Thursday, September 25, 2008

Large Hadron Rap

I just came across this rap about the Large Hadron Collider.  I've seen 'nerdcore' rap before (see MC Plus Plus), but this is the first such rap I've seen by a woman.  It is awesome.  You can bask in lyrics like (from about 2:40)

The Higgs boson, that's the one
that everybody talks about,
and it's the one sure thing
that this machine will sort out.

If the Higgs exists
they ought to see it right away.
And if it doesn't,
the scientists will finally say,

"There is no Higgs!
We need new physics
to account for why
things have mass.
Something in our Standard
Model went awry!"

Monday, September 22, 2008

State GDP Equivalency

From Christian Broda: a US map, with state names replaced by countries of roughly equivalent GDP.  We're about equal to Canada.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FP's '10 Dumbest Policy Ideas'

Foreign Policy magazine compiled (in their opinion...there are plenty of statements on both sides to choose from!) what they view as the 10 stupidest ideas publicly put forth by each candidate.

Obama's 10 Dumbest Policy Ideas

McCain's 10 Dumbest Policy Ideas

Probably the only one I would potentially challenge is the nuclear item on the McCain list.  Sure, 45 plants sounds like a pretty arbitrary number, but the assertion that they would take too long to come online to 'matter' as far as climate change is concerned sounds dubious to me.  If the even 50 years is 'too long to matter' (and I don't think people are asserting it would take 50 years to bring 45 plants online; we have 104 plants today, and a good chunk of those would have been end of lifed by the time these 45 are all up), we're pretty screwed: no way the developing world will have gone all the way from where they are, zipping right through developed economy status, and magically ending up in some ultra low emissions future state within that time frame.  Given that, even if we could get to zero emissions tomorrow, those savings would be negated by rest of world growth within that time frame.

In a sense, I think the FP summary actually sort of mis-summarized the Ferguson/Squassoni article (in FP itself!).  The article did not really so much argue that 45 plants would be 'too late to matter,' but rather that even if we built 45 plants, the growth of demand in China and India alone -- and given that nearly all of that will be coal-based -- will more than cancel out 45 zero-emission nukes.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Ike from the ISS

I found this in a very interesting blog post on Weather Underground.  The post talks about how even though Ike is a category 2 (as of the blog post), it was actually more powerful (in total) than Rita (5) or Katrina (5) in terms of aggregate kinetic energy.  Interesting reading: Ike Closes In On Galveston

Friday, September 12, 2008

Detroit: Houses Cheaper Than Cars

No joke: the average sale price for homes in Detroit during the past year fell below the national average for a new car ($22,650).

I found this on this post on Carpe Diem, an econ blog run by a UM-Flint professor.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Lance's Back

Hopefully he can return to old form (the guy is almost 37, though!) and won't end up regretting the return: VeloNews: Lance Is Coming Back

Friday, September 05, 2008


I saw this mentioned on TechCrunch and just messed around with it: Stormpulse

It's one of the sweeter mashups I've seen; it provides great visualization of hurricane and tropical storm activity and forecasts.  It has toggleable overlays to include clouds, projected storm routes by various computer models, etc.  It's akin to having one of the visualization systems that the major network forecasters use to show expected storm routes (as seen with Gustav).

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Day 1 With Chrome

I've now spent a day with Google Chrome (or at least since it came out early this afternoon).  Conclusions thus far:

  • It is really fast.  I'm not talking about 'yeah, I think it seems a bit faster than Firefox and IE,' I'm talking about a very obvious, very marked difference in performance.  The first visit to a busy page like and it's very apparent that it renders much faster than my normal browser (Firefox 3).  The one process per tab approach is going to be a welcome change, as well.
  • It seems stable, despite the 0.2.x version label.  I haven't had any crashes yet so far.  I suppose this makes sense, as Brandon tells me that they internally eat dog food like this for a long time before it's even released in a beta form like this.
  • Rendering incompatibility seems very rare.  I know that Guidewire applications won't render perfectly in Chrome as of yet (people were quick to satisfy that curiosity), but I have yet to come across any of my normal daily sites that showed obvious rendering issues.  I suppose this shouldn't be a huge surprise either, being based on an established engine (WebKit).  I'd think that it's site compatibility would be roughly equal to (or if they've done extra work, better than) what is seen in Apple Safari (also WebKit based).  I read on a site earlier today that Google has internally built a site compatibility test harness that runs against the top several thousand most popular sites (and if anyone would have that data, it'd be Google!) and farms this testing out across Google machine clusters, allowing them to test on the order of 10,000 sites on a brand new build within 20-30 minutes.  Pretty sweet.
I think I'll keep using this until I run into something that is too broken to keep going with it; I'm not sure I'm going to bump into any such thing!

I also see that Picasa 3.0 beta came out today, with automated facial recognition (meant to help auto-tag people).  Big release day at GOOG!

Genetic Predisposition to Stray?

I've seen several other mentions of this study (all linking to the Washington Post article I am about to link to), but it's interesting enough to merit all of these mentions: Study Links Gene Variant in Men to Marital Discord

Basically, they found:

 The finding is striking because it not only links the gene variant -- which is present in two of every five men -- with the risk of marital discord and divorce, but also appears to predict whether women involved with these men are likely to say their partners are emotionally close and available, or distant and disagreeable. The presence of the gene variant, or allele, also seems predictive of whether men get married or live with women without getting married.
"Men with two copies of the allele had twice the risk of experiencing marital dysfunction, with a threat of divorce during the last year, compared to men carrying one or no copies," said Hasse Walum, a behavioral geneticist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm who led the study. "Women married to men with one or two copies of the allele scored lower on average on how satisfied they were with the relationship compared to women married to men with no copies."

Interesting!  Biology is not destiny, but I smell a new bullet point in the list of mitigating circumstances in future divorce court proceedings!

Nike Human Race 10K

Jen and I signed up for the Nike Human Race 10K held this past Sunday. I had never run 10K (6.2 miles) before. I think my previous high water mark was the roughly 5 miles we ran with one of Carie's training groups sometime last year. An story about the race (before it took place) is here: 'Austin runners and celeb athletes join the world in Nike+ Human Race 10K'

I didn't have any way to bring my camera along, but Patrick, Bethany, and Carie were hanging out on the outside bar at the Stephen F. Austin. Bethany had a camera, and snapped a few pictures.

This is what it looked like on Congress at the start of the run. The shirts they issued in our race packets were pretty nice; they were all Nike Dri-Fit shirts with the number printed on the shirt (on the front) and the list of the 25 cities on the back.

Patrick and Carie, chilling with drinks while we sweltered below.

Patrick and Bethany, with more drinks. Patrick looks to be doing his best Samantha Ronson.

The view towards the start.

Matt McConaughey crossing the finish. Lance was running too.

Jen and I, waiting for the start.

The race started in the evening (6:30 PM), but it was still pretty warm. My watch said 94, but I don't know how accurate that reading is, being so close to the body. It was very humid and there was zero breeze, making the first half (also the half with hills) kind of brutal. Things got much easier once we hit The Drag, with the sun having gone down somewhat, a slightly cooler temperature, and an occasional (very occasional!) breeze. It ended up being not too bad, although the massage I had last night sure hurt a bit!