A few days ago at work it was snowing. I don’t have a window in my office, so I was getting regular updates on the rate of snowfall by more privileged coworkers. The terms they used were wildly inconsistent, though, and I thought there had to be a way to determine the actual rate of snowfall that wasn’t “kinda coming down softer now.” So I ran a little experiment. I took a black piece of paper and taped it outside in the courtyard. Then one coworker with a camera and a view of the courtyard hooked the camera up so that it was looking across the courtyard at the black piece of paper. I wrote a little bit of software that would take the image, analyze the part with the black paper, and see how many pixels were above a given threshold. The theory was that the varying levels of snowfall would block the paper as the snow fell. In other words, the falling snow would appear as white spots on the camera in front of the black paper. Then I could just count the number of white spots at any given second and have a number that represented the rate of snowfall at any given time.
Sadly, the weather made a mockery of my experiment and by the time I had set it up and was ready to test, it had stopped snowing. Still, it was fun to try out, and I think it was working correctly and just needed some tweaking, though the importance of such a task in the grand scheme of things is right up there with grooming shag carpet or arranging my spice cabinet by region of origin.