packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
Dan Shive (best known as the creator of El Goonish Shive) recently wrote a brief argument why alternate universes would probably not contain alternate "you"s. His argument looks correct, as far as it goes, but it is qualitative - lacking numerical estimates - and I don't see why it has to be. The data exists. Surely ballpark back-of-the-envelope numbers could be produced.

...but not trivially. Dan Shive's challenge can - and I think should - be broken down as follows.

Read more... )

Now, I lack the knowledge of biology to, first, nail down these questions to their most correct forms, and second, assign probability estimates to relevant steps in the chain. But the most superficial examination of the situation seems to suggest at least one thing: any alternate universe measurably diverging a significant period before the birth of an individual is vanishingly likely to contain a copy of that individual. Which, of course, is what Dan Shive has pointed out.

And, as an obvious consequence of this, even if such a universe contained a duplicate of yourself, it would still be vanishingly unlikely for it to contain duplicates of anyone not your direct descendant. (Which would make for a heck of a paternity test, I have to tell you!)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (quarter-rear)
Via [personal profile] egypturnash. Video is a bit monotonous for first two minutes, but the wait is worth it.

packbat: Leaning on a chain-link fence, looking to my left (your right) with a neutral expression. (spectator)
The breakdown is here, if any of you missed it. I find most of these results fairly unsurprising (although the "yellow" region of the saturated color space contains a startling amount of green), but it's really cool to read through the details anyway. Favorite bits:

  • The mnemonic* for how to spell "fuchsia".
  • "Actual color names if you're a [girl/guy]..."
  • The list of colors.
  • The entire "Miscellaneous" header.
  • "Baige".
* Fun fact: I instinctively put a "u" after that "e". Perhaps you can guess how I pronounce that word...

(P.S. Word up, Mr. Munroe.)

(P.P.S. I'm feeling much recovered, save for residual sleep-dep from catching up on grading.)

(P.P.P.S. Less Wrong taught me a lot more about teaching than I expected.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Earth:Harmless/WikiGuide)
Okay, so I'm way late getting on board the AmericanCivicLiteracy.org 2008 Civics Quiz (32/33, by the way - I missed the harder Roosevelt question), but I haven't seen this angle approached: Has anyone checked to see if the respondents are literate, full stop? It seems to me that misunderstanding the questions and/or answers (some of which have difficult wordings) could be a factor in the 71% "failure" rate.

Just thinking about possible controls on the test.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (butterfly)
A number of people have been talking about whether intelligent design is scientific recently in some interesting new ways: Megan McArdle, Alex Tabarrok, Robin Hanson, and most notably Thomas Nagel.

The focus of these remarks is best summarized in a post three years ago by Alex Tabarrok:
Suppose that you find a watch in the forest. If you know there is no watchmaker then the theory of evolution is a brilliant and compelling explanation for the presence of complexity without design. But suppose that you know a watchmaker exists then surely the simplest and most compelling explanation is that the watchmaker made the watch. Any other explanation, particularly one so improbable (see extension) as evolution would seem to be preposterous and beside the point.


I can only conclude from the above that these people did not ask themselves, "What do we do science for?"

This is hardly a severe sin, of course. The question is hardly primary among the ones that spring to mind. But the answer is, "Science explains the world in a way which lets us predict the world." This is and always has been where Intelligent Design - and creationism in general - fail: under those views, we have no reason to expect, say, the existence of the punctum caecum (blind spot) in vertebrae eyes but not cephalopod eyes - in fact, just the opposite.

Believing that one or more gods exist is no excuse. The only reasonable explanation for the evidence is that every species now extant is descended with modification from simpler species. And once we hypothesize that, the strictly simplest explanation, even if gods are present, is the modern evolutionary synthesis.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
From Making Light: A Japanese company, Genepax, has announced and demonstrated a new fuel cell system that runs on water..

Allow me to be careful for a moment. This is important enough - and I happen to be well-trained enough in the relevant field - to make strong statements about, and I do not want to leave a false impression.

*ahem*

It is impossible to make a fuel cell system that runs on water. Further, it is impossible to devise a process for separating water into hydrogen and oxygen that costs less useful energy than the fuel cell produces by recombining the two. Any person claiming to be capable of doing so is, to borrow a phrase, a lunatic, a liar, or Lord of the Cosmos.

I am not even joking. Of course, in this case, I'm betting it's (a) or (b), for a very simple reason: the machine described in these articles violates conservation of energy. To quote Sean Carroll's Alternative-Science Checklist:

Scientific claims — whether theoretical insights or experimental breakthroughs — don’t exist all by their lonesome. They are situated within a framework of pre-existing knowledge and expectations. If the claim you are making seems manifestly inconsistent with that framework, it’s your job to explain why anyone should nevertheless take you seriously. Whenever someone claims to build a perpetual-motion device, scientist solemnly reiterate that the law of conservation of energy is not to be trifled with lightly. Of course one must admit that it could be wrong — it’s only one law, after all. But when you actually build some machine that purportedly puts out more ergs than it consumes (in perpetuity), it does a lot more than violate the law of conservation of energy. That machine is made of atoms and electromagnetic fields, which obey the laws of atomic physics and Maxwell’s equations. And conservation of energy can be derived from those laws — so you’re violating those as well.


Genepax is pulling a scam, intentionally or not. The only possible way their device could work is by annihilating the entire modern structure of physics and chemistry simultaneously, and destroy them far more thoroughly than general relativity and quantum mechanics destroyed their respective predecessors. Do not even dream of betting against those kind of odds.




One final note, for those who may be curious: it was not any special wisdom of mine that allowed me to come so rapidly to the above conclusion. It was a simple three-step process:

1. Diagram the claimed process - where the fuel comes in, where the energy and known waste comes out. (You have to have waste come out - that's the second law of thermodynamics.)

                ________________________    _____________
water (fuel) -> | Genepax's MEA system | -> | Fuel Cell | -> water (waste)
                ------------------------    -------------
                                                      L----> energy


2. Add up the known outputs and subtract the inputs. (The inputs are always known. They're the things you have to pay for.) Compare to zero.

(energy + water) - water = energy > zero


3. If the answer is greater than zero, it's a scam. Q.E.D.

If any part of the above is unclear, I will gladly explain in the comments. Thank you for your time.

Newcomb

May. 30th, 2008 09:11 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (darwin has a posse)
Reposted from my Facebook:

Imagine the following scenario (a variation on the classic dilemma known as Newcomb's Problem):

About six months ago, a crack team of psychologists came up with a brilliant new device, and decided to run a curious experiment to test it. The experiment takes the following form:

  1. Each subject, chosen by lottery, is provided with the money to purchase two identical plain manilla envelopes.
  2. They and their envelopes are given free transportation to the lab, where they (but not the envelopes) fill out a survey.
  3. They wait approximately one hour, and then are ushered into the experiment room.
  4. In that room, they are permitted to examine three stacks - one containing twenty U.S. fifty-dollar bills, one containing twenty fifty-dollar-bill-sized pieces of blank U.S. fifty-dollar-bill stock, and one containing one thousand U.S. one-thousand-dollar bills.
  5. An attendant removes the stack of thousand-dollar bills. They are instructed to privately place one of the remaining stacks in each of their manilla envelopes, so that they would have two apparently-identical envelopes, and then signal.
  6. On the signal, the attendant returns with a case, which either does or does not contain the million dollars. The subject then gives either of their two envelopes in return for the case.


There is only one catch in this procedure: the case either contains blank bills or the million, as follows. If the psychologists predict the subject would return the envelope with the thousand dollars, the case contains the million. But if the psychologists predict that the subject will return the envelope with the blank paper, the case contains blank paper. And in each of the one hundred trials so far, the psychologists have always gotten it right. Everyone has either left with the thousand or left with the million.

(Edit: Well, not quite. A few clever people thought to randomize the envelopes so that they didn't know whether they lost the thousand or not. About half of them walked away with a thousand, the other half with nothing.)

The experiment is valid - it has been tested by dozens of experts in experimental protocol, sleight of hand, hypnotism, and every other relevant field. They neither coerce your choice nor switch out the million if you choose to keep the thousand.

You are in the room, with your two envelopes, and the attendant is before you with his case.

Do you give him the thousand dollars or the blank paper?
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
In honor of the [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin's birthday (last month...), here is a review of What Science Offers the Humanities: Integrating Body and Culture by Edward Slingerland, 2008.

There's an old Isaac Asimov essay I recall reading where he discusses the implicit social hierarchy of different fields of study. You know, where math is more prestigious than physics, which is in turn 'above' chemistry, which is 'above' biology, et cetera. Asimov then asked (I paraphrase), "What's above mathematics?"

His answer was "the humanities". And he defended the answer with a little story, whose details I've sadly forgotten, but which essentially compared the reactions of the faculty at a school to (a) a student named Cicero failing rhetoric and (b) a student named Gauss failing mathematics. Asimov pointed out that all of them would laugh at the former (being as we all know Cicero was a great orator) but that only the math and science people would be amused at the latter (being as none of the humanities scholars would ever have heard of a mere mathematician, nor cared about his extraordinary influence upon mere math and sciences).

Sociologically, Asimov was probably just about right. Ontology, however, is Professor Slingerland's game, and he proposes just the opposite. And inverting this hierarchy - making the case for humanities as a higher-order level of explanation above neuroscience, psychology, biology, et cetera, the same way chemistry is a higher-order level of explanation above quantum physics, and just as dependent on its substrate - is the purpose of his book. It is so, he explains, because humanities is in desperate need of new life - it is visibly, clearly stagnating, as many scholars have observed, and Slingerland argues that an "embodied" or "vertically integrated" view of the humanities is necessary to move forward. Thus What Sciences Offers the Humanities seeks to open a new strain of humanities studies in close collaboration with scientific knowledge.

There. Now let us discuss what it does.

What Science Offers the Humanities, between introduction and conclusion, is divided into three parts. The first is a refutation of the objectivist and postmodernist views of humanity, the second his physicalist tertium quid based on modern cognitive science, and the third a defense of his view against a few anticipated objections. It is quite enough of a task for a bookshelf of books, and indeed Slingerland makes reference to at least that many along the way. Further, it is by its very nature difficult reading in many places - Slingerland in this book writes philosophy, and a modern philosopher must blaze a path through some of the harshest terrain in our mental landscapes.

(Incidentally, delicious little metaphors like that are featured prominently in Slingerland's "vertically integrated" model of humanity, described in Part 2. More on that anon.)

First, the refutations. Objectivism (which, in this case, contains a sort of Smullyan-logician theory of the person and the correspondence theory of truth) Slingerland spends comparatively little time with - while it is certainly not unpopular (I have strong inclinations in its direction myself), strong criticisms of it are well-established in the humanities, to whose scholars Slingerland addresses the book. Thus he deals his objections out quickly and competently (though not completely enough for my satisfaction - as I said, strong inclinations) and turns his attention to the other side.

Postmodernism, he explains, is a controversial term to use for what he describes. As he explains in the introduction, "virtually every [modern] postmodernist denies being one". Thus his treatment of postmodernism ends up extended over two chapters, with one dedicated chiefly to showing that, as he defines it, the appellation "postmodernist" still applies to many of the scholars he addresses, and only afterwards establishing the self-refuting nature of postmodernist theories. Naturally, for the non-postmodernist reader, these are among the most difficult chapters in the book - possibly by its very disconnect with experiential reality, postmodernist writing is almost invariably turgid. The density of the material is leavened by Slingerland's well-executed asides and rhetorical flourishes - his discussion of the Sokal hoax particularly struck my fancy - but those with an active disinterest in postmodernism may find it tiring. However, those coming from the humanities would be likely to profit much from these chapters - both by exposure to some basic objections to certain common lines of thought in the works of their peers and, if they share said lines of thought, by exposure to problems with their theoretical frameworks that need resolution or refutation.

Having thus cleared the ground, Slingerland turns to his own theory.

I will not attempt to elaborate his theory for him. The most central element of it is the theory of conceptual blending. This theory (originating, Slingerland says, with Gilles Fauconnier and Mark Turner) maintains that most (perhaps all) of human thought involves the mixing of properties from various already-existing ideas, as illustrated in expressions like "digging your own financial grave". This sort of combination (in the example, drawing the emotional content of the grave to accent the suggestion that a given financial plan is unsound), Slingerland argues, is a fundamental, universal part of how human beings work with ideas - he demonstrates its generality to analysis of cultural artifacts (a major part of humanities) with an analysis of the fourth-century B.C.E. Chinese Confucian work Mencius by blending theory.

After introducing his theory, much of the rest of the book deals with probable objections from the humanities tradition. (As a proponent of a minority theory, Slingerland is obliged to spend the main part of his book in its defense.) It is interesting material - defenses of pragmatism, refutations of common fears of reductionism, and the like - and competently presented, but it is certainly a decline from the excitement of the various introductions - of his theory, of postmodernism's weaknesses, of objectivism's weaknesses, and of the book entire.

It is not surprising when a book is exciting at the start and less so towards the end. What struck me in this case, however, is that there is a definite sense of the precise element lacking - and, ironically, that element is science. Slingerland is a fan of science, but he is a sinologist - student of Chinese culture - not a scientist. He has a breadth of scientific reading that does him great credit, a breadth far in excess of mine own, but his lack of depth in the specific fields shows. He quotes Dawkins and Dennett excellently, but he seems to need to. It is not a fault - he isn't a scientist - but the difference does make his very real contributions seem a little grayer in contrast.

What is the bottom line?

Slingerland's What Science Offers the Humanities is an excellent epistle to a world of humanities work in need of new insight - one with the understanding of the Academy whose lack prevents the Sokals, and even the Dawkins and the Dennetts, from engaging and not antagonizing its audience. It draws from the strength of the sciences to build a vision of a better university - for, as Slingerland points out in the conclusion, the sociological and psychological studies are rapidly approaching territory which requires knowledge of the humanities, just as they are - or should be - transforming the understanding of what the humanities contain.

As a popular science book, it is not. In its path, it alludes to a spread of important discoveries to understanding of the humanities, and of humanity, but its aim is not to bring true comprehension of these to the reader. Its aim is to show that the social sciences are relevant.

It shows this. That is enough.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
I know some of you all (I'm thinking m'dad [livejournal.com profile] zhurnaly and the Dread Medievalist [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin for starters) will love this blog, for three reasons.

First, Overcoming Bias is a cool goal.

Second, because it's written by people who know stuff and like to share. (Like Edward Slingerland in What Science Offers the Humanities, and yes, I still owe [livejournal.com profile] goblinpaladin the review, it's halfway done.)

Third, tasty, tasty writing.

Decoherence is implicit in quantum physics, not an extra postulate on top of it, and quantum physics is continuous.  Thus, "decoherence" is not an all-or-nothing phenomenon - there's no sharp cutoff point.  Given two blobs, there's a quantitative amount of amplitude that can flow into identical configurations between them.  This quantum interference diminishes down to an exponentially tiny infinitesimal as the two blobs separate in configuration space.

Asking exactly when decoherence takes place, in this continuous process, is like asking when, if you keep removing grains of sand from a pile, it stops being a "heap".

The sand-heap dilemma is known as the Sorites Paradox, after the Greek soros, for heap.  It is attributed to Eubulides of Miletus, in the 4th century BCE.  The moral I draw from this very ancient tale:  If you try to draw sharp lines in a continuous process and you end up looking silly, it's your own darn fault.

(Incidentally, I once posed the Sorites Paradox to Marcello Herreshoff, who hadn't previously heard of it; and Marcello answered without the slightest hesitation, "If you remove all the sand, what's left is a 'heap of zero grains'."  Now that's a computer scientist.)



From The Conscious Sorites Paradox, by Eliezer Yudkowsky on Overcoming Bias, as part of a long digression-from-a-digression-from-a-digression-from-a-digression on quantum physics (and, back up the chain, philosophical zombies, reduction, the Mind Projection Fallacy, and ultimately - I think - AI research. Unless ultimately is "Overcoming Bias", in which case ... what am I saying?).

Anyway, you know the problem with WIkipedia? You can totally get the same groove here. Very hypertext.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (wtfcu)
From [livejournal.com profile] ceruleanst: science brings us the most-wanted and most-unwanted songs, based on the opinions of 500 respondents to a spring-1996 web survey. If their assumptions are correct...

[Poll #1124531]

Enjoy! (Or don't enjoy!)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (twisty little passages)
Actually, two Mormon missionaries on bicycles, but that's not as funny. I managed to escape revealing any of my contact info without too much discourtesy, and accepted their cards (one an invite to the Visitors' Center at the big Wash. D.C. Temple, the other an offer for a free Book of Mormon) and parted ways.

It got me thinking, though: what would science missionaries be like?

"Good morning! I'm Robin, this is Charles, and we just wanted to know: have you accepted methodological naturalism into your worldview? Is there some time we can come to your house and talk about the exploration of the universe?

Don't you ever wonder how birds fly, or fish climbed out of the sea to live on land? We believe that we can answer questions like these, that we can discover all sorts of beautiful things about our world. Please, accept one of our pamphlets on evolutionary biology! If you want to learn more, we have some programs you can attend...."
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (pale blue dot)
I don't expect I'll ever take up technical writing as my vocation, but if I were ever inspired to write a general science textbook, I expect it might open like this.

Read more... )
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Back in 1994, a rather well-known physicist named Murray Gell-Mann wrote a book called The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex. Back in, hmm, August, I checked a copy out of the library.

I'm not done with it yet. But judging it so far, there's an important lesson I think people should learn, here, in writing books or articles on popular science. And it comes down to these two things: rigor and readability. You can be exactly right, or you can be easily understood. Being both is hard or impossible. In this case, Gell-Mann was writing a popular science book, so he wanted to be understood. But he is a physicist, and used to exactness*, and he let that lead him into a big mistake: he tried to stay precise – correct – without spending the time to explain the definitions.

This is unbelievably important. Unless you spend the time to make definitions, you cannot be precise. 90% of confusions are definitions or semantics.

Scientists are probably worse off here than anyone else, since they're used to talking with people who already know the definitions. But if you want to explain it to people who don't, you have to fudge it or spend a lot of time working it out.

This has been another installment of "Robin Pretends To Know All Theatre". Thank you for coming.

* For all the jokes that science guys make about the philosophy guys**, they do have this in common: they both define words very precisely. Defining words precisely is absolutely necessary to clear and correct reasoning on any difficult subject.

** Q: How do you get a philosopher off your porch? A: Pay him for the pizza. Q: What does the liberal arts major say to the science major? A: "Would you like fries with that?"
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (RZ Ambigram)
I haven't said much recently here, but I may as well mention the newest major change: I've a job!

Well, similar to a job. Work, anyway. I'm going to be starting as a combined Bachelor's/Master's of Science student in the fall, and in the meantime I'm to summarize the present state of knowledge, and order parts for an experiment, in the field of supercavitation.

Supercavitation: It's exactly like cavitation, only *good*! )


Anyway, researching that makes mostly what I've been up to the last week, and will be up to in the near future.

Z followup

Jul. 13th, 2006 09:33 pm
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (tired)
Remember I said I wasn't sure if the movie "Z" made sense without the book? Well, I talked to my mom today, and she tells me Yes, it did, and it was excellent.

(Does the capitalize-no-quotes thing work as an indicator of paraphrase, here? Just wondering.)

In other news... err, I don't have any. Cranial remote controllers (link from Skepchick), anyone?
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (RZ Ambigram)
Hey, [livejournal.com profile] chanlemur: Lab-grown meat!

(via [livejournal.com profile] katura via [livejournal.com profile] tabouli.)
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (RZ Ambigram)
From ^z – a sampling:

1. Engineering is done with numbers. Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.
6. (Mar's Law) Everything is linear if plotted log-log with a fat magic marker.
8. In nature, the optimum is almost always in the middle somewhere. Distrust assertions that the optimum is at an extreme point.
9. Not having all the information you need is never a satisfactory excuse for not starting the analysis.
13. Design is based on requirements. There's no justification for designing something one bit "better" than the requirements dictate.
16. The previous people who did a similar analysis did not have a direct pipeline to the wisdom of the ages. There is therefore no reason to believe their analysis over yours. There is especially no reason to present their analysis as yours.
19. The odds are greatly against you being immensely smarter than everyone else in the field. If your analysis says your terminal velocity is twice the speed of light, you may have invented warp drive, but the chances are a lot better that you've screwed up.
25. (Bowden's Law) Following a testing failure, it's always possible to refine the analysis to show that you really had negative margins all along.


And my favorite:

26. (Montemerlo's Law) Don't do nuthin' dumb.

Here is the canonical list.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Half-Face)
I think I mentioned Making Light a couple times before in other contexts, but the recent Open Thread 59 is really something. Just in what I've read so far, there's been:

  • Discussions of the effects of vacuum on unwrapped bars of soap (the original subject of the thread)
  • Discussions of the effects of unwrapped bars of soap on vacuums
  • Discussions of what sort of music a 12 to 14 year old kid at computer camp in 1980 would listen to (Kraftwerk seems to be among the likely candidates)
  • Discussions of explosive decompression in general, ranging from the modern consensus on what would occur to popular depictions in sci-fi (esp. the famous sequence in 2001 that I've never seen), including the comment which triggered this post:

Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2006, 06:30 AM:

Hmm. Question for Jordin and Graydon: do you suppose you could reduce or stop the O2 loss through your lungs, if you knew you were going to be spaced, by drowning yourself first? I'd expect a couple of lungs full of water would take quite a while to empty in vacuum, and while there's water in the way the diffusion rate is going to be a lot lower -- same pressure gradient, but the exposed surface area goes from something like a couple of tennis courts down to a couple of square centimetres.

Of course, recovery afterwards (when they hook you out of the airlock) is going to be a bitch ...


I gotta start reading these Open Threads more. Just ... whoa.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Half-Face)
One of my teachers this semester is working on a long-term project which, among other things, studies the way water boils in zero gravity.

The technical details )


I like this research a lot. I guess it's partially because zero-g is always cool, thanks to science fiction, but it's also because I like stories about the mechanics of phenomena, and this one's a good story.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
Today, I went to the National Air and Space Museum with one of my Scout friends. It's in a new building now – it used to be downtown, near the Mall, but it's out near Dulles now. There were four of us there: me and my friend plus his father and his friend. We split into two pairs to explore the exhibits.

The museum was as fun as it was last time, back in DC. It looks more like a hangar now, which is a good change, and I think it may be larger. However, the cafeteria, which wasn't particularly good in the first place, has now been reduced to a glorified McDonald's. Fortunately that's not what we came for.

A few memories I have of exhibits there:

  • A Langley flier. Famous as one of the last near-misses in the quest for heavier-than-air flight. Looking at it, our guesses were that poor wing and propeller design (the former only one curved sheet, the latter hardly curved at all) were the causes of failure. Of course, we know nothing about aerodynamics, so make your own judgment.
  • The Enola Gay was there. B-29 Superfortress, if I recall correctly; it was mostly unpainted.
  • There were several interesting helicopters and ... autorotors? I don't remember what the prop-planes-with-heli-rotors-on-top are called. Especially notable in that corner were the helicopter with two rotors whose circles intersected, and the helicopter with apparently only one rotor and no tail rotor. I wasn't sure how it kept from spinning – my friend had suggestions, but they didn't sound plausible to me.
  • There was an entire section of airplane engines as well, most of them for prop planes. Standing in front of one pair of engines, we spent a couple minutes trying to identify which corresponded to which sign, since both were 4-cylinder inline with the same displacement. I finally identified the bolt sockets on one from the blurry picture of a plane containing it before my friend noticed that the stands were marked with the names.
  • There was an entire case of prototype spacesuit designs which the Apollo program never got to use. The sign advertised that some were 'hard' suits, with higher internal pressure (convenient for reducing difficulties with the bends) and constant volume (making them possibly easier to move in). The sign also said they were working on them for use on the Mars mission.
  • There was also an android which NASA used to test the suits.
  • Last of all: There was the model of the 'mother ship' from Close Encounters of the Third Kind on exhibit. The sign pointed out that the animators, perhaps in their boredom, attached many joke items to the hull of the model, including an R2D2, a mailbox, a cemetery, a pair of airplanes, and many other things. My friend and I found most of the items they listed on the sign, with the exceptions of the VW bus (which a stranger pointed out), the mailbox, and the submarine. We never did find the latter two, but we found a couple other modeled items instead, including a door (like the door of a house, one of those four-pane jobs) and a 55-gallon drum (also known as a 44-gallon drum if you're British not American not from the US).





After returning from the museum, I got together materials for the dorm room at school and packed them in my mother's car. We then drove to the storage locker, where we picked up several more items for my dorm room at school, and repacked the car to contain them all. It looks like we can get just about everything in just two trips.

"Just about everything" will include my dorm fridge, my desktop computer, my DVDs, my clothes, my laundry detergent, my shower stuff, my other bathroom stuff, my bookcase, my textbooks, my notebooks, piles of mass-market paperback novels (mostly sci-fi), and other sundries. It will not include the paintings I got at the Prevention of Blindness thrift store a few weeks back. Since I probably won't get to hang them, I'll have to arrange to lean them against things, and in the meantime they shouldn't be in the room.

And since I will have to get up at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow, I shouldn't stay up typing. Adios!
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Silhouette)
<whine>Special relativity is hard!</whine>

Alright, now, what to do? Clearly, this 4-momentum stuff is just confusing me – I'll have to ignore it and use γmv instead, and I'll just assume conservation of momentum and try to compensate for time dialation by taking the time-derivative of that....
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Default)
Sorry I missed yesterday. I had a paper to finish revisions on and email in, and my section of another paper to complete and email to my group leader. I completed both, however, and I finished a final exam this morning as well.

To make up for the delay, I shall bore you out of your skull with blathering tell you about microelectromechanical sensor devices.

And if you didn't understand micro-electro-mechanical, you really will be bored )

Now that my diaristic obligations have been fulfilled, I shall nap. Or try to nap. Or just lie in bed for half an hour. Yeah.
packbat: One-quarter view of the back of my head. (Serious Science)
An oldie, but a goodie.


Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.

Fools.

The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

This is not a guide for wusses whose aim is merely to wipe out humanity. I (Sam Hughes) can in no way guarantee the complete extinction of the human race via any of these methods, real or imaginary. Humanity is wily and resourceful, and many of the methods outlined below will take many years to even become available, let alone implement, by which time mankind may well have spread to other planets; indeed, other star systems. If total human genocide is your ultimate goal, you are reading the wrong document. There are far more efficient ways of doing this, many which are available and feasible RIGHT NOW. Nor is this a guide for those wanting to annihilate everything from single-celled life upwards, render Earth uninhabitable or simply conquer it. These are trivial goals in comparison.

This is a guide for those who do not want the Earth to be there anymore.


There. Now I can be lazy and post nothing more all evening.

Of course, that said, I'll probably make fifty posts, including at least ten whining about not having any mustard. Or not.

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October 2011

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