A Rare Moment of Unqualified Clarity From The AP

It’s a pet peeve of mine that journalists so often confuse being “unbiased” with “never suggesting that anyone’s facts, ideas, or claims are better than anyone else’s.” Actually its not so much a pet peeve of mine and more like one of the things I think is most wrong with the country, but close enough.

That’s why I enjoyed reading the first sentence of this AP story just now:

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said Tuesday that Sen. John McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years enduring brutal treatment at the hands of his North Vietnamese captors, doesn’t know how effective waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques can be.

It seems that sometimes, by mistake, a reporter includes relevant information in the logical place for it and winds up making it clear right off the bat that one of the people involved in the story is an idiot.

Now if only we could get this to happen in purpose. But somehow, I suspect we are still a long way away from our chance to read a lede that says “Sarah Palin claimed today that an independent commission report had cleared her of all legal and ethical wrongdoing in a recent scandal, in spite of the fact that we’re all sitting here reading the report which contains the sentence ‘I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110 (a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.’ And frankly we’re all having a good laugh about it.”

Okay, that’s all I have time for. Sorry I didn’t make that return-to-blogging that I promised last week. Finals and friends’ graduations have had me swamped. Try me again this Friday.


Birds: Better Than Physicists

Alright, here’s one I’d really really like to write a more extensive explanation of, but don’t know if I’ll have time for. I’ve actually put off posting this twice now because I didn’t have time to write an accompanying explanation, but I recently found a nontechnical piece on the subject in Wired Science that does a decent job. Of course there are things I would like to have added, but it will have to do. Ask lots of questions if it seems incomplete :-).

The gist of it is: Scientists studying how Birds’ “inner compasses” work during migration have discovered reason to believe that they may be relying on a very complicated quantum-mechanical effect called “entanglement” to turn the atoms in their eyes into magnetometers. And interestingly, if that’s really how they do it, it means that birds are at least 25% better than the best of all physics collaborations at creating and maintaining this delicate state of entanglement.

I always knew there was a reason that birds were my favorite animal. I guess I had assumed it had to do with the wonderful birdwatching trips I used to take with my dad when I was younger.

I Can’t Seem To Stop Blogging Tonight…

I guess I’m overcompensating for how long I was away. Still don’t have time to write much, but here’s something interesting I can communicate only through pictures. This famous logo:

I actually saw the original draft of this in an exhibition at the MoMa a month or so agoand this slightly less-famous one:

Were both designed by the same person, famed graphic artist Milton Glaser. You may also know a Bob Dylan poster he’s behind.

See below the fold for a T-Shirt I saw the other day which was not designed by Glaser.

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Things I Saw in Stony Brook: Annoying Fake Bell Edition

This is the Administration Building at Stony Brook. It is a nice building. It is well-landscaped. Inside there is a cast of a fossilized dinosaur skeleton and it’s really cool.

It does not, however, have a bell tower.

Why am I telling you this? Because every hour on the hour, a Big-Ben like series of chimes comes from this building, followed by one bell for each hour after 12:00. And it drives me batty.

Stony Brook just doesn’t have a campus that looks like it needs to have an old church bell ringing the time. Part of my evidence for this is that there’s just clearly no place a bell like that could be housed. We have a nice campus but we’re into brick, low buildings, and lots of flowers. We’re not so much into ivy and towers and old birch trees and such. The bell doesn’t belong.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not the fact that the bell is faked that bugs me. CU has a fake church bell too, and I really love it. Because it comes from the tower of the old Auditorium building, which feels for all the world like the kind of place a bell should be ringing from. And it can be heard best in the old part of campus where the architecture reminds you that the campus has been there for almost 150 years.

Stony Brook just finished it’s first 50 a few years ago. We just don’t need a bell that sounds like it’s a century older than we are.

So Where Has My Blog Been?

Right here, silly. I just haven’t been adding posts to it for a couple of weeks now. Oops.

Sorry about that, to the small handful of you who not only read my blog, but notice when it’s not being updated. I don’t know why, but this semester has just worked against my blogging habits somehow. I guess it’s because various things have made it much much harder for me to work into a routine. Three different friends/family members came to visit at various times, which was amazing, but of course threw my schedule on end for a week every time. I’ve also had two shorter classes this semester that started and stopped in the middle of the year, switching days in between. And I have two early morning classes that have generally prevented me from doing the kind of late-night, right-before-I-go-to-bed blogging that worked so well last semester. I don’t know; It’s been a very fun few months, but it hasn’t been one I’ve been able to share with people as much as I’d like.

What I do have is several pages of moleskine notebook full of things I want to blog about. Some of these ideas have expired, of course, but quite a few of them are still relevant, so I promise that sometime in the near future, I’ll start writing some of them up. I’ve missed this more than you have I promise.

I will put up at least one more set of posts in the coming week, but then I may have to take a bit of a hiatus again, as I prepare for final exams. But after that, you can count on some new content here. In the meanwhile, just know I feel bad that I’ve left you out of the loop, and that I still have every intention of getting back to this at some point.

I guess if you all would stop coming to visit and you know, caring about me, then I’d be doing a better job of this. So it’s your own darn fault.

Happy May Day. Expect another post or two on Thursday, if not before.

Should we celebrate Osama’s Death?

So the big news tonight, in case you were living under a rock, is that, in the culmination of an extended operation to locate, identify, and pursue Osama Bin Laden, US special forces have killed him in a compound outside of Islamabad, Pakistan.

There is a lot to be said or discussed about this turn of events, but one in particular is on my mind tonight, and as much as I should be working on some physics right now, I can’t seem to get it out of my head, so I’ve decided to try thinking it out in blog form instead. Which is meant to count as a disclaimer: the following thoughts are still in draft form, but there’s no guarantee that I’ll have time to put them down if I wait until tomorrow when they’re better thought out.

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