Archive for September, 2011

Waves and Reflections

Friday, September 30th, 2011


Waves are mysterious things, and are even stranger in the Quantum realm.  You might think that we could break an electromagnetic wave down into its smallest pieces and then we could see that the complex behavior of the wave arises from the combination of all simple behaviors of the pieces.

You might think that, but you would be wrong. Yes, you can break a light wave or a radio wave down into its smallest chunks, called photons.  But here you might get frustrated if you are looking for simplicity: the photons are just as wavy as the wave you broke them out of.

You see, the wave is wavy because the photons that make it up are wavy.  You cannot break the complex wave down into simple photons. You can break the complex wave down into tiny complex photons.

What do we mean when we say “wavy”? Waves have the following properties:

(1) Movement of energy/information without movement of  matter. The waves from hundreds of miles away come to the beach, but the water that strikes the beach is local water, obeying the legacies of distant storms. This is a great mystery, this transmission of energy/information across great distances. I speak to you from across a room. The air molecules in my lungs do not travel to your ear. The air molecules vibrating back and forth in my larynx never touch your ears. And yet you hear my voice. You hear the energy and information of my voice, transmitted by acoustic waves through the air.

(2) The ability to pass through each other. Billiard balls bounce off each other. Waves go right through each other.  Because photons pass right through each other, they cannot affect each other’s choices about paths and directions. This free will on the part of the ghost-like photons is why (a) light tends to travel in straight lines — after all of the sideways variations are cancelled out by symmetry summation — and why (b) paradoxically, although light tends to travel in straight lines, like particles, it nonetheless exhibits wavelike properties of refraction, interference, and so on.

This is puzzling, to say the least. How can the very same photonic free will that allows the pathspace of the photon to average out to a straight line, also leads to the wavy behaviors of interference fringes etc? The answer is as profound as it is simple: individual photons are chaotic on the microscale but average out to straights lines on the macroscale. Remarkably, the same unpredictability that can make photons in the nanometers near an electron move like a pack of aimless kittens can also make them, moving over meters of a telescope, move more like soldiers on parade in sharp lines that converge on the focus.

Another characteristic of waves  is their respect for geometry. Bullets cannot be focused; waves can. Waves obey the lens and  the parabolic reflector, because a wave, unlike a particle, is spread out in space rather than concentrated at a point; as a result, waves can be affected by phenomena that are spread out in space, such as the curvature of a mirror or a lens.

Once you determine the geometry of a space, you lay down rules the waves have to follow. For example, for sound waves, if you put up a flat wall, the waves have to reflect off it.  You could say the wall bends the pathspace back on itself, and the waves follow the pathspace.  If you put up a very complicated wall, like the ones in anechoic chambers, you can absorb part of the sound and reroute the rest into scattered wavelets so that there is little or no echo.

If you put up a curved wall, then the pathspace effects are more complicated. For example, if the wall curvature is convex, toward you, then sound will reflect off it and spread out thinner and thinner as it moves away. If on the other hand the curvature is concave, away from you, so that the wall dimples in like a little cave (concave) then a sound wave that strikes it will pick up this curvature. As it bounces off the wall it will pull together, focusing into a smaller and smaller region as it moves away from the wall.

So far we have seen that a flat wave simply reflects sound, while a curved wall can disperse or concentrate it. But there are other ways to make sound waves reflect, other ways to modify the pathspace the waves are following.  The reflections we have discussed so far occur because the sound wave reaches a region (i.e. the wall) where the air cannot move. When this happens the air piles up against the wall temporarily, making the pressure at the wall higher; the wall is a displacement node and a pressure antinode for the sound wave, meaning that at the wall the air cannot push through, it but the pressure can still go higher and lower than normal air pressure.

All of the reflections discussed so far have been at pressure antinodes — at walls.  Did you know sound can reflect without hitting a wall?  It can — in certain cases.  For example, in pipes and tunnels. Imagine a sound wave travelling down a tunnel. As long as the tunnel is wide enough there is no problem. But what if the tunnel gets narrower?  It turns out that if the tunnel gets too narrow, the sound wave gets crowded and reflects back. But this reflection is different. When a sound wave decides the tunnel is too narrow for it and turns around to go back, it is not bouncing off a hard wall. Since the air can move at the point of reflection, the region of reflection is not a motion node as it was for wall reflections. Similarly, the region of reflection is not a pressure antinode, like it was at the wall, where the air molecules pile up and raise the air pressure.  Instead, the point of reflection is a pressure node — since there is no wall to pile up against, the air stays at normal pressure. The reflection region is a pressure node and a displacement antinode. This is exactly the opposite of the conditions that control reflection from a wall.

The distortion that speakers experience when bolted onto a box arise partly from the acoustics of wall reflections that bounce back to the woofer. But what if we could alter that pathspace? When a wave reflects from a wall it reverses direction and reverses phase, so it goes back and argues with the woofer. But if we could make the wave reflect like in a tunnel instead, it would reverse direction but not reverse phase, so that it would not be arguing with the woofer when it reflected back to it.  If we could do that, we would expect distortion to be significantly lower, especially at high volumes: the speaker would sound better.

It turns out that there is a way to do this and it is easy: change the shape of the speaker box.  By changing the shape you change the inner boundary. If instead of a cube-shaped box you use one shaped like a rhombic dodecahedron (the parallel projection of a hypercube onto 3-space)  then this occurs. The RD shape divides the sound wave into components travelling down the x,y, and z axes of 3-space. Each component is travelling into a square cave — the interior of one of the pyramidal points of the geometry. Each component gets crowded into smaller and smaller cross-sections until it decides (at a different place for each frequency) that it is too crowded and reflects back without changing phase.

Change the shape, change the boundary. Change the pathspace. Change the performance.

It’s that “simple”.   –MRK

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Matthew (Level 7) Soloing Harvest Lord

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

At level 7, Matthew was ready to take on the Harvest Lord. This would be a more complicated battle than previous. I had prepared by training fire Elf at level 5, my fist Fire School Damage Over Time spell. Then I went and trained a a couple of Death School spells, Midnight Sprite and Ghoul.

I began the fight in my usual way, taking on the minion first to reduce the number of opponents as quickly as possible. I had nothing yet that could one-shot him, so o settled for a couple of spells to finish him off.

Next was the Harvest Lord. I cast Fireblade on myself to strengthen my next Fire school spell because I knew the Harvest Lord is a Fire boss, and would therefore be resistant to my fire spells. Fireblade adds 35% to the next Fire attack spell.

Then I let him have my DOT spell: Fire Elf. It doesn’t do much damage immediately but then has a lingering Damage Over Time effect that would help wear down him down while I prepared other attacks.

The problem at this point was that I was living hand-to-mouth: I was down to a single power pip and spending it each round. So I decided to pass for a round to build up my pips to 2 for a one-shot to finish him off. On the next round, I cast Ghoul which wiped him out at last and helped me out by refunding some of the damage as health to me.

–MRK

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A Matter of Record

Saturday, September 17th, 2011

me


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We have  covered:

Basic gaming concepts

Wizard101 mechanics

Tips to save time

Special pets

Gardening in Wizard101

Now I am putting up videos to illustrate my points. My YouTube channel is mrk31415 .

For example, my level 4 wizard Matthew recently earned his Myth Sprite.  I show you the whole fight, and afterwards I show you the contents of my spell deck: nothing but beginner stuff.

He’s Level 5 now.  Much more to come!  We are just getting started.

–MRK


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Continuing to continue

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Rift

Always more to do. More. And there will always be more.

All right. I added a Donate button. It is here. Ok? Please stop asking me to put it up! Is is there now. I will not make anyone go there. No links to it except the one above this sentence and the right margin nav link.

I am NOT going to make people give me money.

But they keep asking, so it is there. Maybe I am a fool. I am not about money. My family will never beg for money. My father planned well. He saved. And every time my mother gave him another son, he bought more life insurance. The family house is paid off. Only property taxes now. No, we are not rich. But we eat.

I am still adding pictures to old posts and pages, my friends. Still.

This is not about me. It is about giving. Thank you for reminding me of that. Let us continue to continue.’

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More Wizard101: Farmer In The Sky

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

hypercube


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Welcome back, my friends.

In previous posts, I covered:
basic gaming concepts,
Wizard101 game mechanics,
tips to save time, and
Special pets.

But there is more. Much more. This game is acquiring depth. I might not see all of it. So much to do. But I will try. For you.

And what I see, what I learn, I will tell you. No secrets here. No “pay, me and I will teach you” bull. No time for bull. I will show you my Wizard101 house in the sky, my battles, all of it. This blog will KEEP getting better as long as I can do it. Yes, there WILL be movies as soon as I learn how. Remember, I am a career programmer, not a video editor or a graphic artist. All of these pics are screen grabs edited with MS Paint and saved as JPEG files to compress their size and make the pages load faster even with pictures. I need to learn how to make videos and compress them. Soon, my friends. Soon I will be able to do all you want to see…or eventually to be able to pay someone to do it. But not yet. I am not a rich man. I am one of you.

How do I get the screen grabs? Easy. when something is on your screen you want to save, hold down the SHIFT key and press PRINT SCREEN (or PrtSrc on some keyboards). That copies the screen image to the Windows clipboard. Then go into a graphic program like Paint and hit CTRL V to paste it in. Simple.

Simple. Free. That’s what I like. Free. I won’t tell you to go buy some expensive program. Paint comes with Windows, all versions of Windows. It’s included. I won’t hide how I do things and tell you to pay me to learn how.

No. This is for you. Free. Because I can. Because I enjoy doing it. Why spend your life doing anything else?  Help others for free! Try it!

Okay, I don’t necessarily level faster than anyone else. I’ve learned to stop and smell the roses. Life is too short not to enjoy. Shorter than you know. There was a philosopher, once who said this: “we do not even know if we will exhale the breath we just took in.” Wise words. So enjoy your life. I do not know if you get another one. For all I know, this is all I get. I want to believe otherwise. Ok, that’s enough chatter for now. I am such a windbag.. Let’s learn!

Treasure cards are handy in Wizard101.  If you put some in your spell deck, you can always discard a card from your hand and draw a treasure card, if you remember to. And treasure cards often do more damage than their regular versions taught by the trainers. But there is a price. You have to buy them, be lucky and get them as a drop, or get another player to trade with you. In Wizard City, the beginning zone, you can buy treasure cards at the Library.

But I don’t buy them any more. I grow them. Yes, that’s right. I grow them. And I have been neglecting my garden. We’d better go there and see what needs to be done.

hypercube
Oh, darn it! I have been away too long! There are PESTS in my garden. And the plants need sunlight, music, magic. So much to do!

guty windsBut no worries! I am a pretty good gardener. Grandmaster level.  It is a separate levelling path from the main one. Take that! Gusty Winds. Rank 2 gardening pest spell.

Caring for your garden in Wizard101 builds your gardening XP. In other words, you level in gardening separately from wherever you are as a wizard. This avatar is not a Grandmaster Wizard. But he IS a Grandmaster Gardener. Look at the top of the picture. Isn’t that interesting? You can become a powerful gardener long before you reach the level cap for wizardry. Heh, the pests cannot fight back. No circle of combat here.  Gardening spells use Energy. It replenishes over time. I can just stand here and my energy will come back. But not time for that now. The plants need more care.

Ah, the process of recording screen grabs interferes with my concentration; experience is diminished. Pause. Hmm. look, I don’t mean to jerk you around, but I just realized my selfishness is causing me to miss the mark here. I will put in the rest in text first to get the outlines of it, then I will come back and fill in with images from a particular battle.  These are not really battles, of course. I am wailing on a bug. But it still gets animations, though perhaps not as interesting as the combat ones.

sunlightPlants in Wizard101 have many needs: ground, sun, rain, music, magic,  defense from pests, and so on. You can get seeds as drops or buy them , whatever. Once you have a seed, you need to plant it. The seed must be embraced by the mother Earth and held safely to extend its roots.  ”Oh no!” you say. “But I don’t have a castle island floating in the sky. I am just a humble student in a dorm room.” Do not worry, little Wizard. I have spoken with the groundskeepers and they tell me that you will be allowed to grow plants in your dorm room. Maybe the bigger ones will not fit. I do not know. I move out so fast when I am obsessing.  But you can get a start on it, and build your power as a magical gardener from the smallest of beginnings. Less can be more. Be glad you cannot plant very much, because then you have to deal with all the plants needing, needing.  It uses all my energy to nourish the plants often , I plant so many.  Far better to do well in smallness than fail in abundance. I know this from experience.

plantsBut I cannot help it. Green is my favorite color. Astrology might say that is because I am a Libra. But I do not look at the stars as pulling my strings. No. I just love green because it is the color of the chlorophyll parts of plants that uses the old, OLD energy of the Sun to split water, to combine the oxygen with carbon and make starch and sugar. Chlorophyll feeds the plant. It also feeds mankind. For free. From solar energy. Hard to hate chlorophyll.  If you look down on the surface of the Earth from outer space you will see green areas. These are the places where it is easier to live.  There is food there. Plants. And the animals that eat the plants like cows and goats and sheep and so on. Food form the Sun. For free. Then we turn them into groceries and make people who don’t have farms pay money so that they can eat.

You plant the seed into the plot of ground or plant pot for the windowsill, and it is started. Should I water it? you ask.  Well, in real life the answer would usually be yes, to help the seed open and let the root tip out. But these are magical plants. They will tell you when they need.  Believe me, they will tell you. not in words, of course, although my King Parsley does seem to mutter “thank you, thank you very much”. I think I got those seeds in Vegas. Hard to remember.

No, the plants will tell you by showing you their needs. And this is how they do it in the real world too. When a plant in a real garden starts to droop, you get the idea it needs water in it filling up the plant so it can stand up straighter. When you SEE the bugs crawling on it eating the plant, you do not need an explanation of what it wants. What would YOU want if bugs were crawling on you eating you?  (Yes, my friends, I know this actually happens in the real world.) People who do not care let it happen. I am not talking about parents. I am talking about rich people who do not GIVE.  They have abundance, and they let their fellow human beings wither.

sandhill cranes in the front yardA plant would not do that to you. When there are plants in an area, more life moves in. The plants actually improve the local survival rate. The more plants there are, the more life there is.  You do not believe this? Take a look at a desert sometime, then at a rain forest or even a temperate forest. Which would YOU want to live in? Why do you think most animals would feel any different?

Okay, I am rambling, sorry. Must forget the images of thousands of acres of the remaining rain forests of my planet being carved away to grow grass for cows, to plant a few crops in rows.  A corn field is not a forest.  But we need corn, yes. People must eat. Please, do not eat the forests! We need them. But back to gardening.

At first you will only see a tiny shoot coming out of the dirt. Should I water it now? No, my friend. Be patient. It will tell you when. Sure you can water it before it needs the water.  Too much water will not hurt magical plants the way floods and hurricanes do with real plants. But while watering early will not hurt, it will not help either. So save your energy and wait. it will tell you when to give.

When you come back to your castle or dorm room, keep checking your plant. if you mouse over it in gardening mode, it will tell you how long it has to go to reach the next stage. And it will tell you its needs. A plant that needs sun will get as little sun floating over its head. You can see what the plant is thinking. Not like us humans with our complicated kinds. The plant is simpler, easier to understand.

You see a see a couple of musical notes hanging over the plant? it needs music. See it thinking of a bee? it needs pollination to help it make more seeds. See something that looks like a white sun? What means the plant is thinking it needs some magic.

Gardening spells are not taught by the main school trainers. Those busy elder wizards are too busy pushing back the frontiers of knowledge, learning new spells.  No, you need to talk to a gardener. people who work in a garden know how to work in a garden. if they do not, the plants teach them. And they tell you. They may not always tell you for free. Education costs money: teachers have to eat, too.  Teachers spend their whole day helping young humans learn. They do not have time to grow food.  I have been a teacher. not for young humans. I taught calculus-based Physics as a night adjunct. Then I taught people how to program computers. but I know that teaching takes time, and energy, a lot, just as it takes time and energy to listen to the teacher. But it is worth it.  You get to learn, and your teacher gets to eat, and to know that they have helped build the future.  Today’s children are tomorrow’s teachers, scientists, bakers, farmers, plumbers, and so on. Teachers touch the Future.  They help build it. Respect that. or they will find something else to do and your next teacher might not be as good, at first.

The gardening spells are important if you want to grow magical plants. You need the spells to give the plants light, rain, pollination, magic,  music, and so on. get them as soon as you can. Your plant depends on you. it cannot make it rain. It has to use whatever sunlight it can get. And it needs pollination. In reality, plants call bees to them with nectar, the sweet juice the plant, makes that the bee can smell.  it is a win-win situation. The plants gets pollinated, and the bee gets nectar to help it keep flying and to make honey for the winter. Bees are important. I planted some tomatoes in real life. They grew well, but no tomatoes appeared on them. I called it my tomato hedge. The reason may have been a shortage of bees. Without bees, no pollination, no fruit.  I hope we are not running out of bees. Maybe it was just one of those things.  I do not know, I am not a beekeeper. I will not pretend to know things that I do not. Others do that. I have no time for that bull.

If you give the plant what it needs it will be at peace and the images over its head will go away. For a while. But you know it will get thirsty again. Be patient.  Plants do not appear overnight full grown. Neither do people. You think there might be something the game is trying to tell us here?

Eventually the plant will grow into an Adult. You can tell because its appearance changes as it gets bigger. The plant will still go on needing, but now it will pay you back for your caring for it. Now you can harvest some stuff from the plant. How will you know when it is ready to harvest? That is simple. A glowing ring will appear around the base of magical plants that are ready to be harvested.  You cannot harvest them when they are busy trying to fight off pests or needing, needing. But when the plant tells you that you cannot harvest it while there are pests or needs are not met, it is telling you also that when you satisfy the needs and drive off the pests it will be ready to harvest.

Harvesting a plant in Wizard101 that is ready is as easy as clicking on it.  The plant will give you snacks for your pet to help it level faster during training. It will also give you money! Gold. Frankly, I do not know where a plant gets gold. maybe the way it gets everything else from the soil. Roots take in minerals and the plant uses and stores them.  One mineral that your body needs is magnesium. You can get this from the green leaves of edible plants. The leaves are like supermarket shelves saying here, here is some magnesium for you, for free. how do I know this?  Magnesium is at the heart of the chlorophyll molecule. The chlorophyll molecule holds the magnesium the way your hemoglobin holds iron. Chlorophyll uses the magnesium to drive incredible biological nanomachines that do things with air and water to make food for the plant and for animals and humans. Your red blood cells use the iron they hold to catch oxygen from the air when they travel through little blood vessels, tiny passageways  called capillaries in your lungs. The they go and give the oxygen to your cells so they can stay alive. We are alive because of plants. We stay alive because of plants.

When you harvest some magical plants they will give you more seeds! I started planting my King Parsley and found that I did not need to buy any more seed of that kind; it keeps giving me more King parsley seeds. Maybe I am lucky? or maybe the makers of Wizard101 want me to keep gardening.

harvestingWizard101 plants will ALSO give you treasure cards. For free.  Plants are not selfish like me and other humans. They share. They can’t use the treasure cards, so they give them to you, to show their appreciation for you taking care of them. How many of you have given back to a teacher to show that you appreciate them helping your mind grow? Hmm? I know, it is rude of me to ask. But teachers like to hear “thank you” just like other people. And they earn it.  They work hard, like gardeners. giving you knowledge you need. Do you give back to them. Give! Try it. They will be encouraged to keep  teaching, and you will feel good about yourself because you know you have done a nice thing. it is nice to be nice. I know, I am an old ” care bear“. That is what rude gamers call people who do not love to hurt and destroy. It is good to be a good fighter, when there are enemies to fight. But there is more to life. All the soldiers and guns in the world will not grow a single plant. Plants do not grow on lead, on bullets. Life comes from life. And life must go on,  so that people can eat.

Once you harvest from a plant, it keeps on growing. Picking an apple or a tomato does not stop the plant from growing and giving. You will be able to harvest it again, in time. But first, you will have to watch it and fulfill its needs again. Always needing, needing. Like baby birds in a nest holding out their beaks for the mother bird to feed them. So you feed them. Plants are a commitment. I have spoken elsewhere of commitment. Follow through.  Would you adopt a puppy and then not feed it? No? Then why would you plant a seed and then ignore it when it is growing?

You will see the plants thinking when they have needs, and eventually they will glow again to tell you they are ready to give you more gold, more snacks for your pets, maybe more seeds or more treasure cards.  Please listen to me: gardening takes time, but the rewards are free.  You want gold, to buy clothes, wands, houses, spell cards, training? Well the plants are collecting it for you while you are questing. That way you get gold faster.

When a plant gets old, it is time for the plant to be fully harvested to make room for more plants.  You will now the plant is ready to give you the last of its gifts when it turns grey and mousing over it says it is an elder.  Do not be sad. The plant had a good life, thanks to you. Now it will give you its greatest thanks. When you harvest an elder, that is the time you are most likely to get seeds, even more gold, and treasure cards.  Once I realized this, I began planting more and more.

After you harvest the elder, its ground is ready for a new seed. This is what gardeners and farmers do. They raise plants, harvest, plant again, and so on. We have been doing this as a species ever since we figured out that plants in cultivated fields and rows are easier to find than running around in the forest looking for food and trying not to be eaten ourselves.  We have been doing this for so long that we have modified the plants.  Did you know that “wild” almonds are poisonous? It is true, my friends. Someone, sometime a long time ago found some almond trees whose nuts were not as bitter. (The bitterness is cyanide!) They thought these might be a valuable new food so they encouraged the safe almond trees. Now we have safe almonds to eat. Think of farmers the next time you eat an almond. it is their gift to humanity. Give! We are not all farmers, but we all have something we can give.

Take former president Jimmy Carter. People who don’t like him say he was a weak president. Do you know what he did when he retired from being president? Ah, I see some of you know. He started giving. He started helping people build homes so that they would be able to afford having a place to live.  It is called Habitat for Humanity. Gee, I guess he is a care bear too. He gives. Ask the people he has helped if they like him.  Some presidents, they retire, build themselves a memorial library, and sit in it writing their memoires to make some more money.  Some go on speaking tours to get lecture fees. Jimmy decided he would rather help people.  You cannot eat a book. You cannot live in a lecture.

Are we done? Not even close.  Wizard101 has tougher plants for you to grow as you become a better gardener. These plants give out better rewards. This is a lesson about life, parents. Work harder and build skill, and you will be more rewarded. Isn’t that a nice lesson for your kids to be learning?  Then let them learn it. If you are not careful they might grow up to be politicians.  The internet is here. We have enough presidential libraries. We never have enough homes or food. Get the message? GIVE! And raise your children to know they should give too.

Silver Trumpet Vine” The higher level plants are more interesting. Dandelions will roar like jungle cats but that is it.  Yes, they give seeds, but they are for beginning wizard gardeners. As you level up in gardening you can grow bigger plants for more rewards. I have grown silver trumpet vines (sorry, they cannot help being noisy) Elephant ears, Desparagus ( not a happy plant — it seems to be born with a cold and sneezes a lot) and Baby Carrots (have you ever seen a carrot wear diapers? I’m glad I didn’t have to change them. Don’t want to know what was in them).

For some reason I always seem to get enough King Parsley seed to go on growing it. Maybe some day I can grow him a band. Okay, he is a little weird. But so far, he is the only plant I have grown that actually says thank you out loud. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”  He might be imitating a real person. I have no idea where he always gets that white suit with the high collars to wear. Plants don’t need clothes. They have no embarrassment, no shame.  But somehow he always finds one somewhere. He feels like he is more of a presence with his uniform.

Did you know you can get Gardening Treasure Cards? It is true. You can use one to water ALL of your plants at the same time. Or give them ALL sunlight. Just like regular treasure cards, they are single-use items, so don’t use them unless you have to. They take more energy to cast, too. But they save you time that you could be spending questing with friends.

Okay, I promised to take you inside my sky house. Lets go in.  You enter it the same as you go into a dorm room in Ravenwood. You just walk up close enough to the door. Or you use your Teleport Home button on the lower right of your screen. See the circle with little circles on it? Mouse over them. One of them will say it takes you home.   You can use it whenever you are not in the middle of a battle.


This is the inside of  my sky home. It is not the biggest you can get. I don’t need a huge place. Only I live here.

Oh my! Sorry about the mess. I am afraid I have littered it with my battle trophies. Bones and sarcophagi and things. these are things you can buy or get as drops from winning battles.  But there is one thing about trophies.  You cannot argue with them. They show where you have been. Yes, maybe I should not have them all over the place. Or just the chairs and tables. But they remind me that I have not spent all of my time chatting and hanging around the Commons, as some wizards seem to do. No. I have been working.  I am not here to build a crowd of friends. yes, I have been told I am a friendly fellow.  But I have less time for that now, so I do what I want.

Yes, there is a second floor. It’s not big, hardly more than a balcony. Maybe I will get a bigger house sometime. Getting gold in Wizard101 is not hard. Like in most games, it is a matter of time, that’s all. Your backpack fills up and so you sell the things you don’t want or cannot use. More gold for the bank.

You might have noticed my pets milling around outside the house. You can also let pets roam around inside your house or dorm room. Wizard101’s pets have new behaviors now. When I come onto my sky island, and get near them, they come to say hello.  Well, they don’t talk but you know what I mean. Like the way your dog or cat comes to you when you get home from work or school. The dragons and dark fairies and myth sprites and regular sprites and so on fly over to say hello before the go about their business.  it is kind of nice to know that someone notices me. I have been waiting to be noticed for over 30 years. But this is not about me, my friends. This is about you. This is my way of giving to you. This I give the world, for free.  I am not a rich man in money, but I am rich in experience. And I can pass some of it on to you. Like a teacher. And I give it to you for free. No pay memberships here. For free. What do you give for free? Are you afraid to give value for free? When you grow up, will you give back? Will you give the world something for free? I hope so. It is the hope of the planet.  It is the hope of us all.  Lots of us do not have money, rich people! But we grow your food, sew your clothes, build your shopping malls, run your buses, your taxis, your airplanes.  What a surprise! The waiter who just brought you that order of food is not a rich man or woman. Tip them! GIVE!  I have delivered pizza for a living.  People are usually happy to see the pizza man. Happier than they are to see a waiter, often. Waiters have feelings too, my friends. I have made donuts for a living. In the mornings I would make donuts at the Fractured Prune in Ocean City, Maryland until 11AM, then go home to a trailer in Delaware, rest, and then drive up to Dover to teach Physics at night at Wesley College. I have worked at a Wendys serving people who drive through for food. I did that for 9 months between programming jobs. The manager hired me because I lived two blocks away back then.  I could walk to work.  He knew I would give him no bull about “car trouble”. I made like $5 an hour. He was sad when I left. But I could not stay. I had found a job making $24,000 a year. That is like $12 an hour. I had no difficulty deciding which job to be in. School!  Stay in school and you will make more money.  You might not be rich but your children will eat.

Oh I am such a windbag! I have rambled on too much again. Forgive me, my friends. When I find a virtual reality realm that I can live in and learn things to pass on to others and help them learn and enjoy, I get too talkative about it.  I have always talked too much. My father was the strong, silent type from new England.  he klike to quote Kahlil Gibran’s  The Prophet. “We speak when we cease to be at peace with our thoughts.” The he would tell us to be at peace with our thoughts.

Okay, enough speaking. Time to go back and find pictures to make all this talking less dull for you. I do it for you, my friends. For all of you. –MRK

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Testing the Hypercube Loudspeaker

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

loudspeaker

Tesserax was never a large corporation.  We could not rent time in an anechoic chamber or own our own, like big companies. Yet we needed test data and graphs! People like graphs. People trust graphs. People trust stupid graphs more than they trust their fellow human beings. But how to get them on a shoestring? Needed money to get graphs, and graphs to get money. It was a classic chicken-and-egg problem.

Our first test report was from an engineer named Kessler. It was primitive. We converted one of a pair of JBL L40 loudspeakers and left the other untouched. We put the drivers and crossover into our tesseract enclosure. Only the enclosure was different.

We had to laugh when we took the conventional speaker apart. It was designed properly according to standard audio engineering practices. They did the best they could.  The box was padded on the inside with fibreglass insulation, and there was a sort of firebreglass basket attatched to the back of the woofer. It was a decent woofer, powerful. They knew the quasi-echoes from that particleboard solid box interior would be a problem if they hammered the woofer while it was playing. So it was padded heavily. To try to muffle the “backwave”.

Hypercube speakers need no padding. We use the interior of the geometry. But we weren’t satisfied with this. We wanted a fair fight. So we looked up the most reflective material we could find that we might be able to make the shape from. We settled on thin sheet aluminum. No padding! A real test of our idea. If we were wrong about this, our speaker would sound horrible. So be it! Roll the dice!

We didn’t know about the difficulties of welding aluminum. Turns out you need inert gas flowing over the weld surface: aluminum tends to form a coating of aluminum oxide that ruins welds. So we had to pay to have the aluminum sliced into rhombi and heli-arc welded. If you spew helium (inert gas) over the metal as you weld it, the oxide coating does not form. We found a shop that could do it for us. The manager thought we were crazy, but we were paying customers, so he shrugged and sent for his best welder. He joked that the guy needed a challenge. When the welder came out to look at the pieces he shook his head. “What is this for?” he asked us, skeptically. “A satellite,” his boss told him with a straight face.

You cannot hold these pieces together and weld at the same time. So he tack-welded them together with spot welds, and then ran the seams. He did a beautiful job. I am so sorry that I do not have pictures of them with me. I will keep looking. By now you know that everything I tell you will be true. I don’t have time for lies. Literally.

The test data were taken with a portable  SPL meter on the grassy field behind the local radio station at Gainesville, FL. The meter was placed on the ground to avoid contaminating the data with reflections from the hard ground. Okay, it wasn’t an anechoic chamber, but it was the best he could do: an open field, so the sound would just go away and not come back. Almost the same thing. We were far from any trees or buildings. Later I will find the graph and scan it into here for you.

Tweeters don’t care about enclosures, especially sealed-back tweeters like the soft dome tweeter of the JBL L40 driver set. He connected a signal generator (source of fairly pure sine waves) to an amplifier, and hooked up the speaker. The signal was set to 1000 Hz and then gradually tuned down the musical scale all the way down to 20 Hz, the offical lower limit of human hearing. The results were plotted on log paper, to compress it to fit on one page horizontally. Standard practice. On logarhythmic ruled paper the distance between 10 and 100 is the same as between 100 and 1000. Othewise we would have a very tiny graph or would need 10 sheets of paper. Down below 200 Hz, where the box geometry strongly affects results, the difference was clear: the bass rolloff was less steep in the hypercube-enclosed speaker, even with the same components. It was obvious our design was more efficient at low frequerncies. By the way, the L40 is a “ported” loudspeaker, a design which is supposed to  be more efficient than a sealed “acoustic suspension” design. But our hypercube was not ported, and it was STILL more efficient than the one the competent and professional JBL engineers had created! We had won! We had given them every chance, loaded the dice against ourselves. A metal speaker box, made of 1/8 inch welded aluminum, unpadded. Still better!

The second part of the test, the subjective part was at Kessler’s house. We drove back to his house and there, in front of him, we pulled apart the still-in-its-wooden-box JBL speaker and transferred the parts to our second, empty aluminum enclosure. We were drunk with power, and wanted him to know there was no funny business inside our speaker. He watched as we connected the wires and glued the woofer and tweeter onto our second tesseract enclosure. Now he had a full stereo pair to listen to, using his professional ears and perception. He used his own sound system so we could not mess around. And we did not need to.

This part impressed him much more than the SPL graph. He spoke in his engineering report of the “remarkable non-directional” sound of the Hypercube speakers. We just smiled; we knew all about the omnidirectionality. We let him discover it for himself, though. Better than a lecture. And he also noticed what we already knew: no stereo hole that he could find. You experts know what I am talking about. Volumes have been written about how critical loudspeaker placement is to achieve a decent soundfield, to avoid the perception of a stereo “hole” between and in front of the pair of speakers. But we didn’t have one. Why not? Omnidirectionality. the stero “hole” is caused by acoustic competition from the two loudspeakers: their sound tends to be directional, beaming mostly toward the front, and when separate sounces combine, sideways components cancel, reducing the intensity of the sound.

But we had omnidirectional speakers. The sound waves spread out in all directions from the hypercube-enclosed loudspeaker. The result: You can hear stereo sound anywhere in the room! Placement problem: solved! All from a change in the box geometry. We didn’t get the patent for nothing. We fixed loudspeaker technology. I told you Tom is a genius. He took one look at my inside-out hypercube model, and saw it all. Saw the answer to a lot of problems. That is true vision. I saw a really cool geometry. Tom saw the future of sound technology.

Boy, were we excited when we got the final version of Kessler’s report. Proof! At last, proof! Now we would get some traction and build our future.

Okay, by now you know we were over-optimistic. JBL still wasn’t interested. neither was Sony. Nor Polk Audio. Nor any of the others that we contacted. We contacted them all, taking pains to be respectful to their engineers, pleading with them to introduce this wonderful technology to the public. They just got angry. Not invented here! Same song, second verse.

Okay. Fine. After I moved north, Shirley and I reincorporated as Alternity, Inc. and contacted an audio engineer in Boston, who could give us even better testing: he had a MLSSA setup.  By then, PCs were finally out in the marketplace, and automated testing was all the rage. The MLS in the Melissa stands for Maximum Length Sequence. Basically, the computer controls both the signal generator AND the microphone. The computer barks out a chunk of what sounds like static (because it is a digital sequence of ones and zeroes) to the amplifier, which passes the amplified signal to the speaker, and “gates” the microphone input by turning it on just long enough to hear the speaker, then switches the mike off before room reflections can come back to the microphone. You get several advantages this way, such as the simulation of an anechoic chamber because you don’t listen to the echoes. Also the chunk of digitized static effectively contains all the frequencies, so you don’t have to slowly sweep up or down the audio spectrum. It is a very elegant way to test, and allows computerized analysis of the signal “heard” by the microphone so you can mine a lot of data out of that programmed noise.

I’ve lost of things over the years. Friends, loves, relatives, and papers. But I didn’t quite lose these graphs. Because the Internet appeared on the scene in the late Nineties and I put up a website to try to sell the speakers. And I still have those files. So I can show them to you. By now you know they are not CGI. Right?

The converted and unconverted speakers used this time came from Radian Audio Engineering, founded by Dr. Richard Kontrimas. They make superb high-performance coaxial loudspeakers with compression horn tweeters. (no, I don’t work for them, not a distributor for them, not an affiliate for them. I just plain love the company.) No rascally JBLs this time. That ship has sailed, JBL! Nothing but the best for this test. This company came up through the ranks the hard way, from compression driver membranes all the way to professional and contractor speaker systems. I love this company. And I insanely love their products. Buy them! Love them. Do you hear me, Dr. Kontrimas? I am glad you are still in business. I am going to need some more Radians, when I can afford them. And I will do everything in my power to recommend your drivers and speakers. You ROCK!

graph

This is the unconverted Radian frequency response graph. These are damned good drivers. The distortion components of the sound are like 40dB below the main output. But still there.

hypercube

This is the converted tesseract-enclosed Radian driver graph. You don’t have to be an expert to see that the distortion curves are even lower. Significantly lower. Like, 10dB lower. See how the curves fall out the bottom?

This is what happens when you take an excellent driver and put it in a superior cabinet. It gets better. See? Do you see? I have wanted so long to show these. Way too long.  This belongs to mankind, like the parabolic dish. Like fire. Like the invention of writing. For you.

Now for the “waterfall” plots. These are even better.

hypercubeThis is a cumulative spectral decay plot for the Radian. It is a picture of how sound dies away in the ordinary unconverted Radian speaker over time. It is a 3D plot with intensity vertical, frequency horizontal and time starting at the back running to the end at the front of the graph.

hypercubeAnd this is the same plot for the same drivers and crossover in our hypercube speaker cabinet. Do you SEE the difference? The decay is much more rapid. What does it mean? Simple. Less “ringing” of the box after a drumbeat or another transient, short, sharp sound. Crisper. Cleaner. This is what you need for the best musical reproduction possible on the planet.

Okay time for a break; that was a lot of typing. I use two fingers. Never learned to touch-type, what they call “keyboarding” these days. You have no idea how hard I am working to give this to you, all free. This is my legacy. This is YOUR legacy.

It is too important to hide, to hoard. It is our future I am talking about.
–MRK

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