Archive for December, 2009

Soon to be a Blockbuster Movie

Skulls in the Stars: Lord Kelvin vs. the Aether! (1901)

[T]hese speculations resulted in a number of interesting results. For instance, we have noted previously that Earnshaw’s theorem (1839), an important result in electromagnetic theory, arose from an attempt to determine the forces that hold the aether together. In 1902, Lord Rayleigh attempted to detect the aether-induced “length contraction” by measuring the birefringence of moving objects, an ingenious attempt that gave a negative result.

In the broadest sense, a “good” theory is one which raises interesting questions that may inevitably be tested by experiment. Even if it proves to be fundamentally incorrect in the end, it has spurred numerous theoretical and experimental results.

Cthulhu Calling

The Bloop, which has its own Wikipedia page (OK, what interesting subject doesn’t, the Wikipedia Paradox notwithstanding?)

Aaaaanyway …

[T]he sound is believed to be coming roughly from 50oS; 100oW. After reading that, I wondered how close that was to the coordinates given in “The Call of Cthulhu”. Allow me to quote: “Then, driven ahead by curiosity in their captured yacht under Johansen’s command, the men sight a great stone pillar sticking out of the sea, and in S. Latitude 47°9′, W. Longitude l23°43′, come upon a coastline of mingled mud, ooze, and weedy Cyclopean masonry which can be nothing less than the tangible substance of earth’s supreme terror – the nightmare corpse-city of R’lyeh, that was built in measureless aeons behind history by the vast, loathsome shapes that seeped down from the dark stars.”

Spectrographs of underwater sounds, including The Bloop

This Just In

OK, not really.

Dec. 30, 1924: Hubble Reveals We Are Not Alone

Hubble used Leavitt’s formula to calculate that Andromeda was approximately 860,000 light years away. That’s more than eight times the distance to the farthest stars in the Milky Way. This conclusively proved that the nebulae are separate star systems and that our galaxy is not the universe.

Cosmic though it was, the news did not make the front page of The New York Times. The paper did notice the following Feb. 25 that Hubble and a public health researcher split a $1,000 prize ($12,000 in today’s money) from the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.

Edifice Wrecks

A little kinetic sculpture for you

Thtuck! Thtuck!

Tongue in Cheek

In 8-year-old lore, it’s metal poles and mailboxes that you have to watch out for. Frost on wood or rubber doesn’t present such a high risk. Why doesn’t your tongue freeze to your glove when you eat a bit of snow off of that? Why not?

It's No Masterpiece

Security Theater

Here’s a little perspective: FiveThirtyEight: The Odds of Airborne Terror

Over the past decade, according to BTS, there have been 99,320,309 commercial airline departures that either originated or landed within the United States. Dividing by six, we get one terrorist incident per 16,553,385 departures.

There is an underlying Maginot mentality to the way the TSA implements most security measures.

Well, Well, Well

Large version available at xkcd

Fight! Fight!

Lara Croft vs Indiana Jones