Archive for June 15th, 2009

Avoiding the Hobgoblins

and the foolish consistency they represent.

Flying Flux: The Dullness of Details

I think it behooves writers to make technical documentation fun by embedding a few surprises here and there for the unsuspecting reader. Just like how chip designers used to embed artwork in their chips (I’ve done so myself), writers of technical documents should try to slip in a bit of flowery language from time to time.

For example, let’s look at the following sentence:

Original: Jitter degradation is most sensitive to supply noise between 20 MHz to 80 MHz.


Simile: The 20-80 MHz supply noise’s effect on the clock edges’ accuracy is like a well-endowed woman doing jumping jacks.

Bubbles, Man!

Man when we was kids and we wanted bubbles we had to fart in the tub!
Billy Ray Valentine, Trading Places

Bubbles+Rings= Toroidal Funtime!

It’s a battle between surface tension and pressure. But all in all it bubbles operate on a fundamental principle: laziness. Bubbles form which ever shape minimizes their surface area. This is usually a sphere until force them to have a little fun.

Not Quite the Red Badge of Courage

Via the Heisenbergian one, I discover the Science Scout Merit Badges

The “I blog about science” badge. Obviously
The “science deprives me of my bed” badge (LEVEL II) Two week at Cornell’s Nanofabrication Lab (NNF)
The “broken heart for science” badge I just had to go to grad school …
The “non-explainer” badge (LEVEL I) My mom still introduces me as a nuclear physicist
The “what I do for science dictates my having to wash my hands before I use the toilet” badge. On occasion …
The “works with acids” badge. HF scares me, but I used it at the NNF
The “I’ve set fire to stuff” badge (LEVEL III) ’nuff said
The “experienced with electrical shock” badge (LEVEL III) I remember “locating” the 400V leads to the piezo stack on the confocal cavity while adjusting some optics
The “I’ve done science with no conceivable practical application” badge. TRIUMF
The “I work with way too much radioactivity, and yet still no discernable superpowers yet” badge. TRIUMF again, and time in 5 nuclear power plants while in the navy
The “has frozen stuff just to see what happens” badge (LEVEL III) Ah, the joys of Liquid nitrogen
The “destroyer of quackery” badge. Got my start at on USENET
The “inappropriate nocturnal use of lab equipment in the name of alternative science experimentation / communication” badge. If you’ve got it, use it!


Stringy Soot

Soot particles grow inside a flame when tiny, carbon-rich spheres stick together to form larger, tenuous aggregates. As they grow, the particles take on a characteristic branched shape because two colliding clusters are most likely to attach at their protruding “fingers.”

These bushy shapes are conveniently described as fractals–geometric objects whose mass grows as a fractional power of their linear size, rather than the third power that characterizes ordinary solids like spheres and cubes. Theory predicts that virtually all clusters should have a fractal dimension very close to 1.8, and past experiments agree. But a collaboration led by Hans Moosmüller of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada, found many clusters with a much lower dimension, characteristic of a more rod-like shape.

Seeing it in Perspective

America’s Sea of Red Ink Was Years in the Making

Breaking down the $2 trillion in deficit since 2000. For all the hysteria about recent events, I find this tidbit interesting (summarized in this graphic):

About 7 percent comes from the stimulus bill that Mr. Obama signed in February. And only 3 percent comes from Mr. Obama’s agenda on health care, education, energy and other areas.

If the analysis is extended further into the future, well beyond 2012, the Obama agenda accounts for only a slightly higher share of the projected deficits.

Obama doesn’t get a free pass, though.

“Bush behaved incredibly irresponsibly for eight years. On the one hand, it might seem unfair for people to blame Obama for not fixing it. On the other hand, he’s not fixing it.”

“And,” he added, “not fixing it is, in a sense, making it worse.”