Archive for: March, 2008

Bloggin' at the Airport...

Mar 25 2008 Published by under Personal

Ugh. I'm waiting in an Ohio airport for a flight home. I just finished giving a talk on my research, which seemed to go over well - lots of questions and lots of compliments afterwards. This will be a less-than-24-hour stay; hopefully, I'll be blogging more interesting stuff come tomorrow.

In the meantime, below the fold is a grainy, cell phone picture I took of a hawk. I was heading into the building for the next session when I noticed a lady photographing the bird. It was resting on a low-hanging branch, no more than ten feet from us. I think that's the closest I've been to a wild hawk in my life. Lovely bird:

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David Morrell's Creepers

Mar 24 2008 Published by under Horror

David Morrell is a name which is almost synonymous with 'thriller'.  His first novel, First Blood, spawned the character of John Rambo and gave Sylvester Stallone something to do on and off for twenty-five years.  Morrell also has written books that straddle the thin line between thriller and horror, and I recently read one of them, the 2005 novel Creepers.

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Concert report: Jonathan Coulton and Paul and Storm

Mar 23 2008 Published by under Entertainment

The girlfriend and I spent the weekend in Atlanta to catch Jonathan Coulton in concert.  The internet sensation responsible for Code Monkey and Re: Your Brains put on an excellent show, and even though the auditorium wasn't filled, the audience was wild and enthusiastic.  My favorite part was Coulton using the audience to provide a 'zombie chorus' for Re: Your Brains, and I joined in as best (or, more accurately, worst) I could.

One of the most pleasant surprises of the show was the opening act: Paul and Storm.  This comedic musical duo warmed up the crowd with a collection of silly and very funny short tunes.  They also seemed completely undaunted that most of the audience had never heard of them before!  (Hopefully that will change.)

Coulton joined Paul and Storm for a song, and P & S joined Coulton for quite a few.

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A better economy in 2009?

Mar 21 2008 Published by under Silliness

This made me laugh: CNN's headline right now is "Americans confident in 2009 turnaround", at least as far as the economy is concerned. The first thing that came to mind for me: what's the one thing that absolutely must change in 2009? This is what I came up with...

P.S. The Girlfriend and I are going to be going to a concert this weekend, so I probably will be posting light, if at all...

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Relativity: Measuring the speed of light

Mar 21 2008 Published by under Optics, Physics, Relativity

When I was an undergraduate, one of my professors told the following funny (and probably apocryphal) anecdote (recalled from memory):

A court case was being tried in New Mexico. A group of pornographers were charged with smuggling pornography from Mexico by projecting it across the border to a camera. The defense argued that nothing physical was transported, and in the end the argument boiled down to this: if light moved at a finite speed, the films were being transported; if it moved at infinite speed, the defense was correct. A physicist was brought in to discuss the speed of light but, after a number of figures were presented, the judge interrupted. "When I put my hands over my eyes, the light stops coming immediately, and when I move my hands, it reappears instantly. The speed of light is infinite - the defendants are not guilty!"

The reason I suspect this story is apocryphal is that science has accepted that the speed of light is finite - albeit very large - for centuries. The value, usually denoted c, is approximately \(c = 3times 10^8 \) meters/second, or 186,282 miles/second. In fact, as we will see in later posts, light is the fastest thing in the universe. The topics we address in this post: a brief history of measuring the speed of light, and how these measurements led inexorably to Einstein's special theory of relativity.

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Happy birthday to Patrick McGoohan!

Mar 19 2008 Published by under Entertainment

Through watching Countdown with Keith Olbermann, I've learned that today is Patrick McGoohan's birthday!  If you don't know McGoohan, you should: he was the star and one of the driving forces behind The Prisoner television series, arguably the best and most challenging television series in history.  The Prisoner is a series about a retired secret agent ("Number 6") struggling to maintain his identity after being abducted to a mysterious prison for spies called "The Village."  Before The Prisoner, McGoohan played agent John Drake in the Bond-esque spy thriller Danger Man aka Secret Agent Man (I can play and sing a pretty darn good Secret Agent Man theme).  He has also appeared in countless other movies, notably (to me, at least) as the warden in Escape From Alcatraz, sinister art dealer Roger Devereau in the Gene Wilder/Richard Pryor comedy Silver Streak, and King Edward I in Braveheart.

Happy birthday to Patrick McGoohan!  Be seeing you!

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Arthur C. Clarke dies at 90

Mar 19 2008 Published by under Science news

Science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, writer of numerous books including the iconic 2001, passed away today in Sri Lanka at the age of 90. Reading various comments around the internet today, I almost get the feeling that Clarke will be remembered as much, if not more, for his influence on the perception of science as much as for his actual science fiction writing. This is certainly true for me personally.

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The War Prayer

Mar 19 2008 Published by under Personal

Tomorrow marks the five-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. I don't have a whole lot to say about it this morning, but instead will link to the text of Mark Twain's The War Prayer. Twain was a brilliant writer, and his essay is as relevant and poignant today as it was when he first wrote it. This piece was considered controversial enough that Twain was discouraged from publishing it, and it appeared only six years after his death.

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Just how well can an elephant paint, anyway?

Mar 18 2008 Published by under Animals

Via, I found an intriguing video which has been making the rounds. An elephant in Thailand named Hong has been taught to paint - really well. Watch the video, be astonished, then go below the fold to be brought back to Earth (a bit)...

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Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out

Mar 16 2008 Published by under Horror

A lot of fascinating books pass unjustly from immense popularity to relative obscurity as time passes. I just finished reading one such book, The Devil Rides Out (1934), by Dennis Wheatley. Wheatley (1897-1977) was an amazingly prolific author who wrote stories in the adventure, mystery, and occult genres. The Devil Rides Out was his sixth book, and is a fascinating hybrid adventure/occult thriller.

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