Archive: May 5, 2015

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it's fivesday again

Tuesday,  05/05/15  08:11 AM

Every Cinco de Mayo is fivesday, but 5/5/5 was pretty special, and I was delighted to see (via my cool Flight archive option) that I celebrated it appropriatelyten years ago.  So now it's 5/5/15, almost as cool, and I will celebrate equally appropriately, by finally telling you the other four regular solids (besides the Dodecahedron): the Tetrahedron (four triangles), the Octahedron (eight triangles), the Icosahedron (twenty triangles), and the Hexahedron (six squares, aka the Cube).

There are only five, and the largest uses five-sided faces.  This is not only true here on Earth, but anywhere in our universe, and in any other universe, too.  If you met an alien, you could start a conversation by drawing these five objects, and you would have something in common, as well as a starting point for counting, regardless of how many digits they might have and how they might count.  The fact that we have five digits on each limb, well, that could be an evolutionary coincidence.

May the Fifth be with you!


Richard Feynman's van

Tuesday,  05/05/15  08:59 AM

One of my colleagues was biking the other day and in a random parking lot in South Pasadena spotted a van that looked familiar (to him):

Those diagrams ... that van ... he remembered it from a documentary he watched in a physics class:

Seems a team of Feynman's friends and fans banded together to restore the vehicle, which is covered with the famous space/time diagrams Feynman created to understand four-dimensional interactions between particles.  It's now a registered "historical vehicle".  I wonder if it can go back in time?


Tuesday,  05/05/15  09:58 AM

Filter pass, fivesday edition...

Have you noticed?  So many of the "solutions" proposed by liberals are one-time fixes.  While solutions proposed by conservatives tend to be structural, self-regulating fixes.  I'm struck by this whenever there is a crisis somewhere and we are all asked to "contribute" to solve the problems.  Okay, let's just send money to Nepal.  Poof, fixed! 

The sad truth is that Nepal is a corrupt nation with a poor economy and little-heeded building codes, and was a disaster waiting to happen.  Sending money there delays the change required to solve this situation permanently.

Re: the Muhammad cartoon contest: those practicing their First Amendment rights were protected by those practicing their Second Amendment rights.  Each is an essential component of the other. 

I would like to strongly recommend to anyone who wants to publish blog content to social media. I was using RSS Graffiti to auto-publish my blog posts to my Facebook, and they shut down, so now I'm trying, and it works great.  Plus, I had a question and received an immediate and informative answer from their support team. 

The Brookings Institute have done an analysis of the return on investment of all two- and four- year colleges in the US.  I'm happy to see Caltech at the top of the list :)  I did find it interesting that Harvard, the top-ranked Ivy League school, was well down the list... 

Philip Greenspun attended an MIT alumni gathering last week, and filed this report.  "The medical doctor was at the peak of his career and in no danger of being fired. The university professor had the security of tenure and was looking forward to a defined benefit pension starting six years from now. The corporate attorney was finishing up a prosperous career. The engineers who'd chosen to work in industry, however, were a varied lot."  Hmmm...  perhaps those engineers should have attended Caltech instead? :) 

You might have seen Tesla's recent announcement of their home and business batteries.  The primary use cases appear to be time-shifting usage and backup.  A key example of time-shifting is using solar power; during the announcement Elon Musk showed how a comparatively tiny amount of land area could be used to power the Earth (given enough battery capacity to time-shift its usage).  I found it interesting to read about Hawaii's usage of solar power in this context; 12% of all homes there have solar power. 

One more week before the Tour of California and the Giro d'Italia.  I'll be watching the TOC closely, including visiting three stages and riding before one of them (!); please stay tuned.  There will be world-class sprinters like Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan but no real favorite for the overall (boo hiss that [2013 winner] Chris Horner isn't riding, and nor is [2014 winner] Tejay Vangarderen).  Andrew Talansky could well win and I'll be rooting for him.  Meanwhile Alberto Contador is the clear favorite in the Giro, with last year's winner Nairo Quintana sitting this one out.  Richie Porte is about the only one who can challenge Contador, or possibly Fabian Aru.  Stay tuned for that one too! 

Via kottke: Web Mandelbrot.  Aw3some!  I found it disappointingly slow but as always exploring the Mandelbrot set is incredible. 

This is excellent: Every question in every Q&A session ever.  SO true.  Most questions are not even questions, and most questioners are far more interested in talking than listening.  A good moderator can help (preferably one with both sarcasm and a sense of humor :) 

Finally: tomorrow is [yet another] big day for SpaceX: the first launch of the Crew Dragon space capsule, for a critical "abort test".  I love that SpaceX are so open about their launches, makes for great theater.  I for one will be watching...



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