May 28, 2007

Eponymity in Physics

A physicist wanting to make an impact on the field most often imagines his or her name attached to an Equation, or a Theory. Or even, if they really want to move mountains, a Law. I have no idea what mathematicians think about, but I would assume that they are hoping to come up with Theorems and Conjectures. Of course, not everyone is an Einstein or a Kepler, able to remake a subject and declare a Law. But if you carve out a niche for yourself, or invent a novel way of dealing with a certain topic, you're virtually assured of getting something. For an elegant discovery, you could have an Angle named after you, or a Number. Or in a more bizarre direction, a Sea or Paradox. de Sitter has an entire Universe! Me? If I could become the first person since Isaac Newton with an eponymous Bucket I would consider myself a success. There are so many strange things you could find named in your honor that I have compiled an extensive list of them.

First, some of the most common:






[A Unit] Newton, Gauss, Joule
[A Constant] Planck, Boltzmann
Function Riemann-Zeta, Bessel
Effect Mössbauer, Stark, Bohr,
Gunn-Peterson, etc.

And then of course, there are rarer terms. These trend very roughly from less to more obscure.

Field Fermionic, Bosonic, Higgs
Matrix Kobayashi, Cabibbo
Relation Heisenberg, Tully-Fisher
Principle Copernican, Pauli Exclusion
Model Schwinger, Bohr
Method Schrödinger
Postulate Planck, Weyl
Approximation Born
Minkowski, Fock, Hilbert
Distribution Wigner, Bose-Einstein, Fermi-Dirac
___-on Fermi, Bose
___-ian Laplace, Hamilton, Riemann
Notation Dirac
Potential Coulomb, Yukawa
Action Stueckelberg, Proca
Inequality Minkowski, Bell
Limit Chandrasekhar
Tensor Riemann
Scalar Ricci
Gauge Newtonian
Diagram Feynman
Radiation Cherenkov, Hawking
Cycle Carnot, Born
Interpretation Bohm, Copenhagen
Paradox Einstein-Podolski-Rosen,
Olber, Fermi
Problem Rabi, Fermi
Experiment Milikan Oil Drop
Spectrum Mössbauer
Conjecture Witten
Interaction Yakawa
Amplitude Feynman
Operator d'Alembert
Particle Higgs, Planck
Neutrino Majorana, Dirac
Motion Brownian
Number Avogadro, Chandrasekhar, Euler
Surface Fermi
Condensate Bose-Einstein
Radius Schwartzschild, Bohr
Convention Einstein Summation
Transform Forier, Laplace
SeriesBalmer, Lyman
LineLyman, Balmer
ScatteringCompton, Rayleigh, Thompson
Cepheid, RR Lyrae
Diffusion Bohm
Manifold Riemann
TestTolman surface brightness
[An Element]
Einstein, Fermi, Curie, Mendeleev, Lawrence, Nobel
Wavelength de Broglie
Rigidity Born
Zone Brillouin, (also see, List of Zones)
Angle Weinberg
Universede Sitter, Lemaître
Sea Dirac, Fermi
Tuning Fork
Golden Rule Fermi

If anyone else is able to repeat that last one, I will be highly impressed. I would also like to point out that the Higgs boson may be the only phenomenon or concept that has two namesakes, since the term boson originally comes from Satyendra Bose! If you can think of anything else let me know and I'll add it.

May 27, 2007

Galactic violence

If you ever have to give an overview of tidal forces in the galactic halo, and your presentation is fairly poor, you can always make an effort to redeem yourself with one of these breathtaking n-body simulations. I know this from experience. John Dubinski, astrophysicist at CITA is responsible for these clips modeling the gravitational interaction of hundreds of millions of particles to show behavior not realistically calculatable by hand. And even if it was, it wouldn't look as cool. Probably the best known of these is the predicted collision of the Milky Way with Andromeda in 3 billion years or so. There is also a film of what this is going to look like from the perspective of the sun (in this speculative outcome, our star is pulled out of its orbit in the commotion and thereafter follows a winding irregular path around the new hybrid galaxy). My favorite though would have to be the dark matter evolution clip. You can't really get a more expansive subject for animation than "history of all (dark) matter over the 14 billion year course of the universe's existence." And there are more. I dare you to watch the clip of the inside of a globular cluster and not flip out and destroy civilization like those people in Nightfall.

It isn't possible to overstate how impressive these all are. No one could watch them without being filled with a sense of the splendor and majesty of nature n-body simulations.

[Crass alternate title: "If I said you had a nice n-body would you hold it against me?"]

May 22, 2007

Hot Hot Heat

Sometimes I have to hand it to those APOD hacks. Even if they are pompous frauds who think their privileged selection of photos makes the world go round, they occasionally dig up something excellent. True to form, today's installment is in no way a 'picture,' even though it is really cool. Rather, it is a time-lapse of the surface of the sun, shot in super-duper high definition. Amazingly, each one of those solar 'granules' is the size of an Earth continent. Much appreciation to the observers and those who assembled this stunning clip. Continuing derision to the posers who pointed it out. Way to link to the Wikipedia article for 'Sun' in your 'explanation by a professional astronomer,' APOD. Real professional.
[Or AVOD, or ANPOD or whatever you should be called on one of the days when you don't live up to your name.]

May 21, 2007

Bubble time

For the bubble-loving astronomers out there, two bubble-related games:

Both of these are super-realistic and educational.


Despite my 'absence' I will offer a brief unrelated baseball prediction which may be fulfilled in the next several years. I think that managers will start differentiating between different types of pitches in pitch counts -- at least for hurlers who throw pitches of varying strenuousness. I am tired of seeing Wakefield getting treated with the same metric as guys who don't throw 70 mph floaty-dopey fluttah balls. For example, you could count fastballs and splitters as 1, while making curveballs and changes .75, and knuckleballs .5. It would probably be possible to model more accurately how far pitchers can go into game. Of course, someone would have to come up with better values for the different pitches but I am sure that someone will think of this soon enough. If they're smart.

Earthly responsibilities

It is a blog cliché to apologize for not blogging one's blog enough. But I'm not a cliché-maker, so I'm not sorry. In fact, I am the opposite of sorry-- I'm indignant. Here I am, providing day after day of constant excellence while getting ripped off by APOD, Slate, and Zosia, and I am supposed to apologize for being so awesome that people would miss my presence while I tend to my earthly responsibilities? I think not.

I'm not totally disappearing from The Topography (yes, that's what I'm calling it now apparently), I'm just buried in work for the next fortnight, so lower your expectations yet further.

May 19, 2007


Congratulations Iron Eagle! My car has now driven far enough to circle the Earth four times.

[The vehicle's namesake is actually from another nickname that I heard somewhere for Red Sox reliever Mike Timlin that struck me as extremely appropriate. (Since, you know, he spends his free time bowhunting wild boars, wrestling bears, and "taking care of the pigeon problem" at Fenway.) Being a small, gas-saving station wagon, that sounds like it is running on batteries, the contrast was too much to resist. Caw!]

May 18, 2007

Collapsed Eggfunction

More art! This time, a New Yorker cover features a blackboard with a bunch of quantum physics equations and paper strewn everywhere. Presumably, to go along with the LHC article. The equations are real, but not realistic. They are scribblings of first/second year quantum mechanics. I can't imagine a situation where you would ever write a bunch of calculation-type stuff and then circle the Schrödinger equation in the center of the board. Or write out explicitly that neutrons decay into p + e + v-bar. Unless you were crazy and just trying to convince everyone that you were a physicist...

Is the New Yorker expecting us to be that clever? I doubt it. The whole success of that publication is in getting people to feel guilty for not understanding jokes about Sartre, but wanting others to think that they do -- and therefore buying the magazine to leave visibly lying around the house. But these are usually the same kind of people who will proudly blurt out that they don't know what a square root is at their swanky dinner parties, so you can't count on them to feel insecure about not knowing much science.

The point of the drawing is actually I suppose, "look at this guy with his increadibly complicated work, and yet who is still boiling an egg in a totally normal way. How ironic!" But it doesn't really strike me as witty or profound. How, exactly, should he be boiling an egg differently? By putting it on some automated flash-fryer triggered by a nuclear decay, and then observing it so that he doesn't have to eat the superposition of a boiled and unboiled egg?

Nice drawing though.

Satellite Tracker

Courtesy Backreaction, a neat tool from the ESA that shows you where any of 12 Earth-orbiting objects are at any given time. Notably Hubble and the ISS.

May 17, 2007

Martian Art

NASA now has an official Mars as Art gallery, featuring some surprisingly good photographs from the "Total Recall Planet." For a place no humans have visited, they came up with a good list. Just more proof of something we all know deep down: the robots don't need us, even for art. Oh, and while we're at it, here are some Martian pictures by those other reds, the Soviets for comparison. They are all pretty lousy. It is a strange thing, after trying a few missions to Mars in the 60's and early 70's the USSR sort of gave up and sent a ton of probes to Venus instead, while we kept, and continue to be obsessed with Mars. I don't really get it, did we each feel like cornering the market on our own particular planet instead of competing? Is it some cultural thing? I still think Venus is cool, but the next mission there isn't for another 3 years. And even that isn't one of the cool kind that crashes into the planet and gets eaten away by acid. Terrible job.


May 16, 2007

I am better than you

I gave blood today, because I love the world and its many peoples. But clandestinely, as a secret admirer does. Or a stalker.

Some of the other grad students and I raced. I got 7 minutes even. They got 11.5 and 11 minutes, so I blew them out of the water. Like a stuck pig! Oink. But guy #3 came in later and managed a 6 minuter, so I slipped down the rankings to 2nd. So it goes. I think I should have been allowed to give more blood than them, because I'm a big guy and I've got more than I need, but the blood bank people didn't want it. Lame. Maybe I'll come back next week and see if I can donate my Chi or "life force," or clean conscience, or bone marrow. It took a while to wait to give blood, that could be better too. I want to swoop in, (already bleeding perhaps), give up a pint, slap on a band-aid, and sprint for the exit. Then wake up an hour later, get some ice for my head, and be done with it. There were some sainted people who seemed to be donating plasma in the corner with some crazy machines. How come they didn't advertise that one? I'd do it. They want me to be magnanimous? I'll shove my magnanimosity down their fucking throats. A priest had taken the afternoon off from molesting little boys to do it, but I think it was a scam -- machines don't need blood, they feed on copper wire and dust (at least the carpet cleaning ones). Maybe the robots are stocking up on blood so that we won't have any when they decide to attack humanity.

I got free juice, cookies, and an inflated sense of moral superiority.

May 15, 2007

List of Zones (updated!)

Neutral zone, zone of avoidance, zone of alienation, Twilight Zone, thermal zone, torrid/temperate/frigid zones, 'the' zone, match-up zone (of the zone defense), zone of inhibition, zone of aeration, zone of accumulation, Zone Horror, zone of ablation, death zone, zone of exclusion, zone of habitability, zones of occupation (Allied, Soviet, German, etc), zone of subduction, zone of stability (laser, nuclear), zone of wastage, convection zone.

Update 5/28: quake zone, danger zone, red zone, industrial zone, radiation zone, safety zone, Brillouin zone, calzone.

Messy Lines

  • A commenter challenged me to draw Africa. There is no way in hell I am going to do that. I will however show an image from a map of the world I drew "from memory" in 7th grade geography. This represents the apex of my knowledge of African cartography. It is pretty pathetic. I mean, 'Togo'? I'm pretty sure I made that up.

    All in all it was a pretty cool project. During the year we learned one continent at a time, and how to draw it on a completely blank page and get the orientation and relation of everything correctly. At the end of the year we did the entire globe on one big square in about a week. I can't say that everyone followed the spirit of the 'memory' challenge entirely, but we were not permitted simply to copy anything, or have a book in the room where we drew these, so I remembered it for at least some period of time. As you can tell from this, the final product was not without its mistakes, unintentional and intentional.

  • Flash programming tools are apparently available to psych wards nowadays. This is good news, because if they weren't, this game wouldn't exist. "Game, game, game and again game; or belief systems are small clumsy rolling-type creatures" features 12 levels of creepy psychotic rambling fun. As you move your flashing rolling-type creature through the level, meaningless crazy text pops up inexplicably all over the screen, your score (a string of strange arrow-like symbols) steadily rises (or falls) unaffected by your actions, and paranoid scribblings criss-cross the background for no reason. I tried to quote mine it for some particularly salient example of this madness, but it simply wasn't possible, everything that pops up is equally good. Whether this was designed by a schizophrenic, or just made to look that way, it is clear that this person has a future doing Radiohead's web design. [via]

  • The five-second rule appears to have some basis. This paper written of in this NY Times article, measured whether there are differences in bacteria pickup depending on how long food touches the ground. "Left for a full minute [instead of five seconds], slices collected about 10 times more than that from the tile and carpet, though a lower number from the wood." The article also points out that 60% of people are aware of the rule, so we can at least be glad that we can at least get a majority of people to accept a scientific viewpoint, regardless of what it happens to be.[via]

Terrible job, NPR

Yes, I'm one of those goofy tote-bag toting public radio listeners. I love their obsession with pronouncing foreign names correctly, and playing ambient noise about things that they are reporting. Nobody does a better job incorporating jungle sounds into their coverage of the South American economy. Nonetheless, nobody is perfect and I have heard a few atrocious things in the past few days that went uncontested. Ordinarily, I wouldn't think much of it, but I suppose I hold them to a higher standard, so it annoyed me. Here is the first:

Newt Gingrich spouting, unchallenged in any way, a bunch of patent falsehoods about global warming. Though he purported to express nominal support for the scientifically-supported position, he almost immediately lapsed back into the usual coterie of pseudo-scientific talking points about how global temperatures have varied over time (a fact, of course, that no one disputes). Repeated a bizarre claim that some climatologists of the 70's were worried about a coming ice age (claims made by a few stray researchers before we started to seriously study climate are not equal to a universal consensus made after decades of extensive research by people who actually know what they are talking about), and utterly embarrassed himself by parroting a rumor started by Erik the Red, that Greenland "is called 'Greenland' because it used to be green." Um, no. Every 2nd-grader knows that the Vikings named 'Greenland' to draw settlers away from the more attractive 'Iceland,' which is actually much greener. The Greenland thing is a retarded lie, spread by global warming deniers. Did other people not learn this stuff in elementary school geography?

Am I naïve to be outraged by the presumption by politicians that they get to make up their own minds about issues with which they have no expertise? If you asked one of these goons how to replace their water heater they would laugh at you and say that their plumber worries about that kind of thing. Yet when it comes to matters far more complicated and important, they mouth off with the kind of solemnity you would expect from somebody who peer-reviews evolutionary biology articles for Nature in their free time. (Except that they are probably spouting opinions that no sane person (or reviewer) would be caught dead with.) Even the assumption that it matters what politicians think about things with which they have no expertise whatsoever is laughable, it is hard to understand why the news media, which (in some imaginary utopia) serves the purpose of fact-checking these propositions, reports on counter-factual views with undue reverence. You don't get to decide what you think about issues that are a matter of scientific judgment. The only aspect of scientific issues that politicians get to have any involvement with is in deciding what to do about things. And then, only a little. Scientists tell you how the world works, and you manage the suggestions of what to do about it. That's how it works.

This is something I think about almost every day, but I don't think I've blogged about practically at all. The old aphorism that 'we are entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts' is never more relevant than now, with public distortion of science that now seems to be frequent than ever. And if crunchy NPR is letting people get away with it, it doesn't look good for anyone else.

May 12, 2007


So apparently that flash game from a few months ago was just the game version of this commercial. You know when Letterman drops stuff off the roof? This is the same concept on steroids. Replace 'Letterman' with '~50 cameras' and replace 'watermelons' with '250,000 superballs.' And instead of dropping it off the roof they drop them off San Fransisco. I believe that it is a few years old, and it was on TV for a while, but this link leads to a gratuitous extended online version. This other movie of a paint apocalypse isn't so bad either.


In a high school English class we had a midterm where we were told one of the long essay questions in advance and allowed to bring a sheet of notes into the exam with us. Being the typical literature-class-disrespecter and smart-alack that I am was, I decided that I didn't need to outline my exam. How complicated could an exam essay possibly be to require a whole page of notes? I figured that I could put that sheet to much better use.

I don't recall all the details, but I think I must have had English after my other tests, and with this ridiculous note page edict, I was casting about for ways to spend my study time productively. On some whim I picked up my dad's old dictionary and started leafing through it absentmindedly. Of course! I could put anything on this page -- how about a bunch of rare and unusual words? I mean, it is English, it doesn't matter which kind of words I use as long as they make sense. They want pointless verbiage? I'll give it to them! On what basis would my English teacher penalize me for using strange but correct English words?!

So I spent a day or two building up a giant document that cataloged everything weird that I found in the dictionary, then I selected the 50 or so with relatively common meanings that could conceivably be used in regular writing, (if one was inclined toward being pretentious and misunderstood), to put in my "notes." And of course, when the test rolled around I crammed about 20 in there with no shame whatsoever. When I handed it in I even asked the teacher "if he had a dictionary nearby." Such was my adolescent hubris.

If this was an 'excellent' story instead of a 'mildly amusing' story, I would have failed the test*. I actually did well. It helped that my teacher was the type of guy who would get a kick out it. He said that it took him about 20 minutes to grade my several page essay because he had to stop every sentence or so to look something up. That'll show him for trying to teach me.

Though he doesn't realize it, he managed to get me back 5 years later. But that is a tale for another day.

If it was a Tim O'Brien story I definitely would have failed, even if I didn't, because that makes it 'more true.']

May 11, 2007

Colloquium Drawing of the Week 12

Not really much of a "drawing." I was really bored, and decided to see if I could draw from memory all of the states and their general shapes. I can! (The trick is starting in the confederacy, all of those need to be the right shapes or else they throw off the rest of the proportions; and starting with an outline is a terrible idea.)

Europe? Not so much. I know what Scandinavia looks like (even though I didn't draw it in). Obviously I got started in the wrong place and ended up having to make Germany much too wide. And don't get me started with the southeast. Bulgaria? I doubt it.

The crab ended up alright though.

May 10, 2007

Creationism Officially Proven

Cosmic Variance digs up what is surely one of the finest examples of creationist thought yet enunciated:

One of the most basic laws in the universe is the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This states that as time goes by, entropy in an environment will increase. Evolution argues differently against a law that is accepted EVERYWHERE BY EVERYONE. Evolution says that we started out simple, and over time became more complex. That just isn’t possible: UNLESS there is a giant outside source of energy supplying the Earth with huge amounts of energy. If there were such a source, scientists would certainly know about it.


Just like those other people living in darkness in the allegory of the cave, the last thing these folks see when dragged out into the light is the sun. Zing.

[credit, via]

Two Bad Omens

  • In line yesterday I overheard a young woman describing an unhappy experience taking a Environmental Studies course. "I like Earth science and everything, and I found all the reading for the class really interesting -- but some of the people in that class were really into it. That turned me off." And then, complaining about the professor's emphasis on quantitative analysis, probably the worst thing I have heard a person say in recent memory: "I'm not good at all that math stuff. I'm a girl."

  • A crow flew into my head this afternoon. It didn't hurt, but I found the experience quite disturbing.

May 6, 2007

There are two kinds of people in this world: the kind who notice that the popping of popcorn plotted over time follows a Gaussian distribution, and the kind who don't. Almost every package I have seen says to wait until the pops come 1 second apart. This must be some kind of 2σ point. I can imagine popcorn "scientists" working with stopwatches and white lab coats, measuring the average popping time of different popcorn kernals in different microwave ovens. And it must be a common finding that ~95% of the corn is popped when the popping frequency is at one per second for the usual bag size.

May 5, 2007

Colloquium Drawing of the Week 11

Hovering Sombrero

Yesterday, I took those APOD doofuses to the wheelhouse. My parting shot was a reflection on the ubiquity of the Sombrero Galaxy. Not that it isn't a nice place or anything, just that it's like the first picture you see in astronomy. So of course, what is today's APOD? M104. And not just an ordinary photo, today's shows it across multiple radiation spectra! As if to say "You don't like the Sombrero? Here's four fucking Sombreros! How do you like me now?!" Typical immature Astronomy Picture of the Day behavior.

May 4, 2007

Happy Independence Day!

Today is a holiday.

§ 25-2-1 Rhode Island Independence Day.– The fourth day of May in each and every year is established, in this state, as a day for celebration of Rhode Island independence, being a just tribute to the memory of the members of our general assembly, who, on the fourth day of May, 1776, in the State House at Providence, passed an act renouncing allegiance of the colony to the British crown and by the provisions of that act declared Rhode Island sovereign and independent, the first official act of its kind by any of the thirteen (13) American colonies.
That is correct. Rhode Island unilaterally declared its own independence a full two months before the other 12 colonies copied our idea. So for all of that bluster about the Texan Republic*, RI actually had the guts to renounce foreign control in the face of the the whole British Empire.

It goes without saying that RI is one of the finest states, but here are a list of further reasons why we're great. A recurring theme is foresight when it comes to matters of governance.

  • Enacted first law abolishing slavery, 1652.

  • First armed rebellion against the British, the burning of the merchant ship Gaspee, 1772

  • State bird is a chicken, the Rhode Island Red. Without a doubt the tastiest of the official U.S. state birds.

  • After leaving the repressive Puritan environment of Massachusetts, Roger Williams founded the state based on the concepts of freedom of religion and thought, and is widely considered the forefather of the First Amendment.

  • Immediately ratified 13th Amendment (abolishing slavery). Only state to reject Prohibition, and one of only seven not to approve of the lame 22nd Amendment (Presidential term-limits).

  • Have consistently voted the right way in Presidential elections. Historically, RI has gone for the best Presidents and against practically all of the worst, with very few lapses in judgement. I would say, far fewer than any other state. There is a tendency when thinking of history to forget about the controversy at the time, as though elections weren't contentious, but of course they were. Or to rarely bother checking the scorecard on who turned out right or wrong. Well, as far as states go, we were almost always right. Often about people who had not yet revealed themselves to be horrible yet, like Hoover and Nixon, and often by large margins in elections that were otherwise close. And not just because the state is liberal, we went to Eisenhower and Reagan at least once.

    • For: Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt, Wilson, F. Roosevelt (4 times), Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy.
    • Against: Jackson (all 3 times), Buchanan, Hoover (both times), Nixon, both Bushes both times (by the largest margins twice).

    The only significant mistakes were Harding, Nixon's 2nd term (but only by 3%), and some of those lesser-known people like Pierce and Garfield/Arthur.
    So to anyone still thinking that history will vindicate our current President, I say, look to Rhode Island, my friend. He lost here both times, with RI being his worst and second-worst state. Right now his approval rating is 16%. There really isn't anyone who didn't win RI, but turned out to do a good job (with the possible exception of Cleveland or James K. Polk). And Bush Jr. is no James K. Polk.

So respect Rhode Island. We gave you religious freedom and Forth of July Parades and we can take them away.

More APOD bashing

As everyone around here knows, I am no fan of the Astronomy Picture of the Day. (See 1, 2, 3). The picture of the day? Who do these people think they are?

What about "Sunrise from the Surface of Gliese 581c" (recently discovered Earth-like planet) is a "picture"? Paintings don't count, nerd. Astronomy paintings are the
sort of cheesy "artist's conceptions" that belong on the covers of bad sci-fi paperbacks, or the walls of people who own "healing crystals." The only thing missing is a winged unicorn flying over a rainbow.

Neither this, nor this, nor this are "pictures" (especially not when you run it multiple times). These ones aren't astronomy. And these things are just retarded.

I didn't start out looking to embarrass APOD like this (it just happened), the actual point is to draw attention to the strange fact that there is an Astronomy Picture of the Day discussion board. Does the internet not have enough interactivity at this point?
Is there anyone out there who still feels somehow unable to express themselves? We can all leave our moronic comments on articles from our equally moronic mainstream newspapers without even leaving the basement. As other people have pointed out, we have even created that absolute cesspool of human communication, YouTube comments; where you can garner responses of hate speech, chain letters, porn ads, and racial slurs, several hours after posting a clip of a child learning to ride a bicycle, as long as enough people watch it.

So come to think of it, APOD's discussion board isn't so bad in comparison. I just find it funny that an online community could spring into existence surrounding a daily astronomical image. I am trying to imagine the kind of people who clamored for an online place to air their thoughts and opinions about this this particular online installment. People united in their common desire to confer and discuss with others who feel as strongly about daily astronomy as they themselves. "I must know what people's favorite APOD is. Why can't I discuss it with other APOD aficionados in an interactive online environment? Something must be done!"

Of course, the questions are actually mostly astronomical inquiries from curious amateurs, and anything that helps people learn about astronomy is a good thing...blah blah blah. So the commenters get my approval, but the APOD management is inching ever closer to my list.

Yeah geniuses, we've never seen the Sombrero Galaxy before.

May 3, 2007

Colloquium Drawing of the Week 10

Just to be clear, that guy on the bottom right is supposed to be an orange. A very fancy orange. I guess he looks a little bumpy.

May 1, 2007

Who ordered that?

It is no cat-playing-the-piano, but this demonstration of standing Faraday waves, created by vibrating a piston below some cornstarch solution, is pretty neat. I think however, that the weirdness in the last few seconds is why people don't always trust physicists. Seriously science, what the hell was that? Watching that nonsense reminded me of I.I. Rabi famously asking "Who ordered that?" upon the discovery of the muon, while dining on Chinese food that he had ordered.

Little-known fact: it was Gell-Mann who had ordered the muon.