Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Ice ice baby

Is this the coolest/most Canadian data set ever?

Late last year, I was studying for a machine learning course and I was looking for a data set I could use for the course capstone project. I settled on English Premier League data, but not before I had a serious look at what's probably the coolest (and most Canadian) dataset I've ever seen.

(cogdogblog, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The icicle atlas

The University of Toronto Physics Department has a large dataset on icicles created as part of a research project to understand the factors important for icicle formation, size, and shape. Under laboratory conditions, they grew 237 icicles, capturing movies and images of their growth. 

As part of the growth process, they varied speed, salinity, and water source, obviously having a little fun with their choice of water sources as you'll see in the atlas. As it turns out, the ridges that sometimes form in icicles are due to impurities in the water (maybe all of us need impurities to be interestingšŸ˜‰).

All the images, movies, and data are covered by a creative commons license. You can see all their icicle data on their icicle atlas page - the related links at the bottom of the page are fantastic.

Icicle pictures

You can view the rogues' gallery of icicle pictures here. Here are some pictures of my favorite icicles from the gallery.

(University of Toronto Physics Department, Icicle Atlas, Creative Commons License.)

Icicle movies

You can see videos of how most of the icicles formed. It's kind of interesting and restful to watch - the opposite of watching a fire burning, but still hypnotic and engaging. Here's a video that I found restful.

(University of Toronto Phyics Department, Icicle AtlasCreative Commons License.)

If you want more, there's a YouTube channel of the movies from the atlas.

Ice Ice baby

This winter, I'm going to see icicles form on my gutters. I've seen some weird formations over the years, and now I know that temperature, wind, and water purity govern the size and shape of icicles. It's nice to know that we can still take time to understand the processes that form the world around us.

Even though I better understand how icicles form, I know they can damage my gutters and house. Pretty as they are, I'm still going to smash them away.

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