Built on Facts


So what would the elementary quantum of solace be? The soliton? I haven’t actually seen Quantum of Solace yet, but I’m going to make a point to go at some time this week. The last Bond flick was great, and I have high hopes for this one. Most sequels don’t quite live up to their predecessors, but by most accounts this one comes quite close. And this is the year that gave us The Dark Knight, after all.

Wall-E is about to be out in a few days, and that is probably the best or second best film of the last year. Seen it yet? If not, for shame. Go buy it. (That’s the Blu-Ray version, but you can get to the regular DVD version from the same page). Until Dark Knight came out I thought Wall-E should win Best Picture, not merely that poor consolation Best Animated Feature category. I still think it has a legitimate case, though Batman may have him beat.

So maybe they’re not art films, but I’d say they’re art nonetheless.

Some physics items:

One of the bedrock principles of physics is conservation of momentum. Blow up a balloon and release the open end, and momentum conservation will propel the balloon like a rocket. Not being exactly stabilized, the balloon will crazily skitter all around the room before running out of air. Now make the balloon out of solid rocket fuel and toss it into a building full of something you’d like to get rid of and you have a ludicrous but somehow quite compelling concept for a weapon. It’s in development. I hope they make sure no one smokes in their lab.

Here’s Swans on Tea on the new USNO master clock facility. It’s one of the not-very-many government operations which runs with rigorous precision. In fact, it’s technically perfect precision by definition since their master clock defines the time. If you ever want to know exactly what time it is, you can call them up at 202-762-1401. It’s a machine so you can call it whenever you want. Now actually if you call them on a cell phone propagation delays might give you a few hundred milliseconds of lag, but while that’s not going to work for precision applications it’s plenty good enough to set your microwave oven clock by.

Here’s Carl Brannen on that bump in the Fermilab data everyone was talking about a week or two ago. He’s got some interesting speculations, among which are particles traveling faster than c. Normally this warrants immediate consignment to the circular file, but if you know what you’re doing mathematically there’s nothing at all wrong with speculation so long as you’re willing to look for and accept experimental proof or disproof. Even patently ridiculous speculation can yield deeper physical understanding. Just look at string theory! *rimshot*

India has just landed a probe on the lunar surface for the first time. This is great news. India is rapidly becoming poised to be one of the great nations of the 21st century, and I think that’s one of the best things that can happen to the world. Here’s hoping the US and India will have a long and fruitful relationship both in scientific exploration and in the larger aspects of economic and cultural exchange.

And that’s it for now. Tomorrow, Sunday function!


  1. #1 Peter
    November 15, 2008

    re USNO master clock facility : One can also get a time estimate online from http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/what.html

    This time is delayed by the transmission time of the internet connection of course but is more convenient than sorting out the time signal over the phone line.

    For more accurate time signals over the internet there is a facility with UNSO which allows an automated measurement of the internet transmission delay to the subscriber’s computer using Network Time Protocol (NTP). This is used to provide a suitable correction based on the transmission delay measurements and can provide continuous real time from your computer with accuracies of 1-30ms. http://tycho.usno.navy.mil/ntp.html

  2. #2 razib
    November 17, 2008

    …they’ll make space smell like curry….

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