Built on Facts

News and More

Take a look at the opening paragraph of this great AFP article:

It’s taken more than a century, but Einstein’s celebrated formula e=mc2 has finally been corroborated, thanks to a heroic computational effort by French, German and Hungarian physicists.

I’m sorry, did I say great? I meant awful. That particular equation of Einstein’s was demonstrated rather convincingly in a lot of boring experiments starting almost as soon as he wrote it down. A few years later it was demonstrated rather convincingly in a particularly dramatic fashion. The particular work referenced in the article has squat to do with confirming Einstein; it’s just an exploration of how mass happens to be packed in certain baryons.

From the indispensable Swans on Tea, more relativity. Specifically, Buckminster Fuller explaining relativity in a telegram. It reminds me of Time Cube (warning: crazy and offensive), with the terse syntax and the all caps. Fuller was kind of an odd bird, which certainly makes it an interesting thing to read.

Here’s another news article: Physicists Find Dark Matter? Hmm. Maybe. I’d take it with a grain of salt. It would be nice if it turns out to be true. Dark matter has been a pretty embarrassing gap in physics for a long time.

Here’s a 256 GB solid state drive. We’re really getting to the point where physically spinning hard discs might be going the way of the dinosaur. Notice the throwaway bit toward the bottom about encryption; it’s proprietary, which is usually a cryptographic synonym for “worthless”. Oh well, simply as a storage medium it’s a good device nonetheless.

Some political news. Feel free to skip:

Forget, if possible, your opinion of Sarah Palin and contemplate this headline from MSNBC: “GOV. PALIN APPARENTLY OBLIVIOUS TO TURKEY CARNAGE OVER HER SHOULDER”. Well, let’s see. The interview was taking place at a traditional “turkey pardon” at a slaughterhouse. What the #$%! do you think happens in slaughterhouses? Reality is reality, ladies and gentlemen, and if you can’t bear the concept of a slaughtered turkey then maybe you ought not be eating them. Further documentation of this whole preposterous mess here. And that is why I avoid network news .

There’s a push in some parts of the political blog circuit to declare today Victory in Iraq Day. It’s a silly idea, but why not? The war is over. Mission (really) accomplished. Combat deaths are down to nearly the background levels the military sustains from car wrecks and other accidental causes. Iraqi deaths from bombings and sectarian violence have dwindled to levels that were inconceivable two years ago. Game, set, and match David H. Petraeus.

Which of course says nothing about the merit of the war itself. Successfully putting out a kitchen fire wouldn’t absolve you from setting the place on fire in the first place. The wisdom and morality of the war itself will remain under hot debate for decades, I imagine. Assuming President Obama winds things down at a careful and measured pace, the war will stay won, the US will be out of Iraq, and that will be that. Good news regardless of anyone’s politics.

Speaking of, you may notice I haven’t scored and posted the winners from the election prediction post. That’s because there’s two senate races still up in the air, and part of the scoring is the senate spread. I promise I’ll get the entries scored once the results are known. Which won’t be until the December runoff in Georgia, at least.

Have a great weekend, everyone!


  1. #1 Uncle Al
    November 22, 2008

    A fission device does NOT convert mass to energy. The numbers of electrons, protons, and neutrons before and immediately after implosion are rigorously identical. Fusion is no different. Nuclear binding energies are being reshuffled. Radioactive decay comes later. The big deal is that the Higgs mechanism is now 99% empirically vanished. No Higgs, no SUSY, no quantized gravitation.

    A chicken, duck, a turkey boned,
    and lots of Cajun stuffin’,
    They died to save the little kids
    all gorging on turkducken.

    Middle East negotiation requires a substantive foundation amongst perceived equals. 11 September 2001 was the mortar. A 300 kt thermonuclear hypocenter supplies the cinderblocks: +2125’21.06″N, +3949’34.32″E, 4300 ft altitude airburst.

  2. #2 Pierce R. Butler
    November 22, 2008

    Seems like Uncle Al wants to reignite the Crusades in a suitably genocidal way. Take it to Wasilla, Al.

    The “Victory in Iraq” Day sounds like a good idea, as a one-timer. After declaring victory, we go home, right?

  3. #3 dkw
    November 22, 2008

    I’m not sure how much of the telegram was Fuller’s oddity. I’m pretty sure most of the formatting and syntax was due to the constraints of the telegraph: no punctuation, no lower case, no other symbols. Making intelligible telegrams was actually a kind of art in many cases, and it looks like Fuller was pretty good at it.

  4. #4 B McManus
    November 22, 2008

    Ha, I was thinking about writing an indignant post about that AP article too.

  5. #5 Matt Springer
    November 22, 2008

    “A fission device does NOT convert mass to energy. The numbers of electrons, protons, and neutrons before and immediately after implosion are rigorously identical. Fusion is no different. Nuclear binding energies are being reshuffled.”

    Yes indeed it does convert mass to energy. Binding energy has mass – that’s the whole point. The two protons and two neutrons of a He4 atom will weigh more individually than they will combined in a He4 nucleus.

    Same thing with fission, in reverse. Put the U235 on a scale and put its fission products on a scale (a technical challenge, I admit) and the U235 will weigh more. The same thing is technically true of chemical reactions, though the ~1eV per molecule mass difference due to the released binding energy isn’t really observable.

  6. #6 Hamsterpoop
    November 22, 2008

    The war in Iraq will be won when money is no longer leaving our pockets to pay for it.

    “Stay won” just means it isn’t won yet. Don’t try to bend this stuff, Matt. Call it like it is.

  7. #7 Matt Springer
    November 22, 2008

    Well, theoretically the Japanese could have signed the surrender on the deck of the Missouri and then the US military could have packed up and immediately headed back across the Pacific. The war would have been officially won, but I’m not sure it would have stayed that way without the next few years worth of occupation. Not least of which because of Soviet Union was prepared to take whatever Japanese territory they could get. To an extent, Iran plays an analogous role in Iraq.

    But the larger point is good. The war having been won, it’s time to start packing up.

  8. #8 eddie
    November 23, 2008

    For a given value of the word ‘victory’…

  9. #9 CCPhysicist
    November 23, 2008

    Declaring November 22, the date of the Kennedy Assassination, as a national “Victory in Iraq” holiday is in really REALLY poor taste. Almost as bad as picking December 7.

    As for Uncle Al’s ignorant rant (not to mention the ignorance of the folks behind that press release), the fact is that E = mc^2 was confirmed by Frisch’s experiment showing the 200 MeV of energy released by fission, shortly after his aunt (Lise Meitner) had predicted that amount based on the MASSES of Uranium and the MASSES of the elements produced. The larger scale demonstration came years later.

    Sure, the binding energies are being reshuffled. But those binding energies show up as an actual mass difference on a scale – so it is mass, just as Matt pointed out above.

  10. #10 Uncle Al
    November 23, 2008

    Electrostatic or gravitational, binding energy is a negative quantity. A bound system masses less than that system’s components unbound. Mass-equivalent is not mass. Fission or fusion, it’s initially nothing beyond reshuffling fields. Not a single 511 KeV/c^2 electron is annihalated.

    Pearl Harbor was repaid with Hiroshima (where Japanese shallow draft torpedoes were manufactured). Nagasaki was interest on the debt (e.g., Bataan death march; Unit 731 and Shiro Ishii). Caterwauling Adderallated and Prozactivated pundits will note the Japanese behaved foreverafter. A religion that does not value human life does not deserve to retain any.


    +2125’21.06″N, +3949’34.32″E is a low-population, high value target. Nobody advocates vitrefying the Hadj as a test of faith. If you want numbers, melt metropolitan Cairo with its 17.8 million volunteers for world peace.

  11. #11 Paul Johnson
    November 25, 2008

    My friend sent me that news story and I just shook my head for awhile

  12. #12 Prof. Bleen
    December 14, 2008

    The wisdom and morality of the war itself will remain under hot debate for decades, I imagine.

    Only in America. The raging clusterfuck that is the Iraq War has been nearly universally condemned by “the other 95%.”

    Mission (really) accomplished.

    If you look closely, you’ll find that the recent decline in sectarian violence has nothing to do with the “surge” and everything to do with reducing Baghdad into a maze of walled compounds and redefining how violent deaths are classified. A temporal coincidence does not imply causality.

New comments have been disabled.