Well, that was embarrassing …

Ohio and North Carolina compete to claim the honor of inventing the airplane. While the Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur were from Ohio, their first flight took place in North Carolina in 1903. In support of their state’s claim, the state of Ohio issued a license plate showing their plane carrying a banner that said “Ohio Birthplace of Aviation”.

Unfortunately for them, their image had the plane backwards so that it seemed to be actually pushing the banner. That really would be a first.
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Atheists, agnostics, and Catholics are the most supportive of vaccines

Although the anti-vaccine and anti-mask protestors get a lot of media coverage, a new survey from the Pew Research Center finds that a majority of the American public (by a margin of 62% to 37%) see the health benefits if the Covid-19 restrictions as worth the costs, even though the restrictions have “hurt businesses and economic activity and keep people from living their lives the way they want”. But many also fear that the worst is yet to come.

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Overreacting to publicity hounds

The media tends to focus on controversies, which is fair enough. After all, ‘news’ is what is out of the ordinary. What is annoying is when they lazily treat some idiotic statements by a few people as representing sentiments more widespread than they actually are. This is even more irritating when the people making the statements are known publicity hounds who clearly make absurd statements hoping that they will garner some headlines.

Take this recent headline from an Associated Press story titled Big Bird backlash: Vax lands even Muppet in political flap about the beloved Sesame Street character saying that he got the vaccine that is now given to children.

The word ‘backlash’ suggests widespread reaction. What is the evidence of it? Just senator Ted Cruz along with an obscure Fox News contributor describing it as ‘government propaganda’ and ‘brainwashing’ and ‘twisted’.

There are some politicians who simply crave to be in the headlines: Cruz, Marjorie-Taylor Greene, and Lauren Boebert to name just a few. They will respond with something that is inflammatory to anything has the slightest chance of igniting passion among the loonies of the right. If it does, they pat themselves on the back for succeeding. If it doesn’t, there is always something new that will come along the next day.

The publicity hound monster is insatiable and one has to stop feeding it. But the 24/7 news cycle is like these publicity hounds in that it also craves attention and needs content that will provide it. So we have a symbiotic relationship between attention-seekers on both sides.

This xkcd strip needs an extra panel

Via PZ’s blog Pharyngula I saw this xkcd strip.

I am a physicist and a physics teacher and so of course am well aware of this popular lecture demonstration where a bowling ball or some other heavy object is hung from the ceiling of a lecture hall. A person then stands some distance away from the lowest point at which the ball is resting and brings the ball up to their nose with the rope kept taut. The ball is then released and it swings away from the person and returns, just like a pendulum. The point is whether the person will flinch when they see the ball come back towards their face. The law of conservation of energy predicts the ball will not rise higher than the initial release point and so will never hit the face, and the panel looks at how different scientists might respond to being in that situation.
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Psychopaths and sociopaths

Although I had not really looked into the formal definitions of the words, I used to distinguish between sociopaths and psychopaths by thinking of the former as people lacking in conscience and in empathy, who pursue their own interests without thinking of the needs or feelings of other people. One can think of Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos but pretty much any oligarch would seem to fit into this category. I saw psychopaths as going even beyond that and being willing to even physically harm people who stood in their way. Serial killers like Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer would be psychopaths.

But somewhere along the way, I read that there really was no difference between the two terms and started using them interchangeably. Now comes along an article in Discover magazine by Benjamin Plackett that says that using the two terms interchangeably is not correct and that a useful distinction can be made using brain science between the two terms.
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Do they plan for things like this?

What happens if you are playing a violin solo during a major recital and a string breaks on your violin?

This happened to Ray Chen when he was playing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. While the orchestra played on, he exchanged his violin with that of the concertmaster and continued olaying, while the concertmaster exchanged it with another violinist and the damaged instrument kept getting shuffled around in the background.

He and the entire orchestra handled the situation with such aplomb that I wondered whether they anticipate such a possibility and plan for it. Chen was the person who posted this clip and he he says that it has happened to him before.

I recall once attending a string quartet recital and the last piece they played was a fairly long, very modern piece that involved quite vigorous use of the violin including tapping and plucking. It was not quite to my taste. Towards the very end, a string broke and since this was just a quartet, there was no sliding past it. They stopped and after a brief discussion amongst themselves said that in order to be true to the piece, they would start again from the top after replacing the string. My heart sank but I appreciated their commitment.

Average body temperature is dropping

A few days ago, I started feeling a little lousy, ‘under the weather’ as they say in the UK, and decided to take my temperature and sure enough I had a low fever of about 100.6F. In these pandemic days, even though I am vaccinated and take precautions, wear masks in public places and as much as possible only associate with vaccinated people, there is always the chance of breakthrough infections so even though I had none of the other symptoms of covid such as loss of taste and smell, I decided to take a home test to see if I had contracted covid. The test came beck negative, which was a relief, but these rapid tests are not that reliable so one can never be sure, so I decided to self-isolate until my fever went back to normal.
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Galilean relativity rules! (At speeds much less than the speed of light)

The Mythbusters team looked at what happens when you fire a soccer ball at 50 mph backwards out of the back of a truck that is moving forward at 50 mph. The result would have come as no surprise to Galileo.

But if instead of a soccer ball, you fired a beam of light out of the back, it would still travel at the speed of light, however fast the truck was moving. (The truck can never travel at the speed of light, of course.) You would have to use the Lorentz transformations, not the Galilean ones, when you have objects traveling at close to or at the speed of light. You could use the Lorentz transformations for the soccer ball case also (since the GT are an approximation to the LT).

The ultimate gated community – in space

Now that we have people going to space just for the hell of it and if they can afford it, there are some plans to open a space hotel in the year 2027 in the form of a rotating wheel (a la 2001) to simulate gravity to about one-sixth of the Earth’s.

As the first of its kind, Voyager Station is slated to be a luxury resort designed to accommodate 280 guests and 112 crew members, complete with a restaurant, a bar, a concert hall, a gym and even a cinema.

After blasting off from Earth, guests will arrive at a central, zero-gravity docking hub. From there, elevator shafts will carry them outward to a chain of “habitation modules” arranged around the circumference of the circular station. It’s only there, at the edge of the wheel, that the centrifugal force will be strong enough to keep guests and their surroundings firmly grounded.

Wandering the 24 modules, which come in at 125,000 square feet total, they’ll find all the aforementioned amenities of this resort in the sky.

On its website, the company urges potential clients to get in on the action: “Be one of the first humans to vacation on a luxury space station. Make history as one of the first humans in history to own real estate in orbit.” As if it were promoting any old property in Aspen or Palm Beach, the site advertises short- and long-term leases for “luxury villas, commercial, retail and industrial space” — pun perhaps intended. They’re already in negotiations with booking agents, Alatorre says.

Yes, finally the very wealthy will be really, really free of the presence of the hoi polloi, their ultimate dream.

If you want more information, you can check out the website.

While I can see this maybe becoming reality at some point, 2027 seems highly unlikely.