Friday, July 31, 2009

Jack Dagger on the Tonight Show

Last night, an acquaintance of mine (by way of the Buccaneer's Beach Bash) appeared on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brian and showed Conan how to throw knives and axes.

In the past, he has tutored David Boreanaz in knife throwing for an episode of Bones, and has also appeared in an episode of Monk.

He fibs a bit at the beginning. "Jack Dagger" is not his real name. Ladies and gents, meet Mr. Todd Abrams....

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Stupidity on Parade V

It seems that Bill O'Reilly has absolutely no grasp of basic mathematics, not that this is a big shock....

For some bizarre reason, comprehensible only to himself, he seems to think that there is some strong correlation between population size and life expectancy, invisible to professional mathematicians and statisticians. Mark Chu-Carroll over at the "Good Math, Bad Math" blog sets the record straight quite nicely.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Alice in Wonderland Trailer

A teaser for Tim Burton's version of Alice in Wonderland is out, and it looks quite promising. This project is certainly an ideal vehicle for Burton's skewed cinematic asthetic, and Johnny Depp seems quite at home as the Mad Hatter. (Is it just me, or was Johnny Depp born to play over-the-top characters in tons of makeup and outlandish wardrobes?)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Stupidity on Parade IV

The BURNS! Must be the metal oxide salts...

Rainbows didn't appear in sprinklers twenty years ago? Right.... Outta the gene pool, lady!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Science of Apollo 11

Although the primary impetus behind the Apollo program was absurdly geopolitical (beating those pesky Commie Ruskies to the Moon), once we actually got to the Moon, science rightly took center stage. has a nice article about this, but the best part is that it links to two historically relevant science resources:

This isn't dumbed-down pop-sci tripe. This is the real deal, and I'm loving it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

"Man on the Moon!" - Cronkite and Apollo 11

Forty years ago today, everyone on the planet who had access to a television was glued to it, watching grainy images of what is arguably the most significant milestone in the history of human civilization. President Kennedy's call for putting man on the moon had been fulfilled. As the world watched Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin bound about the surface of the Moon, most Americans heard this momentous event summed up by a voiceover of four simple words from the CBS News anchorman:

"Man on the Moon!"

Those words were uttered by Walter Cronkite. The camera cut away to Cronkite as his professional demeanor slipped away in a tidal wave of joy and pride. He removed his glasses, and a huge grin swept across his face. For a moment, he was giddy and speechless. His viewers forgave him for that, for they were right there with him, just as they forgave him six years earlier for shedding tears while announcing the death of JFK.

After all, he was "Uncle Walter," a man whom we invited into our homes every evening to find out what was happening in the world. In an age before 24 hours cable news channels and the Internet, he was America's town crier. Not just a talking head who read the news, he was an actual journalist. On D-Day, he landed behind enemy lines in a glider with Allied Troops, and flew on a bombing mission over Germany. He covered the Nuremberg Trials, the Cold War, the Korean War, the War in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., the Watergate scandal, and the Iran Hostage Crisis. And his word was trusted.

His iconic sign-off, "That's the way it is," was a nightly pledge to his viewers that he would faithfully and objectively report the facts to the best of his ability. The only time that he allowed himself to deviate from this objectivity was a rare on-the-air editorial from 1968. Following the Tet Offensive, Cronkite journeyed to Vietnam to assess the state of the conflict. His conclusion was that the war was unwinnable, prompting President Lyndon B. Johnson to proclaim, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America." Weeks later, LBJ announced that he would not run for reelection. Such was the gravitas of Walter Cronkite.

So it was that when America watched the televised coverage of Apollo 11, most chose to watch Cronkite's coverage. Since the earliest days of the Space Program, he had eagerly covered it, with all the wonder and curiosity of a child. He loved the Space Program, and made no effort to hide it (while still somehow maintaining a sense of journalistic objectivity). It is no small wonder that watching the glory that was Apollo 11 choked him up for a while, right along with his viewers. And it is all the more tragic that he is no longer with us to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

"We came in peace, for all Mankind." Uncle Walter said so.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bill Gates did something good!

The folks of Microsoft's Tuva Project have made available videos of a series of lectures by one of my personal heroes, the late physicist Richard Feynman. *yeah*

The downside: it requires Silverlight. *boo*

Speaking of personal heroes, here is a video of another (no Silverlight required): the last television interview with the late Carl Sagan discussing his book, The Demon-Haunted World:

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Stupidity on Parade III

Wow. I've always thought that the Netherlands might be the kind of place where I might want to live. Now I'm sure. Yeah for "militant secularism." That, and the fact that the expected high temperature here in Austin, TX today is 106°F, whereas the temperature in Amsterdam right now is 61°F. If only I could telecommute from there.

For the record, contrary to what the reporter says, polygamy is NOT legal in the Netherlands, and the bit about a "suicide pill" is complete bollocks. What do you expect? This is Fox News we're talking about, after all. Facts have never really been of interest to them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Say it isn't so....

I was quite dismayed to learn today that former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez will be teaching a political science course at my alma mater this fall. Until today, I was quite proud to be a Tech graduate. That is no longer the case. How can I take pride in being associated with an institution which hires as an instructor a man who has brought shame to this nation by aiding and abetting war criminals and subverting the Constitution?

This is a sad day for Red Raiders everywhere.

Codex Sinaiticus

A digitized version of the Codex Sinaiticus, the oldest known version of the Christian Bible, is now available online. It is a fascinating glimps into the history of the text. For example, the 4th century Codex Sinaiticus does not include Mark 16:9-20, which most biblical scholars regard as a later interpolation. The Codex also includes several books which were later excluded from the official canon.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Collection of Spectacular Space Images

Some of these are a bit old, but well worth seeing:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Omega-sub-b Baryons observed at Fermilab's Tevatron

Fermilab's CDF team have announced the observation of Ωb , a baryon consisting of two strange quarks and one bottom quark (s-s-b). The existence of this particle was predicted by the Standard Model. However, the mass measurements for this particle are in conflict with results produced by CDF's sister detector, DZero, which had raised the possibility of previously unknown physics possibly in conflict with the Standard Model. Either way, it is exciting. A preprint of the team's Phys. Rev. D. submission is available at