Archive for the 'Silly' Category

Cumulative Links Dump

It’s Friday afternoon, time for you to goof off with this list of links that I’ve saved up over the past few weeks:

  • Advanced physcis labs — What we expect from them, what we should expect from them, how to change them.  My experience with advanced lab didn’t teach me all that much, and wasn’t all that rigorous.  I didn’t mind, since I had my mind made up to be a theorist anyway.  Plus, we were all required to do a senior research project, which filled in many holes, along with our fairly demanding modern physics lab.  But a more challenging advaced lab might have been like foul-tasting medicine that would make me better off today.
  • Physics Toolbox: Symmetry: The return of Morning Coffee Physics!  Explains the role of symmetry in physics.
  • Cities and Ambition — What does your city say to its ambitious people?  I’ve been trying to figure out the underlying message in Minneapolis, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.  Plus, it’s interesting to think about ranking cities by the quality of the eavesdropping that you can do.
  • Grad School and Vacations, PhD Comics — Q: So what do we get? A: Exploited, mostly.
  • Impossible Tasks, PhD Comics — I think we all go through this at some point.  Not quite as disheartening as saying it’s impossible and then having your adviser do it in five minutes, though
  • Thoughts on Grad School: Trying to employ as many of these tips as possible this semester.  Especially intriguing: #10  Take Days Off.
  • Most Depressing Ideas in Physics: The eventual heat death of the universe is harshin’ my mellow.

Missing the Important Stuff

Bear with me as I force an analogy between watching basketball and grading physics quizzes.

When I watch basketball on TV, especially during March Madness, I’m often annoyed by the way they handle the replays.  After an exciting play, I’ll yell at the TV, begging for a replay so that I can see again exactly how the play developed.  When they do show the replay, I’ll often end up yelling at the TV again, because they left out all the important part of the play.

They show the shot being released, traveling through the air and splashing through the net, ignoring the pick and roll and the deft pass that set up the shot.  The time that the ball is in the air is really the least interesting part of that play.  The ball flies the same way every time, and we already know the result of the play.  Show us how they got there.

Or they show the dunk at the end of a fast break, hiding the defense that set up the break and the smart decicion making of the point guard that got the ball to the right player to finish the play.  The dunk gets the fans excited and shows up on Sports Center, but it doesn’t happen without the key plays that set it up.

Now the switch to physics…

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“Kids These Days,” a Reductio ad Absurdum by Induction

Choose an arbitrary Generation N.  Then let Generation N-1 be the next-older generation.

Generation N-1 says of Generation N:

“What’s wrong with Generation N?  They aren’t as smart, they don’t work as hard.  They have terrible manners, their clothes look stupid.  Have you heard their music?  Have you seen the way they dance?  Terrible.  They can’t speak properly to save their lives…

“Look at all that we’ve done for them, and they’re squandering it.  All of it.  I fear for the future of our society.”

So, Generation N < Generation N-1.

By a similar logic, we establish our base case: Generation 1 > Generation 2.

We can therefore conclude that human society peaked when Generation 1 came down from the trees, and has been monotonically decreasing in worth ever since.  There has been no progress, ever, and our society’s eventual destruction is ensured.

Nerd Love

For your holiday enjoyment, here’s perhaps the nerdiest love song ever:

A Finite Simple Group (of Order Two) by the Klein Four

The jokes are math references, not physics, but most physics students have probably taken enough math to think that this is hilarious.  Topology, calculus, algebra and group theory all make an appearance.  And you’ve gotta love their harmony.

For something a little more physics-related, but perhaps less Valentine’s Day appropriate, check out:

Three Body Problem

Have a great day!

My Year in Cities

Apparently this has been going around, and I thought it looked like a fun little post, so why not?

Here is the list of all cities where I have spent at least one night this year: (Ranked in approximate order of number of nights spent)

  • Indianapolis
  • Cincinnati
  • Minneapolis
  • Slidell, LA (Suburb of New Orleans)
  • Fort Wayne, IN
  • Cambridge, MN
  • Seattle
  • St. Joseph, MI
  • Columbus, OH
  • College Park, MD
  • Chicago

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A Grad Student’s Wish List

Dear Santa,

I think I’ve been a good grad student this year.  I turned in my homework on time, didn’t sleep through class too often, and I studied hard.  So here is my humble Christmas wish list:

364 days a year, Santa is a plasma physicist.  This explains the North Pole location, as it is good for observing the aurora borealis.

364 days a year, Santa is a plasma physicist. This explains the North Pole location, as it is good for observing the aurora borealis.

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Hip Hop and Error Analysis

There’s sixteen ounces to a pound, twenty more to a ki

–Mos Def, “Mathematics”

Crack cocaine has long been a scourge of America’s inner cities, and as such, often makes its way into hip hop lyrics.  For whatever reason, drug dealers measure large amounts of cocaine in kilograms (usually abbreviated as a “kilo” or a “ki”), while smaller amounts are measured in ounces (“O’s” or an “O-Z”).  This leads to some pretty unusual unit conversion, as illustrated above.

How close is this conversion?  Well, 36 ounces is 2.25 pounds, while a kilogram is approximately 2.2 pounds.  This is about a 2.3% excess, so somebody’s getting ripped off here.  My hunch is that it’s the user who gets the short shrift.  Maybe we can dub 36 ounces the “drug dealer’s kilo,” along the same lines as a baker’s dozen being equal to 13.

Another example of shady unit conversion:

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