hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Apr. 13th, 2012 06:52 am)
Woke up this morning thinking about gravity. It happens.

In particular, I was thinking about the "rubber sheet" model of gravity. The idea is that what gravity really is is a bending of space-time. Imagine a stretched-out rubber sheet. Like, say, a trampoline. Let's say that trampoline represents the universe. Or, rather, the two-dimensional surface at the top of the trampoline represents the universe.

Now, what happens when you put a weight somewhere on the trampoline? Gently, mind you. I'm not talking about bouncing it up and down. You put a weight down slowly, and the trampoline sags under it. Any other object on the trampoline's surface will naturally begin to slide towards it. And the closer you are to the weight and the heaver it is, the more the other object will be drawn in that direction.

That's what gravity is like. Mass bends space-time. The more mass there is, the greater the effect. And the closer you are, the more you feel it.

The thing is that the effect goes on infinitely in all directions. It drops off exponentially with distance, but it's still mathematically there. The same thing happens with, say, a lightbulb. The amount of light you see from it drops off exponentially the further you get from it, but the light rays go out from it infinitely in all directions. Even if you get far enough that it's too dim for your eyes to see, more sensitive equipment can still theoretically pick it up.

All of which is pretty cool because, among other things, it means that you, just by existing, are bending space and time around you in a way which can be felt across the entire universe. And every time you move, you're changing the curvature of the universe.

But it also means that if you know the exact shape of the gravitational field at a given point, down to the nth derivative, you can theoretically extrapolate from that the shape of the entire universe. Which means you'd know the mass and location of every object in existence. By studying exactly what's right here (wherever your "here" may happen to be), you can know where everything in the universe is.

The same goes for magnetic fields. They extend infinitely across the universe, so if you the exact shape of the magnetic field where you are, you could figure out where everything with any kind of electromagnetic charge is.

So, if you were looking for a specific distant object with a magnetic field and you could either know everything about that object's magnetic properties or know everything about the field where you are, you'd be better off with the latter. There are all sorts of electromagnetic fields coming from every direction. Knowing what you're looking for won't help so much because the effects would be miniscule. More importantly, you'd be getting interference from everything else. But if you know the field where you are, you can extrapolate from that where everything is.

I was thinking about that, and I suddenly realized something.

In Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, someone with the proper knowledge and sufficient magical power can Travel, opening up a Gateway from one place to another. The thing is that to do it you have to truly, deeply know the place where you are. Not where you're going. Where you're leaving from. You have to really study it. It can take days.

It always seemed like an odd magical quirk. A whim of the writer. But today it clicked for me. It's true. When you're dealing with the fabric of the universe, it really can be more important to know everything about where you are.

ETA: "Every time you move, you are changing the curvature of the universe." This might explain why it's so hard to get out of bed in the morning.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Mar. 4th, 2012 11:15 pm)
Why would you need to shoot the fish if they're already in a freaking barrel?

Come to that, wouldn't that put holes in the barrel?

Actually, no. It wouldn't. Because bullets lose velocity amazingly fast when traveling through water. So the fish would probably be okay. And so would the barrel.

Also, water diffracts light, so you'd probably miss the fish, especially if you're as lazy as the expression implies.

This whole thing is like shooting fish in a barrel; it makes no sense at all.

ETA: Never mind. Mythbusters proved that the shockwave from the bullet will kill the fish even if you miss wildly. Huh.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Oct. 31st, 2011 08:41 am)
Eastern meditation: If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

Western science: If a cat dies in a box, and no one is there to see it, is it really dead?

Personally, I've always been inclined to say, "Yes. Duh." But it's interesting how the two chose to express what is essentially the same general idea.

And, on thoughts of zombie cats (the brilliant solution from one of the early strips at rlfcomic.com ), I bid you a happy Halloween and a good night.

Posted via m.livejournal.com.

Woke up earlier than I should have this morning. Tried to fall back asleep (and I did drift in and out for a while), but ended up designing an image in my head. One which I don't have the ability to make. But I can still describe it for you.

If you're interested, that is. )

It's probably been done, but I hope it amuses. It seemed funny when I was half asleep.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jul. 15th, 2011 10:14 pm)
I've seen a few fireflies buzzing around the area at night. The ones I've seen have been near the roads. And it makes me feel bad for them. They depend on their lights to find each other, and here they are being flooded with streetlights and car headlights and all sorts of other artificial light and light pollution. It must make things so much harder for them.

And yet, somehow, they're doing it. Clearly. Because those lights have been there for years, and the fireflies are still around.

But it also makes me wonder what it was like when fireflies first evolved. "Hey, baby! Mate with me! I can make my butt glow!" And, somehow, that worked.

But then that got me thinking about how evolution got sidetracked. Firefly mating is, as far as I know, largely based on the glowing butt. Which serves little to no other purpose. Which, in all likelihood, actually serves to attract predators like... well, like a beacon in the night.

It's kind of like the birds of paradise, which have all sorts of bizarre and complex mating displays. Like this:

One of dozens of species classified as "birds of paradise," each with its own unique mating display. That black oval with the strange neon smiley face is a bird, about the size and shape of the brown female looking at him. Except that, in hopes of mating, he has puffed out a special ruff of feathers which exists solely for this purpose. The female will look at it. She'll consider it for a while. If she's impressed, she'll mate with him. If not, she'll fly off. Either way, once mating season has passed and the girls stop looking, he'll put it away for the rest of the year. Because it's not good for anything else.

In a way, it's cool. Because you get all these beautiful things. Fireflies, birds of paradise, peacocks, and so on. But it's strange. Evolution is supposed to be about survival of the fittest. And instead of leading to useful adaptations (which it generally does) here are cases where it leads to day-glo makeup and boob jobs and setting your butt on fire for no better reason than to attract girls. (Which, granted, is a pretty good reason. But it's not how the system is supposed to work.)

It's a strange, beautiful world we live in.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Mar. 5th, 2010 12:45 am)
Just finished reading a cool book called The Warded Man. Found it in the library.

The book takes place in a world beset by demons. They arise every night from the core of the Earth. A lot of bad stuff happens to the main character, of course. To all three of them, actually. But the title character... well, it destroys any chance of him having faith. And he's talking about that to a priest, who is trying to convince him that there is a Creator and a reason for it all and a plan that could be understood if only the bigger picture could be seen.

It's not the first time I've seen a conversation like that in a book. But it brings up the same thought in me every time. Whatever I think of theology in our world, I know the truth of theirs. The priest is absolutely right. In their world, there is a higher power. There is a creator. No question. Their entire lives, their entire world... all part of a greater plan. The deaths of loved ones, the plague that rips through the town, the demons who slaughter anyone they can get their hands on, the betrayals and bandits and everything... all part of the plan. A plan that will eventually (almost) certainly bring triumph, glory, and (some measure of) happiness to the main characters. There is indeed a reason for all that pain and suffering and conflict and death.

That reason? Entertainment. For people like me who can pick the book up off the shelf and escape into it for a few hours.

Sometimes, I wish I could tell them. But it would be doing them no favors. Sort of feels like maybe I owe them something, though. And an apology isn't nearly going to cut it. Not after everything they went through.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Oct. 9th, 2009 02:23 am)
Every once in a while, I wonder about last names.

There was a time, several hundred years ago, when people didn't have last names. You had a first name, and then some distinguishing fact. Maybe it was your father's name. You'd be Erik, John's son. Or maybe you were the acknowledged bastard of some local noble, in which case you'd be Brian, Fitz (bastard of) Patrick. Or maybe it would be the family business, particularly if it was a prestigious one, like Smith or Miller. Or maybe it was the place where you'd grown up - you were the Robert from the local village of Rosefield (or perhaps Rosenfeld), or you'd come from the prestigious and sophisticated city of Vienna (and thus were named "Weiner" - which is only a small part of how I got my family name, but never mind that just now).

And then something changed. Last names happened. I don't know how or why. Was it by royal decree? Was it that the king took on a last name in order to tout his lineage, which then, of course, became the noble fashion, and it spread from there? Was it just some cultural change? Something else?

Think of what it must have been like during that transition.

John, Erik's son, fathered Michael, John's son. He, in turn, fathered... Robert Johnson. Which must have been very confusing for the older generations. His name is Johnson, but he's Michael's boy?

Brian was born into a family of millers, but there wasn't really a place for him there. His older brothers did the work of maintaining the mill, and he'd never really gotten the hang of all that complex machinery (the pinnacle of power-generating technology). There was no way he could go off to some other town and build a mill of his own. But he was pretty good at working with the flour produced by the mill. So he became Brian Miller... the baker.

And what of David Rosenfeld, whose family had moved out of town a generation before, but who had himself been born and raised in Hamburg?

All these people with names that should have described something about them, but that didn't really fit. I guess it'd have helped that many others of their generation were going through the same thing... but not all of them would have. Not the ones born shortly before the change took place. Did Robert Johnson's oldest brother stay George, Michael's son? Did he become George Michaelson? Or George Johnson?

It just seems like it all would have been very weird. I wonder what it was actually like.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Sep. 21st, 2009 04:15 pm)
Had a good weekend. Went to Cape May with Mom and Dad. Didn't sleep well (even for me), unfortunately, but otherwise it was good. Beautiful weather, charming little town, nice change of pace. Pretty tired now (even for me), though.

Did have an odd dream. Or an odd fragment of a dream:

Frodo and Bilbo were walking through the forest when suddenly Gandalf appeared. He ate the two hobbits with one cartoonish swallow each. There was a flash and a magical puff and he was instantly made moderately fat. So he changed his name to James Gandalfini.

Even odder is that I never read LotR (I took a crack at it when I was a kid, but couldn't slog through even half of the first book), never saw the movies, and never watched The Sopranos, either. This meant that the whole scene was glimpsed very vaguely, with the people involved having no distinct forms. No idea where any of it came from.

Also, random thought for those of you who don't read [community profile] randomthoughts:

You know that expression "I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else"? Well you know who doesn't? Batman.*

Also (even if they are sometimes The Wrong Trousers) Wallace.

*The Adam West version, anyway.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( May. 24th, 2008 02:23 am)
Something that occurred to me last night as I was getting ready for bed...

Just how happy is a preacher in a month of Sundays?

I mean, sure... I can see the advantages. A whole month with the congregation's attention (theoretically) directed where it should be.

But... Sundays take work for a preacher. Preparations. Writing the sermon. Getting everything set. Going through all that every day for a whole month? With no break? And possibly having to teach Sunday school on top of that?

And what about the congregation, really? How many of them would really come in to church for a whole month of Sundays? Wouldn't at least some of them be inclined to take it as a month's vacation? Even if not, you'd think their attention would start flagging after a while. Not to mention their contributions to the collection plate. Especially since they're not working for a whole month. That could tighten the belt. But meantime the church still has to pay the staff and upkeep and all... could get to be quite a strain.

And the laundry! Putting on your "Sunday best" every day for a month? With the laundry places all closed because it's Sunday? How's that going to work? And, in the larger picture, what about the economy in general, with no one working and no businesses open and...

Of course, I suppose it depends on how it got to be a month of Sundays in the first place. Did some governing body declare it was a month of Sundays? Or did everyone's calendars spontaneously and miraculously change? That could bring about some devotion. But it could also bring about a lot of worry and panic. And arguments between sects. And demands for answers that the preacher in question might not have so readily available...

So think about that on a crappy day. All told, you just might be happier than a preacher in a month of Sundays, after all...
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jan. 26th, 2008 01:56 pm)
You know, if I was in charge of an intelligence-gathering orginization in a comic book universe (some part of WayneTech or LexCorp or the gov't or whatever), the first thing I'd do is put a close eye on anyone buying (and perhaps selling) spandex.

The second thing I'd do is look around to see who else was doing the same thing.

(Also, I'm not sure why, but it seems like no one has had anything to say to me for the last few days. Journal comments, comment replies, email... Nothin'. I haven't been on IM, and I did mention that I was going away and stuff, and I know a fair number of you are busy with your own lives*. It just feels a little odd.

*Can you believe the nerve of some people?)
You know that Carrie Underwood song, "Before He Cheats"? It's been out for a little while now, and I've been wondering about it.

For those of you who don't know the song, it goes like this: "He went off with some bimbo, so I totally trashed his precious car. That'll teach him."

First of all... How did this escape the country stations into my airwaves?

Second... Let's consider the legal issues involved. If they were married, then cheating is grounds for divorce. By trashing their car, she's ruined what could have been a very good case. They're still getting the divorce, but that car (and probably more) is coming out of her share.

If they weren't married, then what it comes down to is that he left his girlfriend for another woman. It happens. And Carrie is now guilty of a little thing called "Willful Destruction of Property." In Michigan, the top hit on my quick search, it's a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to 3 times the value of the damaged property.

Either way, she's screwed herself for the sake of a bit of petty fun. And is now crowing about it. Brilliant.

Meantime... he left her (here's a Google Image search), and she responded by throwing a tantrum. Which is the shallow one here?

Did she ever stop to consider that maybe, just maybe, the reason he left is that she's... I don't know... a jealous pyscho?
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Sep. 4th, 2007 10:42 pm)
Sorry that I once again have not responded to comments. I suck. And I'm still exhausted. Even more so thanks to a morning checkup that cut me down to half a night's sleep for the sake of 2 minutes of face time with the doc.

In the meantime, for your enjoyment, a discovery I made today )

And I know just where to keep it! )
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Sep. 1st, 2007 01:15 pm)
Had a weird dream last night. It's really rare that I can remember my dreams at all, let alone long enough to write them down (which I did hastily before packing up... I'm on the ferry home right now... Which, this year, has free WiFi!).

The other weird thing is that it was one continuous story, with only a few minor continuity changes.

Under the sea... )

And that's when my alarm went off. Which, to be fair, is probably the only reason I remember any of this. It's only when I wake up in the middle of a dream that I have any chance of remembering it.

Ah well. In the main, it's just generic adventure elements. But it was vivid, and it had a story and... I just needed to write it up and share.
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Aug. 23rd, 2007 04:51 pm)
Thanks for the comments and support last entry. Sorry I've been so bad about responding. Not really sure what to say, and still a little too tired to figure it out.

Being out here on vacation with the family is good, though. Somehow, you sleep a little better after you've had 3 kids climbing all over you for a few hours. Still kind of hit-or-miss, but better than it was, at least.

We'll see what happens when I get back home. How much of this is vacation adrenaline.

Meantime... How come "reckoning" (as in "There will be a reckoning!") is considered melodramatic, well-aged (kind of antique), and perhaps (depending on context and such) vaguely intellectual, but "reckon" (as in "I reckon so") is considered to be the antithesis of all those things?
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jul. 22nd, 2007 02:14 am)
Was chatting on some MBs, and a thing came up about how TV show writers like to create sexual tension between characters without ever letting it actually go anywhere. I came up with a term for it, and I'm proud enough of it that I just had to share. :D

I call it...

hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jul. 21st, 2007 12:42 am)
Getting up early (for me) tomorrow so we can go to a wedding reception of sorts. A college friend of my sister's (who became a family friend) had her wedding in Italy a little while back. Now they're having a party for all the friends and family who couldn't make it that far. Sis gets to go to both.

It's at their place in CT. We'll go through NY, pick up sis, and head on over. A three-state trip.

Trick of it is that, despite being a wedding party, it's also a pool party. They said casual dress, but I expect everyone will be in dressy casual, hovering near the pool. Because people are stupid. And because "wedding reception" takes priority over "backyard pool party" when it comes to picking clothes. Still, we'll be bringing bathing suits to change into.

The other thing is that they can't possibly provide towels for all those guests, so they specifically said in the invitation to bring our own. I packed ours just now.

So, to recap:

1. We're driving through parts of three different states.
2. We're picking up passengers on the way.
3. We're bringing our own towels.
4. We will be making sure to know where those towels are throughout the party.

Conclusion: We are hoopy froods.

And if you don't know what that means... Shame on you!

Click here to learn, or just to play. )
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jul. 17th, 2007 02:38 pm)
"You know, Fred, there are a lot of people out there who simply refuse to take our surveys."

"Yes, I had noticed that. What about it?"

"I worry that it skews our results. If certain kinds of people are more or less likely to take our surveys..."

"Ah, yeah. I see what you mean. We need to find out more about these people..."


"Hi, we're doing a survey about people who refuse to take surveys. Would you mind answering a few questions for us?"

"No, not at all."

"Damn. Well, thanks anyway."
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jun. 26th, 2007 01:17 am)
Don't think more than a couple of you will even get this, let alone appreciate it, but... Idea came. Had to do it. (Gave me something to do when we were out of town with no internet yesterday, anyway.)

"My emperor," Vader announced, "the inhabitents of the forest moon of Keebler Three are threatening to join the rebels. Shall I dispatch a fleet to destroy them?"

"No," Palpatine responded, "I know exactly what we need to crush those puny creatures..."

WARNING: Bad, geeky picture gag )
hatman: HatMan, my alter ego and face on the 'net (Default)
( Jun. 20th, 2007 12:53 pm)
This one has thick, spongy skin. That one has thin, smooth skin.

This one is orange in color. That one is red.

This one is pulpy and liquidy inside, devided into sections. That one is more solid inside, though still juicy.

This one is more noticably acidic. That one is sweeter.

Both are spherical, about the same size, and grow on trees. Both can be eaten raw, blended up and cooked, or processed into juice.

This one can be turned into jam or marmelade. That one can be used for baking.

... You get the idea, I'm sure.

The point, ladies and gentlemen, is that this is how you compare apples and oranges.

Wasn't that much more interesting and informative than nitpicking the relatively small differences between one apple and the next?

(So far, out of all the times I've given that speech, only once have I gotten a reaction other than an odd look, a tentative nod, and a quick change of subject. It was my first week on campus. My first trip to the dorm laundry room. And there I found someone who nodded, smiled, and unreservedly agreed that that was, indeed, exactly how you compared apples and oranges and that, yes, it was more interesting that way. The third guy in the laundry room gave us an odd look and a tentative nod and quickly changed the subject. But that was okay. Because I had found a new friend.)