31 March 2011 noon

Workout notes: yoga in the morning, weights over lunch:
squats, Smith machine: 10 x 45, 10 x 135, 10 x 165, 5 x 185, 10 x 135. The depth was ok at 165; perhaps a bit shallow at 185.
curls: 3 sets of 15 with 20 lb. dumbbells
incline press: 10 x 115, 10 x 125, 1 x 135, 9 x 120 (vertigo was slight)
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 120
rows: 3 sets of 10 x 200
sit ups (4 x 25, 1, 2, 3, 4 incline)
ball; hamstring exercises: 3 sets of 15.
This took about 1 hour.

Vertigo: reduced, but still there at times. The ears are not quite as full. We are closing in on day 3; I do feel better but I am not well.

Science/technology The geometry of nuclear fuel plays a role in forming the chain reactions. There is some fear that blobs of fuel may have started up chain reactions:

But on 25 March, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which runs the Fukushima Daiichi plant, reported that chlorine-38 had been found among several radioactive isotopes in water taken from the turbine building of reactor number 1. Chlorine-38 can form when neutrons hit atoms of naturally occurring chlorine-37 in seawater.

Some chlorine-38 is to be expected because seawater was used to cool reactor number 1, and fuel rods continue to emit neutrons even after a reactor is shut down. But according to calculations by Dalnoki-Veress, a dead reactor core would not produce enough neutrons to account for the amount of chlorine-38 measured – 1.6 million becquerels per millilitre.

Despite the presence of the control rods, he says, partial or total melting of the fuel rods could rearrange the fuel in ways that would allow chain reactions to occur. Such reactions would probably be short-lived, he says, as the heat they would generate would tend to push apart the chunks or molten globs of fuel involved, reducing their ability to react further. But continued melting and rearrangement could cause repeated bursts of chain reactions.

Others are skeptical as it would be difficult to achieve a small “critical” lump by pure accident, though it would be theoretically possible.

Warmer weather is on the way; this means running races and other outdoor activities:

I had better shake off this ear infection so I can get back out there and race!

March 31, 2011 Posted by | big butts, physics, science, spandex, technology, training, weight training | Leave a comment

31 March 2011 early am

Sleep last night was weird… very sound at times and very fitful at others.

I woke up and found this article:

Surge in Satanism sparks rise in demand for exorcists, says Catholic Church […]
The web has made it easier than ever before to access information on Devil-worshipping and the occult, experts said.

Exorcism is the subject of a six-day conference being held this week at the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical University in Rome, which is under the Vatican’s authority.

“The internet makes it much easier than in the past to find information about Satanism,” said Carlo Climati, a member of the university who specialises in the dangers posed to young people by Satanism.

“In just a few minutes you can contact Satanist groups and research occultism. The conference is not about how to become an exorcist. It’s to share information about exorcism, Satanism and sects. It’s to give help to families and priests. There is a particular risk for young people who are in difficulties or who are emotionally fragile,” said Mr Climati.

The object of seminars was to scrutinise the phenomenon of Satanism with “seriousness and scientific rigour”, avoiding a “superficial or sensational approach”, he said. [….]

But Vatican officials said three years ago that parish priests should call in professional exorcists if they suspect one of their parishioners needs purging of evil.

An exorcist should be called when “the moral certainty has been reached that the person is possessed”, said Father Nanni, a member of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

You can’t make this stuff up. How do these clowns expect to be taken seriously?

March 31, 2011 Posted by | religion, superstition | Leave a comment

30 March 2011 (PM)

Humor Jesus in a pizza?

Science, Trail Running and Walking, and locomotion
It seems strange that I’d link to a blog about evolution here, but I am:

The authors ran four helmeted guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) over tracks, training them on tracks with a sandpaper segment, providing good traction. Then they let the birds run over both sandpaper tracks and tracks with a slick segment made of polypropylene. As you might guess, some of the birds slipped. Here are some recordings; be sure to watch them since they’re short and LOLzy:

Bottom line: overstriding (placing your foot too far out in front of you) is bad, especially on slick surfaces. 🙂

Education/Academia Tenure at a research university if very different than tenure at a teaching-oriented university. Here is one professor’s take: (I’ll focus on two of the items):

#Don’t worry about teaching, leadership, organizing, etc. I don’t think being good at these things actively hurts you, although I did once hear a senior faculty member say that he was negatively predisposed to candidates who had good teaching evaluations. (He was joking, I think.) Why? Because you’re spending time on something that isn’t research. But generally it won’t hurt, it just won’t help. You will typically be told (as I was) something like “teaching isn’t really important, but if your case is very close, it can help put you over the top.” Everyone agreed my case was very close, and my teaching was among the best in the department; it didn’t help. The point is simple: this stuff is not research. […]

# Don’t be too well known outside the field. I hate to say this, but the evidence is there: if you have too high of a public profile, people look at you suspiciously. Actual quote: “I’m glad we didn’t hire Dr. X; he spends too much time in the New York Times and not enough time in the lab.” And that’s the point — it’s not that people are jealous that you are popular, it’s that they are suspicious you care about publicity more than you do about research. Remember the Overriding Principle.

# Don’t write a book. This follows partly from the above; if you’re contemplating writing a popular book, and aren’t sure whether it will negatively impact your chance of getting tenure, you’re probably too far gone for this list to even help you. But it’s worth a separate bullet point because even textbooks are beyond the pale. (Probably the worst thing I personally did was to write Spacetime and Geometry.) You might think that a long volume filled with equations that provides a real service to the community would help your case. It won’t; it will hurt it. Why? Because while you were writing that book, you weren’t doing research. Catching on? (Obviously I’m writing from a field where research is conveyed solely through papers, not books; if you’re in a field where the serious research is contained within scholarly books, then by all means write all the scholarly books you can.)

He also talks about bringing in grant money and about becoming well known IN YOUR FIELD. If this sounds strange, remember this: the mission of a research university is to generate knowledge and NOT to teach undergraduates. The undergrads in such a place have the opportunity to learn from researchers, but their learning is NOT the primary focus. And frankly, it shouldn’t be at those sorts of places.

And yes, it takes time, dedication and talent to succeed. I didn’t have enough of the latter.

2012 Election Nate Silver points out that the blog-o-sphere pays attention to different candidates than the media does. So, are the bloggers more in tune with what is going on? Maybe; on the other hand many fringe candidates (Ron Paul, Dennis Kucinich) have vocal, loyal followings. Yet neither are going anywhere.

The NASA space probe Messenger visited Mercury. Surf to Cosmic Log to see some photos; one of which is this:

Economy Robert Reich warns us:

Why aren’t Americans being told the truth about the economy? We’re heading in the direction of a double dip – but you’d never know it if you listened to the upbeat messages coming out of Wall Street and Washington.

Consumers are 70 percent of the American economy, and consumer confidence is plummeting. It’s weaker today on average than at the lowest point of the Great Recession.

The Reuters/University of Michigan survey shows a 10 point decline in March – the tenth largest drop on record. Part of that drop is attributable to rising fuel and food prices. A separate Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence, just released, shows consumer confidence at a five-month low — and a large part is due to expectations of fewer jobs and lower wages in the months ahead.

Pessimistic consumers buy less. And fewer sales spells economic trouble ahead.

What about the 192,000 jobs added in February? (We’ll know more Friday about how many jobs were added in March.) It’s peanuts compared to what’s needed. Remember, 125,000 new jobs are necessary just to keep up with a growing number of Americans eligible for employment.

Note: job additions were 200,000 which is enough to keep up with new job seekers but not enough to make a big dent in unemployment. Reich goes on to point out that the Republicans don’t want to admit this because it would lead to clamoring for more government, and of course President Obama doesn’t want to admit this.

Now Tim Pawlenty is also claiming that we are heading for a double dip:

we have Tim Pawlenty — who’s supposed to be the non-crazy non-Romney — saying things like this:

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) predicted Tuesday that the U.S. will face a double-dip recession that could last all the way until the 2012 elections.

The likely presidential candidate said the government, under President Obama, has devalued the dollar by injecting “fiat money” into the economy in an attempt to boost it — a plan he said will be damaging in the long-run.

Say what? Does this make any sense at all? Well no…though the double dip prediction might prove true:

Now, it’s perfectly clear, even from that small bit, that Pawlenty has absolutely no idea what he’s talking about — that he doesn’t know that we’ve had fiat money since 1933, when FDR took us off the gold standard, and that he also doesn’t know that Ben Bernanke, not Obama, controls the monetary base.

My guess is that Pawlenty was just repeating some phrases he’s heard from the Paulistas, and doesn’t even know the difference between monetary and fiscal policy. After all, he’s done this sort of thing before, going national with some false claims about government employment that he picked up from some right-wing document.

And this is what passes for presidential material.

Note: Robert Reich talks about consumer demand. It turns out now that demand is rising at the rate it always had; but a couple of years ago demand “jumped” downward.

From the Bonddad blog:

While consumers are spending, as shown in the chart above, there has been no sign of pent up demand. Real consumer spending on goods fell off its pre-2008 trend line during the recession and has since resumed its former pace with no indications that a surge in spending to make up for lost time is imminent.

The argument there is that this shift was one back to something that could be sustained (no more using the inflated price of one’s house as an ATM). That isn’t coming back.

Paul Krugman makes a compelling argument that this housing bubble collapse is also behind the lack of new investment; there is excess product and not enough demand.

March 31, 2011 Posted by | 2012 election, astronomy, economics, economy, education, humor, physics, politics, politics/social, religion, science, space, technology, Tim Pawlenty | 1 Comment

Just saying…..(nervous laugh…)

From the beginning to the modern Republican. 🙂

March 30, 2011 Posted by | evolution, humor, political humor, Republican | Leave a comment

30 March 2011 (am)

Last night I slept from about 6:30 to 5 am; those Meclizine pills just knocked me out….cold. So I got a late start on my run and it took 44 minutes to finish my hilly 4.2 mile course. Yes, darkness slowed me, but my body still has that “all gummed up” feeling.

I have to remember that my body is fighting an ear infection and that is where my resources must go; hence my workouts shouldn’t be much more that glorified warm-ups. I have to keep the effort to the “any faster than that won’t feel good” level.

Then came the after-the-workout-peel-off-50 pounds-of-sweaty-gear time; yes, it is still cold here (32 F, or 0 C).

Will it ever get warmer? Will I ever feel good again (during a workout?). Ok, the answer to the first question is yes (with probability of, say, 1 – 10^(-5). and the latter: probably.

Increasing entropy sucks. 🙂

The worst part: two spandex ladies came running past my house just as I started, and I had zero chance of catching them. 😦

March 30, 2011 Posted by | running, sickness, training | Leave a comment

29 March 2011 (am)

Workout Notes
yoga with Ms. V. in the morning; I was wobbly. Reason: I didn’t take my still lingering vertigo seriously enough and took more chances. The walk afterward with Lynn was a bust as she hurt her back again. But then after a quick breakfast, I did just over 5 hilly miles on my own (Bradley course where I did the old “hills” course; I turned right when I got to lower Bradley park and doubled back when I got to the bridge just outside the park. It took a pokey 1:17 for the whole thing.

Vertigo Better with the meds, but because I feel better when I am just sitting, I am starting to get up too quickly. I need to pay attention to it. But yes, it is better.

Social notes

Look at the contrast; we have Japanese corporations turning down tax breaks and US corporations threatening to leave if it thinks that taxes in a state are too high. Even funnier: you should see the Republicans trying to spin this on facebook.

A Republican friend is ribbing me about the data presented here. Basically, it records the answers to selected questions and shows that Republicans more frequently give the correct answers to most of the questions (a big exception is the question about evolution). I note with disgust that there is no question about, say, the age of the earth. I note with even more disgust that woo such as astrology is treated as being false (and it is) but there were no questions about resurrected bodies, walking on water by zombies to be, talking snakes, etc.

But never mind that; this data does show something that is very real: all too often those who vote the way I do embrace stupid ideas such as homeopathy and overreact to things such “barely over background” radiation exposure.

So I am of the following OPINION: Republicans do a better job of embracing new but proven technologies but do a bad job of accepting scientific findings that run counter to their cherished traditions. Democrats are too quick to embrace whatever fad comes along and are reluctant to embrace new but proven (relatively proven anyway) technologies.

I warmly welcome correction or discussion from those who can bring hard core facts to the discussion.

But more on Democrats and Republicans (based on 2008 election exit polls); and yes, independents are included in the samples, so this isn’t perfect:

So the data about more Democrats having false beliefs in some areas isn’t a surprise; we have lots of low-income and lower-educated voters.

More Science
You can fight fires with a “magic wand” ( that uses electrical fields to suppress the flames):

For two centuries, scientists have known that electric fields can interact with flames, but the effect from a continuous DC electric field was too small to have practical applications. “By applying oscillating fields, the effect was much, much larger,” Cademartiri said.

In the lab, researchers set up a 600-watt amplifier — with about the same power as a high-end car stereo system — and hooked it up to the wand. Then they pointed the wand at the base of a methane-fueled flame emanating from the orifice of a burner. Cademartiri said the wand’s electric field disrupted the flame and snuffed it out, even when the flame was cranked up to a height of 20 inches (50 centimeters).

“The electric field interacts with the charged particles in the flame — the electrons, ions and soot particles — and this collective motion of the charges in the electric field can lead to movement of the gas within the flame,” Cademartiri explained. “The mechanics of suppression is that the flame gets detached from the fuel source, so it gets pushed away. This is somewhat different from blowing on the flame.”

Bishop said that the flame-taming effect isn’t all that noticeable at low voltages. “The one thing that is new is the ability to use large, time-varying electric fields. … It’s only been recently that the high-voltage power supplies that make this kind of perturbation possible have become commercially available,” he told me.

Can this be made to be practically used? Who knows….the answer is usually “probably not”. But it is fun to think about.

What we can learn from studying the effects “after the fact”: often, nothing:

Early in his new book, Everything Is Obvious: *Once You Know the Answer (Crown Business, 2011), Duncan Watts tells a story about the late sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld, who once described an intriguing research result: Soldiers from a rural background were happier during World War II than their urban comrades. Lazarsfeld imagined that on reflection people would find the result so self-evident that it didn’t merit an elaborate study, because everyone knew that rural men were more used to grueling labor and harsh living standards. But there was a twist: the study he described showed the opposite pattern; it was urban conscripts who had adjusted better to wartime conditions. The rural effect was a pedagogical hoax designed to expose our uncanny ability to make up retrospective explanations for what we already believed to be true.

Though Lazarsfeld was writing 60 years ago, 20/20 hindsight is still very much with us.

There are a couple of issues here: sometimes one can back fit data and overfit; that is, if one tries hard enough, one can produce some correlation of factors with an event that already happened…and often this correlation is merely random. Also, when one looks backwards, one often has a bias at what one looks at; one ignores factors that may have been there that pointed to events that did NOT happen.

That is one reason why I never jumped on the “Blame President Bush for the 9-11 attacks” bandwagon. Sure he had the “Al Qeada determined to strike the US” report. But how often would such of a report been there? How many other terrorists organizations were determined to strike us? Sure, I blame President Bush for many other mistakes, but not that one; I really believe that was all but impossible to predict beforehand.

March 29, 2011 Posted by | 2008 Election, creationism, Democrats, economics, economy, education, evolution, Navel Staring, physics, political humor, politics, politics/social, Republican, republican party, republicans, republicans political/social, republicans politics, training, walking | Leave a comment

28 March 2011 late pm

Workout 5.2-5.3 mile run in 52:56; this was my West Peoria course that I did in 53:36 3 weeks earlier. My legs felt fine but I was just slow. Afterward I did my rotator cuff exercises.

I might just have an excuse…

Vertigo notes It was a good thing that I went to the doctor; evidently I have an inner ear infection; she said that it was “full blown” in my left ear and that she was surprised that I wasn’t in pain. I did feel “full” and felt a sensation…kind of a clogging.
So now I have some nice drugs and should be feeling much better in 2-3 days.

I still feel good enough to make my yoga class tomorrow and do a short walk with Lynn.

One other note: every time I get an infection or a virus, my old or “just healed” injuries hurt. It is strange.

March 28, 2011 Posted by | running, shoulder rehabilitation, sickness, training | 2 Comments

Now THIS is awesome.

Just read.

(hat tip: here)

March 28, 2011 Posted by | world events | Leave a comment

27 March 2011 pm

I finished some grading this afternoon. So I treated myself to a weight workout.
But perhaps that was a mistake; I was bothered by vertigo during it. It wasn’t a major deal; I just waited until the spinning went away to do a set and I played it safe with what I did.

Squats: Smith machine: 10 x 135, 10 x 155, 6 x 175, 5 x 185
curls: 3 sets of 15 x 20 lb. dumbbells, 1 set of 4 with a barbell (2 10’s on each side)
incline press: 10 x 115, 4 x 135, 4 x 135 (vertigo limited), 9 x 120
rows: 3 sets of 10 with 200
pull down: 3 sets of 10 with 120, shoulder friendly grip
sit ups: 4 sets of 25, different inclines
rotator cuff exercises.

Physically, I felt strong, but at times, between sets, it felt as if I were lifting weights on a ship at sea.
Again, I played it safe.
I see the doctor tomorrow (I “haz” appointment)

Amusing vertigo note: I read for a bit on my bed. When I got up, the room started to spin, so I turned my head to the right and looked at something on the wall. What I ended up looking at was a line drawing on the wall over my nightstand. Yes, it is a “nude” of a female….from behind….I won’t tell you who it is a drawing of, but I will tell you it was given to me as a present by a woman that I dated 16 years ago and that my wife doesn’t mind my having this on the wall. So for once, I can say that I was looking at a woman’s butt for medicinal purposes…and say so honestly. 🙂

Amusing quote
Via St. Augustine:

“The good Christian should beware the mathematician and all those who make empty prophecies. The danger already exists that the mathematicians have made a covenant with the devil to darken the spirit and to confine man in the bonds of hell.”


“One does not read in the Gospel that the Lord said: “I will send you the Paraclete who will teach you about the course of the sun and moon.” For He willed to make them Christians, not mathematicians.”

Yes, I know……if you want to know the context, google it. Of course, the shouting matches between those who hold competing superstitions amuse me; it reminds me a bit of Zeus vs. Thor.

March 28, 2011 Posted by | religion, sickness, superstition, weight training | Leave a comment

I love the Rat Character in Pearls Before Swine

From here.

March 27, 2011 Posted by | humor, social/political | Leave a comment