52 States in 8 Months

An old, unfinished experiment for New Year’s Eve.

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on December 31, 2008

raketen_auflistungLast year I spent New Year’s Eve in Magdeburg with some of my old fellow students. We were starting fireworks from the Sternbrücke which spans over the Elbe river. I started a small experiments with some New Year rockets: How does the length of the wooden stick influence the flight path?

Normal rockets with a full-length stick usually fly straight up into the air. I then launched a couple of rockets with shorter sticks. The more wood I removed the more unstable the flight got.

Braking about a third of the stick apart resulted in a trajectory which already did not go to the sky but straight into the Elbe. Removing about two thirds made the rocket fly directly into a group of spectators next to us. (Well, not “directly”. It just did not know where it wanted to go.)

Unfortunately though, we only had about three rockets for these experiments. And we did not really take any notes. I will not be able to complete the experiment this year as I will be in New York City where fireworks are prohibited.

So, if you have a couple of spare rockets, please measure their weight distribution and change the position of the center of mass by braking apart some pieces of the wooden stick. If you have some kitchen scales, you might also measure the thrust the rocket gives during the flight. Don’t forget to measure the weight distribution after the flight, too :-). And if you have some tripods and a few cameras, the footage might help to measure the height which the rocket reached.


And if you don’t have this equipment, just launch the rockets in the normal manner and enjoy the pyrotechnics :-).

I wish you a Happy New Year!

Don’t buy beer with funny names!

Posted in Newark by Ulf on December 30, 2008

homebrewOh yes, I did a mistake. A few days ago a Basque student (called Iñaki) spent three or four days in Delaware and stood in our apartment. We has applied for a Ph.D. position in Electrical Engineering.

One evening, our Iñaki (my regular floor mate), this Iñaki (the temporary floor mate), Juris (a Latvian friend of one of the Iñakis. He is kind of a “political arachnologist”. Yes, spelling is right.) and I went out in the evening for a beer or two. Or three. I can remember at least four.

Anyway, at one point, I bought the beer you see on the picture. It has a funny name and a bottle costs $4 (+tip), and it calls itself a “beer”. Seems like nothing could go wrong. In contrast, this was disgusting! Urgh!

Alright, at least I learned something. Never buy beer with funny names!

One-way screws

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on December 29, 2008

Wikipedia knew about them. I didn’t. But the restroom next to our lab has them all over the place. I’m talking about “one-way screws”. They can be tightened like any normal screw, but it will be rather hard to turn them counterclockwise (however, they can be removed anyway).

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I’ve never noticed any screw like that in Germany. We do however have an “Einwegschraube” among the “Sonderschrauben für den Maschinenbau” (the last time I saw this was in the first year of my studies).

Adventskalender: Was steht morgen bei dir auf dem Tisch?

Posted in Adventskalender, East coast trip by Ulf on December 28, 2008

As the question was posed on Dec 23, it should be more like “What do you have as dinner on Christmas Eve?”

Alex and I had “Geflügelgeschnetzeltes in Sahnesauce“. It was really tasty!

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I read a newspaper… about Christmas, money and bankruptcy.

Posted in Newark by Ulf on December 28, 2008

bild3844 I got a local newspaper from Mary a few days ago. Actually it’s not a newspaper. I mean, it looks like one, but it rarely has any content. It’s called “Newark Post”. There are altogether 16 articles inside. That’s about what you can expect from the first 2-3 pages of a real newspaper.

And the articles are just about nothing. Here is a good example: “Don’t overspend this Christmas”. They use two columns just to tell me not to buy more gifts than I can pay for, and to consider donating some money:


The other articles are very similar to this. The one which comes closest to what I would call “news” (which I would expect in a newspaper) is about a robbery in one of our local bike shops. If I remember correctly, the thieves stole a few bucks and some liquors.

The last four pages of the newspaper are interesting again. Not for reading, just for getting a feeling about the economy in the US. The pages are full of “Sheriff’s sales”. These are houses which have been confiscated due to personal bankruptcy.


What is frightening me the most is the sheer number of announcements. And as they all say “October 31, 2008”, I think that they all belong just to one month! That’s unbelievable! Keep in mind that Newark just has a population of about 30,000!

Adventskalender: Was schaust du Weihnachten? — Revisited!

Posted in Adventskalender, East coast trip by Ulf on December 27, 2008

Now the true answer to the older question is: We actually watched both an action movie and kind-of a fairy tale! There was “Ice Age 2” on TV, but at some point we switched to “Tomb Raider”.

PS: In the Atlanta TV ads you find things that are usually only in you spam mail folder: They had a 30 second spot for some penis enlargement drug. I could not trust my eyes!

Happy Birthday Dear Extinguisher, Happy Birthday to you!

Posted in Newark by Ulf on December 27, 2008

When I had breakfast a few days ago, I had a look at the fire extinguisher in our kitchen. It’s attached around 6ft above the ground which might be way to high if the room is full of smoke and you can’t get up:
bild3724I’m also not really sure if I could grab it without having my eyes open. I might have problems when removing the metal belt which goes around it. Although I could probably just tear that thingy completely off the wall.

When I had a closer look at the fire extinguisher, I read that they want you to check the pressure every month. Well, they have written this in 1978 (this is your 30th anniversary, Happy Birthday, Dear Extinguisher!) and the manometer still shows that the pressure is “good”. Well, the manometer is obviously 30 years old, too.

It’s not really safe to to rely on a 30-years old fire extinguisher. Therefore, we also have a second one:
bild3732Unfortunately, this one is from 1975 which makes it another three years older … ;-)

Our relocation comes closer…

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on December 26, 2008

bild3737At a group meeting in the beginning of the month we were told about the relocation plans for our group. Many groups in the department will have to move, but our group is the first one as we are the only group which currently occupies two separate rooms. At first we will have to give up one of our rooms completely, so we have to make all our stuff fit into the other room. It might get a bit uncomfortable in the next few months…

A relocation like this is still planned with the pen-and-paper method in Delaware. I got a carbon copy of the place where we can put some desks while the walls in our rooms are being teared down. That is enough for me, but the PhD students here have to play around with little yellow stickers and try to find a new place for all our experimental setups. Why don’t they do this in a CAD program, or at least in a vector graphics tool?

Edit: This post is already outdated before it was even published. Our group does not get the room which we received the blueprints of. So right now, nobody knows where our desks can go. I’ll find out…

My nonexistent room mate

Posted in Newark, People by Ulf on December 25, 2008

bild3897The door on the picture belongs to the room of one of my floor mates. His name is “Miguel” or “Santiago” (depends on whom you ask). He is from Colombia and has just finished a language course here in Delaware.
Before I came here, he was the only floor mate which Susi had mentioned a couple of times. She calls him Miguel, just as Mary does. My two other floor mates (Iñaki and Alvaro) only call him Santiago. I don’t know why, but since they all have the same mother tongue, they must be somehow right.

Do you expect a picture of Miguel? I simply don’t have one! I’ve been in here for almost two months now, and I only saw Miguel/Santiago four times! The others don’t meet him either. He will move out in the next days (Mary told me about it, Miguel didn’t), so I probably won’t see him again. It’s so strange… there is someone who (sometimes) lives 20ft away from you but he simply does not exist…

Hiking Haleakala in a car!

Posted in Hawaii by Ulf on December 25, 2008

Another place where you have to go on Maui is the Haleakala. On Wednesday we started at the Boy Scouts Site (A) and went down to Kahului where we did our shopping for the next days. Afterwards we had lunch. Ania ate some Japanese stuff, maybe sushi. The real meatatarians among us went to Wendy’s (B) we we got real American fast food :-). And we got a nice little paper placemat which we took with us:

Having had a great meal, we went to the National Park. At first we were driving below the clouds, but it did not take much time until we were really in them again:

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When we reached the campsite (C), we were well above the cloud level, so we had shiny weather again. Although it was already getting a bit colder up here:

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After we installed our tents, we drove on to the top of the mountain. The vegetation started to vanish and the air pressure dropped (reducing the power of the car while increasing the speed of my breathing). We probably found the only sign on Maui which says “ice” without the name of a fruit and without a price tag:

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And finally, after many many curves (must be great for a motor cycle or a car without any injured Matthiases in), we reached the top of the Haleakala at 10,023ft (place D on the map):

2008-11-26_15-56-43-hawaii-0189Now it really got windy and cold. The perfect weather for Europeans :-)!
I’ll show you more pictures later on.