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Schrödinger's lunch

While visiting the University of Vienna for a conference, I came across Erwin Schrödinger's old desk set up in the lunch room. Sitting down at the desk to eat my lunch I stumbled upon a new quantum "paradox". Schrodinger's lunch

Billionaires warn higher taxes could prevent them from buying politicians

The New Yorker at its satirical best:

The group, led by casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, commissioned a new study showing that the cost of an average politician has soared exponentially over the past decade.

While the American family has seen increases in the cost of food, health care and education, Mr. Adelson says, “those costs don’t compare with the cost of buying a politician, which has gone through the roof.”

Beautiful LOTR statistics and graphs


With the release of The Hobbit in a few days, I found this beautiful–detailed–look at population statistics of Middle Earth timely. Emil Johanssen has created some fascinating interactive charts detailing population, age, genalogical trees, and the routes and distances various characters take in the books.

GoldieBlox: Engineering toys for girls

Debbie Sterling decided it was time to make engineering toys that appeal to girls, so she founded a new kind of toy company called GoldieBlox. Her Kickstarter campaign was fully funded in 5 days. This observation of hers struck me:

How do you get girls to like a construction toys? It all came down to one simple thing: boys like building and girls like reading.

You can pre-order the toys now with the first deliveries set for April 2013.

Quantum Dr. Manhattan

Physics Today has a review of the new "Before Watchmen" on Dr. Manhattan. "Watchmen" is the only graphic novel I have ever read. I am interested to see how they tackle quantum mechanics in this new series.

Slow motion video of cats flipping

Destin, from Smarter Every Day, uses slow motion video to explain the physics behind why cats land on their feet. I love the archival footage of Cats in zero G trying to right themselves.

Don't try this at home.

When scientists talk smack

Funny piece by the New Yorker.

“You know the difference between the Mars rover and the Higgs boson?” said a NASA spokesman, his face red with anger. “You can actually see the Mars rover.”

Explain quantum mechanics in five words

John Preskill, while talking about taking a quantum mechanics class with the late John Wheeler, mentions this story:

Later, at a student-faculty lunch, Wheeler seemed troubled. He had been asked to explain the essence of quantum mechanics in five words or less, and was stumped. Frank Calaprice, a nuclear physicist within earshot, interjected helpfully, “What we expect to measure?” I was silent.

The question was absurd. It was fascinating. I still think about it. I can’t answer it.

This idea–explain quantum mechanics in five words–has captured the imagination of people. In the the blog comments, a number of people chime in with their thoughts:

My attempt at non-technical answer is: Quantum mechanics is nature's casino.

Sean Carroll, via Michael Nielsen, picked up on the idea and posted this Twitter challenge:

Which has led to a flood of tweets trying to summarize quantum mechanics. Here are my favourites so far:

How would you explain quantum mechanics in five words or less?

Relativistic Baseball

It looks like Randall Munroe of XKCD fame has a new project: "what if?". Every Tuesday he answer a hypothetical question with an illustrated essay. The first question tackled is "what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?".

Suppose you’re watching from a hilltop outside the city. The first thing you see is a blinding light, far outshining the sun. This gradually fades over the course of a few seconds, and a growing fireball rises into a mushroom cloud. Then, with a great roar, the blast wave arrives, tearing up trees and shredding houses.

Everything within roughly a mile of the park is leveled, and a firestorm engulfs the surrounding city. The baseball diamond is now a sizable crater, centered a few hundred feet behind the former location of the backstop.

A careful reading of official Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered "hit by pitch", and would be eligible to advance to first base.

I am looking forward to the future questions/answers.

The Higgs Boson result presented in Comic Sans

Billions of dollars spent on a 50 year quest to find the elusive Higgs Boson, and the best font they can come up with is Comic Sans? I am surprised they did not dress Peter Higgs up in a clown suit for the seminar.

The reaction to the use of Comic Sans in such a prestigious announcement was akin to many as a social faux-pas on a scale of open flies or a small amount of faecal matter on one's cheek and threatened to overpower the statement on the very centre of our existence.

She shook me all night long

This spring I went to see the season opener for the Tri-City Roller Girls. It being my first time at a roller derby, I brought along my camera. After shooting over an hour of footage I put together this short movie. These girls are tough (and awesome).

Shot on my hacked Panasonic GH1 at 60fps. The footage was (mostly) retimed to 24fps in FCPX to achieve the slow motion.

Mr. Rogers Remixed

You can grow things in the garden of your mind.

See also this clip of Mr. Rogers, in 1969, defending PBS in front of congress.