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YouTube // sakura4250 さんのチャンネル

Playing Bach on a Giant Forest Xylophone

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YouTube // sakura4250 さんのチャンネル

In the woods of Kyushu, Japan, a team of filmmakers built a massive xylophone running down a long, steady slope. They then rolled a wooden ball down the thing, striking each tuned bar only once, and it played Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." (If you're not familiar with the tune, here's an orchestral performance.) This is truly impressive engineering, filmmaking, and music!

Note that at the end it's revealed that it's a cell phone commercial, but I think we can appreciate it as a work of art. The music starts around 0:45, though the first little bit of setup is interesting.

And here's the making-of video, with plenty of trial-and-error (note the careful tuning of the bars while they're still in the shop; also the ending—trying to nail that ball landing is tough!):

[h/t On Being.]

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Here's Why It's So Hard to Achieve the Perfect Temperature While Taking a Shower
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The only thing worse than stepping out of a warm shower into a chilly bathroom is owning a shower that seems to only have two temperatures—scalding or freezing—unless the knob is positioned just so. Curious as to why it’s so hard to achieve bathing nirvana with a simple twist of the wrist? In the video below, SciShow host Stefan Chin broke down the intricacies of home plumbing, and offered advice on how to keep your shower from going from blissfully warm to bitingly cold.

With home water heaters, “adding really hot water to cold water changes the temperature more than adding the same amount of water that’s just warm,” Chin explains. “So if the water is too hot, tiny changes in how much hot water is sent your way can lead to big changes in the temperature of the mixed water hitting your body.”

And “the water in water heaters is usually very hot,” he adds. “It’s generally set to around 50°C [about 122°F] to kill bacteria.”

Meanwhile, some small water heaters simply don’t hold enough hot water at any one time for a long shower—plus, lots of plumbing simply isn’t designed to check the temperature of the hot-cold water balance.

A hot shower is perhaps the simplest—yet most universal—luxury you can enjoy, so you probably don’t want to waste your precious relaxing time fiddling with the dial. (Plus, some creative types find that their best ideas often emerge when they’re relaxed and sudsed up—something that can't really happen when you're being doused with cold water.) Rest assured, Chin has some shower solutions, which you can learn by watching the video below.

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Are Cigarette Butts the Secret to Better Roads?
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LINDSAY FOX, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS // CC BY 2.0

A cigarette butt on the pavement is disgusting. A cigarette butt in the pavement, though—well, that's another story. Scientists writing in the journal Construction and Building Materials say butt-studded asphalt could be the wave of the future.

Tobacco companies produce about 6 trillion cigarettes every year, which leads to about 1.3 million tons of butts.

Lead author Abbas Mohajerani is an engineer at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia. "In Australia alone, people smoke about 25 to 30 billion filtered cigarettes a year and, of these, about 7 billion are littered," he said in a statement.

Butts that end up in a landfill are not much better off. They're slow to decompose, and when they do, they release their nasty chemicals into the soil and water around them.

Mohajerani knows that we're not going to get everyone on Earth to stop smoking. But there may be other things we can do. He and his colleagues at RMIT have begun incorporating cigarette butts into different construction materials.

They started with bricks. And while it may sound like a weird, abstract art project, the addition of cigarette butts actually makes a lot of sense. The very thing that makes cigarettes disposable—their flammability—also can help make better, cheaper bricks. The researchers found that changing a brick's composition to include just 1 percent cigarette waste reduced the amount of energy required to fire that brick by a whopping 58 percent.

The waste-added bricks also were better at insulating than standard bricks—which could reduce a brick building's heating and cooling costs.

For their latest study, the team sealed cigarette butts in bitumen and paraffin wax, then combined them with hot asphalt. The resulting pavement was not only functional but, like the bricks, better for the surrounding environment. The inclusion of the bitumen decreased the pavement's ability to conduct heat, which could help keep already overheated cities cooler.

Most importantly, both the bricks and the asphalt imprisoned the cigarettes' toxic chemicals and prevented them from poisoning their surroundings.

"This research shows that you can create a new construction material while ridding the environment of a huge waste problem," Mohajerani said.

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