25 Jun 2018

Theo Jansen Biped Robot

Speaking of the Netherlands, I recall a scenery of windmills.
I wonder does Theo Jansen get inspiration from windmills?

When I saw Theo Jansen's creations for the first time, I was absolutely amazed. His works satisfy the conditions I love; linkage, robot and they are not black box structures. The structure of his works and movements can be seen clearly from the outside.

Here is one of his creation's video.

I mean I don't hate black box type of things, but for example, if there are two puzzles, and one has hints to consider solving and another one has no hints, I prefer a puzzle with hints. I don't like puzzles that can be solved by only luck. I also like to see how the mechanism works.

Theo Jansen is a Dutch artist who is famous for creating robots that move by the wind. He has created Strandbeest, Animaris Rhinoceros Lignatus and so on.
Those creations are quite big, and the state they are moving on the beach looks very dynamic and graceful as if they are alive.

So, if you see something interesting, it's natural to feel like making it by yourself, isn't it?


Here is a kit for making a miniature Theo Jansen Biped Robot!  I bought it from Japan. This craft kit was sold by a Japanese publishing company, Gakken. All the parts in the kit were well made and it's amazing. 

I can promise you this is so much fun to assemble. Of course, it's more fun to move it with the wind. I found a good video on YouTube. You can see how this robot walks.

This kit was sold long ago, but it seems that they are still available in some shops. 

I think if you don't read Japanese, there are plenty of detailed pictures on the instructions and you can make it.

artfutura -Theo Jansen

Amazom - Gakken Mini Beest by Theo Jansen DYI Kit 

adafruit - Theo Jansen's Mini Strandbeest Kit by Gakken


21 Jun 2018

My valuable old scribbled memo pads

If your house is on fire, what would you take out with you?

I have an experience of evacuation from 10th floor of a 12-story residential building. Suddenly, the emergency bell rang, and I heard the electronic voice "Fire! Fire! Evacuate immediately!"
I took articles of value, mostly public documents and bank documents, and CDs on which were copied my puzzle game programing, then got out of the building. The programing files were my treasure at the time. If I lost them, it would have needed lots of time to program again.

Luckily, it wasn't a real fire. One of the residents left a tap running and went out, then water overflowed, that's why the alarm system was wrongly set off.
If the house was on fire now, I would let my two cats get out first and if it's possible, I would take a folder that contains lots of memos.

This photo is for illustrative purposes, this is not my drawing.

I have lost lots of ideas before and as usually people do, I also felt like the ideas I lost were all awesome. The fish you lose is always the biggest, you know? I don't know why, but I always remember a fact that I forgot an idea and couldn't remember what it was. Therefore, I have started writing anything that comes up in my mind and keep all the memos in the folder. Even if it seemed like a trivial idea, I wrote it down.

I used to create lots of online jigsaw puzzles games before with moving pictures. I called it an animated jigsaw puzzle. For making animated jigsaw puzzles, I had to draw animated cartoons which repeat the same short movements. For example, I drew a girl who plays with a jumping rope or kids who play on a seesaw, otherwise the data would be heavy. It was long ago; the internet connections were not so fast like nowadays.

Now, I don't create any online puzzle games and I don't need new ideas for them, but taking a memo is my habit and I'm still doing it. I thought that those ideas would have a chance to be used for a different purpose.

This photo is for illustrative purposes.

Then, the time that I can use those ideas has finally come. As I wrote on the blog in April, I have been thinking to make automata. The movement of automata are repeatable movements. That means I can use my old ideas for making automata. I'm glad that I didn't throw my old scribbled memo pads away. I know that making virtual creations and making wooden creations are very different, but still I can use them.

The workshop where my family business (making wooden puzzles) runs is always busy and I'm not sure when I can realise my dream, but I will not give up on my dream.

Hopefully, I can show you my first automaton on this blog someday.

photo credit: fabola Perpetual Motion via photopin (license)
photo credit: fabola Curious Contraptions via photopin (license)

19 Jun 2018

Miscellaneous goods with scientific tastes

I like science and something that has scientific taste. I pay attention if I see some scientific designs, even if it's a thing that I usually am not interested in, I cannot control my curiosity. 

For example, I don't have much interest in accessories, but if it contains scientific ideas or designs, it's a different story. I use Twitter and I follow one Japanese (I don't know if it's he or she) who is on a doctoral course and makes very awesome accessories. Please take a look at his or her website (written in Japanese with photographs) below.


One of the accessories on the website I want is a "spectrum cube." This is a prism necklace. *It's the photograph fourth from the top on the left side on the above website. I've been wanting to buy it, but every time I notice it, unfortunately it's sold out. I also want to buy a "volvox necklace." I'm interested in biology, as I wrote before, I like to observe plankton or algae like Volvox by microscope and it would be nice if I could get one of those necklaces.

The second website I'll show you is "The Best Geek and Science Gifts."


This online shop sells not only scientific miscellaneous goods, they sell funny tools, and cutting-edge or useless but funny goods. It looks like a shop which is in a science museum. I haven't bought any on this website yet, maybe someday I'll buy something as a Christmas gift for myself.

The other things that I cannot resist are T-shirts that are printed with some kind of scientific symbols, numbers and pictures. One of my favorite T-shirts is the one that is printed with prime numbers. 


I know this is my bad habit. I tend to think that T-shirts can be useful some day in the future even I don't need them now. I know I'm not a fortune teller, how can I predict that I will need them someday? So, I promised myself not to waste money for these kinds of T-shirts.

If you have an opportunity to see me and if I'm wearing a prime number T-shirt at the International Puzzle Party (IPP) or somewhere, please don't hesitate to point out that I broke my promise.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to attend the IPP38 this year. If you are going to attend it, it's a bit early to say from now but, enjoy your time in San Diego!

photo credit: hine Book cover Design: The Music that Prime Numbers Play via photopin (license)

15 Jun 2018

I'm skeptical

Do you think aliens or ghosts exist in this world?
I don't think they are around us. However, I don't deny their existence just because I haven't seen them.

I think the possibility of creatures, for example bacteria, are not zero, they might be somewhere in huge space, but not ghosts. The reason is there is no evidence and I cannot convince myself logically or scientifically.

Honestly, I have a strange experience that if someone who believes in ghosts would say "There it is, you see?"

One day, my parents went to the hospital where my grandfather was hospitalized, and I was alone in the house where my grandfather used to live. It was ten minutes past ten at night, I heard someone knocking at the kitchen door. I was a bit scared, but I said, "Who is it?" Nobody answered. Then, I heard the knocking again. That was a scary moment! I dashed upstairs and crawled into bed.
The next morning, I woke up and my parents were in the kitchen. They told me that my grandfather passed away at ten minutes past ten last night.
I said that I don't believe in ghosts, but to be honest, I was chilled to hear that.

I told this story to my friends and relatives. Most of them said that my grandfather would have knocked at the door. I was surprised that people who weren't even there believe that was my dead grandfather. Why would they so easily come to that conclusion?

Here is another story.
A friend of mine had a brain tumor and had an operation about ten years ago. After the operation, she saw weird monstrous creatures several times. They were very realistic, and she saw them as if they were really there.
In advance, she was told by a doctor that she might see such a kind of hallucination, therefore she could cope correctly. She said to the monstrous creatures "I know you are not real. Leave me alone!" She said it to the monsters, but actually it was the same as saying it to her brain. The good news is that she doesn't see monsters any more.

From listening to her story, I again realised a brain is not perfect. For human beings, the rate of visual information is large. People tend to believe what they experience visually or aurally, and I think that causes misunderstanding. I know I make mistakes a lot. This is the reason that I'm skeptical even to myself.

I wouldn't say people who believe in ghosts are lying. People believe it because they think they saw it. Maybe they saw something that they cannot explain exactly what it was, that's all.

On the other hand, I knew there were people who insisted that they had supernatural power who performed so called supernatural phenomenon, but it's actually magic. I don't like their way of doing business.

So, I'm interested in what James Randi has done, also I pay attention to the activities of CSI (
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry).

In my case, I couldn't figure out what happened that night. There should be a reason. I thought I heard the knocking sound twice that night, but maybe I didn't. It could have been a burglar who was checking if anyone was inside the house. To me, encountering a burglar is scarier than seeing my dead grandfather.
Before I draw a conclusion, I must verify and examine it from various angles carefully.

Emotionally, I can understand the feeling of people who believe in ghosts or supernatural phenomenon and so on. If I could talk with my grandfather who has died, it would be wonderful. I have lots of things that I want to tell him, but the reality doesn't go the way I want it to. To think scientifically is sometimes hard.

I have a habit to think scientifically and it makes me sometimes lose heart. Unfortunately, there are differences between our ideal and real world. Therefore, I cannot deny everything. There is something needed to fill the gap between reality and an ideal world to keep me relaxed and amused.

For example, I believe in the existence of Santa Claus. I know he is in this world. I have seen him many times at the local shopping center during the Christmas season. There is a lot of evidence of his pictures with children too. These become evidence enough.
However, there is one question that remains. I haven't seen his sled and reindeer in the parking lot of the shopping center. I wonder how he came?

11 Jun 2018

Experiencing physics by physically

There are lots of opportunities for re-recognition in everyday life what we have learnt at school and it suddenly came to me four days ago.

I was working in the backyard planting vegetable seedlings. I needed more soil to fill the garden bed in, so I went to where I keep my gardening tools. I looked for a big shovel and found one, then went one step forward to grasp it. That was a big mistake. I stepped on the edge of a rake which was leaning against the house wall and the long handle hit my forehead just above my left eye. It happened very quickly, and I couldn't avoid it. Luckily, it didn't hit my left eye.

If this were a scene in a comic, stars would have flown around my head. It was like a scene of an old comedy movie. I think I have seen a scene like this in an old silent movie, maybe it was a Charles Chaplin movie or a Buster Keaton's. It was hurt, but it was a bit funny.
While I was standing in utter amazement, three words came up in my mind: fulcrum, point of effort, working point.

Now, I realised the power of lever. What a teacher said to us pupils was correct, it can make a huge power using lever. I wonder who was the first person who found the mechanism of lever? Was he/she hit on his/her forehead by something and noticed it? Maybe it was not.

Experience is a better teacher than textbooks, but I don't want to experience physics physically anymore.

1 Jun 2018

Pictures with puzzle elements: Mitsumasa Anno

I guess most readers of this blog are puzzle lovers who live outside of Japan. So, I have chosen a famous Japanese illustrator "Mitsumasa Anno" for today's topic, just in case you don't know him.
wikipedia - Mitsumasa Anno

Mitsumasa Anno is an illustrator and children's book writer. His children's books are published worldwide, and he has won many awards. I don't pay much attention to children's book writers, but he is exceptional because his illustrations have a sense of puzzle.

I have several of Anno's books. Here is a book " ANNO'S ALPHABET," the Japanese version. If you like impossible objects, you may love this book even it's published for children. I'm amazed at his idea of design and of course, his technique of drawing.

There is also a Japanese alphabet book of Anno's. When I bought these books, I practiced drawing pictures and tried to draw impossible objects but couldn't draw well.

I found Anno's illustrations on the page of Impossible World. 

Impossible World - Mitsumasa Anno

As you can see in the middle of the above page, there is a puzzle like a six-piece burr, and please have a look at it carefully. It's something strange isn't it?
Anno drew impossible objects and stairs that remind me of Escher's works in children's picture books. I don't know much about him, but it seems like he has a puzzle sense and is interested in mathematics.

There are several books of conversations with Anno and some mathematicians; Tsuyoshi Mori, Gisaku Nakamura and Koji Fushimi, that have been published. 

Any of those books are fun to read. I looked for their English version books, but unfortunately, I couldn't find any. So, I pick up some contents randomly here.

  • Why is symmetry beautiful?
  • What is the shape of the field of vision? A rectangle or circle?
  • Rectangles make the world
  • Image of 0
  • Turning a polyhedron over
  • Talking about Escher
I think these contents attract puzzle lovers.

Here are different types of his books. These are his series of picture books of journeys.
If you look at the pictures carefully, you will find something that makes you smile. I found Little Red Riding Hood somewhere. I heard that there is a person who posed the same as a famous picture or a trick art. I love his wit and sense of humor.

If you have a chance to visit a library or bookstore, please look for his books. It's worth taking a look, especially for puzzle lovers.