Thursday, May 24, 2007

Automotive Motif

  • Lots of physics bloggers talking about Toyota's Prius lately...I just wanted to point out that the Prius is also notable for having lots of safety features: VSC (optional), tire pressure monitoring, etc. The latter I consider a safety feature not just because it might help avoid a dangerous blowout. But also if it helps you avoid being stuck on the road somewhere changing a tire, that helps with safety. I tried to convince my sister that getting her child a big SUV isn't necessarily the best path to safety for a variety of reasons, but reliability being one (to no avail of course..she bought a Volvo and was rewarded with the breaks going out a year later!).
  • Speaking of cars, it seems that very often I find late-model cars with one brake light out in the rear. And it's always a domestic or European car. I'm sure there's some amount of my bias there, but it's hard to imagine that accounts for it all.
  • If this works out as a way of producing hydrogen fuel it sure would be good news...the sad thing is that when I saw that it was from Purdue, I became dubious.
  • A cute pic of a geeky car

Bonus: Slashdot is hosting a question about which careers math & science majors should pursue.

Monday, May 14, 2007


  • NSF requires us to book our international flights on American carriers which often means a code-shared flight. So I do so, spending more taxpayer-funded grant money than I should, and what does it get me? Well, I can't book the seats until I show up at the airport. So I'm spending 50% more than I should to get service worse than if I booked directly. Let's us all pray that I get a good seat...if she's not too busy choosing sides in sporting events.
  • I never liked Mathematica. I "grew-up" with Maple and just figured my DNA didn't go that way. Sure, Mathematica is just about the most unforgiving (and arguably least natural) syntax out there, I'm sure to folks in Illinois it makes some sense. But then there's their (site) licensing. Every year, Wolfram makes sure to remind you that productivity doesn't matter one lick when you need a quick answer and it won't run because the password is expired. Sure, we have paid for the license, but they make us enter these silly passwords. And no, no warnings that we might want to make sure to get our passwords soon or else we'll encounter this situation. It's so avoidable, but hey, their new and improved version has the periodic table included...oh boy!
  • The topic de jour is tenure and the attainment thereof. I figure I'll post some thoughts eventually once they crystallize, but in the mean time, it gets me thinking about school administrators. Afterall, tenure decisions usually get input from one's dean and is ultimately made by some cabal of Vice President and Board. Anyway, I was going to say that they are one's enemy, not just in getting tenure but in your very survival. But really, as scientists, I suppose that's too lofty a role because ignorance is the enemy of research and teaching. No, administration (with all due respect to Dean Dad) is some lower evil force through which you must battle. The incessant sand whipping around you as you battle in the desert; the yucky mud as you travel through a swamp. You can't battle the administration, you slog through it. If you're good, really good, you use its energy against itself ala Tai Chi. But it takes time for such mastery.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

New Dark Matter Discovery?

Seems strange that Nasa would announce a press conference five days early but this might be interesting. Dark matter in a ring...not condensed into a sphere? Is it really the dark matter or is it just a small contribution (such a bunch of MACHO brown dwarfs which don't add up to the expected twenty something percent of the universe's dark matter?

Friday, May 04, 2007

How do you spell Olajuwon?

I know everyone loves to read about politics on a physics blog. Well, either that or good travel stories. I have at the moment, what Colbert calls upon to begin his show, a big dose of "rage" (or ``rage" for all you LaTeX fans) at the moment.

If you don't read Talking Points Memo every once in a while, you're really missing out. Sure there's Daily Kos, Atrios, etc, but those are more like coaches constantly yelling and screaming on the sidelines. Josh ( I really need to add his middle name?) Marshall provides more a nuanced motivation. Kind of like the opening scenes of the generic revenge, action thriller in which the bad person/company kills the close relative of the protagonist. For Josh, it's less about liberals versus conservatives, and more about the everyman (everyperson) versus the hypocritical powers that be. The latest entries concern Bush's corruption of the DOJ details of which I have a hard time finding in newspapers.

As for the NBA playoffs, I was finally able to sit down and watch the last half hour of game six of the Rockets-Jazz series. was like a time-warp back to the Stockton/Malone versus Clyde/Olajuwon, except both teams suck in comparison to the rest of the West (which says a lot about the East). Lots of flopping and picks by Utah, and a complete inability to close out the other team on the part of the Rockets.

One last thing regarding Imus. I had said that it was his job. Well, Don must be reading this blog because, sure enough, it looks like he's going to sue CBS for breach of contract. It turns out his contract had a clause for just this eventuality:

Company (CBS Radio) acknowledges that Artist's (Imus') services to be rendered hereunder are of a unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial and personal character and that programs of the same general type and nature containing these components are desired by Company and are consistent with Company rules and policies.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


  • People keep asking me what I think of the whole Imus "incident." Well, I took no offense when he said what he said...I doubt that many of those actually listening at the time would be offended. Sure, they're horribly offensive words. But that's his job! I don't so much blame him...I wouldn't make my living that way...but people listen. It's the public airwaves he's using, but the FCC didn't fire him. When will Rush be fired? And what about Ann Coulter? And there probably are some liberals out there who say some horrible stuff as well though I can't seem to think of any. In short, big deal...well, perhaps the big deal is just that so many people want to listen to such garbage.
  • If you can't describe what you do for a living in one sentence, I probably can't stand your job. If that one sentence reduces to something like "a {vice-president-type} of {buzzword} for {big company}," that's even worse.
  • It's great that A-Rod is kicking butt just before (hopefully) going to another team. The Yankees suck...if they win, well they should with that payroll, and if they lose, then they really suck. Plus, what kind of people with no connection to NYC cheer for them?
  • And the Heat are out of the playoffs to the lowly Bulls. I like Wade, but he's got lots of chances left in him. The classless hulk with whom he plays should retire. And why does CNN's Sports default web page show a box with today's regular season baseball schedule so that you have to click to find out what playooff basketball games are tonight?
  • "Hilary or Obama?" is an oft heard question. I don't really care, but I'm sick of hearing that Obama is too young and inexperienced. Sure, the media mentions this all the time, but people actually believe it? Being cloistered in the Senate for a couple decades with lots of experience getting elected is going to make one a better President? Hardly. Having read some history books, valuing integrity, and knowing which advisors to trust and when makes a good President.
  • Blogger has recently become a real pain...with any browser other than IE it doesn't let me login.