Wrath and Air

Morning of joy! FIrst the Huntsville weather beavers fail miserably. Their direst minimum 23 degF and the actual, at Castellum SCP, is 19 degF at 0400 and 20 degF at 0600. And then my main deskbox craps out. 

This goes beyond hating winter.

Film when the anger and frustration ebb.


Reactionary Television

Yesterday SCPdatter asked when FD SCP and I were going to make the upgrade to high definition television. Our answer was that we most likely would not until we were forced to by the cable tyranny.

We have been gushed at by young people, most of whom know no better and we merely consign them to the category of pond scum bogs who will never be allowed in again; those who know better are mildly contused and if they mend their boys may be permitted to speak again. The gushing has been that HDTV is wonderful, marvelous, a christmas carol. Our answer to this is “rubbish.”

After being an observer of television for most of my lifetime I can advance a rather solid, if arbitrary and individualistic, hypothesis that the ‘better’ the display, the worse the presentation.

Now I have to tell what that means.

When I started watching the audio-visual electromagnetic receiver, it really did receive electromagnetic signals and the display was monochrome, or more accurately binary. I say that because it displayed approximations of black and white – dark and light gray shading a bit to green because of the glass in the image tube. But calling this monochrome is inaccurate since black is no chrome, no color, and while is omnichrome, all colors. And while there are maths where zero combined with infinity is one I don’t see how that applies here.

The resolution of the display was 600 lines by 400 lines, and that resolution stayed when the transition was made to polychrome. This was the first display enhancement. The spatial enhancement did not increase but the spectral contrast did. What decreased however was the quality of the presentation, what is sometimes called the programming. Basically the programs became more active and colorful. The smartness level, even of children’s programs sank. The archetype of this was Twilight Zone. For some reason once the display was polychrome the writing and the acting took a nose dive.

Now the display has increased in both spatial resolution and spectral contrast . Based on an on-going sampling of programming, there is even less worth watching on television. The number of channels but the amount of time when I find nothing on and turn off the television has increased from zero in my youth to about 0.33 today.

Some of this is age gap. That is, some of the programming is directed towards younger people than I and hence it is unappealing. But a lot of it is just uninteresting (“u”, not “i”, note) and not worth the potential difference per time to run the machine. So the question is not when do I break down and buy an HD TV – actually, I bought one and we tried it and walked away; some of the programming suffers from higher definition just like the old programs suffered from polychrome – it is when do i break down and cancel the cable subscription?

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Sterci et Fungi

OK, the weekend has returned in vengeance. Actually, I suppose it sorta started yesterday as we gradually edge our way to a four day work week, but today for sure.

That means articles to clean out and perhaps even find some theme for. The starting one, the basis of the name for the blot, is based on an article [Link] from National Geographic about research at Royal Holloway U. The rebound mini-cold phase usually referred to as the Younger Dryas is sometimes blamed on an impact by a wandering body – astronomical, that is, and contrary to language, not a planet but a meteorite or some such. Now there is evidence refuting this and it is based on analysis that indicates that what was previously thought of as bits of remnant of a CHON meteorite are actually bits of fungus spores and insect stercus.

This is Victorian era science at its finest carried forth into our present day of corporate pseudo-science. Even Holmes himself might have been expected to have written a monograph on the subject. Hurrah for the study of bits!

Next, we have news [Link] that the lads (and lassies) at the Large Hadron Collider have simulated the sound they expect of a Higgs boson. This may seem a bit strange; it did to me until I thought of the sounds of the particles I have known. The most common are the sounds of electrons – they make a crack sound. And I have heard a sizzle when I have seen Cerenkov radiation. I can only hope this is not an instance of imagining a noise of what turns out to be an imaginary particle.

Next, boffins at U College London have determined a GUB (greatest upper bound) on the mass of neutrinos based on observational astronomy. [Link] They say the mass is no-greater-than 0.28 eV, which is of order of 1E-09 of the mass of a hydrogen atom, which, incidentally, is made up of two particles.

I have to admit this is all rather exciting to physicists and to an ORF physicist [1] in particular. All of my career the particle wonks kept telling us that neutrinos didn’t seem to have any mass. Now they do and we go around, a bit like monks, chanting that neutrinos have mass. Rather reminds one of clerical bureaucrats after the bishop of Rome changes policy.

And not to be outdone, the folks at U Arizona tell us that those reusable pseudo-cloth grocery bags we are all supposed to be toting instead of consuming Tellus with MalWart plastic bags (how about just not shopping at MalWart?) also have unsuspected mass. [Link] Seems that the bags harbor all sorts of microbes including E. coli.

And yes, I do have to admit that I bought some of the bags although my concern had more to do with getting groceries home in my motor car than in combating the environmental depredations of corporate Amerika and its consumerist minions. Not that I am opposed to doing things to preserve the biosphere but it is discouraging when something like 0.6 of the households in Greater Metropolitan Arab do not recycle, (and are not hauled from their beds and shot in the neck to tumble into an unmarked mass grave,) and the recyclage is limited to what the contractor can make profit on, not what can be recycled. Besides, I have a second use for those bags to package my recyclage. As such they are useful all year round whereas newspapers have second use only in watermelon and mush melon (cantalope?) season. Should I get a parakeet to strengthen the newspaper industry?

And lastly, I note an article on writing/running FORTH programs on FCs. [Link] [2] This recalls the days when I bought my first PC back in the days when one bought one from an IBM dealer with floppy disk drives and maybe 65 kB of RAM. I bought mine to learn how to program on PCs and one of the languages I played with was FORTH.

Programming, at least back in the days of DOS 2.0 and integrated editor-compilers was a matter of write code, save code, compile code, run code; repeat. For FORTH programming one generally had to add the step after run code of ‘reboot computer’. Programming in FORTH was a bit like playing Russian Roulette with an machine pistol. There were no safeguards and so if one did something that whacked the OS one went off into computer la-la land. Nowadays, of course, we just lock the program up in its own virtual box and kill the box when we vertically copulate. But in those days reboot was one of our more common activities.

FORTH was one of the reasons I looked for something else, and why I embraced Turbo Pascal. It did many thing right that were wrong with early PC programming: the integrated editor-compiler-debugger environment and a very robust language. Them MegaHard came along with Windows, which they stole from XEROX, like everyone else, and made programming nothing more than etch-a-sketch. Nowadays, I have the joy of Linux and terminal so I can really program when I need to. But I don’t think it will be in FORTH.

[1]  No, ORF physicists do not have pointy ears. Many of us have hairy ears but that has to do with age.
[2]  For those who have forgotten, an FC is a ‘Free Computer’, which is a PC that has been freed from MegaHard slavery by having Linux installed as an OS.