The skeptics inspect and inquire;
the gullible accept and expire.
Sunday, December 30, 2012
Friday, November 30, 2012
In a previous blog entry, I documented using a Magnet Checklist for my daily maintenance tasks. Previously, I had mounted my magnet checklist to the side of a steel bookcase because that was the only ferromagnetic vertical surface in my bedroom. Unfortunately, I was not using the checklist on a daily basis as intended. I suspect this was partly because I had positioned it around a corner out of sight of the bedroom entrance and partly because I had to lean over the corner of a desk to reach the magnets.
A few months ago I moved my daily maintenance checklist to the inside of my bedroom closet door. Now I can display the checklist or put it away just by opening or closing the door. It is also much more accessible.
The catch was that I had to mount a magnetic surface to the wooden door. To prevent the surface of the door from being marred when I remove the checklist in the future, I used 3M Command strips instead of the adhesive backing that came with the magnetic whiteboard. Command strips are adhesives which separate from the surface cleanly when you stretch them by pulling on a tab.
I could have just marked the lines for the rows on the whiteboard using a dry erase marker but instead I stuck to using painters tape. Previously I have had problems with marker lines smearing when I slid the magnets back and forth between the "To-Do" and the "Done" columns. The tape also makes it easier to reorder the rows.
However, it did take excessively long to position and evenly space out the paint strips. For my new daily diet checklist on the side of my fridge, I just printed out the rows on a piece of paper. This made everything very easy, especially with regard to changing or reordering the rows in that all I have to do now is to edit the document and print another copy.
The other improvement was that I switched from using round disc magnets to push pin magnets are they are easier to manipulate. With push pin magnets, I now lift instead of slide. It is a wee bit quicker and probably reduces wear on the checklist surface.
This is my revised recommendation for building magnet checklists. It seems a bit funny that you might buy a magnetic dry erase whiteboard with no intent to actually write on its surface with a dry erase marker. I am not currently aware of a better magnetic surface to use for this purpose, however.
On a related note, I also have some travel preparation checklists which I maintain in Google Drive as electronic documents. I have discovered that if I just read the checklists online, I will sometimes gloss over an item and only notice that I skipped it later when I open my suitcase in my hotel room and find that I forgot to pack my shaving kit. I think this emphasizes the point the checklists should be checked. Now I print out the document each time I travel and check off, circle, or cross out items with a pen to make sure that nothing is overlooked.
Friday, October 26, 2012
The stars are ours,
The first our Sun,
We've come so far,
Yet just begun.
The Stars Are Ours © 2012 David Wallace Croft.
This poem is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Sunday, September 30, 2012
I just finished reading the graphic novel Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth. It is based on the biography of Bertrand Russell and his quest to derive all of mathematics using logic, e.g., to prove that one plus one equals two.
A recurrent theme in the book is that there is a tendency in logicians towards madness. A friend once told me the same about philosophers. Certainly logic and philosophy are related fields.
The book leaves it open as to the direction of the cause-effect relationship of this madness-logician correlation. Does delving into logic drive you mad or does being a bit mad drive you to logic? I suspect it is more of the latter.
Schizophrenia was cited as one of the main causes of madness that plagued the logicians and their family members. Schizophrenia is characterized by auditory hallucinations, i.e., hearing voices in your head. Rather than being able to determine the true nature of reality based on their own objective observations, schizophrenics have to deal with the possibility that their internal demons, of the sort proposed by Decartes, might be fooling their senses. In this situation, what can you truly know, other than that I am?
A respite from this uncertainty might be the alluring potential of deduction. Certainly much knowledge of the unseen can be deduced from the induced as is common in the sciences. And perhaps even the non-existence of the seen, or heard, can be deduced if the facts and logic merit.
Thursday, August 30, 2012
A new form of altruism in the insect world has been discovered. Older individuals of a species of termite have the ability to create a toxic goo via a chemical reaction which kills both themselves and their attackers. This is another variant of autothysis (Greek: auto-, self; -thysis, sacrifice) in which an insect ruptures an organ to release a defensive substance when attacked.
Of course, we all know that a bee that stings in defense of its hive dies soon after. Likewise, human soldiers sacrifice themselves in defense of their families. A question to ask is how is insect altruism different from human altruism.
As far as I know, insects never need to be conscripted. Humans, however, are frequently less inclined to lay down their lives on behalf of others without some external persuasion.
A key difference might be that humans engage in within-species competition. Ants are designated as either workers, soldiers, or royalty at an early age. Humans, due to their increased intelligence, have the potential to be be any or all of these things, depending on their competitive interactions with their fellow humans.
As part of this within-species competition, humans are also intelligent enough to be able to exploit the altruism of others. Rather than merely acting instinctively to preserve the species, individual humans can imagine and implement a chain of causes and effects which lead to reaping benefits for themselves at the expense of their more generous and gullible brethren.
This might explain why humans have evolved to be so much smarter than other species. By evolving past a certain critical threshold of intelligence, humans not only have to contend with the tooth and claw of lions, tigers, and bears, but also the force and fraud of their siblings. Those individuals that are able to deceive while not being deceived produce more offspring. Instead of males evolving bigger antlers to fight off other males for mates, humans are in a runaway arms race for bigger brains.
Saturday, July 28, 2012
Saturday, June 30, 2012
- 29:30 Mr. Elon Musk is introduced.
- 31:30 Elon starts his speech. He jokingly thanks the introducer for leaving "crazy person" out of the description of his career.
- 34:22 Elon talks about dropping out of graduate school in 1995 to jump on the Internet bandwagon. He jokes, "Fortunately, we're past graduation so I cannot be accused of recommending that to you."
- 47:00 Elon ends his commencement speech with "Go out there and create some magic."
- 48:00 The introducer thanks Elon and describes him as a "21st Century Magic Man".
- 48:30 The Caltech glee club sings.
- 52:35 The President of Caltech is called to confer the degrees upon the graduates. The President jokes, "Before we start, if any one of you wants to follow in the footsteps of the Magic Man and drop out, now is the time. It's the last time. It will be too late in five minutes. No takers?"
- James R. Von Ehr II: Used his early successes in the software business to fund the nanotechnology startup Zyvex.
- Anousheh Ansari: As the first female space tourist, she paid for her trip to the International Space Station with the proceeds from her successes as a serial entrepreneur in telecom. She and her family sponsored the Ansari X Prize.
- John D. Carmack II: Co-founder of id Software, maker of 3D games such as Doom. Launched the spacecraft company Armadillo Aerospace.
- Will Rosellini: Founded and sold Texas Onsite Dental. Launched MicroTransponder, a neurotechology company.
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Some years ago when I was a graduate student in the Cauller NeuroEngineering Lab, I noticed that something seemed to be amiss. There was a broken flask on the floor and I thought I might have possibly heard something even though I was alone. I put it out of my mind and left.
I returned to the lab a day or two later and I was working quietly when suddenly an escaped lab rat started moving about on the lab bench. The poor thing must have been running around loose in the lab for at least a couple of days as the lab had been mostly absent recently due to a school holiday or break. As a part-time student in the lab focusing primarily on software, I had no previous experience with handling lab rats but I thought I might put this one back in its cage by myself.
Figuring that it was probably hungry, I put some pellets out on the lab bench and when it started to nibble at them I grabbed it with my hand from behind. The rat twisted its head around and gave me a severe bite to one of my fingers. Instantly I thought of at least three key mistakes that I had just made.
I did not release the rat immediately because the damage was already done and I thought I could finish my objective quickly. I transferred the rat from my wounded right hand to the left as I quickly walked to the cage, careful to hold the rat firmly without putting too much pressure on its small body. I then received an even more severe bite to the tip of my left forefinger.
I held on and was able to get the rat into the cage. A student in the adjacent lab treated my wounds and I was reassured by the other students that lab rats are extremely clean animals so I had nothing to fear. They were, of course, quite right as the only long-term consequence was a small scar which is barely perceptible today.
When I reported the incident to Dr. Cauller, he was somewhat surprised as lab rats tended to be docile based on his many years of experience in handling them. He put his hand in the cage and the rat lunged to bite at it. He had only exposed the flat of his hand toward the rat so the teeth could not get a grip.
Dr. Cauller then stated to me that lab rats can sometimes turn feral if on their own for awhile without human supervision. Furthermore, this one appeared to have some bruising on its tail, suggesting a possible explanation for its unusual behavior. He told me he would have to put this animal down as it was now too aggressive to be around students.
I think there are several lessons to be learned from this. To bring out one in particular, I want to emphasize the part of my story in which I optimistically transferred the rat from one hand to the other after receiving the first painful bite. I think that this says something about me, both good and bad, which I will have to consider.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
- Attractive Ballons
- Bending Light
- Changing Solid to Liquid
- Coffee Can Magic
- Let's Make a Polymer
- Raise the Raisins
- Sink the Orange
- Tornado Tube
Saturday, March 31, 2012
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
Where your talents and the needs of the world cross, therein lies your vocation.
Specialize in your career; generalize in your hobbies.
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
What is the one change in your behavior that you can make now that will have the greatest impact on your life?