Appliance Science: Ice Makers

For my CNet column Appliance Science, I take a look at the physics of ice makers.

icemakerYou might think that making ice is a simple business: just throw water into the freezer and it turns to ice. Simple, right? That’s true if you just want to make a single tray of ice, but most of us prefer to have ice available on demand. That’s why we have ice makers, devices that can make ice consistently for the many years that you will own your fridge. That takes a bit more engineering than a simple ice tray. Let’s take a closer look at how the humble ice maker creates the ice to keep your summer drinks cool.

New 3D Printer Review: The Orion Delta

Hot off the press is a review of an interesting 3D printer: the SeeMeCNC Orion, a delta 3D Printer.

print-anim3There’s a lot to like about the SeeMeCNC Orion Delta: It offers a large print volume for the cost and size, and it usually produces fine-quality prints, especially with smooth, clean curves. This will make the Orion especially appealing to people who want to produce tall objects like statues or vases. The Orion struggled with fine details, though, and objects with very sharp edges didn’t come out as well. This would not be a printer for engineering models or small, detailed prints. For those objects, you would do better the similarly priced LulzBot Mini.

In Search of the Perfect Scrambled Eggs

How do you make the perfect scrambled eggs? For my CNet column Appliance Science, the results of my experiments with sous vide scrambles….

160FThe joy of sous vide is that you can produce this sort of differentiation. While a chef might train for years to learn how to cook like this without a precise temperature controller at his or her side, a sous vide setup puts it just a few button presses away . And it does it with the consistency that no chef can match: it doesn’t have bad days or get distracted.

3D Printer Review: Lulzbot Mini

Just published on Toms Guide, my review of the rather nice Lulzbot Mini 3D printer.

rocktopusThere is a lot to like about the LulzBot Mini. It has an attractive design and provides high-quality prints at good speed. It is flexible, handling a wide range of materials that are unknown factors with other 3D printers, and the software is mature and easy to use. The Mini costs significantly more than competitors like the Cube 3 and da Vinci AiO. However, the LulzBot Mini printer is better than both rivals’ offerings. Its extra cost is justified by its greater flexibility of printing materials and the higher quality of its prints.


Appliance Science: The High-Pressure Physics of Espresso

My latest Appliance Science column at CNet looks at the physics of espresso coffee.

EspressoAS_PARTSeditBlueThat’s because the process of making espresso is complicated and finicky: get something wrong and you’ve ruined the delicate balance.

Espresso is, to coin a phrase, what happens when engineers make coffee.

Appliance Science: The Warm Physics of Sous Vide Cooking

I wrote about sous vide cooking for my latest Appliance Science column at CNet.

SousVideIllo2Sous vide cooking is a great example of Appliance Science, of how a technique enabled by science and designed for commercial use made its way into the home. And, perhaps more importantly, the results taste really, really good.

Appliance Science: The Hot Physics of Induction Cooking

My latest Appliance Science column at CNET explains how induction cooktops work, heating your dinner without direct heat. Plus a special section on frog levitation.

ApplianceScience_Induction (1)Induction cooktops are also more efficient than other types of cooking methods. Because the heat is generated inside the base of the pan, they use less electricity than conventional electric cooktops, and can heat things quicker. They are also easier to clean, because the flat glass or ceramic surface has no gaps or grills to collect spilled food, and the food doesn’t get burned onto the surface. If you spill something, one quick swipe with a damp cloth will clean it up.



Appliance Science: The Tasty Physics of Microwave Ovens

The next appliance to come under the Appliance Science microscope is the microwave oven, which has a history connected to radar, melted chocolate and exploding eggs.

Appliance_Science_3_Magnetron-smlEver since humans first dropped a chunk of mammoth meat onto a fire and liked the result, we have been looking for new ways to cook things. One of the more recent developments in this race to taste is the microwave oven, which uses microwave radiation to heat and cook your food.

Because it uses less energy and is much quicker than a gas or electric ovens, the microwave has found a spot in most homes. In fact, it is thought that that by the beginning of the 21st century, over 90 percent of homes in the US had a microwave oven. That’s pretty good progress for a device that was invented by accident 55 years ago.

Appliance Science: The Illuminating Physics of LED Lights

In my Appliance Science column for CNet, I look into the fascinating physics of LED lights. It’s all about electrons, quantum physics, energy levels and water flowing downhill.

AS2-LED-P1-smlAnd, like a waterfall, interesting things happen at this point where the flow is controlled. Whereas a waterfall makes noise, electrons flowing across the pn-junction of an LED release light. As the electrons flow from the n to the p layer, the energy level of the electrons falls, dropping from the higher energy level of the p-type layer to the lower one of the n-type. This energy is released as a photon, which we see as light.

Hi/Low: Mechanical Keyboards

Mechanical keyboards are beloved of serious typists everywhere (including me) for their click-clacky goodness. So what’s the difference between a cheap one and an expensive one? I found out for my latest Wired column

keyboards1Sometimes a family runabout is all you need, though, and the Rosewill is far superior to laptop keyboards or the cheap rubber dome keyboards that come with desktop computers. So, it’s not a bad investment for those who write a lot or play games…. If, like me, you spend every day clacking through thousands of words, I’d recommend spending the extra money on the Das Keyboard Ultimate S. The cost is much higher, but it pays off in typing speed, comfort, and the satisfaction you get from using a tool with superior build quality.

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