Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Triops

Our little critters continue to grow. I just cleaned their water tonight and tossed out the corpses of the fallen. Either that, or they molt all the time.

My first H1N1 sign.


The insignificance of an arcsecond

In math, and especially angular degrees, there are several ways to measure angles. Radians (arc length equal to the radius) seem to be the preferred way for the purists, due to the elegance, but in engineering, degrees are the way to go. Everyone knows degrees, a 45° angle would be rising at the same rate it is running horizontally. A 90° angle is almost the universal measure of most corners. It's simple.

In breaking up the fractions of a degree, there are several ways to do this. The most simple mathematical way to do this is to simply stick with decimal degrees. It's easy and requires no special conversion. Any calculator would do it. But the cooler way to do this is with arcminutes and arcseconds.

You might not recognize the names, but you've seen them in action quite frequently. The most apparent use that most see them is in GPS coordinates: 121 degrees, 23 minutes west. Those minutes are also known as arc minutes, and refer to a 60th measure of a degree. Broken further down are arcseconds, which would be the remainder of that arcminute, broken down to a further 60 second measurement of that minute. 121 degrees, 23 minutes, 29 seconds would simply be written 121°23'29". It's very common in navigation, but engineers and surveyors also enjoy using this convention. Recently, it occured to me that a single arcsecond must be a significant amount of angular measurement. But how significant is it?

Let's consider a golf ball. According to wikipedia, a golf ball is 1.68 inches high (approximately). In terms of the pass of an arcsecond, how far away would a point of reference need to be in order to have that golf ball represent the distance passed in the sway of an arcsecond?

We return to our roots of trigonometry. In the triangle
represented here, scale is ignored for the
sake of the ease of explanation. Our frame of reference will be angle A in this case, the unknown distance to the golf ball will be distance b, and the hight of the golf ball will be hight a. Trigonometry will tell you that the tangent function will be of use here, in that the tangent of an angle will be equal to the opposite divided by the adjacent sides. In math form:
tan A = a / b
Let's plug some numbers in and see where this gets us.

tangent (1 arcsecond) = 1.68" / b, so distance b = 1.68 " / tangent (1 arcsecond)

Google now makes math insanely easy, and gives us an answer of 346,525 inches. Divide by 12 inches per foot and 5280 feet per mile, the golfball would have to be 5 and a half miles away to represent the swing of one arcsecond. An arcsecond might as well not even exist, and to think that in surveying class, we'd take things further down, to the hundredth's of a second. That's like putting the golf ball 550 miles away! Ridiculous, don't you think?

But let's not throw the arcsecond away completely. Let's look at the earth, and take the point of reference to be the core. The diameter of the earth is about 8000 miles, so for our study, we'll take the radius to be 4000 miles. We'll still stick with the same arcsecond, and see how much surface area of the earth is represented by one arcsecond:

tan (1 arcsecond) = length / 4000 miles ~ length = 4000 miles * tan (1 arcsecond)

You end up with .0193 miles, which is 102 feet, quite a significant distance on land! You could miss a location completely. In this case, carrying to the hundred's place of a second would get you within a foot of what you're looking for, which is accurate for most non-engineering purposes.

Of course, when you get astronomical, and you're talking in terms of light years, the hundredth of a second could be far from what you need. It could mean missing the location of a star, or even a galaxy completely.

Math is fun.

My rental takes E85!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Superion

We kind of had this hidden for a couple weeks, so tonight seemed like a good time to get it out. The individual robots are fun by themselves, but combining them into the big robot was a pain in the ass. It's fragile and the pieces fall off if you look at them funny. Drew will probably keep this broken into the 5 little robots, which are much easier for him to manage. These combiner class transformers are just too hard to get to stick together. The strangest thing is that even though this was marketed at a ROTF toy, I'm pretty sure we never saw it in the movie.

Smart legos

Seen at a bookstore: lego sets of recognized architectural masterpieces. Too bad they're so expensive.

Peaches for me

Amy surprised me with some stealth gummy peaches (my 2nd favorite candy). First one out was this mutant 4-ring monster. I had to destroy the physical evidence.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Come on blogger!

Oh man, I want to kick Blogger square in the teeth! How come it's so hard to post from my new phone???!!!???

Okay, real content coming eventually.

My rental car

It feels VERY small inside, like I'm driving a go cart with none of the fun bits.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Marble madness

"Cool."
video
Drew has been wanting to re-build his marble machine for the last few days. Today, I finally gave in and agreed to build it with him. By myself, I can probably put it together in just under an hour. With Drew's help, triple that. He thought he was doing QC by throwing marbles through it at every stage of construction. He wanted to help by finding the pieces for me to assemble, which resulted in a snafu where the ramps were even, rather than sloped down. Amy gave me 10 minutes of Drew-free time, in which I diagnosed the problem, then let Drew have his fun with the final product. He probably gets about 1 - 2 full hours of enjoyment out of the final product, which is probably higher than most other toys he has, including transformers. Things kind of degenerate to him breaking things, which is where we're at now. He'll shove 6 marbles through it at the same time, which results in them flying out of the machine onto the carpet, much to his amusement. Luckily, when he grows tired of this, I can pack it away and not worry about it for another 4 months.

The performance art of Drew

video
He takes this sort of thing very seriously.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kitteh sammich


Oh god, i made a lolcat. Kill me.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The slickest...

...hand dryer EVER. I suppose high powered air blower isn't a stretch for a slick vacuum manufacturer, but I will admit to being quite pleasantly surprised. It worked VERY well.

Figures.

Arrive to rain. Leave to sun. At least it was gloomy at home, too, so I didn't miss much.

Sigh. I love weddings.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Parka boy


It was a little cold and windy at the game. I brought my windbreaker just in case.

Cloudy much?

At least it stopped raining, for now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Dinner!

Outside our hotel, which ws the first...

YWCA in the US,

Check out the rigging...like that would

...break a fall.

Breakfast...cafe...

This place was smaller than my kitchen at home. Seriously. I was leaning against the window to get this shot. One table and one tiny counter off to the left. Good breakfast - I had the torta, which was refried black beans, an egg, avocado and a bunch of other stuff in a fluffy bun. Very tasy and energizing with a cup of black coffee to get me through the morning.

If you look closely, in the upper right corner is a bag of go-chu-ga-ru, Korean chile powder. Apparently it is used in their house aioli. We had a lovely chat about it before I left.

Oh - the place is called Mike & Patty's. I'm told they have great sandwiches for lunch.

Waiting for the shuttle.

Must be spectacular out here on a sunny day.

Breakfast...cafe...

This place was smaller than my kitchen at home. Seriously. I was leaning against the window to get this shot. One table and one tiny counter off to the left. Good breakfast - I had the torta, which was refried black beans, an egg, avocado and a bunch of other stuff in a fluffy bun. Very tasy and energizing with a cup of black coffee to get me through the morning.

If you look closely, in the upper right corner is a bag of go-chu-ga-ru, Korean chile powder. Apparently it is used in their house aioli. We had a lovely chat about it before I left.

Oh - the place is called Mike & Patty's. I'm told they have great sandwiches for lunch.

FASCINATING which presidents they put...

...on this magnet. FASCINATING.

Flag @ JFK library & museum

It's a wonderful museum. I found it inspirational. Moved some things around in my head that hadn't really moved in a long time. I wonder if this country will ever embrace public service as a nation with the same passion again?

Somehow I suspect the other presidential libraries can't possibly be this...inspirational? thought provoking? Anyone been to the others?

Tree growing in gutter. Sigh. Cities.

THE best way to start a sleepless day

I didn't sleep so well on the plane, but I'm determined to make the best of my half day before I collapse into a nap. Late breakfast, off to my first presidential library and then back to check in and sleep before dinner. :D

Grey arrival into Boston.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bonecrusher


This is what happens when monster trucks and speed boats breed. After i took the picture, he ran over 5 lesser boats, then rolled over.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Natto


Kind of disappointing. Not nearly as stinky or horrible as I was hoping for. Just kind of an unpleasant, dull taste. Maybe I got a bad batch? I still ate about 1/4 of it. Amy left the table and Drew gagged when I touched it.