Well, what’s all this then?

29 08 2009

Gotta learn how to do this…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Also, at the end of the video you’ll see a couple of other video links.  Watch the top one.  About the robot.  You won’t be disappointed.


But what have the Romans ever done for us?

10 08 2009

Whenever I hear someone ask what America has ever done for them (and I’ve heard that, trust me!), I know no answer will pacify them.  At least, not one I can think of on the spot.  I wish I could throw out answers like this…

The Pitch Drop Experiment

10 08 2009

Possibly the most unusual post I’ve written, the Pitch Drop Experiment is the world’s longest running lab experiment according to Guinness.


Notice how large of a drop that is in the picture there.  Pitch is a rather peculiar substance.  It appears solid and can be shattered with a hammer.  But some folks argued that it was indeed a highly viscous liquid, and in 1927 a fella by the name of Thomas Parnell set up this simple experiment to prove it.

It took eight years for the first drop to fall.  The second took nine.

It has dropped every 8 to 9 years since, and the pitch has now dripped eight times in the last 79 years.  With some quick back-of-the-envelop calculations, that makes it approximately 230 billion times more viscous than water.  The last time was in 2000, which by my reckoning was 9 years ago — meaning we’re due.  If you’d like to watch in the hopes that you can say, “I was there when the pitch dropped!”, there’s a webcam set up here:  mms://drop.physics.uq.edu.au/PitchDropLive.  [You’ll have to copy/paste for yourself. WordPress is uncooperative once again.] That webcam was set up before the last time in 2000, but there was a technical problem and it missed the drip.  So no one has ever actually witnessed a drip!

If you’d like to see this for yourself, just drop in at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.  [Heh!  Drop in!  Get it?  I’m so clever…]  Not visiting there for a while?  I’m sure it’ll still be going.  There’s enough pitch left in the funnel to last another 100 years.

[Inspiration for (blatant theft of) this article came from Atlas Obscura, which is just an awesome website all the way around.]


3 08 2009

It’s no secret that my favorite actor is John Cusack. It goes along with my favorite cheese-movie being Say Anything.  Here he is, the embodiment of cool…


So what’s got me so up in the air about him?  Last month my family went out to see Harry Potter.  It’s the first time I’d been to the movies in a while.  Tons of previews.  Most were fluff.  Then I saw the trailer for the stupidest movie of the year, 2012.


I’ve been dreading the release of this disaster of a movie since I heard some producer had decided to see just how gullible the viewing public was.  I have to put up with the History Channel airing, and I use the word loosely, “documentaries” about the 2012 nonsense, the numerous doomsday books, and the emails.  I’ve been dumbfounded in the past by the stuff that people will swallow if they think for a second that whoever is telling them has a smidgen more sense than them [for instance… ah, forget it.  A billion other things!].  In this case people are relying on astrology and fortunetellers and flat-out lies to sound smart and semi-knowledgeable while chatting it up with their friends.  Even *I* have had friends want to debate the merits of this stupidity.

But, as Richard Feynman once said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

We all, as smart as we think we are, can sometimes be fooled.

But not by this!!!  Sheesh!

So I’m sitting in the theater making groaning sounds all the while the trailer is playing, and then Geneva says, “Uh oh.”  Uh oh?  What could that…  And then I look up at the screen and see this:

2012 -cusack

And, oh, the laughter!  She yells over the extra-loud kabooms, “Ha, ha!  You have to watch it now!”  I sit, mouth open, thinking that indeed, I may have to watch it.

As he is my favorite actor, I make it a point to see every one of his films.  It’s what you do.  I have a lot of respect for him.  I admire him for his eponymous roles.  From 16 Candles to Grosse Pointe Blank to Pushing Tin to High Fidelity to 1408.  There’s just no role he’s ever played that I did not completely enjoy.

[As a really cool tie-in with the above comments, Cusack was fantastic in his portrayal of Richard Feynman in Fat Man and Little Boy!]*

So now I’m torn:  Favorite actor — crummy movie plot.  What to do?

Well, I saw the carnage that was Con Air and tolerated it okay, so I suppose I can make it through this.

But it’s not gonna be easy!

Maybe I should go back to having Jeff Goldblum as my favorite actor.


So, what is your favorite Cusack movie?  (or Goldblum, I’m not picky.)

*Okay, so my memory failed me.  Cusack did NOT play Richard Feynman; and, in fact, Feynman was not even portrayed in Fat Man and Little Boy.  Cusack played a fictional character named Michael Merriman who was loosely based on real-life scientist Harry K. Daghlian, Jr., who died on September 15, 1945 from radiation sickness, 25 days after being irradiated during a critical-mass experiment in Los Alamos, New Mexico.  (Phenomenal role, BTW)  The movie I was thinking of was Infinity (which all of you must see!) which was all about Richard Feynman and starred Matthew Broderick.  I recalled all of this after watching Fat Man for the first time in many years last night.