Sunday, August 3, 2014


Hey!  Friend, reader, former colleague, owner of the largest car in the universe, and Idaho mogul-of-everything Doug S. passed this along.  Said he came across this and for some reason thought of his neighbors in Utah :)

Farmers are different...

Farmers are different...  Reader Jim M. passes this one along:
When you're from the farm, your perception is a little bit different.

A farmer drove to a neighbor's farmhouse and knocked at the door. A boy, about 9, opened the door. "Is your dad or mom home?" said the farmer.

"No, they went to town."

"How about your brother, Howard? Is he here?"

"No, he went with Mom and Dad."

The farmer stood there for a few minutes, shifting from one foot to the other, mumbling to himself, when the young boy says, "I know where all the tools are, if you want to borrow one, or I can give Dad a message."

"Well," said the farmer uncomfortably. "No, I really want to talk to your Dad, about your brother Howard getting my daughter Suzy pregnant".

The boy thought for a moment ... then says, "You'll have to talk to my Dad about that. I know he charges $500 for the bulls and $150 for the pigs, but I have no idea how much he charges for Howard."

Windows vs. Ford...

Windows vs. Ford...  Reader Simi L. passes this along, with this note: “Update of an oldie, but with some new additions.”  I never get tired of this one :)
For all of us who feel only the deepest love and affection for the way computers have enhanced our lives, read on.

At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), Bill Gates reportedly compared the computer industry with the auto industry and stated,

"If Ford had kept up with technology like the computer industry has, we would all be driving $25 cars that got 1,000 miles to the gallon."

In response to Bill's comments, Ford issued a press release stating:

If Ford had developed technology like Microsoft, we would all be driving cars with the following characteristics (and I just love this part):
  1. For no reason whatsoever, your car would crash ... twice a day.
  2. Every time they repainted the lines in the road, you would have to buy a new car.
  3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason. You would have to pull to the side of the road, close all of the windows, shut off the car, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this.
  4. Occasionally, executing a maneuver such as a left turn would cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you would have to reinstall the engine.
  5. Apple would make a car that was powered by the sun, was reliable, five times as fast and twice as easy to drive - but would run on only five percent of the roads.
  6. The oil, water temperature, and alternator warning lights would all be replaced by a single "This Car Has Performed An Illegal Operation" warning light.
  7. The airbag system would ask, "Are you sure?" before deploying.
  8. Occasionally, for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you out and refuse to let you in until you simultaneously kifted the door handle, turned the key and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
  9. Every time a new car was introduced car buyers would have to learn how to drive all over again because none of the controls would operate in the same manner as the old car.
  10. You'd have to press the "Start" button to turn the engine off.
P.S. - I'd like to add that when all else fails, you could call "customer service" in some foreign country and be instructed in some foreign language how to fix your car yourself!

Karsy's Giant Myriophone...

Karsy's Giant Myriophone...  What had 2,000 strings, sounded like a string orchestra, but only required two musicians?  Why, Karsy's Giant Myriophone, of course!

When you have appalled Barney Frank...

When you have appalled Barney Frank ... then it's clearly time for you to change your behavior – radically!

The 11 types of programmers...

The 11 types of programmers...  I was easily able to identify former colleagues for each of these types :)   I wonder where they would place me?

In defense of Zionism...

In defense of Zionism...  That's the title of an excellent piece in today's WSJ, by Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. (and an interesting fellow for many reasons)...

Breastfeeding in public...

Breastfeeding in public...  This caught my eye because the incident described happened in Logan, Utah (just a few miles north of our new home in Paradise, Utah).  The comment thread is quite entertaining if you can keep yourself from getting emotionally invested in it.

This is one of those issues that cause many foreigners (i.e., non-Americans) to look at us and wonder whether we're part of the same species as they.  I've traveled a bit more than most Americans have, and I know from experience that in much of the world breastfeeding in public is absolutely the norm.  In most of Asia (especially southeast Asia) and Africa, much of Europe, and in many other places, any mom who needs to feed her baby will simply do so.  Usually there's no attempt at being “discreet” (whatever that is!), and clearly they're not uncomfortable about the public exposure of their breast while feeding their baby.  I've never witnessed anyone in the vicinity of a breastfeeding mom exhibiting any sort of discomfort or embarrassment about seeing a baby being breastfed.  In fact, quite the opposite – usually the people around are smiling, making conversation with the mom, and otherwise displaying the behaviors of people who are comfortable and in the presence of something attractive and pleasant.  I've also never witnessed any male acting as though the spectacle of a breastfeeding woman was sexually provocative.  Speaking as a member of the male community, I personally find the sight of a breastfeeding woman to be something quite beautiful to behold, and not sexually provocative at all.

So why is it so different in America?  Reading that comment thread, it's quite clear that some number of Americans – both male and female – are quite disturbed at the sight of a breastfeeding woman.  Some think its sexually provocative.  Some think it will somehow be bad for their kids.  Most Europeans I know would attribute this to our cultural prudishness, which they'll in turn attribute to our primitive religious beliefs.  Maybe they're right.

We're quite a bunch of weirdos, we Americans...

NASA validates the “impossible thruster”?

NASA validates the “impossible thruster”?  A “thruster” is an engine that will cause a spacecraft to move.  Several readers sent me links to this story, which I've been following since the Chinese “confirmation” last year.

The claim of the designers of this thruster is extraordinary: that their thruster works without any reaction mass at all.  It requires nothing but electricity to work.  Every other thruster works by throwing something (anything!) away from it at high speed.  Newton's third law says that every action causes a reaction – and all these other thrusters depend on that.  It's the only way anyone has ever made a thruster that works.

Furthermore, an extremely well-tested physics principle – the conservation of momentumrequires that any change in momentum (as in a thruster accelerating something) must be accompanied by a precisely matching counter-change (as in the momentum of the quickly receding mass being thrown away from the rocket).  A thruster that didn't throw away any mass would violate this principle, and nobody has ever before found a violation.  You could justly call the conservation of momentum a bedrock physics principle.  To find a violation of it would upset darned near everything we thought we knew about physics.


I am very skeptical of this claim, despite the NASA “validation”.  I put that word in quotes, because I note that the NASA engineers called the effect they detected an “anomalous thrust”, which I think is exactly right: it's a thrust whose source they have not yet identified.  This thrust is incredibly tiny, too – just the sort of thing you might get from an instrumentation problem, an experimental error, or even measurement error.  I infer from their wording that the NASA experimenters are themselves unconvinced – and it's easy to see why.  To a physicist (even of the amateur flavor!), this claim is about as likely as claiming that you could fill your gas tank with water, then add a tiny tablet, made from dried yak dung fermented in sloth urine, to create high-octane gasoline.  It's just too good to be true...

I say this very reluctantly, though.  If it were true somehow, then all sorts of marvelous things might derive from it: interstellar travel, flying cars, backpacks that took a load off your feet, etc.  I'd love for those things to magically become possible!

But I'm not betting on it :)