Thursday, 4 September 2008

Jack Layton and Obama

Jack LaytonJack Layton, the head of Canada's NDP (New Democratic Party, for you non-Canadians) says he is "picking up" some of the energy of Obama's campaign and may "borrow" from Barack's playbook.

Well, colour me gobsmacked.

What Mr. Layton does not seem to understand is that the Obama campaign and playbook are founded squarely on Barack himself: the man, his words, and most importantly, his charisma. Pointing out similarities in environmental policies and photocopying campaign slogans are not going to make any of that fairy dust rub off on Layton.

How can a man lead a political party for so many years and be so oblivious? This is just making him look pathetic, like the kid in the background waving at the cameras when someone else is being interviewed.

Set up all the jars you like, Jack. You can't bottle lightning.

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Wednesday, 3 September 2008

How bumblebees fly. And how to be a flyswatter virtuoso

beeWell, there's another one for the history books. Another trope is dead. For years people have been pointing to scientists' inability to explain how bumblebees could fly, given their bulk and small wings, as the outstanding example of how much we still had to learn.

But Edward Willett of Hassenpfeffer tells us that Michael Dickinson has now illuminated that particular mystery.
More recently, Dickinson combined robotic modeling with slow-motion video to at last answer the question of how honeybees, heavy insects with short wing beats, generate enough lift to fly, in apparent defiance of the calculations of aeronautical engineers.

Dickinson found that bees have an incredibly complex wing beat. The wing sweeps back in a ninety-degree arc, then flips over as it turns, all this happening astonishing 230 times a second. Like the rotation of a propeller, this generates more lift than the ordinary wing beats of larger insects.

This is an impressive accomplishment. Dickinson has also studied the flight pattern of flies, and has used his studies to tell us how to better yield a flyswatter.
“It is best,” says Dickinson, “not to swat at the fly’s starting position, but rather to aim a bit forward of that to anticipate where the fly is going to jump when it first sees your swatter.”

Well, for those of us with bad hand/eye coordination, that is not highly useful advice. But never fear. The Walrus comes to the rescue.

Killing flies is a very easy thing. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, flies do not react to slow change. Position the flyswatter over a resting fly very slowly until it's just a few inches away. Then a sudden swat, and the fly is history. They just can't fly fast enough to get out of the swatter's airspace in time.

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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Dimensions six through ten

The conclusion to our romp through time and space.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Wrapping your head around six dimensions

I offhandedly mentioned the existence of ten dimensions the other day in my post on binary thinking. (Go read it. You know you want to. It will help inoculate you against mind-messers.) When my son read it, he directed my attention to these two clips that explain each of the ten dimensions in an understandable way - or at least as close to understandable as that topic can get. This will also mess with your mind, but it is more likely to cause expansion than contraction. So, without further ado, here is the first one, that covers the first six dimensions.

The videos are the explanation of the concepts in the first chapter of the book, Imagining the Tenth Dimension.

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