I saw this on Sluggy Freelance, this is how my wallet feels about now.

Christmas is the one time of the year that the other people in my family get as much money spent on them as the baby does. (Only because I keep a constant count.) The Baby gets all the money…most of the time.

So, January is soon, with Cons and SCA events gallore. I’m working on rewriting B3ERS – an Event Resolution System (ERS) for a Cinematic Campaign. Should be a lot of fun. Contact me if you want to playtest, it should work fine.

What is up otherwise? Not bloody much. Dyani is the most perfect baby girl in the world, I’m a proud daddy, and it takes all my time. I get in a couple swordfights a week to stay in practice. I hit the gym once a week, to work the upper body. I don’t get a lot of sleep. 

So, I hope everyone is having a merry Christmas. I know I’ll be doing well. Tired isn’t dead. No zombie apocalypse so I hope everyone’s Mayan party went off without a hitch. Next stop, Ragnarok.

Weird Adaption or Evolution or …. freaky

Ok, one of the things we know about animals is that they don’t really know how they look. No dog could pick itself out of a lineup … assuming it were physically possible to be on both sides of the glass. Heck, a mirror just shows him the weird guy on the other side. Do dogs worry about their lack of fingers… nope. They aren’t self aware in that way.  Similarly, a spider shouldn’t know that he has eight legs, and that he can “hide” by creating a false dummy to hide with. The spider even shakes the web to make it look like the fake spider is moving. I saw this in wired. I don’t know how this is possible, probable… as a famous (fictional) man once said, “Inconceivable!”

A decoy spider hangs below its much smaller builder, suspected to be a new species in the genus Cyclosa. Photo: Phil Torres.

Since they have a variety of designs, it isn’t “hard wired” into their minds. But they aren’t bright enough, or self aware enough, to be checking a mirror. It must be some…. ok… clueless. No idea how this would work. This isn’t like a zebra growing stripes, but it would have to be. Just something to think about in the middle of the week. The universe is much stranger than we imagine. 

Real Global Warming

This is a hat-tip to Roy Spencer out at UAH. (pictures taken from I’ve been to a couple of his lectures and I sat with one of his students, for most of a decade back when I was at NASA’s Environments Group. In the figure I posted below, you can see that the 70’s & 80’s ran about 0.2 degrees C low, the last 2 decades have run about 0.2 degrees high. (on average over a decade.)

Ignore all the writing, heck, ignore the scale. There are only a few measurements below 0.5 C or above 0.6 C, so the whole range of global variation is less than 2 degrees F over the last 35 years. The real increase in average temperature from the 80’s through today is less than a degree F.  

Will it go up or down from here? Nobody really knows. I’m expecting another 1/2 degree rise over the next hundred years followed by a few centuries of constant temperature followed by a century or two of cooling. Sometime before the next millennia, temperature will fall off the graph in a huge decrease of ten degrees or so, leading to the next ice age.

This is a “silly season” argument. Everyone is arguing about the tiniest of fluxuations – which are not well understood – when the HUGE changes are right around the corner. This argument could be compared to a French village organizing a neighborhood watch program, when the Germans were marching on Paris.

By the way, I made the projection for solar max to be this month nearly five years ago. Still looks like a good projection. Sometimes computer models only reflect the bias of their coders…and remain wrong all the way up to the finish line.

Latest Sunspot number prediction

The Sky Is Blue … when it isn’t some other color.

Why is the sky blue? Well, that question has been asked a gazillion times.

Sky Color

There are several explanations for the light not being indigo or violet. Some people have told me that it is eye response that dictates the color we see, but look at that rainbow. I clearly see a color at the end that is darker than the blue of the sky. Really purple. Then there is that bit at the end that our eyes don’t see well, the violet. But your eyes do pick up the light, it just looks “pale-ish” light purple, or blueish. This is a factor of your eyes. Essentially we are colorblind to higher colors than purple. However, in a perfect optical world, the sky color would be a lot further toward that violet color. Of course, if the sky was that color, our eyes would be designed/evolved to see it.

Take a look at this picture of a glow discharge plasma, oxygen. The coil of wire around the jar probably has an AC current running through it, delivering a variable EM wave through the bottle, I wouldn’t guess the wavelength or energy right off the bat, but it is driving the oxygen in the bottle into a plasma state. As the oxygen atoms bang around, trying to rejoin into O2, you get this lovely blue glow. The higher energy photons, the UV from 100 – 200 nm in particular interact with O2 molecules, cause them to glow.

File:Oxygen Plasma Cleaning.JPG

So all in all, it is a pretty complicated process. The sun produces a huge amount of UV and violet and purple light. But Oxygen removes most of the UV and a variety of molecules cut into all the light. Luckily, our eyes see the cleanest part of the spectrum, see below. Oddly enough, the effects of ozone are often seen in smog. The yellow-brown look of the air in smog is actually caused by the ozone removing more UV – blue light. In any case, it is a pretty interesting process. I hope this article was … illuminating. *heh* 

Look, I didn’t reference anything, bad Hawk. The graphs and glow discharge are from wikipedia, the prism is from a commercial website selling suncatchers, and the rainbow was from … no clue … sorry. I usually don’t screw up references this bad, but it has been a long day. As God wrote on the mountain in letters 50 feet high “We Apologize for the Inconvenience.” (Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy)

Enrico Fermi – December 2nd, 1942

The problem with being a famous physicist is that nobody (outside of your field) has any idea of what you did that made you famous. This isn’t his birthday, but I was aiming this post at December 2nd, 1942. Fifty years ago, Enrico Fermi changed the world. He performed self-sustained Nuclear Fission.

This was huge for several reasons. The first is that the world assumed that you had to have Heavy Water (hydrogen replaced by Deuterium) to perform nuclear fusion. Fermi had performed a simple experiment and gotten a weird answer. When the experiment was performed on a marble tabletop, the detector got one answer, it got a higher answer when performed on a wooden tabletop. This showed that carbon – graphite, would slow down the neutrons and make them easier to detect.

What Fermi had discovered was the process called “Neutron Thermalization.” It turns out that the energy to split an unstable atom is already inside the atom. Just adding a very small neutron, like adding the last straw to the camel’s back, causes the whole thing to fly apart. The atom comes apart, usually in two big chunks and a handful of neutrons. The chunks are hot, moving fast, and highly charged. The chunks are big and stop pretty quickly, heating up the material they are inside. The neutrons are tiny and moving at close to the speed of light, so they generally won’t hit anything for a long ways.

What people had originally thought, was that the fast neutrons were needed to collide with more Uranium atoms to shatter them as well. The size of the Uranium pile needed to cause the reaction would have been … well … roughly a thousand times the size of the reactors we use now. Fermi discovered that you could slow down the neutrons, make them interact with the Uranium in a better way, and create a simple, sustainable reaction.

The number of calculations he had to make was enormous. He designed whole calculation strategies to make them humanly possible – which led to the Fermiac Computer and the Monte Carlo calculation method. Oddly enough, his calculations were correct. Chicago-Pile 1 was lit off on a Squash Court at the University of Chicago – underneath the football field on December 2nd 1942. The Germans were still experimenting with Heavy Water, so they were years behind us…or they would have had the bomb as well.

Not to get into politics too deeply, but Fermi was Italian and received his Nobel Prize (Physics 1937) for work done in Rome under the government of Benito Mussolini. When Mussolini passed the anti-Jew legislation pushed by the Nazis, Fermi went to New York and got back to work. Many of his fellow scientists were also Jews, such as Einstein, pushed out by the German anti-Jew laws. It is funny to think on it, but the racism of the Germans – in denying themselves their own scientific talent- partially led to the victory of the Allies.

Fermi was an amazing man in a troubled time. He died in 1954 of stomach cancer, likely brought on by exposure to radioactive nuclides.

Lack of Posts (Bad Hawk, no Donut)

Sorry about that, folks. I know its only a page now and then, but I can do better than this. Sometime between prepping for Thanksgiving, my wife getting a sinus infection, and some serious Christmas shopping, I seem to have lost the thread on this blog. I’m here at least and have a couple posts loaded. I hope to make them entertaining.

Some addenda to the annual agenda:
1) Prepping for Christmas, any good ideas for presents? (17 year old boy, and Vlad, don’t bother emailing me to say “car” again.) I also have a couple adult women and a 5 month old. She is the easiest to buy for… oddly enough the cheapest THIS month, next month, who knows.

2) Trying to make it to Chattacon. Not sure why, just want out of the house and the company of my fellow madmen.

3) SCA events – just finished with Magna Faire, heading off to Unchained Doom, probably make it to Winter Collegium, Diverse Pleasures, and … very hopefully … Gulf Wars. Maybe I’ll see you there.

4) Applied to guest at Dragon Con. They probably won’t guest me and I probably won’t go. Without the Green Room parties, I’m not sure I’d bother to show up. Maybe I’ll get a room in some other hotel and relax the weekend away, getting on and off site is just too hard.

5) Anything else you want me to show up at? I know, bad english. I’m working on writing again, getting some words out there, but work + baby has me busy 24/7.

6) I appreciate your time, seriously. The fact that a few hundred folks bother to check these pages out ever day makes me happy. (Even after I discount the robots – but hey, no hate, I love the robots. Even the weirdly human ones, I think she reads my blog.)

7) BEER – Founder’s Lying Bastard… damn thats a good beer. Even used it to make Beer Bread yesterday. Dang, that is some good stuff. I also like the Sam Adams’ singles they have this season. Cinder Bock is wonderful. Absolutely like it says on the bottle, which is amazing and different. I also tried a Viking Beer the other month, I wish I could remember the name, but very interesting.

BAD BEER – I love Filipino food, but their beer is horsepiss. I was convinced to buy a Red Horse while I was at a lovely restaurant. I assume the fellow killed his tastebuds sometime he was in the Navy and can’t discern the difference between clear water and beer. Red Horse…the name should have given it away. Sadly enough, he said it was their best.