Built on Facts

Archives for September, 2009

Sunday Function

Anybody heard of the idea of The Singularity? Roughly, it goes like this: technological progress builds on itself, and this self-reinforcing feedback loop is eventually going to come to a head where humanity makes a quantum leap into an unknowable and godlike transhuman technological future – possibly as early as the middle of this century.…

Rebuilding

Eight years ago today a terrorist group attacked and killed more than three thousand people. Nothing I can say can improve on what other have said in the memory of this horror, and nothing I can say will change any opinions about what followed. I would, however, like to express my bitterness and disappointment on…

More Potential Universes

All right, time for an actual example of this gravitational force law I’ve been ruminating on for the last two days. Today we’ll look at an alternate version of the gravitational potential that’s truly screwy: The first thing to notice is that it’s not finite as r becomes very large. Among other things, that means…

The Anthropic Orbit

One of the first great discoveries of modern physics was Newton writing down the equation for the force of gravity between two massive objects. The discovery was monumental not because it was complicated, but because it was profound. You can state the law in plain English very briefly. “The gravitational force between two objects is…

What if?

I’d like to do a little bit of classical mechanics, but the particular thing I want to do is a little hefty for one post. We’ll split it in two. Today I’ll set the stage and tomorrow we’ll use it to solve an interesting problem. The problem involves the orbit of a planet in a…

Sunday Function

At this rate I should change the name of this feature to Monday Function, but with any luck I can get my weekend schedule back to something approaching normal and break this streak of late SFs. But hey, every day is a good day for math. This function is one we can define in a…

Nuclear Power

What do we think about nuclear power? Benjamin Cohen of The World’s Fair is not a fan. I am. Modern nuclear power has a lot going for it. In no particular order, here’s the reasons that appeal to me. It’s reliable. No worrying about solar or wind availability, and it works anywhere. It’s safe. Modern…

The Color of Water

“Why is the sky blue?” It’s one of those questions that most people don’t know the answer to, while others know at least the basic explanation that the atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than the other visible wavelengths. Ask why that happens and you’ll enter the realm of some interesting and somewhat complicated physics.…

The Semi-Amazing Spider-Man

Anybody still read newspaper comics these days? I do, but sadly for the newspaper business I read them online. Worse, usually in the context of people making fun of them. On the other hand, there are a few gems out there. Is Spider-Man one of those gems? Uh… Well, Shakespeare it ain’t. But is Spider-Man…