Monday, June 30, 2014

File Under F for Fermi Paradox

"Taiwanese student in heavy water over homemade fusion reactor". If technology continues to progress, one day we'll look back on fusion as being in the same category of technology as smelting bronze. How many ill-advised school projects will there be between now and then?

Take solace in the fact that this particular technology is not self-reproducing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Boys from Brazil? Or the Boys from Toronto?

In keeping with making bizarre connections between pop culture and academic topics, I illuminate a creeping dark conspiracy that so far as I know, only I have detected! Dear reader, lean close to your screen, for I am about to impart arcane and forbidden knowledge! If you are a fan of economists, as well as the the greatest comedy show ever Kids in the Hall (KITH) (yes, in fact it has stood up better than Python), then shame on you if this has escaped your notice!

Here's Scott Thompson about 1990:

Here's the background picture on economist Justin Wolfers's Twitter feed:

I mean come on.*

*An underappreciated fact is that this is the English translation of both QED and ipso facto.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Heavy Metal Frost on Venus

False color, real topography rendering of what
Venus "frost" might look like (NASA)

Besides being the coolest title for a paper ever, this is the explanation for the highly reflective "snow" seen on high mountains on Venus by the Magellan mission in the mid 90s. Specifically, based on spectroscopic data, the authors argue that this material is lead and bismuth sulfides precipitated from the atmosphere.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review: Dave Mustaine and the San Diego Symphony

There are many reviews out there, and few were kind. The show was sold out for quite a while. Relative to the '99 Metallica symphony show, the crowd definitely leaned more toward regular-symphony-goer types, but that could just be because it's 15 years later and the metalati are getting old, i.e. they ARE the symphony-goers anyway. Overall I think it was better than the Metallica SF symphony show, because it was more risk-taking. In execution, maybe not so much. Most of it was just the symphony, and the parts where Dave was on stage, he was the only extra-symphonic performer, and he didn't play his own material, and he didn't dominate the sound and make the symphony superfluous like Metallica did.

Set list:
Berlioz, Roman Carnival overture

Bach, Air (with Dave)

Vivaldi, Four Seasons, Summer and Winter movements (Dave joined them for Spring, playing the first violin part)

Dvorak, New World (4 movements)


Megadeth, Symphony of Destruction (two main riffs, played by the symphony, without Dave)

Wagner, Ride of the Valkyries

Dave was fairly humble and magnanimous. He said that it was very intimidating being in front of so many accomplished musicians, and several times the pickups on his guitar cut out (which marred the performance) but he didn't seem to get upset. He was using a guitar with a wood body that looked like a violin. There were several places where his fretwork got sloppy and honestly the Pergamum version of the Summer movement on Youtube is superior. To be honest my favorite part was Dvorak!

As with the Metallica symphony show, the regular conductor was too cool to be there. I would argue that the conductor contributes the least of anyone in a symphony, so ih.

Dvorak, New World (Second Movement)

Shreddinger's Cats

1. Metal and cats. It's the internet, I shouldn't have to tell you anything else. I mean come on.

2. Extreme metal puss #1.

3. Extreme metal puss #2.

All bow before the god-king of all metal pusses.

Massive, Old Terrestrial Planets = More Likely Life

The more surface area a terrestrial planet has, the more likely it will harbor life - because it has more reaction area and volume to do it, not to mention more gravity to pull in material (especially from organics-heavy comets). And Kepler 10c is 10 billion years old too, so it's had more time to do it. Even if the recently discovered mega-Earth Kepler 10c is a toasty 5700 Kelvin, there will be others that are not.

We should be looking at large, old terrestrial planets for evidence of life.