Archive for September, 2010

The Case Against Pennies

aka the disgusting bacteria-ridden disks of suck that fail to facilitate commerce

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You only have to get rid of the penny for cash transactions — you could still track it for electronic ones. You’d just round up or down on the whole transaction.

UPDATE: Those statistics are out of date. In 2009, it cost 1.6 cents to make a penny and 6.1 cents to make a nickel; the US Mint lost 22 million on penny and nickel production, not the 70 million they lost in 2008. (This is because the recession has made zinc and nickel cheaper.)

Not Related to the "No-Hair" Theorem

The Virtuosi: Beards and Pulsars

The Hulse-Taylor binary is almost exactly what it sounds like: it’s a pulsar binary where one of the pulsars is pointed towards earth. It was the first binary of it’s kind discovered and offers a unique look into a very high gravity environment. It also provided a very nice test for General Relativity. General Relativity predicts that two orbiting massive bodies should emit gravitational waves. This emission of gravitational waves will then cause the orbit to decay and the two bodies to move closer together.

So doing a quick division, we find that the rate at which the Hulse-Taylor binary’s orbit is shrinking is roughly 14 times beard [growth] speed

Evil Genius Physics

French Thieves Use Vacuums to Suck Thousands from Safes

The key to the thieves’ nearly uninterrupted streak of success, per French reports, is the way that Monoprix delivers money from the checkouts to its safes: Envelopes of cash are funneled in via pneumatic suction tubes. Whereas breaching the safe itself might be considerably difficult, requiring explosives or safecracking, the thieves realized that if they just drilled into the delivery tubes near the safebox and hooked up a powerful vacuum, they could suck the money out and get at it much more easily.

I don’t know the specifics, so there may be a good reason that they haven’t fixed this problem during the four years the thieving has been going on, but it would seem a check valve would be useful here.

It's All by Design

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops?

Are we raising a generation of nincompoops? And do we have only ourselves to blame? Or are some of these things simply the result of kids growing up with push-button technology in an era when mechanical devices are gradually being replaced by electronics?

Susan Maushart, a mother of three, says her teenage daughter “literally does not know how to use a can opener. Most cans come with pull-tops these days. I see her reaching for a can that requires a can opener, and her shoulders slump and she goes for something else.”

All the more for me after the impending apocalypse. The cell-phone-savvy will wither and die, and I will know how to open the cans.

Kicking Some Asteroid

This bookmarklet will let you turn any web page into a quasi-asteroids game. You can destroy my blog (I especially liked blasting the calendar) if you wish. Go ahead, make my day.

Spacebar fires the weapon. Arrows for navigation (L, R and up for thrust)

Is This the Party to Whom I Am Speaking?

Abstruse Goose: Anatomy of a typical telephone conversation

Revenge of the Ant Overlords

Vdara visitor: ‘Death ray’ scorched hair

The “hot spot” was visible during one of the visits, but no guests were in its reach. An employee pointed out the zone and said it was “like a magnifying glass that shines down” over a space about 10 feet by 15 feet, which moves as the Earth rotates. At this time of year, the bright reflection is present for about an hour and a half, both before noon and after, according to the young man.

Also: Sunbather Singed by Shiny Hotel’s Reflected “Death Rays”

What's Nu, Pussycat?

Starts With a Bang: The New Nu News!

[B]ack in the late 90’s, an experiment called LSND — Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector — sought to measure neutrino oscillations from antineutrinos emitted from a radioactive source. And they did measure it! And — for about 10 years — everyone thought there was something wrong with their data.

Why? Because it both looks and sounds crazy.

No Fun in Funding

A Science News Story About Funding! (And It’s Pretty Good, Too)

Short version: there is a lot more good science waiting to be done than there is money to fund it each year.

This is a Blog Post Linking to Someone Else's Blog Post

This is a news website article about a scientific paper

This is the part where I quote a teaser from the post.

This paragraph elaborates on the claim, adding weasel-words like “the scientists say” to shift responsibility for establishing the likely truth or accuracy of the research findings on to absolutely anybody else but me, the journalist.

In this paragraph I will state in which journal the research will be published. I won’t provide a link because either a) the concept of adding links to web pages is alien to the editors, b) I can’t be bothered, or c) the journal inexplicably set the embargo on the press release to expire before the paper was actually published.

This is the part where I tell you that I agree with the linked post, or where I would state my objections if I had any strong ones (or nits, if I was feeling nitpicky).

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