Sunday, February 2, 2014

Candlemas and Nerdiness

Ha! In my apartment, you'd never know that today was Super Bowl Sunday. You WOULD know that we're a little nerdy around here...

Did I mention that I live with my brother? And did I mention that we're both engineers?

While I took ornaments and lights off the Christmas tree, my brother was engrossed in a task too nerdy/fun not to share. But first - Candlemas and the tree.

Candlemas/Presentation of Jesus at the Temple

I went to mass yesterday evening and loved all the extra candles lighting the church! I'm excited that I got to take home a blessed candle that I can use to help my devotion and concentration in prayer and meditation (I'm still doing 20 minutes a day!). Even though the Christmas season officially ended a few weeks ago with the Baptism of Jesus (which actually didn't take place until he was 30 years old), today is really the day we finish talking about Jesus as an infant. Candlemas celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the temple, where two more people recognize that this baby is the one long-awaited.

I was relieved to find out that the Vatican doesn't take down Christmas decorations or their Nativity until today...which lets me rationalize that I haven't procrastinated for TOO long. I'm just following the Pope's lead, right?? Anyway, taking down the tree turns out to be kind of therapeutic, especially when you're spending time with a family member. Once my brother's "project" was complete, he helped out, too.

Ultimate Nerdiness

Have you heard of Buckyballs? They are so much fun!! I'm not talking about the geodesic dome made up of 60 Carbon atoms (although that's pretty cool too...). I'm talking about the little magnetic toys - the ultimate desk toy - that the US government forced into non-existence a year ago. These tiny, very strong magnets were banned due to severe digestive issues if you swallow them - definitely a valid concern when children are around. My engineer mother was quick to buy quite a few sets before the company shut down, which made for fun afternoons at Christmas last year! (My brother and I never have children in the apartment, and we know how dangerous Buckyballs can be, so we'd absolutely get them out of reach before little ones came over.)

Ok...back to today.

Since we were taking down all the Christmas stuff, I thought it would be good to have more St. Valentine's Day decorations to replace them. I saw our colorful assortment of Buckyballs on the counter and asked my brother to make a heart.

He wasn't so thrilled with the idea (you know - boys and hearts and stuff), but he decided to create a companion cube since it has hearts on it and was more-or-less the colors we had. (If your nerdiness, or lack thereof, doesn't cover knowledge of Portal and companion cubes, take a look here for some background.)

And so it began...

Magnets are difficult to work with, and it takes quite a series of steps to get them into the formation you want. On top of that, trying to get the colors in the right place requires lots of visualization and advanced planning. Here was the process:

  1. Decide the arrangement of colors for each side of the cube.
  2. Determine how to "deconstruct" that final image into lines of Buckyballs all connected together.
  3. Put the magnets into a long line.
  4. Fold the line back and forth against itself to form a sheet of magnets.
  5. Fold the sheet back and forth on top of itself to build up the 3D cube shape.
Here's how it went (excuse the Christmas tablecloth - he started before I had a chance to put it away):

Got the line of Buckyballs...

Folded the line into a sheet...

Folded the sheet into a cube. Ta da!

But we weren't done.

A 5x5x5 cube was great and all, but we actually had 125 of each color to play with, meaning we could make a 7x7x7 cube! This took a lot more planning.

Outlined each row...

Strung the rows together...

Folded the line...

Had a nice sheet!

Folded the sheet. Here the magnets were getting difficult - you can see the bottom row didn't line up correctly. He had to use a card to pry the bottom off without disturbing the rest, then he carefully reattached it and kept going. He had to find something that wasn't a credit card, as the magnets are strong enough to destroy anything magnetically coded!

buckyball companion cube

Finished! And that's the type of projects we engineers do in our spare time. It was fun to work through a complex problem with my like-minded brother. This isn't coming apart for a long time.

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