Optical Illusion

The So-Called Zollner Illusion


All the long diagonal lines are actually parallel to one another. Measure them if you don’t believe me. The short horizontal and vertical lines just make it look otherwise.

Very Large Array

One of 27 Giant Radio Antennas at the VLA

One of 27 Giant Radio Antennas at the VLA

One of the places that Martine and I would like to see on our trip to New Mexico is the Karl G. Janski Very Large Array some 50 miles west of Socorro along U.S. Route 60. It is part of the U.S. National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO). If you are of a sci-fi turn of mind, you might think its related to SETI, the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence—but actually it’s for taking images of radio waves directed at the earth. For some of the images created by the VLA, click here.

The twenty-seven 230-ton radio antennas are in one of four Y-shaped configurations and can be moved into position along rails using a special locomotive. Tours are available (we plan to take one).

Although there are many observatories in the United States, many are adversely affected by air pollution. The data from the various VLA radio antennas can be combined to give the resolution of an antenna 22 miles across with the sensitivity of a dish 422 feet in diameter.

I expect to be swept off my feet.

Water, Water Everywhere?

But Wait, Doesn’t It Cover 70% of the Earth’s Surface?

But Wait, Doesn’t It Cover 70% of the Earth’s Surface?

The following item comes from the Astronomy Picture of the Day website, and it sets me to thinking. Even in drought-stricken California, we take water for granted. The picture above takes all the known water on earth and positions it as a single mega-drop over the arid Great Basin of the United States.

According to the text that accompanies it:

How much of planet Earth is made of water? Very little, actually. Although oceans of water cover about 70 percent of Earth’s surface, these oceans are shallow compared to the Earth’s radius. The featured illustration shows what would happen if all of the water on or near the surface of the Earth were bunched up into a ball. The radius of this ball would be only about 700 kilometers, less than half the radius of the Earth’s Moon, but slightly larger than Saturn’s moon Rhea which, like many moons in our outer Solar System, is mostly water ice. How even this much water came to be on the Earth and whether any significant amount is trapped far beneath Earth’s surface remain topics of research.

I’d hate to think that the moonlets around some of the outer planets of our solar system contain more drinking water than Planet Earth.

As the most interesting man on Earth has been known to say, “Stay thirsty, my friends!”

February 30

Perfect If You Hate Birthdays

Perfect If You Hate Birthdays

This is for those of you who absolutely hate to celebrate birthdays. The problem is you would have to have been born in Sweden in 1712, on a day which was officially listed in the calendar as February 30, 1712. Since there has never been another February 30 in Sweden, you would have died before reaching your first birthday. No cake or presents or Happy Birthday songs for you! (I wonder how many Swedes were so affected.)

According to Futility Closet, where I saw this story, Sweden had some calculation problems in switching from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar. At first, they omitted all leap days between 1700 and 1740, but in 1712, hey decided to have both a February 29 and a February 30. It was not until 1753 that the Gregorian calendar was fully implemented. Until then, there remained a lot of confusion.

Speaking of which, has Sweden ever had any notable mathematicians. Just wondering.

The Sturgeon Moon

Today Marks the Sturgeon Moon

Today—August 18—Marks the Sturgeon Moon

There is a separate name for every full moon of the year. No doubt you’ve heard of the blue moon, when there are two full moons in a single month. That, however, is more a trick of the calendar than of anything else.

The sturgeon moon of August 18 is also called the red moon. the grain moon, the green corn moon, and the blueberry moon.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, here are some other full moon nicknames:

  • January: The Wolf Moon
  • February: The Snow Moon
  • March: The Worm Moon
  • April: The Pink Moon
  • May: The Flower Moon
  • June: The Buck Moon
  • August: The Sturgeon Moon
  • September: The Corn Moon or the Harvest Moon
  • October: The Hunter’s Moon or the Harvest Moon
  • November: The Beaver Moon
  • December: The Cold Moon or the Long Nights Moon

Since the Indians did not use the Gregorian Calendar, they would not be troubled by the Blue Moon. After all, it only happens once in a Blue Moon.

Watch It! He’s After Your Brain!

Doctor Daniel Amen

Doctor Daniel Amen

Is he a zombie? Not exactly, but close enough.

Watch public television at certain times, and you are likely to see various health practitioners standing in front of an audience of middle-aged and retired persons who are afraid of (1) getting cancer, (2) losing their memory, (3) blowing up like a dirigible, or (4) outright dying.   All you have to do is listen to the good doctor, buy his DVD, and read his book—and you will be on your way to becoming one of the immortals.

There are inevitably a number of do’s and don’t’s, connected with diet, exercise, sleep habits, etc. It’s like New Years Resolutions all over again—and you know how well those work! Basically, like resolutions, it’s a self-directed program with no snarky degreed individual looking over your shoulder to tell you shape up fast.

I usually associate these medical salesmen with Doctor Daniel Gregory Amen, whose audience is frightened of getting Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia. So, there they sit, clapping on cue at all the good doctor’s talking points.

Perhaps his program is good: I am in no position to judge. But I am dismayed that so much of the Public Television audience has reached a point where health has merged with self-help. As for myself, I will continue to consult with my physician about any worrisome indicators. As for brain health, my readers are aware that I am past help. You might just pronounce the final Amen.

Rat Number 42

 

Sometimes, You Just Can’t Win

Sometimes, You Just Can’t Win

The following comes from AboveAverage.Com. I thought you might find it amusing:

Researchers at Harvard are incredibly annoyed with a lab rat they describe as “a real asshole.”

“We’re trying to research how obesity impacts brain function,” explained Dr. Stu Macho. “To do that, we got all these normal rats and started observing them. Then this little fucker, we call him #42, starts eating a ton. He got super fat and starts walking into his cage walls like a moron when we try to observe him. But then, at night, he’s completely normal. It’s totally throwing off our data. He’s being a real shithead.”

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I mean, look at this little shithead.

This isn’t the first time #42 has ruined an experiment. Dr. Macho explains, “I once ran an experiment to test whether the scent of cats was frightening to rats. We gave them a treat every time they pushed a big red button. Then we sprayed it with cat scent. Literally every single rat was too scared to push the red button, except #42. He pushed it, winked, and then held his little paws out for his treat. He’s such an asshole, his data screwed my entire thesis.”

Dr. Macho believes #42’s behavior is intentional and aimed specifically at him. “I caught him laughing at me once while I was trying to sort data he’d fucked up. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Can rats even laugh? And what would it look like?’ Trust me, when a rat laughs at you, you’ll know.”

When asked why he doesn’t simply exchange #42 for a less malicious rat, Dr. Macho explained, “You can’t just use an infinite number of lab rats. They start to think you’re a psycho if you keep asking for more.” Dr. Macho sighed. “I feel like I’m living in an annoying Pixar movie where I’m the bad guy – oh, wait….I’m the bad guy. I’m the evil scientist performing experiments on a sassy, smart rat. And my name is Dr. Stu Macho? Oof, yeah, I’m the wrong one here.”

Just behind Dr. Macho, #42 winked and walked directly into his food bowl.