Archive for: June, 2008

"You realize, of course, that chaos theory predicts that your criminal plans will fail."

Jun 27 2008 Published by under ... the Hell?, Entertainment

This one's a shocker:  Chris Noth is leaving Law & Order: Criminal Intent, to be replaced by...

Jeff Goldblum.

On the other hand, Goldblum does have experience playing in a disturbing, psychological drama (and I don't mean Independence Day).

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Edgar Rice Burroughs' At the Earth's Core and Pellucidar

Jun 26 2008 Published by under Fantasy fiction

Regardless of what you think of Edgar Rice Burroughs' writing, he himself was no slacker! Burroughs wrote well over fifty novels in his lifetime, including 26 featuring Tarzan, and used incredibly imaginative, now iconic, settings as backdrops. I've briefly discussed his classic 'Barsoom' (John Carter of Mars) series in a previous post. This week I finished the first two books of another series, 'Pellucidar':

"At the Earth's Core" (1914) and "Pellucidar" (1923) concern the adventures of David Innes and his friend, scientist Abner Perry, as they explore a prehistoric world that lies within a hollow Earth. I give a description of the story and some observations below the fold.

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Unconventional skydives: balloon jump!

Jun 23 2008 Published by under Physics, Sports

A couple of weeks ago I attended Skyfest 2008, a large skydiving convention ('boogie') which had attendees from all over the country. They also had a number of unconventional aircraft, namely helicopters and hot air balloons. I decided to make a hot air balloon jump, my second, but this time I got video of the jump, which appears after the fold!

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A short housekeeping note (literally)

Jun 23 2008 Published by under Personal

I've got lots of nifty science stuff to blog about, but this week the fiancée and I will be closing on our new house and moving in, so I'll probably be posting short and light. I'll hopefully be back next week with a broader collection of blog posts (on the other hand, I have to start working on an NSF CAREER award, so maybe not).

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Happy Birthday to Bruce Campbell!!!

Jun 22 2008 Published by under Entertainment

It would be terribly uncool of me to not acknowledge the birthday today of one of the coolest actors who has ever lived: Bruce Campbell!

If you don't know Bruce Campbell, you really should: he is probably most remembered for his role as the heroic but clueless Ash in Evil Dead, Evil Dead II, and Army of Darkness. The latter two of these films are two of the best horror/comedy films ever made, and Campbell's skills are a large part of their success. (Note: the audio commentary for Evil Dead II, with Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi and friends is hilarious.)

Bruce has also taken a leading role in the cool but short-lived series The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.. As a good friend of Sam Raimi's, he's made cameos in numerous Raimi flicks, including all three Spider-Man films. Currently, Bruce has a major role in the uber-cool spy show, Burn Notice.

Oh, goodness! I almost forgot about his really well-played role as an aging Elvis Presley in the utterly unique horror film, Bubba Ho-tep. The plot centers around Elvis in his senior years at an old-folks' home, having switched places with an impersonator decades before. He gradually comes to realize that an Egyptian mummy is lurking in the home, sucking out the souls of the residents. With the help of a man who claims to be JFK, he plans to do battle with the undead fiend.

Bruce has also shown his talents in other endeavors, as well. His autobiography, If Chins Could Kill, is both hilarious and fascinating in its descriptions of the inner-workings of 'B' Hollywood. His autobiographical novel, Make Love (The Bruce Campbell Way), elaborates on these themes. He also produced and directed a short documentary, Fanalysis, which studies the world of fan conventions.

I can't say enough about how much I love Campbell's work, so I'll just end with another, "Happy Birthday"!


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House of Representatives flushes the 4th Amendment down the toilet

Jun 21 2008 Published by under [Politics]

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

-4th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified 1791

In a move that I suspect will be looked back on by future generations as one of the great sellouts of American democracy, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives voted Friday on a 'compromise' FISA bill that essentially says that violating the Constitution is okay, as long as you're rich enough or powerful enough.

I'm quite disgusted by this whole event, and I discuss the background, and list the entire roster of shame in favor of it, below the fold.

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Where the Hell is Matt? 2008

Jun 20 2008 Published by under Travel

For those who've enjoyed Matt Harding's delightful videos of himself dancing throughout the world, he has a new one, with "a cast of thousands." This is the sort of video that, perhaps irrationally, gives me hope for humanity, and actually brought a tear to my eye:

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Dennis Wheatley's The Haunting of Toby Jugg

Jun 20 2008 Published by under Horror

Toby Jugg has a major problem. Every evening, during the nights of the full moon, a thing of unspeakable evil and unnatural provenance lurks outside of his window, seeking to claim him. He cannot flee, because he was wounded in the Battle of Britain and is now bedridden, paralyzed from the waist down, living in a country house managed by his late father's estate. He cannot ask anyone for help, because he would seem to be a madman. The force at the window preys on his nerves and saps his will, threatening his very soul.

What follows is a tense battle of wits and wills, making Dennis Wheatley's The Haunting of Toby Jugg (1948 ) a compelling tale of supernatural horror. Some thoughts on the book and its story follow beneath the fold...

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Invisibility Physics: Schott's radiationless orbits

Jun 19 2008 Published by under Invisibility, Optics, Physics

Conventional wisdom, even to this day, dictates that accelerating charges necessarily give off electromagnetic radiation. This is seen, for instance, in large-scale particle accelerators (synchrotrons), such as the Tevatron at Fermilab and the soon-to-be-operational LHC at CERN: the charged particles moving around the ring are constantly shedding radiation over a range of frequencies, including X-rays.

In the first post in my series on the physics of invisibility, however, we discussed a little-known 1910 paper by Paul Ehrenfest, in which he demonstrates theoretically that one can have accelerating extended distributions of charge which produce no radiation fields. Ehrenfest was attempting to explain one of the most vexing problems of physics at the time: the presence of electrons in the atom. The atom was known to have electrons moving about within it, and these electrons should have been radiating constantly, according to the known physics of the time, but were not seen to do so.

Soon after Ehrenfest's paper, Bohr produced his model of the atom, which eliminated the need for radiationless orbits and ended most speculation on atomic structure. Ehrenfest's work was mostly forgotten, but other researchers independently discovered other radiationless motions of charges, and this research would lead eventually to more detailed studies of invisibility. One of the most important researchers on radiationless motions was G.A. Schott, who in 1933 produced a beautiful and amazing theoretical result* which we discuss in this post.

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The Linkin' Log: June 18, 2008

Jun 18 2008 Published by under General science

Time again for me to highlight a few interesting posts from around the sciobloggosphere:

  • Blake at Science After Sunclipse has a nice, lengthy essay about the necessity of mathematics in science education.
  • Tom at Swans on Tea has finished (I think) his series on "classic timekeeping".  Start with parts 1 and 2 if you haven't been following...
  • In the news, scientists have effectively made the largest radio telescope, spanning four continents, by linking together independent radio telescopes.  I will probably come back at a later time and post about this in more detail.
  • A solution for the energy crisis?  A Silicon Valley company has produced genetically-engineered bacteria that poop crude oil, apparently in a carbon-neutral way.  Note the following technical goof, however: "Mr Pal holds up a small beaker of bug excretion that could, theoretically, be poured into the tank of the giant Lexus SUV next to us."  Wow; I guess all those refineries all over the world a just a waste of resources.  I think the bugs would need to poop gasoline in order to pour it directly into your tank...

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