Built on Facts

Archives for June, 2009

You Spin Me Right Round

The National Weather Service does a very useful thing for people who live in an area expexted to experience severe weather danger. I have a little Firefox app in my browser that links to the NWS and advises me of the current conditions and forecast for the next few days, and as part of its…

Sunday Function

I’ve been away from campus visiting family during the first part of the summer, in one of those rare confluences of events where research, classes, and teaching all find themselves on temporary hiatus. While it’s pretty rare, I’m glad to take it. It is giving me Mathematica withdrawals though, especially with being able to easily…

Waxman-Markey is probably crap.

There’s a lot not to like about the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that passed the House this last week. You’d expect the right not to like it, but this bill has many people of all political opinions unhappy. From the left: The bill is a huge 1300ish page monstrosity developed behind closed doors. What we do…

Blackbodies and Black Bodies

Alas for Michael Jackson. Talented musician, deeply broken human being. Most of my knowledge of him was through cultural osmosis rather than his actual music, and I’m young enough so that I can’t really remember the time before he was a punchline about changing skin color, disastrous plastic surgery, and child molestation. Well, de mortuis…

Technology & Middle Earth

Chad Orzel’s got a great post up about the physics of Lord of the Rings. It’s about Legolas the elf and his excellent eyesight. His eyes are so good that in fact they’re probably operating well beyond the physical diffraction limits of any optical device with a human-sized pupil. Some speculation was discussed about how…

Electric Charge and Sharp Points

Yesterday we dumped a bucket of electrons on the Statue of Liberty and watched what happened. The most important thing we saw is that all the charge immediately distributes itself over the outside surface of the statue in such a way so that the electric field within the statue is zero. We also noted that…

Statue of Charge

Today we need an example of something weirdly-shaped and electrically conductive. There’s no shortage of such things, so we might as well go with the iconic. This is the Statue of Liberty: It’s made out of copper, which over the years has taken on a decidedly not-copper color due to chemical reactions between the copper…

Sunday Function

If you want to kill some time, try to think of all the different definitions of the word “set”. You have chess sets, sets in tennis, sets of dishes, sets musicians play, sets as abstract mathematical entities, television sets. You can set a table, set a clock, set someone straight, set a price, set out…

Iran

It’s Saturday, and it’s’ sort of tradition to set the topic to something not necessarily connected to science. At this point I think there’s not a whole lot in the world that’s of more immediate interest than what’s going on in Iran. The summary, which you already know: Iran is a theocratic state run with…

I have a friend who is also in the science business on the outreach/educational side of things. Last night he and some other friends and I were out on the town (is that what the kids call it these days?), and he mentioned that he liked this site as it’s been while I’m on break…