2013 November 14

originally posted on facebook

“The redistricting decisions of which DOJ complains were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations, and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary.”



2013 October 26

originally posted on facebook

Today I learned the Netherlands has the world’s first suspended bicycle roundabout. (Unfortunately the last time I was in Eindhoven it had not been built yet….)


2013 October 10

originally posted on facebook


Someone took a 1993 government report, extracted various diagram and quotes, and put them them together with creepy music in a video. The result is… interesting. I am curious to know if people can figure out what the report is about from the video (without already being familiar with the subject matter, of course…). The original report is here:


2013 October 01

originally posted on facebook

“Earlier in his presidency, Mr. Obama made the catastrophic mistake – in the face of just this sort of extortion – to believe in Mr. Boehner’s willingness to be reasonable.” The Republicans have been saying since summer 2009 that they will not compromise with the Democrats; maybe Obama’s finally noticed. Here’s to hoping he’s learned not to uselessly concede worthwhile things for political points with a party that’s unable to count (a la Republicans’ repeated innumerate “budget” proposals).


2013 August 19

originally posted on facebook

Real-time chess:


2013 June 11

originally posted on facebook

The third-closest known star system to the Sun was discovered only 3 months ago.


2013 June 04

originally posted on facebook

Random things I ran into on wikipedia… “Nearly any fluid can be used to create an acoustic event horizon, but the viscosity of most fluids creates random motion that makes features like Hawking radiation nearly impossible to detect.”



Link is to a truly impressive black hole:


2013 June 02

originally posted on facebook

I am prepared to believe (though I have not heard an adequate explanation of the fact) that in general relativity, an infinite universe homogeneously filled with mass will tend to contract. In A Brief History of Time, however, Hawking repeatedly insists that the same is true in Newtonian physics. This seems to me obviously false, but surely Hawking would not make such an elementary mistake? What am I overlooking? Is the problem just that “Newtonian physics” is ill-defined?

p. 5 “The correct approach […] is to consider the finite situation, in which the stars all fall in on each other, and then to ask how things change if one adds more stars roughly uniformly distributed outside this region. According to Newton’s laws, the extra stars would make no difference at all to the original ones on average, so the stars would fall in just as fast. We can add as many stars as we like, but they will still always collapse in on themselves. We now know it is impossible to have an infinite static model of the universe in which gravity is always attractive.”

2013 May 21

originally posted on facebook

This article just gets more ridiculous the further you read… “The station gathered a panel of clergy specialising in exorcisms who scrutinised the footage and concluded that the pope had performed an exorcism.” The Vatican claims that it was accidental.

The Telegraph

https://video.repubblica.it/dossier/il-nuovo-papa/papa-francesco-e-il-presunto-esorcismo-boffo-chiede-scusa/128972/127475 Italian source

(dialog cut off at the end is “Gli esorcisti che hanno visto le immagini «non hanno dubbi: si è trattato di una preghiera di liberazione dal Maligno o di un vero e proprio esorcismo»”)

2013 May 03

originally posted on facebook

“Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) said in 2010 that he opposed action on climate change because ‘the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.’ He is the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy.”

Perhaps instead of separation of church and state we should focus on separation of Republicans and science committees. Or maybe just separation of Republicans and state.

2013 May 02

originally posted on facebook

Let’s play… identify the city from its satellite picture! (To get the highest zoom, click on the icon in the upper right of each picture.) Total population between all the pictures is roughly 333 million people.


2013 April 25

originally posted on facebook

“Stonewall took place in 1969, and as of last week the Supreme Court was still trying to decide if gay people should be allowed to marry each other. If the climate movement takes that long, we’ll be rallying in scuba masks. (I’m not kidding. The section of the Washington Mall where we rallied against the pipeline this winter already has a big construction project underway: a flood barrier to keep the rising Potomac River out of downtown DC.)”


2013 April 17

originally posted on facebook

“Which is to say: To form accurate beliefs about something, you really do have to observe it. It’s a very physical, very real process: any rational mind does ‘work’ in the thermodynamic sense, not just the sense of mental effort.”


I’ve been reading some of these essays with interest; a few other ones that I particularly liked:

https://philosophynow.org/issues/46/Newtons_Flaming_Laser_Sword (a mathematician’s perspective of philosophy, and a new name for Popperian philosophy)

http://yudkowsky.net/rational/the-simple-truth/ (‘“That’s absurd!” sputters Mark. “I don’t believe in magic that works whether or not you believe in it!”’)

http://lesswrong.com/lw/i4/belief_in_belief/ (“As Daniel Dennett observes, where it is difficult to believe a thing, it is often much easier to believe that you ought to believe it.”)

2013 April 13

originally posted on facebook

A detailed report on why cap and trade legislation failed in congress (specifically the Senate), in particular compared to health care reform which succeeded. Key points:


2013 April 02

originally posted on facebook

“Paper and Pencil: a Lightweight WYSIWYG Typesetting System”

http://sigbovik.org/2013/proceedings.pdf (page 88)

2013 March 27

originally posted on facebook

“perhaps even the single best thing written about climate change for a general audience”

This book, What We Know About Climate Change, is entirely non-technical, while remaining lucid, informative, and most of all short – I read it in an hour despite being a slow reader. Recommended. (The author is the world’s leading expert on hurricanes and a life-long Republican, for those who care about such things.)



2013 March 27

originally posted on facebook

“Our limit applies to a person out of the sun, in gale-force winds, doused with water, wearing no clothing, and not working.”

Using purely thermodynamic considerations of the absolute limit of the human body to shed heat, the authors deduce that in the severe global warming scenario, a substantial fraction of the earth’s land would be uninhabitable (meaning going outside for several hours is fatal even if the person is in the shade, soaked in water, exposed to high winds, and does not expend effort).


2013 March 15

originally posted on facebook

“what appears to the public as the United States Constitution is not the complete document”


“All members of the general court proposing bills and resolutions addressing individual rights or liberties shall include a direct quote from the Magna Carta”


“I’ve become concerned recently that our roleplaying was counter-revolutionary and contrary to my anarchist principles.”


2013 March 04

originally posted on facebook

“Smullyan has argued forcefully that Tarski’s undefinability theorem deserves much of the attention garnered by Gödel’s incompleteness theorems.”


2013 March 03

originally posted on facebook

Long story short, republicans have no interest in any compromise with Obama. Not that this surprises anyone who remembers Senate Minority Leader’s “the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” remark.

Washington Post

2013 February 19

originally posted on facebook

Didn’t realize this was satire until the third paragraph….

The New Yorker

Things that are not satire:



2013 February 15

originally posted on facebook

"Richard Hamming suggests that you ask yourself three questions:

  1. What are the most important problems in your field?
  2. Are you working on one of them?
  3. Why not?

[…] Hamming used to go around actually asking people this, and it didn’t make him popular. But it’s a question anyone ambitious should face."


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