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Saturday, November 8, 2014

October 1931 Modern Mechanics article: Vacuum Tube Orchestra to Supplant Human Players

Vacuum Tube Orchestra to Supplant Human Players
ALEXANDER’S vacuum tube band is coming to town tomorrow, and perhaps the day after tomorrow Sousa’s vacuum tube band will be playing on the Million Dollar Pier at Atlantic City while Mr. Sousa and his musicians are in the recording studios of a New York musical agency.
And this:
This business of the electronic orchestra has a most interesting economic side to it. A ten piece orchestra on the average costs about $600.00 a week to maintain, the electronic orchestra only $100.

Tomorrow night's Simpson's episode is a crossover with Futurama: here's the Simpsorama couch gag

This is their second crossover this season - the first was the Family Guy's season opener:

And because I'm unable to think about Family Guy without remembering this, here's two women re-enacting Peter's classic chicken fight - Epic Chick Fight (original below):

Related posts:

Funny signs from The Simpsons (and links to lots more)

via Neatorama.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Friday links

The Berlin Wall fell 25 Years ago this weekend - The Atlantic has an excellent photoessay.

Scientists make the first 3-D scan of a dodo bird.

Physics students have calculated that the physical impact of being rescued by the Flash is, in fact, more damaging than being hit by a car.

The history of and rules for Finland's Wife-Carrying Championship.

ICYMI, Wednesday's links are here, and include Guy Fawkes Day links and history, using brain surgery to cure arachnophobia, a TED-Ed lesson on how to spot a liar, and the Internet Arcade (hundreds of free video games from the '70s through the '90s that you can play in a browser).

Thursday, November 6, 2014

How to Tell the Temperature Using Crickets

Via Priceonomics: In the third season of The Big Bang Theory, two supposedly nerdy fellows -- Howard and Sheldon -- get into a heated argument (video clip below) over a cricket. After timing the cricket’s “chirps” and noting the temperature in the room, Sheldon concludes, with utmost certainty, that the insect is a snowy tree cricket. Howard adamantly disagrees: “How could you possibly know that,” he asks, “without seeing the cricket?”

The answer? Dolbear’s Law -- a totally awesome, totally real formula from the late 19th century that can be used to accurately estimate the temperature based on the number of chirps a cricket emits. Though Sheldon eventually ends up being wrong about the species of cricket he identifies, scientists have had better luck: for decades, they’ve worked to validate the method of using crickets as natural thermometers.

Here's the basic premise:
Crickets are cold-blooded and, as such, assume the temperature of their surrounding environment. Like other cold-blooded critters, crickets are enslaved to the Arrhenius equation (1889), which stipulates that a certain amount of “activation energy” is required for an insect to “induce a chemical reaction.” Chirping requires many muscle contractions (sparked by chemical reactions), and is thus dependant on the weather: at lower temperatures, the rate of chemical reactions in a cricket’s body slows, its muscle contraction frequency decreases, and, as a result, its chirping frequency diminishes. 
In an 1897 copy of the American Naturalist, physicist Amos Emerson Dolbear (wiki) (who had also developed, but failed to patent, the scientific foundation for some of the biggest inventions in American history, including the telephone and radio*) published an extremely brief, curious nugget of information, titled “The Cricket as a Thermometer.” In it, he noted an observation:
The rate of [a cricket’s] chirp seems to be entirely determined by the temperature and this to such a degree that one may easily compute the temperature when the number of chirps is known.
Listening to the crickets in a meadow outside his home, Dolbear made a series of three observations: At 60 degrees Fahrenheit, the crickets chirped at a rate of 80 per minute, at 70 degrees, they chirped at 120 per minute, and at temperatures below 50 degrees, “the crickets had no energy to waste in music,” and retained a rate of 40 chirps per minute. From this, he gathered the following equation (where T represents temperature in degrees Fahrenheit, and N represents the number of chirps per minute):
Though Dolbear’s “study” lacked crucial details -- he didn’t specify the species of cricket,the number of observations, or variability -- is was, for some reason, universally accepted by biologists and entomologists. A slew of follow-up studies followed. 

When a renowned entomologist included Dolbear’s formula in his textbook in 1907, it suddenly became regarded as 100% scientific truth; the snowy tree cricket, which many assumed Dolbear had used, became known as the “temperature cricket,” and was referenced by hundreds of scholars in the field. By 1948, the formula was officially declared “Dolbear’s Law.

A short version of the calculation - to convert cricket chirps to degrees Fahrenheit, count number of chirps in 14 seconds then add 40 to get temperature.

Example: 30 chirps + 40 = 70° F

Don't want to do any math, no matter how simple? Here's a Cricket Chirp Temperature Calculator.
Field crickets are the most common species in the US) -- they're probably what you're hearing

Here's a brief video explanation:

The Big Bang Theory and Dolbear's Law ("The Jiminy Conjecture" episode):

* When Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, Dolbear argued he’d invented it first; his case against American Bell Telephone was so convincing that it made it all the way to the US Supreme Court before being dismissed. “Had he been observant of patent office formalities,” wrote The Scientific American in 1881, "it is possible that the speaking telephone would be garnered among his laurels.” In 1885, Dolbear patented a wireless telegraphy system that was extensively used by Guglielmo Marconi to “invent” the radio (to this day, Dolbear’s role in the device is mostly neglected).

Additional information: Those chirps you hear when you’re laying in bed at night aren’t just produced for kicks -- they’re mating calls. When crickets are on the prowl, they let the entire neighborhood know about it.

A common (and horribly incorrect) myth is that a cricket produces its signature “chirp” by rubbing its legs together. In actuality, the noise occurs when the insect strokes its stridulatory organ, a large, comb-like vein running along the bottom of each wing. In the process, the cricket spreads its wings up and out and they act as “acoustical sails,” amplifying the noise for all to hear -- including his sonically-attuned mate (about 95% of crickets that make the noise are male).

via Priceonomics - more there and at Scientific American, Lifehacker and Wikihow.

Life as a serial killer’s daughter: Keith Jesperson (the Happy Face Killer) was caught when she was 15 years old

This is disturbing, not in an explicit way but just because it's such a weird thing to think about. 
There isn't a book out there called, What Do You Do When You Find Out That Your Dad's A Serial Killer? There's nothing out there that tells you what to do.
Keith Jesperson is notorious in the US as the Happy Face Killer (wiki), who raped and murdered eight women in the 1990s. Here his daughter, Melissa Moore, describes how she learned the truth as a teenager - and eventually found a way to live with it - keeping it secret until her own daughter started getting curious. She wrote a book a few years ago entitled Shattered Silence: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer's Daughter.
When I was 13, we were driving along the Columbia River, a beautiful wide river that separates Washington State and Oregon. We were just getting close to the Multnomah Falls area when my Dad announced: "I know how to kill someone and get away with it." Then he just started to tell me how he would cut off the victim's buttons, so that there wouldn't be any fingerprints left, and he would wear cycling shoes that didn't leave a distinctive print in the mud.
At the time, I put this down to my father's penchant for detective fiction, but years later I realised we had been driving through the area where he had disposed of Taunja Bennett's body three years earlier. I think he wanted to relive it and enjoy the moment again. My dad felt compelled to share his crimes, as he did in the messages that he left at truck stops, or sent in letters to the media. They were always signed with a smiley face, leading the media to dub him the "Happy Face Killer".

And this:
I've created a whole network of people like me - daughters, sons, siblings, parents and grandparents of serial killers. So far, I have had direct contact with more than 300 people like this - we are an underground community.
Read the whole thing at BBC

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday links

Happy Guy Fawkes Day! God preserved us from the "secret contrivance and hellish malice of Popish Conspirators".

Science video du jour is from the world's largest vacumn chamber: watch what happens when a bowling ball and a feather are dropped together under the conditions of outer space

Kind of fascinating TED-Ed video: How To Spot A Liar - The language of lying.

Internet Archive added a collection of 900 video games from the 1970s to 1990s that can be played in your web browser - it's called the Internet Arcade.

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include the advantages of electing supervillains, microscope photography, creepy science experiments, and the best weather forecast ever.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Tuesday links

Why we should elect a supervillain President; they can be effective leaders, provided you can get past the lying, unilateral decision-making, rampant murder, and dismantling of your Constitutional rights. Wait, three out of four of those disadvantages sound awfully familiar...

Microscope photography winners: 20 Incredible Photos of a World Too Tiny to See.

Start your day with a smile - watch this 7 year old deliver the best weather forecast ever.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include (without limitation) lots of time change related stuff, dog cloning, exploding pumpkins, medieval werewolf art, and NatGeo's photo contest.

Kind of fascinating TED-Ed video: How To Spot A Liar - The language of lying

It's easy, of course with politicians - you can tell they're lying if you see their lips moving. Not always obvious otherwise, unless you know the people involved really well. I mean, you know when your family members are lying, right?

Lying is one of the most difficult aspects of being a parent, in that you want to trust that everything your kids say is true, and if they lie about anything, you're never sure whether their being honest when it's really important. I learned with my kids (and grandkids) to listen to and address what they're really saying ("I didn't break that bowl" is really "I don't want to get in trouble"). Also, change your own behavior if you want different behavior from them.

Anyway, here's the blurb from TED-Ed:
We hear anywhere from 10 to 200 lies a day. And although we’ve spent much of our history coming up with ways to detect these lies by tracking physiological changes in their tellers, these methods have proved unreliable. Is there a more direct approach? Noah Zandan uses some famous examples of lying to illustrate how we might use communications science to analyze the lies themselves.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Start your day with a smile - watch this 7 year old deliver the best weather forecast ever

Obviously they should be doing a lot more of this. 
Chicago’s WGN-TV welcomed a special guest meteorologist to the show last week, a local second grader named Charlie Hale. Between the kid’s charisma (read: lots of jumping and Calvin and Hobbes-inspired dancing) and catchphrases complete with jazz hands (“LET ME TELL YOU!”, “LET’S GET DOWN TO BUSINESS!”), Hale pretty much OWNS the segment. Let’s just give him all the awards, OK?

via uproxx