Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday Omphaloskepsis: I like small houses, but this is a bit extreme

I am enamored with small houses, and I like the idea of living in a small house: you have to pare down the things that you have, since (unless you buy a storage facility) you just don't have enough space to put things in a small house. In addition, much like in a boat, the need to conserve space means that you have to multi-purpose many pieces of furniture, doing things like making a staircase act as the framing for a storage area or having multifunctional furniture. I find these projects interesting, because I find the solutions need to be innovative and, therefore, the construction and design challenges interest me.

Of course, there are cases where small might be a little TOO small. Thus is (potentially, at least for me) the case with the Keret House in Warsaw, billed as the "world's narrowest house" (probably not, but who's really counting).

Via Inhabitat:
Could you live in house no wider than a door frame? Etgar Keret can. The Israeli writer is now the proud owner of the world’s narrowest building, a home so tiny that you might not even notice it if you’re not looking hard. The house, which is less than five feet across at its widest part (three feet at its narrowest) was designed by Polish architect Jakub Szczesny and is located in Warsaw, the country’s capital.

Kinda narrow and a little too vertical for my tastes. After all, I am a kind of broad-in-the-shoulders guy, and so a house that narrows to about 3 feet will be a little... close. Furthermore, in a previous story on Keret House, Inhabitat reported the following about the amenities:
Electricity will be provided by a neighboring host building, and a water and sewage system in the small space will be free-standing, much like systems used on boats. The first floor of the living space is a work space and a lounge. The second level, reachable by ladder, fits a sleeping loft with a skylight. The top space can be used for storage.
I wonder how much sunlight this house actually gets, and how would one go about cleaning that skylight?

It's all kind of cool and fun and interesting, but - for me at least - it takes things just a little bit further than my interest.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Gonna disconnect for a bit

It's pretty clear that writing itself is not really a problem for me. Nor, too, is the quality of the framing and the composition of my writing. In 2012, I've already written more blog posts (by far) than in any other year. I do, however, have this small thing called a "dissertation" to which I actually need to focus my time and attention.

To that end, I'll be disconnecting myself from all the social media that have been picking away at my time and attention. No more blogging, no more Facebook, and no more Google news feed. I'll also try to limit e-mail to the first and last things at work.

By diminishing sources of inconsistent and unpredictable rewards (e.g., e-mail, Facebook), I will hopefully be able to focus my time and attention more efficiently, rather than spending time procrastinating and being distracted (and stressed over things that I can't really control).

There will be some posts that will go up -- things that are scheduled for posting -- but after that, nothing for a little bit.

Adios for now!

Friday Photos: Autumn Pictures from Saginaw Forest

Some photos of the changing season:

The poison ivy are about to lose their leaves. (Still bad to touch them, though.)

The maples near the gate are slowly moving toward their color shifts.

I decided to quit my raking of the path after I realized how much work was going to be falling from branches in the coming weeks. Still: they need to be raked so that they don't turn into muddy lanes come the spring.

Almost stepped on this guy as I was going back into the cabin. He wasn't any wider than my finger!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Wednesday Wonderings: What if you fixed the false statements that Romney keeps making?

It seems like Mr. Romney has a habit of saying false things (there are two pages of Romney falsehoods on PolitiFact). I’m not saying that he came up with these lies, but he is definitely choosing to use them for his own gain. However, I’d like to take this time to correct some of the things he said.

“Regulations have quadrupled stayed the same. The rate of regulations quadrupled effectively remained the same under this president.”

"In one yearOver the course of several years of investments in local projects, (President Obama) provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world … into solar and wind, roads and rail, cars and trains, tax credits and interest subsidies, and direct loans and loan guarantees, to Solyndra and Fisker and Tesla and Ener1, local government projects, state government transit infrastructure, energy retrofits for private homes and small businesses, environmental restoration projects, clean coal technology development, wind turbine manufacturing, and solar panel manufacturing, among many other things that brought about a great deal of local and regional stimulus."

"The president said he’d cut the deficit in half. Unfortunately, he doubled it He has diminished the deficit from $1.41 trillion in 2009 to $1.09 trillion in 2012, which is not halving it, but it is far better than what he inherited."

"Where did all the Obama stimulus money go? ... Electric cars from Finland. Electric car development by the company Fiskers got money at the end of the George W. Bush administration, and it only happened to get disbursed during the Obama administration."

" ‘Obamacare’ stops private insurance companies putting panels of actuaries that ration care that you've paid for while simultaneously actively lobbing to put the federal government between you and your doctor."

"[When I was governor of Massachusetts,] we didn’t just slow increased the rate of growth of our government, we actually cut grew it by 5% per year."

"We have to open up markets for our goods. We haven't done that under this president. ... This president has opened up none three new markets, despite the best effort of the GOP to stop him: South Korea, Colombia and Panama. If the GOP worked with him, doubtless there would be more trade agreements."

"Today (February 11, 2012) there are more men and women out of work or working in part-time jobs in the United States of America than there are people working in Canada, which has a total population 1/9th the size of the US. And in the month of January, Canada created more new jobs than we did. But these numbers only work if we really fudge the crap out of them."

"Never before in American history has its president gone before so many foreign audiences to apologize for so many American misdeeds, and President Obama is no exception. My party's intolerance of anything that approaches the idea of being realistic about the not-always-stain-free history of the United States makes us truly believe that Obama made apologies for the United States' past actions, both real and imagined. We also don't want to remember that George W. Bush apologized to the Iraqis and the Afghans for the seriously poor judgement of many of our soldiers, as well as apologizing to the Chinese for spying on them. We also don't want to remember that George H. W. Bush apologized to Japanese Americans for their treatment in World War 2."

"I don't have a whole boatload of lobbyists running my campaign."

There are many more falsehoods listed on the Politifact page, and only a few are closely related statements. I wonder when Politifact will start rating his false statements from the three debates. Perhaps it will asplode their website, though...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Musings: Why do people park in front of the No Parking sign?

Yesterday, I encountered a few vehicles that were parked at the gate, despite the plain signage that says that it is not legal to park there. For example, there was this SUV that was parked right in front of the "No parking" sign (just in case you had a difficult time to recognize the sign, what with all the colorful foliage, I've highlighted the sign):

No parking

What's more, I decided to look up how many of the previous caretakers kvetched about no parking.

In 2007, in 1991, in 1989 (twice), and in 1987 In other words, it's been a consistent problem.

And I'm sure that the previous caretakers didn't note every single instance of having to report a vehicle (and not every caretaker wrote in the log book, either). I think that the number of people parking at the gate has diminished, but it is still higher than what would be the case if people followed the law.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday Photo: Photos from SNRE's campfire

Last Friday, October 12, 2012, was SNRE's annual Homecoming Campfire, and welcoming back of the class of 1962. It was a good turnout this year, with Beet Box providing the food, and the speed at which the food disappeared is a testament to how awesome it was! (It disappeared so fast that - between all the activities I was doing - I wasn't able to take a photo of the spread!)

Anyway, before the Campfire, there was some additional log-splitting that needed doing:
Chopped log
... and I really like that new Fiskars splitting axe that I purchased at the start of the month. It made short work of those ash logs. It's sharp, keeps an great edge, has a perfect wedge for splitting, is well balanced, and is not stupidly heavy.

Prep work also included moving the row boats to a different location:
Moving the row boats

One can't have people taking pleasure rides in the middle of the night, right? And, also, with all the boats there, it makes it difficult to safely run the wader races:
Wader races

Happily, we were able to run the wader race early enough in the evening that we didn't have to do the log-sawing competition in the dark:
Log sawing
... looking back through my photos, I think that this was the first time in a number of years that the log sawing was done during daylight hours. Usually, it has been illuminated by the headlamps and flashlights of all the cheering SNREds.

It was a great honor of mine to also take the alumni of the class of 1962 on a tour of the forest; a place that they had come many times 50 years previous, when they were forestry students. They asked many interesting questions, were heartened to know that the property was still being used for research and teaching, were a little discouraged about the consequences of the lack of serious investment in the property, and generally curious about what changes I knew of that had happened between the time of their graduation and last Friday. What was meant to be a 40 minute tour of the lake trail turned into a discussion that was more than an hour long about many different aspects of the history and ecology of the forest. Hopefully, SNRE's alumni relations will help in trying to get these former students to recount some of their memories of the forest.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tuesday Video: ...- .- -.. .-. ..- -- / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. .

...- .- -.. .-. ..- -- / - . .- -.-. .... . ... / -- --- .-. ... . / -.-. --- -.. . .-.-.- / .--- ..- ... - / --- -. . / -- --- .-. . / - .... .. -. --. / - .... .- - / .- / -.. .-. ..- -- / -.- .. - / -.-. .- -. / .... . .-.. .--. / -.-- --- ..- / .-- .. - .... .-.-.-

Want a translation? Click here for an English-Morse code translator.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sunday Thoughts: Well, that took a bit out of me

Saturday was a day of rest and a general mental haze. Running the Campfire really took it out of me this year, I guess. Still, it was a great time, and there were not many things to pick up afterwards. Now, as the material of the Campfire are being taken away, I am turning toward work.

It's also really a warm and rainy day, with an expected high temperature of 70F. From a low temperature last night of 26F, I am kinda digging this weather.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friday Photo: SNRE Campfire!

This will be the fourth campfire for which I will be the on-the-ground organizer (you know, because I'm the caretaker). The campfire is part of the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment's Homecoming celebrations. We're expecting to have a handful of 1962 alumni at the event, in addition to the local alums who are interested in showing up and showing how things are done. Events like this always seem to gel at the last minute (much like a good souffle), but since tonight is the night, I haven't any photos from this year's campfire.

However, this is a photo from my first year as caretaker (2009). That year, the Campfire was on October 1, 2009, and - as you can see - the trees on the far side of the lake hadn't quite turned yet.

Learning the history of Saginaw Forest

Hopefully, it will be a great Campfire event.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: The length of Chile in the context of the US and the UK

Note: I had this posted yesterday by mistake. Obviously yesterday wasn't Thursday, so I don't know what I was thinking. :D

Chile is an interesting county in that it's very long and narrow and is situated almost entirely along a north-south axis. In these two ways, it is quite different from almost any other country in the world. The closest contender for narrowness and north-south-ness is Argentina, but it is not as long nor as narrow as Chile.

I recently had a British friend and an American friend ask me how long Chile is, and I realized that an answer of "roughly 4300 km (2700 mi)" would be about as unsatisfactory as providing them with today's date in terms of the number of seconds past since January 1, 2000, 12:00:00 AM, US Pacific Time. The distance of 4300 km (2700 mi) is too large to relate to everyday sorts of distances nor of distances that most people would normally and regularly travel. However, people do have a rough idea of how far city X is from city Y from having studied maps, so what would be equivalent distances of travel between cities to get an approximation of the length of Chile?

Well, for my USA-ian friends, a distance of 4300 km (2700 mi) is roughly equivalent to the straight-line distance from southwest border with Mexico at San Diego, CA to the northeast border with Canada at Houlton, ME (a distance of 2750 mi). It's also roughly the straight-line distance from Miami, FL to Seattle, WA (a distance of 2730 mi).

For my UK-ian friends, a distance of 4300 km (2700 mi) is roughly equivalent to four and a half times the straight-line distance from Land's End to John O' Groats (602 mi * 4.5 = 2709 mi). Taking the cycling length of Land's End to John O' Groats (874 mi), if you start at Land's End, you'd cycle all the way to John O' Groats, cycle back to Land's End, and then cycle back to John O' Groats, and then you'd be covering roughly the same distance as the length of Chile.

As a bonus, the average width of Chile is 175 km (109 mi), and this is a distance that most people can relate to. For my friends living in Michigan, this is the driving distance of Ann Arbor to Grand Rapids (i.e., from the bastion of Democrats to the bastion of Republicans). For my friends living in Scotland, this is roughly the distance from Inverness to Fort William and back again. Of course, driving the width of Chile is a little more difficult than driving the width of Michigan or the width of (much of) the UK: in Chile, you start at sea-level on the west and then climb to 10,000 ft or more, often on several switch-back roads (of - unfortunately - diminishing quality). Therefore, the trip the coastal city of Valparaiso, Chile to the border with Argentina at the Uspallata Pass (one of only a few overland border crossings between Chile and Argentina, despite their extensive border) is a distance of over 200 km, starting at 0 ft above sea level and rising to 12,500 ft (3810 m), and takes several hours to make.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Wednesday Wonderings: Why does mist rise from the lakes in the morning?

During the fall, there many morning when Third Sister Lake produces gouts of mist and steam:

Steaming lake

What's going on here? Obviously, the lake is not boiling, and - obviously - there isn't a general fog blanketing the entire forest, so why does the lake look like a pot on the stove? Well, it's due to many of the same principles of what happens when water boils in a pot on the stove, namely evaporation and condensation, but you have to think of these things in terms of heat energy and NOT in terms of water temperature alone.

In the case of boiling water on a stove, water is heated, causing evaporation; the gaseous water requires a certain amount of heat energy to maintain its gaseous state, and if the heat energy of the gaseous water falls below the condensation point, it turns back into liquid water, forming a fine mist. The mist increases in density as the amount of condensing water increases. This is why you see more and more steam rising from a pot of water as it reaches boiling point.

However, it's not only the temperature of the water that you have to consider when thinking about steam formation. In addition to the process of condensation described above, there is also the humidity to consider. In other words, the air itself can only "hold" a certain amount of gaseous water, and this capacity is determined by the temperature of the air; the higher the air temperature, the more water can be held as a gas. This is why there's a lot more steam seen above a pot boiling in very humid conditions than in very dry conditions (even when the air temperatures are identical).

In the case of misty lakes in the morning, all these processes are happening, just like in the example of the boiling pot, except the temperatures are far lower. Throughout the summer, the lake has absorbed and retained a large amount of heat energy in the top layer of the lake. At night -- especially on cloudless nights -- the heat energy in the air rises away from the surface and escapes this local system, thus bringing down the temperature. There is evaporation taking place in the lake, both day and night, thanks to the higher temperatures of the surface of the lake. However, unlike during the heat of the day, at night, since there is a lower temperature, there is less capacity for the air to hold on to gaseous water, and we can measure this as an increase in humidity. As the humidity rises to 100%, the air has a diminishing capacity to hold on to all the water that is evaporating -- due to the heat of the water in the lake -- and so the water almost immediately condenses into mist as it rises from the lake. In fact, if you heat a pot to the same temperature of the lake water, you would see steam flowing up from your pot, even though the water temperature is nowhere near boiling.

Once the sun's rays strike the surface of the water, the humidity is "burned away", in that the local temperature increases enough so that the humidity drops below 100%, thus allowing the air to once again absorb the evaporating water.

Of course, the reason why the lake effectively billows with steam during early fall mornings is due to the relatively large amount of heat stored in the lake combined with one or two significantly cold mornings. The photo above was taken on September 24, 2012, and if we look at the weather conditions measured at the Ann Arbor airport (about five miles away), we see that the overnight temperature dropped to freezing, and the humidity was near saturation. (Of course, this was in an open field, not above a lake, where the saturation would have been 100%.)

20120924 Overnight temps

Yeah, okay, so this was a bit of a rambling post, but I hope that it helped you understand (if you didn't already) why so much mist rises off the lake on cool autumnal mornings. Of course, there is little reason to necessarily understand the why in order to appreciate the effect. In the end, fall is a veritable feast of sights, just like spring was one of smells, and summer one of sounds.

Monday, October 08, 2012

A strange omission at

Since today is "Columbus Day" in the US, posted a front-page story entitled, "Why is it called America, not Columbusia?"

Their explanation:
American place names can sound pretty confusing even to native English speakers. From Philadelphia (Greek for “loving brother”) to Chicago (Algonquian Fox for “place of the wild onion”), the map of America is an etymological hodge-podge. For a clear example, take three adjacent states in New England. Vermont is an inverted, rough translation of the French for “green mountain,” mont vert. Massachusetts is derived from the name of the Native American people who lived in the area, the Algonquian Massachusett. The word meant “at the large hill.” New Hampshire comes from a county in southern England. Why do we call a turkey turkey? Learn about the history of nation’s favorite bird, the turkey, here.

But what about America itself? Why aren’t the continents of North and South America called “Columbusia” after Christopher Columbus? The word America comes from a lesser-known navigator and explorer, Amerigo Vespucci. Who made the decision? A cartographer.

Like Columbus, Vespucci traveled to the New World (first in 1499 and again in 1502). Unlike Columbus, Vespucci wrote about it. Vespucci’s accounts of his travels were published in 1502 and 1504 and were very widely read in Europe. Columbus was also hindered because he thought he had discovered another route to Asia; he didn’t realize America was a whole new continent. Vespucci, however, realized that America was not contiguous with Asia. He was also the first to call it the New World, or Novus Mundus in Latin, in his books.

With the discovery of this “New World”, maps were being redrawn all the time. No one really knew what land was where or how big it was. Because of this confusion, maps from the 1500s are incredibly inaccurate and contradictory. (They also often feature drawings of mythical sea creatures.) In 1507, a German cartographer named Martin Waldseemüller was drawing a map of the world–a very serious map. He called it the Universalis Cosmographia, or Universal Cosmography. Comprised of 12 wooden panels, it was eight feet wide and four-and-a-half feet tall. He based his drawings of the New World on Vespucci’s published travelogues. All countries were seen as feminine (like her lady Liberty today), so Waldseemüller used a feminine Latinized of Amerigo to name the new continents, “America.” Cartographers tended to copy one another’s choices, so Columbus was left off the map. The rest is history.

Today, an original of Waldseemüller’s map is permanently on display at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

What do you think of America’s unlikely origin?
Happily, the first comment pointed to the strange omission on the part of
Wouldn’t “Columbia” be a more likely name than “Columbusia”, considering that Columbus personally changed his name from Colombo to make it more Latinized?
We, of course, have a country called "Colombia" and we have many mentions of (the slightly Anglicized) "Columbia" throughout much of the United States (including the name of the federal capital of the U.S.: "Washington, District of Columbia"

Monday Musings: Language as a Window

Some people might have noticed that - since a few years ago - I've been writing more about language topics. It's something that I've come to think of more and more these past years, especially since I started learning Spanish and also helping international students with their writing.

I saw this video, and thought that this encapsulates so many of the points of why I might have become more interested in yet another topic of study that isn't technically mine or in my field of study.

Steven Pinker - Psychologist, Cognitive Scientist, and Linguist at Harvard University

How did humans acquire language? In this lecture, best-selling author Steven Pinker introduces you to linguistics, the evolution of spoken language, and the debate over the existence of an innate universal grammar. He also explores why language is such a fundamental part of social relationships, human biology, and human evolution. Finally, Pinker touches on the wide variety of applications for linguistics, from improving how we teach reading and writing to how we interpret law, politics, and literature.

The Floating University
Originally released September, 2011.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday Thoughts: Pedalling a bus? Potentially, yes!

This is just kinda cool, from Brazil, an idea for having a pedal-power assisted bus. Via Inhabitat, we learn that there is a design from "Rever Design Studio for a cycling double decker bus. On the second level, there are 24-27 active passenger cycles to assist in generating the power reserve of the electric bus. The lower level of the bus is for passive passengers and a bus driver. The double decker bus also comes with a back room for more than 30 folding or non-folding bicycles."

I think that this could be an interesting way to travel around Rio. (The question is, though, whether people would prefer to pedal on a bus or pedal alongside and between them...)

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Night sky treats for October 2012

via Andromeda's Wake

The October skies are full of treats. This video is primarily intended for stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere. Twitter!

Meteor observations should be submitted to

BBC Sky at Night at the Brecon Beacons Starparty (an event organised by yours truly :P)

Saturday Omphaloskepsis: Romney's flag pin

If you watched the presidential candidates' debate on Wednesday, you might have noticed a few things about the flag pins that were adorning each candidate's lapels.

1st, Romney had a larger flag pin. Not that this is so important, but it is to that mindless nationalism that exists out there.

2nd, Romney had a kind of blob on his flag pin. Based on a story about right wing outrage about how Obama was breaking the flag code, I wondered at the time if Romney would receive the same treatment for what appeared to be disrespect for the flag code - specifically the part that says:
The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.
However, as photos from the Huffington Post show, the flag pin is sporting the emblem of the Secret Service:

The flag code doesn't - itself - say whether this is technically "allowed" or whether it is technically "disrespectful". The closest that I can find is:
No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations. The flag represents a living country and is itself considered a living thing. Therefore, the lapel flag pin being a replica, should be worn on the left lapel near the heart.
Still, although there is no mention of putting an agency's emblem on the flag, poking around the Google searches, I haven't found any branch of the military nor any of a half-dozen civilian agencies that actually have their emblems super-imposed on the flag. However, the lapel pin with the US Secret Service (USSS) emblem does keep showing up.

Beyond the question of whether it's a flag code violation, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have been spotted sporting these pins before, and I have to agree with Pied Type when they say:
Can Romney and Ryan not remember to bring their own pins? Do they maintain pin collections and choose a “pin du jour” appropriate for that day’s audience? As I’ve asked before, since when is a simple, unadorned USA flag pin not good enough?

And yes, I object to the Secret Service pin, too. Wear the flag. Wear a Secret Service emblem. One or the other. Both or neither. But please don’t stick the SS emblem on the flag.

And don’t wear a Secret Service pin if you’re not in the Secret Service.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Friday Photo: A Chinese map showing the path to Eden

The Strange Maps blog over at Big Think entitled its latest entry, "East is Eden: Adam and Eve's Chinese Garden". It's an interesting description about the man who made the map that showed where he believed Eden actually was, which was in China. As Frank Jacobs explains:
They are the work of Tse Tsan-tai (1872-1938), a Chinese revolutionary, newspaperman and Christian propagandist. Born in Sydney and baptised James Yee, Tse moved to Hong Kong whence he started agitating for the Qing dynasty on the mainland to be replaced by a democratic republic. The plot failed to come to fruition, and Tse had more success co-founding the South China Morning Post in 1903.

The second map gives an indication of the geopositional shoehorning Tse applied to the geographical indications in Genesis, identifying India with Havilah. The result is the location of Eden in what appears to be a most unlikely place: an area between the Tarim River and the Kuen Lun Mountains better known today as the Taklamakan Desert. The area, now the world’s second-largest sand desert after the Empty Quarter in Arabia, is one of the most inhospitable places on earth.

Yeah: right in the middle of the map is Eden. That location appears to be roughly where the green arrow is:

View Untitled in a larger map

Apparently, all you need to do is head west from Bayingol along G314, and then turn south at Luntai, taking S165. Forty miles after you cross the (most likely) dry river, drive west into the desert.

This is a rather fanciful notion, since it (also) contradicts the biological evidence, but when it comes to the issue of religion, it seems that science takes a back seat. Still, it reminded me of that really-quite-bad-but-fun-to-watch Taiwanese film, The Treasure Hunter.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Just how DOES wireless charging work?

I've been thinking about getting a wireless charging station. Partly just because I want to have one; partly because I don't like to remove my AA rechargeable batteries every time I have to recharge them; partly because a part of me thinks that they're likely "green" or something. Of course, I know that I don't need a wireless charger, since most of my battery-operated items share their charging cables (either miniUSB or microUSB) and the rest of them are AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. I also suspect that the current rechargeable batteries that I own can't become recharged without removing them from their appliances, anyway, thus making moot the main points that I had for purchasing them. (A sneaking part of me has always felt that these aren't any more "green" than what I own, either.)

However, here comes a post from PhysOrg that - through the touting of Nokia's new smart phones - explains how wireless charging works. It's basically the process of electrostatic induction:
A transmitter coil is positioned at the bottom (L1) and the receiver coil (L2) is situated at the top and these coils are embedded into different electrical devices. L1 would be the ... Charging Plate and L2 would be the [device]...

An alternating current in the transmitter coil generates a magnetic field, which induces a voltage in the receiver coil. This voltage is then used to charge up the device.

According to Wikipedia, electrostatic induction was first described by the Swedish professor Johan Carl Wilcke in 1762. The first documentation of using this process for wireless charging was published in 1999. I suppose that sometime technological processes take a couple of centuries to begin to mature, which means that we have no idea about the future impacts of what we think of today as a mere "curiosity" of science. (We likely have little knowledge now of how this process of wireless charging will affect how we use energy storage, either.)

On the point of language, in the story on PhysOrg, there mentioned a wireless charging standard out there called "Qi":
Nokia has adopted the Qi (pronounced chi) standard in their wireless charging devices. Qi was created by the Wireless Power Consortium and is used by over 100 different companies around the world, and is the only globally adopted interface. Plus, because it's used globally, you'll be able to charge up wirelessly in different places around the world.
 What's interesting about this (to me at least) is three things:
  1. The choice of the Pinyin spelling, "Qi", over the more legible Wade-Giles, "Ch'i",  or the simplified Wade-Giles, "Chi". I guess that it is likely due to its priority use in Qina China.
  2. The choice of the Far Eastern , a metaphysical analogue of the West's aether/ether to describe energy movement filling the air is kind of interesting; it shows that there is an interest in the West for inclusion of Eastern concepts, but it also hints at the growing dominance of the Far East in areas of technological development. (I wonder if the spelling will be in Latin script in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and China, or if they will resolve the concept into their respective scripts.)
  3. The prior use of the term "ether" in high tech was to assign it to the faster-than-telephone (but wired) connection to the Internet: ethernet. This effectively puts the term "ether" out of play until the concept of the ethernet falls into obscurity. In a similar way, if Qi becomes massively widespread, then it will leave an indelible stamp on technological jargon. This will then mean that it will unlikely find use in another, newer, process, thus allowing for another culture's analogous concept to qi/aether to arise and be used. This leapfrogging of different cultures to the front of the technological jargon "queue" is kind of an interesting thing to watch, and if things work out for India, then we could well be talking about "prana" or "akasha" systems.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Wednesday Wonderings: Confirmation bias and inability to prove a negative

Scott Lemieux has an article in the American Prospect about "Dems and Reproductive Rights: BFFs", and he makes a very useful point - one that many pundits fail to make, since the narrative is far more interesting than the facts, figures, and statistics:
The conventional wisdom would suggest that supporting reproductive rights is, on net, a national net negative for the Democrats. I see little basis for this belief. The consistent two-for-one public support for Roe v. Wade certainly puts the burden of proof on those who argue that abortion is a net loser for the Democrats in presidential politics. Moreover, contrary to the assumption of many pundits, affluent, educated voters (who are relatively more socially liberal) generally place a higher priority on social issues than working-class voters do. To give another example, claims that same-sex marriage swung the 2004 election for George W. Bush turned out to be empirically wrong. Again, too many pundits focused on the opponents of same-sex marriage that referenda might have mobilized, while ignoring the affluent suburban voters who were alienated by Republican demagoguery on the issue.
To me this is another example - of many - that seem to show that people get all caught up with narrative, and the (conveniently?) forget that there are actual measurables out there that would break their confirmation bias to smithereens. However, so long as they don't look at them, or so long as the narrative continues, there is no need to actually face the chance that their biases are wrong.

What makes this comment different from the right-wingers and GOP-watchers who are currently saying that the polls are all biased against their candidate, Mitt Romney? Well, I'd like to think that their position is consistent with the hypothesis of confirmation bias - they believe that their candidate is better than the other candidate and any attempt to show an alternate reality is actually a overt campaign of attacking their reasonable and wonderful candidate. Therefore, when polls were showing a widening gap against Mr. Romney, it couldn't be that their wonderful candidate was falling behind in the race to a socialist/communist/muslim/atheist/Kenyan not-president who has to read everything off a teleprompter and had everything handed to him due to his race. No: it has to be due to their candidate getting short shrift from "the lame stream, super liberal media". I mean, it had to be true, since all the media outlets kept talking about it, and all the major media outlets had long been labelled as "liberal". The process has gone so far that many on the right have taken to the notion that all the polls have a consistent liberal bias; every single one of them (except for Rasmussen), and there's even been a website created that has "unSkewed" the polls (by skewing the results in favor of Romney by mis-understanding and mis-using the methodology of the Rasmussen polls. (Unfortunately, even "Unskewed Polls" is now showing Obama leading Romney by 4%... so does this mean that this wonderful site is actually ... skewed?)

In comparison, I'd like to think that I can change my opinion when presented with facts of how things are actually happening or how they actually turned out. To that end, I think that this "political wisdom" that Democrats shouldn't endorse so many topics of the bygone culture wars - gay marriage, abortion rights, religious tolerance, teaching science in public schools, gun control, etc. - is just wrong, and built on a false narrative of a sweeping campaign that swept Reagan into two presidential terms. It may have been something that people stood for 30 years ago (which I doubt; people can vote for a President for reasons other than wanting to ban gay marriage and abortion), but times, they are a-changin'.

Oh: and make sure to watch the debates tonight!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Tuesday Video(s): John Corvino on the topic of Same-Sex Marriage

JT Eberhard's blog recently tipped me off to the videos of John Corvino on arguments for same sex marriage (by dismantling arguments against SSM). His voice is soooo soothing, too.

Here's the 1st: The Definition of Marriage

The 2nd: If Gay Marriage, Why Not Polygamy?

The 5th - Is Gay Marriage a Threat to Traditional Marriage? - is also quite good.

There are nine videos in total; they're all (IMO) quite good.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Monday Musings: ZOMG! Obama is disrespecting the flag!!! (Or maybe not so much.)

From (Did Obama Violate US Flag Code?):
By now, we’re pretty much used to this creepy, narcissistic cult of personality merchandise from Team Obama. But does this print violate the United States Flag Code, which clearly states in part…”The flag must not be marked with any insignia, letter, word, signature, picture or drawing.” …

If this were Mitt Romney putting his “R” logo in place of our stripes, the media would be in Armageddon mode right now over how egotistical the move is and how incompetent any campaign must be to sell something that so clearly violates the flag code of the United States…

On a personal note, to see a sitting president replace the stars of our stars and stripes with his own campaign logo is simply depressing. At the very least, couldn’t our president be the kind of man who would shudder at the sight of such a thing?
Here's the amazingly horrible no good flag from the Obama campaign:

I'm sorry, but if that is marking a flag "with any insignia, letter, word, signature, picture, or drawing", then there ought to be a similar outcry about how Reagan and Bush desecrated the flag in 1984:

ZOMG!!! Why did Reagan and Bush violate the Flag Code?!?! ... and why does Palin hate the flag, too?

And Lincoln was soooo dishonoring the flag when he ran for president:

Of course, this is all in addition to all the times that Christians disrespect the flag code (like here, here, and here). And let's not forget these other disrespectful activities, too.