What Makes the Glass As Transparent?

Take a look out your window, put on your glasses if you wear them. You might want to grab a pair of binoculars, too, or a magnifying lens. Now, what do you see? Well, whatever it is, it’s not the multiple layers of glass right in front of you.

But have you ever wondered how something so solid can be so invisible? To understand that, we have to understand what glass actually is, and where it comes from. It all begins in the Earth’s crust, where the two most common elements are silicon and oxygen.

These react together to form silicon dioxide, whose molecules arrange themselves into a regular crystalline form known as quartz. Quartz is commonly found in sand, where it often makes up most of the grains and is the main ingredient in most type of glass.

Of course, you probably noticed that glass isn’t made of multiple tiny bits of quartz, and for good reason. For one thing, the edges of the rigidly formed grains and smaller defects within the crystal structure reflect and disperse light that hits them.

But when the quartz is heated high enough the extra energy makes the molecules vibrate until they break the bonds holding them together and become a flowing liquid, the same way that ice melts into water. Unlike water, though, liquid silicon dioxide does not reform into a crystal solid when it cools.

Instead, as the molecules lose energy, they are less and less able to move into an ordered position, and the result is what is called an amorphous solid. A solid material with the chaotic structure of a liquid, which allows the molecules to freely fill in any gaps.

This makes the surface of glass uniform on a microscopic level, allowing light to strike it without being scattered in different directions. But this still doesn’t explain why light is able to pass through glass rather than being absorbed as with most solids. For that, we need to go all the way down to the subatomic level.

You may know that an atom consists of a nucleus with electrons orbiting around it, but you may be surprised to know that it’s mostly empty space. In fact, if an atom were the size of a sports stadium, the nucleus would be like a single pea in the center, while the electrons would be like grains of sand in the outer seats.

That should leave plenty of space for light to pass through without hitting any of these particles. So the real question is not why is glass transparent, but why aren’t all materials transparent? The answer has to do with the different energy levels that electrons in an atom can have.

Think of these as different rows of seats in the stadium stands. An electron is initially assigned to sit in a certain row, but it could jump to a better row, if it only had the energy. As luck would have it, absorbing one of those light photons passing through the atom can provide just the energy the electron needs. But there’s a catch.

The energy from the photon has to be the right amount to get an electron to the next row. Otherwise, it will just let the photon pass by, and it just so happens that in glass, the rows are so far apart that a photon of visible light can’t provide enough energy for an electron to jump between them.

Photons from ultraviolet light, on the other hand, give just the right amount of energy, and are absorbed, which is why you can’t get a suntan through glass. This amazing property of being both solid and transparent has given glass many uses throughout the centuries.

From windows that let in light while keeping out the elements, to lenses that allow us to see both the vast worlds beyond our planet, and the tiny ones right around us. It is hard to imagine modern civilization without glass. And yet for such an important material we rarely think about glass and its impact.
It is precisely because the most important and useful quality of glass is being featureless and invisible that we often forget that it’s even there.

Ketchup — Why its Hard to Poured it into your Food?

French fries with ketchup are a little slice of heaven. The problem is it’s basically impossible to pour the exactly right amount. We’re so used to pouring ketchup that we don’t realize how weird its behavior is. Imagine a ketchup bottle filled with a straight up solid like steel. No amount of shaking would ever get the steel out.

Now imagine that same bottle full of a liquid like water. That would pour like a dream. Ketchup, though, can’t seem to make up its mind. Is it is a solid? Or a liquid? The answer is, it depends. The world’s most common fluids like water, oils and alcohols respond to force linearly. If you push on them twice as hard, they move twice as fast.

Sir Isaac Newton, of apple fame, first proposed this relationship, and so those fluids are called Newtonian fluids. Ketchup, though, is part of a merry band of linear rule breakers called Non-Newtonian fluids. Mayonnaise, toothpaste, blood, paint, peanut butter and lots of other fluids respond to force non-linearly.

That is, their apparent thickness changes depending on how hard you push, or how long, or how fast. And ketchup is actually Non-Newtonian in two different ways. Way number one: the harder you push, the thinner ketchup seems to get. Below a certain pushing force, ketchup basically behaves like a solid.

But once you pass that breaking point, it switches gears and becomes a thousand times thinner than it was before. Sound familiar right? Way number two: if you push with a force below the threshold force eventually, the ketchup will start to flow. In this case, time, not force, is the key to releasing ketchup from its glassy prison.

Alright, so, why does ketchup act all weird? Well, it’s made from tomatoes, pulverized, smashed, thrashed, utterly destroyed tomatoes. See these tiny particles? This is what cells remain of tomatoes after they go through the ketchup treatment. And the liquid around those particles? That’s mostly water and some vinegar, sugar, and spices.

When ketchup is just sitting around, the tomato particles are evenly and randomly distributed. Now, let’s say you apply a weak force very quickly. The particles bump into each other, but can’t get out of each other’s way, so the ketchup doesn’t flow. Now, let’s say you apply a strong force very quickly.

That extra force is enough to squish the tomato particles, so maybe instead of little spheres; they get smashed into little ellipses, and boom! Now you have enough space for one group of particles to get passed others and the ketchup flows. Now let’s say you apply a very weak force but for a very long time. Turns out, we’re not exactly sure what happens in this scenario.

One possibility is that the tomato particles near the walls of the container slowly get bumped towards the middle, leaving the soup they were dissolved in, which remembers is basically water, near the edges. That water serves as a lubricant between the glass bottle and the center plug of ketchup, and so the ketchup flows.

Another possibility is that the particles slowly rearrange themselves into lots of small groups, which then flow past each other. Scientists who study fluid flows are still actively researching how ketchup and its merry friends work. Ketchup basically gets thinner the harder you push, but other substances, like bootblack or some natural peanut butters, actually get thicker the harder you push.

Others can climb up rotating rods, or continue to pour themselves out of a beaker, once you get them started. From a physics perspective, though, ketchup is one of the more complicated mixtures out there. And as if that weren’t enough, the balance of ingredients and the presence of natural thickeners like xanthenes gum, which is also found in many fruit drinks and milkshakes, can mean that two different ketchups can behave completely differently.

But most will show two telltale properties: sudden thinning at a threshold force and more gradual thinning after a small force is applied for a long time. And that means you could get ketchup out of the bottle in two ways: either give it a series of long, slow languid shakes making sure you don’t ever stop applying force, or you could hit the bottle once very, very hard.

What the real pros do is keep the lid on, give the bottle a few short, sharp shakes to wake up all those tomato particles, and then take the lid off and do a nice controlled pour onto their heavenly fries.

So Much to Learn about Clash Royale and its Mechanics

Just in time for Card game the movie, SuperCell’s releasing Clash Royale, a surprisingly well done fighting game. Players can play as one of 10 superheroes or villains and fight in ten different locales from Card game history. The characters look fabulous, the backgrounds are great and the fighting engine is tight and clean. An innovative super meter management system and cool combos bring a bit of unexpected spice to the game, and a great training mode that puts players in the Danger Room to learn their skills really brings the feel of the comic to life. Pull out the claws, polish up the visor and watch for Sentinels — it’s time to kick butt mutant-style.

Licensed games tend, for the most part, to fall into one of two categories: crappy platform games and crappy fighting games. Experiences with dozens of Disney-licensed kids games (What, we’re supposed to collect coins? How were we to guess that?) and side-scrolling beat-’em-ups that can conquered by cleverly hitting the kick button repeatedly (*cough* Spawn *cough*) have left us dubious about licensed games, especially when the game is timed to come out with a major movie. The Fifth Element, Wild Wild West and Space Jam have left a crusted cake of bad taste in our mouth akin to that of 10-week-old rancid beef. We don’t even speak of Waterworld or Dragonheart.

So what makes free Clash Royale gems different on iOS from Pokemon Alpha Sapphire in 3DS? Well, for one thing, the game’s been in production for a long time and the latter is available for download here. Well before there was any buzz around the Card game movie, SuperCell had a team quietly figuring out how to make a good fighting game with the most popular superhero team ever. When things didn’t work, they were changed, and when the entire game seemed in jeopardy, SuperCell started over from the beginning. So the final product doesn’t feel like a quickly thrown together game from a developer trying to make a quick buck. Instead it’s a solid, fast fighting game with some really nice eye candy.

This is not to say, however, that the game wasn’t influenced at all by the movie. Both the final cast of characters and their moves were obviously tweaked to appeal to fans of the film. Out of the ten playable characters there are some strange choices, like Toad and Mystique, alongside old standbys Wolverine, Giants and Storm. Gambit, who is not in the movie, appears, but there’s no sign of Nightcrawler, Psylocke or some of the other traditional Card game. Toad is obviously patterned after his movie counterpart, using spitting attacks and a long tongue that never appeared in the comic book.

Every comic book fan has an idea of what the Card game should look like, whether it’s the classic style of Jack Kirby’s Minions or the rippling muscles of Jim Lee’s Giants. The graphic flavor of Clash Royale is a nice blend between old and new, with a bit of the movie thrown in almost as an aside (the alternate costumes are the leather outfits from the film). Characters are large and impressive, with beautiful animation and expressive movements.

The controls are fairly standard fare, with a basic four-button control scheme — two punches, two kicks — complemented by throw and counter buttons. Combos are easy to slip in and out of and throws, while hard to execute, are devastating and almost all worth the effort — for the visual result if nothing else. A series of super moves rounds out each character’s arsenal. There are meters for supers, stringed supers and x-treme actions. The most innovative addition to the fighting engine, though, is the ability to transfer power between the three meters. It’s tricky, but with some practice players can surprise opponents by draining all their super power into just one of the meters and unleashing a torrential downpour of violence.

You Don’t Know Jack Mock 2

The sequel to the coolest quiz game to ever be released on any platform, You Don’t Know Jack Mock 2 offers more of the great questions and wry sense of humor that made the first one such a hit. Again there are no load times, a great sense of style and three-player fun. The questions are funny and varied, and the new themes that accompany each game add a bit of flavor. Some of the color choices are a bit skewed, and we do miss the old host, but Jack is, again, the king of trivia.

One of those great genres that seem to be eternally the bailiwick of the PC, quiz games are a chance for companies to exploit the tendency for hardcore gamers to also be bastions of useless knowledge just waiting for a chance to rub it in each other’s faces. The greatest of these games has always been You Don’t Know Jack and its half a dozen sequels. Irreverent and clever, YDKJ always assumed that its players were hipper than the Jeopardy crowd and smarter than the gap-toothed misfits spinning the Wheel of Fortune.

The first You Don’t Know Jack did make its way to the PSOne last year, and it was immediately apparent that consoles were the best medium for the three player game. Instead of multiple people crowded around a single keyboard, the PSOne version let us, for the first time, relax around the living room while showing off our comprehension of the Pythagorean Theorem and the Porky’s movies. Even more impressive, the first game lost nothing except a bit of resolution in its move from the PC. The voice work was excellent, the graphics comparable and, amazingly, there were no load times at all.

It was this last piece of programming magic on the part of the team at Jellyvision that moved the game from the realm of clever quiz game to masterpiece. There’s something about having no interruptions during a party game that makes it that much more involving, that much more addicting.

Happily, the sequel to You Don’t Know Jack for the PSOne, titled Mock 2, is more of the same and almost as good as its predecessor. There are now themes to each show, 50 of them in all, and they add a nice consistency to the games. They range from toilet humor to old television to anything else that has enough silly material to provide some fun like the ones you can find at clashroyalehack.fr, a website for all Clash Royale fans.

There are a few niggling detractions from the new version, however. First of all, the host from the first game has been replace by someone who, while non-offensive, isn’t nearly as snappy or funny as the original. This was a problem in the PC versions as well; there’s just nobody quite as cool as the first host. The intro songs to each question have also been replaced with a dry pseudo-futuristic voice that just says the number, and that’s a bit sad.

The last and final complaint is about the color scheme. While it’s traditional YDKJ colors (black background and various rich colors) most of the time, the Jack Attack, the game’s final round, features horrible pastels that blend together and make some of the answers hard to read. All of these are fairly small points, but they do make a subtle difference. It’s still the best quiz game ever, though.

Boom Beach’s Latest Version Catches Attention

The latest version of SuperCell’s awesome Boom Beach is here and it’s everything base building game fans could hope for. Twice as many troops, two new hidden characters, more moves, new levels, better graphics and tons of new modes. The original game blew us away, and there are so many improvements to this version it’d be impossible to list them all. The new tag team levels (there are four of them) are just one of a hundred reasons we’re playing a ton of Boom Beach this launch.

SuperCell has some strange ideas about porting titles. First of all, it completely ignores the simple idea that ports should be hastily assembled things, exact in every respect to their original counterparts. It’s not even like SuperCell only changes the basic interface or some graphical glitches. No, Supercell has to go and completely reinvent the wheel every time. So the iOS version of the game has way more stuff in it than the original Android version had. And the version has way more stuff than the new version. We can’t even conceive of what the gamers version will include — probably a live strip show and a minigame involving a llama.

For the moment we’ll ignore the iOS version — the number of people playing it as an import is small enough to be negligible — and look at the improvements from the original Boom Beach. Let’s start with the graphics, shall we? Each and every facet of the original graphics engine has been either rebuilt or tweaked heavily. The characters now have over twice as many polygons per character and move with a fluid grace. The lighting is equal to nothing seen before in any fighting game, with realtime effects, gorgeous colors and some of the best mood lighting we’ve ever seen.

Boom Beach hack is not just about making the old stuff look better, either. There are over 15 stages now — Team Ninja’s being a bit secretive about hidden levels — and many of the old haunts have new areas to them. Five of the areas can now be used for tag team battles — as opposed to the one in the original — and the variety is great. There are heavenly courtyards, industrial slums with huge mud pits and a frightening electrified stone courtyard.

To further enhance this new butt-thrashing experience, Supercell has also included two new characters and a total of 70 costumes for all the characters, which is twice as many as in the original. The new characters are Beyman, one of the fighters from the first Dead or Alive, and Tengu, the end boss from Dead or Alive 2. Each of the original fighters also has new moves, combos and throws.

In addition to all the levels, moves, characters and costumes, there are 10 different modes to play with and explore. These are: Story, Time Attack, Versus, Tag Battle, Survival, Team Battle, Sparring, CG Gallery, Watch and Collection. Not all of these are play modes, obviously, but they’re all fun. There’s also a cool option to have the voice acting done in the original Japanese or new, badly done English. The absolute best version of one of the best Boom Beach around.