2016-06-30

Umm Whisky, and I think there's a Foxtrot, and also maybe a Tango somewhere in there


And holy fuckstain is this one funny:


Confession: I was an ICP fan in college.  Their message was pretty much one of cartoonish violence in support of social justice issues, but fell apart once they "found god."  They were basically the "musical" equivalent of Tom and Jerry, and until the turn of the millennium, never really took themselves too seriously.  If they hadn't decided to associate their act with "god," in earnest, as opposed to the mocking manner that had been known for, I'd still be a fan.

Damn, I want some Rock N' Rye right now (I'd even settle for some Red Pop [sic]).

Donuts

Zach again.  I haven't mentioned it before, but the votey for this one is absolutely hilarious (the "votey" is the red button below the main comic).


Topologically,  any (vertibrate) animal homeomorphic to a torus, if one considers the digestive tract to be the hole.

I'm still laughing at this one.

2016-06-27

Work stuff

It's going to be very busy at work for the first part of the week.   We're in a work-out meeting, the "we" being the development team for the present application I described before, the managing stakeholders and a new team of developers.

Yes, we're significantly rewriting my baby; my rasion d'etre, professionally, and while one might be inclined to political resistance when faced with this situation, I'm really stoked.

The fact is, in the 8 years since the original project was completed, the engineering landscape has changed, dramatically.

For reference, so give you a feel for just how old this software is, there was no such thing as an iPad, or even an iPhone, when version 1 went into production.

And since introduction the engineering community has developed their own tools to automate their workflows for NPI/D, and PLM and they now have a platform that is conducive to a more tight integration with the compute side of the house.  When our application was developed, these were areas of weakness that our application addressed.   Now, as the cost of application development and deployment has been reduced due to "the cloud," much of the user facing pieces of our software are redundant.

We have a strong mandate coming from the CxO level, as well as permission to evaluate (and use) the best of breed technologies to make this happen.  It's not a blank check, but it's the closest I've ever seen from this particular behemoth.

So we are exploring the new landscape and designing the next generation of our application to integrate seamlessly with it. 

The best part, and the reason I am not resistant to the effort, is that we (my team) are involved.  It's clearly not a political effort for mid-level managers to usurp each others' power.   We really could end up building the platform that drives the operational business decisions of the particular behemoth I contract with for the next decade or more, and that we're at the table to help design such an effort is an acknowledgment of how significantly our previous work has improved the engineering landscape.

After the past few weeks, this is a welcome turn of events.  I've been more anxious than usual, and the idea that I'm now going to be undertaking what is literally (in the literal sense) the most important project I've ever been involved with is a wonderful distraction.  There's the technical details, which always occupy my subconscious hamster wheel when I'm offline, in this case displacing the unfortunate escalating paranoia over my neighbors that would otherwise consume me, and also knowing that I'm trusted with such an important project based on my past work.   I'm proud of what I do, so I really appreciate when it's acknowledged in such an important way.

And I really wish that I could go into specifics (and some of you might actually know), but, sadly, I can't. 

Posting will be light this week as a result.

2016-06-24

Sticking your dick in the glory hole and finding out it was sucked by your sister

Or a man, or a goat, or whatever...

Honestly, what the fuck did these people think would happen?  Oh yeah, they were counting on there being enough smart people to counter all of the protest votes.  If you think something is a bad idea, vote against it!  Period!

So, just like we got stuck with GWB for 8 years, England finds itself at a crossroads, because people are too self-absorbed to bother to inform themselves about the pertinent issues.  And the sad part is that the alternative to democracy is much, much worse.

So here a bunch of retards are pushing Jill Stein, as if she isn't just Ralph Nader redux.

In the USA we don't have the luxury of voting for the best candidate, we can only vote for the least bad that has a chance of winning.  Only then, can we start to enact reforms that make coalition government possible in our current system.  In a winner take all system without instant runoff, a vote for a third party is equivalent to a vote for the opposing major party.  Until this changes, grow the fuck up and stop pretending that third parties are viable.

At least they didn't do Up or Wall-E

That would have been too much.


And because my reaction to circumstances out of my control has been to become a heartless sonofabitch, here's the saddest ending ever:


I made myself sad...

2016-06-23

Ticket please

Looking through my image directory to find something to post in one of those ubiquitous funny pictures threads one finds on various web forums scattered about uncovered this gem:

And I burst out laughing.  That's so wrong.

For those philistines of you out there, The Aristocrats is a fairly well-known joke within comedy circles.  It always follows a similar format, beginning with a vaudevillian-type showrunner pitching an idea to a theater owner, beginning "Have I got a show for you..."

What follows is an escalating barrage of absurd, vulgar and dehumanizing activity, often involving a family, coprophilia, incest, bestiality, necro/pedophilia (sometimes both at the same time), escalating in the eventual punchline, the title of the act, illustrated above.

The humor is derived from the creativity in describing the act, along with the cognitive dissonance one experiences between hearing the description of the act and it's title.

I am so going to hell.

A flat

I'm not enamored the headline, but the observation is very interesting.  First the headline:

The Caribbean Sea Whistles So Loud It Can Be ‘Heard’ From Space

Not quite.  At least they had the sense to put "heard" in scare quotes.
The phenomenon, dubbed a “Rossby whistle,” happens when a Rossby oceanic wave — a large wave that slowly travels west in the ocean between the warm upper layer and the cold deeper part of the ocean — interacts with the seafloor.

The interaction causes the wave to die out at the western boundary of the basin and reappear back on the eastern side, creating what has been nicknamed a “Rossby wormhole.” As a result, water moves in and out of the basin every 120 days. This change in the amount of water in the basin is enough to oscillate Earth’s gravity field, creating a whistle that can be measured by satellites.
In other words, the oscillation of the strength of gravity as a result of the movement of  water back and forth in the Caribbean basin is acting in the same capacity as a compression wave does for sound.  As the water moves eastward, the mass of the moving water results in measurable changes to the Earth's gravity field.

In that way, "heard" is probably an appropriate metaphor, but all of the cool gravity detection stuff gets lost behind that. 

And what might be the understatement of the century:
Since the phenomenon has a 120 day period, the whistle plays a note of A-flat. It is several octaves below the audible range, so unfortunately, we can’t hear it.
Middle-C has a frequency of 440 Hz.  That's 440 oscillations per second.  The next octave up doubles the frequency, and  next down halfs it.  So one octave above middle-C would be 880, and one below would be 220.  So the idea that changing the sampling period from seconds to days represents several octaves is an absolutely hilarious understatement.


2016-06-22

At the end of my rope

I don't know how much longer I can take this.  Every time I have to go outside, I fear confronting the neighbors who have literally made my life a living hell for the past few months.

I am on edge practically every waking moment, and I am starting to resemble my pre-therapy personality, which I do not like.

I need to get away for a while, but the second it becomes apparent I've been gone for longer than a day at work, they will do something else to fuck with me.

2016-06-20

This is it

A few days ago I saw the new Star Wars movie.   It didn't suck; they were right to keep George Lucas as far away from it as possible.

For me, the one moment that sticks in my mind is this:


STOP TAKING MY HAND!

It's an absolutely brilliant (yet simple) subversion of the "damsel in distress" trope, and in four words does much more to develop Rey's character than pretty much everything before this point in the film (though it is early).

We need more of this.

EDIT:  As a male, I find this expression of female agency incredibly attractive.  In my mind, there's nothing better than when a woman (or whatever gender, or mix thereof one is into) chooses you.  Acquiescence in the face of relentless poking and prodding for relations is one thing, but the feeling that comes with the active choice is much more invigorating.

Careful with that CRISPR, you gene!

Zach again hit's it out of the park.
I'm just saying, nowhere in the LAW does it say anything about using CRISPR-Cas9 on your children.
Seriously follow his stuff, he's geekier than that xkcd so-called "guy," and much funnier to boot.

What got me was the mouse over text for this comic.  Which reminds me of this podcast from not too long ago from Stuff You Should Know.

And you can even by kits!  Fun for the whole family!

Musical accompaniment for this post provided by Pink Floyd. 


2016-06-18

Haunted

As a culture, we place such an emphasis on vengeance that it really has lost all meaning.  I'm still haunted by this.
An inmate at the Schenectady County Correctional Facility committed suicide, according to the Schenectady County Sheriff's Office.

Gregory Green, 29, of 2131 Broadway in Schenectady, was pronounced dead at Ellis Hospital Sunday.
Green was found during a 3:30 a.m. check Sunday with a bed sheet around his neck.
Officers immediately responded, started CPR and notified the department's medical staff, according to a sheriff's department press release.

Paramedics were called to the correctional facility where advanced life support was provided and Green was transported to the hospital for further treatment.
Despite all efforts of staff and hospital personnel, Green was pronounced dead at Ellis Hospital at 4:53 p.m.

The Sheriff's Office is conducting an investigation into the suicide and is waiting a postmortem examination which will be completed on Monday.

Green was being held on second-degree burglary charges since Friday with a cash bail of $35,000 or a bond of $70,000.
Gregory made a bad choice, and by virtue of luck, good or bad, was caught in the act, but the price he inflicted on himself was much too high.  I don't know exactly what his background was, but in my mind, he certainly deserved to live.

It is really strange, thinking about this for a few days, it was my house he was caught breaking into, but in so many ways, I'm not the victim.  I'm both ok with that though and not; the rational part of me is certain that I did what was right (and most of the emotional part as well), yet there is still a small part of me that strongly regrets how the ordeal ended.

I find myself wanting to forgive Mr. Green, as if he were still alive.  I'm not sure exactly how I would have felt on his inevitable conviction; whether I would have forgiven him, or harbored a long-term grudge, as I do from time to time.  My instinct is to forgive, whereas had he lived, I'd likely be very much less forgiving.

And the fact that it requires such a drastic event to switch from the vengeful to the empathetic prism from which to view the past week is scary.   I certainly wanted the law to act as the punisher for me, but now even the hopefulness of a solid conviction feels like an amoral abomination against humanity.

The disconnect is jarring. Anger and pity are trading places over and over again in my head, and both of them are correct.

And when I sink into the inevitable self-pity of asking myself, why did this even happen?, I begin to think of the survived by <parents, siblings, etc>...

And the "garbage in, garbage out" comment is something I'm going to have to live with for the rest of my life...I'm all too familiar with the toxicity that anger imposes on an otherwise peaceful existence, and the fact that some circumstances evoke such a strong, irrational, reaction really bothers me.

Opinions can be incorrect.  I don't know if the same is true of emotions.  Either way, the only thing that isn't correct in this situation, is the death of Mr. Green.   

So, if Gregory Green's mother and/or father somehow end up here: my condolences. 

EDIT: And so we're absolutely fucking clear, the reason I'm so uneasy is that I think I'd never even entertain such ideas if Mr. Green's humanity had he not killed himself.  It's much too easy to imagine myself wishing the so-called worst upon him, knowing that death wasn't on the menu.

2016-06-17

FINALLY

I took the day off to, hopefully, see the bagster in the front yard off...but it seems like it will be Monday or Tuesday for that.   So, since I had a bunch of free time, I've been playing the new Doom on PC.

It's awesome.  No real plot, you're just dropped on Mars with a gun and tasked with fighting off demons and demon-possessed humans.  Just like the original (there's a little more to it; the minimal RPG elements that every modern FPS is required to have are present, but they fit very well in the package).

More importantly: Steam has FINALLY, after a literal-fucking-eternity, given us an option to exclude genres from our "queues" (those are suggestions that the application makes for games we might like).

Goodbye fucking anime child-rape fantasy games!  Goodbye tower defense, and the completely overused zombie genre.

It's a miracle!

Busy busy busy

I haven't had much time over the past couple of days due to our quarterly maintenance window.   This one was a doozy, and took 3 days out of the 2 we had scheduled for it.

It began at 7 AM on Tuesday, and we "finished" at 6PM, yesterday (Thursday).  The main problem was hardware issues, which remain unresolved.

The time investment aside, we did accomplish everything we set out to achieve, which is good.  

2016-06-15

I got a FEVER


Particle Fever!  And the only cure is MORE PARTICLES!
Then Marumi Kado from ATLAS steps up, with a strangely confident look in his eye—and when the results finally flash on the screen, the audience understands why. ATLAS has seen the bump too, at the same point as CMS did, but now it’s so prominent that you can’t miss it. This really does look like a new particle, and if it is, there is suddenly an enormous crack at the very heart of high-energy physics. 

The signal is one of the simplest you can imagine: it represents two high energy photons emerging from the decay of a subatomic particle created in a proton-proton collision. It’s very similar to the signal that led to the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012. But this particle is not the Higgs boson: it is six times more massive. Nobody had predicted anything like this. It is shocking to the physicists in the auditorium. People look around, astonished, trying to confirm that their own reactions are reflected in what they see in their colleagues’ faces. If the observations are confirmed, it will be revolutionary. This could mean nothing less than the fall of the Standard Model of particle physics (SM), which has passed every experimental test thrown at it since it was first put together over four decades ago.
This is really big, and exciting if it turns out to be true. 

Particle Fever dealt with the discovery of the Higgs Boson, which is the particle theorized (now confirmed) to be responsible, via a field interaction that I don't fully understand, for particles to have mass.   The discovery of the Higgs Boson was monumental in particle physics, but its properties turned out to be exactly as predicted by the Standard Model, so while it was additional confirmation of the SM, it didn't really further our understanding of the universe.

That is why this new discovery has the potential to be so disruptive, and therefore, exciting!
This is by far the most exciting thing that has happened in particle physics over the last three decades. If this hint of new physics is confirmed—something that could happen within just a few weeks, or possibly even within days—it is difficult to state the importance of such a discovery. It would be bigger than the detection of the Higgs boson, which was just confirmation of what was already known. 

If the bump is real, we are about to start writing a whole new chapter in the history of fundamental physics. It is impossible to imagine where this could lead.
I can't wait!

2016-06-14

Unsee THIS, bitches!

You know it's going to be a shitty convention

Tip your waitress everybody!  I'll be here all week!

Really? /s

Popular Science with this gem of a caption:
A chiral molecule was found in space, where the Milky Way galaxy is also located.
It's so nice of them to clear that up.  And here I was wondering just where the Milky Way might be....

Above, the Milky Way, with human for scale.
This monumental stupidity begins what can actually be called a pretty cool finding:  chiral molecules in space.
The complex molecules that exist here on our planet often come in two versions, each mirror images or enantiomers of one another. But while its ordinary on Earth, we've never seen these kinds of molecules anywhere else in the universe. Now, for the first time, a team of scientists at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Virginia, the California Institute of Technology, and Harvard University discovered one of these so-called "chiral" molecules in space. The researchers think this discovery could help explain why some chiral molecules on Earth exist more commonly as one hand than as another.
Chirality is nothing new.  Humans tend to be made up of left-handed amino acids, and various science-fiction media has used alternate chirality of different species as a plot device.  Like this guy.

A more tragic example of chirality on earth would be thalidomide, the morning-sickness treatment that resulted in horrendous birth defects. 
Thalidomide is racemic; the individual enantiomers can racemize due to the acidic hydrogen at the chiral centre, which is the carbon of the glutarimide ring bonded to the phthalimide substituent. The racemization process can occur in vivo[2][29][30][31] so that any plan to administer a purified single enantiomer to avoid the teratogenic effects will most likely be in vain.[30][32][33]
In other words, a certain enantiomer of thalidomide causes the birth defects, and the molecule itself can change in the body between the more and less harmful molecules. 

The problems with thalidomide are one of the reasons we have a very strict drug approval procedure at the FDA.  One I'm not at all willing to loosen for the sake of drug company profits.

Also, Breaking Bad danced around the topic a bit, but really didn't resolve the issue.  
So here’s the interesting part. The pseudoephedrine method makes S-meth. If you make methamphetamine from P2P by reductive amination as I’ve described it, however, you unavoidably end up with a fifty-fifty mixture of the two enantiomers, which is undesirable because your product is now half drug and half decongestant. Yet Walter’s end customers and the DEA seem impressed with the potency of his product, which implies it contains only the S-meth enantiomer. And in an episode called “Box Cutter”, Walter says the following while quizzing Victor:

Walter: “And if our reduction is not stereospecific, then how can our product be enantiomerically pure?” (In other words: if our reduction generates both enantiomers, how does our product contain only one?)

Great question, Walt! Now could you answer it for us please?
True, there are techniques you can use to separate or “resolve” two enantiomers, but they’d make the whole process much more complicated and time-consuming. Moreover, Walt seems almost unnaturally proud of his formula, which seems to imply he’s thought of something clever. So what’s going on?
I don't recall them answering that particular question.  But read that whole last link, the chemistry from Breaking Bad is quite real.

2016-06-13

shittier and shittier

The DA's office called this morning to set up a time for me to testify before a grand jury, presumably to formally charge the would-be burglar that broke into my house last Thursday.

This is on top of a major maintenance window tomorrow, which we've been planning for months, so timing is not good.

I just got a call back, and it's not at all what I imagined, or really wanted to hear.

The burglar killed himself in jail over the weekend.   Not the outcome I was hoping for.

So once again, I'm a bit shaken.

EDIT: Here's a link.
Gregory Green, 29, found with a bed sheet around his neck during a supervisory tour at 3:30 a.m., according to a news release. Officers responded and administered CPR, and paramedics provided advanced life support before Green was transported to Ellis.
Another EDIT: I want to be clear, as pissed off as I was about the break in, I didn't wish death upon the perpetrator.  I thought it would be possible for him to serve his time, and be rehabilitated, or otherwise to move on from a life of crime.  

I know it's not my fault he killed himself, but I wish it could have ended any other way. I don't feel like justice was served.

He was a person, and deserved a chance a rehabilitation.  Now that chance is gone, and nobody is better for the loss.

2016-06-11

NIghtmares

I'm trying to go through the security camera footage from the past few days, which, for obvious reasons, I've been neglecting, and it's not easy.

There's nothing fun about piecing together what happened Thursday afternoon, like Crissy [sp?] leaving, the would be burglar trying the back door a full 20 minutes prior to the break in, and the swarm of police officers...

And then I watch myself following in the CSI guy...

This really sucks. 

I was robbed in 2013 or 2014, and it's almost that bad.  What I didn't have at the time was the opportunity to relive the experience via hidden camera footage.  The outcome was clearly better this time, but the process is painful.

Not being able to feel safe in one's own home is absolutely awful.  Short of the death of a beloved family member, I can't think of anything I'd want to experience less. 

2016-06-10

Bass!

Torn to Tattered has a really fun bassline.  And it's much easier than it may sound.


In between the Late to the party post and now, I bought the album on iTunes.  It's great!  Seriously...but this track has a really cool bass part.   It's ostinato, with occasional variations, but it just adds so much texture to the song.


I'm alone on a tricycle built for seven

da fuq?

Via gizmodo, since Hammacher Schlemmer disables right click on their site.

I tried to shoehorn a reference to Daisy Bell in here, but I just couldn't make it work. You'll have to suffer with Zooey Deschanel's mediocre singing.


I do apologize for that.  She was great in Big Trouble and Live Free or Die, but I don't seem to have the same geek-fascination with her that others seem to have succumbed to.

She flies so gracefully, over rocks and trees and sand

SEAGULL TIKKA MASALA  (delish!)
A seagull in the UK has become an instant celebrity after it fell into a vat of curry and was dyed bright orange.
I'll tell ya, if I found a vat of tikka masala, I'd have fallen in gorging myself too.  That stuff is like culinary crack.

The staff of a veterinary hospital cleaned the bird up, as best they could.
But while rescue staff were able to remove the color, the smell of the curry proved harder to shift.
"I don't think any of us have experienced such an orange greasy gull to deal with before... but boy did he smell good! ;)" Kells said.
And apropos of nothing:

2016-06-09

Thursday in Schenectady

Last night, as I posted, one of the drug dealers next door was busted.  I knew he wouldn't be away for long, since they didn't find enough for a felony, so I didn't really sleep all that well.

I re-enabled the push notifications that my security camera sends to my phone when the motion alarm is triggered before I left for work today.  It's a good thing I did.

At about 3:20 PM, I got an alert, and decided to check the live feed.   I get an alert every time a car drives by, so I don't always check.  I see a man in a grey hoodie & jeans walk up my driveway, and enter my back porch.

I immediately called 911.

The cops where there, in force, five minutes later.  I watched the live feed, from work, as the police entered my house and escorted the guy out in handcuffs.

Garbage in:

Garbage out:

I honestly could not be happier with the Schenectady police right now.  Their response was prompt (due in no doubt to last night's bust next door), and they got the guy in the act.   They were both professional and human when the crime scene investigator was taking pictures, and when I went to the station to give my statement.

For the past few days, I have been somewhat at ease, and the urgency to move had subsided somewhat.  Now, however, I can't wait to get the hell out of here.  The other neighbors on my block have been fantastic, since I found out that everybody knew what was going on, but I'm just too close to the action to really feel safe here.

When I bought this house, there was only the elderly man next door.  Even though he's at best, an abetter, before the extended family moved in, it was peaceful.  Now, however...

It's a shame.  This house isn't perfect, but it is comfortable.  I thought I was being neighborly when I would snowblow their half of the driveway, and sidewalk, and this is how I get treated in return.

I'm rambling, so I'll stop now.  I really hate this.

too soon?

Zach today.


Only one problem.
At least 18 albino people have been killed in Malawi in a "steep upsurge in killings" since November 2014, and five others have been abducted and remain missing, according to a new Amnesty International report released Tuesday. The toll is likely much higher because many killings in rural areas are never reported, according to the report. Malawi police also have recorded cases where the bodies of people with albinism have been illegally exhumed.
I think we have to worry less about the economist and more about the fool.
 "The macabre trade is also fueled by a belief that bones of people with albinism contain gold," the rights group says, noting another mistaken belief is that sex with a person with albinism can cure HIV. The report also points out widespread discrimination against people with albinism, including by family members.

New Elements Named

Four new elements have been named:
  • 113: nihonium
  • 115: moscovium
  • 117: tennessine
  • 118: oganesson
 The names are on a five month probation before they become official.

The first three are named after where they were first synthesized; Japan, Moscow, Tennessee (Oak Ridge), and the forth is named for a scientist who pioneered studies of heavy elements.

The article give some detail on how nihonium came to be discovered.
The researchers said their search for element 113 began by "bombarding a thin layer of bismuth with zinc ions traveling [sic] at about 10% the speed of light." By doing so, they would theoretically fuse, forming an atom of element 113.
Sadly they don't go into such detail with the others.

It's purdy

Via.

This is what DNA looks like to the naked eye. 
If you’ve ever wanted to check out DNA with your naked eyes, grab some strawberries. The cells in strawberries have eight copies of each chromosome, making it easy to quickly extract a lot of DNA by breaking them open.
Read on for a description of the process, and a link to PDF instructions for how to perform the experiment yourself.  No dangerous chemicals required, so TRY THIS AT HOME!

Incidentally,  the supermarket strawberries we're familiar with are polyploid (as stated above).

2016-06-08

BUSTED!

Finally!

Yes, at least one of the drug dealers next door was arrested just now.  Seriously, fuck him and his entire family.

EDIT: It's only marijuana, so the fuckstick might be back tomorrow.  They brought the K9 unit in though, so if there's anything else, they'll find it.

No, it isn't

Bullshit alert!  It's is not possible to run Android on an iPhone.  Not that anyone would want to anyway.
Lee basically found a way to stream Android to the iPhone’s display. After customizing an Android build from the Nexus 5X to get it going, he moved the installation to custom hardware.
So he found a way to run Android on an Android platform, and use the iPhone display to interact with it.   Here's the headline of the article:

It’s now possible to hack Android to run on your iPhone

That is not at all what is happening here.   It's false, untrue, inaccurate, horseshit, bullhockey, bunk, garbage, na ga ha pen.  The article admits as much.
Android isn’t installed on the flash memory of the iPhone. Instead, Lee created a custom case that runs Android. The case has extra ports including USB, microUSB, HDMI and microSD, and it connects to the iPhone via a Lightning plug.

But then in the very next paragraph:

 To get Android running on the iPhone...

BLARGH!  NO!  It's NOT RUNNING ON THE IPHONE forfuckssake!

History in the making

Donald Trump is the first invertebrate to be nominated by a major political party.
“My experience with Donald Trump is he doesn’t have a prejudiced bone in his body,” [Senator Orin] Hatch said.
So Trump has no bones at all? 

Further evidence.

2016-06-07

Cnidaria has a cnosh


Via CNN.

Also, it turns out some fish can distinguish between human faces, so lady in the background, he'll remember you!
The research, carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Oxford (UK) and the University of Queensland (Australia), found that archerfish were able to learn and recognize faces with a high degree of accuracy -- an impressive feat, given this task requires sophisticated visual recognition capabilities.
(granted, that's not an archerfish in the picture, but still...)

What the article on facial recognition doesn't mention is if they varied the facial expressions and whether or not the archerfish was still able to identify the face it had been trained to identify.

Part of the reason we, apes, and other species have more sophisticated, and dedicated cortical structures for facial recognition, is that we glean a great deal more information from one's face beyond the simple who is it? question.

I would be very surprised to learn that the fish would be able to identify the same face if in one picture the face were smiling and the other were frowning, something trivial for us.

That said, animals have the ability to perform more complex tasks than we give them credit for.

2016-06-06

Looks more like Jesus

Man claims to have found a bigfoot skull.


Frankly, I've seen more convincing potato chips.
In what may be the most compelling evidence yet, Bigfoot enthusiast Todd May says he has found a skull of the mysterious creature.

Mr May was on a walk near to his home in Utah when he stumbled upon a rock weighing nearly five and a half stones, which is thought could be a fossilised skull.

Mr May, who already claims to have met a Bigfoot twice, concluded the 34kg (75 pounds) formation belonged to either Bigfoot of one of its ancestors.
Plus it weighs 5.5 stone (or around 75lbs), so it's solid.   No cavities where soft tissue, such as, you know, a brain, may have resided.  Soft tissue doesn't tend to survive fossilization, and it certainly wouldn't turn into stone.

It's possible that a cast of soft tissue could survive, like a dinosaur footprint, but one would expect that to be a negative impression.   If it were filled in, there wouldn't be anything to distinguish the mold from any subsequent sediment that would later fill it.

But you must admit, the resemblance is uncanny.

If that's most compelling, it's pretty clear that, no, this guy didn't find a bigfoot skull.


EDIT: Note how Julian doesn't spill his drink.

Villiage bicycle

Who knew our Sun was such a coquette?

There is a new hypothesis that supposes that the newly theorized ninth planet was stolen from another solar system.  But there isn't agreement.
Some researchers think Planet Nine probably formed within the solar system. The world coalesced closer to the sun than it currently lies and was booted to the far outer reaches by some kind of gravitational interaction, the idea goes.
The problem with this idea is that "some kind of gravitational interaction" isn't defined.  It's akin to saying "a wizard did it." 
But the new study, which reports the results of computer modeling work, supports a more exotic origin story: Planet Nine was likely stolen from another star about 4.5 billion years ago, when the sun and many other members of its stellar birth cluster were in close proximity to each other, Mustill and his colleagues said.

"When the sun later departed from the stellar cluster in which it was born, Planet Nine was stuck in an orbit around the sun," Mustill said.

More work will be required to firm up this hypothesis, the researchers stressed; after all, the existence of Planet Nine is still an open question. (A long-ago capture would likely have left an "imprint" on some small objects beyond Neptune, so further study of these bodies could shed light on Planet Nine's formation, the researchers wrote.)
This doesn't rely on magical thinking, at least, but one wonders how weak the gravitational interaction between Planet 9 and its host star was that our Sun could lure it away with the cosmic equivalent to a wink and a blown kiss.



It's tempting to think that this particular planet may have been passed from star to star, or that another star may come and take it away from us (unlikely, the closest star is Alpha Centauri and it is 4 light years away). 

At its closest, it's twice as far away from us as Pluto, so while it may be feasible to send a probe there, I wouldn't hold my breath just yet.

2016-06-05

[insert title]


I can't think of a title right now.  Watch this video; it's an analysis of a particularly vapid MRA response to the new Ghostbusters trailer.

Just stop

It's time to take the notion that secondary and post-secondary education has any vocational training purposes, at all, out back behind the shed and beat it to death with a shovel.

So now Peter Thiel is funding an effort to further erode the importance of a well-balanced education to society.
Consider his beef against academia. He has two degrees from Stanford — a B.A. and a J.D. — but in a conversation with me last year, he compared elite universities to the pre-Reformation Catholic Church. “You have this priestly class of professors who aren’t doing a whole lot of work, supported by a system dedicated to convincing people to buy indulgences and amass enormous debt for the dubious salvation that a diploma represents,” he said.

America’s approximately $1.3 trillion in student debt “has gone mostly to pay for lies that people tell about how great their education was,” he added. He argues that the pressures of financing college often draw the best students into less useful careers like investment banking, “holding back innovation and leading to a technology deficit that could have catastrophic economic consequences.”

In 2010, this would-be Martin Luther announced his solution: The Thiel Fellowship, which each year would offer 20 “uniquely talented” teenagers $100,000 to forgo college and pursue “radical innovation that will benefit society.” Today’s future Zuckerbergs shouldn’t be wasting time in lecture halls and football stadiums; they should be building businesses.
Clearly he's proud of his hyperbole, but his criticism is misplaced.  It's not professors driving the ever-deepening money pit that the cost of college has become, it's the growth in administrative overhead.  He at least realizes that education is not intended as job training, but had decided that because that isn't the purpose, pursuing a degree is an entirely worthless endeavor.

And yes, sports have no place in higher eduction.  At all.

But some are clearheaded about this effort.
The idea is, according to Larry Summers, a former president of Harvard, “the single most misdirected bit of philanthropy in this decade.” Yes, there is a need for reform, Mr. Summers told me recently, “but the idea of using philanthropic dollars to bribe people to drop out of college is a very dangerous one.”
At the very least, it's not going as planned.   While token improvements have been made in some important fields, the most successful project incubated by his "fellowship" has been an online hotel booking app in India.   Thiel complains that "we wanted flying cars and we got 140 characters," but:
“Peter Thiel promised flying cars, we got caffeine spray instead,” wrote the technology writer and entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa.
That's right, a topical energy spray.  APPLY DIRECTLY TO FOREHEAD! APPLY DIRECTLY TO FOREHEAD!  Just caffeinated Head-On.

So he's funding the next generation of app-bubble hucksters, but at least they'll be poorly educated and unemployable when their ventures fail when the money spigot goes dry.
Recently Mr. Thiel suggested that he’d gone cold on Seasteading, because of cost and practicality. Unmentioned was the possibility that the experiment would have come to an ideologically inconvenient conclusion: that a small island — whether created by nature or man — would be an astonishingly bad place to live without rules.
Why might one think that?  Of course, without, you know, Education, I'm pretty sure the consequences of such a seasteading adventure are far less obvious.

There's a wonderful contrast with Elon Musk, who seems less determined than Thiel to remake the world in his ideological mold, and more concerned with actually achieving his goals.

2016-06-03

Frankly, it looks more like a shark.

Pareidolia strikes again!

If it is a sign, it's going to be a shitty comeback!

...i'll show myself out.

EDIT: See, it's a shart shark!


What color is a proton?

The question is meaningless.  As one might suspect, the reason it is meaningless is because of the way we perceive color; by the light reflected from an object.

Protons are much smaller than any wavelength of visible light, so we can't perceive them in the way we perceive a sunset, a baboon's ass, or the color of her hair...

Now for the cool part.  Scientists at Harvard have devised a new way to focus light using nanostructures on flat surfaces.  These have the ability to focus light to subwavelength spots; meaning they don't have the same diffraction limit as conventional lenses.
Flat, high-efficiency, ultrathin metasurface lenses, that focus light to subwavelength spots, have been developed by researchers in the US and Canada. The devices – which produce images comparable to top commercial lenses – were manufactured in an industrially viable way and could be used in laser-related imaging, microscopy and spectroscopy. They could be further developed for use in mobile-phone cameras and wearable electronics.
Here's a close-up of the surface of the thing.

That white bar in the lower right hand corner is a scale bar with a length of 2 micrometers, or 1/50th the thickness of a human hair.

There  are drawbacks though.  Mentioned in the quoted text above, the potential is in laser-related imaging.
The researchers also demonstrated imaging with the metalenses for the first time in the visible region, showing that they could produce highly magnified images of several different test objects and resolve features less than one wavelength apart. The team's lenses do suffer from quite large chromatic aberration – while this is not a problem for technical applications such as microscopy performed with monochromatic laser light, it would be for consumer applications such as camera lenses. Luckily, in 2015, Capasso and colleagues showed that a strategically designed silicon metasurface could focus multiple infrared wavelengths at the same point, and Capasso believes this should be possible at visible wavelengths too. "It's just a matter of time before we do it also with titanium oxide," he says. "With our lens, we believe that we can replace the ordinary lens in lots of cameras to make things more compact, cheaper, thinner and achieve the same performance."
The lattice of nanostructures seems to be most effective with a single targeted wavelength, though the initial results with multiple infrared wavelengths looks promising.

Still the idea that there is now a way that we can use light to "see" things that are smaller than the wavelength is a pretty cool breakthrough.

There is another obstacle to overcome before these ultra-thin lenses make it to the consumer market.
[Andrea Alu of the University of Texas at Austin] points out, however, that the Pancharatmane–Berry phase shift is inherently polarization dependent, and that Capasso's efficiency measurements were made using appropriately polarized light. "You cannot just put this on an iPhone camera and expect it to work for ambient light," he explains. "I guess you could put in filters, but that sacrifices efficiency."
Regardless of how well the nanostructures handle multiple wavelengths of light, it appears that the light must be polarized in the same way.  Fortunately, this is true of laser light, so there are promising applications in microscopy.

Even though this can't show us what color a proton is, I really look forward to seeing what kind of images these lenses produce in the coming years.

2016-06-02

Crisitunity

Almost a year ago (August 2015) The Reproducibility Project attempted to reproduce the results from 100 psychology studies.  They found that only 39 of the 100 produced statistically significant results.

The result was a "replication crisis" in psychology, which in the popular media, undermined the validity of all social sciences.  Articles like this in The Atlantic blow the whole thing way out of proportion.

A recent Hidden Brain podcast, did a pretty good job explaining the crisis, and gave very good evidence that it isn't as severe as the non-scientific reporting would suggest.   They investigate one of the studies, and the replication efforts. 
The original study, authored by Margaret Shih, Todd Pittinsky, and Nalini Ambady in 1999, found that Asian women performed worse on a math test when primed to think about their female identity, but better when they were primed to think about their Asian identity.

Nearly two decades later, Nosek and the Reproducibility Project noticed that this study, which by then had been widely disseminated in textbooks and psychology education, had never itself been replicated. So he assigned two teams to run it again—one in Georgia and the other in California. They came back with different results. And this gets at one of the biggest questions explored in this episode: when scientific studies come to different conclusions, what should we think of as true?
The original study make some sort of intuitive sense, but intuition isn't what is important here, it's being able to actually measure a difference in performance depending on which identity's salience is primed prior to the test.

Later in the podcast they explore how differences in culture might affect the results of these replication studies.  The context they uses is a hypothetical study exploring differences in reactions to insult by southern and northern males.   They suggest the different cultural orientation of the two populations would have an effect.

I think the same logic applies to the Asian Female Math study.  Depending on where one is located, various stereotypes may have different strengths in the local culture.   It's quite possible that the local culture in California doesn't stereotype women as strongly as being bad at math, or that being asian doesn't necessarily equate to being good at math (or a bit of both).  Likewise, the stereotypes in Georgia and Massachusetts might be stronger.

So really, further study is needed to examine the strength of stereotypes based on geography.  Perhaps perform this study in various locations around the country, some with high Asian populations, some without?

This isn't to say that there aren't real problems in social sciences, and that we should dismiss whatever conclusions are drawn in the field.  Instead, more emphasis needs to be placed in evaluating the circumstances of a study, and any differences should be investigated and controlled.

If the gender of an experimenter differs between the original study and a failed replication, that is a variable to investigate the next study. 

So in conclusion:

2016-06-01

Perfect

Behold!
Numbers that are the sum of their proper divisors are perfect numbers.   The first 3 are:

  • 6 = 1 + 2 + 3
  • 28 = 1 +  2 + 4 + 7 + 14
  • 496 = 1 + 2 + 4 + 8  + 16 + 31 + 62 + 124 + 248
Incidentally, that's why I chose the 496 in turboencabulator496.

There is a formula for calculating perfect numbers, but it has a power of 2 as its base, so it will always generate even numbers.

Conceptually, it feels like it is possible for an odd perfect number to exist.  The problem is proving it.  It's not easy like starting with N and then repeatedly dividing by 2 until a prime number is reached (the reverse of the Euclid-Euler theorem).

This also isn't something that we can program a computer to find for us.  If we begin testing odd numbers that satisfy the constraints in the odd perfect numbers section of the perfect numbers link above, factoring numbers is a very computationally expensive process, and such an undertaking would have not guarantee to every terminate.  In other words, since there is no proof that such a number exists, it may not, so any attempt to compute one may never terminate.

A screaming comes across the sky.

Turns out King Tut's dagger is made of meteoric iron.

Looks pretty mundane, but it is still interesting.

The analysis was conducted using a technique called X-ray fluorescence, which identifies different elements from the characteristic colours of light they give off when hit with X-rays. Then they compared the composition of the dagger's blade with that of 11 metallic meteorites and found it to be very similar.
The ancient Egyptians didn't have the knowledge or technology to smelt iron ores, so it seems likely that other iron baubles from this era would also be meteorites.

By the way, I was interested in buying a meteorite to add to my nerd rock collection (petrified wood, ammonites, a bismuth hopper crystal, stuff like that), but gave up after a little research.  Apparently, the black market for meteorites is huge, and I really don't want to participate in that.

I guess being in charge of an entire ancient civilization has its perks.

if i must

This is making the rounds, apparently.


And honestly, it's causing me no small amount of cognitive dissonance.  Generally, I tend to associate the very anti-intellectual, bigoted, closed-minded tendencies with these speech patterns and mannerisms.

The undermining on one's expectations, I guess, is how humor works...

There's an interview The Thinking Atheist did with him here, which is actually the first time I actually listened to the rant (though I had seen it posted various places around the internet).  I can't dig up the link to the podcast itself due to technical issues with his site, so the link is to the youtube video.