no internet and no wireless make sam something something

December 22, 2006 at 8:16 pm | | science@home, stupid technology, wild web

Go crazy? Don’t mind if I do!

I’m home in Maine visiting family (and friends) for the holidays. My parents, unfortunately, have … prepare yourself … DIAL-UP internet. In other words, there is no internet at my house. Which is partially why I haven’t written anything lately. (Another reason is that I’m lazy.)

So, in order to use (fast) internet, I go to local coffee shops and the town library. But after hours, I’ve found myself sitting in a cold car in the library parking lot—leeching off the wireless and desperately checking my email (all spam).

OK, I just wanted to make fun of myself. And perpetuate stereotypes about Maine.

Pop Quiz

December 19, 2006 at 8:56 pm | | grad life

When I say, “Liquid Nitrogen,” is your first response:

A) Cool stuff you can freeze things in, or

B) A royal pain in the ass.

I was ruminating on the subject while filling my diffusion pump (of course done while wearing a face shield, spash guard, cryogenic gloves, and not carrying the dewer on my shoulder sloshing it all over myself. Safety first.). I think it is kind of interesting how liquid nitrogen goes from being this magical and amazing liquid pulled out at chemistry demonstations, to a hassle that means coming in 2 hours earlier than usual refill a detector.

Just another Gedanken experiment

December 13, 2006 at 11:20 am | | literature, nerd

I’m sure most of you who’ve taken physics classes have heard of some of the famous gedankens of history. Maybe you remember some of Einstein’s gedankens, or Schrodinger’s, but did you ever wonder about Gedanken’s gedankens? I didn’t until I was scrolling through the TOC alerts for J. Phys. Chem. and I saw the authors for this article:

MnO Octahedral Nanocrystals and MnO@C Core-Shell Composites: Synthesis,
Characterization, and Electrocatalytic Properties
Sangaraju Shanmugam and Aharon Gedanken

Now, I admit that this is pretty nerdy but the second author’s last name was funny and ironic to me on several levels. First, the paper he’s publishing is a real experiment, not a gedanken experiment, yet everything he does is at least partially a Gedanken experiment so how does he ever achieve anything? Secondly, it’s also ironic that a guy working at a university in Israel should have a last name that means “thought” in German. I leave that to you to wonder about….

Until then, I’ll continue with my gedanken experiments seeing as I haven’t been able to do any real ones for several months.

running on oobleck

December 13, 2006 at 9:15 am | | science and the public, wild web

No, it’s not a new alternative energy, it’s fun video of people literally running atop a non-Newtonian fluid. Of course, I’ve already posted an article about more profound Oobleck revelations, but this video is in a different language!

why don’t people understand dollars and cents?

December 11, 2006 at 10:29 pm | | news, science and the public, wild web

There’s a strange problem being reported by multiple people on the internets: Verizon cannot (or refuses to) grasp the difference between 0.002 dollars per kilobyte and 0.002 cents per kilobyte—obviously a 100-fold difference. Their confusion is clear: they seem to believe that a fraction of a dollar is called a “cent.” When asked Do you recognize the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents?, the customer service rep replied, No, they’re the same thing.

For those of us who have ever converted megapancakes per second to picoyummies (conversion factor: 1018 y*s/p), this seems pretty idiotic (and soooo frustrating). (And it seems that the Verizon customer service people need to be trained to be a little more respectful and helpful, and to listen to their customers.) Plus, this may be a societal problem of the reluctance to think in abstracts (e.g. units). But I also have to be sorta the bad guy and point out that—while not their job to teach the Verizon idiots how to do very simple math and finance—these people who spoke to several customer service reps and managers need to take a little responsibility for failing to communicate effectively.

Of course I understood what the wronged customers were saying, but I’m well educated in math (just as they seem to be). I would have used the same tactics, analogies, and examples that they did. And I would have failed to convey the problem, too. Especially without the help of a blackboard, time, or patience (on either end), clarifying the difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents might be an impossible task. But I’m still disappointed that the well educated customers failed—and failed again and again using nearly identical tactics.

So maybe the bad Verizon math scandal is a wake-up call for both sides—the educators and the desperately-needing-to-be-educated-even-just-a-little—that, if at first you don’t succeed, try again a different way.

saved google searches

December 10, 2006 at 1:13 pm | | software, stupid technology, wild web

Don’t you sometimes regret that the little search field in the upper right corner of a Firefox window (or the Google toolbar or … I dunno, does the new IE have a search field?) remembers the stupid things you type in? Is there a word for search-memory regret?


So embarrassing. Especially the misspelling. (By the way, do not search what I searched. Very disturbing.)

A better search history here.

How Much is Your Website Worth

December 7, 2006 at 9:34 am | | wild web has put up a fun online calculator that supposedly calculates website worth, based upon backlinks. Source

So, let’s look at some sites:

Google: $251,427,596

Yahoo: $85,560,377 $1,824,885 $130,040

Stanford Chemistry: $1,221

Stanford Biology: $1,421

ACS pubs: $64,266

Science: $462,432

Nature: $387,828

The Onion: $1,015,143

And finally, (below)

This website is worth

What is your website worth?

better gloves

December 5, 2006 at 6:00 pm | | everyday science, hardware, lab safety, stupid technology

Man, my least favorite part about wearing nitrile gloves is that my palms get all sweaty. Gross. So I came up with a great way to avoid that discomfort:


Isn’t that great. Much more comfortable. Now I can work for hours without changing my gloves, all the while feeling vented and fresh.

And then it hit me: why vent just the palm when you can vent the back of your hand, too? That’s when I came up with an even better idea:


I should really patent these!

This idea was so successful that I went to work on my safety glasses. Did you know that if you remove those silly lenses, the safety glasses are much lighter? And I don’t think those lenses actually do anything, because I can see much better without them, now (they were all foggy from a bunch of solvents, acids, etc. splashing on them).

This post has been censored by your friendly lab-safety coordinator. We apologize for any inconvenience. –Sam

Oh, Snap!

December 4, 2006 at 10:43 am | | crazy figure contest, literature, news, science and the public

Remember a while back when some guy used fractal analysis to study Jackson Pollock paintings and made a world of bold proclamations, the most important of which was the claim that fractal analysis can be used to refute provenance? Not so much. Apparently all it takes to become the master of “the language of nature” is 5 minutes and photoshop.

Now all that needs to be done is configure our laser jet for a 10×15′ canvas, and I’m richer than L. Ron Hubbard. No flying DC-10 spaceships required.

(Xenu prefers fractional dimensionalities)

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