While we observe Newtonmas on 25 December, today is the revised – Catholic – date of Sir Isaac’s birthday. Happy Birthday Anniversary to him.
I’ll ignore the question of whether he was the real messiah or not.
While we observe Newtonmas on 25 December, today is the revised – Catholic – date of Sir Isaac’s birthday. Happy Birthday Anniversary to him.
I’ll ignore the question of whether he was the real messiah or not.
OK. There is a heavy haze out there. I can’t get a line-of-sight at least a kilometer long to be able to guesstimate the optical density and thereby determine whether this is really a fog or not.
The SCIENCE podcast this morning was the yearly review podcast, which is almost as useless as not having one, which, as I mentioned earlier, is the foretelling for the next two weeks. May have to listen to a few backed-up In Our Time podcasts instead. And the number one of the year was the “discovery” of the Higgs (Higgses? number uncertain.) That’s sad, that something telling to bogs had to be the big one. Makes me wonder if the paywall is rotting the editors’ minds?
And FD SCP arose early so we vacated the whole package thing quickly and moved on to meaningful things like contemplating naps or projects.
I reverted to scanning tabs emergent from folders, an information thing that is sometimes emergent. And came up with a few cartoons that evoke memories of earlier holidays.
a righteous parable. I do not recall when I discovered that Santa brings unwanted stuff, but my first clear memory is of football pads and helmet. And the repeated denial of a chemistry set, almost until puberty set in. I am unsure of the unopenable thing, packaging was still cardboard when I was a bairn.
I recall that summer after I got the helmet and pads being enticed by my father to go try out for the neighborhood childish team. Happily, I was rejected and never looked back. But I still missed the chemistry set.
the adult curse. I think I was in college when I learned the techoid’s christmas secret – the best presents are the ones you build yourself.
But the best christmas present I ever got [Link] was
I got the whole set of kits at one time. That chistmas lasted six months and got me in lots of trouble. I haven’t been the same since and have been trying to recapture even to now.
Of course, organic chemistry is good too.
Evidently Canonical realized the depths of its sin and has managed to fix some of the problem. Anyway, my RSS accumulator, RSSOWL, is once more talking to browser so I am moving back to modality in terms of accumulating tabs. Sadly that also means I have to move back to modality on how I hawg tabs.
Starting off this morning, a study [Link] out of Hebrew U on how humans can unconsciously solve maths problems. I have to admit that this is no surprise to me. I have been solving maths problems in my sleep and during other activities, especially recreational activities such as reproductive interactions and beer drinking, for years now. I have to admit that my memories of early years are fuzzy, at least partly because until college I didn’t encounter that many maths problems that didn’t succumb quickly. I attribute this mostly to the rather incompetent nature of maths education in public shules. But doing maths unconsciously is natural and common, but at least now we have an academic validation of what I suspect has been common knowledge among nerds for centuries.
Similarly, [Link] but perhaps more originally, the wonks are saying that projectile weapons may have been developed/invented by early sapiens much earlier than previously thought. The technology of hafting, mounting a projectile point on a stick, has been pushed back from 0.3 MYA to 0.5 MYA. Somewhat intriguingly, the researchers actually cobbled together a weapons test rig that the Greeks might have been only slightly derogatory of to test their theories. [Link] Sadly, now they are asking rather strained questions about whether this gave sapiens a superiority over neandertalensis that resulted in extinction.[Link] Sadly because it starts with pushing genius back a period of 0.2 MY and then intimating that sapiens was so inept to take 0.5 MY to kill off neandertalensis. Technically brilliant but militarily klutzy. Which may be interpreted as indicating that sapiens was much nerdier in times past.
On which note, a Stanford U academic has announced that sapiens is indeed steadily getting stupider.[Link] Now all we have to do is figure out what critical mutation occurred 0.5 MYA to kick in right after we invented the spear to make us so boggish as to take until 30 KYA to dispose of neandertals. Rather begs for a dose of Lysenko-ism, doesn’t it?
But it is rather intriguing to think about a time when all of the species were nerds. I suspect the bog mutation was all that kept us from going extinct long ago if that be the case.
One of the cornerstones of modern physics is the Heisenberg uncertainty principle which describes the micro-granularity of space, which has been under a bit or reinterpretation as a limitation on measurement. I suspect this is a result of inadequate attention paid to classical antecedents. Sadly, there is no such description of history and hence all sorts of nonsense emerge from its depths.
There are two types of books: those written by people who actually practice the discipline of the book’s subject; and those written by those who are ignorant of the discipline but are arrogant, ignorant, and/or wanting money. I probably should qualify that to (supposedly) non-fiction books because all fiction is pretty well written by “professional” writers.
The books written by practitioners have the merit of relative accuracy, diluted only by down talking (baby talk) but the negative of not usually being very engaging. They are written in reality, not in bog. The books written by “professional” writers are usually engaging – or they don’t get published – but highly inaccurate.
At least this is some of what went through my mind yesterday when I got an eAd from Barnes and Ignoble that included a book entitled [Link] “The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace”. I immediately wondered whether the author, his agent, or the editor’s publicist came up with that title. I then wondered if the folks who read this sort of thing are really so simple as to credit the title. And I wondered how a supposedly professional historian could defecate such an egregious title.
Get me not wrong. I have considerable respect for Hiram Ulysses Grant, renamed Ulysses Simpson Grant by the Yankee army. If he had not broken VIcksburg, the Union could not, in all likelihood won the war. In the drooling over Meade’s passive triumph at Gettysburg we tend to forget the importance of the West, as it was called then. And so on from there. But the idea that Grant was obscure is a mis-service and a diversion. Grant was a promising officer until the matter of the missing pay chest sent him into disgrace and self-imposed, dipsomaniacal exile as a pseudo-civilian.
Of greater magnitude is the idea that Grant was the solitary savior of the Union. Stercus Tauri! One can make as good or better case for a dozen others, including Abraham Lincoln. I suspect this is some pet peeve of the author writ large in absurdity that will escape only bogs. I have not read the book, nor do I plan to. I fear the title has polluted the waters to much.
Tis Freya’s day and something slithery is missing in the belfry. Yesterday was a bit exhausting with a medicalist examination – periodic – and all sorts of dashing about in Huntsville. So I am a bit flagged this morning.
I did however, note an article [Link] detailing the discovery of lithic spears dating to 300KYA. This would make the oldest spears known. It is not clear if these were true throwing spears or just stabbing spears. The distinction, and date, are somewhat important in their relationship to the emergence (?) of war.
Of course, there is the question of whether war was separately emergent or a consequence of the evolution of organization?
Yesterday was a bit of catch-up since much of Wednesday was spent in Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. One of the tasks – delightful – was to go through two days worth of comics. Several of grab and two that seemed worthy of notice.
First, this one [Link]
that evoked memories of a similar event in my own childhood.
The Huntsville Electron potential difference company had to replace a transformer near our house. I wheedled the transformer from them – my piece of street, as it were. But what I did was to harvest the transformer wire and use it to make an electromagnetic gun that shot iron bits, nails from my father’s stash, and got me into rather a bit of hot water because one of then blew a hole in the dry wall and embedded in the exterior brick. Loud noise. My mother came running in and made louder noise. She pulled the wait-till-your-father-gets-home thing that is supposed to be punishment in and of itself. He looked at the damage and told me to be careful to stay out of the way of such things lest I kill myself. End of admonitions and punishment.
Is it any wonder I found shule tedious and boring until I got to college?
The second, [Link]
is a pretty accurate description of conditions when I was a bairn. We had only one telephone and it was a wall phone, in the kitchen, which made for great difficulties when I got to be a teenager. This may give some insight into my thoughts about cellular telephone usage.
None of the cars had seat belts until I was in college. When I started work there was still a lot of discussion about why anyone would want to use one and that the government mandate was fascism. I religiously used mine, mostly because as uncomfortable as they were (and are), they are less uncomfortable than sitting on them.
And we had only three stations that we could reliably receive through an aerial. Cable was still decades away. And we had to go outside and turn the aerial by rotating its pole to switch from the Huntsville station to one of the Birmingham stations. And if there were thunderstorms, they would fuzz out. And that was the choice, to stay home on Saturday morning to watch cartoons or go downtown to see the kid’s movie special which was usually two “B” action movies and three cartoons.
And we were solidly middle class, not poor. The poor were people who lacked motorcar or indoor plumbing. We still have some of that kind of poor in Alibam, in Marshall county. But we also have homeless and those who work two jobs and can’t feed or clothe their children.
I have not commented lately about my experiment with Unity in Ubuntu 12.04. The short report is that I abandoned Unity as a perversion of pedophillic proportion. At the suggestion – gentle persistent arm twisting – of one of my colleagues, Speed of Light Vector Potential, I installed the KDE (Kool Desktop Environment?) GUI. I can report that I find it at least as rewarding as XFCE and perhaps more so. There are some arcana that are not adequately documented, and there is some friction between the Unity bits and the KDE bytes, but overall, it is a massive improvement.
But because of that I find myself in the instance of having two boxes with tabs to be cleared, so this is the secondary, at least for a while. The first item is some excellent photography of the recent transit of Venus made by the astronomy folks at the campus of the Black Warrior [Link]
There’s also a rather amusing picture of the gathering of people on the observation roof of Galilee Hall. I am not sure whether the picture is there because of the PR folks or because of outreach, which I commented on earlier today. I was fulfilled to note that the nature of these gatherings has not changed in the almost fifty years since I became an undergraduate at the campus. Most of the folks there are thrill seekers with the men generally under dressed for the occasion – and clearly not physics majors – and the women overdressed. I suspect this gathering was typical of summer gatherings when the campus is somnolent, the Greek societies are in hibernation, or, at least, abandonment, and people will turn out for any diversion. Even at the physics building.
Back when I was a student the physics building was paired with Foster audiotorium for class registration. People were supposed to go to Galilee to see a faculty type to get their course form approved then wander across University Avenue to Foster to “pull” IBM 5081 cards for each class and course. Times to come to Galilee were scheduled by initial of last name and a signed course form was required for admittance to Foster. The name schedule was rotated slightly each term to “assure” equality of access. Of course, I soon found that any signature would do and even though I had registered a physics major and had free access to Galilee, I usually skipped that step and went immediately to Foster. Not that it mattered after my sophomore year. Once the mandatory artsy-fartsy courses – english syntax and literature mainly – were out of the way, I didn’t have much competition for a seat in the classes I was taking. The average students didn’t want to atke a challenging, useful course, just an easy one.
Nowadays I suspect they do it all on-line. I have no idea how people get the easy TAs and faculty. I’ll have to ask. Registration is not one of the things that prey on my mind these days.
I also recall summer term as the best of the three. Fall was ruined by all the football fanaticism and the drug abuse. I know that goes with attending a party shule but it was still nasty and I alsways felt like I was wasting money a bit. Spring was better but there was still too much inebriation and stupidity. The only down side of summer was the influx of all the public shule teachers taking classes for certification renewal or advanced education degrees. Happily they kept to themselves and pretty much stayed around the education college. Not too many in the haunts I walked.
The other good thing about summer was you could actually do stuff. No one got in your way in you spent much of the night sitting on the quadrangle, and you could almost always get plenty of access to the observatory or the mainframe (no desktops of laptops in those days!) And when you weren’t in class there weren’t millions of bogs around getting in the way and making noise and playing dominance games. So you could study or just think. Thinking was rare on the campus of the Black Warrior. Only a few even tried and they had problems with the noise of all the rest.
Election day. At least the presidential primary here in Alibam, plus some other races including chief state justicer. The latter means that we need to go to the polls and vote against the religionist fanatic who got fired from the job once and has the chutzpah to run again. The only good that that can be said of this is that he makes the whackedness of the presidential wanna-bes recede almost into background.
While we’re on that, I ran across an article this weekend extolling the virtues of von Braun. [Link] If the article hadn’t been so perverted serious it would have been funny. The kindest thing one can say about von Braun is that he had the courage of his convictions. Those convictions did not include anything remotely like loyalty to nation or organization. He took up National Socialist membership and Amerikan citizenship for the same reason – to advance his technical researches. Of course none of this gets mentioned in the article because this is all about deification, not analysis, or even accuracy. But there is an awful lot of clay to re removed from his lower extremities before that can be accomplished.
And while we’re on self-serving, but not, in this case, of anything uplifting, there is an article about the whack that Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill has for a shule executive.[Link] This is a guy who obviously thinks he has the divine right of kings, which is two strikes against him, and that the elected education council answers to him rather than the reverse. The closest comparison one could make would be to Adolph Hitler except that no one has yet given him explosives, not that such would be appropriate. Removal from position would be sufficient if some intelligence and rationality can be used in selecting a successor.
In which frame of mind, I am off shortly to cast my ballot and see how many of the whacks and perverts I can vote against. We know the nation cannot long survive when the choices for elected office are best described as “None of the Above.”
Since I had to dash about Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill yesterday and then, upon returning to Greater Metropolitan Arab, dash about some more, I feel rather in need of some grounding. Hence, I start this morning by noting an article [Link] on work out of the Smithsonian and U Exeter that the Americas were actually, originally (??????,) populated by humans from Europe.
Yep, stash all that good stuff about the Bering Land Bridge as also rans, recall that Kennewick man [Link] was not asian descended, and you come down to a scenario where Nawth America was initially settled from the East – Chesapeake Bay – West and sometime later the Asian hordes came across the land bridge, did in the original European colonists, and established what are now the AmerIndians.
Puts Benjamin Franklin, the Albany Accord, and disease ridden blankets in a new light, doesn’t it? Of course they didn’t know about this so the biological warfare wasn’t pay back so much as pay grab, but the high ground occupied by the noble ‘red’ man just turned into a swamp.
And from U Toronto and U Cambridge comes word of the discovery of the oldest found vertebrate, dating back 505 MYA.
“The research team’s analysis proves the extinct Pikaia gracilens is the most primitive member of the chordate family, the group of animals that today includes fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and mammals.”
For those who have problems interpreting the picture, PG is a worm and it is, until some better find comes along, the ancestor of all living vertebrate animals on Tellus.
So forget all about that creationist/unintelligent design blather about missing links and descent from apes. Let us indeed consider descent from worms, which is probably pretty well supported by considering the wormish characteristics of a lot of those creationist/unintelligent design pundits.
So do you really want to go worm grunching (or whatever it is properly called?) Do you really want to grind up grand^N ancestor for worm burgers, or even use him/her/both to try to catch fish? Leave them to aerate the soil, making dirt of the good kind, and leave the bad kind to the creationists and unintelligent designists.
Strange morning. Cooler just now dispersing seed for the tree mammals and dinosaur descendants than it was when I motored to/from Scant City. This put me in mind of an article [Link] cited in an email yesterday. The article is about Robert Millikan’s oil drop experiment.
The experiment has very little to do with oil, or automobiles, or anything obvious from the name. It is all about the charge on an electron. And I need to mention that this is all happening back at the turn of the last century, back in Tom Swift time, which is appropriate because this effort is almost a classic Greek hero story.
The basic postulate was that the electron has a fixed charge and this experiment was intended to measure that charge. What Millikan set up was a can with a simple capacitor – two plates – and a perfume sprayer full of light oil and a charged screen to put charge on the drops. There was a hole in the can to which a telescope was attached (although we might as well call it a rich field microscope) that could see the space between the capacitor plates.
The prescription was to find a drop that had the right size and a charge on it, then watch it fall a measured distance (angle) with the capacitor grounded, then charge the capacitor and watch the drop rise throgh the same distance, note the times, and then repeat until the drop got lost. And you repeat this a whole lot of times.
The basic idea is that the drop has some number of electrons on its surface and therefore its rise time would be determined by that number of charges. So you can do a combinatorics analysis to figure out the charge on a single electron.
The work is very tedious, and needs be done in a cold environment to minimize the giggling of the droplets. I had to do this experiment as a sophomore in undergraduate schule about this time of year. I recall the room the apparatus was in had its heat turned off and the window open. It was very straining to use the equipment and about twenty hours of observation were expended after a couple of hours of learning procedure. Getting droplets to take charge and finding them is a strange skill that I am not sure I want to claim. Anyway, that was basically all the slack time I had that week which was all we had to do the experiment in since the next week we had another experiment to do. I did have a lab partner and we took turns looking and recording, about a half hour per shift. Recording was boring while observing hurt – eye and muscle strain.
I suppose today a video camera would be attacked to the telescope and the muscle strain eliminated and the recording could be automated so that the experiment could be done by an individual. Since no real teamwork was involved this would not be a bad thing.
But I still have a great deal of respect for Robert Millikan doing this experiment.
I’m not sure how this is an anniversary thing but it is the right time of year for me to have a memory storm.