Thursday, September 2, 2010

Messing with the Metric System

Q: How much does that weigh?

A: About 11/17 of a kilogram.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tom Tuttle From Tacoma

Monday, July 12, 2010

Happy Birthday "Etch A Sketch"

Went on sale 50 years ago today. I was never very good at drawing with it, but I remember clearing a big rectangle so I could see what was inside.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Adam's Bridge

View Larger Map

Also knows as Rama's Bridge or Rama Setu, consists of a series of limestone shoals running between Pamban Island, also known as Rameswaram Island, off the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the northwestern coast of Sri Lanka. Geological evidence indicates that this bridge is a former land connection between India and Sri Lanka.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Antipodes and the Earth Sandwich

If you want to dig a hole straight through the Earth to China, start digging in Argentina. This is one of the few places on land in which the antipode is not located on an ocean. With most of the Earth's surface covered by water and most of the land area in the Norther Hemisphere, this is not really surprising.

Ze Frank has a project to create "Earth Sandwiches", which is created when two slices of bread are simultaneously placed on opposite sides of the Earth. To assist this project, his website has a Google Maps tool that can display the antipodal spot of any place mark.

There is an area in northern Montana that is opposite from the Kerguelen Islands in the South Indian Ocean. There is also a small island, Île Amsterdam, antipodal to spot southeast of Lamar, Colorado and Île Saint-Paul, which is opposite from Firstview, Colorado. These are the only land areas antipodal to the Lower 48 United States.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Previously Newer

I can't be the only person who has trouble figuring out how the arrow of time flows through some blogging engines. I find it non-intuitive when I have to click on "Next" to see older posts and then "Previous" to see newer posts.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Joe Cloverfield

Warning: smoking cigarettes while pregnant may cause birth defects.

Friday, April 23, 2010

We have to get these two together!

Doctor Jack Cassell Tells Obama Supporters To Seek Help Elsewhere.

Pay medical bills with a chicken, says Republican candidate.

LowdenCare for Dr. Cassell. You can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Here's Your Kaboom!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How's that Dopey-Derangey thing working for ya?!

Last week, Sarah Palin urged her supporters to "stop" cars with Obama stickers and confront them with her sarcastic cutsey catchphrase, "How's that hopey-changey thing working out for you?"

Oh surely, her followers wouldn't take that suggestion like that seriously. Right?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another A.L.I.C.E. Found!

This crater is from the Apollo 13 mission's Saturn S-IVb stage impact. I have discussed these lunar impact events in several earlier posts (Still hoping the "ALICE" label catches on somewhere). The crater appears to be similar in appearance and size to the Apollo 14 impact site.

On April 14, 1970 the Apollo 13 Saturn IVB (Saturn V Third Stage) impacted the Moon north of Mare Cognitum (-2.55°S, 332.12°E). The impact crater, roughly 30 meters in diameter, is clearly visible in LROC NAC image M109420042LE. Study of the rare impacts that can be definitively dated helps in determining rates of space weathering on every scale. The Apollo 13 SIVB impact shows a relatively wide ranging ray system, part of which may have resulted from hot plasma pressure waves.

I'll keep an eye out for any news on the remaining three big ALICE sites (Apollo 15, 16 and 17) and hopefully the smaller impact sites for the discarded Lunar Module accent stages.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Point Udall(s)

Point Udall refers to two places, named after two brothers, which are the easternmost and westernmost points (by travel not longitude) in the United States:

Point Udall (Guam) - named after Mo Udall
Point Udall (U.S. Virgin Islands) - named after Stewart Udall

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Who Should Tuco Shoot?

A few days ago, I posted one of my favorite movie scenes from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. This scene is followed by another great movie moment, the 3-way "duel" between Tuco (Eli Wallach), Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and "Angel Eyes" (Lee Van Cleef). Strictly speaking, it is not a "Dual", but rather, a "Truel".

A few years ago, I wondered who would have the advantage in a 3-way gunfight and created some simple computer simulations to test the outcomes based on variables about the skill of the gunmen. Surprisingly, it appeared that the least skilled marksman might have the highest chance of survival. In the scenarios, I assumed that Blondie was nearly perfect, Angel Eyes was somewhat less perfect and Tuco was the least accurate shooter (we never really find out the relative ability of Tuco vs. Angel Eyes).

It turns out that I was not the only one interested in this scenario. Mathematician Martin Gardner had proposed it as a puzzle:

"Three men are in a pistol duel. Each man will shoot in turn. The three men are identified as A, B, and C. A is a poor shot, and hits only 50% of the time. B is an expert marksman, and always hits. C is a moderate shot, and hits 80% of the time. (In some variants of the problem, A's probability is 25% and C's is 50%; in practice this makes little difference as long as A's is lower than C's.)"

"The most common solution is that A should deliberately fire into the ground until one of the other two men is dead, then shoot at him.

The reasoning for this is as follows: B and C are greater threats to each other than A is to either of them, and thus rationally should target each other first. If B fires first, he will certainly kill C; if C fires first, he may kill B, and if he does not, B will certainly kill him. In the first "round" of the duel one of these two interactions will occur between B and C and it is not in A's interest to disrupt it. If A kills one of the men, the other man will target him, probably killing him; if A fires but does not kill either man, he makes no difference. After either of these interactions completes, it will become A's turn with A never having been targeted and having a chance to kill the one remaining man and win the duel, and this is the best possible position for him."

William Chen's paper provides a more detailed look at the possible outcomes.

The rules are a bit different for this analysis than the movie, since they have not drawn lots to determine shooting order, but the results and outcomes might work out the same way. Tuco knows that Blondie and Angel Eyes will probably shoot at each other, so his best strategy would be to hesitate and then shoot the survivor.

"Gentleman H is a crack shot, with a 100% record of fatal shots on target. Gentleman E is a moderate shot, with an 80% record of fatal shots on target. Gentleman F is the weakest shot, with only a 50% record of fatal shots on target."

"Fifty-fifty Jones (F), against his own best interests, will blaze away when able at the opponent he imagines to be most dangerous. Even so, he still has the best chance of survival, 44.722 per cent. Brown (E) and Smith (H) find their chances reversed. Eighty-twenty Brown’s chances are 31.111 per cent and sure-shot Smith comes in last with 24.167 per cent."

Getting back to the movie, [SPOILER ALERT].

The game was actually rigged since Blondie knew that Tuco's gun was unloaded. It appears that Tuco chose to shoot at Angel Eyes and probably assumed that Blondie would not kill him once Angel Eyes was eliminated. He may have also realized that turning his gun towards Blondie would have been futile because he was fast and accurate enough to kill both of them. By aiming at Angel Eyes, he hoped to re-establish a partnership.

For a Cold-War era scenario, see "Who Should China Nuke?".

A separate but relevant bit of research also suggests that in gun duels, the first person to draw might actually be at a disadvantage.

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Ecstasy Of Gold

I believe that this is one of the greatest scenes ever filmed. The directed by Sergio Leone, featuring Clint Eastwood (Blondie) and Eli Wallach (Tuco). Music by Ennio Morricone.

I knew that the scene was filmed in Spain, but recently discovered the actual location of "Sad Hill Cemetery" (created for the movie by several hundred Spanish soldiers) . There are photographs of location then and now here.

The location from Google Maps:

View Larger Map

Looking at the same location in Google Earth provides a ground-level 3D view that matches the movie scenes quite well.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can't we have anything nice?

Well... thanks for the Silver.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

There's No Crying In Baseball!

In Figure Skating, there is ALWAYS crying. Shaun White has a theory.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What would we call the "Death Star"?

"Death Star" is honest, but I just can't see the United States deploying planet killers with a simple name like that. In the tradition of the MX Missile, maybe we would call it the Nice Station, or Peace Planetoid. Or name them after former government leaders (Cheney Class Planet Pacifiers?). How about MOARG (Mother Of All Ray Guns)?

This weapons platform is classic U.S. design. It costs an estimated $15.6 Septillion, is full of shock and awe, but can be destroyed by a single tactical fighter or tramp freighter. Plus, even when it fails they build another one.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Motivational Speakers

Who would you choose?

Palin's "Winning through Quitting"?


Matt Foley's "Living in a van down by the river!"

Chris Farley, we miss you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

So, what are the Republicans going to do?

with their new 41-59 Senate "Majority"? I can remember a time when it only took 51 votes to get something done.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Internet was Created for this moment

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Eee-mehr-gen-cee! Ev-lee-body to get from stleet!

One of my favorite Cold War movies - 1966's The Russians are Coming! The Russians are Coming!

A Soviet submarine draws too close to the New England coast when its captain wants to take a good look at America and runs aground on a sandbar near an island off Cape Cod. Rather than radio for help and risk an embarrassing international incident, the captain sends a nine-man landing party headed by the sub's second-in-command Lieutenant Rozanov (Alan Arkin) to search of a motor launch to help free the submarine. Soon, the citizens on the island are in a panic over the invasion.

For the ultimate in anti-matter viewing, try watching it as a double feature with 1984's "Red Dawn".

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Viva Knievel!

I caught this 1970's gem a few years ago on a local Spanish station (which somehow made it even more entertaining). The film also stars Gene Kelly, Lauren Hutton, Red Buttons, Leslie Nielsen, Cameron Mitchell, Frank Gifford and Dabney Coleman and was largely "Ghost Directed" by Irwin Allen.

From Wiki:

Daredevil motorcycle rider Evel Knievel stars as himself. The film opens with Knievel sneaking into an orphanage late at night to deliver presents: Evel Knievel action figures. One of the boys casts away his crutches, telling Knievel that if he could walk after his crashes, then he (the boy) can, too. Here is the amazing opening scene:

I don't think even El Santo could have pulled that off.

Later, drug lord Stanley Millard, (pre-Airplane Leslie Nielsen) plans to cause a fatal accident during a dangerous motorcycle jump in Mexico. He will then have Knievel's body transported back to America in an exact duplicate of the tour trailer, but one that has a massive supply of drugs hidden in the walls. Everything about this movie is just jaw-dropping.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A-Battery, B-Battery

Yes, it turns out that there were "A" and "B" batteries.