Milk Swirls in Coffee

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This is kind of a neat fractal.  Reminds me of stirring your coffee before you drip in the cream.  Which is appropriate, because one of the scientific uses for fractals is to simulate fluid dynamics.  This image might give you a sense of just how that works.

It also provides a good segue into my “thought for the day” – which is that technology is much more impressive when you have an understanding of what it’s actually doing.

For a lot of people out there, probably most people, computers are nothing but a magic mystery box.  They have no understanding of what’s going on under the hood, and quite often don’t want to understand.  Which is a shame, really, because if you have even a glimmer of an understanding, then they become just that much more amazing.

I’m thinking about this because I just got my wife a spiffy new smart-phone.  In itself, it’s a marvel.  It’s more powerful, and has better screen resolution, than my first laptop did back in the 90s.  Much, much more powerful.  But it’s a bit hard to wrap your head around all the things that a modern smart-phone can do, so let’s step away from that, but stick with me, it all tracks together.

Now, I have a beautiful little two year old daughter.  As with all beautiful little two year olds, she can get a bit cranky when she’s getting dragged along with us when we have to do “adult” things.  A little trick I’ve used is to have a stack of short, 7 minute videos loaded onto my own phone, that I can quickly bring up and show her.

My wife’s phone is a different brand altogether, with different resolution etc. than mine, so I can’t just copy the videos from my phone over to hers.  But I have all the originals on my computer, so it’s really not that big a deal to convert the originals and load them onto my wife’s phone.  And that, my friends, is amazing – if you understand what’s really going on under the hood. (p.s. I live in a country where “format shifting” videos is perfectly legal – this is not the case everywhere, so mind your local copyright laws).

I’ve got the process pretty automated, but let’s explain, for a second, what’s actually going on.  It needs to change the format of the video, and resize it, and re-sync the audio track. No biggie right?

Ok, here’s an analogy for you.  Take an oil painting, re-paint it using acrylics, to perfect three quarter scale, maintaining the same balance of colours and aspect ratio.  Now do that 40 times per second, while binding the results together into a flip book and reciting the narration, all at the same time.

That’s right, each frame of the video is a picture that needs to be re-sized, have it’s format changed, and the audio track synced to it while it’s being tied together in a contiguous whole.  My 4 year old “secondary” computer is pumping through all that work at a rate of 40 frames per second.  That’s not bragging about the power of that computer – that’s just showing what even relatively older computers can do.  A modern equivalent (keeping Moore’s Law in mind that computers double in power roughly every two years), computer would be able to do this at a rate of 160 frames per second.

Now you know something.  And doesn’t that make the Magic Box seem just that much more awesome?

Something to say?

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