Pedant on the Loose!

Blake’s mention of a “First Night” celebration in Boston, coupled with memories of many stories about similar celebrations in upstate New York (Albany and Saratoga), have triggered this.

The problem: “First Night” celebrations are held on New Year’s Eve, which is the LAST night of the year. I mean seriously, WTF? After midnight, it’s A.M. — Morning*. The organizers must be the same bunch of differently-abled mathletes that celebrated the new millennium when the calendar rolled over to 2000.

*Don’t believe me? Call someone normally asleep at 2 A.M. and see of the they don’t yell at you for waking them up at two in the morning!

The Mouse Problem

Man: Well… I was about seventeen and some mates and me went to a party, and, er… we had quite a lot to drink… and then some of the fellows there … started handing … cheese around … and well just out of curiosity I tried a bit … and well that was that.

Interviewer: And what else did these fellows do?

Man: Well some of them started dressing up as mice a bit … and then when they’d got the costumes on they started … squeaking.

Oh, wait. Wrong source of squeaking. It’s winter here, so we’re talking about snow.

ScienceGeekGirl discusses Why does snow squeak when it’s cold?

More snow-related stuff: Why does snow sparkle? I’m dreaming of a white and sparkling christmas at Morning Coffee Physics

Update: I shoveled some squeaky white stuff this afternoon. Just as I finished, it started coming down heavy again. Prediction: 2″-4″, actual was about 6″.

The Earth is My Canvas

Examples of GPS drawing

The drawings and maps are made by recording location and movement using Global Positioning System technology. GPS data contains latitude, longitude, altitude, and precise time information that can be rendered, sculpted and animated.

Feel the Burn!

The science du jour is physics of weight loss, which is useful for this time of year when some of us tend to act as sanctuary for some extra mass (those poor, persecuted cookies and brethren, seeking asylum)

Here’s my own The Physics of Weight Loss

Matt has just posted on the topic over at Built on Facts:

The Christmas Calorie

Calories and Climbing

54! Surely something that difficult would burn a lot more calories, you’d think. And it does. The immense effort you expend in climbing is mostly budgeted to different bodily processes. You have to move extra air in and out of your lungs. You have to circulate blood at a much higher rate. You have to process the complicated chemistry required to keep your muscles moving. All of these things take energy, and by the time the shoe meets the stair most of the energy has already been lost, eventually ending up mostly in the form of heat. Your body can’t afford to overheat and so you begin sweating to carry the excess heat energy away. All that energy had to come from somewhere, and it came from the food you ate. By the time you’re on the observation deck looking over Manhattan you’ll have used up a lot more than 54 calories.

As Matt notes in his posts, this is all about thermodynamics. Your body is basically a heat engine operating somewhere around 25% efficiency, so that 54-Calorie change in potential energy is going to require that you burn about 200 Calories of food.

(related: No Sweat)

Just Shut Up

At that point, I had the right to remain silent … but not the ability. Ron White

Eight reasons even the innocent shouldn’t talk to the police

~45 minutes of video of a defense lawyer and a cop explaining why anyone in the US should never, never, never talk to the police. I assume this is in the context of being a possible suspect rather than a witness, but I am not a lawyer.

Bottom line: even if you are innocent, anything you say can be used against you — in ways you might not be able to see. One pitfall: there are literally thousands of laws of which you might be guilty, and to which you might inadvertently confess, in making a statement. I’ve also been told by a lawyer that you should not invite the police into your residence, for the same reason.

I'm Shocked. Shocked! That TV isn't Real.

CSI lies and suspicious science over at Cocktail Party Physics

Forensic science has come a long way since Sherlock Holmes bragged that he could identify 140 types of tobacco from their ash. And far be it from me to diss one of my favorite shows on the TV I don’t own, the original CSI, which is loaded with fantastic sciency goodness, even if it is a little unrealistic. CSI? Unrealistic? Hate to break it to you kids, but, yeah. At the very least, the speed with which our intrepid heroes get their results would make any cop, ADA, or defense attorney double over in laughter, when they’re not crying.

Time-compression is the sin here, and it’s not new nor confined to CSI. I can go back to some of the favorite shows of my youth, like Adam-12, where all of the boring inaction of real-life policework has been culled. And newer shows, like NUMB3RS, display time compression as well. And the shows know this

A related sleight of hand is time compression: Charlie solves huge problems in short order. On CSI, tests come back in hours; in real life, they would take weeks. “We get bagged on a lot for that,” says CSI executive producer Naren Shankar, possibly the only writer in television with a Ph.D. in applied physics. (Shankar´s first Hollywood job was as a science researcher for Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

Time compression, to me, is a forgivable sin. I am willing to concede the trimming of the dead-time so that the show can be wrapped up in an hour. The streamlining of the false-positives fall into that category, too, for me, though I wonder if they couldn’t be worked into the story lines. (It’s quite possible they have and I’m just not remembering)

The act that bothers me more is the magic TV shows often do with image enhancement. Some low-resolution, blurry image is analyzed, and that tiny section off in the corner is blown up and magically transformed into a high-resolution crystal-clear image, revealing crucial detail (often the face of the killer, or the license plate of their car). Sorry, but if all you have is 640 x 480 from some crappy security camera, it’s not going to get better than that. Once you get down to one pixel, you can’t subdivide it.