Tag Archives: space

Things 100: Spaceship Earth, Fake Hacking, List, Scientific Method, Owlbears

It’s Things 100. Time for some particularly epic Things.

I remember reading (in Critical Path, lent to me by John) that Buckminster-Fuller felt it was very difficult to watch a sunset or sunrise and intuitively apprehend that what you see is due to the earth turning – but that if we could succeed at doing so, we would come to better appreciate our place in the universe, and perhaps make wiser long-term decisions.

Even though I’ve seen plenty of night-sky time-lapse before, for some reason this video is the first I’ve seen that really gives me that feeling:

The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

A while ago I thought it would be neat to make a program that took as input random keyboard mashing and produced as output  the appearance that you were doing some movie-style hacking, complete with big secret-service logos and password fields that flash up “ACCESS DENIED”, “ACCESS DENIED” and then “ACCESS GRANTED”, and obviously lines and lines of clever-looking code, but I didn’t have the know-how to make it happen.

Fortunately, the internet provides – it doesn’t do the whole window thing I imagined, but you do get to mash the keyboard while apparently producing reams of commented hacking-type code (none of which I understand). If you want a version that also makes bleeping noises for no reason, just like in the movies, you can use this one instead.

Tim Link
I blogged my responses to the first 10 questions in the “30 Days of Video Games Meme”. Probably worth reading if you’re interested in games, or in gamers, or the formative life experiences of me.

Quote kind of thing
Diving back into my own archive, I was quite pleased with this list of self-referential things I collected and created on my old Geocities self-referential page:

Imagine a world with no hypothetical situations.
This sentence has cabbage six words
There are no redundant redundant words in this sentence.
This statement is false
This statement is not provable by me. (Useful illustration of Godel’s incompleteness theorem)
The smallest number that cannot be stated in fewer than 22 syllables
Consider the set of all sets that have not yet been considered.
The ‘pre’ in prefix
Illiterate illiteration
“All clichés should be avoided like the plague” (attributed to Arthur Christiansen, found in “The Joy of Clichés” by Nigel Rees)
This is not the last example on the list.
Aibohphobia (credited to Imre Leader, although the Wikipedia cites the Wizard of Id)
Grammar message in Microsoft Word: “This may not be a complete sentence”
This sentence contains three a’s, three c’s, two d’s, twenty seven e’s, four f’s, two g’s, ten h’s, eight i’s, thirteen n’s, six o’s, ten r’s, twenty fives’s, twenty three t’s, three u’s, three v’s, six w’s, three x’s, and four y’s.
In order to understand the theory of recursion, one must first understand the theory of recursion.
I don’t speak English (Je ne parle pas Francais, etc…)
Stretching a metaphor to breaking point, then snapping it, shredding it into small pieces and mashing them into a pulp.
There are 3 kinds of people in the world; those that can count, and those that can’t.
Actually, there are 10 kinds of people in the world; those that can count in binary, and those that can’t.
“a7H.4hwJ?22i” is an example of a good password.
A rag man
This is the last example on the list.

What is going wrong with the scientific method? That’s a very long article, but it’s a very big question, so worth a read and a ponder. (And hey, this is Things 100 after all.)

And finally… what do Owlbears look like? The ArtOrder asked, and a bunch of different artists came up with a really fantastic range of answers.

Things 96: Rocket Path-Dependency, Lipstick Animals, 3D Doesn’t Work

When speculating on the subject of extraterrestrial space-faring life, it’s all too easy to forget the many development factors that are likely to be local to us, and to assume that too much of what we have done will generalise to other life forms out there. This article puts forward a compelling argument that our rocket-based space-faring only arose because of certain very specific and not particularly likely events.

While I don’t think it could be objectively assessed, I rather like Arthur Koestler’s observation on originality:

The more original a discovery, the more obvious it seems afterwards.

This is one of the things that makes me think of that Arthur Koestler quote: lipstick animals.

Lots more here.

Why 3D doesn’t work and never will. Case closed.”
Roger Ebert quotes Walter Merch, as a Man Who Knows What He’s Talking About, who presents several arguments as to why 3D cinema can never work.

I’ve heard a lot of bad arguments on both sides of this debate, so it’s nice to see someone with a deep understanding of the medium draw out their arguments clearly. My question is, is he right?

Previous Puzzle
Last time I asked how a mouse could fall any distance and survive.

As Phil pointed out, the statement is strictly false: “a mouse certainly can’t fall further than the size of the universe, for example.” So instead we restrict ourselves to consider mice falling off things that are attached to the earth, and no higher than the point at which the atmosphere becomes too thin for a mouse to breathe, and that the survivability criterion is assessed upon landing, and that the landing area itself is not deadly to mice.

First we must address the idea some people recall from school that all objects fall at the same speed, as per Galileo’s thought experiment and his apocryphal dropping-objects-from-the-tower-of-Pisa experiment. This is clearly false as a feather falls more slowly than a hammer, and the confounding factor is air resistance. Rather excellently, the hammer-feather experiment was conducted on the moon to show that in the absence of significant air resistance, they will actually fall at the same speed:


When air resistance is introduced the shape and particularly the downward-facing area dimensions of the falling objects matter, and although it’s hard to have a good intuitive feel for this when comparing such random objects as animals, I find it’s much easier to imagine a kind-of equivalent parachute with a weight attached.

A small parachute with a big bag of hammers attached will be pulled down more quickly than the same parachute with a feather attached. Alternatively, if two parachutes have equal weights attached, but one parachute is much bigger than the other, it’s easy to imagine that the bigger parachute has greater air resistance and so will fall slower.

Now if we imagine a parachute the size of a mouse, with a weight attached that is the same weight as a mouse, we can imagine it will fall pretty slowly, particularly compared to a parachute the size of an elephant with a weight attached the same weight as an elephant. So we can intuitively understand that the mouse survives.

Or perhaps we can’t? I realise that wasn’t very scientific, but I tend to prefer thought experiments of this kind as they seem to help most people grok ideas better than formulae.

This article over at Everything2 also has some concise words to say on the subject of falling animals.