blueollie

Intellectual Lunch Topics (and one topic: not so much)

Mars: in October 2014, Mars will get a close encounter with a comet (“close” in astronomical terms). It might get showered with debris from the tail, or, less likely, get slammed by the main part of the comet. Via Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy column in Slate:

The comet is called C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered on Jan. 3, 2013 by the Australian veteran comet hunter Robert McNaught. As soon as it was announced, astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey looked at their own data and found it in observations from Dec. 8, 2012, which helped nail down the orbit (I explain how that works in a previous article about asteroid near-misses). Extrapolating its orbit, they found it will make a very near pass of Mars around Oct. 19, 2014, missing the planet by the nominal distance of about 100,000 kilometers (60,000 miles).

Observations taken at the ISON-NM observatory in New Mexico just this week have tightened up the orbit a bit more, allowing for better predictions. Given this new data, the comet may actually pass closer to Mars; another veteran comet hunter, Leonid Elenin, predicts it may get as close as 37,000 km (23,000 miles) of the surface of Mars!

That’s pretty dang close. But this gets even more interesting.

Surf to the article to read more; since the comet’s path might be altered by things like venting of internal gasses, the exact path is impossible to predict.

Knots This is a nice article about “knotted vortexes” and a video that shows one such:

By Lizzie Wade

After a century of studying their tangled mathematics, physicists can tie almost anything into knots, including their own shoelaces and invisible underwater whirlpools. At least, they can now thanks to a little help from a 3D printer and some inspiration from the animal kingdom.

Physicists had long believed that a vortex could be twisted into a knot, even though they’d never seen one in nature or the even in the lab. Determined to finally create a knotted vortex loop of their very own, physicists at the University of Chicago designed a wing that resembles a delicately twisted ribbon and brought it to life using a 3D printer.

After submerging their masterpiece in water and using electricity to create tiny bubbles around it, the researchers yanked the wing forward, leaving a similarly shaped vortex in its wake. Centripetal force drew the bubbles into the center of the vortex, revealing its otherwise invisible, knotted structure and allowing the scientists to see how it moved through the fluid—an idea they hit on while watching YouTube videos of dolphins playing with bubble rings.By Lizzie Wade

After a century of studying their tangled mathematics, physicists can tie almost anything into knots, including their own shoelaces and invisible underwater whirlpools. At least, they can now thanks to a little help from a 3D printer and some inspiration from the animal kingdom.

Physicists had long believed that a vortex could be twisted into a knot, even though they’d never seen one in nature or the even in the lab. Determined to finally create a knotted vortex loop of their very own, physicists at the University of Chicago designed a wing that resembles a delicately twisted ribbon and brought it to life using a 3D printer.

After submerging their masterpiece in water and using electricity to create tiny bubbles around it, the researchers yanked the wing forward, leaving a similarly shaped vortex in its wake. Centripetal force drew the bubbles into the center of the vortex, revealing its otherwise invisible, knotted structure and allowing the scientists to see how it moved through the fluid—an idea they hit on while watching YouTube videos of dolphins playing with bubble rings.[…]

The video is showing a trefoil knot.

Nature I am not a big fan of whale hunting. But this hunt gave scientists a chance to examine the head of bowhead whale. It turns out that the whale has a very large, “penis like” organ in its mouth; it is capable of holding a lot of blood. Reasons? One conjecture is that it helps the bowhead whale keep its head cool (though it swims in cold waters, it carries a LOT of blubber). This organ also has lots of nerve endings, so it might be a “how much food is in the water I just swallowed” sensor.

Technology
progress

Social

On the other end: this is one reason I am not a big fan of “concealed carry” laws:

MARCH 4–Angered that a Walmart employee refused to honor a “dollar-off” coupon, a Florida woman allegedly retrieved a handgun from her car and waved the weapon at several store employees, police allege.

I’d love to see the data which compares “heroes” with guns to this sort of behavior. Which is more common? I have a guess, but no data to back it up.

March 5, 2013 Posted by | astronomy, mathematics, nature, physics, science, social/political, space | Leave a comment

Tough Lessons, Awesome Science, Less than Awesome running

Workout notes Weights, then 25 laps (about 5K; just under I think) on the track in 26:37:
9:06, 8:37, 7:52, 1:00.

Weights:
rotator cuff
abs.
Pull ups: 4 sets of 10 (one broken), 1 set of 7, 1 of 3.
super set: dumbbell rows, dumbbell bench, pull downs, pulley curls
3 sets of 10 each; only oddity: one set of dumbbell benches was with 10 x 70 lb.
incline presses: 8 x 135, 10 x 135
military presses: (dumbbell): 10 x 50, 12 x 50, then 10 x 80 machine.
I did 3 circuits of abs: vertical crunch, sit back, weighted crunches, twists (3 sets of 10 each)
then stretches, etc. Lots of hip-hikes (80 each leg)

posts

Wasps: these do most of their work at night.

Science/technology
This is fascinating: our scientists and engineers are finding ways to download data from the brain to the computer..in a direct way. Scientists at Brown University have come up with a wireless interface!

Academia This is a tough lesson for a student to learn:

From a first-year student’s email after she realized her draft would need serious, major revision in the next two days to earn a passing grade on the final:

“I feel really stressed out and overwhelmed because every time I think I do a good job on something it turns out my work is average.”

What is it about this that is making me crack up a little? Maybe the sound of shattered snowflake dreams crashing to the ground pushes on my funny bone, I don’t know.

Guess what: if you go to graduate school (at a research university): it is even worse. If you get your Ph. D. and then go to research conferences: worse still.

It is interesting, but when I was in high school, I thought that I was smart. The higher up I went and the more I achieved academically, the more I felt like a complete moron.

March 5, 2013 Posted by | education, nature, running, science, technology, weight training | , , , | Leave a comment