Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Advanced Lego Devices

This article details (and shows videos of) several advanced lego devices. Very cool! (To be honest, I just looked at the still pictures, but I am sure the videos are cool too.)

(Tip of the cap to Jeff Mach.)

Monday, April 29, 2013

What Your Coffee Says About You

Here is a nice webpage with mini cartoons describing what your coffee says about you. This has me pegged right on the money.

(Tip of the cap to Combibo's Coffee.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Modelling Human Butts

The Improbable Research Blog has highlighted an abstract on modelling of human buttocks. This was presented last December at the 7th Australasian Congress on Applied Mechanics, and surely this is a very important topic in mechanics. And if you look at the first reference in the bibliography, you'll notice that it is my Dong et al. :)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Oscillate Wildly"

I just found out (and listened to) the song "Oscillate Wildly" by The Smiths. The title alone makes this awesome. It's actually a rather good instrumental, but the scientific things that the title automatically brings to mind is what makes this awesome.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Shared Office Printer

Yup, this is pretty much exactly how shared office printers work. PhD Comics has nailed this one right on the head.

(Tip of the cap to Sang Hoon Lee.)

Monday, April 22, 2013

RIP Chrissy Amphlett (1959-2013)

Chrissy Amphlett, the lead singer of The Divinyls, died yesterday

To this day, whenever I hear the song "I Touch Myself", I still feel like I should be abruptly ending whatever conversation I am having so that I can go somewhere to talk smack about people.

(Tip of the cap to whoever does the Facebook posts for They Might Be Giants.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Epic Baserunning

As Rob Neyer writes, Jean Segura had some epic baserunning misadventures on Friday night. I guess you can steal first base. (Well, former Pirate manager Lloyd McClendon already knew that.)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Ideas >> People >> Drinks

I am going to bring up this 'issue' of SMBC the next time --- it will be soon, I am sure --- that people discuss something like wine at Somerville's High Table.

This one isn't funny per se, but it's dead-on accurate.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mathematically Correct Bagel

Andrew Elliott sent me George Hart's description of how to cut a bagel in a manner that is mathematically correct.

Tales From the ArXiv: For the Dogs

This new paper on the arXiv is for the dogs. In particular, it discusses how dogs forage in an urban environment. I wonder if an Ig Nobel is in the authors' future?

Violent Origins of the Crackpot Session at the APS March Meeting

Wow. The 'crackpot session' at the American Physical Society apparently started in the afternoon of a shooting by an enraged physicist whose abstract was rejected. See this BBC article for a discussion about this.

Those wacky physicists!

(Tip of the cap to whoever does Facebook posts for Physics Today.)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Leonhard Euler Has Been Doodled!

Leonhard Euler is the subject of the Google Doodle for 15 April 2013. This is the 306th anniversary of his birth.

(Tip of the cap to Kreso Josic.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Story: The Rabbit's Dissertation

Today I am going to tell you the story of The Rabbit's Dissertation, which was told to me tonight by political scientist Zeev Maoz.

A rabbit was busy typing up its dissertation when a fox came by to ask it about its thesis topic. The rabbit answered that it was typing a dissertation about "How Rabbits Eat Foxes". The fox---a very skeptical canine---said that surely that the rabbit was wrong and had gotten things in reverse. Surely foxes eat rabbits and not the other way around.

So the rabbit said that it would take the fox over to its cage and the fox should wait there so that the rabbit could come back that night and demonstrate that its dissertation was correct.

A wolf came by later, and the same thing occurred. Then a bear came by and the rabbit took the bear over to its home cage, and then the rabbit locked the door on all three and went away.

The rabbit worked on its dissertation some more and came back the next morning. It opened the door, and it walked through the bones of the fox and the bones of the wolf and the bones of the bear. In the back of the cage was a lion.

Moral: It doesn't matter what your dissertation topic is, but it matters a great deal who your thesis advisor is!

(I had never heard this one before, but Zeev gave me permission to steal it. I don't think the way I told the story did his telling justice. Best. Story. Ever.)

What Happens in Davis Stays in Davis (Again)

I am once again heading to UC Davis to give a seminar. I am giving a Computer Science seminar about cascades and social influence on networks.

Update: A bum who has parked next to the train tracks is blasting Creedence. Now I am having a genuine small-town train experience. (Well, the radio station to which he is listening is doing that. It still works, though.)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Well Understood"

Excuse my cynicism, but it seems the the term "well understood" (and its inverse) is usually used for convenience rather than for any meaningful reason, and many things seem to simultaneously be both "well understood" and "not well understood".

Example: Referee 3: This is well understood, so the authors shouldn't have bothered writing this paper.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Welcome to the 19th Century

Our admin staff are not allowed to e-mail me a PDF file for me to assess a senior project ("dissertation") because University of Oxford doesn't considered that to be secure. This gives the option of either waiting for my return or snail-mailing me the dissertation. My evaluation is due not long after I return, and I am not going to deal with this during the first week of term when I am severely jetlagged, exhausted, stressed, and almost certainly in an awful mood. That simply doesn't help anybody and is physically extremely taxing for me. (The physical difficulty I have with traveling comes into play.)

So, given my restricted luggage space on my return, the agreed solution was to snail-mail me a USB stick with the PDF file (which I think only takes up something like a couple of megs) so that it could be sent to me in a 'secure' way. (Don't ask.) Nothing arrived for 2 weeks, so I queried our staff and was informed that "We had to order some USB sticks through the department and they've still not arrived." I suppose that is the only way to obtain such advanced technology? Thus, it looks like I will get the extra time to do the marking upon my return when the hard copies can be passed to me 'securely'. I can't wait to see what happens when the Oxford proctors discover Dropbox.

And in other news, Oxford academics are also expected to keep all of their savings in cash under their beds, because that is the only secure way to do it. (Thanks to Alain Goriely for this comparison. He's exactly right.)

As Craig Montuori suggested, we should have had the USB stick delivered to me via carrier pigeon. That's the traditional way of copying electronic files, after all.

Tales from the ArXiv: Blunt Honesty Department

And in the latest entry from the Department of Blunt Honesty, this paper was with withdrawn from the arXiv by the author, who provided this explanation in the 'Comments' field:

Comments: This paper has been withdrawn by the author due to the terrible English writing"

I give major props for that kind of honesty. Also, I'm amused.

Programmed To Go Off Before You Do

An old woman on the bus was having a lively conversation with her stuffed badger. Then she also started kissing it. Thankfully, she, her stuffed badger, and her other stuffed animal (who witnessed the whole scene) got off the bus before things got even more serious.

("That was my Virgin Alarm! It's programmed to go off before you do!")

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Unearthed: A Report I Wrote on the KdV Equation During College

Oh, wow. From some 'random' googling, I just found the rough draft of a report on the KdV equation that I wrote my senior year in college. This apparently got uploaded when various past things from courses that Jerry Marsden taught were collected, scanned, and uploaded.

My exposition (including of the KdV equation!), my citation practices and being very thorough about giving proper credit for results and the exposition of others (right now, I think that my old report should have included specific statements of whose discussions I was following and not just citations to those papers), and my work on nonlinear waves has advanced a lot since that report -- though I think that one can see many hints of my current style in it. Certainly one can see some of my current research interests. I had completely forgotten about this old report. (My handwriting in parts of the report is almost exactly the same as now, though! :P)

If you want to compare my old exposition to my current exposition, see the Scholarpedia entry on solitons that I wrote with Norm Zabusky.

I should perhaps use this as before/after to show my students for certain assignments. I think this could be helpful for some interesting teaching opportunities.

I'm not sure why the rough draft was uploaded, though. Maybe Jerry's copy of the final draft got lost?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

April Fools Day Roundup (2013)

Here is TechCrunch's 2013 April Fools Day roundup.

Math Lab Bust!

Recently, five people were arrested in a math lab bust. I guess I better be very careful from now on! (I am guilty as charged.)

(Tip of the cap to I Fucking Love Science. This might actually be my favorite IFLS post ever, and that's saying a lot.)

Update: As Puck Rombach pointed out, maybe the news program actually misspelled "MATLAB BUST".