Archive for: January, 2009

Off to ScienceOnline '09!

Jan 15 2009 Published by under Personal

I head out this afternoon to go to ScienceOnline '09, the third annual science blogging conference held in NC:

I'll be part of a panel discussing "The Web and the History of Science", with excellent science bloggers scicurious and Laelaps.

If you're going, I look forward to seeing you there!  If you're not going, I'll hopefully be posting thoughts on the meeting as it progresses -- provided the internet at the hotel isn't completely brought down by the furious amount of blogging going on!

5 responses so far

A double loss for cinema: Montalban and McGoohan

Jan 15 2009 Published by under Entertainment

Via Pharyngula, we learn that the last two days resulted in the loss of two of entertainment's coolest actors: Patrick McGoohan died on Tuesday, while Ricardo Montalban died on Wednesday.

It is strangely appropriate for their deaths to more or less coincide, because McGoohan and Montalban were both well-known for the larger than life characters they played.  Patrick McGoohan became a cult celebrity for his role as Number Six in the classic television series The Prisoner (not to mention his major role in developing the series as a whole), while Montalban achieved fame/infamy for his role as Captain Kirk's nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, in both the original Star Trek episode Space Seed as well as the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

It is worth mentioning that both actors had extensive careers which went beyond the iconic roles mentioned above (McGoohan would have been particularly irked to be seen solely as Number Six).  A few roles that struck me: McGoohan played another secret agent in the British spy series Danger Man, and had major roles in Ice Station Zebra, Escape From Alcatraz, Braveheart, and Silver Streak.  Montalban was the star of the unusual television series Fantasy Island, and did a wonderful job as the villain in the comedy The Naked Gun.

If the passing of any actor makes me think a bit more about my own mortality, it is the passing of these two.  Both played larger than life characters who, it seemed, would go on forever.  It's hard to imagine that Number Six and Mister Roarke aren't immortal!

7 responses so far

Faraday's unified theory of... electricity? (1833)

Jan 13 2009 Published by under History of science, Physics

This is the second in a series of posts describing the researches of the super-experimentalist Michael Faraday (1791-1867) into electricity and magnetism.  In the first post of the series, I discussed his first paper on his electrical research, in which he demonstrated the effect now known as Faraday induction, in which a changing magnetic field can induce electrical currents.

Faraday was, in essence, one of the earliest physicists to actively seek a 'unified theory' of nature, in which all forces of nature are expressed as different manifestations of a single fundamental force.  His discovery of induction was a necessary step in the unification of electricity and magnetism, and later work would demonstrate the link between light waves and magnetism (which we'll come back to in a later post).

The research described in Faraday's third paper, however, involves unification of a more elementary kind.  In this article, Faraday endeavors to eliminate all doubt concerning the idea that different sources of electricity are manifestations of the same fundamental force!

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far

3 days until The Giant's Shoulders #7!

Jan 12 2009 Published by under Science news

One more reminder: there are 3 days left until the deadline for the 7th edition of The Giant’s Shoulders, to be held at The Questionable Authority.  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!  Let’s see a good crop of classic science blogging for the new year!

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World air traffic over 24 hours...

Jan 12 2009 Published by under Travel

I've been very busy with work, among other things (Fallout 3) over the past week or so, and haven't had much time or energy to put together a coherent blog post.  In the meantime, I stumbled across this nifty video showing dynamically the flow of air traffic around the world  over a single day.  This certainly gives you a better feeling about why things get screwed up so easily when you travel by plane, doesn't it?

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Thomas M. Disch's The Prisoner

Jan 09 2009 Published by under Mystery/thriller, Weird fiction

Recently I started investigating the works of author Thomas M. Disch, a well-known horror author and generally remarkable fellow who committed suicide in 2008.  His book The M.D.: A Horror Story was one of the books I read in my younger days, and it has always stayed with me.

I was delighted and surprised to find that one of Disch's early works was a novel about the classic television show The Prisoner!   Thomas M. Disch's The Prisoner (1969) serves as a non-canonical sequel to the original series:


The book is in a sense an ideal situation: if anyone could, or should, have recreated and extended the original series, it is Disch.

Continue Reading »

3 responses so far

More travel...

Jan 05 2009 Published by under Personal, Silliness

I'm heading out of town again today, for a work-related meeting.  I'm not enthusiastic, especially after the catastrophe which was my return trip from the holidays.

With that in mind, I see that Tom Tomorrow has relinked to one of his animations which is especially relevant:

It's funny 'cause it's true.

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A little rant about that 2012 nonsense...

Jan 04 2009 Published by under ... the Hell?

Up until this week, I hadn't been in a bookstore for a while.  I'm trying to save money, I have a backlogue of interesting books to read (and blog about), and I was expecting to get a number of books as Christmas gifts (which I did: thanks, all!).  I did get a Barnes & Noble gift card, though, and stopped to pick up a few things the other day.

I was appalled to see no less than three books prominently displayed at the front of the store discussing the year 2012. Why was I appalled, you ask?  Because the date has achieved special significance amongst new age types as a date which represents the end of the world. This belief originally comes, apparently, from the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar, used by the ancient Maya.  2012 (in Mayan, anyway) represents the end of the 'fourth age' of creation in which men were created.

It shouldn't take much effort to realize how absurd it is to believe in prophecy, let alone prophecy made by a civilization that couldn't foresee its own collapse.  Nevertheless, the idea has gotten a lot of traction and will even be the focus of a disaster movie due out this year, 'directed' by Roland Emmerich.

There's plenty to find annoying about spreading apocalypse propaganda, the worst of which is that such fear-mongering kills.

For my particular rant, however, I'd like to pick apart the blurbs on the back cover of one particular 2012 book, which illustrates the sloppy thinking and misleading statements made in apocalypse fantasies.

Continue Reading »

16 responses so far

h-index of 13!

Jan 02 2009 Published by under Personal

What a great way to start the new year!  According to the Web of Science, my h-index has climbed to 13 this week!

For those not familiar with it, the Hirsch index is a (rough) measure of the importance of one's contributions to science.  It is defined as

A scientist has index h if h of his Np papers have at least h citations each, and the other (Np - h) papers have at most h citations each.

In my case, an h-index of 13 means that I have 13 papers which have been cited 13 or more times by other scientists.  This is excellent, since I only just passed the h-index 12 mark back in October.  As Wikipedia notes, my h-index is at a level exceeding what Hirsch thought would be good for tenure, and approaching that which he though would be good for being an APS fellow!

2008 was a good year for me in terms of citations.  I had 209 total citations for that year, which was my best year yet.  Counting a number of citations not registered properly due to mistakes, my best paper now has over 100 citations.

Here's hoping that 2009 is an equally good year for me, if not better.  I'm only three citations away from getting my h-index to 14...

One response so far

13 days until The Giant's Shoulders #7!

Jan 02 2009 Published by under Science news

The new year is supposedly a time for looking forward... I say it's a great time for looking back!  There are 13 days left until the deadline for the 7th edition of The Giant's Shoulders, to be held at The Questionable Authority.  Entries can be submitted through or directly to the host blog, as usual!  Let's see a good crop of classic science blogging for the new year!

No responses yet

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