Thursday, September 30, 2010

Ig Nobel Prizes

I'm watching this ceremony live. I feel really connected to this crowd.

They chanted for Ira Flatow. I'm starting to cry. It's a whole roomful of people who know about Science Friday and Math Monday. I wonder how many of them think of football on Saturday.

The inventor of the pink plastic flamingo knows how to write a twitter length speech. He says they're the only animal safe from bacteria. Give them to all your friends. It's good for business.

2003 Winner for finding homosexual necrophilia in mallard ducks plugged his new book.

The emergency bra inventor has the best accent. All bra inventors should be Russian.

Dr. Nakamatsu, bane of Twitter and Facebook users who are tired of seeing pictures of other people's food, has taken a photo of every meal he's eaten for 35 years.

OK! Time for the 10 new prizes! 7:17. This is a long ceremony. It started at 6:00 Central Time. The Ig Nobel Prize is an object I can't describe. The master of ceremonies was waving it around too much and YouTube can't keep up. They get a ten trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe.

Engineering Prize! A method to collect whale snot using a remote control helicopter. OK, that's really useful. You could use that to put microphones on their head too. They said that whales smell bad. I did not know that. They said that's why they wanted to collect phlegm from the blow hole -- they thought it would give information about infection. Good idea!

Medical Prize! Symptoms of asthma can be treated with a roller coaster ride. The authors of the paper, a blind man and a man who was previously afraid of roller coasters, found the emotional reaction to waiting to get on the roller coaster induced breathlessness, but the euphoria, aka positive emotion, at the end of the ride cured the asthma attack. Brilliant!

This ceremony could use fewer entertaining interludes. The transitions are not smooth. The flow of the experience is thrown off. They're going along great then they trip over these musical numbers. The performers are all great, don't get me wrong. I'm giving them a pass on overacting.

Somebody hit the target with a paper airplane! Everybody cheered.

They're going to show live microscope images on the screen. Calibration jokes. I love it. The 1 micron beads and brownian motion on the screen.

Ecoli doesn't look like much. Slides never cooperate. Matches everybody's experience in middle school.

Missed the category: Japanese team wins a second prize for slime mold. This time they used it to design high speed rail tracks. In 2008 it solved puzzles.

Physics Prize! For demonstrating that on icy footpaths people fall down less often if they wear socks on the outside of their shoes. They called it an "off-label use of socks," which got a laugh. Apparently the treacherous icy conditions in their town in New Zealand only occur a few days a year. So it wouldn't really wear out that many socks. It's probably a lot more economical than buying special shoes. They put them over rubber boots in the demonstration, which are probably are treacherous on ice indeed, sans socks.

Peace Prize! Two scientists confirmed the widely held belief that swearing relieves pain. This reminds me of the time my niece spent the night with me in Beachton where I have an outdoor shower. I told her about being bitten by honey bees three times in the shower. I explained it in detail. Later when I took her back to her dad she told him, "Aunt B has honey bees in her outdoor shower and she named them! They're called, Fucker! Bastard! and Son-of-a-BITCH!"

Public Health Prize! Microbes cling to bearded scientists. There is plenty of information about how beards affect the fit of face masks, but there was no literature on how beards affected contamination transfer in a microbiology lab. There is now. Microbiologists -- shave your beard if you don't want to take your work home with you.

Another moment of science. People in lab coats and black light set up a fan on a stand.... Oh, they're making a vortex. Aaaand YouTube gets stuck. It's ok. I've seen it.

Oh no, the feed is back in time for more faux opera. Not crazy about the faux opera. But they got a cheer when they put on shirts reminiscent of Star Trek. They have big titles onscreen in the hall so people know what they're saying. Can't read it on YouTube that well. I don't think it would help anyway.

Economics Prize: Goldman Sachs, AIG, etc. win. You can guess why. Not that amusing because it's just sad.

Chemistry Prize: BP et al for disproving the idea that oil and water don't mix. Oil and water mix because the ocean is in motion. Might turn out good that the oil is all over the ocean floor instead of in the coastal zone because now they can be degraded by bacteria.

How many bacteria can dance on the head of a pin? Professor Wilcheck gave a large number and then specified that there is A PIN that would match that number of bacteria or fewer. Dr. Nakamatsu. There are many kinds of pins in the world. So he invented his own head of pins then calculated how many billions of bacteria can dance on it.

Win a date with a Nobel Laureate! Bill Lipscomb is the prize. He's about 90 years old and in a wheelchair. A guy in the balcony won the prize and seemed very excited.

Management Prize! Companies would be more successful if they promoted people at random. Incompetence is the theme. I'm going to have to read about this one.

Missed the category: For scientifically documenting fellatio in fruit bats. "Thank you for this prize! I am BLOWN AWAY!"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

They're coming from spaaaaaace!

From Miscellaneous

I popped over to the greenbelt after work again today. I got tickled when I saw these contrails lit up after sunset. If the conspiracy nuts think daylight contrails are chemicals imagine what they would think of these -- maybe death comets from space, or intercontinental ballistic missiles from Russia sent to blow up Jimmy John's on Bee Cave Road. Whatever, they were pretty. I also saw a cottontail rabbit and an owl and found a secret waterfall that I could hear but couldn't see.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumnal Equinox -- Sunset, Moonrise

The clouds cleared out after I saw the double rainbow and I got to see the sunset and the moon, too. Not moonrise, just after the fact. I bet I could have seen both from that house on the ridge in the greenbelt. I wonder if the people that live there ever plan ahead to look at things that happen in the sky?

Double Rainbow!

Double Rainbow!
All the way!
It's so beautiful!
What does it mean?!
Refraction, bitches!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Atlas V launch

(Time lapse photo from Spaceflight Now)
Another rocket took off tonight like the one in my video with the visible sonic boom. This one was from Vandenberg Air Force Base near Santa Barbara. My old boyfriend Chris the skydiver lives near there so I asked him to go see it for me.
Ok, that was a pretty awesome sight. We were driving home from dinner and noticed we could see the launch tower all lit up, so we parked and watched. About 30 mins later everything got extremely bright around the tower... off went the rocket. About 20-25 seconds later we heard the rumbling as that super-bright rocket headed up. I believe we may have witnessed the visible sonic boom you described.  It was a wide wave around the rocket after a few minutes of flight. We have almost a full moon tonight with clear skies, so it was well lit. The wave started as a small circlet around the rocket & extended out in several directions that we could see. Not sure if that was a visible boom or some sort of vapor or something. Anyway... thanks for the heads-up about the launch. It was an experience!
According to Spaceflight Now Mach 1 was at about 85 seconds, so that's about right.

So cool! Sorry I missed it but I'm glad I got a first hand report! Now if anybody in southern California wants to try skydiving go to the drop zone in Lompoc and ask for Chris Warnock and you'll be in good hands!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Civil Works

I like big things viewed from a great height.

I went to the northwest side of town this morning for a charity screening of Dr. Horrible and Serenity. They are both so good. Lake Travis was on the way home, and so was this rust finish bridge. It's not as bad as Good Morning St. Bridge at Windmark in Gulf County Florida. I think the 360 bridge is actually a functional structure. Just the same finish. This bridge at the St. Joe resort is an oversized reinforced concrete road bridge with an oversized pony truss plopped on top of it just for looks. Only it looks retarded.

A pony truss only has to be this big to hold up a great big long span. This is an old rant for me, but I just want to round out my compliment to the Loop 360 bridge. It's a good looking bridge. I like it. But when it comes to rusty bridges the Hadley Ferry is still my favorite because it got that way the honest way -- an actual long, hard life, in what would appear to be more than one location. I think they moved the two halves from other, shorter spans of nearby rivers. These new-fangled bridges that are designed to be rusty, it just seems like they're beefing up the structure to allow for corrosion and it just raises a lot of questions to me. What about the connections? What if the corrosion is uneven? What about the runoff staining whatever is under it? I'd like to read the engineering analysis for this new style.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Barton Creek Two Days Later

Here's an album of photos from along Barton Creek at my end of the greenbelt. There were obvious signs that the water was 6' deeper than it is now in the narrow parts of the creek bed. I wish I could have witnessed that, but I'm not sure what vantage point would make that possible.

Tropical Storm Hermine

There was a lot of rain the last couple of days here in Austin. It rained a few times on Labor Day, then on the real first day of the storm, Tuesday, it got quite windy. I didn't have to get out my yellow slicker suit and shrimp boots though. I just walked to work with my 20 year old Georgia Tech umbrella, lightweight rain coat, jeans and wedge heeled shoes to keep my feet out of the water. I only got wet from the knees down. I heard more sirens than usual on the highway so I was glad I didn't have to get in the car in that mess.

Tuesday night there was a lot of thunder and lightning and more rain. If you look at the map of real time stream data you can see the line of black dots that shows where they storm was concentrated in a line from San Antonio up through Austin.

Here's the gage data for the place where I took these pictures. You can see the height peaked the night before and was on the way down when I shot this video on my lunchbreak from work on Wednesday.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Un-suck it

I found a website that translates terrible business jargon into English. Here's an example taken from work. Our executive assistant hates this word, particularly since she looked it up and found out it means illegal, as in the authorities can take action against you if you do something actionable.


Her feedback didn’t relate to anything actionable.


Doable or achievable.
The douchebag who said this probably also said End-to-EndGo Forward Plan, orTable This.

I browsed some of their terms and was surprised to see bandwidth. I use that all the time! I didn't know it was douchey! I think I should get special dispensation since I used to design cable equipment and really know exactly what it means. And I never use bandwidth to mean time and people. If I say I don't have the bandwidth for dating right now it means my mind is occupied with work and renovations and I don't have any brain power left to try to coddle some man's ego. I will talk to somebody if they have ideas for how to hang two kayaks on the wall, but if they aren't fault tolerant to my occasionally missing packets then they can just wait until I shut down one of these processes and HAVE MORE BANDWIDTH!

Saturday, September 4, 2010


I clicked this video link from Felicia Day's brother's Twitter feed. I wonder if I seem like a cyber stalker? Can I help it he keeps putting interesting stuff on the internet?!

Anyway, this movie ending genuinely surprised me. Made me realize how long it's been.

Live Metaphor in the Apple Store

A graphic artist in Portland saw a real live metaphor in the Apple store.

I guess not everybody is familiar with the complete stable of assistance animals. Helper horses are like seeing eye dogs. It's not appropriate to make a big deal over them, just like you aren't supposed to pat somebody's Labrador retriever when they're on the job. My friend in Jacksonville says he gets horses in the Batteries Plus all the time. Just the same, Frank Chimero makes it into a sweet anecdote and metaphor.

I went to the Apple store in Austin this week and got a Magic Trackpad to use with my iMac when I'm lounging in bed using it like a TV. The only tiny pony I encountered was the usual grace of having the helper Apple employee use an iPhone in a special case to scan the item, swipe my card, and automatically email me my receipt because I use that same debit card every time. I like that about the Apple store. Even if there isn't a tiny horse in the mall that day it seems like a metaphor for success in trying new things.