awesome catalog!

April 7, 2006 at 5:50 pm | | literature, nerd

This has got to be the most exciting catalog out there:


einstein cartoon

April 6, 2006 at 9:36 am | | cartoons, nerd

(cartoon removed for copyright reasons)

xp in an apple anyone?

April 5, 2006 at 12:14 pm | | nerd, news, software

Apple announced that they’re going to offer a program that lets Windows be installed on their machines. Crazy! I never thought that would happen. I know there are already programs that let you do this, but now Apple is offering the program, called Boot Camp, itself. It’s official.

hca the new yogi berra?

April 4, 2006 at 11:18 am | | nerd

“The important thing is to spot errors, not just to make them.”
Hans C. Andersen after making an algebraic error on the chalkboard


April 3, 2006 at 6:11 pm | | news

Lucky pig sperm is going to be super happy launched into lucky amazing China spaceship to see whether terrific space alters special wonderful pig genes. Source

What’ll kick start the Irish space program?

April 3, 2006 at 6:08 pm | | news

Answer: an alcohol cloud was recently found in space. Sorry about the Irish bit. I couldn’t think of another group worthy of the claim. Source

lasers treating me a little better today

April 3, 2006 at 5:36 pm | | everyday science, hardware

Although the OPO is still not working after several more attempts at re-aligning (and the Millenia 532-nm laser across the hall is out for repair/replacement) I have some good news in the laser department. I got (at least for the time being) a 532-nm source: a little 12-mW diode laser that another lab member used to use. I made a neat stand for it out of a bunch of random aluminum pieces I found around lab (with some minor drilling required). Now I have two colors directly on my table, look:


Now I can switch between 488 nm and 532 nm when I look at different samples, simply by flipping a little mirror:


The best part is that it only took me 20 minutes to align into the fiber, which has taken me days in the past. My trick is to first make sure the spot goes evenly through the coupler (by taking off the fiber), then aligning the beam path using a multimode fiber. That’s pretty easy, but it gives you a coarse alignment. Then I replace the multimode with my fiber and maximize the output. Today, it worked like a charm.

Now here are my lasers:


In this picture, the flippy mirror is up, so 532 goes into the fiber coupler and the 488 beam scatters off the back of the flippy. With a flip of that mirror, the 488 goes perfectly into the fiber and will only require minor retweaking downstream! The best part is that both prefiber alignments are orthogonal, so I don’t have to worry about screwing up one color if I want to mess with the other (as long as I don’t touch the coupler or the mirror immediately before the coupler, of course). I was pretty thrilled with this, especially because all the rest of the lasers I’m trying to use are the suck right now.

caution: annoying lasers

April 1, 2006 at 8:54 pm | | everyday science, hardware


Man, I had bad luck with lasers on Friday. First, the guy from Spectra Physics showed up two hours late then to check out our Millenia (532 nm, 5 W diode) laser. It sounds like the power supply ($1200) is dead; also, one or both of the diodes ($11000 each) might need replacing. We asked him about trade-in possibilities for a 532-nm, 250 mW laser.

Then Jim, Frank, and I tried to get the OPO working. We re-aligned it three times to no avail. Here’s a pic of the setup:


The Ar+ pumps the Ti-Sapph, which pumps the OPO. We can get the Ar+ to be pretty stable after several hours of tweaking, and the Ti-Sapph stays mode-locked pretty well. But the OPO won’t … well … it won’t OPO, I guess. We got to open up the OPO, which was pretty neat:


Actually, it’s kinda fun tweaking all these scary knobs and mirrors and crystals. But it would be a lot funner if it worked after all that tweaking. Oh well, there’s always Monday…

Prayer don’t work too good

April 1, 2006 at 7:30 am | | news

Can prayer heal illness? No, but it might be able to make illness worse. Folks who were prayed for had more post-op complications than those who weren’t prayed for. Scientists think the reason for this might be because having a prayer team can really freak a patient out. Maybe it’s because the devil is intercepting the prayers. Maybe when prayer teams assemble in groups of 4 or 5, that’s like tuning to the devil’s radio station, and he’s like, “Whoa! Hell no, you’re not gonna save this patient. This one’s mine, bwahaha!” Well, at least this devil’s radio station explanation would’ve been the better excuse from religionists. But no, the religionists think the study is bunk because scientists failed to account for how much prayer was given. Um. Can’t that easily be accounted for? Just ask the prayer folks to start the clock when they start praying, then stop the clock when the prayers stop. If intensity is an issue, then members of the prayer team can self-record the level of intensity of prayer for each session. Maybe even record the number of genuflects they take?

All that aside, the good news is that praying for yourself seems to work pretty well. Maybe this is sort of like that weird phenomenon where 1 violin sounds louder than 3 violins playing in unison (or so I’m told). I mean, maybe one guy’s prayer is louder (i.e., easier for God to hear) than several guys’ prayers occurring simultaneously. The prayer doesn’t get all muddled up. Of course, if this were the case, then we’d want one person whose not the patient to pray for the patient. Then try again with another person not the patient. Then again and again. See if that works. Oh, but what about all those people secretly praying for the same patient? Damn. This is why all people should pray out loud and in close proximity to those for whom they are praying. There should be a law. (So no more prayers for our troops in Iraq, kay?) But oh well. How bout this. Maybe prayers for oneself are effective because they strengthen one’s resolve, eh? I wonder if self “prayer” is really any better than a secularist’s “hope” or “positive outlook.” God forbid we study that! Source | Source

Moderation – psha!

April 1, 2006 at 7:00 am | | news

Recently, there was an overview of a bunch of studies regarding the health effects of alcohol. There’s a big methodology error in these studies, namely that the non-drinkers involved in the studies are really more like ex-drinkers, than lifetime teetotalers. Is it really any surprise that the moderate drinkers would fare better than the ex-drinker counterparts? WTF? But I don’t see why this can’t be remedied by checking out non-drinking cultures, like Jehova’s Witnesses, Mormons, Buddhists, and Muslims. Of course, there’re lifestyle variables with these folks, too, which might screw up a study’s results. But there’re so many of these folks that you’d think scientists would be able to isolate some of these variables. In any case, I thought the overview of health effects of alcohol had one other surprise. Moderation, apparently, means 2-4 drinks per day. 4 drinks per day is moderate! Geez! That’s like half the days liquid intake. Quite the moderation. Source

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