30 April 2007


Scroll ALL the way right.

Be sure to scroll all the way right.

A zoomed out version - click for a little more detail.

The original page contains not safe for work ("for a mature audience") ads, but because I like to cite my sources it's here, and it contains no information about where the image comes from. If anyone knows where this mural is located, please let me know!

26 April 2007

Hawking survives Vomit Comet

That is such a relief. He did 8 of the free-fall parabolas, grinning the whole time. His motivation? Not just release from his everyday hum-drum life of a preeminent mathematician / theoretical physicist at Cambridge University, probably not even release from his wheelchair and MS, but to "encourage public interest in space". Life on Earth he says, is at risk from global warming and other threats, and "the human race has no future if it doesn't go into space."

About Evolution

Thanks to galbinus_caeli for linking this evolution primer. Haven't read it in full yet, but what I have, I like.

23 April 2007

Letter to the Editor, Arkansas Democrat Gazette

Daylight exacerbates warning

You may have noticed that March of this year was particularly hot. As a matter of fact, I understand that it was the hottest March since the beginning of the last century. All of the trees were fully leafed out and legions of bugs and snakes were crawling around during a time in Arkansas when, on a normal year, we might see a snowflake or two. This should come as no surprise to any reasonable person. As you know, Daylight Saving Time started almost a month early this year. You would think that members of Congress would have considered the warming effect that an extra hour of daylight would have on our climate. Or did they ? Perhaps this is another plot by a liberal Congress to make us believe that global warming is a real threat. Perhaps next time there should be serious studies performed before Congress passes laws with such far-reaching effects.


22 April 2007

Happy Earth Day!

It's our Earth.

Whole Earth, Afirca side

Please take care of it.

Earth and Moon

It's the only one we've got.

Moon over atmosphere

We live on a thin skin of livable air and water. When we destroy that, it's gone.

Sun and Earth and spaceship boom

And take care of each other. We're what makes this lifeless rock livable.

20 April 2007

War on Scientists?

33 or more are dead in a massacure in an Engineering building at Virginia Tech. The dead included 3 Engineering professors, and two language instructors. And this afternoon another gunman killed a hostage and himself - this time in the Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX.

To heck with it being a war on celebrities and arguing for and against gun control, I want to know why all these people cracking up are picking scientists?! Maybe the IDers are behind it all, it's a right-wing conspiracy!

I do hope everyone realizes I'm making light of serious situations to try and defuse them and don't really believe half of what I said above...

12 April 2007

Astrology: Ophiuchus (1) and Time per Sign (2)

The simplest part of astrology is astrological / horoscope / zodiac signs. These were originally based upon the constellations in the sky that the Sun passed through during the year - you can't actually see that constellation at that time due to the Sun being out, but we can map everything and we know exactly which ones it passes through when. (The specific path of the Sun is called the ecliptic, the constellations it passes through, the zodiac.)

These 13 astrological signs are

  1. Aries

  2. Taurus

  3. Gemini

  4. Cancer

  5. Leo

  6. Virgo

  7. Libra

  8. Scorpio (constellation: Scorpius)

  9. Ophiuchus

  10. Sagittarius

  11. Capricorn

  12. Aquarius

  13. Pisces

In between the sun passing through Scorpius and Sagittarius, it spends a while in Ophiuchus. In fact, the Sun spends more time in Oph than it does in Sco, begging the question of whether the Sun spends the exact same amount of time in each other sign, as is implied by the fact that the dates for signs are evenly distributed. If what matters is where the Sun is in the sky, it should matter how long it spends in each sign. Ophiuchus map

Note in the image to the right the red dashed line representing the ecliptic (the Sun's path), the yellow dashed lines indicating constellation borders, "Sgr" (Sagittarius) in gray on the left, and the little sliver of "Sco" (Scorpius) passed through on the right on the Sun's way from "Lib" (Libra).

As for Ophiuchus, it is one of the 88 internationally recognized constellations. The exact borders were proposed in 1875, and accepted by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in 1933, but the thing to keep in mind is that they had been used in common practice for centuries earlier. Millenia even: the first record of any information about the constellations dates to the 700s BCE. (And unlike the IAU's decision on Pluto, the definition of constellations appears to have been entirely uncontrovertial and unchallenged.)

So two flaws to astrology: Ophiuchus isn't included, and each of the 12 (incorrect) signs is given the same amount of time, even though the Sun spends a different amount of time in them.

05 April 2007

Selection Effect

You are sitting on a chair with a notebook. You're kinda tired, so you keep dozing off. A noise wakes you, and you look up to see a woman rummaging through her purse. You make a note in your notebook. A while later she leaves. You doze off again. You hear women's voices outside in the hallway, and open your eyes as two walk in. Two more notes in your notebook. A woman jangling her keys is noted a few minutes later, another woman tossing something in the trash, and so on.

At the end of the day you have seen 212 women, and you yourself are the only man. Do you conclude that...

A) Women make more noise so when the men entered you didn't hear them and didn't mark them down? (A selection effect or bias.) -OR-
b) The room you were in has some reason for there to be more women - you're in the common room at a woman's dorm, you're in a woman's bathroom, you're in the lobby to an operahouse, you're in a nail salon, etc.? (There's a real effect.)

At what point do we decide that an observation is due to a detection bias, and at what point do we realize that despite the detection bias we're observing a real effect?