Built on Facts

Archives for December, 2008

Leaping Seconds

When I was a kid my younger sister used to play basketball in a city league and my family would go watch. The game clock would reach the final seconds of each period and the kids in the stands would count down. 3! 2! 1! Zero! The clocks were such that with less than one…

Calories and Climbing

Apropos of the calorie/Calorie discussion yesterday, here’s something interesting to think about with regard to the energy used in exercise. The formula for gravitational potential energy is m*g*h, where m is mass, g is the acceleration due to gravity, and h is the height. Of course this is if the changes in h are small…

The Christmas Calorie

Over this past semester I’ve discovered something unfortunate. If a person doesn’t get much exercise, snacks when bored, and shops when hungry, that person will tend to gain weight. That person is of course me, and so I’m going to try to do something about it. It’s by no means a new year’s resolution, I’ve…

Sunday Function

Here’s this week’s Sunday Function. In the universe of functions it’s an utterly typical suburban middle class citizen, with a pleasant but quite ordinary job in a downtown cubicle farm for Physics Incorporated. His name is . In a little more detail, you’ll notice that this function is the product of two elementary functions. There’s…

Great! So did I! Now the sky is a big place, and telescopes don’t often come with an astronomer to explain how to use them. I’m not an astronomer either, but I’ve been an amateur stargazer on and off for years and I might be able to give you some good advice. First, the telescope…

Merry Christmas!

On this, my first 25th of December here on ScienceBlogs, I’d like to wish you and all your family and loved ones a happy, merry, and joyful Christmas. In honor of the occasion, my favorite Christmas song: O Holy Night O holy night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of our dear…

Greatest Physicists #1 – Isaac Newton The first and greatest physicist in my estimation is Isaac Newton, born in 1643. Lots of commenters absolutely correctly picked out Newton for the top spot, and had I picked anyone else (with the just barely plausible alternatives of Einstein or Galileo (and see his honorable mention for details))…

#2 – Albert Einstein Einstein. When a person’s name and photograph are both literal synonyms for genius, it’s a pretty good sign they’re among the greatest of the greats. But even if Einstein had not become the popular legend which lives on to this day, he’d still tower above the science of physics. In one…

Sunday Function

The Exponential Function. I think this is the first time we’ve done it here. It won’t be the last. You could write a book about it, and someone probably has. Here’s the usual picture: This graph isn’t as pretty as the usual, because I’m at home with my old copy of Mathematica 5 instead of…

I dislike the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still, and I haven’t even seen it. Not for the usual reasons – for instance, I think Keanu Reeves is a good actor when used in the right roles, and “space alien” is certainly one of those roles. I dislike the premise. Some alien species…