What I Didn't Get for Christmas

But I am so tempted to acquire …

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In order to accomplish this feat, the guys from Manapotions increased the voltage to the firing motor using 2 x 9.6v battery packs. More juice equals a faster spinning motor. A faster spinning motor means that toy darts will come down on your enemies like rain. As an added bonus, they equipped the gun with a sweet LED round counter and a slick paint job. Seriously folks, this thing is like the A-bomb of office warfare. And the best part is that it is a cheap upgrade.


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.


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.