Built on Facts

Archives for January, 2009

Or you could both park.

Reader Mike writes in with an interesting problem to work out. It runs thus: You’re in your car parked on the side of the road when you see your friend a distance d away, driving toward you at velocity v. You want to talk to him through your window, so what constant acceleration should you…

On George W. Bush

I think personally he is a good man who loves his family and loves his country. And I think he made the best decisions that he could at times under some very difficult circumstances. – Barack Obama on George W. Bush, 1/16/09 There’s no shortage of shortcomings in the administration of the forty-third president. If…

There’s an interesting post over at Sentient Developments about the simulation argument. The SA essentially states that, given the potential for posthumans to create a vast number of ancestor simulations, we should probabilistically conclude that we are in a simulation rather than the deepest reality. Most people give a little chuckle when they hear this…

Sunday Function

One of the most important mathematical concepts in physics and pure mathematics is continuity. There’s a formal definition for it which for the moment isn’t too relevant, but for our purposes we can think of it in terms of smoothness. Put your finger at a point on the graph, and if the function smoothly approaches…

Stennis Space Center, Reloaded

When I was a young kid growing up in south Louisiana, my family would sometimes make day trips out to John C. Stennis Space Center. Located just over the border in Mississippi, it’s a huge rocket testing facility in the middle of absolutely nowhere. It has to be. Rockets are LOUD. Isolated though it is,…

And the Cow Jumped Over the Moon

Poking around on the internet looking for interesting problems to assign the students I’m about to have this semester, I came across this one: How much energy must a 450 kg cow expend in jumping over the moon? Fig. 1: Buzz Cowdrin? Now hints and solutions are available on the linked site, so what I’d…

Pressure and Car Tires

Doing a lot of driving this week, and since the interstates I’m driving (I-49 and I-10) are deathly boring, I have a lot of time to think. Being a physics nerd, I do a lot of thinking about physics. This trip the physics thing I’m thinking about is tire pressure. Fig 1. A car. From…

Astrology and Gravity

Astrology has never so far as I know proposed a scientific mechanism by which the planets should affect the lives of us mortals. I suppose this is fair enough, you wouldn’t expect magic to work by normal laws. If the position of Jupiter says you should spend the rest of the week face down in…

Cash for evaluations?

I hope this doesn’t count as biting the hand that feeds, but hey, dissent is supposed to be the highest form of patriotism or something. From my university: COLLEGE STATION — The chancellor of the Texas A&M University System wants to give bonuses worth up to $10,000 to some instructors, but so far, many aren’t…

What is science?

Whew! ScienceBlogs is back up. Mostly. There’s been some kinks, but so far things are mostly working. No LaTeX yet, but I’m agitating for it vigorously. Especially for the comments. The ability to work with equations is something that no self-respecting science blog should be without. I’m hopeful that the process will be simplified soon,…