Everyone loves to maximize the return on investment (ROI). If we can effortlessly find a solution that pays a higher profit — even for only a few more dollars, why not? The problem is that, in many complicated engineering cases in reality, such as designing a solar farm, we often don’t know exactly what the optimal solutions are. We may know how to get some good solutions based on what textbooks or experts assert, but no one in the world can be 100% sure that there aren’t any better ones waiting to be discovered beyond the solution space that we…

Developed by the Institute for Future Intelligence, iFlow is a no-code programming environment that allows users to explore many different types of computational problems. This tutorial shows how it can be used by students to discover chaos without writing a single line of code.

The logistic map

Let’s start with a very simple system that exhibits chaotic behavior: the logistic map, which is defined by the following recurrence relation:

where xₙ is a number within [0, 1] that represents the ratio of an existing population to the carrying capacity of the environment in the n-th year and r is a parameter within [0…

The Infrared Street View is an award-winning project with an ambition to engage the public, especially youth, to create a thermal equivalent of Google’s Street View (Figure 1) in order to raise public awareness of energy efficiency and promote STEM education through citizen science. The project is based on affordable thermal cameras such as FLIR ONE that cost $100–200 (depending on the image resolution generated by the device) for educators and the SmartIR app that I have been developing to support science and education based on thermal vision.

Fig. 1: Infrared Street View of Boston

Thanks to the funding from the National Science Foundation, we have begun…

A massive heat wave hit a large part of the United States over the weekend of July 20 and 21, 2019. Temperature in Boston, Massachusetts rose to nearly 100 Fahrenheit. While the heat was baking the country, it was a good opportunity to observe the unusual thermal phenomena with an infrared camera.

Fig. 1: An illustration of a heat dome (source: The Weather Network).

Many heat waves were largely caused by a heat dome that forms when the atmosphere traps hot ocean air like a lid, as illustrated in Figure 1. So I thought I could perhaps see the heat dome with my FLIR ONE thermal camera if I went to the…

In ancient Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (陰陽) is a concept of dualism that describes how seemingly opposite forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent. In this article, I show you how science can be used to create and illustrate such yin and yang patterns and relationships using opposite natural phenomena driven by some sort of gaseous matter, or “qi” (氣)— a hypothetical gas that ancient Chinese believed to mysteriously power the universe of yin and yang.

To give you an idea about what I am talking about, allow me to first show a thermal imaging snapshot of an…

What do you think the temperature of a piece of dry paper will change when a water drop falls onto it? Here we are not talking about a drop of hot water or ice water. We are talking about a drop of water that has reached some sort of equilibrium with the room. As we know, due to the evaporative cooling effect, water in an open container is typically cooler than room temperature by 1–2 °C, depending on the relative humidity.

Many people might think the temperature would fall a little bit due to the cooler water drop. However, things…

It is the time of the year in New England for tulips to show off their beauty. This year, I became curious about why they open during the day when the sun shines and close at night. Most flowers I have seen do not open and close like tulips. So that is something interesting to ponder on while you are enjoying their show.

Since I have infrared thermal cameras, I can easily take a look at their thermal images to see if there is anything worth noting. True to form, the technology never disappoints me. …

Scientists rely on sensors to probe things that are not directly perceivable by human senses and thereby advance science. If you are interested in doing some science experiments, you can now build your own sensor hub using the Raspberry Pi platform with a relatively small budget and effort — thanks to the versatility of the incredible platform and the maturity of the supporting community. In this article, I show how to build a sensor hub using a number of breakout boards and their open-source driver code that I found online. I also show the results of some simple but intriguing…

The Rainbow HAT for the Raspberry Pi is a board for learning physical computing and IoT programming recommended for Google’s Android Things. The HAT comes with a “buffet” (in the manufacturer’s own words) of sensors and actuators that are fun to mess with. But if you are tired of eating the same buffet every day, you can always connect your own peripherals to its breakout GPIO pins — PWM0, UART0, I2C1, and SPI0.1 — to create more interesting projects. These open pins can be found on the left side of the board. In this article, I show how to connect…

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of smart devices connected through the Internet that can sense and react to changes in the physical world at different levels. By attaching or embedding such devices to “things” around us, the environment we live in can be turned into a giant, intelligent system that helps to improve our quality of life. As a cornerstone technology that ushers in the next industrial revolution known as Industry 4.0, IoT is key to the economy. It engenders numerous opportunities to digitalize our enterprises, boost their productivity, and grow their businesses. As the rollout of…

Charles Xie

Computational Scientist, Physicist, & Inventor at the Institute for Future Intelligence https://intofuture.org

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