Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Miscellany 16

Thursday, July 14th, 2011

Let’s see what we can pull out today, shall we, boys and girls?

I don’t use picks much, apart from finger picks when I’m playing banjo. I do use picks when I play mandolin, but I don’t play my mandolin that often (and, actually, it’s on a long-term loan at the moment). However, I can’t help but wonder if I’d have a better grip and be able to keep the picks from sliding around in my fingers without having to clamp down to the point of cramps if I were to punch them out of old credit cards.

Carbon fiber is neat stuff. I’m quite taken with the Blackbird carbon fiber ukulele, although I doubt I’ll ever own one. Perhaps I can eventually learn to make my own, though.

If you’re interested, there are more extreme substances discussed here. I don’t think there are any hobby guides for using them, though.

There are a couple of new British reality shows in the process of finding cast members. I’m linking to this article because the shows are based in Liverpool, where I was born, and I enjoy stupid puns such as the series names.

Invisibility cloaks are now officially passé – now they’re proposing time cloaks.

This is an extremely heart-warming story. I so understand why the father feels like that.

We’ve long had computers that could play games, but that’s because they were specifically programmed to do so. There have also been computers that have been programmed with the rules for a game, then tasked with determining a winning strategy by playing countless games against themselves or other computers. Now there’s a computer that learned to play a game by reading the manual.

Here’s a cool video: one year of the moon’s cycles covered in 2.5 minutes.

If someone tells you that the Sun doesn’t affect weather on earth (which I’ve seen argued by some global warming/climate change advocates), tell them “thanks for playing; now go away.”

Lots of information about sunscreen here; some of it I’d known, and some I hadn’t. It does put me in mind of the letter purportedly received from a child by a book publisher: “Dear Sirs: I am returning your book because it is about penguins and it tells me more about penguins than I care to know.” The link goes to PDF file of a speech delivered in 1948 – I first ran across the anecdote (which I remember slightly differently) in an earlier edition of this book.

This looks like an interesting site to help with learning a foreign language.

Mark Steyn has a disturbing report up.

Here’s a series of mug shots. A couple of them show up more than once. All I can say is, the only way I’d get tattoos like these people is if someone drugged me and applied them while I was unconscious. And then I’d have to worry about getting mug shot, after I went after them.

And, finally, the (presumably) first Pastafarian driver’s license.

Yesterday in history

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

I saw a program on this on the Science Channel, and saved it on my DVR so I could write about it on the correct date, but missed it. On June 29th, 3123 BC, Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

I also find it interesting that they note that it’s possible that this is also the source of the myth of Phaeton losing control of his father’s chariot.

Reconnecting with Connections

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I loved Connections when it was first broadcast. It was a fascinating show. A few years ago, I discovered that the downtown location of the Denver Public Library had a set of the VHS tapes of the shows, but I never got around to checking them out.

Now I don’t have to.

Easier than doing it myself

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I’d collected a number of links to various takes on the abhorrent 10:10 video, and had thought of doing a post rounding up the assorted reactions I’d come across.

Luckily for me, The Daily Bayonet has done exactly that, almost certainly better than I’d have managed.

Miscellany 11

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

The first three links come from The Agitator (link on the right).

See new level, hear new level, play new level?

I think I heard of this place a few years from now.

Well, where else would you find one?

We’re losing knowledge and experience. Via The Smallest Minority.

I’ve got a recording of The Cyclotronist’s Nightmare somewhere, but I haven’t heard the rest of these.

This is not Photoshopped.

Too Old To Work, Too Young To Retire is a great name for a blog.

The Silicon Graybeard appears to be an intelligent individual. This post on the administration’s latest disregard for the Constitution is one you should read.

Just what I need … more reading material.

A neat music video found at Xack Phobe’s Master Site. I’m unfamiliar with the group, but I may see what else they’ve got available.

I’ll be gone from KORB on Vimeo.

Aluminum that’s as strong as steel

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The process doesn’t sound very economical just yet, though.

Another post on language

Monday, August 30th, 2010

About a month ago, I ran across this web post. Yesterday, I ran across this article, which is excerpted from a new book I’m going to have to read. Fascinating stuff.

My personal take on Sapir-Whorf is that language doesn’t provide an absolute limit to what you can think about. Instead, it limits what you can think about easily. If the first were true, then how would any new concept make it into language in the first place?

An interesting personal sidelight is that I remember having an absolute internal compass until about the age of 11. That was about the time my family left England – I wonder if I’d internalized the subliminal clues where I lived, and coming back to the US changed the clues enough to disrupt my compass for good?

The more things change

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

The more they stay the same.

Miscellany 7

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I’m currently clean-shaven, but, when I have a beard, it’s normally the third from the left on this diagram. I would have thought it would be considered more evil than trustworthy.

I’d seen stories about how bad Detroit is (and heard the jokes, such as the one from Kentucky Fried Movie), but I hadn’t realized that it was this bad.

I don’t care much for cilantro. Although I recognize that it’s a vital component in certain salsa recipes, too much of it makes things acquire a lemony soap flavor to me. I remember at an office Christmas dinner many years ago being offered a spoonful of (read: forced to try) a cilantro soup. Yuck! Well, it seems that there is a genetic component to whether you like the flavor of cilantro. I find that easy to believe; I’ve long thought it myself. Personally, I suspect that it’s sex-linked, because most of the people I know who like cilantro are women, and most of the people I know who dislike it are men.

The iPad is a neat toy. I don’t really want one, but I could certainly have fun with one. One of the major complaints is that you can’t print from it. Well, the user community has taken care of that limitation.

Speaking of Apple products, in this case, the iPhone, this third-party app looks interesting.

This also looks like a fun toy.

Yet another reason not to get personalized license plates.

Chords and words for songs by Tom Waits.

How safe are your passwords?

I think I’ve got some ideas for unproductively sucking up more of my free time.

I’ll finish with a few videos. First, a nice version of Moondance on uke:

Next, a trailer for a movie of obvious class and tone:

Finally, a link to the Nova presentation on fractals.

Spaced out

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

Not quite the witty title I wanted, but it fits the theme.

I missed this story when it came out, but it’s newsworthy because it’s a very low-probability event: a 14-year-old boy was struck by a meteorite last year.

Next, we have a claim that space aliens may not be friendly. Is this news to anyone? Besides peace-and-love-and-crystal-harmony types, that is? It’s not like there haven’t been books and movies addressing the topic before. Given the history of war between different tribes and nations, why would anyone presume that aliens would necessarily be peaceful?

One quote from the article is worth a little discussion:

Some scientists are puzzled as to why no messages have been sent back even though humans have been transmitting radio and television signals for the last century.

That’s actually a pretty stupid thing to be puzzled about. First, that would require another intelligence within 50 light years, and further presumptions that:

  • They received the broadcasts and recognized them as a product of intelligence immediately.
  • They deciphered them immediately.
  • They decided to send a response immediately.
  • They had the equipment available immediately for sending that response.

Just coming up with some simple points for each of the above:

If they’ve got equipment to receive us, they’ve probably got equipment to send back, so that’s not necessarily a big objection. They may have reasons for not wanting to use it, or to broadcast at the necessary level to reach us. Then again, perhaps they have already responded to us, and we didn’t recognize it as a response, because it’s using a technology that they expected us to develop in the meantime.

It’s probably moot, though. A few months ago, I read an article that said that our broadcasts would sink into the background noise within some distance that I don’t remember, but was shorter than I expected. I couldn’t find a link to it to put in this post, but I did find this, which makes the same point. We do have equipment that can pull signals out of the noise, even if the noise is louder than the signals, but in that case, we know what kind of signals we’re looking for. That’s a lot different than, “There may be a signal here. It may be hidden below the level of the noise, and we have no idea what it looks like.” Searching for it in those conditions is a good recipe for ongoing employment, but not necessarily for success.

It may be moot for another reason, though. Technology marches on, and the changes and improvements have side effects. When I was younger, I used to see billboards across the southwest for radio station XERF, broadcasting from just across the border in Mexico with 250,000 watts of broadcast power. They were in Mexico because, among other reasons, it freed them from FCC restrictions on broadcast power. My understanding was that atmospheric skip meant that they could be heard across most of the US, at least at night. Recently, I’ve been hearing about low-power FM and neighborhood radio. Lower-power signals means a shorter propagation distance before it falls into the background noise.

In the early days of personal computing, back in the 1970s, I read about how some people were using AM radios to debug their programs: the switching frequencies of the digital signals in the computer fell into the AM range, so tuning between stations would let you hear a series of shifting tones that related to what the application was doing. In the days when some people only had lights and switches for I/O, that could be an important diagnostic technique. Nowadays, computers operate well above the AM range. They take less power (sometimes absolutely, sometimes merely relatively) than they used to, as well. I work in the field of embedded computing; Intel’s 80188 processor, which used to be popular for the purpose, consumed 800 milliamps if you were using the NMOS part. The MSP430 from Texas Instruments can require as little as a couple microamps. That’s not going to generate much in the way of radio signal.

So, I guess what I’m saying here is that it’s pretty unlikely that aliens shot the rock at the kid.