Built on Facts

Archives for July, 2009

The Moon!

Forty years ago two human beings traveled a quarter million miles in a tiny metal capsule and stepped out onto the surface of the Moon. It was the most dramatic footfall in the history of our species, I am in absolute awe of all the Apollo program accomplished. Though it’s a long shot, I’m hopeful…

Squirrely Physics

At the time I write this sentence it’s 10:13 pm. The sun has been under the horizon for almost two hours. It’s 93 degrees Fahrenheit outside here in College Station. I believe it peaked out right at 100 during the day, and it feels hotter in the sun. Even the animals are clearly not pleased.…

Mirror, Mirror

Yesterday I taught the basics of geometric optics to my Physics 202 students. We did plane mirrors, spherical mirrors, and thin lenses. All told it’s a fairly straightforward chapter that’s all theme and variations on one equation. The sign rules for object and image distances have to be remembered correctly, but that’s not so difficult.…

Or: Deconstructing Dumbledore. (Major and serious spoilers for Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows follow. In fact if you haven’t read them this will make very little sense.) There’s a lot of villains in the Harry Potter series. They are young and old, male and female, human and otherwise, magical and muggle. They range from indolent…

A few days ago we briefly mentioned the chemtrail conspiracy theory in the context of water vapor in the atmosphere. Chemtrails are one of those conspiracy theories where belief is pretty much diagnostic of actual your-brain-is-defective crazy. Belief that NASA faked the moon landings is sadly more widespread, but adherents of that theory don’t even…

Sunday Function

Last week we did the sinc function. Let’s do it again! The function, to refresh our collective memory, is this: Now I was thinking about jumping right into some contour integration, but on actually doing it again I see that it’s a little hardcore for one post so eventually when we do it we’ll have…

Taking Stock of Stocks

To me this is interesting. To people like my parents, whose retirement depends significantly on their investments during their maximum earning years (ie, now), “interesting” might not be the word they’d pick. Here’s a graph I pulled off of Vanguard, representing a $10,000 investment exactly 10 years ago, for three different asset types: The top…

Hot Hot Heat

From the front door of the physics building to my apartment is about two miles. That’s not all that far, so lately I’ve taken to just walking instead of riding the bus. In theory it’s a relaxing time to think and look at the interesting things that you miss from a vehicle, aside from being…

Conspiracies and Clouds

There’s a continuum of crazy in the world of conspiracy theories. On one end are the at least somewhat plausible ideas like that Oswald didn’t act alone in the JFK assassination. On the other end are the downright schizophrenically crazed theories, say that the world is actually run by evil reptilian aliens in disguise. I’d…

Class Day & and Induction Quiz

Today was my first day teaching recitation for the summer session Physics 202, the algebra-based second half of intro physics. Physics 202 focuses mostly on electricity and magnetism, where the first course (Physics 201) was mostly classical mechanics. The summer semester is split into halves for university-wide administrative reasons that are somewhat obscure. The gist…