Archive for: May, 2008

Seiches in Chicago

May 31 2008 Published by under Science news

This is interesting. Only a couple of weeks after I wrote about the phenomena of seiches, powerful winds on Lake Michigan produced a seiche which washed up on the Chicago shoreline (h/t my Mom). This seiche was not devastating or deadly, involving only 26-inch variations in water level. Unfortunately the storms which produced the seiche did a lot more damage, spawning tornados, huge hail and ripping down power lines.

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A couple of days left for the 'challenge'!

May 29 2008 Published by under General science

Just thought I'd put out a reminder that the official deadline for the 'classic science paper challenge' is only two days away: May 31st.  It will probably take me a couple of days to write up a wrap-up post about the 'challenge', so there's a little leeway in submitting.

We've got such great entries so far; I encourage everyone to take a look at the links page!

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Grounded!

May 28 2008 Published by under Sports, Travel

Well, I'm back from my skydiving adventure at the Memorial Day Boogie at Emerald Coast Skydiving Center.  Just like last year, the staff was friendly and helpful, and I managed to get eight jumps on the beach.  There's nothing like landing in front of the Flora-Bama bar and getting a round of cheers and applause from a bunch of bikers!

I should have video of some of the jumps next week, and I'll post them asap.

Some skydivers were not so lucky over the weekend; Michael Fournier, the French skydiver I've written about before, was planning to make his record-setting freefall over Canada from 130,000 feet.  Unfortunately, the attempt never got off the ground; an unexplained electrical discharge disconnected the high-altitude balloon from the gondola before takeoff, and it drifted to the ground 40 km away.

This malfunction put an end to this attempt to set the world-record freefall; the cost of the failure is estimated at 600,000 euros, but Fournier is hoping to try again in August.

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The gallery of failed atomic models, 1903-1913

May 27 2008 Published by under History of science, Physics

It is often said that history is "written by the victors". While this statement is usually referring to the winners of a military or political conflict, a similar effect occurs in the history of science. Physics textbooks, for instance, often describe the development of a theory in a highly abbreviated manner, omitting many of the false starts and wrong turns that were taken before the correct answer was found. While this is perfectly understandable in a textbook (it is rather inefficient to teach students all of the wrong answers before teaching them the right answer), it can lead to an inaccurate and somewhat sterile view of how science actually works.

Science is all about testing ideas via experiment: ideas which match the current experimental evidence can be overturned when new experiments come to light. Even a good scientist will come up with many wrong turns in trying to understand a complicated phenomenon. Unfortunately, many people, including many scientists, feel that science is about 'always being right'. This attitude can be stifling, as it prevents researchers from suggesting answers for fear of being 'wrong'.

To counter this attitude, I present the following post: The gallery of failed atomic models.

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My favorite uses of "mood music" in television and movies

May 25 2008 Published by under Entertainment

I recently rewatched the season finale of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and was struck by one particular scene, in which an FBI agent and a SWAT team move in to arrest a terminator, not knowing exactly what they're dealing with. The scene is set up very well, and is very ominous, and is made even more so by the use of a Johnny Cash song as "mood music" for the soundtrack.

Many movies put a lot of effort and funding into composing an original score, but often the appropriate choice of an already existing tune can be even more effective. I thought I'd put a list together of my favorite uses of "mood music" in movies in television shows; feel free to add your own favorites in the comments.

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Robert E. Howard's Almuric

May 23 2008 Published by under Fantasy fiction, Robert E. Howard

Hot on the heels of a discussion of various 'planetary romances' set on Mars, I turned to Robert E. Howard's own take on said romances: the tale of the savage world of Almuric:

I have to admit, Howard fan that I am, that I was completely unaware of this novel before the Planet Stories edition, especially embarrassing because it is one of Howard's very few novels!

The book is a mixture of the planetary romance of Burroughs and the barbarian saga which was pure Howard. It is perhaps one of Howard's least successful adventure stories, but seems in many ways to be the 'ultimate' Robert E. Howard story, as it combines many of his themes (and pet peeves) into one fantasy world...

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Keep 'em coming!

May 22 2008 Published by under General science

I'm currently sitting in a condo on the beach, after a ten-hour drive from home. I managed to find some internet to steal, so here I am! I just thought I'd write a quick note and mention that I've updated the 'classic science papers' page with a bunch of recent new entries which are excellent! There's still plenty of time to meet my arbitrarily-chosen deadline, so keep 'em coming!

(Knowing science-types, and being one myself, I fully expect to receive a flood of entries just before noon on May 31st!) 🙂

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My accent? I don't have an accent!

May 22 2008 Published by under Silliness

A few weeks ago I stumbled across this fascinating quiz on GoToQuiz. Many of the quizzes one takes online are just silly, content-free distractions (with the exception of the Dungeons & Dragons character quiz I've talked about earlier), but this one really seems to work: "What American accent do you have?" My results are below:

What American accent do you have?

Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
Philadelphia
The South
The West
Boston
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

I have to say, they've nailed it. I'm originally from the Chicago area. The quiz also tagged the fiancée as being from Ohio (the 'midlands', I think they called it). Does it correctly determine your accent? Give it a try!

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Vacation time!

May 21 2008 Published by under Travel

Those who read me regularly may have noticed that I've dropped off in my postings lately. I've been preparing for a trip to Florida to skydive off the Gulf and land on the beach, and much of my time has been spent making sure all my work business is up to date. I leave tonight, and come back on Monday.

I've set up a few small posts for the time that I'm away, and may get another one up this afternoon before I go. Otherwise, when I come back, I'll have a few excellent scientific posts (all my ILLs finally came in) and hopefully some cool skydiving pics/video!

P.S.  I've raved before about the Gallica website that is part of the National Library of France.  Well, now it looks like they're into a version 2, beta, and the search pages can be read in English as well as French.  I just downloaded part of the complete works (Oeuvres) of François Arago, circa 1850.   I'm almost in awe of the fact that it's so easy to find these works now.

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Fusion man goes flying, or: How about them jetpacks, eh?

May 19 2008 Published by under Sports

It would be quite remiss of me not to comment on the cool video of Swiss pilot Yves Rossy, aka "Fusion Man", and his remarkable jet-powered wing.  There's a YouTube video associated with the news story which, although it's in Swedish, is quite interesting to watch.  This flight was the culmination of five years of training.

The equipment is quite impressive: with his eight-foot wings extended, he stepped out of an aircraft at 7500 feet over the Alps, turned on the jets and accelerated to 186 miles per hour.  He was able to do figure-eights, loops, and climbs of up to 2600 feet.  Maneuvering is achieved by altering body position, in a similar manner that a normal skydiver maneuvers.

A couple of comments in the AP article jumped out at me:

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