Archive for December, 2008

All in Good Fun

There were a few press-release pictures that went along with the ribbon-cutting ceremony I mentioned a few weeks back. Here’s one that was used in an announcement, and I can’t help imagining an alternate caption for the picture.

VP is armed

Something along the lines of VP restrained while attacking crowd with giant scissors

That’s the new building in the background (No, it’s not an Olive Garden), and the clock on the left-hand side of the ribbon is a cesium-beam atomic clock, running on battery.

Scientific Illiteracy on Parade

Scientific illiteracy all the rage among the glitterati

[T]op prize went to the lifestyle guru Carole Caplin for denouncing a study showing that vitamin supplements offer little or no health benefits as “rubbish” – it is the third year on the run that she has been mentioned in the review. Science author and GP Ben Goldacre pointed out that the study Ms Caplin referred to was the most authoritative yet published. “Carole should understand that research can often produce results which challenge our preconceptions: that is why science is more interesting than just following your nose,” Dr Goldacre said.

Remaking the Classics

Get it?

I think someone could remake Spartacus as a present-day story of a huge conglomerate, corrupted by its greed, and how it crushes an attempt by some employees to split off and form their own company. The Roman Senate becomes the board of directors/senior management, who like to make the junior employees (or interns) try and complete projects while competing with each other for resources. The loser gets a really bad evaluation and it kills his chance for advancement. A worker nicknamed Spartacus comes along with this wonderful idea and wants to break off and form a new company. He starts winning employees over to him in an attempt to break away, but HyperMegaCorp deems his idea to be their intellectual property and sends their army of lawyers after him.

The end is where the CEO wants to fire Spartacus personally, but all the rebellious employees claim to be him, so he fires everyone. But Spartacus’s idea survives, uncontrolled by the company.

More Unstable Equilibrium

Rock balancing

I saw rock stacks all over the place when I visited the beaches at Monterey in October. Nothing as advanced as the ones depicted in the link, though.

The Last Bastion of Imperial Units

Foxtrot shows the importance of metric for some football players


Buzzwords of 2008

Missing from the list is blogohedron, “popularized” by … me (sort of), so really it’s not a surprise. I just happened to see Brian Switek using it at Laelaps, and acknowledging Blake Stacey for it, and Blake crediting me in the comments (and, BTW, the link is a good summary of a recent blogger vs. journalist caged-death-match exchange).

I can’t and won’t take credit for coining the term, as a quick search shows it predates any use of it here. But I have no recollection of seeing it anywhere before using it, so as far as I know it’s new to me and an example of convergent etymology. I like it better than blogosphere, which gives me the impression of smoothness and uniformity, which doesn’t describe blogging as far as I’m concerned. The world of blogging has facets and edges and pointy bits; it has texture, if not structure.

Maybe we make the 2009 list.

It Was a Dark and Stormy Experiment

Mr. Faraday’s (most excellent) experimental researches in electricity (1831)

I started to investigate Faraday’s writings while working on a post about Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s novel The Coming Race, which quotes Faraday to justify B-L’s fictional source of energy, vril. This led me back through Faraday’s monumental collection of researches on electricity, a collection of over 25 articles published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society under the blanket title, “Experimental researches in electricity.”

Faraday is also appearing at Cocktail Party Physics

I’ve always had a soft spot for Michael Faraday, for any number of reasons, but one of those reasons is that he was a brilliant experimentalist with world-class instincts for investigating the behavior of this strange new phenomenon, and yet he possessed only rudimentary mathematical skills — something that hampered the broad acceptance of his concept of how electromagnetism worked.

Merry Christmas!

It’s just 7:30. In stark contrast to just a few years ago, nobody else is up yet. There was a time when my nieces would be staring at the clock, impatiently waiting for the agreed-upon time when they were allowed to wake everyone else up. No more. They’re teenagers.

And here is a physics-related safety message for the holidays:

Hallmark Recalls Jumbo Snow Globes Due to Fire Hazard

Hazard: When exposed to sunlight, the snow globes can act as a magnifying glass and ignite nearby combustible materials, posing a fire hazard.

Incidents/Injuries: Hallmark has received two reports of the snow globes igniting nearby materials. No injuries have been reported.

Well, duh. Convex surfaces and a larger index of refraction.

Me, Too

Moment of Clarity at Abstruse Goose

moment of clarity

Forecast and Stuff

Expect scattered posts to continue for the next two weeks. I’m off to the Great White North-of-the-Pennsylvania-Border.

My recent blogging has been light; I’m in my fantasy football league Superbowl for the first time, and these players require constant monitoring. (Two weeks ago I was way behind and implored my defense (Cardinals): rather than give up a score and increase my deficit, they should get a turnover and run it back for a TD. Which they did, just a minute later. See?)

A Christmas Story

A few years back there was an email at work announcing a winter holiday door decorating contest. I took this as carte blanche to put up my Christmas cartoons, some of which I wouldn’t have otherwise put on public display. My theme was “A not very Norman Rockwell Christmas”

There was no contest the next year.

The year following, the contest resumed, but the contest rules included the phrase “Must be in good taste.” I refer to this as the “Tom clause.”

Cartoons below the fold.
Read more »

Inspiring Elemental Awe

The Periodic Table of Awesoments

In the 300 B.C., years before the birth of black Jesus, Aristole postulated that all good things were made of “win.” That was a pretty good guess, but he was drunk and probably also having an orgy. Modern day awesominers know there are actually 118 fundamental “awesoments” that compose all good things. The Periodic table of Awesoments can be a very useful tool. It’s designed to show the relationships between awesoments, and often one can even predict how awesoments interact simply by their positions on the table.

I’m not sure of some of the logic behind all of this.

Beer, at Z=6, holds the carbon place, which means it forms strong bonds with a lot of things. That’s good. Cheese is at Z=8. The equivalent of an oxidation reaction of awesomeness is to add cheese to it, which is … disgusting, actually. Vertical relations are not always apparent. Do the Noble Races not bond with anything else? Ramen is awesome?

I approve of the choice of Mf for Samuel L Jackson (what happens when you mix Mf with CbJf?), and the choices do seem more reactive as you move down the column. But is Bacon an awesomeness equivalent of Hydrogen? Does bacon form special awesomeness-bonds? Unless it’s Kevin Bacon, with that whole six-degrees thing.

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