Things I Saw in Stony Brook: Pareidolia Edition

It seems my mailbox is as disconcerted as I was to discover that the Netflix DVD I was expecting hadn’t shown up yet.

By the way, there used to be a whole flickr group dedicated to photos that Apples iPhoto software erroneously identified as containing a face. It still exists, actually, but I find it’s not as entertaining as it used to be (nowadays it seems to celebrate really terrible inclusions rather than cutely anthropomorphic cookie dough). To that end, if your tendency to see faces and things where they don’t belong hasn’t received enough of a work out today, I’ll point you to this Tumblr blog instead.


The Briefist of Introductions to Quantum Computing

Sorry posting has been a bit sparse this semester. I blame a newly developing social life, a schedule that won’t quite settle into a routine, and a course on science writing which is taking up more time than expected.

The latter of these (can you use “latter” when there are more than two items in the list?) is really the biggest problem, as it means I get my writing fix every week before I even get around to thinking about my blog. But it only lasts a few more weeks, at which point we transition into talking about public speaking (yay!) so perhaps you’ll see the blogging pick up again at that point.

Until then, here’s a draft of a piece I’ve been working on for class to satisfy your appetite for accessible science. Because of the nature of the assignment, it’s very, very light on technical details. Perhaps it could be the foreward to a book on quantum computing for public consumption. But it’s the best thing I’ve got to share with you this week. Please feel particularly free to comment on what you do and don’t like about it, because I’m still work-shopping it before turning it in.

Okay: here goes:

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Who’s This Guy Whose Hair Looks So Much Like Rand Paul’s?

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Sunsets, Continued

Here’s one more sunset picture. It’s not from Stony Brook. Can you guess where it is?


If you figured out it probably wasn’t anywhere on this planet by how small the sun looks, you’re doing well. This is Gusev crater, on Mars, taken in 2005 by the Spirit Rover.

For some reason the sight of an extraterrestrial sunset really gets to me. Of course I’m excited by the otherworldliness of it, but at the same time I think what really makes the image most impactful to me is the familiarity of it. It doesn’t quite look right for a sunset, but it’s not too far off either. It makes me feel like I could well be standing there myself, and it drives the point home that I’m looking at a real Martian sunset, not some special effects shot dreamed up by George Lucas and ILM.

Things I Saw in Stony Brook: Awesome Sunset Edition

Student Activities Center on the left. Colors have not been retouched at all, I promise.

Actually probably about 4 of the last 7 days here have had stunning sunsets like this. It’s just that it took me until now to figure out how to take a good picture of one! I tend to notice them only in the evening, when I’m at my apartment, at which point I am (like every other place of residence on Long Island) surrounded by trees. But luckily for me, I was stuck on campus pretty late yesterday, and I discovered that when you stand smack in the middle of campus, there’s enough of a clearing in the trees that you can actually take a pretty good picture :-).

A view looking Northeast below the fold.

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Happy Pi-Day!

It’s now March fourtteenth at 1:59 PM, meaning it’s 3.14 1:59. Happy Pi Day, everyone! (PS, if you are a european, please do not misconstrue this to mean that pi is 14.3 1359.) Here’s a little something to celebrate the day by.

Actually, I debated for a while about whether I should post this particular clip, because in some ways it’s completely arbitrary. People get obsessed with the digits of special numbers, but they’re meaningless. Its the same fallicy that people succumb to when they think there must be something special about being the 1 millionth customer. In base 6, they’re actually the 33233344th customer. Which suddenly doesn’t seem so special, now does it? Similarly, I could rewrite pi in another base and this song would no longer have any particular relevance to the number pi. His choice of what scale, what key, and what numbering scheme are also all just up to him. The whole thing is actually just an project in constrained composition, where he’s chosen an arbitrary set of rules he has to stick to and managed to make an attractive piece of music out of it.

So I was hesitant to spread this around, lest people who like to attach too much mystical meaning to science and math start calling it “the harmonies of mother nature” or something like that. But then again, it really is an impressively well-constructed song, given the restrictions he had to work with. And that really is a great hat/vest combo he’s wearing….

Wisconsin, Continued.

I tried to avoid dabbling in this aspect of the topic before, just because I knew I would spend forever blogging if I did, but it pained me so much to try to make any kind of excuses at all for Gov. Walker that I eventually discovered I couldn’t really go back to concentrating on my homework. Here’s one last thought; let me try to be brief.

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