Archive for: March, 2008

Fizeau's experiment: The original paper

Mar 31 2008 Published by under Physics

When I wrote my 'speed of light' post, I had to do a lot of searching to find Fizeau's original paper. Fizeau, as I mentioned, produced the first terrestrial measurement of the speed of light, using a rapidly rotating toothed wheel to break a light signal into continuous pulses whose speed could then be estimated. Since I've managed to find, after some effort, Fizeau's paper, I thought I'd do the physics community a service and post it in a more easy to find place: my blog!

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I need to swear more

Mar 31 2008 Published by under Silliness

Via Respectful Insolence, I found a wonderful web tool that allows you to rate the amount of cussin' you do on your blog. I rated a pathetic 1.7%:

The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?

I need to swear more, for fuck's sake...

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Happy birthday to Christopher Walken!

Mar 31 2008 Published by under Entertainment

One can hardly let March 31st go by without wishing iconic actor Christopher Walken a happy birthday! This quirky actor has played a number of offbeat roles, including a seemingly-insane drill sergeant in Biloxi Blues, a Bond villain in A View to a Kill, a dark angel in The Prophecy, an eccentric tyrant of a South American town in The Rundown and of course a head-chopper in Sleepy Hollow. He has also demonstrated a great talent for more serious parts, such as his academy-award winning role in The Deer Hunter, and an Oscar-nominated role in Catch Me If You Can. When needed, though, he can also be uproariously funny, as he demonstrated in Pulp Fiction and Wayne's World 2 (indeed, he might have been the only funny thing in the latter film).

When I think of Christopher Walken, though, I will always think first and foremost of the role presented in video form below the fold:

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C.L. Moore's Black God's Kiss

Mar 30 2008 Published by under Fantasy fiction, Robert E. Howard

I mentioned in a previous post the "Planet Stories" publications, which are reprints of classic pulp fantasy, horror, and adventure stories. I finished recently one of those publications, Black God's Kiss, the collected stories of C.L. Moore's character Jirel of Joiry. The character of Jirel is especially notable as being the first strong female sword-and-sorcery character written by a woman!

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Max Brooks' World War Z

Mar 29 2008 Published by under Horror

I've previously described Max Brooks' first book, The Zombie Survival Guide, which I found to be a both amusing and chilling fictional field guide written in the wake of a world-wide zombie holocaust.  My favorite part of that book was its appendix of 'historical' zombie outbreaks, a collection of vignettes about human encounters with the living dead throughout history.  The terseness of these little stories made them especially creepy, as the reader feels that he/she is lacking crucial pieces to the puzzle.

Brooks' 2006 follow-up, World War Z, continues and expands upon this narrative style.  It is written as an oral history recorded after the zombie holocaust by a U.N. worker.  Tales begin with the Chinese outbreak which starts it all, through the collapse of civilization as we know it, to the turn of the tide of battle and eventually the aftermath of the decidedly Pyrrhic victory.  The tales are at times fascinating, humorous, horrifying, and even inspiring, and as a whole I found the book nearly impossible to put down.

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Phishers: It's like they're not even trying any more...

Mar 28 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?

I get so many `phishing' emails that I used to not bother even looking at them, but some of them are such comedy gold that I'm starting to enjoy the bizarre tales that they tell (like, for instance, the one that begged me to help out some poor Christian lepers).  The most recent one (which arrived in a batch of four identical messages) is so ridiculously generic that I had to post it.  Phisher after the fold:

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Bradley Steffens' Ibn al-Haytham: First Scientist

Mar 27 2008 Published by under General science

A few weeks ago I did a post on the camera obscura and noted that the earliest researcher to really understand its properties was the middle-eastern scientist Ibn al-Haytham (965-1040), who in spite of his impressive achievements is rarely discussed by the physics community (including myself in that group).  The post caught the attention of Bradley Steffens, who has recently written a short book on the scientist, and now that I've read it, I thought I'd recommend it!

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Wednesday catblogging: Intrepid Eleanor!

Mar 26 2008 Published by under Animals

I just had to post about Eleanor, my semi-adopted stray cat.  When I arrived back late last night from my trip, she was waiting at the front door for me, wanting to be let in.  Of course, I let her in, and she took up her usual spot on my guest bed, purring madly.

The next morning, I went in to find her, and called out her name.  Usually she comes right away, but this time I heard a muffled 'meow', but no cat!  I peeked under the bed several times, but couldn't spot her amongst the clutter.  I circled the bed several times, scratching my head, until I noticed the bulge underneath the comforter.  I lifted up the end carefully, and found...

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PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins: a lesson in 'framing'

Mar 25 2008 Published by under Science news

The blogs are all abuzz with a recent kerfuffle amongst PZ Myers of Pharyngula and Matt Nisbet of Framing Science. For those who haven't been following it, a brief summary follows: PZ was 'expelled' from the soon-to-be-released creationist claptrap Expelled. The irony of someone being barred from a movie that pretends that creationists suffer such treatment was lost on no one, and the story has been significant news over the past few days, appearing in The New York Times and even appearing briefly on the news bar at the IMDB! A further irony is the fact that Richard Dawkins, even more prominent atheist and biologist, went right in to see the show.

Matt Nisbet started the kerfuffle (it's a word - look it up - I have no idea how I knew it) by suggesting that Myers and Dawkins are very poor spokespeople in the battle between creationists and scientists, presumably because they're unappealing atheists, and that they should be quiet. To quote,

If Dawkins and PZ really care about countering the message of The Expelled camp, they need to play the role of Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro and so many other political operatives who through misstatements and polarizing rhetoric have ended up being liabilities to the causes and campaigns that they support. Lay low and let others do the talking.

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A shout-out to some excellent horror publishers

Mar 25 2008 Published by under Fantasy fiction, Horror

Before I started writing this blog, I hadn't actively hunted down new (and old) horror for some time. Older works were very hard to find and new books were often... lacking, to put it politely. I'll have a rant about the latter point in a few days but as far as for former: there are some excellent publishers out there printing things that have been lost or unpublished for decades, and in some cases the works were clearly a labor of love. Below the fold, I give a brief 'shout-out' to three publishers whose efforts have made recent years a sort of 'golden age' for researching and studying pulp fantasy and horror:

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