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April 21, 2004

Open thread 21
Posted by Teresa at 08:44 AM *

Spring has sprung, the grass is riz…

Comments on Open thread 21:
#1 ::: Kip ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:03 AM:

I've fallen back and I can't spring forward!

#2 ::: mick ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:04 AM:

ok i did it... i WORE the elvis wig that i knitted. we have a "pick up" band of local folks that get together on Tuesday nights, and play for dances at the hall. i'm the bass player, and do vocals. so.. picture: i'm 5 feet tall, and weigh 100 lbs.. the rest of the group are these hairy western BC rough and ready male types. i wore the wig BUT didn't get to keep it. every single one of those men had to be Elvis for a while. we rocked like we haven't in weeks. next project 7 (seven!) more knitted elvis wigs.

#3 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:04 AM:

...forgot my W...

#4 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:17 AM:

The Mammoth Erection site reminds me that, years ago in Parkersburg, WV, Industrial Erection was right across the street from Industrial Rubber.

#5 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:18 AM:

Okay, here's a question for everybody...I'm sure this has been answered elsewhere, but I'd like to hear some comments about it here, since you're all "people-in-the-know."
I'm looking for resources in regards to dealing with the "business" of writing. I'm not trying to locate a literary agent or a publishing company. What I'd like to see is a North American version of something like this:
Where can a person could go to get real advice about what to look for in regards to signing contracts with agents or publishers? I'm a newbie, so don't mock my ignorance on the matter. I'd like to learn more about the business side of publishing before I start trying to get my work published...Mainly so that when I sign my multi-million dollar contract, I won't make a foolish move...

...wait...what are you laughing at...

...Teresa, why is everyone laughing?

...If you keep laughing like that, I won't come back here...

...stop laughing, dammit!!

#6 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:22 AM:

I wonder where the birdies is?

Except for the catbird in the oak tree next door which (due to an unfortunate situation involving a gentleman with an ultra-sensitive car alarm to which he declined to respond on a regular basis) shares a sequence of car-alarm noises with us every morning. I know where she is.

What I haven't figured out is where on earth she's going to put her eggs.

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:35 AM:

Speculations' "Rumor Mill" board is good. You could also get onto SFF Net and join the discussions there. They inherited a lot of the old GEnie SFRT SFWA community. Not everything said there is helpful or accurate, but there are enough knowledgeable pros that the general level of advice is better than average, and they put a check on the more extravagant flights of folly and disinformation.

Not every pro is an expert. If you're in doubt, ask them to explain basketing (aka joint accounting) and the reserve against returns.

#8 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 09:57 AM:

I just thought I'd share this cool newsletter link. It's an article called "Getting Untangled: Knitting as a Metaphor For Life". It's by a life coach (who appears on Oprah, okay, not the usual thing for Making Light), but it's about knitting, so I thought some folks might enjoy.

You have to wade through two or three announcement paragraphs to get to the good stuff about yarn.

#9 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 10:09 AM:

Spring? Ayup, them chirds are birping away like mad.

Mick: Pix? And, while I'm at it, perhaps this song needs to be in your repertoire.

#10 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 10:21 AM:

Thanks Teresa! I'll check out the information and contact my fictional agent and fictional publishing company about my fictional book contract regarding my fictional million dollar deal.

Now, to get back on track...I love spring, too...I like the silence of a fresh, spring morning occasionally interrupted by the chirping of a bird migrating back north...I love Canada...

#11 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 10:28 AM:

Oh, while I'm at it, and grinning (again) at the Exorcist retelling, here's The Silmarillion in 1000 Words:

AINUR: Wow! Existence!
ILUVATAR: *blows pitch pipe* LA!
AINUR: Um. . . la?
MELKOR: Boop bop-a-doo-bop!
ILUVATAR: LA, dammit.
MELKOR: Bwam bardle ningle boom.
AINUR: . . .
ILUVATAR: Right, you're out of the band.
MELKOR: Fine, I was leaving anyway.

#12 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:01 AM:

I don't know what's more amusing-- being 24 days from commencement--- or knowing that some university officials have Just Now Realized that our planned outdoor commencement, in a wooded area, may have uninvited guests.

Yes, that's right--- the cicadas are coming. Close the shutters, insert the earplugs.

#13 ::: Tim Kyger ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:06 AM:

"The Power of Christ compels you!"

How in the heck do you *find* those sites?!

I'm still laughing...and I'll never ever be able to listen to Tubular Bells the same way ever again. Damn it.

#14 ::: Emmet ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:10 AM:

"Spring has sprung
The grass is green
Get off your horse
And join the Marines."
-- John Wayne

#15 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:19 AM:

Re: The Silmarillion in 1000 Words: I particularly liked: EARENDIL: Wow, planetary orbit!

(There's also a narrative version later in the comments.)

Re: cicadas: I know they're harmless, but I really really do not like bugs. I am so glad I'm not in the DC area any more . .

#16 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:29 AM:

Yes, we're all battening the hatches against the cicada onslaught in DC. Well, at least we will be when we return from currently overcast California....

My husband has been sending me endless links as to how to keep the buggers out of our azaleas. Apparently, cheesecloth does the trick!

#17 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:36 AM:

I miss cicadas shells. Pluck them off the tree, stick them to the cat. Styrofoam peanuts with static cling just aren't the same.

Maybe cicadas will join the glass bug collection.

#18 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:37 AM:

You could also get onto SFF Net and join the discussions there. They inherited a lot of the old GEnie SFRT SFWA community.

I always forget SFF Net. Speaking of publishing info, are there other small, POD-based outfits out there, like Wildside Press, that are reading manuscripts? (I don't mean the self-pub models).

(Yah, spring has sprung, the grass is riz, and time for the season's first Beefeater and Tonic....)

#19 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:43 AM:

I miss cicadas shells. Pluck them off the tree, stick them to the cat.

Christina, that's sick!....but funny, and I can't wait to try it!

#20 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 11:58 AM:

"...forgot my W..."

Oh, if only the rest of us would forget our W!

#21 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 12:23 PM:

Patrick Farley mourns the Easter Bunny:

#22 ::: Jeremy Osner ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 12:55 PM:

Thanks for the Patrick Farley link, Stefan -- an inspiring bit of reflection it is.

#23 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:00 PM:

John, is it important to you that a small-press be PoD based? Exactly what printing technology they use isn't often the first thing they mention, or even particularly relevant.

You might go directly to Lightning Source and ask them who they provice services to, though. They claim 2,300 publishers use their services for at least some of their printing needs.

#24 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:01 PM:

...der little boids is on der wing --
but dat's absoid!
Der little wings is on der boid!

Ah, curse you Teresa, for reviving this brainworm from my youth! And a no-doubt posthumous kick at Arnold Silcock, too.

#25 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:21 PM:

>I miss cicadas shells. Pluck them off the tree, stick them to the cat.
Christina, that's sick!....but funny, and I can't wait to try it!

Janet, that's what they're for. They also stick nicely to people's clothes, and make a satisfying crunch underfoot.

I was probably 16 or 17 before I ever saw a live cicada, but crunching the shells was right up there with pulling those red beans out of magnolia seed pods. (There's not a whole lot to do in Gainesville.)

#26 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:38 PM:

James, thanks. Actually, no they don't have to be PoD, but I was using Wildside as an example so I had it on the brain...

#27 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:39 PM:

Any thoughts on the two huge changes in editor at two of the major science fiction magazines?

(1) Gardner Dozois departing as editor of Asimov's Science Fiction, after over 18 years, to pursue other projects (i.e. have time for his own writing...). He'll stay with Asimov's as Contributing Editor (i.e. guidance, online, and public events). Sheila Williams, currently Executive Editor, will become Editor; her first official issue being January 2005. Gardner Dozois won the Hugo Award 14 times (as Best Professional Editor), and won the Nebula Award 2 times, in 1984 and 1985 (for Best Short Story).

(2) David Pringle stands down as Interzone's publisher/editor, where he reigned 22 years. Andy Cox moves up to Editor/Publisher. Cox is publisher of TTA Press and The Third Alternative magazine, and will keep Interzone a mostly SF magazine. David Pringle has a farewell editorial column to appear in Interzone, Spring 2004, Issue No.193, to appear in May.

I've never sold anything to Dozois or Pringle, but have had enjoyable correspondance with both, and fine conversations at cons. They made their magazines outstanding.

So... who will be the Making Light mole inside Asimov's and Interzone to tell us more?

#28 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:42 PM:

Um, did I hallucinate a dead link in the Particles to a LiveJournal post written by a Nabokov character?

#29 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 01:51 PM:

Nabokov is a Writer's Writer. He is one of my favorite authors. Further... excerpt from

Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977): Major novelist, short story author, poet, teacher, critic, entomologist/lepidopterist, who wrote primarily in English after roughly 1940, although fluent in (and writing in) Russian, German, French, and English; born in RUSSIA; resident in U.S.A. (1940-1959); resident in Switzerland (1959-1977):

Vladimir Nabokov: Various of his novels, short stories, plays, and poems have either Fantasy, anti-Fantasy, Science Fiction, or anti-Science Fiction elements...

#30 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 02:08 PM:

Yes, spring is definitely here. The grass is getting mowed today so Shiva, poor kitty, is spending time under the bed on a day when we have the windows open!

The trees are thoroughly pollinating my van. I wonder how you'd raise a tree-van.

Julia, I have plenty of birds, but then I have two bird feeders on my porch (can't put them in the grass, that's common property). They also serve squirrels and the occasional rat.

Jill, according to the WashPost, the cicadas won't harm the plants, just be noisy and squeaky underfoot. If any come into the house, I expect the cats will eat them. The WashPost also had recipes on how to cook them.

Christina, I wonder if I can make jewelry from the shells.

#31 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 02:14 PM:

where last year's
careless drivers is

#32 ::: sennoma ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 02:37 PM:

Oh, and y ppl complaining about cicadas -- I am scheming and plotting and planning a way to spend a couple of days with Brood X, and I'll have to cross the country to do it! This is up there with the Monarch butterfly overwintering sites in Mexico for me, an insect spectacle of the must-see variety.

#33 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 02:38 PM:

I don't know where all the birdies is. The wild turkey that I scared up while out strolling this morning has undoubtedly come back to earth by now, but he exploded out of cover quite... explosively. If my heart rate hadn't already been up (from walking up the stupid mountain), that would have done it nicely.

Also, the person or persons responsible for leaving pop cans AND spent shotgun shells along assorted trails in James Buchanan State Forest between the abandoned turnpike, state route 915, and the ridge of Ray's Hill that divides Fulton county from Bedford county... all ya'll deserve to be gutshot and left for dead where you littered, without your ATVs.

The litter is probably not left by 'casual' hikers. It is not possible to get to the location of the litter without either an ATV (and the trails are "closed" to ATVs so if they're doing that, they're doing it illegally) OR two to three miles of shank's mare over fairly mountain-like scenery. *sigh* It's not the sort of place that's attractive to 'casual' hikers -- there's a lot of work to get to it and nothing particularly stunning to see when you get there. And what really, really sucks is that the damn litter bothers me enough that I am going to have to go out this weekend with a backpack and a trash bag, to clean up after a bunch of worthless freaking yahoos who drive their stupid ATVs all over the mountain, erode the crap out of the no-ATVs-allowed trails, and leave their stupid soda cans and spent shells along the trails so that they can irritate me.

All I can say is that it's a good thing I don't walk with anything more dangerous than a digital camera.

#34 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 02:40 PM:

Monday was a gorgeous day. I spent the late afternoon in Lexington. No, I did not see The Tourists. No, I did no see The Re-enactors. I went, where I've been going for many years on Patriot's Day Monday, to Lexington Garden's annual Patriot's Day 15% off sale. Last year was wet and cold and miserable and pouring rain and almost snowing out. This year it was 85 and bright and sunny.

The Victory Garden (Lexington Gardens is the home location for that show. Presumably WGBH hauls all the video recording equipment there to shoot the show, because there isn't a TV camera or a coax cable or digital video cable or a studio light to be seen anywhere in The Victory Garden environs) looked like it's had the spring cleanup, no debris from fallen leaves (there are some trees nearby that leaves can blow in off of), no leftover above ground dead plant stuff, bare ground where new plant growth isn,t, the walks and bridge over the water feature all clean swept, etc.

Something was blooming, I;m not sure what. The tulips are up, but a few weeks away from blossoming. I saw three koi briefly, swimming around in the water feature and the going lower into the murky water.

I don't have pictures, because my digicam jammed. It's now out to get an estimate for getting it fixed. Sigh.

Yesterday I got over to Mahoney's in Winchester, the original Mahoney's site (it has since bought up garden centers in other places in the area). I have pictures of Mahoney's seasonal Christmas shop from six months ago, where the South Greenhouse building has a large spread of decorated Christmas trees and decorated cast iron tables and chairs, with the ornaments on the trees for sale (and signs indicating that on the trees), with the ornaments ranging from Peanuts charcters, to Mother Goose riding on a goose, a Spongebob automatic bubble blower on a shelf, and the more standard run of decorative items. Mahoney's apparently likes having people taking pictures onsite at that time of year (I didn't know that at the time, but...). It makes sense -- Mahoney's isn't selling itself as a location for shooting (Tower Hills Botanical Garden in West Boylston, which is a very pretty place and which has some very nice views overlooking e.g. Wachusett Reservoir, requires registration of people taking peoples... if someone's going to sell pictures shot at Tower Hills, Tower Hills wants a cut of the proceedings I think is the situation), it's selling plants, cut flowers, other gardening supplies,and horticultural services on a continuing basis, to customers some of whom have been going there for decades (like me...). Tower Hills' scenery is most of what Tower Hills gets its income from -- memberships from people who come to look at the site and wander around looking at plants, the Folly, the boggy plants and wildlife (there's a bird watching area), admire the view, get ideas for gardening, to go lectures and talks and sometimes concerts held there, and perhaps buy a book or something in the shop, wander through the orchard of 119 different varietis of antique apple, two trees per variety... But it's not a commercial florist/garden center, and most of what it makes it income on, is its scenery.

Lexington Gardens this year didn't have much in the way of shade perennials out yet. Late in the afternoon employees drove a tractor with a trailer full of plants they were unloading onto the shade perennial racks.

Much of what Lexington Garden's had out was pansies -- lots and lots and lots of pansies. Indoors, it had lots and lots of geraniums. I didn't notice any coffee tree seedlings this visit... I have a small pot of them bought there that I have been meaning to repot into individual pots for months. Coffee tree foliage looks very much like gardenia foliage, except that coffee trees are -trees- and gardenias are bushy flower plants. Coffee tree blossoms look like gardenia blossoms, and are sweetly scented, but not cloyingly so (gardenia blossoms are cloying). There was a fair amount of herbs out on the herb tables indoors, including some scented geraniums (there are several different varieties of geraniums... there are even succulent geraniums, but the only place I've ever seen them is at the succulent plant society, once, at the plant societies tables area at the annual Tower Hill plant sale. Scented geraniums get used in sachets, and culinarily. The flowers tend to be small and inconspicuous. There are a bunch of different scented geraniums -- lemon secented ones, cinnamom, apple, peppermint, chocolate mint, ginger, lime-scented... they're usually treated as annuals, but they're perennials, and can stand -some- cold and frost. Two of the ones I had last year have so far survived the winter (I dug them up and took them inside. It gets tricky, because too much water and they rot and die, too little and they dry up and die.) They's a staple at various of the spring plant sales -- the Lyman Estate greenhouse and plant sale has them, the other historic estate house that has a plant sale in the spring (I can't remember the name of it at the moment) in Waltham has them, I can't remember if the plant sale at Stevens-Coolidge Place in North Andover has them, the Herb Society of America's plant sale at Elm Banks (Massachusetts Horticultural Society site) has them, and Mahoney's, Lexington Gardens, and Logee's (in Connecticut) have them. Logees in particular has -lots- of them.

Other varieties of gernamiums are the ones that appear in every plant-selling supermarket in the universe and garden center in existence, Martha Washington geraniums which abundant dark green non-cut-leaf foliage and profuse large blossoms, ivy-leaved gernaniums (which I haven't seen much of in recent years) which are much more durable that standard treated-as-annual geraniums (I have one that survived hanging over the kitchen sink spilling down and getting hacked periodically when it got in the say, for a dozen years before it died, I'd take what I cut off and stick it back into the pot. I should have repotted, but never did), and the native North American geraniums, such as cranesbill, some perennial and some I think biennial.

Mahoney's had some glorious hibiscus blooming away -- the herbaceous indoor plant variety that grow into bush-size. There were a few mandeville [mandevilla?] vining on trellises in large post and starting their blooming. There were lillies in bloom -- some Easter lillies, some Asiatics. The Asiatics are doing poorly up here outside, Mexican bean beeltes or some such have been chomping them towards nonexistent survival in the area in recent years.

Mahoney's had very few herbs on their herb tables. They did have flats of lettuce, Brussel spouts, pots of spinach... the herbs were limited mostly to scented geraniums, a few variest of basil, lavendar, rosemary, and parsley. Those and other herbs were at Lexington Gardens. Mahoney's is much larger, especially in its indoor facilities.

I can't remember whether it was Lexington Gardens or Mahoneys that has passiflora (passionflower vines) blooming, which can be spectacular. There's a native hardy one, the maypop, which someday I intend to have in my yard. Most of the varieties aren't winterhardy. There are about three or four or so different varieties that Logee's carries that have edible fruit -- the maypop, passiflora edulis, passiflora incarnata, and at least one other.

Out in my yard, which I need to get out and do Yard Work in, the daylillies have sprung up in the last couple days -- that 85 degree Monday did wonders for "I think I'm gonna SPRING UP AND GROW!" spring-sprouting plants, some pansies either overwintered or reseeded during the winter, the chestnut tree and the filberts sprouted leaves, the volunteer black cherries have started leafing out, the pair of robins have been out and about and possibly started building a nest in a juniper/cedar [same thing, not sure which is the more proper name, more volunteer plantlife], saw one of the year-round resident bluejays yesterday, and there's a flock of grackles that have been around for weeks. I also saw one of the resident mockingbirds.

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 02:50 PM:

I'm so pissed I can't see straight.

#36 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 03:23 PM:

Hi Marilee -

According to the many sites my husband unearthed, the cicadas' egg-laying includes some chewing of woody-stemmed plants such as azaleas, hence his concerns. Arise, ye woody stems and fight the cicada!

On another note, I do fear that our week in the Bay Area will cause us to miss their flowering this year. Nuts.

#37 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 03:32 PM:

Terry: yes, and explosions all over the place, and just a bad day overall. I'd been feeling virtuous about bringing in books to mail to soldiers, but (as I said there) I'd much rather have hot showers than books (heresy? no, just how much I love hot running water) and those I can't mail.

And even if I could, I shouldn't *have* to.

#38 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 03:44 PM:

Terry - I see what you mean. Those unimaginable BASTARDS.

#39 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 04:37 PM:

I wonder where the birdies is?

The birds is on the wing!
But that's absurd --
I thought the wing was on the bird?

Who wrote that little verse? And is there a proper winter version to go along with Pound's "Winter is icumen in"?

#40 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 06:00 PM:

The birdies landed, but they's gone
'Cause 2,4-D is on the lawn.
The birdies sing whereat they please,
For quoth the raven, "MP3s;"
Excuse me if I'm less than wordy --
I need this putt for one more birdie.

#41 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 07:12 PM:

Jill, the azaleas in front of my kitchen window (which I hate and don't mind the area being taken over by volunteer ivy, although I think the grounds people should probably pull it off the siding) are almost in full bud. I expect blooming anytime.

#42 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 07:20 PM:

Terry, pissed doesn't cover it, but it will have to do. Reading that put me all the way to the silent white-lipped dangerously angry stage which took a brief walk beyond earshot to work off.

I sincerely hope that KBR employee gets home safe and intact, and lives a long enough life to realize just how much of an asshole he is. But that may take quite a while.

#43 ::: Tiellan ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 08:11 PM:

Completely unrelated to anything else, but my hubbie forwarded this link to me today after doing some research for his food and nutrition class:

Lots of swearing but very funny.

#44 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 08:20 PM:

Sydney is having its Season of Fogs & Spiders.
Walking under the street trees or beside well-shrubbed gardens or parks, hundreds, maybe thousands of overlapping webs glisten in the still-cool morning sun with the dew left from the early mist.
Leaf Rolling spiders, Golden Orb spiders, St Andrew's Cross, ones I don't know, all feasting on the insects that, now the local summer drought has eased a bit, are in a frenzy to get their multiplying done by the time the cold weather bites & all the late-summer flush of flowers is over.

This last week we've had our first fogs of the year, as the morning sea-breeze, still warm from the slow-cooling ocean, hits the chill air that's had its heat sucked out by the fast-cooling land. Only the biggest ferries, which have radar, are running on the harbour and with luck we'll have some lovely photos on the news tonight or in tomorrow's paper.
The moon is new now, but last full moon was on a lovely soft evening, still unedged by the crispness I expect to feel when I watch next full moon rising over the water.

Cidadas: If they work the same as ours, the eggs are laid by plants' roots, and they grow underground for several years, feeding by sucking on the roots. Then any feeding they do after hatching (when their main job is to mix dem genes & lay dem eggs) is also by sucking sap from above ground. I doubt they'd do very much damage, tho, unless in great numbers when the plants are already weak. And it's quite a memorable experience.
There's a whole mythology about Australian cicadas, not connected at all with the Chinese & other symbolism of them as far as I can tell.

#45 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 10:16 PM:

It's cicada time in DC again? That means it's been seventeen years since one flew down my shirt.

And yet I remember it as if it happened yesterday.

#46 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 10:36 PM:

What happened to the Paris Hilton autobio link? Wouldn't work, and then it was gone.

Ginmar's KBR pal is certainly a rotten bastard. And you know if she were a colonel, the guy would be kissing her ass.

#47 ::: Vassilissa ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2004, 10:48 PM:

It's autumn here. The sky's bare naked blue today, showing the leaves off to advantage.

We've had some cold nights in the last week. I had to get the heater out. Each time I walk outside, I get a surprise - it's autumn, it's autumn!

The cicadas are shrilling here too.

In academic terms, it's week eight of the first semester, so I'm treading water among assignments. There's not enough time for anything. But I know by this stage that it'll pass. I hope I, also, pass.

#48 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 12:58 AM:

Kate: Bitch, complain to your congresscritter, send a secondary e-mail (cut and paste) to a local news outlet, get an anti-war, pro-troops group agitating about such things (one of my confreres, when he's feeling pissy about the war, asks such people what concrete thing they've done FOR the troops lately. Being against the war is well and good, but books, sardines and Tang are better, as far as we're concerned, but I digress).

As for showers, I understand, believe me I understand. Risking TMI (you were all warned) I went from the 30th of March to the 12th of June without a real shower. Bucket baths and baby wipes. When I got to Germany, in July I think I spent about 30 minutes just standing in the hot water. At Walter Reed I had a tub, luxury beyond measure, a pearl beyond price.

But the showers are not the worst of it (after all, I know one can go for months without one, and still be tolerably clean) it's the apparent gloating about the cutting off of communications. I remember being cut off for about five weeks and the amazing frustration which went from not being in touch. The worrying about how Maia was handling it, and the agony of her having gotten to the point that she didn't check her e-mail, because it was just going to be empty. That week (of not getting any reply) was indecribable. For some REMF puke, with his gym, his huge paycheck, his ability to quit, his air-conditioned room, his (almost certainly) unlimited drinks, and his coffee breaks, his television, his internet, his sat-phone his everything to have the attitude he does, well... if thoughts could kill.

Claude: Yeah pissed doesn't cover it,, but I was hard pressed to get that much typed, and my day since has been filled with a sort of bland disconnect, and miserable lack of any enjoyment, which is part of why I may not be so charitable as you are to the employees of KBR, but then again, I had mail held up because they thought it was too risky to move it forward, so they are missing lots of brownie points already.

Xopher: No, they aren't bastards, just lazy, self-involved, overpaid fucks. Makes one realise that Wille and Joe aren't dead, and how much I wish the Army was running things (silly me I thought KBR was just supplying services, I didn't realise they were in charge.

to quote Joe Hill... "organise."


#49 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 01:05 AM:

Man, Ginmar has guts. Her account could work as an OpEd piece, but I wouldn't want her to get in any trouble.

Maybe a Very Special Episode of J.A.G. will cover the swinishness and greed of outsourced logistics . . .

#50 ::: J. McGeary ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 01:21 AM:

Um. Hi there! *waves shyly* Just wanted to thank you for being kind enough to link to my little summary of the Silmarillion... I'm Camwyn at LiveJournal, you see. I never thought it'd attract that kind of attention. Glad you enjoyed it!

(Now if I can just finish editing my original fiction and get it sent out...)

#51 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 04:03 AM:

Look what else the spring brings: Virgin mouse gives birth.

Pattery, pattery,
Kaguya, mouse-daughter
born of a virgin doe
with no male spouse:

sisterhood's saviour; her
name shall be Mouse.

(With thanks to the bad rat Socar Myles for her creative and critical input.)

#52 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 08:53 AM:

So these guys are playing golf, yanks against the deadly foe. On the 18th green, one yank says to the other, "If you don't sink this putt, the terrorists will have won."

#53 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 08:58 AM:

To pretty much quote an angry dolphin on the Tick cartoon, "That idiot! That's not haiku! He's just counting syllables!" Too many people think if they can count to 17, they can write a haiku on any topic. The way I heard it, a haiku has to be on some specific thing. Nature, I thought it was. That makes verses about traffic lights and error codes right out. I await correction.

Just had to mention that. Nobody here brought it on. Open thread.

Counting beats
Is all I do.
That makes this
A haiku too.
Burma Shave!

#54 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 09:25 AM:

Camwyn, I enjoyed your Silmarillion piece so much I sent the link to the Mythopoeic Society discussion list, where there has been much talk about lust for shinies...

#55 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 09:47 AM:

See Haiku for People. Haiku should include a season or something symbolic of a season. Each poem should comprise two independent descriptions in such a way that each concept provides a deeper understanding of the other.

One of my favorites is by Kijo Murakami:

First autumn morning:
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face.

#56 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 10:05 AM:

Is what Kip produced closer to a senryu?

They're similar to haiku in structure, but typically address human nature in a satirical or ironic manner.

Of course, Kip may not feel that bit of verse was ironic or satirical--even if I do. The use of "Burma Shave" just seems to have that effect on me.

#57 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 10:42 AM:

Haiku: I understand that times of day will also do.

Terry: I guess I consider "lazy, self-involved, overpaid fucks" a subspecies of bastard. In the conventional, not the literal sense of the word.

And thoughts, if handled badly, can kill. Unfortunately they seldom kill the person you'd like them to.

#58 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 12:07 PM: want to tell me what it was that was so infuriating on Ginmar's journal? 'Cause it all looks to be in order from here...

#59 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 12:16 PM:

Skwid, it's not GinMar's journal but the evil KBRites she writes about, acting like they're somehow superior to the grunts whose camps they're meant to be running.

Ginmar's making do with a cold shower every third day, sharing bunk room with a bunch of other grunts, no a/c, and all the rest, while the contractors are parking their butts in front of their computers all day with hot showers whenever they want, full aircon, etc, etc. And one of the evil swine threatened to cut off her internet access.

Isn't there a famous american saying about not pissing off an armed person? If not, maybe Ginmar can help get it established....

#60 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 12:19 PM:

Oh, I remember! Niven's Law: Never throw shit at an armed man. Or armed woman who hasn't had a hot shower for weeks, I guess....

#62 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Any notion on how we can help her get the kitten shipped stateside? If it would help her to know it was safe, I'm willing to do what I can to get it to a vet and give it a cushy place to purr while it waits for her to come home.

#63 ::: J. McGeary ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 02:03 PM:

Camwyn, I enjoyed your Silmarillion piece so much I sent the link to the Mythopoeic Society discussion list, where there has been much talk about lust for shinies...

*whistles* Sweet mother of Melkor. I'm honoured. Thank you!

#64 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 02:05 PM:

Okay, I'm sitting in my dining room, writing code for my semester project for computational physics class--- and one of the drop ceiling panels just fell out of the kitchen ceiling, thanks to debris/stuff from the remodeling crew working in the upstairs bathroom.

Fun filled day.

#65 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 02:34 PM:
NelC wrote: Skwid, it's not GinMar's journal but the evil KBRites she writes about, acting like they're somehow superior to the grunts whose camps they're meant to be running.
Yeah, see, I'm looking, but I'm not seeing.

Ah...I see there's a locked entry. Would it be that one, maybe?

#66 ::: Shelly Rae Clift ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 02:40 PM:

I know where da rabbits is! (one was eating my lawn this morning).
I had a parakeet once upon a time that could recite that ditty. When he got excited he'd scream "spring has sprung! spring has sprung! spring has sprung!" Sydney (the parakeet) also sang, "kill the wabbit!" Need I point out that his cage was in the same room as the tv? I wonder if that constitutes animal cruelty?

Other signs of spring. I ate the first radish from the raised beds. A tasty French Breakfast radish, crisp, crunchy and just a little bit hot, yum. The tomato plants are ready to move into larger pots on the sunny (relatively), protected part of the deck (with a wary eye on the final frost date of May 15) and, glory be! the sun is shining! (hey, I live in the Pacific Northwest, sunshine is definitely something to get excited about. And a day when you might need sunblock is priceless!)

I went to the first of many plant sales over the weekend so, now, back to the gardening.

#67 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 02:58 PM:

Bill Blum:

Since you speak of: "my semester project for computational physics...", I wonder if I can ask you a question.

My fifteen-year-old son is a double major in Physics and Computer Science at a local university, getting an A average. Yesterday, while driving him from campus (15-year old in a dorm? no way!) he asked what good is Physics for Computer Science and vice versa.

I suggested the following, and wonder if you can comment:

(1) "The Matrix Theory" -- how can Physics experiments determine whether or not we exist in a simulation, instead of in "the real universe"?

(2) How can really good simulations cast light on physics hard or impossible for us to do (i.e. colliding black holes, looking inside quarks and gluons...)?

(3) How can software deal with the oceans of data from Big Science Physics projects, to find rare events in noisy measurements? (i.e. gravity wave detections, particle accelerator collisions in detectors to find new particles like the Higgs Boson)...

(4) How can Phyics develop technologies for future computer hardware (i.e. as Thomas J. Watson center at IBM does; Nanotechnology; Quantum Computing...)

(5) Fundamental Physics meets Fundamental Computer Science: what is the relation between Communications Theory's Entropy and Thermodynamics' Entropy? What happens to the information in an object that falls into a black hole which then evaporates?

He objected to (1): "Physics can't tell if we're in The Matrix."

I replied: "Yes, if the programmers got sloppy"

He suggested (agnostic though he is): "If God is a Programmer, then He is a Very Good Programmer."

Just wonder what your take on this is, so I can pass it on to him. Thanks!

#69 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 03:16 PM:

Heya, Camwyn. It was much enjoyed, and we're glad to see you turn up in its wake.

#70 ::: Scott Lynch ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 03:54 PM:

For those who like this sort of thing-- probably the cutest Nigerian Scam E-Mail I've seen so far:

Subject: Nigerian Astronaut Wants To Come Home

Heh. Real or not, it's brilliant.

#71 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 04:29 PM:

Jill, I don't recommend it, but today's KidsPost has a story on a cat that survived three months in a cargo container (China to Florida). Oh, and my azaleas have started to bloom today. They're amazingly gaudy flowers and I wish the board would let me have something else planted.

Skwid, yes, the entry has been locked.

Michelle, I hadn't seen the coffin picture story, but it doesn't surprise me. I think if we watch the live troops return, we should watch the dead ones return. I think watching the flag-draped coffins confers honor to the dead and their families.

#72 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 04:31 PM:

Apropos of nothing, at ConQuest this year (our annual Memorial Day Kansas City SF/F convention) we are collecting books for Operation Paperback to get books to the forces overseas.

Here's a link to the guidelines, they're not that specific except to mostly be respectful of the sensibilities/rules of the Muslims and also not to send crappy, dirty, trash books (that really need to just be trashed, sorry, paperbacks that have gotten wet, moldy or otherwise just need to go), plus no juvenile literature.

If you are coming, bring books! If you want to send me anything, contact me at

Thank you very much!

#73 ::: Carlos ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 06:12 PM:

Roger L,

Yes, the Paris Hilton autobiography link, that's the one. At vanveen, which sent you to a dead link at johnshade, then missing from the Particles altogether. I'm glad to know I wasn't hallucinating, at least.

Particles vanish!
At least I am not insane.
Fscking allergies.

#74 ::: Kate Yule ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 06:45 PM:

Someone in Cincinnati is selling off the contents of a large old house, attic to cellars, on eBay, and having a GREAT deal of fun in the process. For her disquisition on Manchu history, see item 3719158682; to learn how a Dodge Intrepid is like a lady's pocket watch, see item 3718731441.

p.s. Sharing the fun with y'all is one thing, but **I dibs the child's china plate with rocket ship!** Thank you and nyah.

#75 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 06:46 PM:

Sure did Michelle. I have been comparing the actions of GinMar's KBR contractor with the actions of Tami Silicio and her husband David Landry in getting that picture out, and the consequences.

One interesting point is Silicio's explanation for passing the picture along to the Seattle Times

The picture shows several workers inside a cargo plane parked at Kuwait International Airport securing 20 flag-draped coffins for the trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Silicio, who took the picture, told the newspaper she hoped it would portray the care and devotion with which civilian and military crews treat the remains of fallen soldiers.

This shot of the front of Sunday's Seattle P-I supports her -- If I was a Pentagon PIO I would be happy with the kind of coverage, strangely enough, even if I could give it official sanction. It (supported by the text) showed the extreme care and respect paid by the military to departed comrades, something I got to know a bit about both as a military brat and as a reporter dealing with defense issues. It is something the military has had a couple of centuries to learn to get right, and generally does a good job at. There are no body bags, or "transport tubes", just standard metal coffins, each covered with a flag, firmly attached. Nothing stacked, everything handled with dignity.

#76 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 06:47 PM:

Michelle: Saw it, yes. And I have no direct problem with the company firing her for knowingly violating the rules under which she was working. I do have a problem with the US government for forcing those rules onto the company.

Although I have seen at least one person make the case that Iraq != Vietnam, I have to admit that this incident put me in mind of nothing more strongly than Simon & Garfunkel's 7 O'Clock News/Silent Night, particularly the bit at the end of the news, which is the most clearly audible of all:

In Washington the atmosphere was tense today as a special subcommittee of the House Committee on Un-American activities continued its probe into anti-Vietnam war protests. Demonstrators were forcibly evicted from the hearings when they began chanting anti-war slogans. Former Vice-President Richard Nixon says that unles there is a substantial increase in the present war effort in Vietnam, the U.S. should look forward to five more years of war. In a speech before the Convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in New York, Nixon also said opposition to the war in this country is the greatest single weapon working against the U.S. That's the 7 o'clock edition of the news, Goodnight.
#77 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 06:51 PM:

Regarding the kitten. She's having some local troubles, but the sticking point seems to be the issue of a rabies vaccine.

No vaccine means the beastie can't even get to quarantine, stateside (where she has a recipient). Right now she's got someone who will look after it. There are vets, and I am certain the Combat Support Hospitals (CSH, pronounced, you guessed it, cash) have pastuer treatements, but it probably hinges on the verification, which would need a vet.

#78 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 09:24 PM:

Regarding Ginmar:
I would love to send a CARE package of books and provisions,
but I have no real idea how to do it.

Could someone who knows her address get in touch with me via email?
(Our hostess has my email address.)

Thanks in advance.

#79 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 09:43 PM:

I also liked the picture, and I also think that it was respectful. I don't understand why we are not allowed to have pictures of transported coffins. It makes me feel like someone is trying to hide the sacrifice that those soldiers have made, but that's just me, and there's a lot I don't understand and probably never will.

We did have one question however, and I'm hoping someone with a military background can answer: Are the flags removed when the coffins are transported, or do they remain on the coffin at all times unless the coffin is open for viewing? At my grandafather's funeral several years ago I thought the flag was placed on the coffin immediately after the casket was closed, and then taken off and given to my grandmother only after the ceremony, but I simply can't recall.

#80 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 10:08 PM:

Dr. George Hockney emailed me directly to answer the question that I'd posed to Bill Blum on this thread. His email follows, and might be of interest both for its science fictional topic, and the dollop of theology at the end:

Computer Science studies how to use machines for
manipulating information.

Physics studies how to model the physical universe.

From the viewpoint of a physicist, Computer Science is useful because complicated models require correlating large amounts of information. Better techniques for building
and testing models improves ones ability to model the universe. The question for the physicist becomes, is it necessary to understand computational techniques at a deep level in order to use those techniques. Sometimes
the answer is yes, and sometimes no. There is no reason a physicist needs to know how a calculator (or a spreadsheet or Python) works in order to use one. There is no reason to know how a data recorder works in order to use one. There is no reason to know how a computer scientists works in order to use one, either. These can all be abstracted adequately for the task of modelling.

On the other hand, numerical analysis (such as in numerical integration, Monte Carlo simulations, and large-scale grid models) can't be used as black boxes without running serious risks, because it is important to understand what sorts of things can go wrong. This becomes a field of study in itself only marginally relying on computer science, though. Computer Science is more important when dealing with questions
about group structure or data correlation or Bayesian analysis, where an understanding of CS techniques makes it possible to do analyses that would be very difficult any other way.

From the viewpoint of a Computer Scientist, Physics is useful mainly in understanding the physical basis of information theory. Information theory involves entropy in a fundamental way. Recently, computer scientists have understood that information transfer in quantum mechanical systems is quite
different from information transfer in classical systems, and may introduce different complexity classes for computation.

Physics is also useful in understanding how to build things, but that's Electrical, Solid State, and Computer engineering.

As a practical matter for Career Advice, physicists need to be eclectic and apply techniques from all over; one can never know what might be useful. CS techniques can be handy
for certain types of problems. Computer scientists qua computer scientists don't really need that sort of breadth. However, there
are a lot of engineering jobs out there where a dual background is very useful because the jobs consist primarliy of applying computer techniques to a physics-based problem.

>"If God is a
>Programmer, then He is a Very Good Programmer."

Well, nobody understands anything about consciousness. Plato, DesCartes, and the authors of the Matrix all give up and channel all the information into a person. Persons have parts, and it's quite clear there is insufficient bandwidth to pass all the information we appear to be getting in one place to any one particular place in a person.

There was at least on instance in the history of elementary particle physics when it appears God forgot a box diagram, because in the early seventies the first experiment to look for a particular low-probability K -> ee mode saw nothing, but the next two saw the values predicted by QED. Nobody knows why.

#81 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2004, 10:17 PM:

Within minutes, Forrest Bishop emailed me the following, which gets some political economics into The Matrix question:

Computation theory, imo, can already make, or at least restrict, this determination. A simulation would require as much or more information
exchange (and its associated particle exchange) to model the known universe as already exists in same. This principle appears to apply locally as
well, much as the QM/Standard Model appears to apply to local particles as well as
cosmologically distant particles. This restricts the question to relative
spacetime scales in adjacent dimensions.

As an aside, Robin Hanson has a paper on the web on the biological aspects of the Matrix Theory. Psychologically, we most certainly do live in the
Matrix (one of my favorite movies)- our heads are filled with percept 'spooks' that hypnotize us. c.f. R.A. Wilson.

>(2) How can really good simulations cast light on
>physics hard or impossible for us to do (i.e.
>colliding black holes, looking inside quarks and

Computer simulation has become a third way of scientific and mathematical
investigation to rival and complement the empirical and theoretical approaches. It also suffers from the same human foibles of these older
methods, see 'spooks'. Maybe the science of the future will advance one file
deletion at a time. :)

Some science 'spooks' of yore-

The Earth is the center of the world. (common percept of primitives)

The Sun orbits the Earth. (Aristotlian/Ptolomaic theory)

Your fate is in the stars. (state-sponsored astronomy)

Heat is like a fluid. (pre-Maxwell-Boltzman thermodynamics)

Value is objective. (comtemporary macroeconomics)

There exists an absolute inertial frame. (Gallilaen relativity)

A particle has infinitely precise phase-space coordinates. (Classical mechanics)

The Party has always existed (contemporary political theory)

All will be well once we find Emmanuel Goldstein. (common psychohistorical prediction)

>(4) How can Physics develop technologies for future
>computer hardware (i.e. as Thomas J. Watson center at
>IBM does; Nanotechnology; Quantum Computing...)

Historic examples- physics theory preceeded and enabled the invention of the laser, photonics, semiconductors, photolithography, etc. This process is continuing at a remarkable pace. QC is a case in point- no informed physics, no computer.

>(5) Fundamental Physics meets Fundamental Computer
>Science: what is the relation between Communications
>Theory's Entropy and Thermodynamics' Entropy? What
>happens to the information in an object that falls
>into a black hole which then evaporates?
>He objected to (1): "Physics can't tell if we're in
>The Matrix."
>I replied: "Yes, if the programmers got sloppy"
>He suggested (agnostic though he is): "If God is a
>Programmer, then He is a Very Good Programmer."

Maybe so, but I have consumer complaints on some of the engineering aspects. Let's start with the retina...

A professor of chemical engineering notes-
ORO (11/13/99; 21:24:14MDT - Msg ID:19061)

..You may have seen the movie Matrix. The story is of humanity being used as production plant for something, the people live a life completely within their heads, controlled by computer simulations.

The key to the hero's survival and success is realizing that the world around him, in which he grew up all his life, is completely false.

Walking through a room full of people trying to free themselves from the images bombarding their brain, he crosses a kid bending a spoon. He asks the kid, how did he bend the spoon.

The kid says, it's simple, there is no spoon.

What is played before us in the world is a hoax that you have been conditioned by daily experience to accept as reality. But there is a cost to the charade and a cost to you. But you can't bring yourself to come to the conclusion when you watch CNBC, read the Journal or Investor's Business Daily, see Moneyline, Ruckeyser, etc. that they are involved in a theatrical production; that they are like well trained actors in a drama about
money that never was. Remember: There is no spoon.



--Forrest Bishop
Institute of Atomic-Scale Engineering

#82 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:11 AM:

Michelle, I think her photo broke the dam. The Pentagon released 361 other coffin photos:

The flag stays on the coffin until just before the coffin is lowered into the grave and then it's folded ceremonially and given to a family member.

#83 ::: Stupid ol' rat ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 01:36 AM:

This is for Virge, who posted about mice, above.

Mouse Pervert

It’s private, don’t try it—
You’re looking—don’t hide it!
Stop lying; stop prying
You nosey louse!

Protest—I don’t buy it
You’re causing a riot!
Sighing and trying to
Look at my mouse!

It is a joke poem about his poem. It isn't really perverted. I just like the word "pervert", which is funny.

#84 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 02:12 AM:

I used the link for Ginmar's post and found nothing objectionable at the top -- when I read the "read more" part, I really understood why people were upset (and I agree with them).

I hope Ginmar knows how many people she's reaching....

#85 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 02:24 AM:

Really quickly putting this here because either I or Electrolite are having problems & it may spread. From the Howard County Times, April 22nd 2004

Discarded Ballots in recent elections
(First reaction WTF!!)

#86 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 07:10 AM:

So, the law says, use the untraceable, uncountable, unquestionable machine that uses software which is forbidden public review, or your vote won't be counted.

I do wonder why anyone thinks that their vote will be counted if they do use the machine.

#87 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 07:26 AM:

Physics and CS are both, to me, branches of the same majestic tree: Pure Math. CS reduces faster to purity, but ultimately physics does as well, transforming from particles and planets to n-body, relativistic, and schröedinger equations.

One of our exams questions was simply a bunch of equations and algorithms, with the instruction "Classify each as P or NP. Provide a reduction. If it is NP, is it NP-Complete?*" the N-body problem was on there, as were som financial questions, and what I think was a quantum equation of some sort.
(At the bottom was this footnote "*For extra credit, demonstrate NP-Completeness and then provide a reduction to P")

#88 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 08:50 AM:


Thanks. That is what I thought, but I didn't want to trust my memory.

#89 ::: Edward Liu ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 09:43 AM:


So I have a good news joke and a request for comments.

The good news is that all that data mining crap that the political parties are spending money on is garbage, seeing as I've gotten two mail solicitations to donate to the Bush-Cheney campaign. I can't say my behavior would lend itself to being a supporter of the Republicans, considering I've donated to places like the Sierra Club and public TV & radio using credit cards, and I bought a Honda Civic Hybrid last year. I also got a solicitation from the RNC about a year ago and sent them back a nice letter saying, "Please take me off your mailing list because I'm never giving you a voluntary dime," which you'd think would get me on a different list somewhere.

However, if they're willing to waste money on stuff like this, I figure it's that little bit less they have to spend on anything else.

The request for comments is: what to do with the nice postage-paid envelopes that they included with both solicitations? I'd like to make sure that they get their money's worth. My requirements for suggestions are:

1. Legal. Obviously.
2. Cheap. Let's say under $20 for whatever I send.
3. Easy. Partially because I'm lazy and partially because I'd rather spend the energy on more productive endeavors than GWB.

-- Ed

#90 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 10:04 AM:

I've always been partial to the idea of gluing the postage paid envelope to a brick, then mailing. Costs them serious postage money....

#91 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 10:04 AM:

I just remove all identifying marks from all the other materials, shred them, and stuff them in the envelope. Then I mail it from a public mailbox.

I'm not sure if Business Reply allows anything heavier than First Class, or I'd suggest buying a couple of anti-Bush refrigerator magnets (thin enough to fit, but quite heavy) and sending them.

#92 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 10:27 AM:

Physics is not pure math, because there's a real world out there. Pure math need not have anything to do with the real world. You can (and some of the undergrads I grade do) write down equations that claim airplanes fly underground, that masses on springs don't vibrate when plucked, that things fall up. Math becomes physics when it makes predictions that agree with experiment.

#93 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 11:20 AM:

Based on my experience, the post office will deliver (at first-class rates) anything legal to mail that the envelope is affixed to, provded that it's packed according to their standards. (I work at an office that sends out a lot of mail with paid-return envelopes. Some of it comes back in an envelope, some in a larger envelope with our envelope taped to the front; once in a great while, we get a box with the envelope taped to the top). This means you aren't restricted to what fits in the envelope. Just make sure it's packaged according to the USPS's requirements, and can legally be mailed. Simply taping the envelope to a brick is probably a bad idea. Pack the brick in a box, seal it with postal mailing tape, and tape the envelope to the top. Plastic packing peanuts are optional, but will help keep the brick from breaking loose in transit. Given the degree of paranoia out there over strange packages, wearing gloves while you pack it all up might not be a bad idea.

I mailed the one I received back with the original request letter inside, after I'd written NO all over it, in several different shades of crayon. It was simple and childish, but I enjoyed it.

#94 ::: David B. ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 11:28 AM:

That's a cute condensed Silmarillion. Here's mine. Even shorter: less than 300 words, though it does leave rather a lot out.

Thanks for reminding me. I wrote this one back in 1977, a month after the book came out, and I hadn't ever published it or even thought about it in years ...

#95 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:02 PM:

Any Perrin and BSD:

The deep mystery is WHY the laws of Mathematics apply to the universe. As Einstein said: "The most comprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible."

I enjoyed Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver most for the way he shows characters viewing the world in terms of the new Math of Newton and Leibnitz... white sails billowing on the masts as one flees the pirate ship, seen in terms of bernoulli's laws of mathematical physics.

"A New Kind of Science" by Stephen Wolfram radically rejects the continuum, calculus, and the other apparatus of mathematics in order to assert (with pretty pictures) that we should examine Nature as a finite math (discrete math) system of interconnected (quantum? spacetime?) computers, from which complicated processes emerge from very simple programs.

"The Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang has aliens who use our math/physics -- but with a different focus, and one human who learns their language can see (but not change) the future.

Greg Egan's "Luminous" has regions of the universe obeying slightly different laws of Mathematics itself.

here's another reply emailed directly to me:


Perhaps one answer to your son's question that would appeal to a fellow of his age is that understanding physics and computer science allows you to make much more realistic computer games and movie special effects.


That's Dr. Thomas McDonough, head of SETI for the Planetary Society, an noted SF author ("Missing Matter"; "The Architects of Hyperspace").

#96 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:09 PM:

Andy (not "Any" -- sorry) Perrin, BSD, Bill Blum:

Happy Shakespeare's birthday!

Dr. Geoffrey Landis adds, with useful links:

Everything each of us knows about the universe is simulated inside an object of mass 1.6 kg, so that's one figure for how large a simulation is needed,

The American Physical Society used to publish a magazine "Computers in Physics" (a friend of mine used to write the Scientific Visualization
column for them). Some of their old articles are on the web at

Computers in Physics

This was merged with an IEEE publication, and is now "Computers in
Science and Engineering"

Comp Sci Eng

#97 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:10 PM:


Good to hear your son chose something in conjunction with CS, as opposed to just studying CS alone... I've been working on an article detailing why I chose to be a physics major when I went back to school, as opposed to something "more practical" like CS. I'll email you a copy when I'm done, after my last final exam is over...

Anyways, I could probably go on for pages on each of the topics you mentioned in your post, but I'll keep these responses brief. ( I may put more detailed answers in my own livejournal... when/if I do so, I'll let you know )

(1) "The Matrix Theory" -- how can Physics experiments determine whether or not we exist in a simulation, instead of in "the real universe"?

If we're in a simulation as opposed to a "real universe", our laws of physics will have been developed based on observations/etc. that scientists have made based on experiments conducted within the frame of reference determined by the simulation.

There would have to be major inconsistencies within the simulation for those of us within its confines to start wondering "what the hell is going on here?"

If God's a programmer, he needs to write a software engineering textbook, because he pulled off a well-executed simulation in a short timeframe, and even managed to throw in a day of rest to boot....

(2) How can really good simulations cast light on physics hard or impossible for us to do (i.e. colliding black holes, looking inside quarks and gluons...)?

I offer the following quote, from Richard Hamming:
The purpose of computing is insight, not numbers.

Simulations don't have value because they cast light on "physics hard or impossible for us to do"--- simulation has value because it lets us gain insight into things that aren't PRACTICAL for us to do, given equipment or time constraints.

Example of the value of simulation:
"Determine what would happen if we loosened the tolerances in this analog filterbank."

Monte Carlo simulation to the rescue--far easier than building a few versions of the board with component values on the far ends of the tolerance scale. Is it something on a "grand scale"?? Far from it.... but you are MORE than welcome to compute the filter responses that would result from going from 1% to 10% components. I used MATLAB and Octave myself.
Computers are just tools to get to a solution... if you know the limitations of your toolset, you structure your models so that you're not affected.

May I suggest taking a look at "Programming Pearls", by Jon Bentley--- it makes you think about how to set up a simulation. Additionally, the book I used for Computational Physics is worth a look.

I'll address the other 3 later this weekend, maybe, on my livejournal, and I'll post a link if/when I do...

I've got to go back to campus for math class... please keep in mind that these responses were written by someone who fell asleep trying to do his quantum mechanics homework, and is currently sleep depraved. Or deprived.

#98 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:27 PM:

Along the same lines of the micro-Silmarillion, etc., I wrote a spoof on Waiting for Godot as a Slashdot thread....

[A country road, a tree. Estragon sits on a low mound, trying to remove his boot. Vladimir enters, pulls off his tinfoil hat, looks inside and knocks it on the crown, as if to make something fall out.]

Estragon: [Giving up on the boot] Nothing to be done.

Vladimir: I've come to the same conclusion myself.

Estragon: So why are you here again?

Vladimir: I had to return: Godot is tracing my movements through the cunning placement of a chip in my head - or is it in my money?

Estragon: [Suddenly angry] You fool! You know that processed cheese is the only thing they trace.

Vladimir: Your spelling is atrocious.

Estragon: Off topic! Off topic!!
[He attacks Vladimir. Vladimir weeps, stops, pulls off his tinfoil hat and looks inside, shaking it to see if anything will fall out.]

Vladimir: Nothing to be done.

Estragon: It's 1:35 in the morning and we've been here for days. We have no life. We should go.

Vladimir: We can't!

Estragon: Why not?

Vladimir: We're waiting for Godot.

Estragon: Ah! I had forgotten. Shall we go?

Vladimir: Yes, let's go.
[They do not move].


#99 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:28 PM:

I think we should be looking for:

// The Comments

#100 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 12:48 PM:


As to why math can be used to describe the universe (the "unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics"), I've never seen any mystery. It's because we live here, we chose which areas of math to develop, and we concentrated on the bits that were best suited to physics. Mathematical specialties with no physical meaning are abundant. (Number theory?) Another point: Even in simple physics problems, one frequently comes across non-physical solutions that are mathematically correct. Math does a good job of describing the universe, but not a perfect job.

#101 ::: Larry B ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 01:00 PM:

BSD - Demonstrate P=NP for extra credit? Most amusing, but also slightly dangerous. Imagine if someone did it! A simple CS exam collapsing all of modern encryption. So much for online banking.

I guess its a good trap for students who haven't been listening, causing them to waste time they could have spent checking their work.

Way back when, when I took Formal Languages, I had a great prof with only one downfall, he gave exams that required twice as long as the allotted time. On the bottom of the final, I wrote a paragraph contrasting "exhaustive" and "exhausting."

I think the hardest math exam I had was in a Computability and Automata class, where the prof had the students write the final. I edited it, and still found it to be a bear.

Looking back, I wish I had made a career somewhere where I could have used all the math I learned in all those classes - that was fun stuff!

#102 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 01:40 PM:

I had an algorithms prof ask for an n-squared algorithm for something that was -- as phrased -- an NP-complete problem.

He didn't do it on purpose, but it went really well with writing that midterm in a room being subject to bouts of epic pipe hammer. (Quote from the Naval reservist -- "the last time I heard pipe hammer that bad, there were machinists' mates running around trying to keep the ship from exploding.")

#103 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 01:43 PM:

Calling all Grammar Gods, Students, Aspirants, etc.:

Lynn Truss, author of "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" is being interviewed on KQED today. Here is the link.

#104 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 01:44 PM:

Closest I can come is a calculus exam where the prof asked us to do an integration by parts, when it could only be done by decomposition. I just did it by decomposition and handed it in. He wrote "Oops, I meant decomposition" or words to that effect on my exam paper.

#105 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 02:02 PM:

From a chemistry exam:

"The TA at the front of the lecture hall has a cylinder containing X amount of nitrous oxide. The TA at the back of the room has a cylinder containing cyanide gas. If they turn the valves simultaenously, in what row will students die laughing?"

#106 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 02:07 PM:

Andy Perrin:

Interesting post! Let me reply a piece at a time.

You wrote: "As to why math can be used to describe the universe (the 'unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics'), I've never seen any mystery. It's because we live here..."

That's a version of the Anthropic Principle, if I may paraphrase you: "We humans exist in this universe. We evolved. We evolved the ability to do math BECAUSE it improves our Darwinian Fitness."

I might also say, "to the extent that the universe is, to some extent, Chaotic, we have evolved chaos circuitry in our DNA, protein, brains, so as to cope with the dimensions of chaos around us. We have fractal distributions in the fire we stare into on the African veldt a million years ago, and in the songs that we sing. Look up at the fractal distribution of stars..."

You continue: "...we chose which areas of math to develop, and we concentrated on the bits that were best suited to physics. Mathematical specialties with no physical meaning are abundant. (Number theory?)"

17 of the 21 papers I've written in the past 4 months are Number Theory. As to the earlier post that [I may paraphrase] "the purpose of computing is not numbers, but insight," I developed deeper and deeper insight, into Mordell-Weil Groups, which led to Kodaira Symbols, and Fiber Theory, and suddenly I started finding references to papers on "oddons inside the proton" and other particle Physics and quantum mechanics that used the same deep theory. So some Number Theory sheds light on Physics, although it seems so abstract as to connect with a "platonic ideal" and not the physical cosmos.

You conclude: "Another point: Even in simple physics problems, one frequently comes across non-physical solutions that are mathematically correct. Math does a good job of describing the universe, but not a perfect job."

In my researech, I came across a Hypsicles, ancient Greece, astronomer/mathematician. His book is lost, but correct equations are ascribed to him by Diophantus, a few centuries later. Diophantus of Alexandria (Diophantine Equations are Number Theory) discovered integer equations of a certain kind, and noted [again I paraphrase]: "Hey, look! You could say that x= - 10 and y = -20 is a solution to this equation. Solutions with numbers less than zero! But we all know that numbers cannot really be less than zero in the universe, so forget I ever mentioned it."

He was 1000 years ahead of his time. He suffered what Sir Arthur C. Clarke calls "a failure of nerve" although no "failure of imagination."

Now children learn about negative numbers, and schools don't bother them until high school or college with Imaginary Numbers (not quite as "real"), and never mention Quaternions, or Cayley Algebra, or other weirder mathematics -- which turn out to be useful in real world engineering and Physics.

Tensors were invented as "pure mathematics." Then Einstein used them to develop General Relativity. Science Fiction authors sometimes write about science not yet discovered by "real scientists." Pure mathematicians do pretty things, from insight, on paper, which turn out to be (in retrospect) science-fictionally predictive of where Physics would later go.

It is still a mystery to me!

#107 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 02:22 PM:

Graydon: I do wonder why anyone thinks that their vote will be counted if they do use the machine.

Perhaps it's because they're civilized, and accept (if without consciously thinking about it) that civilization requires a degree of trust?

Although this story does point up the weakness of that acceptance. I do wonder whether anyone will do time for the non-ballot ballots; the summary I saw didn't make clear that it was known in advance that these ballots wouldn't be counted, which sounds like electoral fraud to me.

Or is it electoral fraud only when somebody votes who shouldn't? What would it be if I set up a booth outside a busy polling place and told people "You can vote here right away and get your ballots added to the count when the polls close."? It sounds like tampering, but I wouldn't be surprised if the statute was worded in a way that would let this sort of outright fraud off the hook.

#108 ::: melissa ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 02:52 PM:

On the condensed Simillarion - I loved it, and sent it to my friend the Tolkein Geek - who said it was the funniest thing he'd read all year.

And... I have obviously forgotten more math than I learned (after completing enough courses for a degree in it) ... but I think the reason math doesn't describe the universe is because we are not outside it. Not on the observer-interfeires idea, just we can't see it all from where we stand. We can see much of it, and we're getting closer, but I think there will end up being a block somewhere. Or, a genius will make a theoretical leap and explain it all.

Physics doesn't describe the universe either - string theory is as close as we've yet come to having the macro rules match the micro rules. (and that's not a complete theory yet, from what I've read).

While we're kind of on the subject - why do you all think belief in a higher being (God, Allah, pick your favorite) is seen as a boolean with scientific thought?

#109 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 03:05 PM:


You write: "Closest I can come is a calculus exam where the prof asked us to do an integration by parts...."

This verges on self-parody, but it's true. Isaac Asimov told me that all Mathematics was obvious to him on first exposure, UNTIL he hit "integration by parts...."

He could do it, get the homework right, and pass the tests -- but he couldn't INTUIT why it worked. Terrified to have hit the limits of his mathematical brain, he quit Calculus and never went back.

In those days, you could get a PhD in Biochemistry without Calculus, so he became a Professor, and wrote (among ALL his books) some fine books on Mathematics.

I hit my limit in certain Graduate courses in Math that I took while an undergrad (General Relativity; Algebraic Number Theory; Module Theory) tried a few more in Grad School (Category Theory), and then gafiated for 3 decades.

The strange thing is that suddenly this year I turned back into a Mathematician, and started thinking with teenager enthusiasm again. And, equally strangely, visualizing 4-dimensional figures almost as clearly as when I was 10 to 12 years old.


you mention your "algorithms prof..." Mine was John Todd, husband of the famous Olga Taussky Todd, one of the tope 2 women in 20th century Math. Olga told me about her time with Emily Noether (#1) and how they discussed poetry in German and English. Olga quoted Emily quoting someone (wish I could remember) about a bird on a tree branch being watched by a cat.

Larry B:

You "...think the hardest math exam I had was in a Computability and Automata class, where the prof had the students write the final. I edited it, and still found it to be a bear."

I've taken such a class, and it does get hairy. Suddenly, as Dr.Hockney said in this blog, Quantum Mechanics introduced new classes of computability.

"Looking back," you add wistfully, "I wish I had made a career somewhere where I could have used all the math I learned in all those classes - that was fun stuff!"

I believe that you never know when you might find the opportunity to use what you learned. When I was designing interplanetary missions for NASA, I found myself projecting a 9-dimensional ellipsoid in probability space into 3-dimensions, then doing a triple integral, and concluding that they had to move the camera in a new way for the Voyager flyby of Uranus (and Miranda in particular). Miranda. Character in Shakespeare. It is Shakespeare's birthday (and death day) today.

One of my students complained Wednesday after the 5th of the 6 exams I give this semester that algebra distracts her from her Fashion Design. I got her to admit that some of the "tesselations" I'd shown in class make pretty fabric designs, and found myself again saying that you never know when inspiration will strike from things you learned long ago. I found myself suggesting that Grandma Moses started 80 years later with painting things that stuck in her mind. And that Josephy Conrad didn't learn English until he was a 40-year-old sea captain.

In the Religious terms of this thread, "our days are numbered." But we don't know the number. What is number that humans know it? What are humans that they know numbers? Is God a Mathematician?

#110 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 03:39 PM:

Jonathan, replying piece by piece:

You're correct, I am essentially invoking the anthropic principle. Thing is, the anthropic principle is one of those twisty ideas that people can disagree on forever because there's no way to prove it wrong. (At least not that I've heard.) It's not really part of science, for that reason. Scientific ideas have to be falsifiable.

Next, with regard to number theory, I don't doubt that you can find a physical connection if you look long enough. (That's one reason I put a question mark above.) Different areas of math aren't isolated. In the case of number theory, though, it looks as if you had to go some distance to make the connection. An analogy: Pi turns up in all kinds of non-geometrical contexts despite its usual definition as the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Finally, in your list of mathematical discoveries that turned out to be physical, don't forget Dirac and the discovery of the positron. (Kind of the opposite of your Hypsicles example, since Dirac made his bold prediction and Hypsicles apparently didn't.) The thing is, sometimes these apparently 'non-physical' solutions turn out to exist, but often they don't. People remember Dirac's anti-particle insight precisely because it was so astonishing. (Side note: Has Martin Gardner written about this? The topic seems familiar from somewhere.)

#111 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 04:12 PM:

Chip --

Being civilize is no excuse for ignoring people doing evil things, though; 'of course they wouldn't do that' doesn't sit will with the tremendously strong evidence that they have already done just that.

Google 18181 and Diebold; if you're lucky, you'll find the statistician discussing the likelyhood of the California recall vote distribution. (It helps if you google for 'meteorite', too.)

#112 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 04:51 PM:

responding to various....

> (3) How can software deal with the oceans of data from Big Science Physics projects, to find rare events in noisy measurements? (i.e. gravity wave detections, particle accelerator collisions in detectors to find new particles like the Higgs Boson)...(3) How can software deal with the oceans of data from Big Science Physics projects, to find rare events in noisy measurements? (i.e. gravity wave detections, particle accelerator collisions in detectors to find new particles like the Higgs Boson)...

Er. Software tends to be no better than the people who programmed it. If they're lamer cowboy programmers or otherwise clueless wonders who don't care about negative testing, etc., the software is going to be garbage and -generate- noise, forget about doing filtering to do noise filtering to get -rid- of noise. Years ago I heard an impressive demo at Lincoln Lab which filtered out signal from a LOT of noise. It's not the -software-, it's the idea, and the implemented processing. Software is a -tool- to implement something. Stupid coder tricks, again, -generate- noise, rather than filter it out.

Yes, there are computer scientists who actually -are- computer scientists and who are good designers/coders/implementers of concepts, algorithms, and/or code. Having said that, most of the computer science degrees out there to me look like the people who got them, would have had a much better time of it of and done more useful work for humanity, if they'd spent the time masturbating instead.... They don't seem to understand the Rules of Rapid Prototypes:

1. Rapid prototypes show proof of concept--that is, this concept -can- be implemented.
2. Having written the Rapid Prototype, look at what it does, look at the inputs, the outputs. WRITE A FUNCTIONAL DESCRIPTION of what the concepts are, what the inputs are, what the desired outputs are, what's working, what isn't work, what this is supposed to do, and how well it shows what it was supposed to show.
3. Figure out what can be made more "elegant" for reasonable time and effort and cost -- that is, how to REWRITE THIS so that it had "modular, reusable code," has -sensible- variable names, has sensible balance of the types of variables, DOES NOT have one letter variables, is sensible as regards fixed versus floating versus integer etc. typing and classes, inheritance, blah, blah blah.
4. Sit down and generate a Project Plan for making a PRODUCT, with full design and specs for things like doing software maintenance, configuration control, design reviews, code reviews, SOFTWARE TEST PLANS, etc., designing people, money, time, and labor for the Product. And don't forget the sales and marketing people training...

Rapid Prototypes are analogous to the marked up first draft of a writer's first novel.... the different is that companies keep -publishing- rapid prototypes and products and then keep charging the buyers for the editing changes....

>There is no reason a physicist needs to know how a calculator

[disrespectful noises here]

> (or a spreadsheet or Python) works in order to use one.

To quote a classmate, who was teaching at the Air Force Academy, whose response to a cadet who said, "I don't need to learn physics or aerodynamics to be a pilot!", "You don't want to be a pilot, you want to be a truck driver!"

> There is no reason to know how a data recorder works
> in order to use one.

Physicists are SUPPOSED to be scientists. Maybe the fellow being quoted is a third rate one....

> There is no reason to know how a computer scientists works
> in order to use one, either.

Not a scientist....

> These can all be abstracted adequately for the task of modelling.

Yeah, right, sure.... [sarcasm]

> From the viewpoint of a Computer Scientist, Physics is
>useful mainly in understanding the physical basis of information
> theory. Information theory involves entropy in a fundamental way.

Actually, that tend to be Information Theory, which is usually handled move over in electrical engineering... Claude Shannon was a professor of Electrical Engineering if I recall correctly.

> but the next two saw the values predicted by QED. Nobody knows why.

"This is beautiful, therefore it is true." -- P. M. A. Dirac on electron spin, and I heard his SAY that, at a lecture he gave at MIT when I was an undergraduate there. Dirac oddly enough was a theoretical physicist who I think actually was degreed in electrical engineering... but at least he wasn't a lab jinx, unlike Wolfgang Pauli.

> Computer simulation has become a third way of scientific and mathematical
> investigation to rival and complement the empirical and theoretical approaches.

Has become? Analog computers have been around since humanity started doing cognition, I suspect. The National Bureau of Standards used an analog computer to generate wave tables, before moving over to digital computing. It was still working when retired, despite all those years of service on it.


"Solving this equation by using this method is cheating. But then, solving any equation by using any method is cheating. If it works, use it." H. P. Greenspan, applied mathetician at tat the time Head of the MIT Mathematics Department, teaching a class of ungraduates (me being one of them).


> "A New Kind of Science" by Stephen Wolfram radically rejects
> the continuum, calculus, and the other apparatus of mathematics
> in order to assert (with pretty pictures) that we should examine
> Nature as a finite math (discrete math) system of interconnected
> (quantum? spacetime?) computers, from which complicated
> processes emerge from very simple programs.

Hmm. I haven't read it, but I'm wondering if he gets into things like infinitesmals and infinite integers... have to be careful with that sort of stuff, though. Several of the people who worked in that stuff, and Boltzmann and someone who had been a student of Boltzmann [Boltzmann being best known for his work in thermodynamics....] went nuts and suicided.


> Monte Carlo simulation to the rescue--far easier than building
> a few versions of the board with component values on the far
> ends of the tolerance scale. Is it something on a "grand scale"??
> Far from it.... but you are MORE than welcome to compute the
> filter responses that would result from going from 1% to 10%
> components. I used MATLAB and Octave myself. Computers are just
> tools to get to a solution... if you know the limitations of your toolset, you
> structure your models so that you're not affected.


By the way... a friend of mine from college tried implementing a particular filter published in an IEEE journal. It didn't work. He called up IEEE and said, "This filter design doesn't work." The response he got was, "We know this, but theoretically it should work, and no one can figure out what it doesn't work. Since no one can figure out why it doesn't work, we aren't publishing that it doesn't work." Working design engineers tend to get -very- annoyed at IEEE publications for reasons like that, it never lets reality get in the way of theory, or publications credits for Publish or Perish academic credit and getting tenure....


Regarding the coffins pictures controversy -- those are some of the reasons for referring to it as "Gag Order George" [or perhaps Gag Order Gorge, thinking about the greed of various of his buddies and the removal of little things like oversight over governmnt contracts and oversight over the energy industry, banking, etc., under Gorge's regime...]

Bush I and his buddies figured out that Pictures of Coffins make for Bad Publicity and unhappy citizens. Banning photography by nose reporters and keeping them away, means those images are not available to the public, and out of sight, out of mind. Bush II's regime is a neo-con evangelista second generation copy, with generational loss, of the Bush I regime, featuring used aged retreads such as Rumsfeld and Cheney ["Roll on thunder, shine on lightning, the days are long and the nights are fright'ning... Winter comes and the winter grow colder, some grew wiser, you just grew older...." from "The Hell of It" from _Phantom of the Paradise_] plus new accept-no-adverse-data "talents," who firmly believe that the US public is not to be trusted with unedited, uncensored data, lest they actualy do any -thinking- for themselves and questions the competency, values, goals, methods, beliefs, integrity, sanity, and intentions of the Bush Buddies...

#114 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 06:52 PM:

fidelio: Based on my experience, the post office will deliver (at first-class rates) anything legal to mail that the envelope is affixed to, provded that it's packed according to their standards.

That's a surprise--I read a news story a decade or two ago that said they were no longer going to deliver anything over an ounce in those prepaid envelopes. This was precisely because people were sending bricks (costing the advertisers money) and the Post Awful is in the business of selling "customers" to advertisers.

Of course, Edward also wanted this to be legal. I hope I'm also incorrect in my recollection that using those envolopes to send anything other than what they asked for constitutes mail fraud.

#115 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 06:58 PM:

I don't remeber which thread dealt with posthumous Zelazny, but here's something webular along those lines:

SLAPPING BACK AT THE PAST (Preface and Afterword)
Author: Old Fox 12/12/2002

Maya Cafe


"Magnus O’Pyun, Lightning Jack and Two-Chip Charlie have already said much of what I might have had to say in their own stories. Anything I could add here would be merely stealing their thunder, something which an author should never to do his characters (or to anyone else’s characters for that matter, as Alex Lakota might have put it). Many people made this book possible, and I wish I could name them all here. No one has been more important in the conception and realization of this book than Bruce Sterling, who showed me how all those years wasted in the Ivy League could be put to some productive use. William Gibson, to whom I dedicated “Born on the Net”, the first of my short stories to be published, was likewise a great source of inspiration. W. Somerset Maugham, that most remarkable of storytellers, continues to teach me the trade through his work. Sadly, neither William Colby nor Roger Zelazny, both men who commanded my utmost admiration, one of whom was a close friend and the other whom I was just getting to know through correspondence at the time of his tragic death, lived to see these stories published. Perhaps the hardest thing about having real life heroes is dealing with the mortality which we all share. Hopefully, some of their wisdom, honor and humour lives on in these stories...."

One or more of the stories to which this is an excerpt from a preface were approved by Zelazny.

#116 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 07:01 PM:

I'm just popping in to let you know that ginmar has agreed to speak at the Writer's Weekend next year...

#117 ::: Karen Junker ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 07:13 PM:

oh, and I forgot to tell you, she sent me pictures...the kitty is adorable...

#118 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2004, 07:55 PM:

Jeez, Karen, you mention kitty pictures and don't *show* us?

#119 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 12:06 AM:

All this math talk reminds me of how I almost invented fractals in high school. I was noodling and thinking about the function y=x exp (x), a perfectly well behaved function where x is non-negative, but one that is everywhere discontinuous where x is negative. My best guess is that it has fractal dimensionality 1/4, and is still the simplest fractal equation that I know of to write. So far as I know nobody's really played with it yet.... That was 1969/70.

#120 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 03:11 AM:

Hiaku: It has to include a seasonal referent (one of my favorite is a reference to a tolling bell in a Basho poem, because that bell only rang once a year) and a dicontinuity of thought. One which is reflective if possible.

Basho also taught that the best Haiku are about the author.

The flag on a coffin there for the whole ride, and removed after Taps is played. It is then folded, and presented to a member of the family (usually the nearest kin, though the family may designate anyone they like). It is a sad, and gorious thing, to fold one. IT has to be done just right, with every last bit of the red stripes tucked away, and the tiangle as tight as gloved hands can make it.

Then the passing, with a ritual twist, so the point is always moving forward, to the officer of the coffin detail, and then the wait, as it is delivered, with the ritual phrases.

At a civilian cemetary, one then tries to melt away, like the dew.

I saw, at a distance, lest I intrude, two funerals this last summer at Arlington, and got a some great shots of the cassion crew, waiting under a tree, to go off to a funeral.

Great place Arlington, esp. up high, in the really old part of the graveyard, where some were re-interred, from elsewhere.

I have a poignant photo of a set of graves, father and son, some twenty odd years, and two-wars apart, lying, one at the headof the other, in adjacent rows.

Just down the way from my step-father's dad, who had the honor, and dubious pleasure, of four wars.


#121 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:29 AM:

Here is a moving tribute to some of the events of this past week (and beyond). Here I am at work, and I get blindsided by the URL...

Maybe next time I won't leak those work-inappropriate tears.

Yeah, and maybe I won't be human, or alive, either.

#122 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 08:23 AM:

Paula Lieberman wrote:
By the way... a friend of mine from college tried implementing a particular filter published in an IEEE journal. It didn't work. He called up IEEE and said, "This filter design doesn't work." The response he got was, "We know this, but theoretically it should work, and no one can figure out what it doesn't work. Since no one can figure out why it doesn't work, we aren't publishing that it doesn't work." Working design engineers tend to get -very- annoyed at IEEE publications for reasons like that, it never lets reality get in the way of theory, or publications credits for Publish or Perish academic credit and getting tenure....

I always got the impression from my professors early on that the submission/review process could be... 'problematic' for some journals.

Now that I'm a professor's lackey/'research assistant', part of my job entails keeping on top of the various journal articles current in review, and figuring out what referees really mean by their comments.

My current physics professors often say that you don't really understand something until you try and explain it to others. I offer a corollary: you don't really understand something until you try and get it past journal article reviewers.

Hopefully we get at least one of these papers out of review and into press soon-- it'd be fun to have a publication credit before starting grad school...

#123 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 08:40 AM:

The trouble with having a browser where you can open new sites in new tabs is that you can lose your backtrack. The pixel-birds have eaten my electronic breadcrumbs. I think this link may have actually come from somewhere in the NH-verse. But haven't been able to spot where. Hope reposting is relatively harmless (unlike armless, which is serious, like leglessness) Not sure if there's just some strange spooky coincidence that this -- cartoons as linked, coffin photo fuss -- is happening in America during the run-up to Anzac Day in Australasia (and at overseas postings). Thought you shared your main war remembrances with the UK (other countries?) at Armistice/Remembrance day, November 11.

Am typing this on Anzac Eve, having clipped a large bunch of rosemary from my father's memorial garden bed and given it to the chap organizing a local Anzac Day Ceremony to use for everyone's sprigs. Sometimes it coincides with Easter even more closely, making the connexion of sacrifice & memory between the two very evident.

It is always particularly poignant when we have troops (whatever branch of services) on active service as now.

#124 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 09:36 AM:

JvP: Wow, I never had that problem. I was a programmer before I got to Integration by Parts, and just did the procedure to get the answer. Since I don't now remember how it goes, I also can't recall whether it seemed intuitive, but I'm reasonably sure it wouldn't have bothered me.

Decomposition WAS intuitive.

#125 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 10:05 AM:

Integration by parts isn't bad--- but I'll run for my table of integrals, or a computer with Mathematica installed before I'll worry about any integral that requires trig substitution, or completing the square.

If I had to pick a favorite mathematical tool, it'd be the Fast Fourier Transform.

#126 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 10:54 AM:

John Tukey was an amazing man, Bill, and FFTs are indeed cool. I'm still amazed I got to work with him!

#127 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 11:08 AM:

Bother! Yes, link was Bruce's from just above ( April 24, 2004, 07:29 AM) [waves sheepishly]

#128 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 11:37 AM:


I think you must be misremembering your function. y=x*exp(x) is continuous everywhere, because y=x is continuous everywhere, and y = exp(x) is continuous everywhere, so the product of the two should also be continuous.


I'm with you on the FFT! Good luck on getting published in a journal before graduating-- it will look real good on your application to grad school. I've been in school now for 2 years, and I still have only conference papers. ("Non-archival," my advisor sniffed.)

#129 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 12:21 PM:


I've already been accepted into grad school at this time, so it's not like I'd need it on an application. ( Wright State seems more concerned with where to send the bills than anything else... )

Ideally, I'd like to finish my master's at WSU, and *maybe* try for the PhD program at Ohio State....

But I'll worry about my last two weeks of undergraduate stuff first....

#130 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 02:04 PM:


Gotcha. I should have considered the timing-- you'd have to have applied awhile ago. Our last day of classes was yesterday, here at Penn. My last recitation, on Wednesday, was populated by the most apathetic group of seniors I have ever seen. Never mind one foot out the door-- they seemed prepared to defenestrate if it meant one less minute of me talking. I let them go early. Why talk if no one wants to hear?

#131 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 02:11 PM:

Tom, refs fractals (anteposting), I assume you have seen, or at least read, Stoppard's ARCADIA?

I would throw in the comment a contemporary character makes on the early research, but it is easily misinterpreted.

#132 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 03:30 PM:

Graydon -- do you have any references whose chains don't die in someone's blog? Until then (at least) my comment stands.

#133 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 03:43 PM:

Andy: assuming you're not just joking....

y=x is indeed everywhere continuous. y=(exp x) is undefined because you're not raising anything to the power of x.

A negative number raised to a negative power may be real, complex, or imaginary: for example, -1/2 to the -1/2 power is the square root of -1/2, only an imaginary or complex number. -1/3 to the -1/3, or the cube root of -1/3, has a real number answer. And given the density of the rationals (not to mention the reals!) negative even roots are within any delta of negative odd roots. So for any real y, there's a complex or imaginary y as close to it (from varying the x) as you could want.

More pedantic than I wanted to be.

Yes, Mike, I've both read and seen Arcadia, and like it a lot. Haven't read or seen a Stoppard I don't like!

#134 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 04:14 PM:

Return of the King Shrimp

According to

March 25

Mars Finding: Good News Seafood Fans!

The finding by the Opportunity Mars rover of a body of gently flowing saltwater translates to shrimp for all.

In January the Long John Silver's, Inc. restaurant chain offered to give America free "Giant Shrimp" if NASA found conclusive evidence of an ocean on Mars. Now that one of the rover's has coughed up the scientific goods, the company is making good on its promise: Giving America free Giant Shrimp on Monday, May 10.

Between the hours of 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. on May 10, customers can stop by any participating Long John Silver's restaurant and enjoy a free Giant Shrimp (one piece per customer).

In a letter to NASA chief, Sean O'Keefe, Long John Silver's President Steve Davis noted: "This is one small step for man, and one giant leap for Giant Shrimp." He expressed interest in Long John Silver's becoming the first seafood restaurant on Mars.

-- Leonard David

#135 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 04:24 PM:

It's proven to be an interesting experience trying to get into grad school with an .... irregular academic background.

Thus, I'm going to work my tail off to get a decent GPA at Wright State before I worry about applying anywhere for a PhD....

#136 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 05:04 PM:


I wasn't joking, and I still don't understand your point. To me, y= exp(x) means "y = 2.71828...^x" where 2.71828... is e. That's a positive (irrational) real number raised to some power which may be positive or negative. Is this where I'm misunderstanding you?

#137 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 05:23 PM:


Seems like a good plan to me, although knowing a professor (and having the professor know you and your work) at Ohio seems like it would be the most helpful thing. From watching behind the scenes at Penn, I frequently hear profs deciding to take people because they are impressed by the candidates prior research and dedication (and who they researched *with*). You hear comments like, "That's so-and-so's student, we should try to get her." You might try to find out who has a good scientific reputation in your specialty of interest at WSU and work with him/her. Even if you decide against the Phd, it can't hurt to work with someone good, provided he/she isn't a despot.

#138 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 06:04 PM:

I was using exp as "raised to the exponent" or raised to the power of, since I have no idea how to do superscripts in this sphere. I notice you used a caret for that -- so consider x^x where x is less than 0. Actually, any equation raising a number (variable or constant) to a variable power is properly a relation rather than a function, as any square root returns two arguments if figured properly -- most textbooks gloss over this problem of raising any number to a variable power and claim it's a function.

#139 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 06:22 PM:


Ok, I'm with you at last. No wonder you thought I was joking when I wrote y=exp(x) is continuous. I was going by the guidelines here:

We need some way to write mathematical expressions in a standard way on computers, with web browsers that will typeset (render) them automatically. Latex does this I've heard, but web browsers don't render Latex. (And anyhow, I don't know Latex. But if it were standard, I would learn.)

#140 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:17 PM:


The guy I'd like to do PhD research under at Ohio State colloborates frequently with people at Wright State--- one of his former PhD students is now at Wright State. He's already asked me what I'm doing post graduation-- and thinks my plan has some merit, given my circumstances.

#141 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:30 PM:


A good sign!

#142 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:34 PM:

Andy Perrin, Tom Whitmore, Bill Blum, John Ford, et al.:

I've been enjoying your mathematical postings here. My son (as this started with my asking a question of his, and your giving great advice) likes your material very much. John Tukey's name was in context, and no more name-dropped than my talking about Asimov and Eleanor Roosevelt before. I hope.

Then Giant Shrimp got me hungry, so I ate stuff, then thought I'd put some math on the web before responding to your math on this blog.

[sidenote: the ARCADIA of Stoppard bears little resemblence to the Arcadia of JOAN OF ARCADIA which, although nominally set in Arcadia, California, has most exteriors shot in Pasadena, California, unlike the show PASADENA which was shot elsewhere]

One mathmatical thing I like to do is find patterns that nobody else has seen before, explain them prove them, and try to generalize.

So I was updating my page TABLE OF POLYTOPE NUMBERS THROUGH 1,000,000 with more Hexagonal Pyramidal Numbers, Heptagonal Pyramidal Numbers, Octagonal Pyramidal Numbers, Nonagonal Pyramidal Numbers, Decagonal Pyramidal Numbers, Hendecagonal Pyramidal Numbers, and Dodecagonal Pyramidal Numbers...

... when I noticed that the 26th Decagonal Pyramidal Number equalled the 26th 4-dimensional Pentatope Number = 23751. I jotted that down, as well as putting it in the HTML table.

So I was alert and noticed that the 30th Hendecagonal (11-gonal) Pyramidal Number equalled the 30th 4-dimensional Pentatope Number = 40920.

Since 30 was 4 more than 26, I watched closely as I HTMLd and saw that, as 34 is 4 more than 30, 26th Dodecagonal (12-gonal) Pyramidal Number equalled the 34th 4-dimensional Pentatope Number = 66045.

Okay, I felt that I'd "predicted" something in this "experimental mathematics." I checked to see if I could "retrodict."

Was it true that, since 22 is 4 less than 26, the 22nd Nonagonal (9-gonal) Pyramidal Number equalled the 22nd 4-dimensional Pentatope Number = 12650? It was.

Was it true that, since 18 is 4 less than 22, the 18th Octagonal (8-gonal) Pyramidal Number equalled the 18th 4-dimensional Pentatope Number = 5985? It was.

And on back, all the way to the 2nd square (4-gonal) Pyramidal Number equalling the 2nd Pentatope Number = 5.

The formula was, I conjectured:

Ptop(4n+2) = Pyr(n+4, 4n+2)

where n = 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,...

Ptop(N) = Nth Pentatope Number

Pyr(A, B) = Bth A-gonal Pyramid Number.

Looking up the definitions (not trusting my memory) in Weisstein's World of Mathematics, I verified that, by definition:

Ptop(n) = (1/24)n(n+1)(n+2)(n+3)

Pyr(A, B) = (1/6)(A+1)[2Polygonal(A,B) + B]
= (1/6)A(A+1)[(A-2)B + (5-A)]

No one can easily prove my conjecture by elementary algebra upon substitution, or by induction.

Ta daa! When I write this up, it'll be my 22nd math paper of 2004. And all from taking the trouble to put my data (tables of polygonal and polyhedral and polytopal numbers) on the web for all to use. Then spotting patterns while I did so. Then playing with them.

Since its my wife's birthday, I'm taking her and our son to a Vietnamese-owned French restraurant tonight. Perhaps I'll post a menu of what we enjoyed...

Bye for now. Keep your wonderful ideas flowing!

#143 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:39 PM:

No problem! Glad we could clear up the misunderstanding -- probably others had the same difficulty....

#144 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:48 PM:

I did interpret exp(x) as e^x, but my math isn't close enough to the front of my head for me to notice...

#145 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 07:58 PM:

Ummmm... I meant "Now one can easily prove..." and not "No one can easily prove..."

Tom Whitmore: I thought I knew what you meant, and lurked to see if it could be disambiguated in the blog.

It is awkward doing math in plain text. But Hypsicles got the formula for the general polygonal number in Greek text, no algebraic symbolism as such. Ditto Diophantus...

Earlier, it was commented what a remarkable prediction Dirac made in taking the mathematical fiction of negative energy states of electrons and predicting "antielectrons" and antimatter in general. Then Anderson found actual positrons in cosmic rays (cloud chamber lofted by a balloon, magnet bent positron tracks in the reverse direction of electron tracks, I think).

The twist a year or so ago was doing the same for entangled stuff, and predicting that the vacuum is filled with pairs of entangled virtual particles. As I'd mentioned in a joke on this thread...

In the early 20th century, there were still a few scientists who thought that atoms were mere mathematical fictions. Einstein's Brownian Motion work helped put a stake through the heart of that notion.

So isn't it mysterious that apparently mathematical abstractions sometimes turn out to be very real Physics?

As to this, and the patterns I mentioned before... we did evolve to be able to detect patterns, as usefgul for our survival and reproduction. Our brains find patterns even in noice. A paranoid takes coincidenceds and patterns around him/her and conjectures then believes covert purposes for it all.

On the other hand, didn't William Burroughs say that a paranoid is someone who is just beginning to realize what's really going on? And Woody Allen suggest hiring people to follow paranoids around, because then they'd be sane because people WERE following them.

So what is a coincidence? What is synchronicity?

As a professional Mystery Author, I don't believe in coincidences. At least in a story, show me a coincidence and I'll show you somebody who stood to gain something by making it happen.

A mathematician must be somewhat paranoid, because there are no coincidences in mathematics.

Or are there? There's the "Law of Small Numbers." Not enough small integers, so many must serve multiple duties.

Then there's Wolfram's claim that most of the universe is coincidental patterns from the deeper patterns unfolding from simple programs. Again, I was dubious, but Rudy Rucker's review of "A New Kind of Science" made me go back a look again.

Bye for now...

#146 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 09:26 PM:

Coffins, again. It turns out that some of the pictures released to memoryhole were of the Columbia astronauts (some of them were military, but they didn't die in Iraq/Afghanistan). Either the FOIA request was poorly worded and/or the response was poorly executed. The picture the WashPost used on the front page yesterday is of the astronauts, they corrected it today.

One of today's Letters to the Editor notes that Bush used a picture of a flag-draped coffin being removed from the WTC in one of his re-election ads.

#147 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 09:55 PM:


Interesting, about the polygonal numbers. Do you ever read the Journal of Recreational Mathematics? (Knowing how prolific you are, I won't be surprised if you've published there.) My high school library had a subscription, and I used to love reading it. You might recommend it to your son.

One article that I particularly loved was devoted to the question of how to beat those number sequence questions on IQ tests, SATs, etc. The question usually gives some sequence of numbers and asks for the next number or some missing intermediate number in the sequence. (Technically there's no way to solve these, because the next number in a sequence need not be related to any other number in the sequence, but if you make some assumptions...)

The author's genius was to recognize that most IQ test sequences are generated by an explicit formula which is a polynomial in n.

Example: Triangular numbers
1, 3, 6, 10, 15 ...
T[n] = n*(n+1)/2 = 0.5*n^2 + 0.5*n, n=1,2,3,...

The thing about polynomials is that if you repeatedly differentiate them, eventually you get a constant. The authors used this fact to invent an algorithm for defeating such test questions. It's very simple. Suppose you want to know the next triangular (or whatever) number, and you have part of the sequence. You just repeatedly take the difference of adjacent terms in the sequence until you start getting a constant, then you work your way up again. Like this:

1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, ?
2, 3, 4, 5, 6
1, 1, 1, 1

Now add another 1 to the end of the bottom row and work your way up:

1, 3, 6, 10, 15, 21, (21+6+1)
2, 3, 4, 5, 6, (6+1)
1, 1, 1, 1, 1

So the next number would be 28. And in fact,
T[7] = 7*(7+1)/2=28.

This trick works fine for polynomial sequences, and any other sequence in which the derivative of the generating function is simpler than that function. (If you suspect a geometric sequence, take quotients instead of differences.)

The main way this method can backfire is if someone gives you a sequence based on prime numbers. Example:

2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, ?

Those are the first six primes plus 1.

#148 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2004, 10:42 PM:

Replying to another of Jonathan's wonderfully provocative comments:

So isn't it mysterious that apparently mathematical abstractions sometimes turn out to be very real Physics?

I still don't think it's mysterious. Everyone remembers the big hits like Dirac's positron, and Einstein and tensors, but we forget the many, many misses. It works like fortune telling, in a sense. There is a tendency to want to find patterns even where they don't exist (paraphrasing you!) and this is a nice example.

That's not to reduce all of physics to random mathematical fumbling-- there are such things as physical laws, Dirac knew what he was doing, etc. But often one can start with equations that correctly describe the physics but end up with one solution that makes sense and another that doesn't.

Example from freshman physics: You toss a ball up in the air (imagine negligible air resistance) from initial height h above the ground with velocity v0. When does it reach the ground? If x=x(t) is height above ground as a function of time, and g is taken to be positive:

x(t) = -(1/2)g*t^2 + v0*t + h

When its on the ground, x = 0. So:
0 = -(1/2)g*t^2 + v0*t + h

Quadratic formula gives:

t = v0/g + sqrt( v0^2 + 2*g*h)/g
t = v0/g - sqrt( v0^2 + 2*g*h)/g

If v0 = 4 m/s, g = 10 m/s^2, h = 1 m, then
t= (4+sqrt(36))/10 sec = 1 sec
t = (4-sqrt(36))/10 sec = -0.2 sec

The first solution tells when the ball hit the ground; the second solution is negative--ie a time before you threw the ball-- and is meaningless. These examples come up all the time, but we forget them. But when Dirac predicts the positron, we remember.

It is getting far too late at night for this stuff. My I'm feeling wordy today!

#149 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 01:52 AM:

"The first solution tells when the ball hit the ground; the second solution is negative--ie a time before you threw the ball-- and is meaningless."

Far from meaningless, it is an extrapolation back to when the ball must have left the ground if there had been no human initiating the ball toss.

#150 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 02:58 AM:

Andy, try Mathml

although the popular browsers don't support it natively yet there are plugins for doing so. also given its support by major mathematical tools, rendering engines etc. you might as well learn it.

#151 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 04:40 AM:

Andy Perrin and Virge,

My students always seem to enjoy it when, in discussing quadratic equations and parabolas, I throw the whiteboard erasers around the classroom.

I have lots of Architecture, Fashion Design, Animation and other visually-orinted majors in my classes, so I love showing them concrete things to reduce the pain of abstraction.

I once asked a Fashion Design major how long and wide a square of fabric had to be if it had an area of 9 square yards.

"3 yards by three yards, of course," she said. I wrote the quadratic equation on the board.

"It looks to me that -3 yards by -3 yards also works," I said. "Two wrongs make a right. Minus times minus equals plus. -3 times -3 is also 9. What am I missing?"

Another student said "-3 yards doesn't mean anything. In the real world, length is always positive..."

"...or zero," said another. "Negative length makes no sense. Length is an absolute value. By definition, absolute value can't be less than zero."

So even a non-math non-science student has metaphysical opinions on what constituites a "physical" meaning to an equation.

Which is why my wife and son and I are are presenting a paper at the 5th International Conference on Complexity Science next month (one of 3 on which I'm author or coauthor) entitled:
"Imaginary Mass, Momentum, and Acceleration: Physical or Nonphysical?"

Not tachyons -- they have imaginary mass because they only move faster than light. Why is it assumed that imaginary mass at slow speed is "nonphysical?" Why assume that mass has to be a real number at all? Why assume that things normally assumed to be complex numbers (including imaginary) in Physics aren't something weirder, like Quaternions, or Cayley Algebras, or beyond? Who is judge and jury on what is nonphysical?


My paper stops being philosophy and math when I lay our experiments that can be performed. I name the energy at which an imaginary mass particle (or pair) can be created in a particle accelerator collision, or a cosmic ray of high energy hitting an oxygen or nitrogen nucleus in our atmosphere, or soon after the Big Bang. Is it a coincidence that it's in the same ballpark as the presumed mass of a Higgs boson?

In Quantum mechanics, an imaginary component of mass means the particle has finite lifetime, and exponential decay. So... how do we know that muons, in the 2 microseconds or so of life at low speed, with their imaginary mass, don't exhibit other properties as a result? Or longer-lived neutrons, that can be supercooled in a liquid helium bath (a Robert Forward idea?). Or very short-lived tauons. Cosmological test if lost of imaginary mass particles carried energy away after the Big Bang.

My point being: I don't know, a priori, what is physical or nonphysical. Maybe I have a strong hunch for a thrown baseball. But, as I say, some scientists in 1900 thought that atoms were a mathematical fiction. I admit that I find it hard to really believe in String Theory, even when I find myself doing some.

Physics is not Math, I agree. Nor is it Computer Science. The determining factor comes from reproducable laboratory experiments. The Scientific Method. Empirical results.

My Nobel Laureate cousin (no names dropped this time) has a sign above his office door:

"Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here... Without Good Data!"

Nancy Kress, by the way, in the Tor Books 1998 "Maximum Light" opens with a paragraph about a Korean train on fire, and then exploding. I just happened to be reading that at the moment the BBC announced that a Korean train had exploded, killing or wounding over a thousand people. Weird feeling of synchronicity. Then came the claim that it was "just a coincidence" that North Korean President Kim Jung Il had passed through that very train station a few hours earlier. Coincidence, hmmmm...

Nancy Kress, in that fine novel, also attacks the reductionist notion that everything is explicable by neurotransmitters. I don't have the book in front of me, so this is crude paraphrase: "I'm stressed because I feel stress. I'm depressed because I feel depression. Don't the doctors know a tautology when they hear one?

Really should be asleep now. Have exams to grade for said students. And must get them ready for their final exams Wednesday 5 May 2004. Far too soon.

More on the Vietnamese French restaurant dinner tonight, on the "sharp sauce" thread tomorrow, maybe.

Sweet dreams!

#152 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 09:39 AM:


I've heard that interpretation, and sure it makes mathematical sense, but when you have to extrapolate back to a non-existent event to explain a solution, I personally declare it "meaningless".

#153 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 01:56 PM:

This month's big news in mathematics is:

Green, B. and Tao, T. "The Primes Contain Arbitrarily Long Arithmetic Progressions." arXiv:math.NT/0404188 v1 preprint. Apr. 8, 2004.

A good explanation of the history back to Euclid, and the context for this breakthrough is by the wonderful Eric W. Weisstein in his World of Mathematics, at:

Arbitrarily Long Progressions of Primes

which begins:

"April 12, 2004--Prime numbers (i.e., positive integers such as 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, ... that cannot be written as a product of smaller positive integers) have long fascinated mathematicians and non-mathematicians alike. Prime numbers also play an important role in many areas of mathematics, including number theory and cryptography. As a result, they are much studied, and much is known about their properties...."

The interesting caveat is:

"It should be noted that the work of Green and Tao is a nonconstructive proof, which means that while it appears to establish the existence of prime arithmetic progressions of any given length k, it cannot actually produce a single concrete example. The final chapter on this problem therefore remains unwritten, although it seems certain that explicitly constructing prime progressions of a given length is harder than the already difficult task of theoretically proving their existence."

Pure math? Not quite! The archives of Condensed Matter has a paper that proves that one can create a quantum system whose energy levels correspond exactly to the prime numbers. Other integer sequences cannot be so realized, such as the Fibonacci Sequence.

And see also:

"Cantorian Fractal Patterns, Quantum-Like Chaos and Prime Numbers in Atmospheric Flows", A.M. Selvam and Suvarna Fadnavis,
Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology

"Recent studies indicate a close association between number theory in mathematics, in particular, the distribution of prime numbers and the chaotic orbits of excited quantum systems such as the hydrogen atom [1]. Mathematical studies indicate that cantorian fractal space-time characterises quantum systems[2 to 4]. A recently developed cell dynamical system model shows that cantorian fractal space-time is associated with quantum-like chaos in atmospheric flows...."

Primes are an easy idea to establish -- I teach them to remedial math students -- but the "deep properties" of integers lead one very quickly to problems that much smarter people than I have spent lifetimes trying to solve.

What is Number, that Humans may know it?

Dedekind said (in German), of Natural Numbers (0,1,2,3,4,5...):

"God created the natural numbers. All the rest is the work of Man."

#154 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 02:54 PM:

Pure math? Not quite! The archives of Condensed Matter has a paper that proves that one can create a quantum system whose energy levels correspond exactly to the prime numbers. Other integer sequences cannot be so realized, such as the Fibonacci Sequence.

That does sounds pretty cool. But, well, people can create lots of things within the constraints allowed by the physics. I mean News Flash-- "Cables on suspension bridges hang in catenaries!" Catenaries are mathematical constructs, just as prime numbers are, right? And other curves cannot be so realized, such as sinusoids (at least by just hanging cables).

#155 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Actually, to qualify the last post a little:

Cables on suspension bridges form parabolae (b/c they don't hang freely-- they have to support the weight of the bridge). Freely hanging cables form catenaries. Doesn't alter the point much, though.

#156 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 03:07 PM:

Actually, to qualify my last post a little:

Cables on suspension bridges form parabolae (b/c they don't hang freely-- they have to support the weight of the bridge). Freely hanging cables form catenaries. Doesn't alter the point much, though.

#157 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 03:08 PM:


#158 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 05:16 PM:

The connection between prime numbers and Physics seems to be profound.

"Riemann's insight followed his discovery of a mathematical
looking-glass through which he could gaze at the primes. Alice's world
was turned upside down when she stepped through her looking-glass. In
contrast, in the strange mathematical world beyond Riemann's glass,
the chaos of the primes seemed to be transformed into an ordered
pattern as strong as any mathematician could hope for. He conjectured
that this order would be maintained however far one stared into the
never-ending world beyond the glass. His prediction of an inner
harmony on the far side of the mirror would explain why outwardly the
primes look so chaotic. The metamorphosis provided by Riemann's
mirror, where chaos turns to order, is one which most mathematicians
find almost miraculous. The challenge that Riemann left the
mathematical world was to prove that the order he thought he could
discern was really there." - Marcus du Sautoy

See discussion (some very advanced) at:

Physicist John Baez's This Week's Finds in Mathematical Physics (Week 199)

which includes some citations and hotlinks.

".... There's also a lot of interesting work relating the Riemann zeta function to quantum chaos. Alas, I don't know how this is related to
the 'free Riemann gas' idea! But here's a nice easy introduction:

Barry Cipra, A prime case of chaos,
in What's Happening in the
Mathematical Sciences, vol. 4, American Mathematical Society. Also
available at

#159 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 08:23 PM:

Thanks for the links.

*suppresses joke about what physicists consider prime-time*

#160 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 08:33 PM:

Just saw this on LJ, in time for ANZAC Day.

Well done, all.

#161 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 10:58 PM:

JvP: Woody Allen suggest hiring people to follow paranoids around, because then they'd be sane because people WERE following them.

I don't know whether that's a when-it's-time-to-railroad joke or a free-floating meme, but it's certainly not Allen's originally; see "Narapoia" by Alan Nelson (1951, according to the Acknowledgments in 50 Great Short SF Stories), and I wouldn't bet that was the earliest version. (Blog commenting is good for your health! I had to go down and up two flights of stairs to find that date....)

#162 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2004, 11:17 PM:


Thanks for trumping Woody Allen. In patent terms, you've cited Prior Art!

Andy Perrin:

Yet another link I've uncovered which connects prime numbers and Physics (in time for Prime Time):

"Random matrices and quantum chaos" by Thomas Kriecherbauer, Jens Marklof, and Alexander Soshnikov, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2001 September 11; 98 (19): 10531–10532
DOI: 10.1073/pnas.191366198
German-American Frontiers of Science Symposium

This begins:

"ABSTRACT: The theory of random matrices has far-reaching applications in many different areas of mathematics and physics. In this note, we briefly describe the state of the theory and two of the perhaps most surprising appearances of random matrices, namely in the theory of quantum chaos and in the theory of prime numbers."

"INTRODUCTION: Since the pioneering work of E. Wigner in the 1950s, it has emerged that the statistical properties of many quantum systems can be modeled by random matrices. Wigner's original work was concerned with neutron excitation spectra of heavy nuclei. These are many-particle systems whose interaction, according to Wigner, is so complex that the Hamiltonian representing the system should behave like a large random matrix....."

Meanwhile the Dodgers are smashing the Giants 8-0, with 54,000+ people in Dodger Stadium. It shows my age: I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan when a boy a block from their headquarters... Woooo! Make that 9-0!

I keep being interrupted with phonecalls about the Appeals case I'm working on, to save a 1920 theatre in Pasadena, and with helping my son prepare for his Physics midterm (that Making Light people have been so helpful about). My wife and son deny that "Joan of Arcadia" is set in a fictionalized Arcadia, California. They suggest that it is one of many Arcadias, akin the the ambiguous "Springfield" in The Simpsons.

Remember the Simpsons episode with Homer in 3-D, and all the Mathematical abstractions, and Twilight Zone references?

#163 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 07:42 AM:

JvP wrote:
They suggest that it is one of many Arcadias, akin the the ambiguous "Springfield" in The Simpsons.

Springfield, Oregon, is the best guess as to the original inspiration for Groening-- despite the episode where Marge is on the phone with an operator giving her address: "Springfield, O-hiya Homer."

-bill, in springfield, ohio

#164 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 10:03 AM:


In that last paper, the topic is mathematical--random matrices--and they are giving two applications, one to quantum chaos, another to prime numbers. It says there's speculation that the latter might be connected to the former. Speculation. The Riemann Hypothesis has remained unsolved for a good long time, so I wouldn't get excited yet. (Although with Andrew Wiles around, you never know.)

#165 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 11:33 AM:

Jonathan Vos Post writes:

Thanks for trumping Woody Allen. In patent terms, you've cited Prior Art!

Hmm... I wonder if Prior Art is related to that guy I see on television all the time, Previous Leon.

#166 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 11:49 AM:


Thank you for the information.

At my grandfather's funeral (he's buried at the military cemetery at Rocky Gap, in Maryland) my cousin, who was Jr ROTC at the time, presented the flag to my grandmother, and that's what stuck with me.

And: Four wars? My grandfather was in the service for WWII, the Korean War, and the start of the Vietnam War. How does one manage four wars? Am I missing something or did he lie about his age for WWI?

#167 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 01:39 PM:

Oh dear. I just spent some considerable while on a post giving different time lines where this could apply and pointing out a number of 'lesser' wars different countries & volunteers outside their country were involved in between 1900 & 1965.

It seems to have disappeared. It's far too late (early?) today (well after midnight Sydney time) to start again.

#168 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 02:20 PM:

Re four wars:

Brain cramp. I can even explain the slip of neurons which did it.

See, I knew he had been in WW2 (Utah Beach, to the surrender A few stories, but not many. I suspect I might get more these days, but, alas, he's dead). I and I knew he had been pulled from Japan (Army of the Occupation) to go to Korea (nasty place to fight a war. M*A*S*H looks like that part of Korea, on TV, but having spent lots of time just over the hill from the set, and now some time in the area it was set... up close that is some nasty terrain for fighting a war).

Which takes us to two. His headstone listed Vietnam, so I knew he'd served in one more war zone than I thought.

Now comes the slip. I knew there'd been three wars, and I knew he'd been in one more than I thought of him as being in... and so we get four.

Had he been a Marine, we could add (perhaps) the Dominican Republic, but he wasn't, and so my connection to that is through my father.

I'm told he'd have smiled at his funeral... the muzzles of the firing party were aimed toward the Pentagon.


#169 ::: Michelle ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 03:11 PM:


Thanks. I thought that it might have been my terrible history classes catching up with me again--but I didn't think I'd missed knowing about something that big. :)

#170 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 07:14 PM:

Here's a straightforward proof of the conjecture I gave a day or two ago.

I use X^Y to denote X to the power of Y.


Ptop(4n+2) = Pyr(n+4, 4n+2)

where n = 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,...

Ptop(N) = Nth Pentatope Number

Pyr(A, B) = Bth A-gonal Pyramid Number.

Ptop(n) = (1/24)n(n+1)(n+2)(n+3)

Pyr(A, B) = (1/6)(A+1)[2Polygonal(A,B) + B]
= (1/6)A(A+1)[(A-2)B + (5-A)]

By doing the polynomial multiplication, we may write:

Pyr(A, B) = [(A-2)B^3 + 3B^2 - (A-5)B]/6


Expansion of the polynomials produces identical results.

Ptop(4n+2) = (4n+2) (4n+3) (4n+4) (4n+5)/24 = (32/3)n^4 + (112/3)n^3 + (142/3)n^2 + (77/3)n + 5

Pyr(n+4,4n+2) =
[(n+2)(4n+2)^3 + 3(4n+2)^2 - (n-1)(4n+2)]/6 = (32/3)n^4 + (112/3)n^3 + (142/3)n^2 + (77/3)n + 5

Note how elementary this proof is compared to the amazingly beautful but sophisticated proof in:

"When is a Polygonal Pyramid Number Again Polygonal", Masanobu Kaneko and Katsuichi Tachibana, Roccy Mountain Journal of Mathematics, Vol.32, No.1, Spring 2003

which uses the Theory of Elliptic Surfaces and fibers and stuff...

#171 ::: juan ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2004, 08:39 PM:

susanne says to me... I've got a heater down there

#172 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 02:04 AM:

I've just been reading That Blog again. I want to read the book when she gets home, when she has a chance to put it together and try to make sense of it all. And then I read another line, and remember that it's *if* she gets home...

#173 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 09:34 AM:

That mind control link is pretty amusing (except for the small fact that they actually mean it; except that makes it more amusing rather than if it were a fake).

#174 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 05:27 PM:

This is a pretty damned good (up there with the router) e-bay sale. Closes in 24 hours, but worth reading, all the way to the bottom.


#175 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 27, 2004, 06:09 PM:

Terry, which e-bay sale is that?

#176 ::: Kate Salter ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 12:14 AM:

Quickly check out this ebay sale. Read all the text.


#177 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 03:04 AM:

The E-bay sale that Kate pointed to.

#178 ::: Bobbi Fox ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 10:54 AM:

Given how well connected everyone here is, I'm surprised that no one has picked up on the Secret Service's latest foray on the 'war on terrorism':

From the Seattle Times' copyrighted story of yesterday:

Secret Service agents questioned a high-school student here about anti-war drawings he turned in to his art teacher.
One of them depicted President Bush's head on a stick.
Another pencil-and-ink drawing depicted Bush as a devil launching a missile, with a caption reading "End the war — on terrorism."
The 15-year-old boy's art teacher turned the drawings over to school administrators, who notified a police officer assigned to work with the school.

... the article continues with the less-than-welcome news that, although the young man in question was not suspended, he was disciplined.

#179 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 11:22 AM:

Astrophysics, abstract
From: Lawrence M. Krauss [view email]
Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 21:07:11 GMT (29kb)

Universal Limits on Computation

Universal Limits on Computation

Authors: Lawrence M. Krauss (1), Glenn D. Starkman (1 and 2) ((1) Case Western Reserve University, (2) CERN)
Comments: 3 pages including eps figure, submitted to Phys. Rev. Lett
Report-no: CWRU-PA 12-04

The physical limits to computation have been under active scrutiny over the past decade or two, as theoretical investigations of the possible impact of quantum mechanical processes on computing have begun to make contact with realizable experimental configurations. We demonstrate here that the observed acceleration of the Universe can produce a universal limit on the total amount of information that can be stored and processed in the future, putting an ultimate limit on future technology for any civilization, including a time-limit on Moore's Law. The limits we derive are stringent, and include the possibilities that the computing performed is either distributed or local. A careful consideration of the effect of horizons on information processing is necessary for this analysis, which suggests that the total amount of information that can be processed by any observer is significantly less than the Hawking-Beckenstein entropy associated with the existence of an event horizon in an accelerating universe.

#180 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 12:00 PM:

Open topic? Good. I can mention this.

Yesterday, I happened across a review at BewilderingStories that turned out to be a pleasant surprise. It's for an ebook of mine that will hopefully be released in print next year by the same publisher. They have hinted that they might offer a print contract. Regardless of its format, I'm proud of that book.

#181 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Bobbi: Is there a convenient spot for a "bocca de leone" (if that's how "lion's mouth" is spelt in Italian) in most American schools and workplaces?
On a Sydney street last year I saw a Neighbourhood Watch green box where you were encouraged to put information about any suspicous goings-on you'd spotted. Alas, no lions were visible on it. One dislikes losing all those grand traditions.

#182 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 01:38 PM:

Pretty funny.

#183 ::: Jean OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 01:49 PM:


Really had to dig into the memory banks to identify some of them.

#184 ::: liz ::: (view all by) ::: April 28, 2004, 10:17 PM:

I imagine you all know about both these sites, but in case you don't, here you go:

April 28, 2004
Railway spine
As I mentioned, I recommend Paul Smith's Archaic Medical Terms above the many other sites on the subject. However, I've some minor nitpicks. Paul's entry for "Railway Spine" says "Back injury with injury to the spinal cord (common in railway workers)". This is inaccurate, and the background is far more interesting.
Railway Spine was a 19th century syndrome of chronic back pain, anxiety and other symptoms in passengers, whether public or rail workers, who had been involved in rail accidents. It usually appeared weeks or months after the accident, and was the subject of hot debate. Was it physical, due to 'concussion to the spine'? A type of 'neurasthenia'? A con to get compensation? None of these: in hindsight, it can be viewed as a Victorian equivalent of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
This site covers

Archaic medical terminology
Terms that can be difficult to understand from a brief entry in a modern dictionary
Descriptions of the more common causes of death in the past
A few terms that I thought would be easy to find a definition for, but someone sent a query, so maybe they are difficult after all?
Some folk and slang terms
Symbols, Abbreviations & Qualifications
Some terms that have become everyday language, but have a different meaning or slant when used by doctors or had a different meaning in the past
e.g. Abortion, which has come to mean induced termination of pregnancy, but doctors retain the meaning of a natural but premature ending to pregnancy (miscarriage)
Some terms in common use, that many non-medical people do not understand precisely what they mean e.g. Heart Attack, prognosis
Terms I have been unable to define, in the hope that someone out there does know
I could include eponymous conditions, e.g. if you want a potted biography of Alzheimer then contact me
Text in square brackets and bold red type e.g. [ty'sis] is a guide to pronunciation
If you have a doctor in your family history, then visit Was Your Ancestor a Doctor?

Oh, also look at his permissions!

#185 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 02:36 AM:

And around here...

Rep. Markey has a slew of -nasty- questions for the Deparment of Homeland regarding what seems to be -continuing- lack of eptitude, competence, and coordination on the part of the FBI, INS, Department of Homeland Security, etc. regarding such things as "Oh really there were no Islamic terrorists that came into the USA illegal via the Port of Boston on LNG tankers, only according to newspapers report at least one [that one person named] convicted of trying to blow up LA International Airport]?, and "where are the responses I was promised back in 2001 and 2002 and where are the updates that are claimed to have been sent to me?"

The Representative's district include Everett, which has the dubious distinction of having said LNG port. To get to it involves going far into the inner harbors areas in Boston, over MBTA tunnels and traffic tunnels, past Logan International Airport, under bridges and drawbridges, and even !! literally up a creek! If an LNG tanker explosion occurred there, it might be a worse disaster than the Halifax disaster, wherein ships full of WWI war materials, including one loaded with munitions, collided and blew up in Halifax's harbor, it was one of the worst accidents in history. To this day, the city of Hallifax annually sends Boston a giant Christmas tree, thanking the City of Boston for the aid and assistance sent in the wake of the disaster.

"Where's the credibility?" Boston Mayor Mennino asked in a press interview, referring to the Department of Homeland Security and Ms Rice regarding them first claiming that there was credibility to Clarke's contention about terrorists entering on Algerian LNG tankers through Boston, and then documents received by Cong. Markey from DHS which admitted that illegal aliens with what seem to be associations to Islamic extremists [the spin in the documents is that there isn't objective -proof- of that, just because there were drugs and US currency in violation of US law and "this information is largely derived from what these individuals told law enforcement" apparently isn't acceptable evidence that those who DID enter the USA on Algerian LNG tankers illegally, had terrorist associations...]

[From the cover letter from Pamela J. Turner, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affais in the Department of Homeland Security, dated April 15, 2004, responding to Rep. Markey's letter of March 23, 2004 to Secretary Ridge.]

"Regarding the concern about Algerian infiltration, the first document indicates
that in early 2001there was some suspicion of possible associatons between stowaways on Algerian flagged LNG tankers arriving in Boston and persons connected with the so-called "Millennium Plots." As a result of that suspicion, the Coast Guard increased its scrutiny of LNG vessels and worked with LNG terminal operators and state and local officials to intensify security measures even in the absence of specific, credible threat information.

"Regarding actions to secure LNG facilities, the second document describes the comprehensive security protections the Department [of Homeland Security] has built into LNG operations. The risks associated with LNG shipments are real, and they can never be completely eliminated. They are significantly reduced, however, by the measures DHS takes during each and every port visit. The Department believes it is doing all it can to manage the risks successfully."

[from first document which was provided to Cong. Markey] " May of 2001, the Coast Guard, USCS, INS, FBI, and state & local officials boarded the Algerian LNG carrier MOSTEFA BEN BOULAID and discovered substantial amounts of U.S. currency and illegal drugs. One Algerian crewmemeber was arrested in connnection with the drug seizures. Since May 2001, no Algerian LNG carriers have entered the Port of Boston.

"During 2000 and 2001, personnel assigned to the First Coast Guard District in Boston received information at the field level that another federal agency in the region was following up on a suspicion that there may be a possible connection between stowaways on Algerian-flagged LNG tankers in Boston and persons connected with the so-called "Millennium Plot." Based on that information, as well as prior criminal illegal activity, the Coast Guard intensified its scrutiny of LNG vessles by working with LNG operators and state & local officials to enhance security measures. Last October the Coast Guard created a joint task for with CBP and ICE analysst to determine whether there was information indicating that Algerian nationals have been using maritime transports to illegally enter the US and wether these individuals have links to Islamic extremists. The research is on-going. Preliminary analysis shows a handful of illegal migrants may have had indirect associations with those indicted for the Millennium Bombing Plot. However, this information is largely derived from what these individuals told law enforcement. The Department has not been abot to verify what the ssociations, intentions, or operational activities of these individuals were when they entered the United States.

"As a result of conversations between the National Security Council staff and senior Coast Guard officials during the spring and summer 2001 regarding an increase in the level of general terrorism-related intelligence reporting, the Coast Guard tasked its Intelligence Coordination Center to gather more information on LNG tankers and other "high consequemce" vessles approaching the United States. Befor September 11, the Coast Guard too appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of LNG tank vessls during transit and operations [e.g., shunting traffic away from the area for hours before and after -- PAL] including in Boston Harbor. After September 11, immediate steps were taken to expand the required notification of arrival to 96 hours [note no mention that the LNG terminal was shut down for days in the wake of 9/11 for full security review and out of major apprehension about possible extremist attack on the LNG port.... it does get mentioned in the second document however but spun there as based on the Coast Guard having to revise its operations to get more information about the LNG tankers operators, rather than people being utterly spooked--PAL], to centralize notification and analysis of information, and to require submission of crea and passenger information. Under the larger security apparatus put into place post-September 11, all LNG carriers are subjected to increased pre-arrival vetting and security measures...."

From the second document, notice the -spin- and who requested the study of vulnerability, hint, it was NOT the US Government....

"the U.S. Department of Energy contracted with Quest Consultants to explore the potentioal consequences of hypothetical outflows of cargo from a damaged LNG tank. This study was undertaken at the request of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Executive Office of Public Safely. These two studies, plus numerous consultations with technical experts within the federal government, provided sufficient information to characterize the nature of the risk and ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of LNG operations. Once this was understood, the Coast Guard, in conjunction with state and local agencies and industry, developed strategies and techniques to minimize identified vulnerabilities...."

"Memo: Officials Admit Possible Terror, LNG Links
Rep. Ed Markey Released Statement Wednesday

"POSTED: 5:47 pm EDT April 28, 2004
"UPDATED: 8:10 pm EDT April 28, 2004

"BOSTON -- First there were allegations, then denials, and now, a confirmation. In a memo made public by Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey, the government admitted that illegal immigrants with terrorist connections used liquefied natural gas tankers to enter Boston in the late 1990s.

"NewsCenter 5's Amalia Barreda reported that Markey released the letter from the Department of Homeland Security that said, "In early 2001 there was some suspicion of possible associations between stowaways on Algerian flagged LNG tankers arriving in Boston and persons connected with the so-called 'millennium plot.'" The millennium plot was a failed plan to bomb Los Angeles International Airport....

"Former White House terrorism czar Richard Clarke first suggested in his recent book, "Against All Enemies," that terrorists aboard LNG tankers were using Boston as a port of entry....

"From the White House, there was a fierce attack on Clarke.

""I think Clarke just doesn't know what he's talking about," said National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

"Markey issued a statement Wednesday that said, "The Homeland Security Department has provided a chilling confirmation that individuals with possible terrorist connections may have entered the U.S. onboard LNG tankers that docked in Everett."...

#186 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 02:41 AM:

I usually wrote exponentiation as **

e.g. a**2 would be a-squared, sometimes a^2

exp gets used in programming, as opposed to typing out equations where there isn't subscript and superscript... but those were the conventions that I dealt with, and I haven't much dealt with such stuff professionally in a number of years.

#187 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 06:22 AM:

Katie, that eBay listing is priceless. I tried to show it to Patrick, but he said everyone he knows has been showing it to him. (I estimate this means he's gotten it three times.) I laughed out loud several times, loudest at:

Oh, yeah.  I also got three marriage proposals.  Yes, you read it right - three marriage proposals.  I feel like one of those mass murderers on death row.  I never understood how the hell they got more chicks than I did.  Now I know.  They sold crap on eBay.
Guy's definitely got an ear.

Kathryn, did you fill out the questionnaire? If so, what did you tell them? I found my answers started generating, if not a work of fiction, then at least a backstory. I passed it on to one of my authors, who promptly wrote a set of answers whose backstory interpenetrated my own. I think the guys in his backstory -- they appear to have a background in special ops -- are bumping off the guys in mine, who are administrative policy types.

I thought both of us were more believable than the accounts published on that site.

Bobbi, it bothers me that this is happening under the same administration that can't allocate resources to beef up containerized shipping inspections. I keep hearing about stupid pointless harassment of America's Gormless Young, bred out of a potent combination of stupid school administrators and stupid federal agency directives. Now they're harassing some fifteen-year-old art kid in Eastern Washington. Are they out of their minds? Lefty teenagers in Eastern Washington are ... are ... oh lord, are deserving of our help and prayers. Where they're living, the most interesting political issues are Alar, water allocation, and all the nutbar Posse Comitatus types in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.

How come nineteen out of twenty newspaper stories I read about "new national security procedures" are about stupid stuff that makes no one any safer? Last time I heard a story like this, it was about a little latino kid in SoCal, who'd been a straight arrow until he got beaten up by the police during a fairly peaceable protest march, getting busted for linking to sites that gave out commonly-available information on how to manufacture explosives. Like, information obtainable through the USGov't Printing Office. The time before that, it was some not terribly political girl in Texas who works a low-level clerical job for the federales, and was being harassed by crazy right-wingers in her office. She was getting interrogated by the FBI, and was (of course) terrified. I was furious: how many man-hours had they wasted on this obviously harmless and nearly apolitical young clerk-typist? And then there's the time I got yelled at, at close range, by a dittohead jerk who said I "just didn't get it" about yon Attack On America. Yon dittohead jerk lives in the Midwest. I had the dust of my pulverized neighbors, and shreds of paper from their offices, rain down on my doorstep. I think I get it. They, on the other hand, are missing the point entirely.

Harry, I'm sorry, but I can't respect bootleggers. When an author with four kids to support contacts you to say that half the titles in his bibliography are illegally being made available online, slogans like "information wants to be free" don't come trippingly to your lips. I have no respect for the RCIAA either -- but then, they're not authors.

Liz, I have been an enthusiastic fan of Ray Girvan's Apothecary's Drawer for ... good heavens, it's been years now. By all means, feel free to recommend him.

By the way, all -- did Patrick mention the reason our connectivity went south this past weekend? It wasn't any of the reasons we'd imagine. When the nice helpful echie young person from Time Warner Cable arrived today, he zeroed in on a single cause: the cable splitter which person or persons unknown had spliced onto our household cable line, just outside our basement back door. Far be it from me to point the finger, but a big fat cable ran from the splitter, straight up to the fire escape window, and into the apartment of the people on the third floor of our building. Their split-off cable was brand new. It also wasn't attached to the back wall of the building at any point, which seemed irresponsible of the conscienceless piratical freeboter who installed it there.

The nice techie has now installed cable links so that everyone in the building can have one of their own. That's good. It means they're not using ours. And if that means the upstairs neighbors came home this evening to no cable TV, that definitely falls under the common law doctrine of tough noogies.

#188 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 06:37 AM:

Teresa - my sympathies on your outage. We have a nutbar neighbor who took it into his head one day to pull out everybody's cable but his own. Y'see, the "ped" (little R2D2 number that acts as an aggregator for cables) happens to sit on his pocket-handkerchief square of lawn as opposed to anyone else's postage-stamp of greenery. Despite quoting chapter and verse of both the Maryland State Code and our HOA charter every five minutes, he has no conception of the term "easement," so he just took a nutty one day and pulled out all the cables but his own.

Then he admitted as much to the tech who finally came to fix it (I believe this was amongst threats that if the tech didn't get off his lawn, there would be violence).

When I win the lottery, I'm buying an island. Anyone with me?

#189 ::: adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 09:44 AM:

That "information wants to be free" crap has always irked me. It would be more accurate to say that data wants to be free, but information will cost you.

#190 ::: adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 10:13 AM:

Durrr. That should be "data want to be free..."

Gets me evey time.

#191 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 11:21 AM:

Data want to be free.


Writers want to be paid!

#192 ::: cd ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 12:51 PM:

Of course Data should be free. After all, didn't they make a Star Trek: TNG episode about that?

#193 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 02:08 PM:

Dr. George Hockney emailed me offline to comment on Universal Limits on Computation.

>Authors: Lawrence M. Krauss (1), Glenn D. Starkman (1
>and 2) ((1) Case Western Reserve University, (2) CERN)
>Comments: 3 pages including eps figure, submitted to
>Phys. Rev. Lett
>Report-no: CWRU-PA 12-04

"The cute new thing here is asking the entropy question about an
individual point rather than the universe as a whole. Of course,
it's not really clear what the question is, although the answer is
clearly about 10^120. Information, as Chris Adami points out in his
papers on quantum information theory, is information about something,
or rather, the mutual information between two sets. This way of
thinking has negative information in certain quantum channels (which
is one way of looking at super-dense coding)."

Or, as Paula Lieberman would put it:


To put that huge number in context, let me excerpt from one of my own web pages.

Timeline Cosmic Future

Supermassive Black Holes Evaporate. After this mind-bogglingly long period
of time, the hyper-gargantuan black holes finally evaporate [from Hawking
Radiation] The universe now contains electrons, positrons, photons, and neutrinos
(none of which are subject to decay, as far as we know). The density of
the universe is so staggeringly low that the electrons and positrons never
have an opportunity to collide and annihilate."
["The Future of the Universe", Professor Barbara Ryden, Ohio State University;
update of 10 Mar 2003]

By my calculations, from Don Page's equation, a black hole with mass
20 Trillion times that of our Sun would evaporate in 1.2 times
(10 to the power of 106) years, thus confirming Professor Ryden's result.

The actual formula for the lifetime of a black hole is
T = (G^2 M^3 / hbar c^4)
[S. W. Hawking, Commun.Math.Phys. 43 (1975)199]

"At the end of its life, every black hole emits about 10^31 erg of
high-temperature radiation. The cold expanding universe will be
illuminated by occasional fireworks for a very long time."
["Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe";
Freeman J. Dyson, see below]

"The apparent poverty of this distant epoch is most likely due to our
difficulties in extrapolating far enough into the future, rather than an
actual dearth of physical processes."
["Physics offers glimpse into the dark side of the universe",
Sally Pobojewski, The University Record, University of Michigan, 21 Jan

I believe that it is overwhelmingly likely that we live in a simulated
universe created by ultra-diffuse ambiplasma (electron and positron) beings
of that perpetual era. Freeman Dyson was the first to predict such
beings, and suggest that, by slowing their subjective time and reducing
their energy expenditures, they could have a literal infinity of thoughts
with finite energy in the cosmology decsribed on this web page.
["Time Without End: Physics and Biology in an Open Universe";
Freeman J. Dyson, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey;
originally presented as four lectures, the "James Arthur Lectures on Time
and Its Mysteries" at New York University, Autum 1978; edited for
Reviews of Modern Physics, Vol.51, No.3, July 1979]

However, according to Professor John Baez at the University of California
at Riverside, and Keith Ramsay: "Everything is really doomed to eventually
ionize and/or sublimate.... [This puts] a rather sad spin on the latest
discoveries about the cosmological constant. Freeman Dyson had this rather
appealing picture of the ultimate fate of the universe, assuming among
other things a slower expansion which would allow a society in principle
to get in contact with an endlessly widening sphere of other societies,
and a temperature going to zero in such a way that in theory an infinite
amount of information could be processed, by using ever-smaller amounts of
energy to do it."

"With an expansion accelerating as it appears to be doing, though, the
local cluster [of galaxies] will become entirely isolated from the rest of
the universe after awhile. This would still be sort of okay, except that
with the temperature having this (small) positive lower limit, all the
usable energy will supposedly be exhausted. The authors said Dyson was
still hoping there was a way out of it, though...."

"... They're talking about the analog of Unrah radiation due to the
cosmological horizons that exist in deSitter spacetime. This would give a
positive limiting temperature... very low indeed. In order to survive for
a googol years, as previously planned, though, it has to get colder still.
To us, it's a phenomally low temperature, but to our hypothetical
descendants at a point when it becomes noticeable, it would be this
annoying source of heat that slowly degrades your friends' brains bit by
bit, like a cosmological fever."
["Re: Expansion of the Universe and Ionization, sci.physics.research.
7 Aug 2000]

#194 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 06:37 PM:

Springfield, Oregon, is the best guess as to the original inspiration for Groening

IIRC Groening is from the Pacific Northwest, so that makes sense. There are Springfields in almost every state though, so take your pick.

There's at least one other TV show set in "Springfield" with no state specified. The other one I'm familiar with is the soap opera Guiding Light, which I grew up watching. Their Springfield seems to be in the Midwest though.

#195 ::: Sumana ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 07:50 PM:

The John Brown Hawk is a state/town mascot in honor of John Brown. Teresa, this one is for you.

#196 ::: Julia Jones ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 08:35 PM:

I'm glad someone posted to the Slushkiller thread - it reminded me that it was there, and I went and read it, and now I feel much better. Which I needed, because after getting a string of "no, but keep submitting" rejections along with a couple of yeses and a maybe, I got a "no". The sort of "no" that does not encourage you to keep trying that market (although a very polite one).

Thank you, Teresa, for spelling out in detail why not to take it personally. I know this intellectually, but it's a lot easier to *feel* it after reading that thread. :-)

#197 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: April 29, 2004, 10:06 PM:

Oh, yeah, and (showing my age here) Father Knows Best was also set in "Springfield."

#198 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 01:08 AM:

Seizing an appropriate open thread here, I've run across some
literary recordings:

Some interesting stuff in there.

#199 ::: Madeline ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 02:21 AM:
In a dramatic shift in salmon recovery policies in the Northwest, the Bush administration intends to count the hundreds of millions of fish produced in hatcheries when deciding whether salmon deserve federal Endangered Species Act protection.

link to news article here (I hope it's not bad that bits of this entry are from a diary I posted on the Daily Kos...)

This is the vilest, most utterly despicable proposal the Bush administration has ever made on environmental issues. Protecting salmon environment will no longer be a problem, because the government hereby declares that a concrete ditch constantly tended by humans is now the proper environment for a salmon.

I can't fathom a man who is utterly unmoved by the life of the salmon. It starts in the streams of the piney forests, swims down and lives its life in the three-dimensional vastness of the sounding ocean, and then finally, when it's about to die, returns to the same old stream it left so many years ago. Its life path is crucial to bears, foxes, American frikkin' Bald Eagles! Thoughout history it's been a symbol of wisdom, revered for its ability to live in both salt and fresh water.

How could he even consider making salmon just a lump of protein packed so tightly into a concrete ditch it can barely twitch a fin?! If there was one word to name his reign, it would be desecration.

#200 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 12:05 PM:

Re: giant hogweeds. I assume I'm not the only person to think of Genesis before anything else.


#201 ::: Jean OG ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 12:06 PM:

We're trying to find a definitive answer to the origin of this poem. Any takers?

I take it you already know.
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you,
On Hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.
Beware of heard, a dreadful word.
That looks like beard and sounds like bird
And dead: it?s said like bed, not bead
For goodness sake, don?t call it ?deed?!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(They rhyme with sweet and straight, and debt.)
A moth is not a moth in mother.
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there?s dose and rose and lose
-- just look them up -- and goose and choose
And cork and work and card and ward, and font and front and word and sword.
And do and go and thwart and cart --
Come, come, I?ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I mastered it when I was five.

#202 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 12:12 PM:

Those of you who think that Mathematicians are strange might enjoy this snippet:

Computing Science: A Question of Numbers - Brian Hayes An article about the ISC (Inverse Symbolic Calculator) and numbers. "In my daydream, Neil Sloane and Simon Plouffe are contestants on "Jeopardy," the TV game show. Sloane picks the category "Integer Sequences" for $400, and Alex Trebek reads the answer: "1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21...." Sloane instantly supplies the question: 'What are the Fibonacci numbers?' Later it is Plouffe's turn, and he selects 'Real Numbers' for $1,000. Trebek reads out an answer: "1.618033989," and Plouffe responds with the question: 'What is phi, or the golden mean--the limiting value of the ratio of successive Fibonacci numbers?'" In real life Sloane and Plouffe are not competitors but collaborators... The are coauthors of the new edition of the Handbook of Integer Sequences, published last year as the Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences. It is a much-enlarged and enriched work, with more than 5,400 entries.

I found this on an older, cached version of:

Math Forum Internet Resource Collection - Annotated Version

N. J. A. Sloane now runs the vast and fantasic resource:

The On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences with its tens of thousands of entries, searchable by sequence, word, or sequence number and available in: Albanian, Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (simplified, traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Swedish, Tagalog, Thai, and Turkish.

For information about the Encyclopedia see its Welcome page.

#203 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 01:14 PM:

in re the e-bay auction of the wedding dress..

It closed for more then three-grand. I guess he can buy some beer at the Mariners' game.


#204 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 01:20 PM:

As far as the kid in Washington... I don't agree with it, but then again the personal protection detail for the President isn't in my job description, so....

The Secret Service investigate all sorts of things which are trivial, and this kid is not the least of them.

Where (IMO) the system fell down was the notification of the police by the school, and then the local police calling the Secret Service. Once they get a call (or a note, or an e-mail, no matter how trivial) they look into it.

As for the comment, "Tolcacher insisted it was not a freedom-of-speech issue but a concern over the depiction of violence," I didn't see the stuff, so I can't say, but I doubt I'd be inclined to discipline a student for pictures, esp. ones which had an obviouly political theme.


#205 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 01:41 PM:

As an adamant opponent of the death penalty, I don't want to see Bush's head on a pike. I don't, I don't.

Locked up in Gitmo (OK, a Navy brig, since he's an American citizen by right of birth) as an Enemy Combatant? Denied all contact with anyone except interrogators? Never allowed to see the light of day until the War on Fascism is over (i.e. never)? Yes to all that.

But not on a pike. Nope. Just thought you'd like to know.

#206 ::: Jen ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 02:11 PM:

Thanks, Teresa! I just placed an order with LaserMonks.


#207 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 04:17 PM:

Giant Hogweed is indeed an amazing plant, and it grows _fast_. We had one show up about 2 blocks from Puget Ridge -- the pictures here look kinda small, actually, compared to how big the in-person plant is....

#208 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 06:34 PM:

In re “The Horror of Blimps” — Jay Lake and I brought a radio-controlled blimp to Norwescon as an advertisement for All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories, and we had the Devil of a time getting it to neutral buoyancy.

The gasbag didn’t survive the Experience Science Fiction launch party, and I’d like to replace it in time for World Fantasy. So, does anyone know where I can get one that’s guaranteed to be possessed by an evil lurking presence?

#209 ::: Bruce Adelsohn ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 07:34 PM:

LNHammer: Nope. Me, too. And that middle link has a link to the lyrics right at the top of the page:

Mighty Hogweed is avenged.
Human bodies soon will know our anger.
Kill them with your Hogweed hairs

Heh, heh, heh... :-)

#210 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 09:41 PM:

The "wedding dress guy" story is a piece of profitable fiction.
Museum of Hoaxes

#211 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 10:50 PM:

Today's trivia: There is actually a book called Curse of the Giant Hogweed. By Charlotte MacLeod.


#212 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 01:44 AM:

Theresa, if I thought the "respect bootleggers" site was serious, I wouldn't have posted the URL.

#213 ::: Harry Connolly ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 01:53 AM:

Oops, that sounded terse, and I didn't mean it to be.

I posted it because I thought it is a funny parody.,1412,62197,00.html?tw=wn_tophead_3

#214 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 07:45 AM:

And a very happy May Day to everyone.

Me, I'm off to watch friends dance the sun up so we can have daylight for another day-and-a-year.

Hey, it's worked for the last 20-odd years, so I'd hate to break the string -- no tigers here!

#215 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 11:46 AM:

Exposing a work in progress can be as uncomfortable as sharing a toothbrush. Still, for those of a mathematical bent here (and those who think mathematicians are bent), here's an original bit of unfinished work of mine, since my son's alarm clock woke me up early:


There are an infinite number of Centered Pentagonal Numbers which are Perfect Squares.

In my notation,

S(m) = m^2

CP(n) = (5n^2 + 5n + 2)/2


CP(0) = 1 = S(1)
CP(2) = 16 = S(4)
CP(21) = 1156 = S(34)
CP(95) = 22801 = S(151)
CP(816) = 1666681 = S(1291)
CP(3626) = 32878756 = S(5734)
CP(31005) = 2403352576 = S(49024)
CP(137711) = 47411143081 = S(217741)

The following is now obvious to me:

Conjecture: for any N>2 there are an infinite number of Centered N-gonal Numbers which are perfect squares.

Proof {to be done}: I've already done this for Centered Triangular Numbers and Centered Square Numbers [pretty pictures of each, plus formulae, at, then enter each such term in the search box]. for any particular N, this involves solving one of those Pell-like quadratics in two variables, with continued fraction methodology, to get a set of recurrence relations that generate all solutions. For N in general, this is perhaps transformable into an elliptic curve problem, but I'm not sure. I'll play with this more. Any ideas?

#216 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 01:23 PM:

Okay, after a few more cups of coffee...

"A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into equations."

Who was it who said that, by the way? Anyone know?

Here's the recurrence equtions that give all solutions to the problem of Centered Pentagonal Numbers which are Perfect Squares.

In my notation,

S(m) = m^2

CP(n) = (5n^2 + 5n + 2)/2

Thus we can write the problem as:

CP(x) - S(y) = 0

and solve it as this quadratic diophantine equation in two variables:

(5/2)x^2 + (5/2)x + 1 - y^2 = 0

Doubling, to have all integer coefficients:

5x^2 - 2y^2 + 5x + 2 = 0

The solutions set is initiated by four different initial value pairs:

(A) X(0) = 0, Y(0) = -1
(B) X(0) = -1, Y(0) = -1
(C) X(0) = -1, Y(0) = 1
(D) X(0) = -3, Y(0) = 4

Now, from any of those starting points, we have the recurrences:

X(n+1) = PX(n) + QY(n) + K
X(n+1) = RX(n) + SY(n) + L


P = 19
Q = 12
K = 9
R = 30
S = 19
L = 15

One may check to see that these generate the solutions I'd posted a whiole ago this morning, as well as some extraneous solutions with negative X and/or Y which we reject as not properly (nonnegative) Polygonal Numbers.

I have derived similar recurrences for the cases of Centered Triangular Number which are Squares, and of Centered Square Number which are Squares,

... but unfortunately this blog's margins are too small to contain them.

Literary authors note: this is what you get when you let mathematicians use the same letters that you do, but use them in silly ways. It was worse in Hebrew: there was no choice. The letters WERE numbers. hence gemetria, and numerology in general. That's where the obsession with "666" comes from...

#217 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 01:37 PM:


Don't know if this helps, but all sequences that have a quadratic explicit formula share the same recurrence relation. So:

S(m+3) = S(m) -3*S(m+1)+3*S(m+2)
CP(n+3) = CP(n) - 3*CP(n+1) + 3*CP(n+2)

The only difference seems to be how you "seed" the sequence:
CP(0) = 1, CP(1) = 6, CP(2) = 16
S(0) = 0, S(1) = 1, S(2) = 4

So I guess all the "information" contained in each sequence must be "stored" in the initial values. I have no background (formal or informal) in discrete math, so I'm not sure how one would continue from here, but I hope that information is helpful.

#218 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 02:14 PM:

Andy Perrin:

as usual, you are exactly correct!

I do hope that the following is fun in a Multicultural way to others here, as I will analogize to Chess and dance and Science Fiction and brain structure.

How does a Scientist (or Mathematician) THINK? The non-math-folk may skip the equations and see if there is a story line...

The recurrences:

X(n+1) = PX(n) + QY(n) + K
X(n+1) = RX(n) + SY(n) + L

are a way of showing the algorithm that generates solutions in a "step-by-step" way. What matters is that the X(n) and the Y(n) both feed into the
X(n+1) and the Y(n+1) so that it is shown as an interlaced pair of recurrence relationships.
Meaning that you could crank things out faster with a dual-processor computer!

Our brains have 2 hemispheres for a REASON. When I do Math, or write Poetry, I use the left-brain linear analytical lobe in action with the right gestalt intuitive lobe. Free Association hand-in-hand with structured discipline. Recent dynamic brain scans have proven that that's exactly how "gifted math students" differ in mental action from ordinary math students. I try to teach MY students how to use those lobes together. Most of my students are, as I say, highly VISUAL people (i.e. mostly right-brain if they are right-handed).

Interlaced recurrence relationships can do funny emergent things.

As I give things here, the values of P, Q, K, R, S, and L as well as the initial values "store" all information on the solutions set. Typically, if you change even one of those PQKRSL or starting points, you get a different output.

Anyway, I can get the solutions just fine for the question: "When is a Centered M-gonal Number simultaneously a Centered N-gonal Number"; or any of the form: "When is a Centered M-gonal Number simultaneously an ordinary N-gonal Number such as a Square"; or any of the form: "When is an ordinary M-gonal Number simultaneously an ordinary N-gonal Number such as a Square".

But there we run into a wall. For example, it is well known how to find all Triangular Square Numbers (reminds me of Colorless Green Ideas) -- by recurrence relationships.
See Square Triangular Numbers

But nobody has yet found a number which is simultaneously a Triangular Number, Square, and Pentagonal Number, other than the trivial solution 1.

"None of the first 9690 pentagonal triangular numbers are square, thus showing that there is no other pentagonal square triangular number less than 10^22166 (E. W. Weisstein, Sept. 12, 2003)."

More to the point: if I want a GENERAL solution to "When is a Centered M-gonal Number simultaneously an ordinary N-gonal Number such as a Square" then I have a system in two unknowns with two parameters (M,N), which is a 2-D surface embedded in a 4-dimensional space ZxZxZxZ which in turn is embedded in a 4-dimensional Euclidean space RxRxRxR. The solutions correspond to Mordell-Weil groups as special fibers on that surface.

Even if I fix the N-of N-gonal to 4, and ask "When is a Centered M-gonal Number simultaneously a Square," then I have a system in two unknowns with one parameters (M). Again, for any fixed M, I can generate the recurrence relations which generate all solutions. But for the general case, what generates the math that generates the recurrence relations which generate all solutions?

I'm a level further up in abstraction, complexity, and sophistication. What is the deeper structure? That's the real reason that I've been knocking my head against such problems for the first 4 months of 2004, and drafted 22 or 23 papers, many submitted, amny in rewrite. "The purpose of computation is not numbers, it is insight."

I am no great Mathematician. I'm not fit to shine Ramanujan's shoes (was he buried in them?). So I struggle very hard for insight, as do you. And I thank you for helping.

You HAVE given me insight, and useful redirection, and encouragement, and honorable debated.

I can't say how a "typical" Making Light netizen sees our discourse, but I hope that we are exposing something which is otherwise done almost only in Math Education classes for teachers, obscure papers, and Science Fiction: "How does a Scientist (or Mathematician) THINK?"

It is not utterly alien to how math-adverse people think, if you skip past the equations and follow the "plot" and "dialogue."

As in watching Chess players talk at the chessboard, even if you don't play Chess:

"When you go [move] then I can block with pawns [move, unmove, move] or fianchetto the black bishop [move, unmove]."

"But if you [move] then I can look ahead and see the threat of perpetual check, so I need to hide my king [move]."

We take for granted scenes in movies where choreographers use dance jargon to students, with fragmewnts of dance steps intermingled with the jargon.

Anyway, thank you again. I do hope that this is fun in a Multicultural way to others here!

#219 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 03:24 PM:

JVP wrote:

X(n+1) and the Y(n+1) so that it is shown as an interlaced pair of recurrence relationships.
Meaning that you could crank things out faster with a dual-processor computer!

I disagree. Couldn't you crank things out faster if X(n+1) only depended on X(n) and ditto for Y? That way there would be no need for communication between the processors, which is generally what slows down parallel programs.

#220 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 03:37 PM:

Andy Perrin:

You're right again!

There is probably a way to do what you suggest. As with solutions to so-called Pell equations (actually solved centuries earlier in India):

x^2 + Dy^2 = +1 or -1

the solution can be shown as a recurrence, or as an unwieldy but closed-form exponential thingie which does NOT require knowing what the other variable is doing.

It's been proven a long time agao that the Pell equations always have solutions so long as D is not a perfect square.

But I don't know that way!

I can only derive an interlaced pair of recurrences where each of X and Y depend on the previous values of X and Y.

I think I worked too hard on English Literature degree, and then Computer Science Degree, and then interdisciplinary PhD research (in what's now called Nanotechnology and Artificial Life) and missed some Math classes that I need now...

Any ideas?

And do the non-mathematical readers find this equation-littereed dialogue to be at all Chess-like, Dance-oidal, or Brainiacistic?

#221 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 01, 2004, 06:06 PM:

Here's a reference for the 1:23 p.m. posting:

The late mathematician P. Erdos was the one described a mathematician as "a machine for turning coffee into theorems" [Hoffman 1998, p. 7]. R. Graham has estimated that upwards of mathematical theorems are published each year [Hoffman 1998, p. 204].

And T.S. Eliot said "we measure our our lives in coffespoons..."

Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Hoffman, P. The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdos and the Search for Mathematical Truth. New York: Hyperion, 1998.

#222 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 12:51 AM:

Does anybody here know anything about the ibooks imprint?

One of my greatest treats is a hardcover mystery, but it has to be wonderful, and half the time I walk out of the store with something brightly colored and paperback, sometimes even with (shudder) recipes, because I have a profound phobia against Kellerman-type mysteries where you start to get engaged and realize about fifty pages in that it's about a serial-killing pedophile who the detective understands All Too Well, but not well enough to save me from four or five mutilated pre-pubescent corpses, and I just can't take the chance.

Go the other way, and I end up with Mr. and Mrs. Darcy saving
Caroline Bingley from a voudoun curse through the agency of Mrs. Darcy's nascent psychic powers (and no, I am not making this up) or a disbarred-lawyer-turned-chef who took two hundred pages to figure out why the folks at the artisan baking convention were jumping out of silos trying to fly after they ate the rye bread.

Anyway, I found a Loren Estelman reprint I haven't read before from a new S&S imprint called ibooks, which (if it's reliable) will enable me to branch out a bit.

If not, or even if, does anyone have an imprint they trust for the reliable middle in murder mysteries?

Thanks... and sorry for all the run-ons.

#223 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 04:37 AM:

> x^2 + Dy^2 = +1 or -1

It's been a long time since I really did any equation crunching... but...

Playing around a bit:

x**2 + Dy**2 = 1 = -1 * -1
or = 1 * 1

That means there are two groups of solutions...

looking at

x**2 + Dy**2 = 1 = 1 * 1

Dy**2 = 1 - x**2

change the varible, make x**2 = r


Dy**2 = 1-r

Hmm, I forget to ask, what does "D" mean -- is it a constant? Is it differentiation? -what- is D? A variable? An operator? or -what-???

Could also do a variable change for y, to s

Ds = 1-r

r = 1 - Ds


r = -Ds + 1

which is of the form

y = mx + b

which is the equation for a line...


There is also the form

x**2 + Dy**2 = -1 = i * i

but linear equations of the first degree, that is, y = mx + b , are are lot easier to work with....

#224 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 07:15 AM:

Julia -

I agree with you on the murder mystery front. Someone gave me one of those Jane Austen mysteries - I think I got five pages in and got so disgusted that the dialogue seemed to be mostly lifted from JA's actual books that I never picked it up again. At least, not to read...

I don't know about good imprints and have never read any ibooks (except the one I'm typing this message on), but my husband and I have lost many hours to Ian Rankin's "Rebus" series. Also, Laurie R. King's "Mary Russell" books sound ridiculous when you read the blurb on the back, but are actually quite good (I noticed on Mary Kay's blog that she has read the most recent one - MKK is it any good?).

I have also been listening to Alexander McCall Smith's "#1 Ladies' Detective Agency series lately in downloaded book form. Believe the hype - they are very good (though not strictly murder mystery). If you like books read aloud, the reader (Lisette LeCat) is perfectly wonderful.

Sorry for the slantwise answer to your straight-ahead question. And sorry if these are all too, too obvious...

#225 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 01:25 PM:

Paula Lieberman,

Sorry. I feel now like a Mystery author who didn't leave enoigh clues for smart readers such as yourself to get to the solution ahead of the fictional detective. For the Pell Equation, or Pellian:

(1) We only seek solutions where both x and y are integers;
(2) the constant D is also an integer.

A very good historic survey of how this problem was attacked by Brahmagupta (628 A.D.), a millennium ahead of Pell; as well as early near misses by Diophantus and Archimedes; Bhaskara II in 1150; Narayana (14th Century); and finally Fermat challenging Europeans to reinvent the wheel:

"Number Theory History: Pell's equation" by J. O'Connor and E. F. Robertson

plus the very thorough:

Eric W. Weisstein. "Pell Equation." From MathWorld--A Wolfram Web Resource

And, if you want to just type a value for D into a little box on a web page and have someone else's software solve the problem and spit out solutions, the admirable:

Diophantus Quadraticus, or, the Pell Equation Solver, by Professor Michael Zuker

The problems I've ben deadling with can be seen as generalizations of Pellians, which I'll explain further only if someone asks me here. Honestly, I'm not trying to forcefeed Math on a blog devoted to other manners, but do have an enthusiasm which I hope is slightly infectious to lift the veil on how Mathematicians (some VERY colorful characters) thouight over the last few thousand years, and think today with computers assisting them.

Thank you for boldly tackling this classic problem! Good start! On an exam, I'd definitely give you at least half credit.

#226 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 02, 2004, 01:35 PM:

An example:

Here's one that makes this look easy.

X^2 - 3 × Y^2 = 1

has the smallest integer solution:

X = 2


Y = 1

There is no solution to the related equation (remember my 1 or -1?):

X^2 - 3 × Y^2 = -1

Another example, to show that this is harder than it looked above:

using Michael Zuker's fine web page more for fun this time than for a problem that I NEED to solve, I enter the year of my birth, 1951, and it spits out the following:

X^2 - 1951 × Y^2 = 1

has the fundamental solution (from which all larger solutions can be generated as explained in those other web pages):

X = 226742438218831488120936558859828640


Y = 5133389024333877559662473405561007

This is, I think that we can agree, more than we are likely to be able to do with pen and paper, or with a hand calcilator, or even with a computer program blindly searching up to numbers of 30 digits in length (which would take, ummmm, a long time).

Do try Zuker's web page, feeding in your birth year, or age, or street address, or other integer and seeing the output appear as if by magic...

#227 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 07:12 PM:

epater le bourgeois should be epater le bourgeoisie - the class of bourgeois not the member of the bourgeois class cf the bourgeois gentilhomme for usage to mean an individual

#228 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: May 05, 2004, 07:39 PM:

Sorry wrong again, I'll get used to it. It's a quote not a usage - probably backformed to clean up the usage in common speech.

#229 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 02:22 AM:

Hey Teresa! I know the guys who wrote Beowatch, in fact I've appeared in a couple of Not Ready for Mythcon plays myself. You'd love Mythcon: we're very sercon during the day discussing literature and stuff and get truly truly silly at night. Mythcon is where I learned to play Golfimbal.


#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:10 AM:

Is Pell's Equation the same Pell as Pell's Star? Or is it an equation that everyone beats on for practice?

#231 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 12:15 PM:

In this use, "épater le bourgois" has the sense of "épater la bourgoisie", but the métonymy adds a slight note of scorn or disdain.

#232 ::: Jonathan Vos Post5 ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 02:44 PM:


I wondered about that connection too, when I read and loved:

Downbelow Station

Author: C.J. CHERRYH

"Pell's Star occupied the central spot in the coming conflict between Earth's tired stellar empire and the tough onslaught of its rebellious colonies. Whoever controlled Pell's Downbelow station held the key to Earth's defensive perimeter-- or the jumping off point for a Terrestrial offensive to regain the lost empire. But Pell had always been neutral and was determined to remain so...."

Again remembering the "Futurama" episode about Zap Branigan's pointless attack on The Neutral Planet, as part of "the neverending battle bgetween Good and neutral." Does W think he's Zap Branigan, or want voters like Fry to think he is?

Pell's Equation, Pell's Star... not to be confused with:

Students' Guide to Federal Pell Grants

No, we're dealing here (and I don't know that Dr.Cherryh learned this in her Classics studies) with:

John Pell

Born: 1 March 1611 in Southwick, Sussex, England
Died: 12 Dec 1685 in London, England

To print a wee excerpt, very mildly edited, on this fascinating man, from:

St.Andrew's thingie on John Pell in Math History

"Pell returned to England in 1652 and was appointed by Oliver Cromwell to a post teaching mathematics in London. He spent the years 1654 to 1658 holding a government post in Zurich. On his return to England became a vicar and remained in this position in the church for the last 20 years of his life."

"Pell worked on algebra and number theory. He gave a table of factors of all integers up to 100000 in 1668. Pell's equation y^2 = Dx^2 + 1, where D is a non-square integer, was first studied by Brahmagupta and Bhaskara. Its complete theory was worked out by Lagrange, not Pell."

"It is often said that Euler mistakenly attributed Brouncker's work on this equation to Pell. However the equation appears in a book by Rahn which was certainly written with Pell's help: some say entirely written by Pell. Perhaps Euler knew what he was doing in naming the equation....."

Thanks for tying the Math back to Science Fiction!

#233 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 04:25 PM:

Well, if he was appointed by Oliver Cromwell, then he was a Bad Man, and no one should study his equations ANY MORE. We should disband that whole university, and the people of London will hail us as liberators.

As for math in science fiction, I'd say Niven's "Convergent Series" pretty well sews that up.

#234 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 05:52 PM:

Not that it has anything to do with the threads above, but operation "When Final Exams Attack" commences for me tommorrow morning, 8am sharp.

Last exam is Monday--- and commencement is next Saturday.

Wow. I'm almost done.

#235 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 06:25 PM:

Bill Blum:

Good luck on those final exams!

On the first morning of Final Exams week, the campus of Caltech shudders to the sound of "Ride of the Valkyries" played at maximum volume through campus PA speakers...

I just gave my Algebra final exam to my students yesterday. I start teaching Intermediate Algebra at Woodbury University's summer semester on 24 May 2004. In between, I hope to wrap up some more of the 24 math papers I wrote so far in 2004, and get the remnants off to the desks of some of the top Math editors in the USA.

Good luck, as I say -- not that luck has much to do with it!

#236 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 07:33 PM:


Good luck with those math papers...

I'm told that the paper I'm Second of Three Authors on is supposed see the light of day in a journal this fall....

#237 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:08 PM:

It looks like the "Mother Theresa of Porn" has a fannish connection; see Mark Kernes's article in Fanthology 1994. I was wondering about this when her name began popping up in stories about the industry shutdown, and I see the dates from the two articles line up.

#238 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:39 PM:

The God of the Burgess Shale--

Feeling that something a little lighter might be in order despite everything, and inspired both by the laments of a friend of mine who [attempts to] teach science at a Christian college, and Patrick's credal formulation happily reminding me of all the strange and wonderful "creeping things" in the deeps, and having a new copy of BladePro to play with, I put together a Theistic Evolution Fish symbol for frustrated deists, theists, polytheists, pantheists and Christians who *don't* believe in hexameronical literalism.

#239 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2004, 11:47 PM:

Holy shit! I'm overwhelmed.

(psst: no hyphen in Nielsen Hayden. Think nothing of it.)

Get your merch act together, and I'll definitely buy one of whatever.

#240 ::: bellatrys ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 12:09 AM:

You like it, then? 8-)

(psst: no hyphen in Nielsen Hayden. Think nothing of it.)

Already fixed, via the wonders of Wordpad and SmartFTP,

Get your merch act together, and I'll definitely buy one of whatever.

You mean a CafePress setup? I was thinking about that, and since I'm going to be insomniac again tonight, I can tell, I'll check them out and see about putting something together. I wanted to make a totebag for my friend who teaches, but also maybe a bumper sticker - what are the quality of their mouse-pads like, anyone know? (Suggestions welcomed from everybody.)

#241 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 01:02 AM:

That is a nice piece of design. I wonder if there's a cost-effective way to really get it fabricated in 3D, metal or plastic . . .

#242 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 03:36 PM:

Of interest to Tor-reading folk: A short, sweet interview with Steven Brust is up at Bookslut.

I always get a twinge of guilt whenever he speaks of getting feedback from his readers (which he mentions only in passing here). I'm afraid I was a dreadful fanboy at him over email back in '99, in ways that still embarass me to think of.

Nice little interview, though.

#243 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 06:58 PM:

Friendly reminder:


There's an LJS outlet under construction just up the street from me, but I doubt they'll be open by Monday.

The closest actually-open LJS is a fair drive away. It's crunch time at work, so I doubt I'll make it.


#244 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2004, 07:33 PM:

Hmm, Bellatrys, I have never tried CafePress but your fish could persuade me. (P66 - nice touch, right there on the top line.)

#245 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 01:46 AM:

T, you may not remember writing that bit about AMERICAN PSYCHO but I'd hope I'd recognize it as you even without attribution -- it's totally lovely, and I hope it ends up in the sequel to MAKING BOOK. I love your writing when it's on!!!!

#246 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 07:00 AM:

I have a recollection that the "American Psycho" review appeared in the Genie SFRT, of which Bhob Stewart was a member. I mention this, regretfully; because I'm still partial to the idea of doing a fannish anthology, someday, of the best writing from SFRT. If this was "borrowed" and reprinted without requesting author permission, it doesn't speak well for convincing other SFRT participants to consider granting permission for a "Best of SFRT" fanzine reprint project.

#247 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 08, 2004, 12:46 PM:

Lenny, it's the original review of American Psycho that appeared on the SFRT and was reprinted in Making Book

The thing linked to from Teresa's sidebar--the bit written for Bhob Stewart's e-zine--was a different, later, piece. And no, Bhob didn't "borrow" it--I have a dim but real recollection of T writing this for him, or polishing it up from something originally written as e-mail.

#248 ::: Morris Rosenthal ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2004, 08:15 PM:

I broke out all of the economics of dealing with Lightning Source for POD, including a full year sales case study. All posted with my POD book excerpts at

Happy to entertain any questions.


#249 ::: Xopher finds possible comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2004, 10:46 AM:

1. Several open threads ago.
2. Name links to commercial (though in this case non-porn) website.
3. No relevance to conversation in this thread or current open thread.

#250 ::: David Goldfarb finds yet more comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: October 19, 2004, 03:47 AM:


Smaller type (our default)
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Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.