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Saturday, March 24, 2018

How The World Will End, According To 1939

They seem to have Robert Frost (wiki) (online archive) covered here...

Robert Frost (age 76) at JFK's inauguration - more here.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

But nothing so tame as Eliot envisioned:

This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends 
This is the way the world ends 
Not with a bang but a whimper.

(Whole poem here)

Popular Science published these apocalyptic illustrations, along with a very upsetting three-page article, in its September 1939 issue (go there for larger images).

A giant meteor running wild through space... may strike the Earth and spread havoc with its impact and scorching breath.

In the image above, thousands of people run from Manhattan as meteors streak down around them. But their flight is futile, because a city-sized asteroid is about one nanosecond away from obliterating the Eastern time zone. "People that it missed would still be threatened, not only by terrible earthquakes, but even more by a searing air blast of hurricane velocity that would mushroom out from the point of impact

If the sun grows hotter, life will perish
in the superheated atmosphere.
Sometimes a star becomes a 'nova,' or mysteriously flares up in brightness. Suppose that suddenly our own star, the sun, should likewise act as if a vast bellows were blowing a draft into its molten interior. In eight brief minutes the resulting blast of radiant heat would reach the earth, and all life on this planet would vanish in clouds of steam and puffs of smoke.

The sun will become a dull-red ball in a sullen sky, casting only a feeble, ruddy glow over ice that will cover the earth. For a time, human beings will be able to live near the equator, and then underground, beside perpetually burning fires. But when the solar furnace dwindles to a faint spark, the earth's atmosphere will turn to liquid air and life will become impossible.

As the sun burns out, ice will cover the earth and men will shiver around fires in dark caverns.

Another option: as tidal friction slows down the moon in its orbit, the earth will draw it nearer and nearer.

The moon draws nearer the earth, raising enormous
 tides and unleashing the inferno seething beneath its crust.
To anyone still on earth, it will appear as an ominous golden-orange orb, fattening in apparent size until it reaches twenty-four times its present magnitude—no longer a friendly beacon by night, but a terror in the skies. Oceans will wash over all but the highest mountains. Racking strains in the earth's crust will unleash the inferno that lies beneath.

Finally, Popular Science explains, the moon will get so close to Earth that it will experience "land tides," causing our satellite to burst into rocky chunks that then rain down on Earth, "completing the destruction of anything alive." The rest of the moon pieces will orbit around Earth in a ring, and our planet will live out its days like a grotesque version of Saturn.

Further options in other PopSci life-ending articles.

Friday, March 23, 2018

UPS Trucks (Mostly) Don't Turn Left, Saving Them 10 Million Gallons of Gas Per Year

Interesting article from Priceonomics: I've excerpted at lot of it below - go there for the whole thing.

In 2004, UPS announced a new policy for its drivers: the right way to get to any destination was to avoid left-hand turns. 

When better tracking systems emerged in 2001, the package delivery service took a closer look at how trucks performed when delivering packages. As a logistics company with some 96,000 trucks and several hundred aircraft, much of UPS's business can be distilled to a series of optimization problems around reducing the amount of fuel used, saving time, and using space more efficiently. 

UPS engineers found that left-hand turns were a major drag on efficiency. Turning against traffic resulted in long waits in left-hand turn lanes that wasted time and fuel, and it also led to a disproportionate number of accidents. By mapping out routes that involved "a series of right-hand loops," UPS improved profits and safety while touting their catchy, environmentally friendly policy. As of 2012, the right turn rule combined with other improvements -- for the wow factor, UPS doesn't separate them out -- saved around 10 million gallons of gas and reduced emissions by the equivalent of taking 5,300 cars of the road for a year.

If you don't believe it, well, that's why Mythbusters exists. The program sent a truck out to deliver packages following a normal route and a left turn hating UPS route. They found the UPS approach saved gas but took a bit longer:

Mythbusters likely failed to save time on the route by following the rule even more stringently than UPS. While the no left turn rule has an appealingly simple and algorithmic quality to it, you will see UPS drivers take left turns on occasion, especially in residential neighborhoods without much incoming traffic. Asked how often UPS drivers turn right, a driver told ABC:
"A guesstimate, I would probably say 90%. I mean we really, really hate left turns at UPS."
Since UPS uses software to map out routes, it can send drivers on right turn heavy routes while making exceptions when a left turn is easier and faster. As an amicable senior VP of the company said in an interview about the rule, "That's why I love the engineers, they just love to continue to figure out how to make it better."

Friday links

UPS Trucks (Mostly) Don't Turn Left, Saving Them 10 Million Gallons of Gas Per Year.

Scientists provide comprehensive breakdown of how much people poo in their lifetime.

Famed archaeologist forged murals, inscriptions for decades.

How Do You Make Beer in Space?

Astronauts return to earth with altered DNA.

London Weather in the Late Seventeenth Century.

ICYMI, Thursday's links are here, and include high-tech forgery (a computer-generated 'Rembrandt' painting), Middle School reading lists 100 years ago vs. today (plus a 1912 test for eighth graders in Kentucky), the Florida town where people cut off their appendages for insurance money, and, for William Shatner's birthday a Star Trek/Monty Python mashup.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Videos of violence against marshmallow peeps, including peeps vs. .50 Caliber Rifle Parts 1 and 2

Marshmallow peeps vs. .50 Caliber Rifle Part 1:

Part 2:

10 Ways to Kill Marshmallow Peeps (Microwave Included!):

Peeps in a vacuum chamber:

Thursday links

It's William Shatner's birthday: here he is in 1978 'singing' Rocket Man, plus a Star Trek/Monty Python mashup.

Sold: Isaac Newton’s Notes on the Philosopher’s Stone. It was a long time before anyone admitted that he was interested in alchemy.

"Nub City" - the Florida town where people cut off their appendages for insurance money.

Moldy beer and pungent salt beef: a 17th c. sailor’s diet

ICYMI, Tuesday's links are here, and include science and myths of the vernal equinox, Silicon Valley billionaires prepping for the apocalypse in New Zealand, a message written by cows that could be seen from space (the message, not the cows), and a TED video classic from 2005: How To Tie Your Shoes.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tuesday links

Spring is here - The vernal equinox is on March 20th at 12:15 PM EDT. Here's Vivaldi, science, myths, "spring spheres" and more.

100 years later, the question remains: What happened to the USS Cyclops?

A TED video classic from 2005: How To Tie Your Shoes.

"Since sixt week j learn the Englich and j do not any progress": While imprisoned on St Helena, Napoleon started learning English.

These Cows Wrote a Message That Could Be Seen From Space.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include Saint Patrick’s Day, some guys changing tires while driving, the linguistic evolution of "dagnabbit", and the difficulties inherent in coastline measurement.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Spring is here! Here's Vivaldi, science, myths, "spring spheres" and more

Spring is here! Some miscellaneous stuff:

Science of the equinox. More here and here (this one is from 2013, so the time is wrong).

This video on the mechanism of the seasons is kinda grade-school level, but for that reason it's simple and complete:

Informative 2 minute NatGeo video:

The Four Seasons - "Spring" - Concerto # 1 in E major, Op. 8, RV 269, played by Itzhak Perlman:

        Giunt' è la Primavera e festosetti                    Here comes the Spring, and festively
        La Salutan gl' Augei con lieto canto,               The birds salute her with a merry song
        E i fonti allo Spirar de' Zeffiretti                      And fountains, to the whispering Zephyrs,
        Con dolce mormorio Scorrono intanto:            With sweet murmurings flow all the while.
        Vengon' coprendo l' aer di nero amanto           Advancing o'er the heavens is a black canopy
        E Lampi, e tuoni ad annuntiarla eletti              With lightning and thunder to announce her.
        Indi tacendo questi, gl' Augelletti;                   Then, when they go silent, the little birds
       Tornan' di nuovo al lor canoro incanto.             Return anew to their cheerful song.
       E quindi sul fiorito ameno prato                       And later in the lovely flowering fields
       Al caro mormorio di fronde e piante                 To murmurings of fronds and leaves
       Dorme 'l Caprar col fido can' à lato."                The goatherd sleeps, his faithful dog beside.
       Di pastoral Zampogna al suon festante            To the rustic bagpipe's festive sound
       Danzan Ninfe e Pastor nel tetto amato             Nymphs and shepherds dance
       Di primavera all' apparir brillante.                     'Neath heaven's canopy,
                                                                                 And Spring appears so brilliantly.
                                         - Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
                                           (Le quattro stagioni, "Primavera")* 

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet, drink, and botanical medicines. 

~ Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) (Journals, entry for 23 August 1853)
Today is the vernal equinox, heralding the coming of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. At the vernal equinox, the sun appears to cross the celestial equator from south to north, and for a brief period shines directly on the equator, yielding equal length for day and night in virtually all parts of the world. Although most people my age grew up thinking that spring always began on 21 March, none of the vernal equinoxes for the rest of this century will occur in the Americas after the 20th of the month. American humorist Ogden Nash (wiki) noted in "Like a Rat In a Trap,"

After various guesses at last I've guessed
Why in spring, I feel depressed.
When the robins begin to play
Summer is just a step away.

Then hardly the summer has commenced
When autumn is what you're up against,
And once that autumn has muscled in on you
Winter is waiting to begin on you.

So spring isn't spring, but otherwise,
Just a prelude to winter, which I despise.

The two revolutions, I mean the annual revolutions of the declination and of the centre of the Earth, are not completely equal; that is the return of the declination to its original value is slightly ahead of the period of the centre. Hence it necessarily follows that the equinoxes and solstices seem to anticipate their timing, not because the sphere of the fixed stars moves to the east, but rather the equatorial circle moves to the west, being at an angle to the plane of the ecliptic in proportion to the declination of the axis of the terrestrial globe.

My personal favorite "spring" story:
Seattle school renames Easter eggs 'Spring Spheres': This is actually from a couple of years ago, but it's still great. On top of all the additional ways in which this is ridiculous, eggs are, of course, not spherical.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

A TED video classic from 2005: How To Tie Your Shoes

Terry Moore* found out he'd been tying his shoes the wrong way his whole life. In the spirit of TED, he takes the stage to share a better way - an example of extraordinary results from small changes.

(Historical note: This was the very first 3-minute audience talk given from the TED stage, in 2005.)

*Terry Moore is the director of the Radius Foundation, a forum for exploring and gaining insight from different worldviews

From the TED summary
At 50 yrs old, Terry discovered he (and most people) have learned to tie their shoes wrong. If you pull on the laces at the base of the knot, the incorrect common knot will turn vertically along the shoe. This is a weaker form of the bow.
The key is when turning around the loop, go the opposite way to normal. This will yield a stronger knot, and will make it align across the shoe.
As Terry concludes, sometimes a small advantage sometime in life will yield extraordinary results.