Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Saturday Night Science: Pitch Drop

 
Pitch drop experiment from the University of Queensland, Australia
Pitch drop experiment at the University of Queensland, Australia. Image licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

Viscosity is a measure of how strongly a fluid resists gradual deformation. Fluids with higher viscosity such as honey are thought of as “thicker” than less viscous fluids like water. The range of viscosities in liquids is enormous. Superfluids, such as Helium-II, have zero viscosity. Honey is between 2,000 and 10,000 times more viscous than water. Some fluids are so viscous they appear to be solid and yet, over time, slowly flow.

One of the most viscous liquids known is pitch, also known as bitumen, asphalt, or tar. Demonstrating its flow and measuring its viscosity is the subject of the longest continuously running scientific experiment, begun in 1927 at the University of Queensland in Australia. Prof. Thomas Parnell heated pitch (which dramatically decreases its viscosity), then poured it into a funnel with a sealed bottom. After three years (to allow the pitch to settle), the bottom of the funnel was removed and the funnel placed in a bell jar with a beaker below it. The pitch slowly flows out of the funnel, forming a large drop. About every decade a drop falls off into the beaker.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 1/25/16

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review plow through the snow to enjoy the possibility of Michael Bloomberg launching an independent White House bid. They also shudder as the FBI probes Hillary Clinton and her State Department subordinates for taking highly classified information and pasting it into emails on Clinton’s non-secure server. And they react to Donald Trump saying he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn’t lose any supporters.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Saturday Night Science: Countdown to a Moon Launch

 

“Countdown to a Moon Launch” by Jonathan H. WardIn the companion volume, Rocket Ranch, the author describes the gargantuan and extraordinarily complex infrastructure which was built at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida to assemble, check out, and launch the Apollo missions to the Moon and the Skylab space station. The present book explores how that hardware was actually used, following the “processing flow” of the Apollo 11 launch vehicle and spacecraft from the arrival of components at KSC to the moment of launch.

As intricate as the hardware was, it wouldn’t have worked, nor would it have been possible to launch flawless mission after flawless mission on time had it not been for the management tools employed to coordinate every detail of processing. Central to this was PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique), a methodology developed by the U.S. Navy in the 1950s to manage the Polaris submarine and missile systems. PERT breaks down the progress of a project into milestones connected by activities into a graph of dependencies. Each activity has an estimated time to completion. A milestone might be, say, the installation of the guidance system into a launch vehicle. That milestone would depend upon the assembly of the components of the guidance system (gyroscopes, sensors, electronics, structure, etc.), each of which would depend upon their own components. Downstream, integrated test of the launch vehicle would depend upon the installation of the guidance system. Many activities proceed in parallel and only come together when a milestone has them as its mutual dependencies. For example, the processing and installation of rocket engines is completely independent of work on the guidance system until they join at a milestone where an engine steering test is performed.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 1/20/16

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review are amused to see the Clinton campaign accusing Republicans and the intelligence community inspector general of conspiring to accuse Hillary Clinton of having beyond top secret emails on her server. They also blast Republicans for attacking Ted Cruz for his opposition to crony capitalism in ethanol and they discuss why tea party darling Sarah Palin would endorse Donald Trump. They react to news that a Fast and Furious gun capable of downing helicopters was found with El Chapo. And they mourn the death of Ben Carson staffer Braden Joplin.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Why Gamers Can’t Be Politicians

 

gears-of-war-3-groupAs I’m forced to point out from time to time, nobody complains about hours wasted on recreation like watching sports (and reading about sports, and talking about sports, and dreaming …) or watching TV. Many responsible adults devote entire weekends to such activities but are not thought childish or lazy for it.

Affluence has enabled people to regain the abundant time for leisure that primitive hunters enjoyed before the rise of agrarian and industrial societies. In our society, video games are a normal activity of Generation X — respectable in moderation — but have yet to gain the respectability of being practiced by elders.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 1/11/16

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review react to a Hillary Clinton email that seemingly tells an aide to strip the the secure markings off a report and send it non-securely. Jim explains why he believes a convention of the states to amend the Constitution needs to wait until the nation is more constitutionally literate. And they slam Sean Penn for meeting with El Chapo while the drug kingpin was on the run.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Saturday Night Science: Rust

 

“Rust” by Jonathan WaldmanIn May of 1980 two activists, protesting the imprisonment of a Black Panther convicted of murder, climbed the Statue of Liberty in New York harbour, planning to unfurl a banner high on the statue. After spending a cold and windy night aloft, they descended and surrendered to the New York Police Department’s Emergency Service Unit. Fearful that the climbers may have damaged the fragile copper cladding of the monument, a comprehensive inspection was undertaken. What was found was shocking, and the climbers were not to blame.

The structure of the Statue of Liberty was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, and consists of an iron frame weighing 135 tons, which supports the 80 ton copper skin. As marine architects know well, a structure using two dissimilar metals such as iron and copper runs a severe risk of galvanic corrosion, especially in an environment such as the sea air of a harbour. If the iron and copper were to come into contact, a voltage would flow across the junction, and the iron would be consumed in the process. Eiffel’s design prevented the iron and copper from touching one another by separating them with spacers made of asbestos impregnated with shellac.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. 112 Years of Heavier-than-Air Flight

 

shutterstock_92768497It’s not an anniversary ending in a five or a zero, but 112 years ago today, a couple bicycle mechanics took off in a powered box kite on some windy dunes in North Carolina, successfully landed it, and started the era of aviation.

On the centennial of the event 12 years ago, I had essays at TechCentralStation (which no longer exists) and National Review, in which I noted that their big achievement wasn’t in taking off, but in landing. Also, on Fox News, I compared and contrasted the government versus the private sector, and noted that the space program needed the Wright stuff:

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 12/16/15

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer the CNN Republican presidential debate for good questions, serious discussions and enlightening exchanges. They yawn as Chris Christie tries to pretend the people don’t care about a disagreement over the government’s collection of our bulk data. And they have fun with Donald Trump’s change of heart about whether Ted Cruz is a maniac and that he doesn’t know what the nuclear triad is.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 11/5/15

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review shudder as intelligence experts believe it’s likely ISIS or some other terrorist group smuggled a bomb onto the doomed Russian airliner. They also scold Bernie Sanders for deciding now that Hillary’s emails are an issue for concern. And they shake their heads at the massive protests of Donald Trump’s appearance on Saturday Night Live. No podcast Friday. We’ll be back Monday.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 11/4/15

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review cheer the election of a conservative governor in Kentucky, the GOP holding the Virginia Senate and voters rejecting liberal initiatives in Houston and Ohio. They also groan as TransCanada asks for its Keystone XL pipeline request to be to be postponed and they slam the Obama administration for its endless delay in deciding on the pipeline. And they unload on the Department of Education for forcing an Illinois high school to allow a male who “identifies” as a female to dress and shower with the girls on his team.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Your Self-driving Car Is Programmed to Kill You

 

car_lifeFrom MIT Technology Review comes this vision of the future:

How should [a self-driving] car be programmed to act in the event of an unavoidable accident? Should it minimize the loss of life, even if it means sacrificing the occupants, or should it protect the occupants at all costs? Should it choose between these extremes at random?

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Regulation Inflation

 

There’s basically no real inflation in the cost of technology — computers and that sort of stuff are actually getting cheaper. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Have you bought a TV or computer recently? If so, you may have noticed their prices have steeply decreased over the years, while their quality continues to improve. From December 1997 to August 2015, the Consumer Price Index for personal computers and peripheral equipment declined 96 percent. Most of the decline in this index occurred between 1998 and 2003. The price index for TVs decreased 94 percent from December 1997 to August 2015. This decline was more gradual than the decline in the price index for personal computers.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 10/19/15

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review enjoy watching Democratic party leaders publicly feud. They also groan as China breaks its word and keeps up its hacking efforts against U.S. firms. And we react to Hillary Clinton’s bizarre laughing fit in reaction to CNN’s Jake Tapper mentioning her emails.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. China: Harbinger of a Brave New World

 

shutterstock_275764925Totalitarianism is a function of technology. Prior to recent times, governments might claim to be absolute, but they did not have the record-keeping, administrative capacity to make good on that claim. Now they can do so far more easily than ever before — without hiring armies of spies. All that they have to do is follow the population on the Internet and use computers to collect and analyze the data. What Google can do, governments can do — and in Xi Jinping’s China that is what they are going to do. As The Weekly Standard reports,

China’s Communist government is rolling out a plan to assign everyone in the country “citizenship scores.” According to the ACLU, “China appears to be leveraging all the tools of the information age—electronic purchasing data, social networks, algorithmic sorting—to construct the ultimate tool of social control. It is, as one commentator put it, ‘authoritarianism, gamified.’ ” In the system, everyone is measured by a score ranging from 350 to 950, and that score is linked to a national ID card. In addition to measuring your financial credit, it will also measure political compliance. Expressing the wrong opinion—or merely having friends who express the wrong opinion—will hurt your score. The higher your score, the more privileges the government will grant you.

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Formal Logic Undressed: The Screencast

 

On September 21st of this year, I led a workshop on formal logic at the Scala World conference in the beautiful Lake District of England. Although everyone was very kind about it, I completely failed to manage my time adequately, and essentially the last third of the workshop was therefore rushed and probably rendered nearly incomprehensible. So I decided to recreate the workshop as a screencast. It might appeal to those of you who are interested in logic, especially interactive development of proofs with automated tools, as well as to a philosopher or two, and to computer programmers who are curious about the relationship between programming and logic.

The really ambitious are encouraged to install Coq and PeaCoq and follow along at home. :-)

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Why Tech Thrives

 

shutterstock_55125244A friend, an economist at a big-time university, sends along the following materials, asking, impishly, “Is there a pattern here?” First, from the United States, in “Conversations with Tyler”:

TYLER COWEN: Let’s start with some questions about stagnation, Peter. At any point, if you care to add other topics of your own, please do so. You’re well known for arguing, well, “they promised us flying cars and all we got is 140 characters”; “technological progress has slowed down.” How is it you think that we’re most likely to get out of the great stagnation, when that happens?

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Three Martini Lunch 10/1/15

 

Greg Corombos of Radio America and Jim Geraghty of National Review explain why Hillary Clinton is an an increasingly difficult position as more classified emails are released and why her “Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer” defense is politically unwise. We also rip House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy for suggesting the House Benghazi Committee was about damaging Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers. And we marvel at the new movie that still claims Dan Rather was telling the truth about the George W. Bush national guard documents that are proven forgeries.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. So, What’s the Headline News Today?

 

Daily-News-headline-newspapersAs you probably know, Google, Facebook, and other news aggregators work very hard to please you. In fact, they’re sort of like the creepiest guy you could imagine dating. (Adapt the simile as appropriate, if you date ladies.)

They study every term you search and think deeply about what it says about you. They remember every link you’ve ever clicked, and they ask themselves, thoughtfully, “What does it mean that she was interested in that?” They keep a list of all your friends. They study what your friends search for and what they click. They know where you live. They know what you buy. They know when you’re sleeping, they know when you’re awake, they know when you’ve been good or bad, and they know when you’ve got a touch of the flu.

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