6 January 2011: Increasing Entropy, Bowl Games, etc.
Sometimes the stubbornness that makes one successful at things like long distance races has a downside. I mentioned hurting my back (lower right side) during a training run in Austin two days ago. So after that, I mostly laid down and took 4 maximum doses of ibuprofen, 4-6 hours apart. That was a mistake.
I know have “dizziness while lying down” (a classic side effect) and will have to lay off of this stuff for a good long while.
But yesterday’s trip (fly from Austin to St. Louis, then drive home) was interesting.
I took only one does of ibuprofen but hadn’t slept well; that kept my back from hurting for most of the trip. But I was a bit punchy during the drive; as a consequence I got a (deserved) speeding ticket while taking a short cut to avoid a I-55 traffic jam; I forgot that the speed limit on rural non-4 lane highways in Illinois is 55, not 65.
Then when I got home, my back felt ok…so I made a classic mistake: I thought it would be a good idea to walk to a local yoga class (gentle). I had some dizziness during the lying down poses and got through most of the poses…right wen the ibuprofen wore off.
I was twisted in pain and was lucky to get a ride home afterward. So I wisely took today off from all exercise and will have to be pain free before trying anything physical…and be pain free for a few days.
Aside from some dizziness when I lay down, I don’t feel that bad. But today will be mostly easy chores (straighten the house, maybe go to the office and work on a paper, etc.).
Once again, I played Yahoo’s “bowl pick ’em” against the Sagarin ratings: the idea is that you pick each game “straight up” (win or lose) and then assign a confidence ranking to your pick. For example, in my computer pick, I gave BYU over UTEP the highest confidence as this game had the biggest power ratings difference on the computer rating. In my own pick set, I did that with Texas Tech over Northwestern (the latter team was missing its number one quarterback).
Right now, I am leading my computer pickset 333-320, but my computer pickset has two heavily weighted games left.
I’ll comment on three games that I followed:
I listened to this while driving from Peoria to St. Louis. This was exciting; TCU moved out to a 21-13 lead and then held on to win 21-19. This was a classic: Wisconsin’s power running versus TCU’s open attack. What surprised me a bit was Wisconsin throwing for their two point conversion instead of using their power running game which had been serving them well.
This ended up 40-12 Standford but was only 13-12 at the half. The first half featured a bizarre safety in which a pass was batted backwards in the end zone and instinctively caught by an offensive lineman who fell down. But in the second half, Virgina Tech’s offense could do nothing whereas Standford’s balanced attack moved unabated.
This game left me with two thoughts:
1. No wonder Notre Dame looked so bad against them and
2. Oregon beat these guys and beat them badly? (Yep, I watched that game).
Then again, Auburn came back against an inspired Alabama team, and we see what Alabama did to a Michigan State team that was really not that bad, even if not as good as their record might indicate.
Though, as a fan, I enjoyed watching Notre Dame whip Miami and watching Illinois hammer Baylor, this game was the best bowl game I’ve watched this year (The Tennessee-North Carolina Music City bowl game was a close second). It had everything from big running plays, gaudy pass plays, big plays on defense, key mistakes, clutch kicking (punts and field goals), special teams play, hard hitting and a big comeback.
The basics: after a 7-7 start which featured Ohio State scoring when their quarterback fumbled on a scramble but the ball squirted between two Razorbacks (who knocked each other off of the ball) and the ball was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown, Ohio State raced out to a 28-7 lead late in the first half. They moved the ball at well both on the ground and through the air, and a strong Ohio State pass rush sacked the Arkansas quarterback repeatedly and just beat him up. A late drive by the Razorbacks cut the lead to 28-10 just before the half.
The second half mostly belonged to Arkansas. The teams traded field goals to make it 31-13 and then the fun began. Arkansas hit a big pass and a gaudy 2 point play in which the receiver looked stopped at the 1 but with a massive second effort and a reach of a long arm, stretched the ball across the plane (verified by replay).
Then after a stop and a key Razorback punt which pinned Ohio State on it’s own 1 (one of several excellent punts that kept Ohio State bottled up inside its own 5 yard line), the Buckeyes attempted a running play. The runner was hit at the 1 and was driven back into the end zone. But while in the end zone, he became disengaged and then was tackled by someone else; that was a safety.
On the subsequent drive the Razorbacks ended up kicking another field goal to cut it to 31-26 with about 8 minutes left in the game.
Ohio State tried to drive and ended up with 4’th and 1 near mid field, and they went for it. A dive play appeared to work, but while the ball carrier was in midair, he was stripped of the ball and it went down and backwards and recovered by Ohio State…but short of the first down.
But on the subsequent possession, a big third down sack forced a Razorback punt with 3 minutes to go.
The Buckeyes couldn’t move the ball and had to punt with 1:10 left in the game (no more Arkansas time outs) and the punt was blocked; first down for Arkansas at the Ohio State 17! But the next pass was intercepted and Ohio State ran out the clock.
Both teams got lucky bounces and to be honest, Arkansas dropped a ton of passes. But the Ohio State pass rush was superb.
This was a classic; both teams played their guts out.
So, in a close game why does one team win and another one lose? Or, why does one team make a turn around from a bad season to improve?
This is certainly NOT the answer. 🙂
Science What caused all of those red winged blackbirds to die all of a sudden? Here is an article that goes though the various conjectures:
This week, 5,000 blackbirds fell from the skies over Arkansas, followed by 500 more in Louisiana. And now it’s happening in Sweden too. You’ve got to wonder what the hell is going on. We’ll explain.
Let’s quickly review the facts. Just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 red-winged blackbirds and starlings fell from the sky within a one-mile area over the town of Beebe, Arkansas. The last few days have also seen a mass fish kill, in which an estimated 100,000 drum fish washed up on a twenty-mile stretch near the town of Ozark, Arkansas, which is about 125 miles away from Beebe.
And then, around 500 red-winged blackbirds, starlings, and grackles fell to their deaths over a quarter-mile stretch of highway near Labarre, Louisiana, which is 360 miles from Beebe and 450 from Ozark. And then last night, hundreds of what were most likely jackdaws fell to the ground all over Falköping, Sweden.
So, now that we’ve got all the facts, what on earth is causing all these animals to die?
Some of the more fanciful interpretations have put these forward as signs of the Apocalypse, undoubtedly as the first act of some macabre play of bizarre death and destruction that will end in December 2012. But there are perfectly rational explanations for all of this. Still, I’ll warn you now – the explanations might be scientific, but they’re not exactly likely, and they sure as hell aren’t elegant or logically pleasing.
Go ahead a read; the problem is that what happened is (probably) a rare event which means we might well never know; after all, what happens comes from a menu of unlikely events, each of which has the same outcome.
Here is a photo of the moon’s shadow during an eclipse:
(from here; you’ll find more NASA photos there)
Ok, you say: “nice partial lunar eclipse” and “some sunspots”. Ok…not THAT awesome, you might say. Well, look at all of those “sunspots” just a bit closer.
Do you see it? If not, go to the article at Bad Astronomy and look at a selected blow up of the photo.
I was directed to this article from Jerry Coyne’s blog which features some excellent articles on evolution and speciation:
He also talks about accommodationism and features this statement made at the Berkeley/NCSE website:
“Evolution and religion are incompatible.”
Religion and science (evolution) are very different things. In science, only natural causes are used to explain natural phenomena, while religion deals with beliefs that are beyond the natural world.
The misconception that one always has to choose between science and religion is incorrect. Of course, some religious beliefs explicitly contradict science (e.g., the belief that the world and all life on it was created in six literal days); however, most religious groups have no conflict with the theory of evolution or other scientific findings.
Coyne goes on to criticize this statement.
I have a somewhat different problem with it: it is true that many mainstream religions have no problem with the fact that the life we see here came about by an evolutionary process which involved natural selection, genetic drift, etc. BUT most mainstream religions that I know of teach some sort of “humans were an intentional outcome of this process” as a matter of faith, and scientific evolution IS in conflict with such a teaching. There are some liberal religions who accept that evolution is “undirected” in the sense that there is no preordained outcome, though natural selection gives some mutations a much higher probability of being passed along than others.
I know of few western style religions that allow for humans to be an accidental outcome of nature.
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