Sunday, March 18, 2018

My Plastic Brain by Caroline Williams

From my mailbox:

My Plastic Brain: One Woman's Yearlong Journey to Discover If Science Can Improve Her Mind by Caroline Williams.

Barnes and Noble

Author's Web site

From Kirkus Reviews:

"Readers hoping to improve their own cognitive abilities may feel a bit of a letdown by the author’s old-fashioned, down-to-earth advice: exercise your body, preferably outdoors, learn mindful meditation but also allow your mind to wander, engage in a mentally challenging hobby, and pick the skill you want to improve and practice it in real life."

Valar morghulis.

Monday, March 12, 2018

When the Statue of Liberty Gets Sea Walls

Last night I started watching The Expanse on Amazon Prime. It's been really good scifi so far, and has that nitty-gritty view of future space travel, more Firefly than Star Trek, but even grittier. It's set 200 years in the future, and in an early episode there was this short cut of the Statue of Liberty, with sea walls due to (presumably) global warming:

Another good idea (for the story, at least) was "gravity torture," where those who grew up off-Earth in a lower gravitational environment are tortured by being hung in Earth's gravity for hours:

In Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy, kids born on Mars (where g = 38% of that of Earth) eventually become significantly taller than Earthlings.

I appreciate when writers think about the little things and subtly put them in their stories. It's fun to notice them. The Expanse does this very well, so far.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Question About My Blog's Appearance

When you read this blog, is the page too wide for your screen?

Do you have to scroll right in order to see what's beyond the post itself -- the "About Me" module, "Blog Archive," "Good Links," etc.?

I do. So I'm wondering if everyone has the same problem. Other blogspot blogs read fine in my browser.


Thursday, March 01, 2018

Equations That Changed the World

A few years ago, mathematician Ian Stewart published a book titled 17 Equations That Changed The World. It's an interesting list:

I would go beyond these 17 and add: 
  • 1+1=2, which some unknown someone realized long ago was profound and incredibly useful. The logical proof of this assertion, though, didn't come until Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead three-volume Principia Mathematica. It's a crazy book -- the text looks almost alien or elvish, and it took them several hundred pages of work before they could prove that 1+1=2. Russel said his work on this book "had actually damaged his brain." Here's an interesting discussion of the Principia Mathematica from NPR in 2010.
  • Newton's second law of motion, F=ma (really, F=dp/dt, the time rate of change of momentum).
  • Planck's Law of radiation (probably).
  • The Lagrangian of quantum electrodynamics, because it changed how quantum physics was done ever afterward.
  • Einstein's equations of general relativity, because they changed our view and understanding of the universe, and for their sheer elegance and sophistication. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Idiocy from Ed Berry, PhD

What can you even do when climate deniers won't agree to the basic rules of arithmetic??

Ed Berry is a physicist who earned his PhD back in the Mesozoic era. From Caltech, no less. He now lives in Montana as a mountain man, battling long-horned sheep for food, coming into town once a year for saltpeter and a ballot.

Ed is a hard core climate denier. (And, naturally, a hard core Trump supporter.) So hard core he doesn't care when he makes basic, boneheaded mistakes -- because, you know, one never admit error when a bear is charging at you, or someone who understands the science.

Q: How much has atmospheric CO2 increased since the pre-industrial era?

A: That's an easy calculation, right?

pct chg = change/initial_amount = (408 ppm - 280 ppm)/280 ppm = 46%.

That's simple, clearly.... But not in Ed's denier-land. This is from Ed's blog:

30%?? Whoa.... That's just a dumb arithmetic error. It comes from calculating

change/final_amount = (408 ppm - 280 ppm)/408 ppm = 31%

which is obviously NOT how to calculate a percentage change. You and I learned this in 5th or 6th grade. So did Ed. It's a trivial, arithmetic error.

But one that mountain men will not admit to. Ed is so much of an uber denier that he can't even admit to a simple arithmetic error, can't say, Oops!, you're right, let me fix this and go on.

Now, what can you do when a denier won't accept arithmetic?? I have no idea.

It's all part of Ed's Big Misunderstanding -- he writes, "Why human CO2 does not change climate." He's so sure of this, of course, just as he's sure that the increase in atmospheric CO2 is 30%, even though every 6th grader knows better. He's submitted a paper somewhere (he won't say where), and is proud that after 4 months it hasn't yet been rejected. Remarkable!

Sorry, but I don't accept PhDs in physics misunderstanding the basic science behind global warming -- the Earth emits infrared radiation, and the atmospheric GHGs absorb it. Rejecting that is bad enough. But claiming that our HUGE emissions of CO2 aren't piling up in the atmosphere -- somewhere -- that's is just, I'm sorry, pure stupidity. Dumb. Ignorant. Idiotic.

But what can you do when deniers won't accept the basic rules of arithmetic? Where do you even start?? Beats me....

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Fulgarite - When Lightening Strikes Sand

Via National Geographic

Obamacare Has Bent the Cost Curve

monthly health care costs - Altarum Institute
monthly inflation: Fred CPI-U

That Arctic Has Been Astonishingly Warm

This is an astonishing graph:

The Arctic is currently about 17°C (31°F) degrees above normal. The baseline (green line) is the 1958-2002 average. 

If that were happening where I live, today's high would have been 86°F. Normal high (1981-2010) for Salem, Oregon today is 53°F.

Reflecting this, Arctic sea ice has already reached a record low for the year, 2.5% below last year's record low.