Archive for April, 2009

Solar panels

Posted in Uncategorized on April 30, 2009 by quantummoxie

Finally, after 11 months of wrangling with the government, contractors, and lenders, we have our solar hot water system installed!  Amazingly enough, what you see below is enough to not only provide us with all the hot water we need, but add a bit to our heating (which is now run by a wood pellet furnace – not stove, but actual furnace).

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…but another reason to LOVE baseball

Posted in Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 by quantummoxie

Jacoby Ellsbury had a straight up steal of home last night.

Yet another reason the Yankees suck…

Posted in Uncategorized on April 25, 2009 by quantummoxie

Just to be clear, my in-laws are die-hard Yankees fans and are intent on converting my son.  Nonetheless, to quote Jeff Pearlman of CNNSI,

When it comes to the illusionary art of surface patriotism, no American sports franchise trumps the New York Yankees.

$2625 per seat???  And what’s up with ejecting a guy from the stadium for having to take a leak in the middle of God Bless America (which isn’t even the National Anthem and has usurped baseball’s own anthem Take Me Out to the Ballgame during the 7th inning stretch)?

Please note that I’d be just as pissed if it were the Red Sox doing this.  What happened to gritty old New York?  Hell, it ain’t just New York.  The game has gone the way of everything else in this overly corporate world.  It’s lost it’s character – or rather characters.  I miss Manny and the ’04 Sox whose self-imposed nickname was ‘The Idiots.’

I think I’ll wear my Sanford Mainers jersey today…

Giant mystery blob

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 by quantummoxie

From MSNBC.com,

A strange giant space “blob” spotted when the universe was relatively young has got astronomers puzzled.

Maybe the universe spit up when it was a baby and this is like a giant regurgitated carrot.

Scientists don’t even know what to call it. So they just called it a radiation-emitting “blob.” They used that horror-film staple 34 times in their peer-reviewed study, which will be published in next month’s edition of the Astrophysical Journal. More formally, they named it Himiko, after a legendary ancient Japanese queen.

I’m sure the real Himiko is turning in her grave.  How would you like to be compared to a blob?

Oops!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 21, 2009 by quantummoxie

So I want to know if this changes anyone’s state of legal residence.

Bronson said that given the crude equipment of the era, it’s amazing surveyors were as accurate as they were around the time the marker was established.

And yet the Anasazi, sometime between 500 and 1300 AD, managed to build three settlements separated by 450 miles in this very same desert that were all within 5/8 of a mile (less than one kilometer) from longitude 107º 57′. Doh!

Physics as a gauge of celebrity

Posted in Uncategorized on April 20, 2009 by quantummoxie

Word has come that Stephen Hawking has been hospitalized.  He’s had ALS for forty-six years and, as a result, is one of the rare 5% of ALS patients who live five years past their diagnosis.  Of course I wish him all the best and hope for a speedy recovery.

But it got me thinking.  This news made the headlines on major news outlets such as MSNBC, The New York Times, CNN, and Fox News (has anyone noticed how poorly laid out these sites are, by the way?).  There was a time when many of the world’s leading physicists were celebrities, or at least as much so as Hawking.  While it is not that surprising that Einstein regularly made the news, it might be surprising to the modern public how many other physicists used to regularly make headlines.

For example, a quick search of ‘Niels Bohr’ on the NY Times’ online archive turned up numerous front page articles including one from 1933 concerning his complementarity principle!  Could you imagine the same sort of thing appearing today, even in the NY Times?  Not likely.  These days it seems Hawking is about the only truly giant in physics that is recognized by the casual public (note that while Brian Greene and a few others might be recognized, they have not made contributions to physics on par with Hawking’s).

Even at the peak of the general public’s interest in physics (arguably the first half of this century) physicists were still heavily outnumbered by other types of celebrities.  Nonetheless, the fact that their are fewer near-universally recognized physicists than there used to be is possibly a gauge of celebrity in general.  Perhaps you recall a time, for instance, when pop music produced acts everyone not only had heard of but listened to.  For example, in the 1980s, regardless of your taste in music, you likely heard a Michael Jackson song at some point.  But what musician is like that today?  Where are all the huge acts (outside of the geezers like U2 and the Stones who are still touring)?  When I was growing up we regularly had bands play in what is now Ralph Wilson Stadium outside Buffalo, a venue that sat 80,000 for a football game back then and probably more for a concert.  That doesn’t happen anymore (and it has nothing to do with the economy since the economy hasn’t changed in Buffalo in forty years).

I contend that we are witnessing the end of universal celebrity.  I don’t know why – perhaps an increasing population makes it harder to reach everyone or perhaps modern technology has made it easier for us to pick and choose what we are interested in.  Perhaps both.  Who knows.  There’s still life to it in Hollywood – TV and film – but I wouldn’t be surprised if that slowly faded as well.  The only thing that concerns me is that I think there is a connection here to the fact that we are also losing universal genius – the Einstein phenomenon is what I call it – a single person who is earth-shattering is his or her scientific conclusions or results.  Increasingly experimentally earth-shattering results are performed by huge teams of scientists while very few earth-shattering theoretical results (i.e. ones that cover broad swaths of various subdisciplines) even exist anymore (or are at least more hotly contested and/or more often ignored than they used to be).

The days of being a big fish in a big pond are coming to an end.  People will have to increasingly accept that being a big fish in a small, local pond may be the best they’ll do.

New D-Wave blog

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2009 by quantummoxie

D-Wave now has a blog and they have graciously linked to yours truly.  Now if only they’d invite me out for a tour of their facilities… 🙂