Ok, so admittedly this is actually kind of neat…

“The water temperature on the Lake Michigan is just a little bit below freezing, so you get a small piece of ice that forms in the water and as waves move back and forth it adds additional water and freezes in layers. It gets bigger and bigger, and eventually you get big balls of ice, that are pushed to the shore by the wind.”

(video via Boing Boing, description via The Atlantic Cities)

So I learned something last night about 3D TVs … basically, they don’t suck as much as I thought they did.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think that 3D itself is a gimmick that adds very little to the experience and I have no desire to sit and wear 3D glasses in my own living room, but I did dispel a misunderstanding that I’ve had about the picture quality for the last year that makes me feel a little more comfortable about the next TV that we buy being of 3D nature…

…even though technically the problem that I was experiencing apparently was completely unrelated to 3D…

😳

It all started last fall when we were up in New York for my wife’s Grandma’s funeral. Her parents had recently bought a new 3D TV, and while everyone else was gushing and raving over it, I couldn’t help but think that something didn’t seem right. In fact, there were shows that I flat out couldn’t bring myself to watch because the actors on screen had this extra depth to them that made whatever we were watching look more like a live recording than a feature presentation. I tried to watch some of the shows that I had been watching on HBO at the time, everything just looked really fake and terrible.

At the time I chalked it up to 3D sucks and thus vowed that I never wanted to get a 3D TV myself because of it, when in reality it didn’t even click until a year later that the 3D hadn’t even actually been on.

Something finally drove me to dig into this a little deeper last night when my sister-in-law’s new TV showed up and we set it up in the living room to substitute for our old TV until she moves out. For her and my wife, 3D is a big deal, so after getting everything hooked up, we threw a copy of the new Superman into her 3D Blu-Ray player to check everything out in full effect. And it started happening again … all of the amazing space backgrounds looked fantastic, but the actors themselves literally looked like they were performing a stage adaptation of Superman instead of the film that we saw in the theaters earlier this year!

We pretty much watched until Baby Superman landed on Earth and then everyone went to bed … well, they went to bed while stayed up in search of answers because after spending over an hour in the store with her looking at TVs, I thought that the one she settled on was a pretty damn nice TV! There had to be something else that was going on that could make a $2,000 1080p LED look like crap…

…and it turns out there was, and on Samsung TVs, it goes by the name of Auto Motion Plus.

From what I understand, what it basically does is fill in the gaps for lower frame rate videos to bump them from 24 fps up to 30 fps, which doesn’t seem like it would be that big of a deal. In fact, when you watch live broadcasts like sports it looks pretty good, but for anything done in an actual studio, the “enhanced frame rate” makes the latest action blockbuster from Marvel look like it was shot with a Handycam on a badly lit sound stage. Here I thought when the specs listed the TV as having a dual-core processor, I just assumed that it was for the new web interfaces and apps that are being bundled with TVs these days, but in fact, the processor is actually being used for video processing – in this case, generating that extra 6 fps on the fly to “improve” the frame rate for a clearer picture.

Online I found a lot of people referring to it as the Soap Opera Effectwhich now that I’ve heard the name is exactly what it looks like, whether we’re talking about a re-run of Seinfeld or Thor or pretty much anything else with actual people in it! I tried to take a couple of photos, but I don’t really think that they do the issue justice.

First, before – with Auto Motion Plus set to standard:

tv_before

And now with it turned off: (P.S. I hate how yellow that particular scene is, but I think you still get the point…)

tv_after

It’s obviously a lot more dramatic on the actual TV itself, but you can even see in the comparison photos how Thor looks a lot more sharp and shiny in the first one … and maybe that looks great to some, but to me it absolutely ruins the aesthetic of the picture. Thankfully when turning the feature off, though, the problem seems to pretty much disappear…

tv_menu

I did experiment with the other settings first to see if there was a suitable compromise, and Clear wasn’t too bad, but it still popped a little compared to turning it off completely. Turning it off completely delivered the actual HD picture that I was expecting – it looks very nice and is certainly a step up from our increasingly old, 52″ rear projection TV, but more importantly, now the picture is actually watchable … at least in my eyes! 😉

And I guess that’s the weird thing – I still need to show her how to switch it back and forth because neither of them claim to actually be able to see a difference … though admittedly my wife somehow didn’t notice the difference between SD and HD for the longest time, either.  🙄 Considering that my sister-in-law is a football fan, she might find that she actually likes that setting for watching sports – I saw some posts from last year about people watching the Olympics and they said that it looked fantastic with the higher frame rate … which would kind of make sense because it sounds like both NFL and the most recent Olympic games have actually been shot at 30 fps, whereas most movies and standard TV use 24 fps.

You may recall last year there was a bit of complaint about The Hobbit being released in both 24 fps and 48 fps formats, being the first of its kind to do so. Here’s an interesting article that does a pretty good job of explaining why the higher frame rates for that movie especially, and I would argue even here in general, make the picture look weird … essentially because as frame rates increase, you’re getting closer to the actual frame rate that your own eyes can tell the difference between … hence it looks like Thor is performing a play on public television rather than living it up in the realm of Asgard!

One thing that I did note on her TV that I found interesting was that while you can set custom picture settings for each input (i.e. cable, DVD player, XBox), what you can’t do is set different picture settings for individual channels inside those inputs … and admittedly I’m not quite sure how they would even do that, but I can see it potentially being an issue where you might say, “I want to use Auto Motion Plus for Discovery and The NFL Network and Lifetime for when I watch my stories, but not for HBO and Shotime and pretty much everything else.”

I can see that being an issue for some people because most probably don’t even realize that the setting exists in the first place … I would guess that most simply believe that this is just what TV looks like now, so it must be better! As that article mentions, we’ve already seen it with aspect ratios and even before then, with people still viewing SD channels on their HD TVs (huge pet peeve of mine – why can the cable company not remove those from the guide altogether when there’s an HD equivalent instead of just putting a small ‘watch this in HD’ button on the screen?!).

Anyways, for the few and the annoyed who both can’t stand this and want to do something about it, there you go! Turn off Auto Motion Plus or whatever your TV manufacturer calls it, and enjoy your brand new, sparkling, ultra-slim, high definition TV at a normal frame rate the way that god intended.

Who would’ve thought that we’d get to a point where TVs are too crisp and clear?!  😕

a City Under the Ice & Snow…

December 1, 2013 2:15am
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So I’m not entirely sure how I stumbled onto this tonight, but the fact is that I did and it’s actually kind of cool. The idea is that the Army wanted to learn about the feasibility of working under the ice in Greenland … albeit for the purpose of hiding nuclear missiles for us to lob at the Soviet Union should the need arise …  and so they built this impressive ice fort that consisted of 21 trenches, enough living quarters and food and whatnot for 200 people, and even its own nuclear power plant to supply electricity to the facility – the first portable power plant of its kind!

I thought that the documentary was pretty interesting to watch, narrated by a young Walter Cronkite, that ultimately served as a very public cover story for the project’s real purpose. Granted, the results of the study proved that their nuclear missile plan wasn’t really practical because only five years later, the ice and snow had shifted enough that the facility had to be abandoned, but it’s still kind of neat to see the thing take shape in the first place, considering both just how cold it must have been to work up there as well as just how warm the inside of the facility must’ve been managed to when you see guys working in t-shirts later on!

Definitely not the workplace for me, but still very cool, indeed.  😉

I think I’m just going to start dropping the link to this vlogbrothers video whenever anyone wants to argue that climate change isn’t an actual thing anymore because … science.

Seriously.

Pollution bad = we should make less of it.

Fossil fuels depleting = we should use more alternatives.

Polar bear houses melting away = sad polar bears.

We need to do better. Science isn’t lying to you.

You Can’t Vaccinate an Octopus

September 27, 2013 4:30pm
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You Can’t Vaccinate an Octopus
http://boingboing.net/2013/09/25/you-cant-vaccinate-an-octopu.html

Admittedly I was drawn to this one simply because the title is awesome, but it’s actually kind of interesting if you take a couple of minutes to read it. Apparently octopuses have a different type of immune system than us crazy vertebrates do which prevents them from learning how to fight different kinds of diseases. They say it’s one of the reasons that octopuses aren’t farmed for foods – because farmers typically pump their animals up with vaccinations to protect them from disease in such close, container quarters.

Also, just how much octopus do you eat on a daily basis, anyways?! It’s the chicken of nowhere, really.

Still, the more you know!  :mrgreen:

pictures of clouds

June 12, 2013 12:11am
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I’m not really sure why, but every now and then I find myself a little bit fascinated by how clouds look in the sky. I don’t know if it’s meant to be some profound statement about how most of us don’t stop to notice the simple things from time to time, or simply that occasionally weather and astronomy result in some pretty shapes and colors up there that are fun to look at.

Either way, seeing as these days I always have a camera on me (a la my phone) anyways, I thought that maybe I’d start taking pictures of some of the ones that stand out to me.

Here are a few tonight, with a link to the album on Flickr beneath them where I’ll update more as I find myself so inclined…

9047502236_7e1ed6c3f4_b[1]

9045278199_e480ab3da0_b[1]

9047503120_19d0693d1c_b[1]

More Cloud Pics over on Flickr … when I post ’em! 😉

Saturday Science Shows!

March 23, 2013 2:53pm
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I stumbled across this one today and I think I kind of like it … I’ve always been a fan of narrated white board illustrations! 🙂

Good stuff, although the first one doesn’t really surprise me – I haven’t had what anyone would consider a “normal” sleep schedule in the better part of a decade…

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth…

January 22, 2013 4:23pm
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Stumbled across this random video from Vsauce and thought it was pretty interesting! No NYC or LA anywhere to be found… 😯

It comforts me to know that guys like Rob Cockerham are out there, doing the science on stuff to make sure I can light up my house like the Vegas strip with Christmas lights without fear of a 4-figure electric bill showing up the next month…

How Much Does it Cost to Light Christmas Lights?
http://www.cockeyed.com/science/christmas_lights_energy/christmas_lights_power1.html 

Physics is Phun!

December 10, 2012 6:47pm
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I think I just learned more about physics in 10 minutes of browsing these videos than I did the entire semester that I took Intro to Physics in high school…  😳

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