Oct
26

Good Morning Rainbow

Rainbow across the morning sky.

Sandra came in from retrieving the morning paper early today and exclaimed “Danny, come out. You have got to see this rainbow!” I quickly grabbed our camera and ran out to see what she was so excited about. She was standing out in the front yard and pointing toward the western sky. I looked and arching up above the oak trees was one of the most vivid and beautiful rainbows I have seen in quite a while.  This was not expected because there were just a scattering of clouds across the sky with no rain in the forecast.  Nevertheless it was a wonderful sight to behold.

Birds flying across the rainbow in the sky.

 The Size of a Rainbow is Relative to the Sun’s Angle

This rainbow had some beautiful qualities. The arc was quite steep (almost vertical at the base on the horizon) and the top of the rainbow was very high in the sky. It turns out that this is due to the fact that it appeared early in the morning. The Sun was near the horizon and the Sun’s visible light rays forming the rainbow were nearly horizontal. The arc of a rainbow that occurs at sunrise or sunset appears to be larger that one that occurs when the sun is higher in the sky. The apparent height of a rainbow decreases as the height of the sun in the sky increases. When the Sun exceeds an angle of 42 degrees above the horizon no rainbow can be seen by an observer on the ground.

Another view of the rainbow arc across the morning sky.

Morning and Evening Rainbows

Also the composition of the sunlight that reaches earth at sunrise or sunset generally has more red hues and less blue hues. This is because of atmospheric scattering of the sunlight due to dust, smog, and water vapor in the air. It is more prominent in the mornings and evenings because the light passes through a longer stretch of atmosphere at those times than it does when the Sun is higher in the sky. This affected the color of our morning rainbow by emphasizing the bands on the red side and muting the bands on the blue side. You can see this emphasized even more by the color of the clouds in the photos. We were certainly the benefactor of these phenomena and I am grateful that Sandra observed this beautiful rainbow and called it to my attention.  The affect of the Sun’s angle on rainbow geometry and color has been understood since the 1600′s. The phenomena is explained in more detail in this post on Rainbow Angles.

A Sight that Evokes Happiness

There is something about rainbows that makes most people feel good.  A rainbow is an elegant and sweeping display of color across the sky.  It is amazing to me how quickly nature can summon up the ingredients and conditions necessary to form the pallette of visible colors that we humans can see. Viewing a rainbow is a fleeting experience. After five minutes the rainbow quickly dissappeard as the Sun rose. I can certainly tell you that this sight put a smile on my face and gave me a great feeling of happiness.

The Science of Rainbows

The science of rainbows is fairly simple and is taught to most of us in elementary school.  All it takes is the Sun shining across some water droplets suspended in the atmosphere. In order to see the rainbow, the viewer of course must be in the right place in relation to the Sun and the water vapor. The water droplets act like a huge prism and through refraction and dispersion of light, the droplets break the sunlight down into its component freqencies forming the band of colors of the rainbow.  We commonly say that a rainbow is comprised of the colors Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.  Historically these component colors of a rainbow were first identified by Isaac Newton. In reality, a rainbow is a continuum of light frequencies that extends from the infrared to the ultra-violet frequencies and includes the entire band of frequencies that humans percieve as the colors of the rainbow.

Nature’s Art

With this post we are creating a new category called Nature’s Art.  From time to time we will be posting many more articles to this category as there are an infinite number of instinces where Nature either inspires art or is a naturally occurring art form in and of itself.

 Interesting Links

  • The Wikipedia article on rainbows is very good. It describes the science of rainbows, the scientific history, and the cultural influence the rainbow has had.

 There many websites that explain very effectively how rainbows work.

  • There is a very nice interactive app on the National Taiwon Normal University website that effectively demonstrates the physics of rainbows.
  • The Watching the World Wakeup blog has a good post called How a Rainbow Works which is worth looking at.
  • The site How Rainbows Happen explains all the physics concepts required to understand how rainbows happen.
  • This web page called Rainbow Physics explains very simply how a rainbow works. It was posted by a photographer and has some good rainbow photos. It is one part of a 5 part series on how to photograph rainbows.
  • This website has some Interesting Rainbow Facts .

 

Oct
22

Reading Tea Leaves to Predict the Future

Using Chladni Patterns to Create Extraordinary Classical Guitars

It may seem surprising to see this in a blog dedicated to Science and Art but it is true. My son Aaron and I regularly use tea leaves to predict the future! We are not seeking the winning numbers of the next Lotto Texas drawing, how Aaron’s romantic interests will play out, or whether it will rain next Sunday night (although that would be handy information). You see… instead of being a tasseographer, who seeks to predict the future by using superstition and folklore, Aaron is a luthier who uses science to make predictions about how his hand crafted classical guitars will sound. He is also a classical guitarist. He knows what he wants to create both visually and aurally. He knows how the guitar needs to feel in a guitarist’s hands. Yet even with all these artistic skills there is more to know when creating a high end classical guitar. Lutherie is tedious time consuming work and one mistake or bad judgment can cost you six weeks worth of time and hundreds of dollars in material costs. The bottom line is that Aaron wants to be able to know with some degree of certainty that as he carves, sands, scrapes, shapes, assembles and configures the components which eventually become a beautiful classical guitar, it will also be the best sounding instrument possible. This is where the tea leaves come in.

 How a Classical Guitar Works

Strings transfer vibrational energy to the soundboard.

The amplification of the vibration of the strings on an acoustic guitar is caused by a transfer of vibrational energy from the strings to the soundboard (the top plate to which the strings are attached).  From there it is transferred into the resonant cavity formed by the body of the guitar and into the air in front of and around the guitar. These components act very much like a loud speaker but are more complex because not only do they amplify the sound vibrations, they also add harmonic overtones which the listener interprets as the tonal quality of the guitar. The back of the guitar also contributes to the amplification to a lesser extent. All the components used in a guitar contribute to many other acoustical properties of the guitar like tone, sustain, harmonics, etc. It is the careful manipulation of several design parameters that allows Aaron to create the impressive beautiful sound of a Wood Ring guitar.

 Testing and More Testing

Testing is an essential part of the process of creating an outstanding classical guitar.

There are many processes and tests that we perform throughout the process of building each guitar that guides us toward the final great sounding product. Initially there are several tests that are used to evaluate each piece of wood being considered as a component of a guitar. Not only must the wood be visually appealing, it must have properties that are conducive to the production of the sound Aaron is looking for in his guitars. For instance, he is looking for pieces of wood that have a high strength to density ratio. This has to do with the need for the guitar to be light as possible in the hands of the player and yet strong and durable. A high strength to density ratio also allows stronger and longer lasting sound production with less energy input from the player.  He is also looking for wooden components where the internal damping of sound is minimal. This means that when energy is put into the guitar to make it vibrate, that the loss of energy to heat through internal friction is minimized.

 As construction proceeds, tests are done to guide us at each stage of construction toward the finished product. One test that we rely on is a process called Chladni testing of the soundboard. Of all the components of a classical guitar that the luthier creates, the soundboard arguably has the most influence on how the guitar sounds. The magic is in how the soundboard responds to vibrations. Sound vibrations transferred to the soundboard (either by guitar string or by loud speaker) occur as standing waves across the two dimensional surface. Since the vibrations are fast and the amplitude of the waves are very small, we must use an indirect way of seeing them. This is where the tea leaves used in conjunction with Chladni testing comes into play.

Graph showing the oscillating nature of a sound wave.

Great care is taken in the selection of the tonewood to be used as a soundboard as well as in the construction of the soundboard. We use Chladni testing to help us visualize and identify the resonant harmonic patterns that the soundboard favors. Every piece of wood used as a soundboard favors certain sound frequencies. The complete set of frequencies that a soundboard favors is like a voiceprint. It is a unique acoustic signature for each piece of wood used. It is the luthier’s job to evaluate and manipulate these signature frequencies to create a soundboard that brings out the full potential of the piece of wood that becomes a soundboard. It is the combination of these favored frequencies that experienced luthiers listen to when they tap on the wood to hear the wood’s tap tone. It is also the manipulation of these frequencies throughout the building process that helps the luthier create the optimum sounding guitar.

 Chladni Patterns

This Chladni testing process takes advantage of a phenomena called Chladni patterns. These patterns were discovered by a man named Ernst Chladni (pronounced Klahdnee) (1756-1827) who was a German physicist and musician. He has been called the “father of acoustics” because of his major contributions to the study of sound. He discovered that by drawing a violin bow across the edge of a thin plate of wood it would vibrate. When he placed some sand on the plate, he was able to create patterns by creating vibrations at different frequencies. Different patterns were created depending on the shape of the plate. See the images below.  The rectangular plate images of Chladni patterns were created by John Tyndall in 1869.  The circular plate images are from Chladni’s work on the subject.

Chladni patterns for rectangular and circular plates.

 The geometry of instruments like the guitar and violin generate patterns similar to both rectangular and circular plates. Different types of materials produce differing patterns as well. We have found that different species of woods can produce dramatically different patterns as well for a given shape. There are many variables that can affect the patterns during the testing process as well. Things like speaker location, how and where the plate is supported must be carefully controlled during testing so that repeatable and comparable results can be recorded and analyzed.

What is important to the luthier is that these patterns demonstrate visually how the sound waves travel through the plate. The places where the sand remains are the nodes of the wave pattern (where there is no vibration). The places where there is no sand are the anti-nodes of the wave pattern (where there is vibration).

Violin makers were some of the first luthiers to use this phenomena to fine tune their instruments. This process was documented in an article of Scientific American written by Carleen Hutchins a renowned violin maker who made huge contributions to the science of plate tuning of violins using Chladni patterns. This article described how these patterns can be used to guide the manipulation the top plate thickness to get an optimal sound.

Tests Performed in Crafting a Wood Ring Guitar

Our testing apparatus consists of a stand that we built for this specific purpose. It is based on a design described in the book called “Left-Brain Lutherie” by David C. Hurd, Ph.D.  David is a master at building Ukuleles. His book is a classic with regard to using the scientific method in the construction of stringed instruments. The guitar plate to be tested is placed on two tightly strung rubber bands one supporting the plate on each end. A speaker is placed under the guitar plate and is driven by a computer program which produces tones at any frequency the user desires. We place tea leaves on the plate to show the patterns. Sand, salt, glitter and saw dust have all been used to create Chladni patterns but we have found ground tea leaves to work very well for our purposes.  The full range of frequencies that a guitar can produce are scanned and the frequencies of the patterns are recorded along with the geometry of each pattern.

 The following is an image of some Chladni patterns we found for a rectangular piece of German Spruce that we will be featuring in a guitar Aaron is currently working with. This is a representative set of quality control tests that we perform on all pieces wood being considered as a soundboard for a Wood Ring guitar.  As you can see, the higher energy frequencies produce more complex patterns.

Chladni patterns recorded for a German Spruce wooden plate being considered as a soundboard.

 As the building process proceeds we again perform more Chladni pattern tests on each soundboard. We identify certain dominate patterns over the frequency range of the guitar that we can follow throughout the building process and watch how their absolute frequencies change as well as how their relative frequencies change. This information guides Aaron in the actions he needs to coax each guitar toward the sound he is seeking. The photos below show some of these patterns.

Chladni patterns of German Spruce soundboard before attachment to sides.

Chladni patterns of Western Red Cedar soundboard attached to guitar sides.

 
Thank You!

There are many luthiers that use the process of Chladni testing to create the outstanding guitars that are made around the world.  No one learns something this complicated without some help. Some of the luthiers that greatly influenced Aaron’s learning process are listed below. We wish to thank them for having the self confidence and generosity to share some of the knowledge they have spent so many years to develop so that others may stand on their shoulders to take lutherie to the next level.

Brian Burns - Brian’s website was influential in helping shape our testing program.  He has always been very encouraging in our correspondence with him.  Brian does consulting and also has some very nice lutherie tools for sale at a reasonable price.

Ervin Somogyi – A class act with regard to lutherie. Many of today’s luthiers have learned from Mr. Somogyi.

Luthiers of North Texas (LINT) – This is a group of luthiers who meet every two months in the Dallas – Fort Worth Area.  One member in particular, Derek Lambert, is a very good friend whose ideas, feedback and conversation in general are all greatly appreciated.

Classical Guitarists

There have been many fine classical guitarists in Texas that have been kind enough to play Aaron’s guitars and give him very candid and valuable feedback as to what they are looking for in the ideal guitar.  There are a couple that we would like to give special thanks to.

Fernand and Olga Vera - These are two dear friends that are amazing classical guitarists. Be sure and see them in concert or when they are playing at many of the local guitar festivals. Also don’t miss a chance to attend their annual workshop.

Mitch Weverka – Mitch heads up the Fort Worth Guitar Guild and has been a catalyst for promoting classical guitarists in the Fort Worth area. He also heads up the Fort Worth Guitar Guild. We are grateful to him for all the great feedback.

Interesting Links

Cymantics - A branch of science emerged in the 1960′s called Cymatics. It is the study of visible sound and vibration. This is a field of study which was named by Hans Jenny emphasizing the intersection between art and science in the study of unseen phenomena like standing waves in various types of media. 

TED Presentation About Cymantics by Evan Grant - A wonderful talk at the TED conference in July 2009 given by Evan Grant about Cymatics (the study of visible sound). It has some great demonstrations of Chladni patterns and how this study of the substance of things not seen is being applied in research around the globe. It is for instance being used to create a lexicon of Dolphin language and is also allowing artists to create wonderful art from different music sources from Beethoven to Pink Floyd.

How Guitars Work – Describes how classical and acoustic guitars work.

Wood Ring Guitars – Last but not least!  Don’t forget to visit the Wood Ring Guitars website.  Please contact Aaron Ringo to explore the possibility of having a custom hand crafted classical guitar made to your exact specifications.  We also have several very nice guitars in stock.  You will be amazed by the craftsmanship and sound.

Oct
20

The Artistic Method – Evolution of a Logo

Wood Ring Guitars Logo

I produce most of my art digitally using several graphic programs.  I do most of the artwork for profit as part of my job as a web site designer and developer. I often don’t consider what I do “art” because it is usually a reflection of my customer’s tastes rather than my own. My customers are very particular about color, layout and design and my job is to make them happy so I must leave my own particular tastes aside and go with what they prefer out there in cyber space. 

Once in a while though a project comes along when I am given my free rein and my advice is taken more seriously. Those projects I live for and get the most satisfaction from the resulting art. Such was a recent request from my son for a logo for his web site. 

Coming up with a company name, and identity is often a multi-staged process, this being the case with Wood Ring Guitars. My son is a luthier, a builder of classical guitars. The company, Wood Ring Guitars has evolved over a period of time, first as a germ of an idea and now a full fledged, full service guitar building enterprise. Creating a look, feel and presence to match the quality of the product is the overall goal. That process is an art itself, logo design aside, and is part of an overall marketing strategy. The logo should be a reflection of what the company is all about and say it as simply as possible.  Most customers only look briefly at a logo, so first impressions are important. The logo should make the impression quickly, simply and make it memorable. The web site has been out there for a while, as a resume of good quality guitars, well made and which sound great, but needed a final touch, a memorable logo, to seal the product brand. 

Creating the Logo

It started off as a simple pencil sketch and idea generated by my husband, who loves to take his mental process down on paper from time to time. Those sketches looked like this:

Kitchen Table Thinking Process

Again, not my original idea, but definitely something I could work with! What these sketches did for me was get my creative process working. 

These sketches represent some attempts at combining the WR in clever ways alone and with guitar shapes. The bottom two sketches seemed to have the most appeal. 

The second design on the bottom right (See next image below) had the most appeal due to the darker background and two tone color scheme. It was decided to proceed with that design on the computer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sketches Used For Logo Consideration

 

 

 

 

First a simple guitar shape, similar to a typical classical guitar was created using Bezier curves and straight lines within a graphic program.

Simple Classical Guitar Shape

 

 

 

I like to use a program with the capability of creating vector graphics with layers. It provides me with much more flexibility in the creation process.

 

 

 

 

Next the guitar was angled approximately 40 degrees.

Guitar Top Outline 40 Degree Rotation

Guitar Top Outline 40 Degree Rotation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then I added the line representing the neck of the guitar, in this drawing: 

Guitar Top with Line Added

Guitar Top with Line Added

 

 

 

 

Having the flexibility to use the entire image from this point is the best part of not using a paper sketch. It is so easy to erase, or hide a layer. The line in this example is slightly off center, but it was just enough of the guitar to work to our purpose.

 

 

 

In this next image you will see how I have have removed the portion we want left to imagination giving us more room to add just enough to convey our message, simply.

One Half of the Guitar Shape

One Half of the Guitar Shape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point I experimented with the W and R letters. I wanted to make them part of the body of the guitar and still make them recognizable as letters. These letters went through several evolutions. At first I used real fonts and tried my best to resize and rotate them to work in the space. I would place them in the graphic but nothing seemed to work the way I wanted it to. I decided it was best to draw them in using a pen tool and vector lines. I also expanded the canvas size to envision the finished product as a business card as well.

 

First Design with Text and Letters

First Design with Text and Letters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next, I added some color and removed the word Guitars, as it seemed redundant and was getting in the way of the simplicity I was after. I also squared up the image in this example, and further bolded the WR letters to make them stand out even more. Here I was looking for design that would also work for an icon or Favicon.

 

Added Color and Removed Text

Added Color and Removed Text

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The final product emerged as a symbol with the hint of the guitar in a bold color matching the web site it will be placed on. The WR is very bold and is what first attracts the eye and it is separated from the fine outline of the guitar, using the bold brown-orange color to highlight that shape. The shape of the guitar and logo “brand” is centered diagonally across the simple square shape. On the web site the logo will sit next to an animated banner to get the final message across. If you would like to see the final logo, placed on the web site click here.

Completed Logo For Wood Ring Guitars

Completed Logo for Wood Ring Guitars

 

So there is a typical logo creation process, using my artistic method. No two logo creations are the same but evolve in a similar way, from sketch to graphic, with additions and subtractions along the way.

 

 

 

Oct
07

Thoughts on the Life of Steve Jobs – 1955-2011

Steve Jobs - The iconic visionary and co-founder of Apple passed away on Oct. 5, 2011.

Like so many billions of people around the world, I learned of the death of Steve Jobs due to complications from pancreatic cancer on Wednesday.  Apple Inc. posted a photo of him on the main page of their site and posted the following statement.

 “Apple has lost a visionary and creative genius, and the world has lost an amazing human being. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Steve have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Steve leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Apple.”

I think many people knew this may happen after the gaunt looking Jobs stepped down as CEO of Apple Inc. on Aug. 24 when he was at the very top of his extremely successful career. Knowing his death seemed eminent, did not make this sad news any easier to digest. So much will be written and said about him in the coming days because of his wide ranging influence on so many people’s lives that it will dominate the media. Probably more was written about him in just the 24 hours after his death than has been written up until this point. Early news reports on the morning of Oct. 6 stated that Twitter has had a record breaking spike of  10,000 tweets per second related to gratitude for Steve Jobs’ life and his accomplishments. A later report showed instead that it was the 4th highest at 6049 Tweets per second, still a huge number.  Much of this communication is being written on devices like the iPhone and iPad which Mr. Jobs was instrumental in creating and bringing to all of us. These devices have dominated the world of communication technology since 2007. They have huge appeal across the board, with an ease of use factor that is unprecedented in such devices and they have amazing features.  These devices have allowed people with little or no technical background to easily network and communicate very effectively with their family, friends, colleagues, and the rest of the world through the mediums of written text, voice, music, graphics, videos, and thousands of apps.

Steve Jobs made a huge contribution to our culture through the combination of Science, Technology, and Art which has affected society in such a huge way that I felt strongly I should at least dedicate today’s post to him.  He was to the personal computing device as Alexander Graham Bell was to the telephone.  His influence to society was akin to that of Thomas Alva Edison as they both were instrumental in bringing huge music, motion picture, and mass communication technology advances to the masses.  

This morning on the news, during an interview with Steve Wozniak, who was co-founder of Apple with Steve Jobs, Mr. Wozniak mentioned the process that Steve used to develop products. It sounded very much like a combination of the Scientific Method and Artistic Methods we have talked about in a recent post. Mr. Wozniak used terms like “visionary” and “disciplined” to describe Mr. Jobs. He stated that it was not the fact that he actually crafted all of the innovations himself.  His talent was in coming up with a crystal clear vision of what he felt was needed, surrounding himself with very capable, dedicated and disciplined people, and inspiring them to bring the vision to life knowing that anything less than perfection as defined by Steve would be rejected.   He also said that Mr. Jobs viewed the world differently than most people.  In a interview with Brian Williams that was done in 2006, it is clear that Steve Jobs was very much into enjoying the process of innovation rather than focusing too much on the goal or worrying about the past.

The Apple Macintosh, introduced in 1984, has been the flagship product of Apple for many years.

In my career as a software developer and computer technology consultant for businesses, starting in the early 1980′s we focused our efforts on the IBM PC and Microsoft Windows. In those days MS DOS was a very open system with regard and development tools for this platform were cheap. Businesses naturally migrated toward this platform because it was compatible with more peripherals than the Apple system and the platform was very programmable. Apple, despite having very good features was more closed with regard to system documentation and programmability.  Microsoft, IBM and the clones (Compaq for instance) targeted business and engineering customers whereas Apple targeted very specific customer bases like education, publishing, photography, and art.

Even though we were Microsoft developers at the time, we were always intrigued with the innovations that Apple continually produced under the leadership of Steve Jobs. How could we not? Take the wonderful ad that Apple showed during the 1984 Super Bowl. Directed by Ridly Scott, it portrays the control of the computer industry and ultimately the control of information technology as a struggle between Big Brother (IBM) and an inspired revolutionary representative of the people (Apple). It illustrates the epitome of the in-your-face cool promotion savvy that Steve Jobs was so good at.

The iPod and iPhone changed the game for music devices and for smart phones.

Later on, the work he did with the NeXT computer, which was an amazing computer although it was not commercially successful, eventually influenced Apple’s products in a very positive way.  This raised the bar significantly with regard to the ever expanding capability and usability of computing devices. Also very influental, was the work done at Pixar under his leadership. He recognized the potential of this very innovative yet struggling animated graphics company which would come to create the burgeoning industry of feature length animated movies and change the world of entertainment.

In my opinion though, his greatest contribution was always pushing the leading edge of amazing technological innovations combining technology and art to produce the very best user experience. His user interfaces were always the best because they were the most intuitive of any device on the planet. No user manual or help was needed. The artistic flair of these devices brought us all to the table and the extreme ease of use opened up the door to amazing tools of expression for billions around the world.
 

So here’s to Steve Jobs. Thank you for having the courage to truly live your dream even under the toughest circumstances and inspiring the rest of us to live ours. Our thoughts and condolences go out to the family of Steve Jobs along with his friends and colleages. He will be greatly missed.

Related Links:

Steve Jobs’ Patents – NY Times

Time Line of Apple Innovation - Shows how Apple’s innovation thrived under the influence of Steve Jobs and was absent during the ten years he was absent. – NY Times

Eight ways the iMac changed the computer world. – Mac World

How the iPod changed everything. – The Globe and Mail

Ten ways the iPhone changed smart phones forever. – Business Insider

Paper by Ted Friedman called “Apple’s 1984: The Introduction of the Macintosh in the Cultural History of Personal Computers“.  This is a very interesting account of how the historic Super Bowl ad came about and its impact. – Duke University

     Copyright © 2011-2012 by Danny and Sandra Ringo.  All rights reserved.  Articles may not be reproduced without permission.