January 29, 2007


If you are at all like me, you are probably running out of new ways to waste time conduct important research on Wikipedia. Here is one to keep you occupied for a while:

1. Open up different two random articles in different tabs using the link on the left sidebar of any Wikipedian entry.
2. Get from the first page to the second in the shortest possible fashion.
3. I don't think I needed to number these, there were only two.

You must only move in one direction--that is to say, only from entry 1 to entry 2, not to some mutual middle point. That would be too easy. You draw a peripheral member of Swedish Parliament, you're stuck with him. As far as the use of catagories, I am as yet undecided.

Here is my example. Al Hodge > WBRU (the radio station I listened to growing up!)

Al Hodge
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy Jr.
Brown University

Moving laterally through Wikipedia is an awe-inspiring exercise. In both the positive (sheer volume of organized and easily accessible knowledge!) and negative ("...another minor Babylon Five character?!") senses.

January 28, 2007

And is sunlight really the best disinfectant?

I love the
internet. Slate's Explainer takes on the eternal question: Is soap "self-cleaning" because it's soap?

You probably won't be surprised with the answer, but at least now you will be able to sleep at night.

January 27, 2007

Colloquium Drawing of the Week 3

"Space Lobster or: How do you like me now?"

[Updated from this]

January 26, 2007

Finally, an explanation

Now that YouTube is the official repository of Complete World Knowledge, I am able to bring to you the source of this site's web domain.

'...and did you write your symphony, in, the shed?'

January 25, 2007

The job market just got a little smaller

I believe myself to be in possession of perhaps the worst resume in existence. Not the actual job experience part, the writing part. In that the writing is equivalent to disjointed, insane, rambling. I think about 70% of the sentences are fragments and all of them are trying to convey some sort of grandiose, megamaniacal thought that has no place in a CV. This guy is a friend twice-removed and is well-known for being an extremely verbose and strongly-opinioned pseudo-intellectual with a high school education and a passion for philosophy. He went to South America and had a spiritual experience while on mushrooms. He also has some kind of Farakhan-esque racist philosophy and is planning a trip through the downtrodden, unscenic regions of Eastern Africa, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent with the money he has saved through his stereo sales career. I think we can expect to see him, bearded and dirty, handing out a poorly-xeroxed socialist newsletter in downtown New Bedford in about ten years. Without further explanation, here is its precursor.

Chris W------
Dartmouth Ma 02745

Fore Note
Before the list of material accomplishments, I suppose the psychic and character compositional may suffice more truly, though verifiable by observation alone. Rather the experience of a man is composed of such, and from such springs his ability, but a blueprint are the achievements of his work, the substance composed of, is his character.

To enhance the literary prowess of an adored industry and make industrious audiophiles. To transcend technical detail in favor of emotionally immediate information.
To enwrap in eloquence, simulating the poetic expression of sounds soul, to hear speakers songs, and tube amp whispers and transmit such linguistically.
To raise a new generation of audiophiles, addicted spirits to luxurious listening, like the luscious sweets of wine.
Replication of listening, reenacted in words, behind the mind the same play unfolds, magazines get sold.
Self supporting markets stimulate addiction, constant bombardment with stimulus, emotionally drawn, elongates the souls longing for soothing, let music be the opiate.
Let equipment be the means.
Let a new light shine, where an old sun smoldered, and re-ignite romances long past, born of broken dreams, molded and loaded into fancy once more, finances shall pour.

Veteran of sales, experienced in the dynamics of emotional manipulation, so as to induce a musical fever, expressed through equipment.
Contagious in the flu of enthusiasm, few escape such honesty.
Well studied in logistics, an avid student of reason and philosophy, economics and sociology, transmitted in logical planning and intuitive foresight. A compass for a customer.
Economically inclined, and thoroughly well thought, advantages rarely slip by in a well constructed equation of logistics.
Ambitious toward perfection, perfectionist undoubtedly, suppressed only when absolutely necessary, when reason permits.
Traveler of three continents, boarding on four and five in the future unfolding.
The culture of which well drunk, an understanding of peoples perspective well lavished, as valuable in a global marketplace, and in a pot of melting butter.
Prolific in output, philosophical in approach, only writers block may ebb flow, such drought has passed of late and well watered springs spool endless work, and blocks but induct nourishment, production trudges on. Reliability is my specialty.
Sense of loyalty imbedded in deep bone, provided well treatment nourishes.
Well understood of the emotional bridge of connectivity, linking man and man, and of what modifications or inspirational incentives are required to make its trench passable.

Largely self taught by the teachers of eternity, paradigm acquisition from philosophers long past, and educators for whom the term education, was wrought.
Poets and generals, but thinkers and philosophers, antiquated and cerebral, eloquent in word and chiasmic in depth.
And lastly the meager completion of High School, and a few courses of College engineering. Quite abstracted from the spirit of audiophilia, and the concoction of auditory nirvana.

References furnished graciously upon request

Cold Facts:
Job Experience

Four years sales for -------, home theater system construction and installation
Three years sales and consultation for ----------, high end stereo importing and distributing
Two consecutive summers bathed in sun, with eyes water locked and governing imposition as a beach lifeguard
One year pool vigilant as a YMCA lifeguard
There isn't much to say about this. The character in question actually seems to be a nice enough guy (I believe he has referred to me as the "tall mathematical fellow," who wouldn't like that?), and I don't mean him any disrespect...but that doesn't mean his resume isn't hilarious.

January 24, 2007

Drinking Time

A rare moment of pride in my alma mater:

Featuring Keggy the Keg, about 200 kids that they managed to tear away from their pong games and email, and an excellent lampooning of our classic stereotype. It would be nice if we had a better cliché to mock, but you've got to work with what you have. Cheers to the Jack-o-Lantern!

January 23, 2007

The banned underground American Democratic Party

For no good reason I've been reading about North Korea a lot recently. The people are so isolated from the outside world, and the state has such complete control over what goes in and out that the whole nation seems preserved in a weird shrink-wrapped Asian/Stalinist 1950's. It is also interesting to me the propaganda they feed to the people there. Without any opportunity to compare it to anything from the outside world it makes you wonder whether most of them realize their leaders are full of shit. I'm not sure that they all do. At least in one of the accounts I read about the mid-eighties (before the famine) by an inpartial westerner, the people seemed to be living bleak but not completely unhappy lives, and most seemed basically loyal to the government. When you don't have any frame of reference and you are constantly being told that the rest of the world is even poorer... (of course these were only really about the main city, I think the rural parts of the country were much worse.) In any case, I am sure that thoughtful North Koreans can put the pieces together; the U.S. can't be both a dominating superpower that strong-arms every other country in the world to oppress their people and an impoverished cesspool teetering on the brink of collapse and/or revolution. That the same news story often presents these two versions side-by-side must eventually strain credulity.

In any case, I was lead eventually to this "news" site. I doubt that North Koreans actually buy the stuff they're saying, but I have an obligation to present some samples. This article by far takes the cake. Could this be the most succinct description of American politics? A few months old, but still hilarious. "Nuclear Tests Cover Up For Rapists?":

Just a few days ago, prominent American Republican (Fascist) Party representative Mark Foley was revealed to have raped and sodomized dozens of young male pages who was completing their work experience in the US congress. Foley, who was not democratically elected to the congress, was also the president of an anti-child abuse organization. It turns out that the organization was a front for many paedophiles and rapists among the undemocratically elected American congress members.

These proven accusations, launched by the banned underground American Democratic Party, were overshadowed now by the country's recent testing of nuclear weapons. Of course, the American propaganda news sources told the people through hours and hours of daily propaganda that the missiles were being tested because of a potential attack from the government of Korea, while not a single news source mentioned the crimes of Mr. Foley and the rest of the congress. In reality, the country is preparing for an aggressive attack against peaceful Korea, and to continue its dirty deeds with young children.

It has long been known by the international community that the USA serves as a prime location for child sex trafficking and prostution. In 2005, a group of Korean special operatives infiltrated and rescued a child prostitution ring of young girls and boys from Uzbekistan in America. It turned out that the prostitution ring was the work of Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov and American dictator George W. Bush. Karimov, known for boiling in hot water those who dissent against him, made a deal with Dictator Bush, giving him cheap oil and young children in exchange for blood money. Now it seems, with the revelations of Fascist Party member Foley, the American government has begun raping its own children. It is yet another sad story of victims of the American imperialists. By contrast, in Korea our government members are democratically elected, and uncorrupt. Rapists and paedophiles would be immediately ejected from the party, and put in jail for the crimes, rather than being defended like they are in America.
Where did they get that photo? Moving on, this "poll":
Earlier last week, a poll was conducted in Pyongyang to show public opinion so far going into the December presidential elections. The results came out as follows:

Kim Jong Il - Korean Workers' Party - 70.33%
Kim Yong Dae - Social Democratic Party of Korea - 22.69%
Lee Jung-Mi - Green Party of Korea - 5.07%
Ryu Mi Yong - Chondoist Chongu Party - 1.83%

Many are shocked at the results, with nearly 23% of the population of the city in favour of the Social Democratic Party, which announced its pro-Imperialists platform next week.
Yeah, I'm sure it'll be close. The best part? I looked up the names of those other people and at least two of them are South Korean Olympic athletes.

I hope Manning doesn't make a commercial about this...

Today's Soxaholix says it all.

January 18, 2007

Colloquium Drawing of the Week 2

As I have recently mentioned, I am now providing a rare, weekly, glimpse into my twisted mind. Here is the second one. It features aliens (or robots) destroying an obviously misdrawn U.S. Capital building. At first I worried that it would be possible to misconstrue some kind of political overtone to this, but after careful thought, I realized that I had no idea what that overtone would be. Other than pro-Alien/Robot, which I make no secret of anyway.

"Separation of Powers"

January 14, 2007

New Feature: Colloquium Drawing of the Week

To keep myself from being bored out of my mind for an hour each friday afternoon I have instituted a weekly illustration interval. It isn't that I don't enjoy hearing long lectures about topics that I find interesting roughly a third of the time, it's that I need a designated time to further develop my obvious drawing skills. I've also decided to post them in weekly installments. Here is the one for the week before this one. Last week's will be posted soon. Note how it is unclear whether the squid is attacking or being attacked. This is supposed to encourage a feeling of unrest and internal conflict in the viewer.

"The Squid Attack"


That was so believable, I wonder why he didn't stick to acting...

January 13, 2007

ow, my brain

January 10, 2007

the weight of things

The internet weighs two ounces. So says this guy.

A statistically rough ( one sigma) estimate might be 75-100 million servers @ ~350-550 watts each.. Call it Forty Billion Watts or ~ 40 GW. Since silicon logic runs at three volts or so, and an Ampere is some ten to the eighteenth electrons a second, a straight forward calculation reveals that if the average chip runs at a Gigaherz , some 50 grams of electrons in motion make up the Internet.

So as of today, cyberspace weighs less than two ounces. It’s hard to gauge its heft more exactly since silicon devices vary in speed, but if you want a handle on The Whole Web instead of just the suburbs that we're wired to , try tripling that figure- there are maybe ten times more mostly idle CPU chips in PC's than in servers, and fewer very busy ones in the world's comparative handful of supercomputers .
I haven't checked this, so I can't vouch for it. Nonetheless, I like these kind of questions.

January 1, 2007

About the Author

I am an overly modest grad student in Physics with many profound and witty observations about the world around us. Right now I'm a graduate student at Brown University. My scientific interests are cosmology and astrophysics, and not merely because they sound the coolest. Among other things, I have an affinity for neutrinos, because they are the most antisocial and coolest-sounding particle, and my research involves weak gravitational lensing, which is exactly what it sounds like. Like many other grad students, I'm studying for a PhD because I have no other interests and my underdeveloped social skills preclude my spending much time in non-science situations. I have an upstanding departmental webpage here, that summarizes my nascent career and proves that I can write in LaTeX.

I am originally from Rhode Island, home of coffee milk and the nation's oldest Forth of July Parade. I first developed an interest in astronomy when quite young, and by hanging around at Brown, where, for unknown reasons, I was allowed to take a course in the subject. I was briefly home-schooled, and then attended a variety of institutions culminating with boarding school in Massachusetts. While in high school I acted in plays, studied Latin and Greek, started a Chess Club, and wrote ironic essays. At one point, I tricked the trustees into singing the national anthem of Imperial Russia. Our background was sort of lower-middle-class so I have had the unique experience of being the perennial financial aid kid from middle school up through swanky ivy-league college. That college was Dartmouth, where the lower-middle-class are hunted for sport.

I have this web-log because although I frequently joke about having a one track mind for science, I actually have eclectic interests and enjoy writing. I found I was sort of missing that type of thing. Luckily for you, I will spare the minutiae of daily life; not only would that be very boring, it would also be extremely stupid. I'll probably make an effort to cover important stories in physics, or mention various offenses against science and reason, but only when it's funny. But neither will I merely link to other blogs that link to other blogs that link to videos of cats playing musical instruments. I have made a deliberate effort to avoid profoundity.

The intended format of this blog is somewhere in between obscure science/history digressions and actual writing, usually in the form of wildly irresponsible theories. I also seem to be observing the intersection between science and culture a bit recently. The "highlights" section on the right feature some posts I would consider representative of what I am going for. The past few months have been decent too, so the archives for those should give you a good idea.

The name "Topography of Ignorance" is explained here (long obscure quote), and the "Two-Sheds" domain name here (Monty Python). Until recently the site had been called "Fish Heal Thyself" which not only didn't mean anything, but didn't even come close to meaning anything.

[Last updated 10/28/10]