Link Roundup: August 2018

In Bob We Trust – On “Nannette” and the state of comedy (video) – Hannah Gadsby has a comedy special available on Netflix, which I saw recommended several times by different people.  But this video is the one that finally persuaded me to watch it, because Bob described it as an anti-comedy.  Well, I hate stand-up comedy, and I like deconstruction, so if there was ever a comedy special that I’d want to watch, this sounded like the one.

I thought it was good, but calling it an anti-comedy might be a bit of an exaggeration.  I thought there were plenty of jokes and laughs.  Perhaps someone who actually likes stand-up comedy might feel the number of laughs per minute is a bit low, but I just can’t see it that way myself.

On Laziness – Ozy talks about the concept of laziness, and why it’s a terrible idea.  When people lack motivation, there must be a reason for that, and calling it laziness is a way of halting any inquiry into the causes, and unhelpfully turning it into a moral issue.  Nonetheless, laziness is still a compelling concept that I probably use with some frequency myself.  I think some parallels could be drawn with the way that “stupid” is used as an insult.  We know that there’s nothing morally wrong with having less cognitive ability, and yet “stupid” is still a compelling insult that people have difficulty avoiding even when they understand it’s wrong.

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Explaining the light mill


A crookes radiometer, as described in the text

Image source: Wikipedia

The light mill, also known as the Crookes radiometer, is a little curiosity that can be found in stores at science museums, or in the offices of physics professors. It consists of four vanes, each painted white on one side, and black on the other. The vanes are placed in a bulb, under partial vacuum. When you shine light on the radiometer, the vanes spin around, with the white sides facing forward (counter-clockwise in the above image). A demonstration is shown in the video below.

Supposedly, the Crookes radiometer is an educational tool, but I can’t for the life of me determine what lesson it’s supposed to teach. Because if you ask how it works, the correct explanation is far beyond the ability for most people to understand. I have a Ph.D. in physics, and I still couldn’t understand it! There are numerous internet sources that identify “thermal transpiration” as the correct explanation, but fail to explain what that means or why it happens. So instead I found explanations in scientific literature,1 and now I will share the explanation with you.

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In which I destroy marriage

Attentive readers may have noticed a while ago when I started referring to my robot boyfriend as my robot fiancé. As I’ve told various people, we’ve been cohabiting for years, so we’re functionally already married. But after graduating, getting legally married has become a good financial decision, for two reasons.

First, it lowers our taxes. The general principle is that marriage most benefits couples where one partner has much higher income than the other.1 Since I’ve been unemployed for at least the first half of 2018, marriage very likely benefits us this year.

Second, it lets me buy health insurance through my partner’s employer. This is fairly significant, because I regularly take medication for asthma, and this stuff is surprisingly expensive without insurance coverage. Obamacare guarantees that I at least have the option to buy healthcare, but as I found out when I looked at insurance plans last December, the options aren’t nearly as good as what you can get through employers or universities.

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Origami: Toroidal Cube


Toroidal cube

Toroidal Cube, a design by me

In case it’s not clear what’s going on in the photo, the model is in the shape of a cube, and we are looking at it directly onto one of the vertices.  However, the vertex has been cut out, and there is a triangular hole in its place.  There is also a triangular hole on the opposite end, so that you can see directly through the cube.  The triangles aren’t really triangles, but they look triangular from just the right perspective.

Today’s model was inspired by the regular toroid.  You may have heard of a torus, which is the shape of a donut, or a mug.  A toroidal polyhedron (aka a toroid) is a polyhedron which is also a torus.  A regular toroid is a toroidal polyhedron where each face has the same number of sides, and each vertex connects the same number of edges.

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