August 2006


Oh where to begin? People ask me why I don’t want to have kids. That would make there be more people like me, and I would think that was reason enough. But here’s the real reason. If I had one, it’d look like this.

I just started reading a blog that has some very good stuff, Dispaches From the Culture Wars. Ed Brayton came across some just plain bizarre news about cultural tension and gave it a very good write-up here.

Well. We’ve got dark matter. How ’bout that? Actually this is really cool because this is the first time direct observation has been accomplished! (more…)

Perhaps the most news savvy post I’ve made yet! Here I commented on the IAU meeting to try to settle on the definition of a planet. Well I’ve got good news. Those blokes finally saw the light that opening the door to having thousands of planets in the solar system is, generally speaking, a bad idea.

Today they showed more common sense than they have in the last two years by striking down the initiative proposed last week that would, of all things, define the asteroid Ceres as a planet (see resolution 5a). The interesting feature is they resolved (apparently) not grandfather Pluto in. Without further clarification this means that we now, according to the IAU, we have eight planets in the solar system, not nine (see resolution 6a). Pluto would be the first trans-neptunian dwarf-planet. Or something. Actually the exact terminology got voted down too. So all this will get re-hashed next year. Hooray!

We’ll see if that classification sticks. Probably not. This whole thing is pretty futile. For a good discussion of that vist the blog of the unbiquitous Bad Astronomer here.

Over here I talked about a design challenge posed by Dave Thomas of Panda’s Thumb regarding Steiner problems and solutions generated by genetic algorithms (GA). The main purpose of the challenge was to demonstrate the criticisms offered by intelligent design (ID) advocates were baseless. Well the results are in, folks! How did the ID folks do? How did yours truly do? Venture forth past the fold to find out! (more…)

I’m going to see if I can get that “ontological leap” post up this weekend. So, in the meantime, here are some time killers for you.

You’ve probably heard about the IAU proposing a “standard” definition of a planet. These bozos want to define it such that we will have 12 planets, instead of nine. And that’s not the worst part. By their definition every Kuiper object the size of Pluto (and there may be thousands of them) will also have to be considered a planet! This nonsense will be voted on next Thursday, I’ll follow up then.

Anyway, why do I bring this up? Now you know the background for this great clip of Steven Colbert interviewing astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.
And completely unrelated, one of my favorite internet personalities, Phil Plait the Bad Astronomer, linked to something unexpected: The Meuseum of Bad Art. I don’t get art, so bad art is a good place to start! Be warned ye of easily-offendedness. There are nudes in some of that art, so be careful what you click on!

One last thing. I just stumbled upon this guy at You Tube.  He’s a 79 year old veteran from England that just got into YouTube a couple of weeks ago.  If you have half an hour to kill I’d recommend checking his stuff out!   It’s almost surreal (apologies, Krime).  The mixture of honesty, pathos, humor make Peter’s video blogs really special.  Plus he’s a motorcycle fiend, so you gotta love him.

I’m not a geek. You know that, right? I don’t spend every waking moment thinking about Star Trek or Star Wars or Babylon 5. Seriously. The beer and the XBox have to fit in there somewhere. But if you want to retain your delusions that I spend all day philosophizing and studying science for fun then, for crying out loud, don’t click past the fold! (more…)

My wife and I just had our ninth anniversary. And, true to form, she comes through. She really is great!

For Valentine’s day, when some wives get their husbands some combination of flowers, balloons and/or chocolates, she gets me a crazy stuffed frog, a six-pack of beer, and roses (so there’s some tradition there). And she sets it all up at work! Boy, were all the other guys jealous. And note that wasn’t just any beer, but North Coast Brewing‘s Old Stock Ale, 2005. What a treat that stuff is!

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For those of you into programming, here’s an interesting discussion. It’s in regards to genetic algorithms, a programming technique based on biological evolutionary principles (mutation, selection, reproduction, etc). They were developed to help researchers explore and explain biological evolutionary questions, but were later carried into general computer science.

The techniques are so powerful and innovative that these “organic” programs can often develop solutions to real world problems on par with human designers, and sometime exceed human performance. Some examples of this are here and here. (more…)

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