Sunday, December 26, 2010

A holiday delta run using our Em4 model.

We finally had a little time to play with our newly-set up Em4, and did a casual time lapse last week.  I haphazardly changed variables now and then over a two-hour run as we did other work in the lab.

The frames are taken every 30 seconds.  I changed flow rate, sediment input at the upper end, valley slope, and "roll" or the side-to-side slope.  I also raised and lowered the standpipe at the lower end, which affects base level.

I aimed for some nice dramatic delta processes.

If you're not familiar with the Em4, the plastic media (with a D50 of 1.0mm) is coded by size; the fine fraction is black/dark brown, the middle fraction is white, and the coarse fraction (up to about 2mm) is yellow. More at and in this video

Turn off the music if it bothers you, it's something I put together from Soundtrack Pro clips, and the edginess (and goofiness) is intentional.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 17, 2010

New faces at LRRD.

Exciting times at LRRD!   University budgets are in better shape.  We have a lot of orders, are starting to export, and are expanding after two years in this tough economy.

We have a couple of new colleagues this week: Jordan Gibson (left), and (next) Nathan Speagle.

Jordan grew up in the Florida Panhandle and got interested in geology while watching his Dad drill water wells.  He has a BS in Geology from the University of South Florida and great skills in writing and analysis.  We're looking forward to curriculum development work from Jordan.

Nathan Speagle is a distinguished undergrad in SIU-Carbondale’s forestry program who'll be working part time.  He came to our attention by doing a lot of volunteer work for a local land trust.  Aside from his near-perfect GPA, Nathan has experience in construction, welding, and electronics.

Next around are Christina Bovinette, Lily, me, Meriam's son Adam who visited today, and Meriam.

I'm lucky to know all of them; we're going to have a great year in 2011.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Emriver Em2 user update 1.

Regular readers please forgive me;  I'll be using the blog now and then to help new users of our redesigned Em2 models.  We've had a few of the inevitable annoyances that come with sending a redesigned instrument into the wild.

Including having shipments destroyed by UPS.  Arrg.  Thanks for your patience and understanding, new Em2 owners!

In this post I'll cover key changes, all in the plumbing system, that aren't covered in the old manual.  We won't update the official manual until these are ironed out.

This short video describes how to hook up the power supply to the pump controller and pump.  The simplified controller uses a single knob to change flow rate.  We've stopped the presses on the original digital controllers until we work some bugs out, as I say in the video, we tried a bit too hard.  We'll be shipping the final product to everybody when this is finished, free of charge.  In the meantime, the simple "greybox" will work work fine.


Here's a diagram of the circuit.  The GFCI is very important--it's the yellow device that prevents electric shock, please use it!

Click on images for larger versions.

Some early models shipped with an energy dissipater that included an inlet.  These have proved both hard to build and fragile in the field; we're working on that, and as always will get the final design to you, and I promise it'll be bulletproof.

Today we discovered a little problem with the "greybox" controller.  If the Anderson plugs on the pump and power cables weren't joined in our shop exactly straight, the plugs can come apart too easily and fall out.  A strange little glitch.

We spent months researching and chosing these plugs.  And we still like them.  If yours don't hold well, either fix them by heating the shrink tubing and gently straightening them, or send them to us and we'll gladly take are of it.

In this case, quite literally "straighten it out."

And please don't hesitate to call us for help. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Geomorphically incorrect art #5.

 An illustration from the New Yorker in June 2006, some media network executives going over a waterfall.

Aside from riding a giant floating TV they were previously paddling on a placid stream, they're in a geomorphically absurd situation.

The illustrator clearly knows that trees grow straight up, but didn't learn much in art school about fluid mechanics and geology.

And next something from the Moon.  A disaster on all fronts.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Geoscience teaching from another perspective.

No post for nearly a month here.  I've been overwhelmed with filling orders for our new Em2 geomodels.  Our latest big challenge has been shipping logistics. 

Not geology, exactly, but creating cutting-edge equipment and delivering it (undamaged, please, I'm talking to you UPS) to geoscience teachers at a reasonable price is certainly part of geoscience education.

And as complicated as the science itself, trust me! 

Here you see our amazing crew shipping three Em2s in one day, a new record for us. Meriam Lahlou in the hardhat (very funny Meriam), Lily Hwang, and me.

And a new face, Christina Bovinette, an SIUC undergrad we're very happy to have working part-time at LRRD.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Full scale Emriver Em2 shipment begins!

We're in full effect now on Em2 shipment; all the kinks are out and we hope to get a model to everybody on the waiting list by the end of November.  We hope the overseas shipments won't be far behind.

If you haven't been following, we've completely redesigned the Emriver Em2 and ran into some problems with our supplier of aluminum parts (they were simply overwhelmed with work).  This caused several weeks of delay.  And of course we were swamped with orders while this happened!

Designing and building a practical stream table is one thing.  Making it easily mass-buildable, reliable, safe, and easy to ship adds a lot of complexity.  Streamlining the building-to-shipping process isn't easy, but is essential if we're going to keep these models affordable.

Lily and Meriam have worked very hard on this.  We still have a lot to do with respect to inventory and shipping, but we're getting there.

We tried to ship Lily to California, but the UPS guy wouldn't take her.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fun with cardboard (and geomorphology).

We're a little loopy at LRRD now, from both overwork and excitement.

Today we moved the Em4 model we hauled to GSA-Denver off a truck and into our lab.

The rules of hydraulic similitude dictated a 4-meter length for the Em4.  It's about the size of a car and a challenge to move.  Thanks to the SIUC AFS students who helped.

And today we began full scale shipment of our redesigned Emriver Em2, both to North American and overseas teachers and scientists.

Here Lily strikes what she described as a "serious pose" with a ready-to-ship UPS-able Em2, and I have some fun with cardboard by way of thanking Lily and everybody else around me for so much support and probably a lot of tolerance.

I'm taking tomorrow morning off.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Home from Denver at last.

After something like 17 hours of solo big truck driving, I made it home today. (Lily, next time I will take you up on your offer to go along!)  I'm beyond exhausted, but it was an incredibly satisfying trip.

I picked up aluminum parts for a few more of the new Em2 boxes as I passed through St. Louis.  Here my wonderful Kate helps unload.

Our next big task is to catch up on the Em2 waiting list and ship a bunch of models!

Friday, November 5, 2010

GSA Denver summary: We had a blast!

We had a marvelous time at GSA--everybody worked so hard; thanks to my wife Kate, to Lily and Meriam, and also to Andrew Podoll, a treasured collaborator; here you see the entire crew.

I really enjoyed watching Lily work with kids who dropped by.  She has so many talents, and is such a joy to work with.

I talked with dozens of scientists who appreciate our work.  It's clear from my conversations that our combination of the Emriver Em4, close range photogrammetry (CRP), and the color coded media (summary video here) is groundbreaking.
 Here's a fast video presentation of photos, including some time lapse with a fisheye lens.  The model was constantly disturbed, so the forms you see aren't very pretty.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

GSA Denver day one.

A day I'll always remember.  Kate, Lily, and I worked very hard this morning to get everything in its final place, and a year's worth of planning came to fruition.

We welcomed hundreds of delighted visitors from many countries tonight--here are a few images.

I'm happy to see the big Em4 model evoke such wonder and interest.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Driving the Em4 to Denver!

Kate and I are just a few hours from Denver now.  Today we passed Konza Prairie and the Flint Hills.

We shared driving this big truck with beautiful skies but a 20mph+ crosswind all day, pretty exhausting. (Here's Kate with our little travel companion, who usually lives in my truck, Ocho the octopus.)

But the big Em4 is snugly blocked in the back, and we couldn't be happier, tomorrow we set up in Denver and get ready to show it to the world!

And we regret not being able to hook up with Ron Schott in Hays, sorry Ron!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Off to GSA - Denver with a truck full of Em4 model!

Kate and I picked up a beautiful new Emriver Em4 at Sauer Machine in St. Louis today and are driving it to GSA-Denver, where thousands of geoscientists will see it.

We've been planning and dreaming about this for a year, and are very excited.  I'm so happy that my wife, wonderful companion, and best friend is along for this adventure.

And thanks to Warren Sauer and his colleagues for incredible machining, welding, design, and strong support of our work.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our first Em2(x) model ships!

 After many months of research and design we shipped our first redesigned Emriver Em2 (which we call the Em2x at the lab).

We're in full production mode, all the kinks are out and we're building models.  And have a lot of orders to fill (thanks!)

We're prepping for GSA-Denver in the middle of this, and driving a truck out with one of our big Em4s.   We're all overworked, so it's hard to fully appreciate this milestone.

But seeing ideas that delight and educate people come to fruition like this is a wonderful thing.

Here you see me with Visna, world's coolest UPS guy, with the Em2's new box, just millimeters under the UPS size limits.

And Meriam expertly adding the handles to a reservoir (aha, a French word!).  And Lily working to finish a close range photogrammetry movie we'll show at GSA.

Then me testing a flow controller and later very tired, waiting for Visna.

We'll be shipping more units as soon as we get back from GSA,  If you're waiting for one, thanks for your patience, I promise it'll be worth it.


Friday, October 22, 2010

The new Emriver Em2s are in the house.

Today I drove to L.E. Sauer Machine in St. Louis to pick up our first production run of twenty.  Most of them are sold.

The boxes are beautiful, and weigh only 38 pounds (the old one was 65).  Here Lily does an easy two-handed overhead lift.  The other photo shows the supports.

We'll be showing these at GSA-Denver, and shipping orders as soon as we get back!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Stop writing "pencil for scale" captions!

You'll write instead, "scale in cm" like a good scientist should, because we'll be giving these to our friends at GSA Denver.

Mechanical pencils and waterproof field books will be around for a long time.  Here we have a pencil and centimeter photo scale combined.

Lily Hwang applied her photogrammetric/scientific/graphics skills to produce this.  Not easy.  Bob's Buick doesn't specify its freebie pencil logo length be accurate to 0.1mm.

Seems obvious, but I've never seen it done before, have you?

I'd love to laser engrave some nice Pentels or Staedlers. What do you think?

See you at GSA!  (And here's a link any field note nerd will appreciate; a blog dedicated to mechanical pencils. )

Friday, October 15, 2010

Ice bedrock, knitting, and LRRD internationale.

All our days are interesting, but today was extra special.

We sold our first Em2 model in Europe.

We tested ice structures in a model and it was a huge success.  Here Lily adds dye to a chunk of ice.

We began full scale production of the new Emriver Em2.

And by far the most important, Lily showed us the official LRRD scarf she's knitting and will sport at GSA Denver.

John Cotter, a professor at SIUC-Aviation who builds and flies aircraft (and has shot video for us from his ultralight) was here today helping us with production.  Thanks, John.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A strong first in experimental fluvial geomorphology.

I'm happy to report we've made high quality 3D measurements of channel form in our Em4 model using close range photogrammetry (CRP) in Ana Londono's lab at the Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at St. Louis University.

Working with one of our Emriver Em4 geomodels, Ana's student Tim Keenan and our Lily Hwang have produced some amazing first results.

CRP software uses multiple photographs to build a model of a scene. The camera positions are calculated by the software and don't have to be measured. Unlike other forms of photogrammetry, relative camera positions don't have to be measured--the camera can be hand held as long as high quality images are taken.

Software builds a point cloud and calculates camera positions automatically.  I won't mention the brand we used because we're hoping to find a company that will work with us--the software is not cheap (and rightly so).

Building high quality point clouds and surfaces-- accurate to <2mm in all dimensions -- is powerful stuff, but in our Em4 we can join that with color coded media to add information on surface particle size! The advance over current state of the art, manual measurement or laser scanning, is huge and obvious, and I'm pretty sure we have a strong first in experimental fluvial geomorphology.

The posibilities for research, teaching, and visualization make my head spin!

We'll be talking more about this as our project develops. Many thanks to our collaborators and to Andrew Podoll with SIUC geology who loaned camera equipment for the trial -- and Lily, she rocked, working two weekends in a row and overcoming many obstacles to get this done.

And we owe much to Neffra Matthews and her colleague Tom Noble with the BLM. Last year Neffra finished a fantastic publication on CRP that focues on its use at larger scales in field settings. And here's a short overview from she wrote. We'll have an Em4 at GSA Denver, and will be ready to talk about this work!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The new Em2 is in the house!

Today Lily returned from St. Louis with a set of supports for the new Emriver Em2.  Aside from a few minor details, after thousands of hours of work this new design is done.

Clearly Lily's very excited about this, and so am I!

The "horses" as we call them are beautiful; made from bent 1/8" aluminum, they weigh only 8 pounds (3.6 kg) each.   The parts are laser-cut, complete with an aluminum-friendly "emriver" logo design by Lily.

Though the model is only slightly smaller than the old Em2, we've shaved about 35 pounds off the weight of the box and supports, and the model will use 30 pounds less plastic media.

And the whole thing will be UPS-shippable, which lowers cost and hassle, makes shipping overseas much easier, and enables us and other researchers/teachers to easily ship the model to conferences and workshops.

The old Em2 was based on 20 years of experience and had a very good design.  We've now added several months of intense R&D work.  It's so cool to see this realized in laser-cut aluminum.  We hope to start shipping these to buyers with outstanding orders in the next two weeks.  Thanks for your patience, it'll be worth it!

Lily and Meriam (who helped me in the lab yesterday with calibration of the electronic controller) are sporting the our new T-shirt --we got a batch on Friday.

Katt Muskuna, an out of town friend of Lily's is observing her surfing in the top photo.