Stale Thoughts and Broken Links

Old posts from my weblog.

(Click here for posts on geophysics and the energy industry.)


Oh, yeah: I hope everyone had a happy Easter. I spent the weekend yelling at my kids, who were constantly fighting. But I spent a lot of time with them, so at least I earned some sort of Daddy brownie points.

Or whatever.

Religious Tolerance: Easter - Its Origins and Meanings.

"The name `Easter' originated with the names of an ancient Goddess and God. The Venerable Bede, (672-735 CE.) a Christian scholar, first asserted in his book De Ratione Temporum that Easter was named after Eostre (a.k.a. Eastre). She was the Great Mother Goddess of the Saxon people in Northern Europe."


Scientific American: How long can humans stay awake?

"The easy experimental answer to this question is 264 hours (about 11 days). In 1965, Randy Gardner, a 17-year-old high school student, set this apparent world-record for a science fair.... Randy Gardner was `awake' but basically cognitively dysfunctional at the end of his ordeal."

Houston Chronicle: New 'Main Street' coming to [The] Woodlands.

"The stores at the center will include a lineup similar to that found in the Highland Village on Westheimer: Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn or Anthropolgie...."


Zannah the Digital Girl posted pictures of an interesting brassiere.


The April issue of Astronomy is dedicated to the theory of inflation -- that's cosmic inflation, of course. It actually only includes a four-page article on the subject. It's a nice little article, though.

In the magazine intro, the editor admits that they prepared more material, but they chickened out in publishing it. They had lots of text describing the beginning of the universe, but no pictures. So that the extra material wasn't wasted, they put it on their web site.

Unfortunately, you have to buy the magazine to get the article on inflation. But you might want to check out this short history of Big Bang theory and its problems ->

Astronomy (free registration required): How It All Began. From the big bang to inflation, Astronomy looks at the history of cosmology.

"The story starts with the discovery in 1929 by the American astronomer Edwin Hubble that matter in the universe is organized into galaxies and that these galaxies seem to be moving away from us." ...

"Hubble's discovery implied that the universe had a beginning. And although the idea of creation events occurring at a specific time in the past has always been a part of mythology, this was the first time that it became a part of serious scientific discussion."

> Incidently, although I don't often point to it here, I frequently buy Astronomy (the magazine) when I'm grocery shopping. My five-year-old loves discussing space with me, and my two-year-old has decided that he wants to go to Mars. All the pictures are a big plus.


I might have linked to this story about a year ago, but I couldn't find the post in my archives. It's about an art exhibit using corpses. It sounds really creepy -- hell, it is really creepy. But these pictures from the exhibit are fascinating.

If you want to know about the preservation process, read the "Prof von Hagens" link.



Dave Winer: Morning coffee notes.

"Chris asked what it's like being in my 40's and after I explained he said `Wow I guess I don't have much to look forward to.'"


Texas knocked off one of my Final Four picks!

Serves me right.


Yami, a geophysics major at CalTech, saw the Star Wars test last night.

Nature kicks butt --

Nature: Giant blue jet caught on film. Blue jets connect Earth's electric circuit.

"Video images captured in Puerto Rico suggest that blue flashes of light, much like lightning, feed energy from thunderstorms up into the Earth's ionosphere -- a blanket of electrically charged air some 70 kilometres above the ground. ... Sprites, blue jets and associated flashes called elves, crawlers, trolls and pixies are all fleeting electrical discharges that accompany thunderstorms."

Nature: Earth could hold more water. Five times as much water as in all the world's oceans may lurk deep below its surface.

"Between 650 and 2,900 km below the Earth's surface hot, compressed minerals surround the planet's iron-rich core. Called the lower mantle, this material may hold up to 0.2 per cent of its own weight in water, estimate Motohiko Murakami, of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in Japan, and colleagues."

Nature: Time gives rays a break. Jumps in space-time might explain the curious survival of energetic particles.

"This might explain why very-high-energy gamma rays have been detected from a distant galaxy-like object called a blazar, suggests [Richard Lieu of the University of Alabama in Huntsville]. Astrophysicists expected most of these rays to be wiped out by collisions with intervening microwave photons in space. The same goes for cosmic rays, the high-energy subatomic particles that stream through space. Predictions say that these should thin out abruptly above a certain energy level because of photon collisions. But no such energy cut-off has been found experimentally"

Nature: Man left Africa three times. Early humans came out of Africa again and again.

"Templeton's reading of the genetic runes is that, post Homo erectus' exit, there was a second major human migration out of Africa between 400,000 and 800,000 years ago and a third about 100,000 years ago. He also sees a more recent movement back into Africa from Asia, and huge amounts of genetic interchange between groups."


My brackets are bleeding! I've lost 4 of my sweet 16. But none of my final 8!


If you need to check the game scores from work:

CNN: Scoreboard.


And now:

Wally Picks 2002

Maryland, Oklahoma, Mississippi State

and ...

well, Duke, of course.

Here are my picks for the whole tournament. No, I don't think the big east will go very far. Yeah, I picked SEC teams a lot. What's your point?

I've been getting some grief over my Miss. St. pick, so I thought I should point out that Miss. St. made the final four in 1996 after winning the SEC tournament.


CNN: Twin towers of light beam from 'Ground Zero'.

LA Times: Taliban Had the Blues, Says an Afghan Doctor.

"Nowadays, there are many jokes about the Taliban, which Alemi encourages. Outside his office, a young man nudged through the crowd, saying, `Excuse me, excuse me, I must see Mullah Omar,' which means `go to the bathroom.'"


Tournament Time!

Too bad LSU didn't make the cut this year. But six teams from the SEC did, and I don't think they are getting the respect they deserve.

Give me a day to think about it, and I'll post my picks tomorrow night.

Yesterday I pointed to the great Bohr/Heisenberg controversy of 1941, so I should also point to an article about Bohr's just published letters on the affair. Unfortunately, this article requires a subscription --

Physics Today: Bohr Letters Clarify Mystery.

"... Bohr recalls that Heisenberg was quite confident of German victory, and that he therefore thought it foolish for Bohr and other Danes to rebuff `German offers of cooperation.' Bohr also remembers Heisenberg saying that, under his leadership, `everything was being done in Germany to develop atomic weapons.' If the war lasted long enough, Heisenberg told him, atomic weapons might be decisive."


Slate: Uncertainty About the Uncertainty Principle. Can't anybody get Heisenberg's big idea right?

"No scientific idea from the last century is more fetishized, abused, and misunderstood -- by the vulgar and the learned alike -- than Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. The principle doesn't say anything about how precisely any particular thing can be known. It does say that some pairs of properties are linked in such a way that they cannot both be measured precisely at the same time."


HARC campus sold conveyed --

HARC and NHMCCD Propose Innovative Educational Collaboration.

"The North Harris Montgomery Community College District (NHMCCD), the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC) and The Woodlands Operating Company, L.P. (TWOC) have reached a tentative agreement that would convey the 100-acre HARC campus and its two existing buildings to the college district."

> This is great news. The Community College built a beautiful campus about one mile from HARC five years ago -- a really nice facility. It's great to see them expanding their presence in The Woodlands, and I can't think of a better way for HARC to "fulfill its mission."

Here's another story about my "hometown" --

Houston Business Journal: The Woodlands Waterway. Waterway will unite retail shops and restaurants in Town Center.

WSJ (subscription): Letterman-Leno Rivalry Drives The Current 'Late Show' Drama.

"Mr. Letterman never used to acknowledge Mr. Leno's existence, either publicly or privately, until about two years ago, when he began mocking his nemesis, with his high-pitched Boston accent and his supposedly shallow interview style, on the air."


Nature: Odyssey finds widespread water. Latest probe sends back strong evidence for lots of ice beneath Mars' surface.

"The hints of hydrogen [indicative of water ice] stretch to Mars' mid-latitudes -- roughly equivalent to the UK's latitude on Earth.... The hydrogen signal dies out over the poles. This is probably due to frozen carbon dioxide gas lying on top of water ice masking it from view, the researchers conclude."

Scientific American: Why is the Oort cloud not a disc?

"The Oort cloud is a huge spherical cloud of some 10^12 comets surrounding the solar system and extending halfway to the nearest stars."

Cold fusion again???

Reuters: Tiny Bubbles Create Nuclear Fusion -- Maybe.

"An immediate challenge has already come from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which helped conduct the experiment. The lab reviewed the work and said its scientists could find no evidence of the key neutron emissions."

Consent Condoms.

If you are wondering whether you need to fingerprint your date, you are probably moving a little too fast.


I don't think stories like this really help Apple's marketing effort --

Wired: Undress Your Mac for Thrills. [People are holding unpacking parties for their new iMacs.]

"In a recent forum thread at MacNN, one poster admitted he'd rather look at pictures of a partially unpacked iBook than pictures of partially unclothed women."

> As long as I'm going gaga over the new iMac, I'll go ahead and point to the intro announcement, which was a really cool ad.

Also, here are two cartoons by Pixar.

Walter Kessinger

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