Wednesday, January 12, 2011

This and That

  • In partnership with CERN, The LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American, Google is introducing the first global online science competition: the Google Science Fair. It is open to students around the world who are between the ages of 13-18. More info at the Google Blog.

  • If you haven't yet played around with Google's Ngram Viewer, you've missed a great opportunity to waste time. Ngram allows you to search Google Books for words or expressions and display the results, normalized to the total number of books, as a function of the year. You find some great examples here. Also interesting is "absolute" vs "relative" ("relative" took off in 1900 but has dropped sharply since 1980, while "absolute" is constantly in fashion since 1800), "abortion" vs "adoption" ("adoption" is almost constant since 1900, while "abortion" rises in the mid 60s, but interestingly falls again since the mid 90s.), "love" vs "war" ("war" surpassed "love" around 1920 and peaks during the two world wars. Since then, it's been on the decline but still ahead of "love"), "God" vs "science" ("God" has on the average been decreasing since the early 18-hundreds, though it's slighly increasing again since 1980. Science has constantly been on the rise, but still hasn't caught up with "God"), and nobody wrote "hello world" before the first programming languages came up.

  • Have a look at our night sky in different wavelengths with the Chromoscope. See here for a video tour. [Thanks to Steven!]

  • Wiley's journal on Environmental Microbiology annually publishes some amusing referee's comments. Some examples: "This paper is desperate. Please reject it completely and then block the author’s email ID so they can’t use the online system in future.", "I started to review this but could not get much past the abstract.", "I agreed to review this Ms whilst answering e-mails in the golden glow of a balmy evening on the terrace of our holiday hotel on Lake Como. Back in the harsh light of reality in Belfast I realize that it’s just on the limit of my comfort zone and that it would probably have been better not to have volunteered." Makes me wonder if the prospect of one's comment getting published encourages referees to write such things?

  • Something to laugh about: The customer is not always right. [Thanks to Andreas!] Example:

      Bank employee: “And how would you like that $500?”
      Customer: “In one bill.”
      Bank employee: *trying to be nice* “Would five hundreds do?”
      Customer: “No! One bill!”
      (Employee gives her five hundreds, and she throws them back. Supervisor comes over.)
      Supervisor: “Problem?”
      Customer: “Yes, he refuses to give me what I want.”
      Supervisor: “There is no $500 bill.”
      Customer: “Yes there is!”
      Supervisor: “Not since the late 1800′s ma’am.”
      Customer: “I remember seeing it!”
      Supervisor: “Then might I say you look great for your age!”


  1. the Google Science Fair

    Nice! Next stop if this takes off: A Math Fair! There were 4 Science Fairs in my high school years but only 1 Math Fair. Why? Why God? Why such prejudice against Maths peoples? There is also only one Mathematics Museum in America. Is that one more than Europe has?

    Btw, in that math fair, I placed 2nd as a sophomore, for the whole school, for my completely original "Spherical Plane Geometry" in 1972. I was pretty darn happy for doing so well, which was my idea of showing how on the surface of a sphere, yes you CAN have triangles with greater than, or less than, angles other than 180 degrees (I don't like "rules" or "laws", not if they can be broken, albeit peacefully).

    Why, Mr. Judge? Why didn't I place first? Why? Why not?

    "Because," said the judge, "It's already been done. Look up Gauss, Riemann, Non-Euclidean Geometry".

    So I did and went "Wha..What!? 150 years late to the party?! Curses, foiled again!" Later I tied sweet Nell to the railroad tracks and felt much better. (Obscure Dudley Do-right reference, sorry. I am become Snidely Whiplash.)

    Note 2: Also, you're welcome re the Chromoscope, but I found out about that from Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy in his article re the same: here.

    Although isn't it amazing when you play around with the Chromoscope that the CMB is best seen in the microwave wavelength range? What a sweet serendipitous co-incidence. ;-)

  2. Hi Steven,

    So I did and went "Wha..What!? 150 years late to the party?! Curses, foiled again!"

    Your understanding on your own "that issue" reveals quite a lot. You are well suited then for future discoveries in abstract thinking?:)

    Maybe with "sonification" it will push you over the edge?:)Just "a way" in which to see things differently as well?


  3. "This paper fills a much needed gap in the literature."

    Google is more than fun, charity, publicity. How many Google-grade young intelligent people are there in the US? Fermi problem! 311 million people, top 0.1% gives 311K. 1/3 are too old or too young, 200K. 10% of remainder are pertinent, 20,000 candidates. Google has 21,000 employees. Conclusion: Google is recruiting the whole world seeking the nascent Profoundly Gifted.

    Go Google!

  4. Uncle Al wrote:
    10% of remainder are pertinent, 20,000 candidates.

    Where does that figure come from, Al? I question that, and what I question is that it's too high. Show your work. :-) (And then you'll have to add back the fine new residents from Korea and Taiwan and India mostly that are the most recent "new blood", being the latest round of immigrants who have always refreshed our country).

    Plato wrote:
    You are well suited then for future discoveries in abstract thinking?:)

    I think so. Well, the odds are low since I started from way back at the age of 51, 2-1/2 years ago, and worse I'm too poor to attend school, so "self-study" takes twice as long, but the odds are zero if we don't try, hmm?

    I also invented Quantum Field Theory, in 2008, when I reasoned that all this wave-particle duality stuff reveals our ignorance. It's all waves, "particle" being a word to make experimentalists happy.

    Then I did a bit'o' research, and discovered DeBroglie and Dirac beat me to it. But at least I was only 80-90 years behind the times, so I'm getting better.

    What well-known theory that I'm currently ignorant of will I re-discover tomorrow?

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  6. Actually, the customer was right.
    Look up "Large denominations of Un ited States Currency" on Wikipedia.

    By the way, has anyone ever seen a 500 Euro note?

  7. Yes, I once had a 500 EUR note.

    There's a story attached to it: it was a Christmas present from my grandma briefly before I moved to the USA - she didn't believe in direct deposit. But what do you do with a EUR 500 note? Can't very well go for a coffee at Starbucks. So I used it to pay for my one-way-ticket to Arizona, it was almost exactly the right amount. In the student's travel office they turned the note around ten times but eventually accepted it. But here's the thing. When I was at the airport the day I left, I was taken aside for further questioning by some security person. It turned out a cash-paid one-way-ticket had made me very suspicious. That I had all my documents that could have confirmed the purpose of my stay overseas in the already checked-in bag that had vanished into the airport's intestines didn't help either, and that the name on the ticket wasn't exactly the same as on my passport was a further problem: In Germany the passport lists a Dr-title as an addition to the last name, plus my middle names never make it on any ticket because then the name is too long. I had to show them half a dozen of IDs and credit cards to convince them I'm me and I have no intentions of illegal activities. In any case, evidently the travel office had passed on my mode of payment. It seems to be information they commonly share without asking for the customer's consent. Best,


  8. Hi Bee,

    Thanks for the heads up in regards to the Ngram viewer as I wasn’t aware of it before. Now as you know I’ve always been as interested in what science might tell us in respect to the human condition, as I am as to what it can have us discover about the condition of nature more generally. In such regard I’ve always thought that the way we greet or acknowledge one another to be a gauge or metric of how people feel in respect to one another or lack of it on the other hand.

    So as it relates to my personal curiosity and concern I label the following graph the rise and fall of humility, truth and sincerity. Just as a base line I simply pared it down as it not to be taken as a salutation which I include at the end yet not in HTML as the blogger gods seem to take exception to using too much of that as of late:-) So I would ask what conclusions do you think we might draw from this?,sincerely,humbly&year_start=1700&year_end=2008&corpus=0&smoothing=3



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  12. Anthropic <== Notice a trend? (Don't tell Susskind or Polchinski, they have a right to happiness too)

  13. Hi Steven,

    Ha! Something completely different: Did you know? Best,


  14. Hi Bee,

    "If you find this tool helpful for your research, please cite:"Culturomics

    ....further proof that you do not take it seriously?:)


  15. Making use of the Nth degree?


    Not a one trending.....opens the doors for new thinking in book form to see?


  16. Brian Greene has a new book? Interesting. Well, I went to the index, from where you can tell a lot, and Loop Quantum Gravity is mentioned only once, on page 248, following three pages of discussion on black hole thermodynamics. No Smolin, causal dynamical triangulations, Rovelli, Loll, Woit. And here's a clear oversight: no Hossenfelder! So like most books, it's a tad out of date at publication.

    I'll skim read it at the bookstore, while lamenting that I haven't the funds to buy The Princeton Companion to Mathematics or Sizing Up the Universe, both of which are awesome and next on my hitlist.

  17. Bigfoot-

    Good thing they do not include "blog posting word" Bee, or, how they use "index wording to right of, or left, as to how many times" and "back of book" as to how many times "a word" is repeated in that blog/book. Your safe:)

    Bee:Last night I had a nightmare! Bigfoot knocked at my door and wanted to talk to me about the existence of the string theory landscape. Still on east-coast time, I wiped off the sweat from my forehead but couldn't fall asleep again. I switched on my laptop, and decided its time to post the review on Lee Smolin's new book. See:Lee Smolin's Trouble with Physics


  18. Re Steven Colyer: The last cut, 10% of remainder are pertinent, is obvious in every selection endeavor - Sturgeon's Law. Amongst the most brilliant candidates will be savant tuba players, baseball hitters, and economists. What are they good for?

  19. Sturgeon's Law, Al? Is that that anything like Salmon's Law, where if you try to pull the fish in too slow, you'll lose it, or too fast, you'll lose it as well? ;-} (which also works in romance) Just teasing you, Al.

    No, I hear what you're saying, and good examples thanks, and thanks for turning me on on to yet another Law I never heard of (where would we be without you Mensa boys, oldtimer?).

    I'm just saying I think 10% is too high. Try 5% and I bet you're closer. IMO. (I'm an oldtimer too, which means as time goes on, even that 5% figure will shrink in my mind. Dayam, man, you Californians are hopeless optimists.)

  20. "Hello world" isn't the first time technology changed the way we say hello. Hello used to mean surprise, as in "That's quite a hello." or "Hello, what have we here?" It wasn't used as a greeting until the advent of the telephone in the late 1870s when Bell decided that his new fangled technology needed some new fangled etiquette.

  21. Hi Bee,

    Thanks for taking notice as that Blogger AI has really made things difficult as of late, although so far to the vindication of Penrose:-) Actually I’m quite intrigued by this, to the point where it has me wondering if they’ve thought to enhance this so one could incorporate Boolean logic, as to expand the depth and significance of research made possible incorporating this data.

    Well at least in the meantime we can still ask questions, such as examining the historic rise in American global influence. I noted at the end of the graph a down turn in the American spelling, while an upturn in the English spelling, which I hypothesis has to do with an increase of people learning it as a second language. Shades of Paul Revere sound the alarm, only this time with the cry, "the red coats are returning, the red coats are returning!" :-)

    Your humble servant, :-)


  22. Bee tweeted:
    First postpartum attempt to pick up running again: a disaster. Never been so out of shape.

    In about 2 months you'll be in better shape to get back in shape. I know that seems like a long time, but it'll pass, you'll see. Breastfeeding helps!

    But yup, my wife and I were both surprised that even after childbirth and the loss of all that water and sweet little (former) parasites, her body didn't look THAT different. Look to Kate Goslin. She had twins AND sextuplets, and she's Dancing with the Stars, so no worries.

    Bee also tweeted:
    Sweden is "the country synonymous with sex" ? I lived there for more than a year and nobody told me!

    Wow, really? You didn't know that? That's common knowledge here in America. But Americans don't know everything (shocker!). We think there are more blondes than brunettes in Sweden, and that's not true, right? Finland is the land of the blondes from what I've heard. Verification, pls?

  23. I just want to know what size shoe did Bee estimate Big Foot was wearing in the dream or does go he just go barefoot? And of course the big question: does he just go around naked?

  24. Click here to see the current World's Most Beloved Mammal.

    She's cross-eyed, and she's German. Thank you, Germany!

    What's not to love?

  25. Steve, you got something against the dear departed psychic octopus, Paul. I understand, we all must move on.

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  27. I heard "Paul is Dead" when I was a lad. Turned out not to be true. Be skeptical. :-p

  28. Paul is definitely dead. But they have a new one-they will test him in the women`s football worldchampionship.
    Best Mum

  29. The importance of contextuality as it relates to conceptuality.

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  31. Then again what could it mean when a concept demonstrates linear growth?

  32. Or what does it mean when we make war and yet have it not appear as being a significant concern?

  33. All we need do to figure it all out is to incorporate a little outside of the box thinking;-)

  34. Hi Heidi,

    You tell’m girl! To be more specific you are a marsupial, a type of mammal evolutionary half way between the monotremes (i.e. the duck billed platypus) and placental mammals (i.e. most who make comments here; well at least I assume so. So what forms the distinction is first you have your egg layers, then crudely live born yet pouch incubated as to further develop, and last live born being more completely developed. I would bet Bee when it was coming near the time wished she’d been a marsupial; that is so she could have hopped to it straight away after. :-)




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