Saturday, February 26, 2011

Canon G12 and Pentax W90 cameras.

Here I'll briefly review and recommend the Pentax W90 and Canon G12 for scientific work in the field and lab. Nobody’s paying me for this.

I've shot tens of thousands of photos with the predecessors of both cameras -- the Canon Pro1 and Pentax Optio. 
Pentax W90. 

The Pentax W90 (detailed review).  Improved over the Optio, this camera is waterproof and ruggedized, with rubber armor all around.  You can use it while digging into a streambank, with sand on your hands.  And dip it into the creek to clean it.   Controls are very intuitive and not at all fussy, something I demand for a basic field camera.  There are other "weatherized" cameras, but Pentax pioneered this with the Optio and takes it seriously.  I don't hesitate to put this camera under water.  Image quality is very good in all the conditions in which I've used it.  

Its macro capabilities are easy to use and perfect for scientific work -- it has a "1cm" macro setting you enable with two button presses for very detailed close ups and three small LEDs around the lens to illuminate these. 
Canon G12 with flip out LCD

The Canon G12 (detailed review).  There's something unsexy about a camera that whirs and pokes out a lens when you turn it on, but I've come to understand why this is a necessary evil.  The Canon G series is widely used as a backup by photojournalists for a reason -- you can put it in a big pocket, but it performs like a digital SLR.  And it puts controls you use most often in retro-35mm knobs on top.   Practical, intuitive, fast, and cool.

You can't use this camera with sand on your hands, but otherwise it’s perfectly suited for serious science in the field and lab.  With the lens retracted it's about the size of my big fist, and I can wrap that hand around it and shove it into its case without worrying about smudging the lens.  Great for the field.

And has the Canon flip-out screen.  You can hold it above your head or put it on the floor and rotate the LCD to view and frame your photos.  I use this feature every time I use this camera and can't imagine being without it.  Other companies are imitating it now, but Canon has it down.

Filters are essential for serious science photography.  The G12 has a bayonet ring around the lens for accessories like a polarizing filter, essential for river scenes and aerial photography.

Canon sells filter adapters, but Lensmate has a new system that enables easy use of filters.    With these adapters you have a camera that fits a cargo pocket along with sophisticated filter capability.

Lensmate also sells an adapter for use with telephoto and wide angle lenses.

The G12 shoots video that rivals that from our pro video cams.  I’m now shooting most of our instructional video with it, see the example below. (Though the G12 has a very nice on-camera microphone, the sound in this video was dubbed later.)

A couple of weeks ago my new G12 was crushed by the rear door of a truck as we loaded an Em2 model.  After minor surgery on our electronics bench it's bent, but works just fine!    A very rugged camera!

My G12 was crushed by the huge rear door of an eighteen-wheeler.  The frame was bent, but a little surgery freed up the jammed LCD and the camera works fine!

Taken with the G12 held overhead using the tilting LCD screen.

Both cameras have excellent macro capabilities.
The G12 does a wonderful job in low and mixed lighting.  Here Lily and Meriam show off Lily's knitting handiwork in a combination of window sun and fluorescent light.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Fluid mechanics with wood and string.

Here's a video featuring artist Reuben Margolin

His work is beautiful and inspiring.  The strings, pulleys, wheels, and beams in his sculptures mimic complex fluid mechanics.

His Spiral Wave (at 1:00) shows the vortex from a canoe paddle stroke.  Very good.

Margolin's kinetic models look like digital wireframe representations.  So why bother with a huge, complex physical model?

Because they're beautiful.  And tactile, and so much more interesting and instructive than computer code.  Margolin's work is wonderful reminder of why we build our models.

In a well made physical model of a river you can see and touch the whole process.  Current velocity, bed slope, meander wavelength, the mechanics of cantilever bank failure, the building of dunes and bars. You can put your hand into the box and cause chaos, then watch the system adjust.

Pretty soon you're developing ideas about that system, investigating the pulleys and strings, then doing an experiment (science) and having a good time doing it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Geomorphically incorrect art #6.

Click for a larger version and you can see that Simpson's fans Jerry Lerma and Tim Hogan put this map together in 2002.  It's their interpretation of Springfield.  Cool idea.

Where do we start geomorphically?  A tiny dam bordered by flatland forms Lake Springfield so close to another large lake, or maybe the ocean?  And 13,000 foot Widow's Peak drains into the same lake in the space of what, seven or eight city blocks?  That's some serious fluvial slope.  I'm a big fan, but I can't remember debris flows in any episode.

This one is great for teaching both geomorph and city planning.  Jerry and Tim seem to have abandoned the website that originally hosted this, so no link, but props to their creativity.

UPDATE:  The comments section is for ya'll to add to my thin analysis.  For example, why don't we see dams near the coast?   What do the road patterns tell you, are they possible/ likely?   Do I see a wetlands area just downstream of a dam?  What about that tunnel through the mountains and the desert on the other side?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bienvenue à LLRD, Jean-René Thélusmond !

Jean-René Thélusmond is a Haitian Fulbright Fellow in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Jean-Rene has a BS in Natural Resources and Environment from the State University of Haiti. Jean-Rene has worked as an environmental project manager for the Haitian government and as consultant to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  He’s also worked as a consultant to Oxfam-Quebec.
Jean-René hopes to address continued environmental degradation in Haiti after finishing his environmental engineering training here in the United States.  His research interests include water and wastewater treatment, river morphodynamics, environmental risk assessment, and remediation of contaminated sites. His multidisciplinary education includes work in agronomy, forestry, zoology, and general environmental work.  Jean-René is clearly capable of combining skills and resources to generate valuable ideas.  And he’s a great pleasure to work with.  Jean-René is fluent in English, French, and Haitian Creole; he has a fair understanding of Spanish.  (With Lily and Meriam, we can add Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Italian, and Thai!)
Jean-René will be doing research using the Em4 model in our lab; we’re providing the lab time pro bono and providing other financial support.  This is a wonderful opportunity for us to assist with his training and have this gifted young man work in our lab.

Jean-René est un étudiant Haitien boursier de Fulbright dans le département de génie civil et environnemental à Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Il a une license  en ressources naturelles et environnement de l'Université d'État d'Haïti. Pour ce qui est de son expérience professionnelle, Jean-René a travaillé comme gestionnaire de projet pour le gouvernement haïtien et comme consultant pour l'Agence des États-Unis pour le développement international (USAID). Il a également travaillé comme consultant pour Oxfam-Québec.
A la suite de sa formation aux Etats Unis, Jean-René a l’intention d’adresser la dégradation continue de l'environnement à Haïti. Ses intérêts de recherche comprennent l'eau et le traitement des eaux usées, le morphodynamisme des rivières, l'évaluation des risques pour l'environnement et l'assainissement des sites contaminés. Sa formation pluridisciplinaire  comprend l’agronomie, la foresterie, la zootechnie et l’environnement. Il est clair que Jean-René utilisera compétences et ressources pour faire aboutir sa recherche à des fins brillantes. C’est un plaisir de travailler avec lui.
Jean-René parle couramment l'Anglais, le Français et le Créole haïtien et comprend également l’Espagnol (avec Lily et Meriam, LRRD peut aussi ajouter à son répertoire de langues, l’Arabe, le Mandarin, l’Italien et le Thailandais).
Pour sa recherche  Jean-René, va utiliser le modèle Em4 dans notre laboratoire; Nous avons mis notre laboratoire à sa disposition et lui fournissons également une assistance financière pour son travail.  Quelle excellente opportunité pour LRRD de pouvoir encadrer ce jeune homme talentueux au sein même de notre laboratoire !

Thanks to Meriam for the French translation. 

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A month's worth of good news.

Time for blog dump, I've neglected this place.
Because we've been overwhelmed with good things!

Here you go:

Lily spent last week in the Pacific Northwest at RRNW, attending talks and overseeing an Em2 model there.

Jean-René Thélusmond, a Fulbright Scholar from Haiti, has joined us; we're supporting his graduate work at SIUC; he'll be doing research in our lab with the Em4 model.   Here he talks with Lily at the Em4.

And Meriam, Lily, and Christina celebrate our first Em2 shipment to the UK yesterday.

This week we ship an Em4 to the University of Quebec. Meriam's French has been handy!

Engineering students at SIUC are closing in on a method to track particle flux in our models using both magnetic and optical properties.

We (mostly Meriam) solved incredibly complex international shipping problems.

Thanks to all who've supported us. We're finally climbing out of the economic slump, and looking forward to good times.