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larrythelabrat

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Cross post from facebook [Oct. 13th, 2009|11:40 am]
larrythelabrat
This is cross posted from my facebook account, where I've endeavored to make it public. There are lots of really good comments there, but I'm only going to put the original post here for added visibility (I'm not sure how to make a facebook post visible to folks without facebook, if you'd like to see the discussion there and can't see the facebook post, drop me a friend request)
Thoughts on contra dance programmingCollapse )
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Cross post from facebook [Oct. 13th, 2009|02:30 am]
larrythelabrat
The Ig Nobels came out a little while ago (http://improbable.com/ig/winners/#ig2009), and while I flagged them, I actually got distracted by the actual Nobels and forgot to talk about them further. But there's one that's I think warrants explicit mention.

The Ig Nobel in Biology this year went to "Fumiaki Taguchi, Song Guofu, and Zhang Guanglei of Kitasato University Graduate School of Medical Sciences in Sagamihara, Japan, for demonstrating that kitchen refuse can be reduced more than 90% in mass by using bacteria extracted from the feces of giant pandas." (Reference http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S1389-1723(01)80326-1)

That means there was some unlucky student (and you know it was a student), who had to go out to the giant panda enclosures, collect fecal matter, log it, analyze it, purify it, and culture it. He will now have to defend a dissertation about bacteria grown from Panda droppings.

In short, his thecal matter is poogurt.

I don't miss academia.  
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1959 vs 2009 [Oct. 7th, 2009|11:31 am]
larrythelabrat
I'm cross posting this from fb to make sure rbus sees it, since I think he'll get a kick out of it:


Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ran a test crash of 1959 and 2009 Chevys. Read more at
http://www.iihs.org/50th/default.html
Which includes a video :-)
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Mousetrap Cascade [Aug. 28th, 2009|02:45 pm]
larrythelabrat
Hi Folks,

Back in June, I set up a mousetrap/ping pong ball cascade at the Ithaca Sciencenter with over a thousand ping pong balls.

The videos from the mousetrap cascade are now available on YouTube. The highlight reel is here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHitaEy-Xtg

In the near future there will hopefully be a webpage at the Sciecenter site talking about the whole thing and giving some more information and such. For now, I'm encouraging folks to watch and share the videos. We're still uploading the 3+ GB video of the whole 16 minute presentation. For now, you're welcome to direct any questions to me. Some quick info: We used ~1200 ping pong balls and ~600 mousetraps. It took 24 man-hours to set up (team of 6 working for 4 hours, plus a dinner break). About 120 people were in the room when it exploded. We set it up the day before the demo, and I was worried all night it would randomly go off with no one watching. I still have the mousetraps and ping pong balls, and when I forget what a production it was to do this, I might do it again.

Hope you enjoy them, and sorry for those who got this cross-posted.
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An episode that annoys me: [Jul. 30th, 2009|11:30 am]
larrythelabrat
Sophia and I needed food because an appointment took much longer than anticipated. We decided to hit McDonalds because we could walk there and it would be fast. Split a shake and some fries, no big deal. Sophia decides she wants a bit of chicken and to sit down. I'm on it.

I look at the menu, chicken McNuggets: 6 piece for $2.67, 10 piece for $3.45, 20 piece for $5.42, alright, options. I keep looking. Hey, dollar menu, 4 McNuggets, $1.

I thought about that for a second.

The dollar menu mcnuggets are cheaper per piece than any other option. That by itself annoys me, because I'm a firm advocate of buy big and save, use less packaging, etc. That's not so bad. I'm further annoyed that they didn't take the other items off the menu, or at least make them cost competitive (say, a buck fifty, two fifty, and five dollars). But what gets me really annoyed is that when I ask the cashier about it, she gives me this deer in headlights look that I expect her to do arithmatic.
"Why would anyone buy nuggets not in blocks of 4?"
     "Our dollar menu is a special"
"Why even bother having the other items on the menu right now, they're a waste of money?"
     "..."
"I'll take 3 orders of 4 mcnuggets please"
     "Okay"
I didn't have the heart to ask for it in on box to save packaging.
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For those in the Ithaca Area [Jun. 21st, 2009|01:28 pm]
larrythelabrat
For my friends in the Ithaca area:

This upcoming Saturday (the 27th), I'll be doing a demonstration at the Ithaca ScienCenter at 2 pm. I'll be setting off a chain reaction of several hundred mousetraps and a thousand ping pong balls. I'll also be talking briefly about exponential growth, chain reactions, etc, but the real draw here is the big explosion.

If the ScienCenter has been on your list of things to get to (or back to) for a while, I encourage you to come out this Saturday (the first Saturday of summer and summer vacation).

For those of you not in the Ithaca area, my hope is to have a video of the event up afterwards.

http://www.sciencenter.org/whatsnew/eventscalendar.asp
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What's going to mess you up? [May. 7th, 2009|04:47 pm]
larrythelabrat
Just finished "All Tomorrow's Parties" by William Gibson. Solid Gibson, with a richly detailed universe that isn't quite believeable to me.

He talked at one point about bohemian enclaves being the unconscious R&D of society, and that they were commercialized too quickly to have an effect. I thought it was an interesting idea with some debatable points and interesting observations. It made me wonder if the google-campus type complex is an effort to recreate a similar phenomenon.

The thing that I'm curious at the moment though is he has a throw away line about hunting with a sling(shot?) and wet clay. Something about damp clay being an effective projectile. It seemed odd that you'd want something still malleable instead of hard. Anyone have experience with non-hard sling or slingshot projectiles? It got me wondering about momentum versus energy transfer. If I throw something hard at you and it bounces off, I can transfer twice the initial momentum but no energy to you (in the limit of a perfect elastic collision). Compare that to the limit of a perfectly inelastic collision where I transfer all the energy and the initial momentum to you.

Is it more damaging to adsorb 2P or P+E? I'm thinking here just of things that stop at your external surface, not talking about bullets getting inside of you and messing you up.

When taking a fall in judo (and to my knowledge other martial arts) you slap "to dissipate the energy". Which I always thought of just moving the energy to more expendable parts of your body (i.e. your arms instead of your head). I know it hurts less when you bounce off the mat when you stick to the mat, but that might be a function of you tend to not bounce when the person throwing you comes down on top of you.

Thoughts/experience with how the human body takes damage?
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Theaters vs Home Entertainment Systems [Apr. 13th, 2009|09:32 am]
larrythelabrat
I recently saw Monsters vs Aliens in 3D at a local theater. The new 3D tech was impressive and not obtrusive. The glasses felt like sunglasses (I regularly wear glasses, and these fit over them just fine. The friend I went with doesn't usually wear glasses, and also wasn't bothered by them). The most distracting them about them was playing with them to look at the polarization and how two sets of glasses interact (I'm a physicist, it's what we do).

The movie was entertaining. It's a silly kids movie. Has some reasonable messages about self-empowerment. It also has a lot of references for adults (throw away in-jokes to things like Simeon Says, Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind, and probably more that I'm missing).

The movie in no way requires 3D. There were a couple of shots where I had a "okay, that was a cool trick" that worked better in 3D, but nothing major. It's been a long time since I last saw a 3D film, but I was struck that this one usually seemed to add depth to the screen, rather than have things come out of the screen. Made it feel more like a window into another world rather than an immersive experience, although it was a more immersive experience than a flat screen.

As for the subject of this post, this is something theaters can do that (for now) home entertainment systems can't. To my knowledge, there aren't any flat screens that are accepting polarization information for their images. I like there are places that can sink the capital into creating an experience that I can't get at home, that makes theaters special. If I were a theater owner/manager, I'd be all over this and clamoring for more films that gave a unique experience outside the home.

As a theater patron (and granted, I'm an infrequent one, my last in theater film was Iron Man), I want the cost of two tickets to a weekday 2:30 showing to be less than $20 (I think this clocked in at $23, and that's without any food or drink purchased). Drop the prices a bit, and you'll see me in the theater for something like this a lot more than you have. And it looks like theaters could really use the business, as my friend and I were the only ones at the show.
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ALL done [Feb. 20th, 2009|09:37 am]
larrythelabrat
Heyo all,

I hadn't realized I hadn't put up the final update. But the paperwork and everything is done. I've completed all requirements for a PhD in Physics from Cornell. I have an official letter that says I'm done (watermark and seal and everything).

The last paperwork stuff wasn't too big of a problem, and saying it was completed got left behind as things were really busy (Dance Flurry, flying across country, etc).

But I'm completely done now.
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Done! [Feb. 5th, 2009|02:25 pm]
larrythelabrat
Heyo all, passed my B exam thesis defense today. All that's left is paperwork.
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