Sports Dynamics

I was scanning Uncertain Principles [Link] a physics (albeit experimental and academic) blog this morning and he discusses the graduation rate data for college athletes. [Link] Sadly, the name is misleading (i.e., inaccurate!) because its not a rate, its a fraction, but the discussion is worthwhile. He analyzes the data in terms of how much revenue the sport produces for the school, an approach that will be readily understood by discerning college football enthusiasts such as my esteemed colleague Total Angular Momentum Coupling better known to graduates of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute as Eye of the Tyger.

What is interesting is if we order the sports by graduation fraction: For men: Skiing (0.89); Lacrosse (0.88); Fencing (0.87), Gymnastics (0.86); Water Polo (0.85); Ice Hockey (0.84) – Worse were Football (0.65); Baseball (0.65); and Basketball (0.59). For Women: Fencing, Field Hockey, and Skiing (0.94); Lacrosse (0.93) and the worse were Bowling (0.70) and Rifle (0.78).

While the negative correlation of the big money sports of football and basketball are obvious, the secondary thing that’s noticeable here is that the high completion sports are about evenly divided between individual and team sports. Is there something about team sports, especially the high intensity revenue sports that is antithetical to matriculation?

Obviously, the women’s fractions are higher than the men’s. This reflects the change in demographics from when I was an undergraduate. At that time most women considered successful matriculation to be an Mrs., not a B.A. or B.S. Apparently the genetic influences of gathering make for a better student than those of hunting.

Could it also be that today introverts tend to be more likely to
matriculate than extroverts? He He, I do have to concede that fencing
was one of my sports albeit I was never very good at it. I thought too much. But I did enjoy shooting as well but could leave the horse riding behind.

Who Knew?

I ran across an Engadget feed article this morning about a tasting robot. [Link] I quote the interesting part here:

“How could we have known when NEC unveiled their cute little tasting robot last year that something much more nefarious was at hand? Sure, it does its whole “I’m just a cute bot with no mouth that tastes your food and wine with an infrared sensor and probably won’t try for world domination anytime soon,” schtick, but at a recent press meetup the bot had a little Freudian slip that unveiled its true feelings. Apparently the bot mistook a reporter for prosciutto, and a cameraman’s hand for bacon, revealing its deep longing for red meat and human flesh.”

One more example of poor reportage, apparently the result of our sad sack education system these days, although journalism curricula have never been long on knowledge, just perverse curiosity. But not bad enough to rate a Doughnut Award. Just typical, albeit amusing, reportage.

Why amusing? Humans are commonly called “Long Pig” by cannibals. Go see Garry Hogg’s Cannibalism and Human Sacrifice, Citadel Press, New York, 1958.

Batteries and Billiards

I have been following, as have many info-nerds and info-geeks, the recent matter of the exploding laptop batteries. As one who has shorted electromagnet power supplies through his body and designed guided missiles and even investigated designing warheads to combat tornadoes, this is an area of natural attraction. There is something suitably perverse about computer hardware that will turn on its owner in such a fashion.

I was thus rather taken this morning with a photo of a Sony laptop that had evidently rather spectacularly committed sepuku. [Link] So I had to reproduce the photograph.


Of course, we are all familiar with computer software that turns on its owner, at least to the extent that the legal system allows any of us to own software any more. I asked my lawyer whether software I wrote myself was mine or not and he gave me some ambiguous answer about having to review my compiler licenses and how many billable hours was the answer worth to me?

The current favorite for untrustworthy, treacherous software is, of course, Microsoft Windows, followed closely by any government website. For some reason, Microsoft has adopted the attitude that none of us have anything better to do than follow the demands of their product. Its clearly theirs since we can’t own it, we just lease it for the duration of their kindness. At least that’s how the license is explained to me.

Anyway, whenever Windows updates itself, which has now become an automated process that I cannot control, it demands that I allow it to reboot my computer that instant, regardless and unmindful that what I am doing may be more important. Which of us is the intelligent being here? Myself or Windows? (I will concede that it is sentient, at least in a rather warped way warming only to practitioners and theoreticians of computer science.) If I defer it, like a small ill-disciplined and obnoxious child that I can neither discipline nor reason with, comes back moments later with the same request. Most such software naddas have a timer for when it may re-ask, but not Imperial Microsoft products. Another reason to look at Unix/Linux.

Oh yes, I forgot the billiards part, which is a strained comparison of technology biting. Back in the middle years of the second half of the nineteenth century, one major technology innovation was the introduction of billiard balls made from a chemical based on cellulose. These billiard balls were a replacement for ones made of ivory which had come into short supply because of over-hunting of the ivory bearing animals. This is sometimes touted as a good example of how the market corrects its sins.

The new billiard balls were widely recognized as superior to the old ones on several counts but shortly after their introduction the warmer parts of the nation were suddenly afflicted by a rash of buildings exploding. Since many of these buildings were the then equivalent of gaming establishments and sold spirits, which are combustible, and communication was rather slow despite the telegraph, it was some time before it could be noted that one feature all of these building had in common was the presence of billiard tables.

Turns out that as the billiard balls are repeatedly struck they readily develop faults in their structure and these faults are rather sensitive to temperature. Hence, after being struck so many times (random variable) and being hot, another strike started a run-away chemical reaction, which is commonly called an explosion. Boom, away with the billiard ball; away with its surroundings; away with the building.

The marvels of modern technology.

HP and the Past

The Register has an article in its feed this morning proclaiming that “HP wants to forget the past.” [Link] The past referred to here is their internal and external espionage efforts that have roosted to make them look as if they are blackguards, scoundrels, and thieves, which they are if the evidence is reported accurately.

The sad side of the matter is that HP is in this sorry situation because it has forgotten its past. Were the company still run in the manner of its founders, Hewlett and Packard, then this situation should never have arisen. Nor would their product line be viewed increasingly as shoddy and typical.

The only bright aspect is they have not yet been struck with the exploding battery debacle. But it saddens me when any good organization mutilates itself in such a manner, especially excusing itself as an abomination of the marketplace.

The Edge of Extinction

One more degree. [Link]

That’s all the additional heat rise needed to change the planetary environment says NASA. The announcement indicates that scientific study has finally reached the stage of integration where non-linear (in the mathematical sense) effects are being more comprehensively considered.

The report stops short of talking about what percentage of the human population of the planet will be killed if these changes occur. There is a Republican administration, after all.

Not to worry – NASCAR is still on the television and the paycheck is still electroned to the bank.

Capitalist Education?

It seems the University of Reading is closing their physics department. [Link]

The reason for this is simple. Departments are funded on the basis of the number of students taking courses. In the Yankee government this is known as customer funding. The rationale is that if something is worth doing or having, customers will pay for its continued existence. If it isn’t, it will quietly go bankrupt.

This sort of thing may work for fast food restaurants but not for some necessities that we need as a species or organization but not obviously individually. Most individuals have no need to hire physicists like they do automobile mechanics or physicians. So in a purely Maslovian sense, if their heads are high up the hierarchy, they don’t want to be bothered with the things at the bottom – survival things.

This is the same attitude that has led to the economic difficulties of libraries, public schools, and other centers of knowledge/information. It portends great difficulties for humanity both at the species level and at the national level. Nations without information resources are prey for command regimes, either internally or externally. But democracy isn’t important when you can watch NASCAR. Global warming, if left unchecked, will exterminate the human race, and checking it will require more, not fewer, scientists.But extinction isn’t important so long as the paycheck continues.

Doughnut Award

I am happy to announce the bestowal of A False Authority Doughnut Award to Charles Choi for his article in the LiveScience feed “Atomic Physics Predicts Successful Store Location.” [Link] Mr. Choi was reporting on the use of Atomic Physics methods to predict the success of store locations.

Journalism is the craft of answering the so-called “W” questions: who; what; why; when; and how. Mr. Choi managed to completely avoid any constructive treatment of the how question. To quote Mr. Choi:


“To see how well one kindof business, such as furniture stores, attracted or repelled other types of stores, such as delis or hairdressers, Jensen (the scientist) looked at each kind of store and then examined what other sorts of businesses were or were not found within a 300-foot radius, which he judged as a typical distance a customer accepts to walk to visit different stores. He then plugged those numbers into calculations that are normally used to study atomic interactions.”

How was the “judgment” performed? How are the “Calculations” done?

I don’t expect to see reproduction of actual maths in a popular feed, but I do expect a descriptionwith substance.

This helps explain however, why Live Science is one of the worst of the popular science feeds.

So congratulations to Mr. Choi and Live Science for a truly enlightening article worthy of the intelligence of pond scum.