Weird and Wonderful Science


I came across some really bizarre information that scientists interested in mocking science have created, sometimes unintentionally.

Caltech says they have a camera that can make movies at 70 trillion = 7 * 1013 frames per second [].

To rephrase as a way to add context: that’s about 15 femtoseconds per frame or about the time it takes light to travel a small fraction (7% of nominal value) of the width of a human hair (from 17 μm to 181 μm, with nominal value of 75 μm).

Or, to take a more humorous unit, about one 200th of a Muggeseggele (defined as 0.22 mm) [,]. BTW, there are nine other bizarre units and measurement suggestions at that second site.

A barn = 10-28 m2. So, using the largest prefix ISO provides for the metric system, a small New England barn covers and area of about a million yotta barns or 106 Yb. Yotta, by the way, is the largest ISO prefix. Seems I’ve seen other imaginative ones for more than 1024.

Taken from Wikimedia, but I couldn’t find the attribution info I should provide.

Because and Zetta = 1021 andYotta = 1024, I suppose 1027 should start with X [Xera?] and 1030 should start with W, and so on. In fact, the AAAS has proposed or at least suggested Ronna for 1027 and Quercca for 1030. So if you accept those

A small New England barn covers about a Qb [Quercca barn].

Rant against the media and/or Politicians


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If the news is correct, our political leaders continue to use the health orders more to satisfy their own egos and show how much power they have and not to protect us. At least, over and over again, from all across the country, I see various health orders that make no sense as explained in the news item and seem to do nothing to increase public safety. (Closing state parks, golf courses, hiking trails. Limiting churches but not political rallies. And so on.)

A (supposed ?) electron micrograph of a Covid-19 particle

Some of particularly egregious (they may be either lack of explanation by pols and reporters or irrational ego-boosting by politicians):
1. Various public hospitality industry establishments forced to close, but others nearby allowed to continue entertaining, serving, spreading Covid, whatever
2. Stay at home orders for people in rural areas. Why can’t I go play golf—it’s outdoors, well away from most people, no crowds, …?
3. Police raid with guns drawn on the home of a former (fired for providing facts) civil servant because she continued to provide easy access to widely available data on Covid.
When we run out of hospital space (whether lack of beds, ventilators or personnel), we hope one of the selection criteria is whether people did what they could to avoid the disease. I think the triage should put mask-deniers and night-club attenders lower on the acceptance list than octogenarians.

Rant against Washington


I suspect that most Americans would consider military invasion or war crimes indictment if some dictator killed 100,000 of his citizens. Are we better?  Experts’ values vary, but the ones I found estimate that more than 80% of the COVID-19 deaths could have been avoided by earlier action, i.e., by Trump worrying more about protecting us than about his own re-election. Trump has characterized the fight against COVID-19 as war.

My question: Why isn’t Trump guilty of war crimes for letting 180,000 Americans die (as of mid September, 2020, and growing daily) due solely to his own vanity and narcissism?

Or, to consider the flip side, why aren’t the members of congress more assertive in protecting Americans lives than their own seats in the Capitol? And the second question is one that all 535 senators and representatives, Republican and Democrat, should be embarrassed not to have addressed.

As a matter of disclosure, as far as I know, I have no kin nor close friend who has contracted COVID-19.

Quantum Theory of Shopping

Background: From a recent article in the Wall Street Journal I realized a Heisenberg-like principle applies to shoppers. Almost 100 years ago Werner Heisenberg articulated the Uncertainty Principle, which sort-of says that you the more carefully you measure position of something, the less accurately you can determine is speed. Mathematically it is σ x σ p ≥ ℏ / 2.

So, the Quantum Theory of Shopping is:
The more carefully you observe shoppers, the less likely they are to act normally.
Or in mathematical terms,
WC * NA ≥ Ħ [If you prefer the hoity-toity version, turn that expression on its side, sort of: ΣC * ΣA ≥ Ħ]
where Ħ is a universal physical constant whose value is yet to be discovered, WC [ΣC] is the observational accuracy or care of watching a shopper, and NA [ΣA] is the normalcy of the shopper’s behavior.

The underlying research that led to this law was reported by Heidi Mitchell in the Wall Street Journal on August 3, 2020, “Retailers beware: Shoppers don’t like to be watched online.”

If I’m looking for something but not really sure what, then watching me or making suggestions, which gives me the feeling of being watched, is likely to make me leave without making any purchase at all. If you watch me, I’ll probably make default selections instead of getting what I want (which increases the likelihood of a return of the unwanted purchase).

Trump is Right


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He talks about massive voter fraud probably only so he will be able to blame something besides his own wild rants, egomania and narcissism on his expected loos in 2020. An ironic aspect of all this is that he is probably correct, there will likely be massive voter fraud. There always has been. The fraud is mostly by incumbent bureaucracies against (mostly minority) communities whom they don’t want to let vote. A century ago it mostly took the form of literacy tests and poll taxes. In 2020, it looks like it will be in the form of inadequate numbers of polling ediplaces, not counting ballots that the Post Office delivers too slow, and demanding identification that the lets-deny-them-the-vote population are unlikely to have.
Almost no reports of trumps whining about the upcoming election have noted that his primary purpose seems to be to blame others for the loss he expects in November. He claimed election fraud before 2016, probably because he saw the poles and did not expect to win. He was setting the stage for claiming it was something beside his own poor performance.
Or, to pick an example that Trump is pushing right now, mailing ballots to dogs, cats, deceased people, No evidence for it, but his supporters among the deplorables, believe it because he says so.
A few things to remember
1. People who know everything rarely learn anything.
2. Getting all one’s news from television is like getting all one’s science from churches. And getting all ones news from one television network is like getting all one’s science from one priest. It’s possibly accurate, but as Galileo discovered, it’s not very trustworthy.
3. Higbie’s Law: If a politician says something (note they rarely do), it’s a lie.
◦ I am not a crook.
◦ I did not have sex with…
◦ I’m worth nine billion dollars (he hides his tax returns so people won’t see how big a lie this is).
◦ Almost anything any president said about the Viet Nam conflict or weapons of mass destruction.

Putting Urethane Tires on Bandsaw Wheels


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Face on view of wheel with clamps in position to hold half-installed tire from slipping off wheel.

With the new tire installed. Clamps held bottom half of tire from slipping off as top half was stretched onto wheel.

From putting tires on bicycle rims and noticing that the tire was going to have to stretch a fair amount, I expected trouble. Here is how I finally got the tire on.
1. Start heating the tires in near-boiling water for 15 minutes. This was suggested by the tag on the bag of tires but not on the written instructions accompanying the tires.
1. I used a large shallow pan (14″ diameter, 3″ deep)
i. I put a rack in the bottom so the tires would only be heated by the water, not the (possibly too) hot metal.
ii. I cleaned the wheels with mineral spirits, though the previous (urethane) tires had not been glued.
3. Put two clamps on the wheel so the tire could not slip off as I stretched it to fit, as shown in the pictures.
4. Slip the tire half-way on, so the uninstalled part was dangling above the clamps.
5. I put the tire on the floor with my foot stuck between the spokes, holding it down.
6. Pull like mad to stretch the tire over the top half of the wheel.
i. The clamps held the tire from slipping off the wheel on one side while I puled it into position on the other.
ii. I didn’t want to use regular tire iron type tools to help because the (aluminum ??) wheel didn’t look like it should be scratched.
7. Repeat the process for the other tire and set both aside to cool overnight (per instructions on tag).

Before using clamps as shown the picture above, I tried two other approaches that did not work. First I tried having my wife hold the wheel with pliers to keep the tire from slipping off. Stretching the tire to fit the wheel wiggled the wheel so much that the pliers and tire kept coming off.
Next I tried the clamps, but put them on the outside of the wheel. Again, as I tried to anchor the wheel to the floor with my foot, either my foot or the floor knocked the clamps off the wheel.
All the time I was messing with the unsuccessful approaches, I kept the second tire in the hot water and alternated the tire I was trying to install so the tire being installed was always hot and flexible. I used gloves, as the tire-bag tag recommended, but the tire cooled so fast that by the time I carried it ten feet to my installation position, they were easily handleable. On the other hand, it was not difficult to pull my glove from between the tire and wheel, and I’m glad it was not my finger or some part of it being pinched.

Rant about the Media III


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I am dismayed by the lack of penetrating questions from journalists. Here is another category of questions that have never been addressed so far as I can tell. Perhaps the information I’d like to see requires too confrontational questions, but most questions can be asked in a completely non-hostile manner, even if the interviewer hates “60 Minutes.” Anyway, politicians rarely answer questions.

So, why has no journalist asked Chinese diplomats of tech company (like Huawei) execs what they would do when faced with laws and regulations that require different behavior, like privacy laws and the Chinese law that requires companies to turn over information on demand.

Though translating legal-ese into English is non-trivial so there may be mistakes in this background, the way I read the news reports Huawaei, for example, can be required to do things that are illegal outside China. Typical sources for this concern are in the fine print below (remember the large print and loud voice giveth, the small print and whispers taketh away).

Why have no journalists, at least none I’ve found, addressed the contingency that seems bound to occur?

Tough hardly an unbiased news source, the U.S. Dept of State wrote,
“Huawei officials have claimed publicly that Chinese law gives the “government” no authority to do things such as compel a firm to install cyber “back doors” in software code or hardware architectures, or to install “listening devices” in equipment. But even if you put aside that company’s cute rhetorical sleight-of-hand in making this claim – since, technically speaking, the supreme authority in China is not the “government” but rather the Communist Party – this claim is simply untrue. Multiple Chinese laws, in fact, require companies to cooperate unconditionally with the Chinese Communist Party’s security apparatus in order to “guarantee state security.” The National Intelligence Law, for instance, requires all entities in China to cooperate with its intelligence services, and covers both private companies and state-owned enterprises. Analogous provisions exist in China’s National Security Law, Counter-Terrorism Law, and Cybersecurity Law.”

Relatively un-biased Wikipedia describes one part of the European General Data Protection Regulation,
“Data controllers must clearly disclose any data collection, declare the lawful basis and purpose for data processing, and state how long data is being retained and if it is being shared with any third parties …
“Article 12 requires that the data controller provides information to the ‘data subject in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form, using clear and plain language …
“The right of access (Article 15) is a data subject right. It gives people the right to access their personal data and information about how this personal data is being processed. A data controller must provide, upon request, an overview of the categories of data that are being processed as well as a copy of the actual data; furthermore, the data controller has to inform the data subject on details about the processing, such as the purposes of the processing …”

Rant about the Media II


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In all the brouhaha in Hong Kong, I’ve often wondered why no demonstrator has been asked to relate their protests to their own, or more likely their parents’, vote for oppression from Beijing instead of from London. The only carrot I could see for the Chinese government to treat the people of Hong Kong well for the last 25 years was their wish to re-unite with Taiwan. From a distant and uninformed perspective, it looks to me like President Xi has given up hope of peaceful re-acquisition of Taiwan.

So, to help those of us in the west better understand the concerns and background of the Hong Kong demonstrations, why have no reporters asked:
1. What freedoms did you or your parents miss before 1997? How does that compare to now?
2. What did you or your parents expect from the autocratic government in Beijing?
3. Other than showing Taiwan that multiple systems in one country works, what motivation did Beijing have to treat you as well as London did? Even in the U.S., freedoms of speech and the press are under constant attack and would be abridged by most recent American presidents if they could do it.

Apparently Taiwan is considering distancing itself farther from mainland China, as would be expected when the Taiwanese see what is happening in Hong Kong. Yesterday’s paper [WSJ July 23] had an item indicating that Taiwan is considering
1. Renaming its airline From China Airlines to something that will not be confused with a mainland China company
2. Redesigning its passport to be more recognizable as Taiwanese, not mainland Chinese
3. Renaming the country from Republic of China, its official name, to something less easily confused with mainland China.

Why haven’t journalists asked about the connection of the vote (and the absence of Nationalist legislators for the vote) to the clamp-down in Hong Kong? I hope they have asked and I missed the reportage about it.

Rant about the Media I


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I’ve wondered how Covid will affect the voting in November, not attitudes toward the virus or the handling of the pandemic, but changes to the electorate caused by it. So far, I’ve heard only one mention of the subject and that in a question put to a politician who did not answer. Why aren’t reporters addressing something that combines the two biggest stories of the year?

Four factors seem likely to affect voting populations and hence the November vote:
1. The greater fatality rate among older people, i.e., ones who would have been most likely to vote. Edge for Biden?
2. The highest fatality rates are in blue states. [The top five states by fatality rates in mid-July (NJ, NY, CT, MA, RI) had 65 electoral that went to Clinton in 2016.] Edge for Trump?
3. The fatality rate among minorities is higher than among whites, and most minority individuals favor Biden. Edge for Trump?
4. The apparent bias against masks and in favor of denying the severity of the novel corona virus by individuals on the political right. Perhaps not wearing a mask only endangers people around the un-masked person. Edge for Biden?

Note that Covid fatalities are almost certainly under-reported. Two studies cited in New Scientist found that the probable fatality number were more than twice as large as reported for two Western European countries.

Trump won in four large states by less than 2% of the vote, as noted at the time, about 100,000 people in those states “decided” the election. There have already been about 20,000 Covid deaths in those states. One would expect that eliminating such a large fraction of the electorate could affect the outcome. And, superficially, it seems likely to hurt Republican candidates.
1. Why aren’t reporters asking questions to elicit data about the political leanings of the novel coronavirus fatalities and their families?
2. Why haven’t they asked family members of fatalities if their political leanings have changed?



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I’ve been working on a book about sourdough for some time. Lee’s sourdoughs or sourdough flapjacks were my first exposure to made-in-our-house sourdough. The recipe below is the one Lee uses and is one of about 20 in Sourdough Man’s Memoir, which I expect to publish this year.
Lee got this recipe from Marty Murie, an old family friend and the first female graduate of the University of Alaska. Well, more accurately, he got a recipe from her and has made some changes to it over the years.

Lee’s Flapjacks or Sourdoughs

About right for two hungry people
Night Before Ingredients: in Your Crock of Starter
1¼ cups
1 cup
flour (white, whole wheat, cracked wheat, oatmeal or a mixture)

Night Before Directions:
Add the flour and water to the ½ cup (or more) starter in the crock and mix well. It should be at least as soupy as fresh-cooked oatmeal–adjust the amount of water or flour if necessary.

Day of Cooking Ingredients:
¼ cup
½ tsp
¼ to ⅓ cup
1 to 2 Tablespoons
egg (or ¼ cup egg beaters)
baking soda. (Lee says less soda makes the flapjacks more tangy.)
fresh or dried fruit or nuts (optional)
oil or shortening of some type. Lee thinks the best taste comes from sausage or bacon fat.

Day of Cooking Directions:
1. Put at most 90% of the delicious vinegary slime from your crock into a mixing bowl. Leave at least 10% in the crock on the counter for up to about five days, or put in the refrigerator for up to about a fortnight, or in the freezer if it won’t be used for weeks. Lee keeps a small amount frozen in case the starter in the crock goes bad.
2. If you wish, you can add fruit or nuts to the batter in your mixing bowl or to the flapjacks after you put the batter on the griddle.
3. Mix thoroughly and let stand about 10 minutes.
4. Cook on a medium-hot griddle, frying pan or a hot waffle iron. For true flapjacks, flip by tossing the pancake into the air and catching it with the griddle.