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Sort of Science: Sarlacc Dams, People Molecules, and Helicopter Glitches

Sort of Science: Sarlacc Dams, People Molecules, and Helicopter Glitches

If you live near a reservoir or a dam, you might also live near sarlacci (yes, that’s the plural form).

Sarlacc Dam PICClick to enlarge lest you be slowly digested over a thousand years.

This Fett-eating thing is actually a bell-mouth spillway — basically a giant hole that lets water through a dam or out of a reservoir. Sometimes a dam needs to release excess water in order to prevent flooding or other damage, and these spillways are just one structure for doing so. While some bell-mouth spillways are simply curved, many have “steps” along the mouth’s entrance to prevent ice accumulation during winter months. Those steps (and a great timelapse shot, as in the photo above) have the added benefit of making a giant drain look like it’s hungry for Han. You can see many more pictures of dam sarlacc mouths here.

What’s a good way to make chemistry more accessible to kids? Make chemistry that looks like kids!

800px-Nanoputian-3D-ballsThis is NanoKid. In 2003, professor James Tour of Rice University decided to synthesize chemicals whose structural formulas look like kids as part of an educational program. While the many chemical variations of NanoKid don’t have any practical use, the idea is quite charming (I mean c’mon, they have nanohats). Collectively, the molecules that resemble people are dubbed “NanoPutians.”

Lastly, let’s preface the next image with this: no, your computer is not messed up, nor is your brain:

Helicopter glitch GIF

The laggy helicopter above is what happens when a camera’s frame rate starts to approach the rotational period of the helicopter. When the two are perfectly in sync, the helicopter looks motionless, but when the rotor blades and the shutter are a bit off, you get the awesome GIF above. But you don’t always need a camera to capture effects like this. When a car’s tire appears to move backwards on the highway, for example, that’s your brain’s frame rate getting slightly out of sync with the rotation of the wheel. Trippy.

Sort of Science is a collection of hey, huh, wow science culled from the annals of the Internet.

IMAGES: The Plughole by Vaidotas Mišeikis

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Comments

  1. Mick West says:

    Car tires don’t appear to go backwards to the naked eye, they just blur. Brain frame rate does not work like camera frame rate. 

    • Lizenz says:

      My eyes beg to differ. Wheels always look like they’re rotating backwards to me.

    • Illusion-XIII says:

      It has to be going at a specific RPM, but yes, it does happen with the naked eye.  It’s easier to see with bike wheels because of the higher number of spokes.  It’s a lot more likely that the combination of the rotations and the spacing of the spokes will match a direct multiple of the eye’s frame rate and create the illusion.