All entries for April 2005

April 29, 2005

Decisive Proof

Writing about web page http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/

God does exist, and He hates our guts

The caption on the site describes it as a superman-like figure. But come on! Take a good look at it, and tell me what it looks like to you…

From Astronomy Picture of the Day

APOD is a pretty cool website. They post an astronomy related picture every day (duh!), which is sometimes neat, sometimes funny, sometimes profound, and sometimes jaw-droppingly beautiful. Together with a nice text caption, telling you what professional astrophysicists and astronomers think of the image. An absolute must for physicists, academic or amateur.

I mean, gee, you should know about this site already, shouldn't you?


April 26, 2005

Hey look, a reason to vote Labour!

Not to imply that there is a shortage of reasons, of course. Not at all to imply that we would only vote Labour to keep the Tories out. Not at all.

But nice words on the Guardian Letters page today (26/4):

link

A great deal has been achieved in recent years, and there is a new spirit of optimism among our young scientists and engineers, but the Labour government needs another term of office if we are to see the support put in place for the science and engineering base to maximise its contribution to our country's economic, social and environmental objectives.

A big list of signatures, including, I think, most of the cream of UK scientific talent. Stephen Hawking is on it. So is Susan Greenfield. And plenty of others.

And they are all smarter than you, so bow down to their awesome intellect.

On another note…

Dammit, I've been wasting way too much time recently. Most of it on webcomics. Read through the entire It's Walky archives last weekend. It's doubleplusgood. Action, melodrama, comedy, and romance. Ticks all the right boxes.

The strip is over now, so maybe you'd want to start at the Beginning.


April 21, 2005

Experimental Maths Report

Anthony, Pete, we can assemble our report on this site.

Log in so you can edit and post stuff.

How about italics for Anthony, and bold for Pete?

If you are uploading, plaintext is best. If you can't upload images, email me!


April 20, 2005

Rebuttal of the Climate Change Skeptic Thing

Writing about Global Warming: The facts from From tractors to reactors

This post will make no sense if you don't read the original.

A common misconception I'd like to dispell is that melting of polar ice will cause sea levels to rise, flooding great expanses of low-lying land.

Obviously. But there is alot of ice on the south pole, and on Iceland, greenland, etc etc.

This is because the ice is left over from the last ice age, and ocean currents are warming it up and melting it away naturally anyway.

Not all ice is left over from the last ice age. And this doesn't change the fact that antropogenic climate change is accentuating this effect.

and mankind's emissions of CO2 are something in the order of 2% of total CO2 levels I believe, although this last figure may be incorrect.

Grossly incorrect. See this graph. In the past few centuries, carbon dioxide levels rose by 18% – suggesting that 15% of current (2000) CO2 levels are due to human factors.
(Rechecking makes things appear even worse. By 2004, this percentage has risen to almost 30%. Methane - which is a stronger Greenhouse gas than CO2 - shows a 133% increase over the past 200 years. (up to 2000) This suggests that 57% of atmospheric methane is due to human factors ).

And then we need to look at impact, and variability. The IPCC, and other models all take this into account, and are unequivical about the effect. The maths is solid.

This has not been supported by scientific facts gathered during the last 10 years.

This is incorrect. The troposphere riddle has been recently solved. See this article

The earlier problems have been located as a problem with the measurement method failing to adjust for stratospheric cooling. There are also other explanations.

Most of the increase in the air's concentration of greenhouse gases from human activities—over 80 percent—occurred after the 1940s. That means that the strong early 20th century warming must be largely, if not entirely, natural.

This doesn't show that at all. This shows that the warming had either a non-linear relation to atmospheric changes, or that there were non-gas related causes. For example – conversion of land to agrarian farming. Forest clearance. And so on.

The mid-20th century cooling, and some of the latter 20th century warming also seem matched to changes in the sun.

But there are strong, notable exceptions.

Rough limits could be set on the extent of the Sun's influence. Average sunspot activity did not increase during the 1980s and 1990s, and the satellite measurements of the solar constant found it cycling within narrow limits (less than one part in a thousand). Yet the global temperature rise that had resumed in the1970s was accelerating at a record-breaking pace. It seemed impossible to explain that using the Sun alone, without invoking greenhouse gases.(57*) The consensus of most scientists, arduously hammered out in a series of international workshops, flatly rejected the argument that the global warming of the 1990s could be dismissed as a mere effect of changes on the Sun. [For example, in 2004 when a group of scientists published evidence that the solar activity of the 20th century had been unusually high, they nevertheless concluded that "even under the extreme assumption that the Sun was responsible for all the global warming prior to 1970, at most 30% of the strong warming since then can be of solar origin."

The fact that future solar activity would increase still fits in with the evidence for Gobal Warming. The addition of this effect in fact increases the neccessity of acting on the Greenhouse Gas issue – the two effects are supercumulative.

In my mind, the main threat of global climate change is not sea level rises, but local environmental changes. Agriculture today is extremely vulnerable to small changes in temperature. Studies of sealled environments incorporating a combined temperature/atmosphere change all show dieback, and a drop in growth. This is likely catastrophic in today's situation. Diseases too are likely to have an effect.

The last major climate change occured when global population levels are under 10% of current. We've grown very used to the current climate conditions. That's why climate change is a reason to worry.


Calling all Tory 'supporters'

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Hell, a counter attack. Why not.

List reasons for voting Tory. Conditions?

No:

1. Public perception issues. Public perception is typically gibberish. It does not make sense to say – read a paper, it's obvious, the country's going to the pits, because that depends plainly on which paper you read. Nor does it make sense to say – ask the average Joe on the street, would he want to control immigration, because the average Joe doesn't know everything. If he did, I'd elect him.

2. Bureaucracy rubbish. Everybody wants to cut waste. The conservatives' ability to cut waste is wholly unproven. As are all the other parties. For all we know, the Greens could be the bureaucracy cutting ubermeisters. The same goes for all money out of a black hole proposals. The economy isn't vodoo. Anything claimed must be proven with fact or precedent.

3. Political correctness rubbish. Again, ditto. There is no plausible way of 'curbing political correctness.' What are you going to do? Send political commissars to schools and so on? Fire teachers who are sensitive to the wishes of their pupils?

4. Because TB is a bad man. You are NOT voting for who you want to be PM, you are voting for which party, which set of values you want to be behind the running of the country. If we were just run by one person, that would be a DICTATORSHIP. This is a DEMOCRACY. There is (albeit supposedly) a difference.

Unfair? Probably.


April 19, 2005

We are all so screwed…

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

It seemed like coincidence, in the beginning. Then we started begging for it to be a coincidence. But now, it seems to be a fact.

Observe…

Jacques Chirac
George W Bush
Vladimir Putin
Tony Blair
Pope Benedict 'Nazi Grand Inquisitor' Ratzinger
Berlusconi
Robert Mugabe

What do they have in common?

Answer: They are all complete and utter f***-heads.

Seriously. I dare you to think of a single guy on the ascendent recently who is anything but an utter asshole. I give you twenty seconds.

Time's up. Told you so. It seems to be a matter of fact that out of all the population of 6 billion odd people, only the bad float to the surface.

No matter all that optimism about democracy, that belief that people are fundamentally good and will make good decisions about stuff, the opposite happens. Again, and again, people enpowered decided to abuse it, to shirk their responsibility, or to put that power in the one person most monumentally retarded enough to put it to terrible use.

Does democracy really work? What if the terrible, evil people at Neocon central are right – that it is the people who are in fact inner savages, who need to be led by enlightened absolute leaders, who work out long term interests whilst keeping the people blissfully ingnorant with simple lies? Or maybe, it's us that is wrong. Maybe we should all turn and join the dark and horrible horde. Enlightenment values are dead. Resistance is futile.

Hell, I'm almost thinking of voting conservative.

Finally, some commentary on the Rat ZInger. (from the previous link)

At the most basic level, many Catholics cannot escape the sense that Ratzinger’s exercise of ecclesial power is not what Jesus had in mind.
On the other side, can Ratzinger’s conservative admirers admit that the careers he’s derailed, the views he’s censured, do not belong — and never did — to real enemies of the faith? That the forms of symbolic violence that are the tools of Ratzinger’s profession, the excommunications and censures and inquisitorial procedures, are in the end Catholic versions of the same abuses Jesus condemned in the religious authorities of his time? Can conservatives see the poignancy of this question: If truth is attractive and the faith is compelling, why do we need heresy-hunters at all?

Oh yeah. A fun link. Apocamon. May be offensive to people who find stuff offensive


April 06, 2005

Tricky Puzzle of the Diagonal Tiles

A reasonably tough puzzle a friend of mine thought up: Which may well be insoluble, or may have been mentioned in some place already.

Consider a rectangular grid of arbitary size. Say, M by N grid squares, in size.

The grid is filled with tiles, each of them containing a 45 degree (or Pi/2 radian, for pure maths pedants) line segment – the line either goes from top right to bottom left, or top left to bottom right.

For example, below is a possible configuration:

Obviously, there are 2^(M*N) possible configurations. Now, what concerns us are the regions generated by the outer boundary of the grid and the diagonal tile lines. I.e. the red lines. Specifically, the number of distinct closed regions thus generated.

The Big Questions are:

1. What is the minimum number of regions for a given grid?
2. What is the maximum number of regions for a given grid?
3. Out of all the possible configurations, how is the region number distributed?

1 can be solved semi-easily. The answer is M + N regions. Proof is an exercise for the reader. (Think about the available length of outer-boundary available, and how much each external-touching region must use up)

2 hasn't been solved, but looks okay-ish.

3 is insanity itself.

Why not have a go? If anyone can solve this, I'll be willing to reward you with something pointless and insignificant. Have fun!


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