasp, unrealistic. Until now. This is brilliant--if Mr. Spanky could claim credit for this invention he would in a heart-beat, that's just the type of person he is. This is a $13K electric car that seats four and, get this, doesn't go faster than 30 mph. Heehee! It's perfect for a new student driver. MO won't know what hit her. Whups, bad choice of words.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Easter Bunny Gets Hit by Passing Truck, Donates Body to Science

I hope that he posted all his eggs to FedEx before he passed on otherwise we'll be looking at some empty baskets on Sunday. Or perhaps this is one of his many famous "duplicates".

Note that from this autopsy the mystery of the eggs is solved. He doesn't pack 'em on his back--they're produced internally. Up to you Phunkidz to speculate on how the eggs are delivered into their hiding places...


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Did you know?

Hello my Kidz!

Today we're going to look at statistics. This video talks about how our society is increasingly exponential. It's exciting or terrifying depending on your perspective. We are living in interesting times!

These types of statistics have had a material impact on my life. Witness the discussion at the dinner table with Mrs. Spanky:

Me: Me sweet little potato peeling, did ya know dat dere are more of dem dere honors students in India than all da students in dis here US of A?

Mrs. Spanky: You daft booger, here's a statistical for ye: dere's 9 in 10 that I'm gonna clock ya with dis frying pan unless ya shut yer gob. Eat your mush.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Wear Green!

Phunkidz, it's important that you know where you come from and celebrate your roots. Despite his swarthy skin and dark hair Mr. Spanky does have Irish blood running through his veins, believe it or not. It isn't just the potato cravings or his affinity for woolly sheep either. Witness the discussion with Mrs. Spanky at the breakfast table:
  • Me: "Aye begora! I found a wee leprechaun in me oatmeal dis mornin'."
  • Mrs: "You're a daft booger for sure--eat your mush."
If that isn't proof enough then I'll eat a bucket of shamrocks.

Alert Irish reader LO found a charming vid that is just in time for St Paddy's day, which, coincidentally, is next Tuesday. Watch out for Irishmen crossing the street: they're sometimes staggering.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

The World's Ugliest Cat

WARNING: If you've recently eaten you may want to wait until you have digested your meal before proceeding.

Mr. Spanky does not get up in the morning looking for things like you'll find in this post. Unfortunately, it is still my duty to alert Phunkidz readers to the weird, wacky, and well, no, it's just plain weird.

Hiyaaah! This is one ugly cat. It looks like a cross between a bad wig and a hairless rat. Check out the movie on the site link below to see Ugly Bat Boy in action--creepy.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Skittles: Viral the Rainbow

Mr. Spanky adores the new and clever--it's hard tearing himself away from the mirror to scour the web for things like this but he needs to cater to the hordes of phanz that dog the blog. To whit, I just stumbled upon a very clever marketing campaign from the folks who make those little fruit-flavored sugary chewy unnaturally-colored thingees that have that mysterious faint chemical aftertaste.

It uses Facebook to allow people to talk about, comment on, and add to a few ads, fun little apps, and pictures that have been posted. Interesting to see a campaign seeded by the company and then virally taking off with people that can participate. Witness the 585,109 (and counting) fans that are linked to this page and the 1,571 comments they've posted. Whoever the marketing firm is that dreamed this one up gets Mr. Spanky's Golden Award of Brain and a license to print free money.

I especially loved the Tailor ad. There are four guys wearing suits: check out all three mirrors.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Scratch This!

The other day my curious and creative son and I stumbled across Scratch. Not the regular scratch as in your head, your armpits, or tis but a... Rather, a phun program to create your own stories and games. It has built-in characters, sounds, costumes, and motion.

It's snap together blocks make programming even complex instructions simple and fool-proof. We started simply by having a knight run around bouncing off the edge of the screen. Then we added the dragon, then some simple hit detection to see if the dragon breathed on the knight. It built up over the course of an hour or so into a fun game!

In our game, DragonFire, you are a dragon who has been relentlessly pestered by knights. Your job is to cook Sir Buttkin by breathing fire on him 5 times. Beware Sir Buttkin's friends, who are shooting arrows that could pierce your delicate skin. Enjoy!

If you make your own Scratch game, make a comment in the Phunkidz blog with a link to your game!

Scratch Project

Monday, February 9, 2009

A real unicorn

Most of you kidz should be familiar with the "mythical" unicorn. That fantasy creature that looks like a horse but has a single ivory horn growing from the middle of its forehead. Often seen in the company of elves and other woodland sprites it is said that only a human that is young female virgin can approach or even ride the beast. Mr. Spanky says "Bull!" Sure, scientists and other xenobiologists have searched far and wide for such a creature. Mr. Spanky says "Meh." They're just looking in the wrong place. Horse-like, hah!

Alert reader GO has brought to my attention an article from the Economist where they talk about Dr. W.F. Dove who has fashioned his own unicorn. Horns are not embedded in the skull, rather they start out as buds on the flesh. Dr. Dove understood this and in 1933 created his own unicorn. The lesson here, kidz, is to experiment on animals for phun and profit!*

What did Dr. Dove's unicorn look like? Click the link below to find out.


*Mr. Spanky really doesn't endorse animal experiments so please do not perform chemical tests, transplants, DNA-alteration, substance abuse, or junk food binges with any animals. Just think, you wouldn't want any of those things to happen to you, right? Ok, except for the junk food binging.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Going Hunting

Sometimes you come across something so indescribably cute that you get overloaded on the sugar. Luckily, the surprise ending makes up for it all. Check out this YouTube video of Kate Micucci singing "Dear Deer" on her ukelele.

From Ukelele Hunt: There’s little doubt of the link between the ukulele and comic actors. From Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, through Steve Martin to Adam Sandler and William H Macy. The latest in the list is Kate Micucci...


Monday, February 2, 2009

Out of this World

Kidz, if you haven't downloaded and tried out the new 5.0 version of Google Earth I heartily encourage you to do so. Sure, you can skim around our planet and zoom in on your neighborhood. You can go look at the pyramids in Egypt, too. Meh.

This new version allows you to run around on Mars. Simply click on the planet icon in the top toolbar and select "Mars". Go into flight simulator mode and fly an F16 around the landscape. To see the travels of the Mars Rovers, select the "Mars Gallery" layer, open it, and select "Rovers and Landers" and click on the rover of your choice. Click on one of the camera icons to see high resolution pictures that have been taken by the rover. It's amazing.

But wait there's more. Just as the Googley engineers are plying the heavens, they are also looking to the depths of the sea. Go back to Earth (click on the planet icon in the toolbar and select "Earth"). Select the oceans layer. Explore shipwrecks, National Geographic featured sites, and view Cousteau's adventures beneath the sea. You've got to like this.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Be an Airport Security Guard

Mr. Spanky is constantly scouring the planet for things. Amusing things. Things that poke fun at the establishment are especially funny. Things that poke fun at the establishment and allow you to remove people's pants are downright hilarious. I just downloaded the game "Jetset" for my iPhone ($4.99US). It's kind of like The Sims meets the TSA. You play a TSA security guard who must remove prohibited items from passengers' carry on luggage and their person. Just like in real life, the prohibited items are constantly changing: shoes, hats, pants, bacon, hummus, spray cheese: these are dangerous items that terrorists could use to commandeer aircraft. You have to be careful, though, to not miss items (security violation) or to remove legal items (rights violation) or to let the line get too long. In this screen shot you can see that shoe inserts, lattes, pudding cups, pants and plastic bins are not allowed (see icons in upper left hand corner). Lots of fun!

One of the things that really peaked my interest was the intertwining of the real world with the game. The game uses the built in GPS of the phone to determine if you are actually in a particular airport. If you play the game in the airport it will provide a special souvenir item that then stays with the game. For example, if you play the game near the San Jose airport it will unlock the microchip (which can become a prohibited item in the game from now on). Ingenious!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Eat Your Vegetables

Hobbies, we all have hobbies. Some people like playing music. Eating, we all need to eat. Your mother tells you often to eat your vegetables. Most of the time we deal with those two activities separately. Not this guy. He has a whole series of videos up on YouTube showing vegetables that make you toot. Or rather, that you can toot your vegetables. He's got flutes, ocarinas, and trumpets made from broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, mushrooms, daikon radish, and asparagus. SAY and GO, do you think he could replace your band teacher?


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Naked Scientists and LEDs

Witness a late night in Mexico: the vibrant decor at Los Helechos, eating chicken in zucchini flower sauce, a Negro Modelo close at hand, a brief pause in the table conversation occurs. My father, engineer and thinker of strange thoughts, asks to the table at large, "How does an LED work?". I mumble something unconvincing about electrons flying into orbit around molecules and losing energy in the form of light. A hush settles over the table and then talk turns back to our time on the beach that day. That question has plagued me for weeks.

In my diligent quest for understanding LEDs I have stumbled upon a gem of a site called The Naked Scientists. The Naked Scientists are a BBC science radio program, podcast, and web site all in one. They allow you to explore science, medicine and technology news, discoveries and breakthroughs being discussed by scientists and researchers today and include interviews with famous scientists of world-class reputation. What a treasure trove!

So how does an LED work? A Light Emitting Diode involves two types of semi-conductors sandwiched together: an N-type and a P-type. The N-type is heavy in extra electrons and the P-type is full of molecules that need electrons (think of these as electron attracting holes). By applying a current to either side, the electrons from the N jump over to the P and fall into the holes. When they do so they give up their extra energy as light. Check out the great description of this phenomenon at the Naked Scientist website.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Hey, Buddy, Can You Spare a Hundred Billion Dollars?

One hundred billion dollars for three eggs? No, this isn't a Photoshop moment, this is Zimbabwe. Latest figures from Nov 2008 show an annual inflation of 89.7 sextillion (1021) percent. Here in the US, you can buy a chocolate bar for about 75 cents. It would be the same as if that very same chocolate bar jumped up in price to $673,000,000,000,000,000,000 in just one year. I may be missing a zero in there somewhere. Yow, that's faster than Mr. Spanky's ever expanding waistline! Needless to say, this basically wipes out any savings you might have had as a Zimbabwian.

Zimbabwe was once considered the "breadbasket of Africa" but has been in an economic meltdown due to land reforms (confiscating land from white farmers in the early 1990s and causing food output to plummet) and sanctions placed on it by western countries, resulting in a failure to pay its debts to the International Monetary Fund. Coupling that with President Mugabe's disputed reelection in June 2008 has caused the country to collapse even further. It makes our current financial troubles look mild in comparison.

There's a fascinating series of photos on the Sojourner's website that show some of the challenges that hyperinflation brings. Like trying to carry enough money to buy that chocolate bar!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Hacking Your Brain

The Boston Globe has a great piece about how to take advantage of those bugs in your wetware. I especially like the Pinocchio-nose trick.

Try these out and then let all of our kidz know what your experience was by commenting on the blog!

DO YOU EVER want to change the way you see the world? Wouldn't it be fun to hallucinate on your lunch break? It's easy to fling open the doors of perception without: All it takes is a basic understanding of how the mind works.

The first thing to know is that the mind isn't a mirror, or even a passive observer of reality...


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Canadian Coast Guard or Roller Coaster?

Hi Kidz! I hope that your Christmas and New Years was as pleasant as mine was. While you were unwrapping your gifts and playing with your toys I was down in Mexico digging my toes in the sand and perfecting my Margarita recipe*.

My father, SeƱor Spanky Senior, sent me some incredible photos of one of the Canadian Coast Guard's Self-Righting Lifeboats performing maneuvers off of Tofino, BC which is on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Apparently, these pictures were taken from shore via a tripod during an autumn storm last year. I stitched them together in Photoshop to create an animation to ensure your attention. Click on the picture above for a closer view. Quite the ride!

The self-righting lifeboats are part of the CCGs Search and Rescue (SAR) Program. The CCG's Pacific Region is responsible for 560,000 square kilometers (210K sq miles) of ocean and 27,000 km (~17K miles) of rugged and often inaccessible coastline. This is somewhat longer than Santa's naughty list.

If you have a penchant for being permanently damp you might want to consider a career in the Canadian Coast Guard. Arrr, Billy, have you ever been to sea?


* Mr. Spanky drinks liquor for medicinal purposes only and in a responsible manner. He's old, he has aches and pains, and the citrus does wonders for his scurvy.