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Assorted links to fun stuff

April 4, 2008

Mind Hacks has an interesting post about the one time that philosophical logic has ever come up in real life.  Apparently, according to the DSM-IV, the beliefs of a patient have to actually be false for them to count as delusions.  One patient, however, had paranoid beliefs that he was mentally ill, which if true, would imply that his delusion was not true, so he wasn’t mentally ill.  But if it’s false, it’s like…woah.  Or maybe the DSM-IV definition should be changed slightly.

Mathematics Under the Microscope has a post on Komolgorov’s 5/3 law in the theory of turbulent flow.  This is a fascinating post, especially for the questions asked at the end, about things like why small fish seem to move faster than big fish, and a fascinating law involving steam ships.  Anyone interested in education, especially math education should read this blog, though perhaps skim through the more math-laden posts.

A hilarious post about a truly disgusting recipe found in an ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

LifeHacker has a neat post on 10 harmless geek pranks.  I especially like #2 (where you can change the status message on HP laserprinters), since I own a LaserJet.  I wonder what if I can get it to scroll “…and what the #$%* does `PC LOAD LETTER’ mean?”  Also, Star Wars, in animated ASCII-art form.

I found an old post from fields Medalist Timothy Gowers entitled “My favourite pedagogical principle: examples first!”  The title largely says it all, since the article won’t be that comprehensible unless you know a bit of math.  I love examples.  I can’t remember how many times I’ve struggled with concepts for hours until I tried working through one example, and found that it crystalized the whole concept.  There is an adage in math: “a good example is worth three theorems” (in the sense that good examples lead to more theorems).

What office hours are like for a TA in a math course.

Finally, Everyday Scientist asks “who would patent the atomic bomb?!?!”.  And remember the new season of Battlestar Galactica premiers in less than two hours on SciFi.

UPDATE: I tried the perl script in the comments for non-networked printers (which should work on Macs, Linux, BSD, etc), and my printer currently displays “DOES NOT COMPUTE”.  I tried the Office Space thing, but alas it does not scroll.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. April 5, 2008 at 07:56 | #1

    Maybe you’ve seen this one by Lewis F. Richardson:

    Bigger whorls have little whorls
    That feed on their velocity,
    And little whorls have lesser whorls
    And so on to viscosity.

  2. April 5, 2008 at 10:42 | #2

    Damn, I’ve actually done pranks number 10, 9, 6 and 5.  But it was a long time ago.  I’m a better person now.  Heh.

  3. Ted
    April 5, 2008 at 10:58 | #3

    Battlestar Galactica fan huh?

    I’d like to get your indepth take on it. Like what’s so hot about a 30 year old show anyhow? Aside from the Nerd P*rn Auteur thing.

  4. Lucas
    April 5, 2008 at 12:11 | #4

    Ted:  I can tell that you have never seen any of the new show.  It is far and away the best sci fi television show ever, and its episodes are better than most movies.  The production values are incredible, the acting is superb (two academy award winners on the cast).  There is a lot of symbolism and depth in each episode (including an interesting allegory on the Iraq war in the third season, where you find yourself begrudgingly thinking that suicide bombings may be justified).  The military aspect of the show is very realistic.  One of its creators served in the navy for a time, and it shows.  (I once saw a comment from an airforce officer that it was the best portrayal of an aircraft carrier he had ever seen.)

    I’ve only seen a few episodes of the original show, but the new one is completely different (except for the premise of the show, which is similar).  I suggest that you get the pilot miniseries, and watch it.  I giving you my guarantee that you will like it.*

    * Guarantee is not valid in matters of taste.  Cash value 10^-100 cents, not valid if issued in the lower 48 states.

  5. Ted
    April 5, 2008 at 12:41 | #5

    Oh, I’ve seen every one. The old Cylon and Garfunkel version and the HDTV ones. The hotness quotient is off the scale on that show.

    I was just wondering what you saw in it. That same season that you mentioned above had an almost word for word rendition of Mario Savio speech given by Chief Tyrol.

  6. Ted
    April 5, 2008 at 12:48 | #6

    Oh yeah,—but being an old geezer, I get motion sickness with all the exaggerated handheld photography and zooming.

    The Bourne Ultimatum is no better with that visual effect. Definitely, the target audience are younguns that don’t have trouble changing visual focus.

    Yes, very documentary-like.

  7. Lucas
    April 5, 2008 at 14:34 | #7

    I guess what I most like about it are the tensions between democracy, freedom, and survival.  I see Battlestar as a kind of reductio argument for the “do you want freedom or to survive?” question which gets asked so often by neocons nowadays.  If freedom can survive in that environment, then it can survive in ours.  Of course, on that show, I’m frequently left cheering the opposite ideology from the one I actually hold.  Suicide bombings are wrong, oh, but maybe not against an enemy of fanatics with enormous power (as I’m sure the Palestinians and Iraqi insurgents see Israel and the US).  The military shouldn’t hold policing powers, oh, except when there are no police, or they’re failing.  Civilian politics shouldn’t be under the military’s thumb, oh, unless the civilian government has gone mad.

    It’s also a world where religion, mysticism, and the hand of fate are all real and observable.  Yet everyone fights them in their own way.  Those who have accepted the view that fate has a place for them are all insane.  The whole arc of Baltar’s descent into madness is correlated with him accepting “God’s place” for him.

    I love the grittiness of the lighting and sets, and, yes, even the handheld photography.  I like how limited their technology is.  They almost never solve their problems with a technological rabbit-out-of-the-hat.  (As Seth Greene so eloquently said about the realism in the show “There’s f—-ing bullets in this gun, ‘cause that’s what’s good for shootin’ stuff.”)  I also like the fact that I almost never go “why on Earth are they doing this?  That’s not something a rational person would do!”  When I do say that, the character is usually insane.

    Plus, and this may be the main reason, they have, like, sweet space battles and stuff…

  8. April 5, 2008 at 17:29 | #8

    They almost never solve their problems with a technological rabbit-out-of-the-hat.  (As Seth Greene so eloquently said about the realism in the show “There’s f—-ing bullets in this gun, ‘cause that’s what’s good for shootin’ stuff.”)

    Oh hell yeah.  I mean, I love Star Trek and all, but the enthalpy of evaporation for 70kg of water makes a phaser impractical even in principle.  Even assuming you could pack that kind of energy it would tend to get very hot in operation.  To say nothing of how messy it would be to vaporize some dude in a flash like that. I guess phasers are just a literary device like warp drive and transporters.  Projectiles can punch a good-sized hole in an organism which usually interrupts biological function well enough.

    Beam weapons that only induce a stunning signal in the autonomic nervous system are a lot more practical, requiring orders of magnitude less energy.  In fact, they are already being developed.

  9. Ted
    April 6, 2008 at 20:16 | #9

    DOF, Lucas—

    maybe I missed your discussion of it previously, but I highly recommend Breaking Bad on AMC Sunday nights.

    It’s funny, gritty, human and quite sciencey.

    Basically a story about a nice science teacher that gets cancer and looks to cooking meth to earn some money for his family before he goes. There’s corpses, explosions, and a lesson on why one should dissolve corpses in plastic tubs instead of plain bathtubs. 

    It’s a very smart show. I learn something cool every week.

  10. April 9, 2008 at 21:28 | #10

    Speaking of delusions, but not quite …

    One time around ‘72-73, while living in Toronto, I dreamed that I couldn’t get to sleep.  In my dream I was so worried about how I would even get to work, much less function, what my colleagues would say, etc.

    Needless to say, when I woke up and I was greatly relieved, but so damn tired I could hardly go to work …

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