Dr. SkySkull in China, Part 3: Daming Lake

Part 3 in a long series of posts about my month and a half in China. Part 1 can be read here, and Part 2 can be read here.

On my first weekend in Jinan I hit two of the major attractions of the city: the Shandong Museum and Baotu Spring. On my second weekend I opted to see a third major attraction, and a centerpiece of the city: Daming Lake, “Lake of the Great Splendor.” This 110 acre lake is fed by the artesian springs of the city, and has a lovely tree-lined walking trail around it with a number of historic buildings.

View of Daming Lake from above.

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Dr. SkySkull in China, Part 2: What I ate

Part 2 in a long series of posts about my month and a half in China. Part 1 can be read here.

Before I dive into a post of more history, culture and scenery of China, I thought I would do a short post on a question that was really weighing heavily on my mind when I arrived: what do I eat here?

China is a country with an incredibly diverse culinary tradition, and there are in fact officially eight major cuisine styles: Shandong, Sichuan, Hunan, Guangdong, Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Anhui and Fujian. I believe I sampled three or four different styles on this trip, though I am not proficient enough at this point to be able to tell you the differences.

Jumping into Chinese cuisine for a midwestern-raised American like me is a bit of a culture shock, and I spent the first couple of weeks of the trip trying to eat things that were at least vaguely familiar to me.  At one of the first banquets, we were given fresh salmon, which is rare in that part of China and quite expensive, and it looked it.  Since I’m used to eating sushi these days, I was able to happily enjoy it.

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Dr. SkySkull in China, Part 1: Baotu Spring

So I’m back home after my epic month and a half trip to China! It was a really lovely experience: my hosts were incredibly kind and generous, I got to see and do a lot of things that I’ve only dreamed of, and I was able to get a lot of work done.

I also, of course, took a lot of photos! During my trip, I not only took a few trips to other cities, but spent my weekends wandering the city of Jinan, where I was based.  I worked at Shandong Normal University, at their newer campus situated in the suburbs.

Me, outside the Center of Light Manipulations and Applications.

During the late spring/early summer, Jinan is a very hot and dry city. Fortunately, it is also a city filled with water — there are a large number of natural artesian springs in the city, 72 of which are important “named” springs. On my first weekend in Jinan, I opted to go to the most famous of these, Baotu Spring, whose name may be translated as the “Spurting” Spring.  This blog post is about that visit, and several more visits which I took there during my stay!

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A small announcement: I’m adventuring in China!

Hi all, I just wanted to apologize for being rather quiet with posting lately, as work has been incredibly busy! Alas, things probably won’t pick up for another month, yet, as I am currently spending a month and a half in China to work on research collaborations!

I am hoping to share a few short posts here and there while I’m away, both on physics and on my travels in country.  Talk to you all soon!

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Crookes and the puzzle of his radiometer

This blog post is based on some early experimental writing that was done for my Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics book that was cut from the final draft! As you will see, it was much too long and too much of a digression to include in the book, so I’ve posted it here sorta as a preview of not-quite-the-book!

Some of the most fascinating physics demonstrations are some of the oldest. In my office, I have several versions of a device known as a Crookes radiometer, including both quality display pieces as well as a cheap plastic version.

A Crookes radiometer looks very much like a four-armed weathervane, each arm of the vane having a white side and a black side, or a glossy side and a matte side. The entire vane is contained within a thin glass (or plastic) case. When direct light, from the sun or a flashlight, is shined upon the device, it begins to rotate: it is a device whose movement is entirely powered by light!

Though the radiometer is simple in design, its discovery resulted in an epic 50 year history of physicists attempting to adequately explain the origin of its motion. The device would attract the interest of some of the most famous scientists of its time, and provoke lively scientific arguments. It is, in fact, a good illustration of how the solution of problems in physics can often be trickier than they first appear to be!

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An Ode to the “Tomb of Horrors”

(NOTE: Updated the post to include one additional Tomb-related adventure, which I completely forgot about while first writing!)

Part of this feeling on my part is certainly nostalgia, but there really isn’t anything quite like the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and its associated published adventure modules. Recently on twitter, I’ve been reminiscing about “Old School Dungeons & Dragons” and discussing some of the classics of D&D and AD&D.

However, there are some adventures that deserve more than a handful of tweets to discuss. One of these, and one of the greatest of all time is the Tomb of Horrors, a 1981 adventure that was the first official “deathtrap dungeon,” designed solely to torment, challenge, and exterminate the player characters.  It is incredible for a number of ways, and I thought I would take a little time to talk about why it is so great, and a bit of its legacy!

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Available for pre-order: Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics!

Big news from about my upcoming book, Falling Felines and Fundamental Physics: we have a release date — October 22nd — and a cover!!!

Furthermore, and perhaps most important, the book is now available for pre-order! You can order it through Amazon at this link or, if you prefer, you can order it directly from Yale University Press at their website!

The official blurb is as follows:

The question of how falling cats land on their feet has intrigued humans since at least the middle of the nineteenth century. In this playful and eye-opening history, physicist and cat parent Gregory Gbur explores how attempts to understand the cat-righting reflex have provided crucial insights into puzzles in mathematics, geophysics, neuroscience, and human space exploration.

The result is an engaging tumble through physics, physiology, photography, and robotics to uncover, through scientific debate, the secret of the acrobatic performance known as cat-turning, the cat flip, and the cat twist. Readers learn the solution, but also discover that the finer details still inspire heated arguments. As with other cat behavior, the more we investigate, the more surprises we discover.

I’m really excited to share more information going forward! I would like to share the table of contents next, but I want to check with my publisher first to see if that’s okay. More to come!

And, of course, more blog posts to come!  The past two weeks I was quite busy working through the major editorial comments on the book draft. I’m mostly done with those, so I should have a bit more free time!

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