Thursday, January 31, 2008

Of Mercury's Sphincter and Cardiod Microphone Porn

There are some great pictures that already coming back from the MESSENGER mission to Mercury, and this is just the first flyby - MESSENGER will not go into Mercurian orbit until March, 2011. In the meantime, we get great pictures like this one, of an apparent impact crater in the Caloris Basin region with trough-like ridges extending from it.

Now the mission folks are calling this one the Spider, but I am afraid a better name would be the Anus. But hey, maybe it's just me. The really big trough on the bottom could even be a hemorrhoid.

Which reminds me of something that happened in my acoustics class yesterday. I had started lecturing on microphones, and I was going through the various sensitivity, or pickup, patterns. Probably the most common pickup pattern is called "cardioid, and depending on if your mind resides in the clouds or the gutter it looks sort of like a heart or a butt. (Actually, Desmond Morris wrote about how the classic "heart" shape really is a sexual image in The Naked Ape.)

So anyway, I draw a cardioid pattern looks like this:

Then, I drew a microphone at the center of the pattern, which looks like this, of course:

Inadvertent hilarity ensued, much to my embarrassment - it's bad enough when I do these things on purpose.

I'm a mutant!

First the news, in 2005, that all light-skinned people trace back to a single mutation that occurred during the first major "out of Africa" exodus of Homo Sapiens, sometime between 20,000 and 50,000 years ago.

Today researchers are reporting that all blue-eyed humans are descended from a single mutated forbearer. This common ancestor lived between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

I love it, I love it, I love it - white people are mutants, I always figured as much. (OK I'm being silly - we all originated in Africa, so of course our earliest ancestors were all brown-skinned. But it is extremely cool that scientists, using techniques like mitachondrial DNA sequencing, can trace back the process by which these changes in the human population took place.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Go Cubs! I mean Saints! I mean Richardson! No, wait...

So, the best way to judge who will not win a game/playoff/political race is to ask me who I am supporting. Am I just drawn to the underdogs, or is that the winners in life are usually so freakin' obnoxious?

I was initially supporting Bill Richardson for President - in every way the most qualified candidate and probably the most intelligent man to run for president since Adlai Stevenson. Unfortunately he did not generate even a Stevenson level of excitement. Maybe he'll the next Secretary of State, or maybe the vice-presidential candidate.

This morning Edwards has dropped out of the race. I was not as big a supporter of Edwards as I was of Richardson - I actually donated to Richardson, the first time I have ever sent money to a presidential campaign. But in fact, John Edwards is the closest to my own views of any of the candidates this year. Still, his departure solidifies my support for Barak Obama. Sure, he's kind of inexperienced, but in fact presidents don't actually do that much if they are successful - the least successful presidents have been the ones who tried to micromanage everything. The main thing about Obama is the huge boost to America's image abroad that he will provide, along with a renewed sense of optimism and hope here at home. But given my track record, maybe I should keep my mouth shut...

Well, we are still here, dammit!

So, asteroid 2007 TU24 did not hit Earth yesterday. Somehow, that same science that the creationist-types think cannot get the Big Bang or Evolution right, still was good enough to predict the orbit of a 250m rock to within a few meters Great animated GIF of the flyby from an amateur astronomer in Utah named Patrick Wiggens (found on - you have to click on the picture to see the animation.)

The bad news is that another asteroid did not hit Mars. That would have been pretty cool, particularly if had been within the horizon of one of the Mars rovers. Alas, the mean ol' scientists got that one right as well - we knew at least a month ago that there would not be an impact.