Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Mapping of the Universe

Watch this. It's a little slow, but all good space stuff is. It's supposed to be watched in a large, dark planetarium, so please give it a shot.

I wrote a paper my senior year of college on this topic, and I think this very same survey. They've gathered a lot more data since then, but the overall learnings are still the same as I remember. What's even cooler is that they've combined the survey results with the mapping of the background radiation of the universe.

This is the most remarkable map ever produced. It's the most comprehensive look at the superstructure of the entire cosmos. What would Columbus say to this? How about Newton, or even Einstein? It allows us all to be at the front lines in exploration of "the final frontier."

Best of all, we can easily watch it on YouTube. It took Marco Polo 3 years just to get to China, and then many more to come back, write a book about his adventures, get it published, and finally distributed around the world. That doesn't include getting people to actually reads it.

Dissemination of information used to take decades, now it can be done in weeks, or even days if you're Paris Hilton. I f*&king love YouTube!!

The Beer Review

Ever wanted to know the alcohol percentage or nurtional value of your favorite brew? Check this out.

Looks like most regular beers are 5% alcohol, while light beers come in around 4.2%. Calorie counts are around 140, with light options around 110g. In carb counts, regular pilsners (Bud, Coors) come in around 10g, the light options around 5-6g (Bud Select is down to 3%). Some of the heavier beers are much higher. Sam Adams and Guiness are at 18g.

The bottom line: the thicker, heavier beers are worese for you. Who would have thunk it?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Interpreting 9/11

Five years. It took for 5 years for the entertainment world to get its hooks into 9/11. Feature films (United 93, World Trade Center). Made-for-TV-movies (Flight 93, Path to 9/11). Books (102 Minutes, countless others). Now a comic book. Unreal.

Some of these have been remarkable, such as United 93. It brought the events to life for me in truly moving way. Some of them have been terribly skewed. Path to 9/11 is a great example of exploiting the facts for dramatic effect and/or financial goals.

There's something about a recreation of the actual events that changes the original experience. It draws out the drama of the event that reality, by its very nature, can't. We see the fight in the cockpit, or the confusion of the air traffic controllers.

More than anything, these "docu-dramas" can control how we view the events and manipulate perception for a specific emotional reaction. The players in the story can lionized, or demonized, at the will of the writer. This removes any pretense of objectivity and should spark red-flags waving "propoganda."

I was here in the city and saw most of it from a far, but still with my own eyes. These recreations bring a bigger, more public view of the events to a wider audience. In a small way, I feel robbed of my own personal connection. But that is a selfish and fleeting notion. Comparing my own experience with those of the victims' families always reminds me how little I have to complain about.

It took Pearl Harbor 12 years to make it into the movies with From Here to Eternity. With the increased access to media we now have, and the insane hunger America has to express a communal consciousness in media, I guess 5 years is a fair amount of time.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

How the Sun Works

The Sun is a big atomic furnace that works by converting hydrogen into helium. Hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant element in the universe. It has one proton in its nucleus. Temperatures and densities in the center of the Sun are so great that hydrogen nuclei fuse into helium nuclei.

The creation of each helium nucleus requires four hydrogen nuclei. One helium nucleus has 99.3% of the weight of four hydrogen nuclei. This excess of 0.7% of hydrogen mass compared with helium mass is converted into energy:

In perspective, the Sun converts 600 million tons of hydrogen into 596 million tons of helium every second. The extra 4 million tons is converted into energy. The energy is so great that the Sun gives off 40,000 watts of light from every square inch of its surface. Compare this to the 60 and 100 watt light bulbs we use in our homes. As far as we know, the Sun has been giving off this light steadily for the last four and one half billion years, and will continue to do so for several billion years more. Only half a billionth of this energy reaches the Earth. The rest is lost in space.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

First Day of Class

The night before my first graduate class, I kept having nightmares of being late. (Had to be there at 7:15 and it's already 7:30. Wait, class is tomorrow night. Uh oh, I'm late again!) None of that happened. I got to the classroom with 45 minutes to spare and had to wait around. Met a few folks and had quick chit chat.

I stopped talking and started listening to all the chit chat. There were a limited number of topics discussed:
- which classes are you taking? (Media Revolution, Media Research)
- where do you work? (one for Google, one for ABC News)
- what music do you listen to? ("give me an example of everything")
- did you get the books yet?

I had a hard time with the chit chat and decided to be a little anti-social. I looked around at my peers, all of whom seem very nice. I was struck by the normalcy of everyone. No nerd-math or artsy-non-conformist types. Just regular, productive, smart people. Some young, none much older than me, but not too different.

The professor was young, which wasn't too surprising, with 5 years at NYU. Seems very smart. Uses big words and interesting phrases ("Media - let's unpack what that means"). Not a stickler for attendance, we're expected to be in charge of our own experience.

Here is the syllabus. The readings seem interesting and very challenging. I didn't feel very excited, but that made sense to me. This course will lay the foundation for the rest of my schooling. I wasn't excited to learn to read, but I had to get through it. Same here.

The funniest thing about last night's class was that I spent the time thinking about this blog entry. As I write this blog, all I can think about is eating chocolate. So if you'll excuse me...

Fallout From the Cruise

I knew there'd be a downside. Ever since we got back:

- I've been hungry. I try not to eat, so I have small snacks. All those snacks add up. Most of all, I need sugar. The end of every meal/snack/hour deserves a treat. All this, and I hate paying for food. Good times.
- I'm gorging on booze. I've gone through a third of my Bermudian rum in 4 days... mmm. I had to watch it for a full week, so now I'm catching up.
- I'm relaxed, which is not necessarily a good thing. My job requires me to be proactive, double-check every detail and anticipate problems before they happen. Lounging at my desk enjoying the afternoon is not helping.
- I got used to sitting by the pool doing nothing. Even with my Graduate Education beginning this week, I can't bear to pull myself away from my best friend, TiVo. This also might be a good time to discuss my YouTube addiction. (Brian, watch this.)
- I miss swimming in the ocean. I find myself over-salting my food to get a little of the marine flavor back. Weird, but true.
- With every passing week, the reality of parenthood gets closer and closer. Jubilation and paralyzing anxiety are running neck and neck for the top emotional spot.
- Trivia anyone? Taboo, perhaps? I need games! Why can't my employer understand the time commitment this requires?!?

All in all, it's good to be home. I do NOT miss the rocking of the boat or the moron-people who don't know how a buffet line works. I also appreciate having more than 6 channels of TV to choose from, but damn, I wish I were back on the boat.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The Secret Life of Laura Bush

I recently heard that Laura Bush might not be the squeaky-clean God-fearing Republican she appears to be. In her youth, she was in a car accident where she hit and killed her ex-boyfriend in a car accident. Also, she was a marijuana dealer.

I am no fan of the president, but I'm even more against empty rumors. Still, this is not the first time I've heard that our first lady might have a questionable character. During the 2000 election, a work colleague of mine mentioned that Laura Bush was never on the campaign trail because 1) she is not mentally fit top handle the rigors of the job and 2) she nor her husband really wanted W to win the election, but instead they were pressured/forced to be the candidate by circumstance.

Given all this speculations, I decided to spend a rigorous 20 minutes researching the topic while multi-tasking (watching Project Runway). First, I went to
Wikipedia, the most reliable news source in the world, and found this line. Makes the accident seem more like a tragic accident in this account.

In 1963 Laura Bush was involved in a fatal car accident when she ran a stop sign and crashed into another car, killing her boyfriend who was driving the car. According to the two-page accident report released by the city of Midland, neither driver was drinking and no charges were filed.

I also found this quote from
The Sunday Herald (I never heard of it) from 9/2004 that looks at the president's past. The article relies heavily on the Bush biography The Family: The Real Story of the Bush Dynasty by Kitty Kelly, which is very critical to begin with. Written at the height of anti-Bush/pro-John Kerry election propaganda, it should be taken with a heaping tablespoon of salt. The author seems to have turned rumor into truth, something the Republicans have perfected (The insurgency is in its death throws).

There are even claims that First Lady Laura Bush was a drug dealer in her youth...Kelly says she was the “go-to-girl for dime bags” of grass at the Southern Methodist University. “She not only smoked dope but she sold dope.”

Laura was also involved in a car smash that killed a friend when she was 17. The accident happened when she ran through a stop sign in her Chevrolet sedan on a clear night in November 1963, drove into an intersection and struck the Corvair sedan of 17-year-old Michael Douglas. No charges were ever filed.

Laura is also supposed to have had to flee her marital home on a number of occasions because of Bush’s apparently abusive behaviour. However, the police were said to have never been involved.

So what does this tell us? Absolutely nothing. Everyone has secrets and incidents they'd rather forget. But not everyone becomes leader of the free world, so there are good reasons to know more about the past of leaders.

Of course, none of what's written above compares to the past of W himself: drunk driving, calling out his Dad to fight him "mano-a-mano," skipping out on military service during wartime, cocaine, and even an abortion in the 70's - all leading up to the Wgite House. I can't WAIT for that TV movie!