Mathematicians

As a mathematician, I take care not to be caught doing philosophy. When I buy my copy of Philosophy Now, I ask the newsagent to wrap it up in a brown paper bag in the hope that it will be mistaken for a girly-mag.

Mike Alder, Newton’s Flaming Laser Sword

Meteors!

The Girl Scout troop was going to do some late night thing for a badge – go somewhere people work late, go to Panera for dinner, watch a movie, blah. I have to say, I thought Girl Scouts would be more like the Boy Scouts (Hiking badge YEAH!). But no. Girls apparently don’t do the cool stuff.  I mean, hosting an “extreme nighttime party” as a badge requirement?!

Yesterday, we figured out that the Lyrid meteor shower peaked tonight, April 21. Faced with the choice of seeing Stop and Shop getting restocked, and heading out with blankets, 3 layers of hoodies, and some Dunkin’ hot chocolate, the choice was clear.

Screw Stop and Shop.

We went to a recreation area in Tewksbury, the closest we could find to a good, dark, publicly accessible field. After setting up a blanket under us, and another on top, we cuddled together and started watching the skies. We saw multiple meteors, two normal satellites, and one Iridium flare. Every one of those satellites was spotted by Beta, the Champion of Satellite Detection. She pointed out the Iridium satellite before it had a chance to flare, so we all got to see it.

We hung out in the field for about 45 minutes before it got too cold, and we were tired.

And of course, on the ride home, Beta saw one last  meteor. Awesome end to the night.

Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect

The Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect is, simply put,

I believe everything the media tells me except for anything for which I have direct personal knowledge, which they always get wrong.  source

Formulated by Michael Crichton, is named after Murray Gell-Mann, an astrophysicist.  (said Mr. Crichton, “I refer to it by this name because I once discussed it with Murray Gell-Mann, and by dropping a famous name I imply greater importance to myself, and to the effect, than it would otherwise have.”)

Mr. Crichton explained it further in a 2002 speech, “Why Speculate?

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward – reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

That is the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect. I’d point out it does not operate in other arenas of life. In ordinary life, if somebody consistently exaggerates or lies to you, you soon discount everything they say. In court, there is the legal doctrine of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus, which means untruthful in one part, untruthful in all. But when it comes to the media, we believe against evidence that it is probably worth our time to read other parts of the paper. When, in fact, it almost certainly isn’t. The only possible explanation for our behavior is amnesia.

RIP, Mr. Crichton.

 

Owls!

I stepped outside with the dog while she did her business and stayed for a minute to look at a “spoke” pattern in the clouds, when I heard an Eastern Screech Owl nearby.

It took me a few minutes to identify it when I got back inside, but my Google-fu is strong today.  The call is a “tremolo” which mated pairs and families use to keep in touch.  I heard it repeat several times.

More information here

In which I sew on buttons

Alpha loves the Newsies. Alpha had Christmas money, and bought herself suspenders. Alpha asked me to sew buttons on to her pants so they wouldn’t snap off. Since we took her phone away, she’s got the time to pester me, so here we are.

Buttons on a pair of pants.
Buttons buttons who’s got the buttons

Mission accomplished.

Also, reading glasses help with the threading of needles.

Me in glasses.
My glasses match my shirt!