Built on Facts

Archives for October, 2008

Money, Money, Money

From the always good Ph.D. comics, we have this comic, which I saw pointed out at Pure Pedantry. I’ll defend this, a little. Football coaches are in large part responsible for the success or failure of a football team. In the grand scheme of things the position of a pigskin on a field is not…

Experimental Consciousness

Last Saturday I penned a snarky comment about the philosophy of science, and within a week I read something that’s particularly interesting from that very perspective. Well, might as well use it when it has its uses. Some preliminary: It is certainly either true or false that Julius Caesar’s paternal grandfather sneezed on his tenth…

Temperature a la Galileo

There’s famously dozens of ways to measure the height of a building with a barometer. If you’re sufficiently clever, you can think of many, many more ways to measure temperature with just about anything. One of the most visually impressive ways to measure temperature is the Galilean thermometer, which is also sometimes called the Galileo…

Sunday Function

Time for a vacation! Grab a globe of the earth and pick a random number between 0 and 180 degrees for your latitude and between 0 and 360 for your longitude and set off on your vacation. It’s exciting! You’re bound for anywhere on earth, and every obscure location has the same probability of being…

We love the moon

The standard Saturday random observations: Via Adventures in Ethics and Science, a quote from Revere of Effect Measure: A wag once commented (and I have quoted here often) that to expect a scientist to understand the philosophy of science is like expecting a fish to understand hydrodynamics. I disagree. Expecting a scientist to understand the…

Quantum Mutts

Let’s say you have a thousand of your friends in a large field, and every one of them has exactly two coins – one penny and one dime – in his pocket. Or her pocket, as the case may be. No exceptions, they all have those and only those two coins. Now imagine nearly the…

My Vote

I follow cheerfully; and, did I not, Wicked and wretched, I must follow still Whoever yields properly to Fate, is deemed Wise among men, and knows the laws of heaven. – Euripides Wise advice as quoted in the Enchiridion of Epictetus. With that in mind, let those of us to the right of center contemplate…

Storing Energy

This week I’m teaching rotational motion to my students. Here’s an easy problem from their textbook, which comes from the idea of using a flywheel to store energy. I’m modifying it from problem 9.41 in Young and Geller: Suppose we want to built a flywheel in the shape of a solid cylinder or radius 1.00m…

A Matter of Definition

Mark C. Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math has an excellent post in which he mercilessly dispatches the misbegotten idea that infinity is a number. It’s not. How do we know? He explains it very well, but the fundamental thing to remember is that number is a word, and like all words it has a…

The Bible of Physics

The Feynman Lectures are the bible of physics. Because it’s the definitive and authoritative sacred text? Nope. Because everyone has it but not many people have actually read it. This is too bad. The lectures are a fantastic way to learn about physics. Richard Feynman was a brilliant physicist, one of the true titans of…