Month: January 2007

Disarming “Under Glass”

I just posted a few different methods for disarming the Under Glass trap over in my traps gallery:

There are several potential methods to disarm this kind of trap, though depending on the particular trap implementation some of them may be more or less effective. I’ve only actually used the first two methods, the others are suggestions I’ve heard that sound plausible but haven’t been field-tested. Note that there are various destructive methods you could use to open this trap without setting it off, such as drilling a hole from the underside, but that’s considered cheating: the idea is to get the “treasure” out of the box without setting off the trap and without damaging either the box or trap itself.

  • Strong Magnet: Depending on the strength and position of the popper, placing a strong magnet against the glass (or box bottom) can keep it in closed position while you remove the dome. My earlier prototype with the popper stuck to the glass could be disarmed by simply placing a very strong rare earth magnet against the glass, and then whacking the box, dome and magnet down on the arm of the couch so that the popper would snap shut from the inertia. Once the popper was closed, the magnet was strong enough to keep it closed such that the dome, magnet and popper could all be removed without setting off the cap. (Unfortunately for Jay, the version I gave him was simply too powerful even for the four large rare earth magnets I had brought with me.)

  • Rice: The second option is to fill the dome with a substance that can fit through the small crack between the box and glass but still interfere with the firing mechanism. I used grains of rice, which could be forced under the dome using a thin piece of spring steel. After I had a decent amount of rice inside the dome itself I was able to lift it out of the box without firing the cap. The hammer sprung down, but wound up with a single grain of rice between it and the unfired cap. Water would also probably work, though it might damage the box or contents. Note that evacuating the dome of oxygen (for example by using a wine preserver gas) does not seem to work — I’m guessing the caps provide their own oxygen source.

  • Wax / glue: We haven’t tried this, but it might be possible to carefully maneuver some sticky wax or glue through the crack in the side such that it holds the playing card to the underside of the glass dome, thus pulling the card up with the dome when it’s removed from the box.

  • Flexible shim: We haven’t tried this yet either, but there exist metal shims that are extremely flexible, and such a shim might be able to actually bend through a crack between the glass and box side and get inside enough to block a popper from firing. This was essentially Jay’s strategy using pipe cleaners, but they weren’t quite flexible enough, and one of the poppers got free and went off.

Great analogy on consciousness and brain

Via Mind Hacks, this quote from A Writer’s Notebook by W. Somerset Maugham sums up my wonder at the physical basis of the brain better than anything I’ve ever read:

“The highest activities of consciousness have their origins in physical occurrences of the brain, just as the loveliest melodies are not too sublime to be expressed by notes.”

How squinting helps us see

I never knew this! Via LiveScience, via Cognitive Daily:

Squinting reduces the amount of peripheral light coming into the eye so that a greater percentage of light comes from the center of the visual field… It’s wrong to to say that “‘squinting squishes the eyeball slightly to correct for a focus point that misses the mark.’ Although the lens does change shape, this is a reflex muscle action that can accompany (but is not the result of) squinting.”

I can name that tune in one note…

Interesting comment from this article on why humans are so good at recognizing music:

The subtlest reason that pop music is so flavorful to our brains is that it relies so strongly on timbre. Timbre is a peculiar blend of tones in any sound; it is why a tuba sounds so different from a flute even when they are playing the same melody in the same key. Popular performers or groups, Levitin argued, are pleasing not because of any particular virtuosity, but because they create an overall timbre that remains consistent from song to song. That quality explains why, for example, I could identify even a single note of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets.”

“Nobody else’s piano sounds quite like that,” he said, referring to John. “Pop musicians compose with timbre. Pitch and harmony are becoming less important.”

(Thanks to Janie for the link!)