∫ The World’s Coolest Paperweight

This is a Gömböc:

What is a Gömböc, you ask? It is the answer to a surprisingly tricky math problem, it is the secret to how many tortoises survive, and it would be one cool toy to have on your desk.

But perhaps put most plainly, the Gömböc (that last “c” is pronounced like a “tch,” by the way) is the only convex three-dimensional shape* which will balance in only one position by virtue of it’s shape alone. I’m struggling here to describe it’s properties both accurately and non-technically, but if you’ll bear with me, I’ll show you what I mean.

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Merry Christmas Everyone

In celebration, I offer you my favorite version of my favorite Christmas carol.

 

Every year since the beginning of high school I’ve made a point to listen to this song on Christmas Eve. Some people think it’s a bit of  downer, but to me it is just the opposite. It’s not a reminder of all the bad things that are in the news even on Christmas day. It’s a reminder of all the things that Christmas has the power to overcome. I really believe there’s a magic in the air this time of year. No matter what’s happening, I always feel as though the people around me are friendlier, as though my family and I are closer than ever, and as though I have twice the strength to make it through the tough times in life.

Call it what you like. But no matter what, have a Merry Christmas tomorrow.

Just a Small Political Thought

I’m feeling a tad betrayed by both political parties tonight so I’m going to dispense with my usual preferene for tempered language.

You remember all those pundits who were afraid to answer questions about their ethnicity when the census was going on? Because they were afraid the government would use that information to kill them in their sleep? And do you know all those same pundits who tend to freak out whenever the government tries to take their submachine guns away? The ones who say they need those guns so that they can defend themselves when Obama’s army of Organizing for America goons come to slaughter them?

So why aren’t the same people opposed to the current government programs that allow drone-strike assassinations of US citizens? And the latest reports that the Obama administration is drafting an executive order to allow indefinite detention? Is it because they trust that the administration won’t use these tools for anything besides fighting terrorism? That can’t be right. These people didn’t even trust Obama when he said he was born in Hawaii and produced the necessary paperwork. 

Look, guys, I don’t usually share your anti-government paranoia, so why have you forsaken me on the one occasion we might be on the same side??

That is all. I have a plane to board.

All the Money I Could Have Had…

When I was in 8th grade, I took a course called “Mass Media and Communications,” mostly because it was the only elective that would fit into my otherwise rather awkward schedule. As one of the class projects, we had to design an advertising campaign for some fictional product of our own invention. I immediately felt the need to do something clever.

My first thought was to take something useless or commonplace and try to market it as something worth buying (sort of the opposite of the old “dihydrogen monoxide” prank), but then it turned out that this idea wasn’t so clever, and in fact several of my classmates were already planning to try to sell us “air.” Okay, back to the drawing board.

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Eminem is a Talented Man

Rap is not for everybody. And Eminem is for an even smaller subset of people. Still, no matter how you feel about him and his politics, his social attitudes, and his affect on society, I really think you have to admit he is linguistically talented.

I’ve sort of wanted to post an argument in favor of this position for a while, but I’ve had trouble finding songs that I could use as evidence which were sufficiently clean to appear on my blog. But I was listening to “Lose Yourself” this afternoon and I realized that a decent amount of it is free from swear words, and also showcases his impressive knack for both multi-syllable rhymes and for overlapping rhyme schemes. So here’s my current best evidence in support of my thesis.

Take the first four lines of the third verse, which, when lightly edited, are:

No more games, I’mma change what you call rage
Tear this (expletive) roof off like two dogs caged
I was playing in the beginning, the mood all changed
I been chewed up and spit out and booed off stage

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True Lonliness Is Hard to Find

On June 30th, 1971, Alfred Worden became indisputably  the most “alone” man in the history of the human race, as he orbited to the far side of the moon aboard Apollo 15. At that point, he was 2,235 miles away from his two fellow astronauts in Mare Imbrium on the moon’s surface, meaning the distance between him and the nearest human being was larger than could concievably ever have occurred on Earth (and slightly larger than on previous lunar missions since a wider lunar orbit had been used for scientific purposes). What’s more, the average distance between Worden and every other living human was also larger than had ever been possible before, since aside from the twosome on the moon the rest of humanity was some 240,000 miles away. And since the moon at that point was directly between Worden and the Earth, he could not even hear a live human voice for the full hour it took to re-emerge from the moon’s shadow.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest in western Brazil, there’s a man in his late-40’s who hasn’t seen another human being in at least 3 years, and who hasn’t encountered anyone who speaks his language in almost 15. He’s a native american whose village was destroyed by bulldozers in 1996, and appears now to be the last of his tribe. In 2007, the Brazillian government declared an area of 31-square miles in which he is known to travel to be off limits to any further development or incursion, and since then no one has even attempted to contact him. We know from the occasional flyover that he spends his days hunting wild game, collecting honey from wild beehives, and occasionally making ceremonial markings on trees or digging ceremonial pits. It is likely he will live at least another 10 years, and he’ll likely never again speak to anyone who can understand him. He may go the entire time without seeing another soul.

These two stories, both of which I wound up thinking about this week (although for unconnected reasons) got me wondering at what point in my life I was most like either of these gentlemen, and I encourage you to do the same. Read more of this post

Star Trek: La Prossima Generazione

The other day, an Italian friend of mine and I got in a fight because he called Geordi LaForge “most obnoxious.” LaForge being my favorite (non-android) character on Star Trek: The Next Generation, I felt obliged to stick up for him. In fact, I could hardly imagine how anyone could find this likable guy to be anything but a stand-up guy. It was like we were talking about different characters entirely.

Well in a way, I soon discovered, we were. In my haste to jump Geordi’s defense, it hadn’t occurred to me that my friend had actually grown up watching a version of the show that looks like this:*

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