Built on Facts

Archives for January, 2010

Football and Physics

I believe we have a Super Bowl coming up. Or, if the NFL is so picky about the use of their trademarks, I believe we have a “Big Game” coming up. As a native south Louisianian, I’m for the eternally long-suffering Saints, who in all their years have never even been to a Super Bowl.…

NASA, R.I.P.

Let’s say you wanted to kill NASA. You couldn’t just blink it out of existence I Dream Of Jeannie style, but you might be able to strangle it to death in bureaucracy. How might you do it? For starters, you might completely scrap any attempt to return humans to the moon. You might completely scrap…

Quick Laser Interlude

I’m a bit bogged down in Mathematica code at the moment and have already choked the memory to death on a relatively high-performance machine doing what I thought would be a straightforward electric field calculation. Rechecking everything is taking some time, which distracts from writing here. In the meantime I’d like to point out a…

Sunday Function

And now, two quick notes before we get to business: 1. God help me, but I’ve joined the Twitter bandwagon. Here I am, @BuiltOnFacts. Though it goes under this blog’s name, it is more of a “personal” account. So you’ll be reading some incomprehensible personal minutiae, random observations, wild assertions, and somewhat more politics that…

Open Sesame

If you were to find the URL to the ScienceBlogs back end, you’d be presented with a logon prompt. Assuming you knew my username, and it wouldn’t be hard to guess, all that stands in between you and a free ScienceBlogs platform to promote your favorite cause is a password. As such a good password…

This is a little off the beaten path, but it’s a silly little diversion with some classic “the press lacks numeracy skills” complaints as a bonus. Thomas Frank writing in the Wall Street Journal has written a rather wild piece – One Cross of Gold, Coming Up: How the government could get even with right-wing…

Frozen Roses and a Question

First day of the semester yesterday. Wide-eyed undergrads were flocking to their physics classes in our brand new and completely beautiful building. I’m not so sure they were thrilled about it; doing physics is not something that naturally appeals to most denizens of the university. I admit I’m feeling a few pangs myself for entirely…

Sunday Function

…you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk? – Dirty Harry The laws of probability, like most of the mathematical rules that govern the world, are a relatively recent discovery. Ancient people like the Romans loved to gamble as much as we do, and they had at least…

Pondering a Ponderous Pendulum

Why the long discussion about the period of a pendulum yesterday? Because we’re actually going to take a look at a particular pendulum today. This one hangs in the central atrium of the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, which constitutes half of the beautiful and brand spanking new…

Period of a Pendulum

This post is background for another post I’m doing tomorrow or possibly later this week. It involves that old standby of freshman physics, the pendulum. We want to find out the period of a pendulum, the length of time the pendulum spends making one complete back-and-forth cycle. It’s literally one of the oldest calculations in…