dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:28am on 2007-06-22 under , ,

"If you are male and you did want to clone yourself, and I mean clone in the sense of the word where the resulting organism has exactly the same DNA as you, it would require that the egg cell used for the cloning process come from your sister, mother, grandmother, mother's sister, sister's daughter. . . somebody with whom you share a matrilineal blood-line.

[explanation elided; see original]

"I was disturbed when I realized this, as it means creating my army of clones to bring about my total domination of the globe would require the cooperation of my mom, who probably wouldn't approve."

-- Zenaku, 2007-05-31 ( parent discussion)

[Hey, Conterpoint 2007 starts later today. I wonder whether I can get someone to write a filk song about this by the end of the weekend ...]

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:26am on 2007-06-22 under , ,

"If you are male and you did want to clone yourself, and I mean clone in the sense of the word where the resulting organism has exactly the same DNA as you, it would require that the egg cell used for the cloning process come from your sister, mother, grandmother, mother's sister, sister's daughter. . . somebody with whom you share a matrilineal blood-line.

[explanation elided; see original]

"I was disturbed when I realized this, as it means creating my army of clones to bring about my total domination of the globe would require the cooperation of my mom, who probably wouldn't approve."

-- Zenaku, 2007-05-31 ( parent discussion)

[Hey, Conterpoint 2007 starts later today. I wonder whether I can get someone to write a filk song about this by the end of the weekend ...]

dglenn: Kickdrum (bass drum) with sneakers on the side legs (kickdrum)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 09:02am on 2007-06-15 under ,
Thumbnail (link to gallerypage):  window mic waveform Thumbnail (link to gallerypage):  window mic waveform

I got fed up with the way so many web sites (including some people's journal styles) insist on displaying eensy weensy text so I have to hit the "increase font size" button several times (while others insist on displaying text at a perfectly reasonable size, so that it would be HUGE if I just told the browser to magnify everything), and not being able to read the speech bubbles in comic strips in any browser except Opera (which magnifies images as well as text), so I hauled up the Much Larger monitor I'd planned to use elsewhere, and plugged it in at the bedroom Debian box.

As a side effect, the differences in the waveforms from the two microphones pointing at different parts of a recorder, from my little experiment a few days ago (LJ entry, IJ entry, GJ entry -- only the LJ copy has comments so far (as expected)) became a whole lot easier to see.

details about the experimental setup and what manipulations have been done on the data )

What you're looking at in the screen captures below (or if you squint really hard at the thumbnails above) is the same slice of time from both channels, two cycles worth from the middle of one note, stretched vertically so that each track took up the whole window (minus the toolbar and time strip).

the waveforms: two ~16KB PNG images, each about 900x550 )

Breno pointed out that the phase shift is probably just the length of the recorder plus the distance to the mic, divided by the speed of sound. (I think the effect of a phase shift would still be present for a single mic halfway across the room, at least if the description I recall of the sound from the foot coming out in a very narrow cone is correct, because the direct signal bounced off the floor would have a longer path than the signal direct from the window ... right? Note to self: experiment with single distant mic in rooms with and without shag carpeting.) Note that there is some sort of overtone in the sound from the window, but the sound from the foot looks "dirtier" ... er, "ripplier"

If I post a stereo WAV file someplace, would enough of those of you who are interested a) be able to play it without difficulty, and b) be able to turn off one channel at a time to compare the two signals to each other and to the combined sound, without having to futz around trying to fiddle the speaker plug in back of your computer halfway out and such? Or should I do a bunch of cut-and-paste and make a file (WAV or MP3) that switches back and forth between the mics with a voiceover telling you what you're hearing when? [ETA: I did put up a simple stereo clip of a couple of scales with the mics panned as described above, for folks who can split it apart or turn off a channel at a time. See the comment about it.]

dglenn: Kickdrum (bass drum) with sneakers on the side legs (kickdrum)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 09:00am on 2007-06-15 under ,
Thumbnail (link to gallerypage):  window mic waveform Thumbnail (link to gallerypage):  window mic waveform

I got fed up with the way so many web sites (including some people's journal styles) insist on displaying eensy weensy text so I have to hit the "increase font size" button several times (while others insist on displaying text at a perfectly reasonable size, so that it would be HUGE if I just told the browser to magnify everything), and not being able to read the speech bubbles in comic strips in any browser except Opera (which magnifies images as well as text), so I hauled up the Much Larger monitor I'd planned to use elsewhere, and plugged it in at the bedroom Debian box.

As a side effect, the differences in the waveforms from the two microphones pointing at different parts of a recorder, from my little experiment a few days ago (LJ entry, IJ entry, GJ entry -- only the LJ copy has comments so far (as expected)) became a whole lot easier to see.

details about the experimental setup and what manipulations have been done on the data )

What you're looking at in the screen captures below (or if you squint really hard at the thumbnails above) is the same slice of time from both channels, two cycles worth from the middle of one note, stretched vertically so that each track took up the whole window (minus the toolbar and time strip).

the waveforms: two ~16KB PNG images, each about 900x550 )

Breno pointed out that the phase shift is probably just the length of the recorder plus the distance to the mic, divided by the speed of sound. (I think the effect of a phase shift would still be present for a single mic halfway across the room, at least if the description I recall of the sound from the foot coming out in a very narrow cone is correct, because the direct signal bounced off the floor would have a longer path than the signal direct from the window ... right? Note to self: experiment with single distant mic in rooms with and without shag carpeting.) Note that there is some sort of overtone in the sound from the window, but the sound from the foot looks "dirtier" ... er, "ripplier"

If I post a stereo WAV file someplace, would enough of those of you who are interested a) be able to play it without difficulty, and b) be able to turn off one channel at a time to compare the two signals to each other and to the combined sound, without having to futz around trying to fiddle the speaker plug in back of your computer halfway out and such? Or should I do a bunch of cut-and-paste and make a file (WAV or MP3) that switches back and forth between the mics with a voiceover telling you what you're hearing when? [ETA: I did put up a simple stereo clip of a couple of scales with the mics panned as described above, for folks who can split it apart or turn off a channel at a time. See the comment about it.]

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (cyhmn)

Despite slightly more comfortable weather (81°F/51%) I'm not having a very comfortable day. Listless, dizzy, achy -- and though I get hungry, I really don't feel like cooking, or even eating; all I want to do is drink, and I don't reall want to drink water. I'm craving large quantities of OJ or Gatorade, neither of which I really ought to be drinking all that much of, and I'm nearly out of Gatorade anyhow. So I'll try to settle for fizzy water (the flavoured seltzer w/o sweeteners) and see whether I can muster the energy to be productive at some point.

Well, I've been sortakinda productive-ish: I just did part of an experiment I'd been meaning to do. When I play recorder on stage, I usually just have one mic on a boom pointing at the window, but I recall having read that half the sound comes out the foot (in a rather narrow dispersion pattern, IIRC, but I imagine it usually spreads out more after bouncing off the floor), and I think I remember that having two mics on a recorder mattered in the recording studio. Since I've started playing with Audacity on my Debian box, I've been meaning to set up a pair of microphones and take a closer look.

I picked my two mics with sounds most similar to each other, pointed one at the window of my tenor recorder and the other at the foot, panned them hard-left and hard-right respectively, played a few notes, then swapped the mics and recorded a few more notes. I need to play around more with exact placement of each microphone (and a less noisy time of day), but so far the results are: where the mic is placed makes more of a difference than whch mic (of this particular pair) it is; and neither really sounds like a good recording of a recorder until they're mixed together. Though I can hear the difference well enough, I can't make out the differences clearly on the waveform plot, but this isn't a very large monitor ... (I can, however, see a slight phase difference between the two microphones).

[ETA: As noted in a comment to a later entry, listening to this recording (5MB WAV) on a different computer in a quieter neighbourhood, it sounded a bit different than it did at home. See the comment for details.]

Doing this with a pair of identical (and higher-grade) microphones would be good too. I should probably just arrange to take my recorders up to Emory's studio sometime... Or ask him if he's got WAV files from a two-mic recording of a recorder lying around to email me.

A harder question is whether this makes enough of a difference to care about on stage (it's clearly something to continue to worry about in a recording studio). Probably not ... though, having flipped past clip-on saxophone and brass mics in a catalog, I'd been toying the idea of a clip-on dual-mic recorder rig that could be moved quickly from one recorder to another. (It would look cool and sound better, but it's probably not worth the added complexity, the need for yet another channel, and the risk of throwing off the balance of the instrument and making it harder to play, given that most of the time a live PA is not exactly audiophile hi-fidelity unless you're playing the Meyerhoff or the Kennedy Center, and the subtlety-of-tone of the recorder probably gets lost behind the guitar when playing live anyhow. I could see maybe getting lead recorder [insanejournal.com profile] silmaril a second channel in the interest of tone if enough people could hear the difference, but not for my alto/tenor/bass parts.) Okay, maybe that wasn't such a hard question after all.

And other than futzing around composing this journal entry, I also goofed off with a quiz-meme and an "analyze data about your blog" toy:

How Popular [is your journal']? )

and:

Which Histotical Lunatic Are You? )

Getting Emporor Norton I for that quiz amuses me a great deal. I've always thought Norton was kinda cool.

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (cyhmn)

Despite slightly more comfortable weather (81°F/51%) I'm not having a very comfortable day. Listless, dizzy, achy -- and though I get hungry, I really don't feel like cooking, or even eating; all I want to do is drink, and I don't reall want to drink water. I'm craving large quantities of OJ or Gatorade, neither of which I really ought to be drinking all that much of, and I'm nearly out of Gatorade anyhow. So I'll try to settle for fizzy water (the flavoured seltzer w/o sweeteners) and see whether I can muster the energy to be productive at some point.

Well, I've been sortakinda productive-ish: I just did part of an experiment I'd been meaning to do. When I play recorder on stage, I usually just have one mic on a boom pointing at the window, but I recall having read that half the sound comes out the foot (in a rather narrow dispersion pattern, IIRC, but I imagine it usually spreads out more after bouncing off the floor), and I think I remember that having two mics on a recorder mattered in the recording studio. Since I've started playing with Audacity on my Debian box, I've been meaning to set up a pair of microphones and take a closer look.

I picked my two mics with sounds most similar to each other, pointed one at the window of my tenor recorder and the other at the foot, panned them hard-left and hard-right respectively, played a few notes, then swapped the mics and recorded a few more notes. I need to play around more with exact placement of each microphone (and a less noisy time of day), but so far the results are: where the mic is placed makes more of a difference than whch mic (of this particular pair) it is; and neither really sounds like a good recording of a recorder until they're mixed together. Though I can hear the difference well enough, I can't make out the differences clearly on the waveform plot, but this isn't a very large monitor ... (I can, however, see a slight phase difference between the two microphones).

[ETA: As noted in a comment to a later entry, listening to this recording (5MB WAV) on a different computer in a quieter neighbourhood, it sounded a bit different than it did at home. See the comment for details.]

Doing this with a pair of identical (and higher-grade) microphones would be good too. I should probably just arrange to take my recorders up to Emory's studio sometime... Or ask him if he's got WAV files from a two-mic recording of a recorder lying around to email me.

A harder question is whether this makes enough of a difference to care about on stage (it's clearly something to continue to worry about in a recording studio). Probably not ... though, having flipped past clip-on saxophone and brass mics in a catalog, I'd been toying the idea of a clip-on dual-mic recorder rig that could be moved quickly from one recorder to another. (It would look cool and sound better, but it's probably not worth the added complexity, the need for yet another channel, and the risk of throwing off the balance of the instrument and making it harder to play, given that most of the time a live PA is not exactly audiophile hi-fidelity unless you're playing the Meyerhoff or the Kennedy Center, and the subtlety-of-tone of the recorder probably gets lost behind the guitar when playing live anyhow. I could see maybe getting lead recorder [livejournal.com profile] silmaril a second channel in the interest of tone if enough people could hear the difference, but not for my alto/tenor/bass parts.) Okay, maybe that wasn't such a hard question after all.

And other than futzing around composing this journal entry, I also goofed off with a quiz-meme and an "analyze data about your blog" toy:

How Popular [is your journal']? )

and:

Which Histotical Lunatic Are You? )

Getting Emporor Norton I for that quiz amuses me a great deal. I've always thought Norton was kinda cool.

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:25am on 2007-05-25 under ,

"Good science journalists know that if they're not dealing with subject matter that makes them dizzy, they're probably not doing their jobs." -- K.C. Cole, "Weird Science: Why editors must dare to be dumb", Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 2006 (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tdj for pointing it out)

And an extra for the anniverary being celebrated today: "This is some rescue. When you came in here, didn't you have a plan for getting out?" -- Princess Leia Organa (played by Carrie Fischer), in the movie Star Wars

dglenn: Photo of clouds shaped like an eye and arched eyebrow (sky-eye)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 02:33am on 2007-04-21 under

Other than fixing myself a larger-than-I-meant-it-to-be dinner (I got carried away with the number of other ingredients and had to add another egg to compensate) and some migraine-abatement tea (lavender+basil), I didn't really accomplish anything since my last entry -- never got that second wind after all. Oh well. I'll try to get to the store after I get up again, and I think I can do a temporary fill where the acryllic is growing out that'll hold for the 3LF gif this weekend and hit the nail salon next week -- I'll only be playing a little bit of guitar on Sunday, mostly recorder and double bass. Anyhow, since I'm feeling a bit more alert than early this evening, I'll toss out an incomplete bit that I'd been meaning to post before...

About three weeks ago, I posted about a phenomenon I was curious about, in which I get two distinct notes out of one string at the same time. (They're harmonically related -- an octave apart -- so you can think of the higher frequency as "merely an overtone", but those two frequencies are approximately equally loud and swamp any other overtones present, so the acoustical (or psychoacoustic?) effect is of two distinct notes.)

Well, I still don't have a good picture in my mind of what the string is physically doing (though [livejournal.com profile] juuro's comment that, "From what I remember [...] there is almost always a traveling-wave component as well [...]," (and the mention of helical modes) does answer the most basic question I asked then. (Thanks, by the way.) But what I do have (and will show y'all after I get all my screencaps and diagrams and notation sorted out and uploaded somewhere when I'm a little more awake than now and have less in the 'urgent to-do' category than I expect to tomorrow) is an oscilloscope-like trace and some math. The scope trace is actually a plot from a .wav file captured on a friend's digital recording rig in his studio, and I found it rather interesting. It clearly shows that yes, both frequencies are present (it's not some audio illusion), but I was fascinated by the asymmetry of it. The first section we looked at looked like a series of capital 'M's -- the positive portion of the wave was not a reflection of the negative portion, and the bottom went farther from zero than the top did.

I suspected (and I'm sure a bunch of other math geeks and vaguely-mathish geeks here already guessed while crossing the space between the preceeding paragraph and this one) that this unusual shape resulted from a particular phase relationship between the fundamental and the octave. This week, while failing to fall asleep one night, I finally got around to investigating that -- I threw a few lines of BASIC at my PDA to tell it to plot y = a1 × sin(θ) + a2 × sin(2×θ + φ) for different phase offsets φ, and it turns out that if the octave is π/2 radians (90°) out of phase with the fundamental, the 'M' wave results. So plug either of these into your graphing calculator, favourite math app, or the programming language of your choice:

y = sin(θ) + sin(2×θ+π/2)
y = sin(θ) + cos(2×θ)

and you'll see the waveform I'm talking about.

Yeah, I'd have gotten around to this much sooner and with less effort if I had a pair of sine wave generators and an oscilliscope lying around, but I did eventually get to it. And yes, mathematically this is really, really trivial stuff, but I still think it's nifty trivial stuff, that such cool, asymmetrical waveforms emerge from something so very simple as the sum of a sine wave and its first harmonic, just by playing with the phase relationship.

I'll post that trace later.

I still want stroboscopic footage to see just how that string is dancing around. Stereostroboscopic video so I can clearly see what it's doing in 3-D! And a pony!

dglenn: Perrine (fluffy silver tabby) yawning, animated (yawn2)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 02:43pm on 2007-04-13 under ,

Cat-human communication is a bit different from cat-cat communication, and while I mostly rely on the former I do intentionally include a few bits of the latter (I'm not as fluent in cat-cat as I am in cat-human, but like many (most?) cat owners, I've picked up a few useful phrases). Sometimes a cat, when faced with a human attempting to speak the cat's language, will look confused, as though thinking, "I know what it means when a cat does that, but what does it mean when a human does it? Is this human okay?" Other cats simply react as though to another cat, without being troubled by seeing the wrong species giving the signals.

One of the cat-things I do is the friendly "let's smell each other's breath" approach. I'm not sure exactly what it means to cats, but it does seem to reassure them (and can help to convince an unfamiliar cat that I'm friendly, if I'm allowed to get my face that close in the first place). This is, of course, done in the cat "I want to analyze this smell" fashion, with the lips slightly apart and very gentle, shallow, short breaths. (This is apparently related to "flehming", and aids delivery of the inhaled sample to the vomeronasal organ. I was about to add that although I thought this was a special feline organ, I did notice that I get different information when smelling things in this way -- but I paused to google it, and discovered that the vomeronasal organ (or Jacobson's organ) is present in several species, including humams, though it's apparently not connected to the nervous system in adult humans (I wonder how much of the change in food preferences between infancy and adulthood are explained by the shrinking and disconnection of this organ). Wikipedia says that "some researchers argue" that it's functional in some adult humans; this might explain my acting like a "supertaster" in some regards and not in others, or may be completely unrelated to how I perceive taste and why breathing with my lips parted and my tongue positioned to direct air across the roof of my mouth sometimes gives me more information than smelling things in other ways -- it could simply be the pattern of airflow across my tongue that matters, rather than flow to the spot where my vomeronasal organ may or may not still be, that matters. Ah, but I digress...)

Anyhow, one approaches the cat slowly and smoothly, head way forward, lips parted as though one's sense of smell/taste works the same as a cat's, and there's a good chance the cat will react in kind. If you're not sure how to perform this maneuver from my description, just watch two cats sniff each other's breath, or pay attention to how your cat does it to you -- even if you never initiate this, most cats will occasionally try to sniff your breath in this way if they're comfortable with you (and all the more so if you've just eaten something yummy, though very litle of what I eat is yummy to cats). Some cats do it more often than others.

But here's the thing: I suck a lot of cough drops, often containing menthol, to deal with airway irritation not quite severe enough that I want to use my albuterol inhaler but too annoying to ignore (especially when I'm trying to get to sleep, or on high-pollen-count days). I do not initiate the mutual breath smelling thing when I'm sucking on a cough drop, or have just done so, but sometimes Perrine chooses such a moment to initiate it.

And then she flinches back, eyes narrowed and ears back, as if to say, "Yeowch! What did you just do to my smeller?"

Apparently, menthol-breath is worse, from a cat's perspective, than the smell of hot coffee (which in turn is much worse than coffee-breath), but not as bad as the smell of a tissue soaked in rubbing alcohol.

(So, uh, yeah, the whole point of this long entry was the image of a cat trying to be friendly and getting a snoot full of menthol, and looking startled and confused by it. But I'm curious about other folks' sense of smell and how involving different parts of the mouth affects the amount or quality of information extracted from the air being sampled. And, of course, always welcome feline communication insights, and certainly don't mind providing yet another excuse for friends to post random cute cat anecdotes.)

dglenn: Cartoon of me playing electric guitar (debtoon)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 04:10pm on 2007-04-01 under , ,

I wonder what my body's rate of hair growth is in grams/day.

But no, my curiosity is not quite strong enough to impel me to perform the obvious experiment.

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:26am on 2007-03-31 under ,

From the Quotation of the day mailing list, 2005-07-06:

"You know what? It's a myth that electricity and water don't mix. They get along just fine." -- Singer Kris Demeanor, introducing the song Dinner Tonight from his concert CD, Party All Night.
(submitted to the mailing list by Mike Krawchuk)

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (cyhmn)

(Or: Physics Goes 'Twang')

I should be asleep. I'm not. Go figure. And I'm puzzled.

Pluck an open string, and you get the fundamental frequency of that string (i.e., that combination of length + mass + elasticity + tension). There are overtones present, but to a large extent what you've got is the vibration of one segment with nodes at the nut and the bridge. From what I remember of plugging a guitar into a sillyscope[1] years ago, the wave produced is overwhelmingly the fundamental with much smaller amplitude overtones crawling slowly along it (which means they're not exactly integer multiples of the fundamental, I guess -- izzat predicted by the model or a side effect of making strings out of real-world materials?), pretty much as the elemtary-school physics example suggests. And pretty much as we expect to hear, unless we pluck the string way down at one end (or select a pickup, or combination of pickups, placed where certain overtones are easier to detect) to add "twang" or "bite". For now let's only consider the "plucking in a normal place" situation.

And natural harmonics do the obvious thing for the very straightforward reasons one ought to expect. Lightly touch the string at its midpoint while plucking with the other hand, and you force a node at that point, which remains a node after your finger is withdrawn, resulting in what looks like a pair of standing waves, each half the length of the open string, one on each side of that midpoint node (it's one standing wave with a wavelength half the length of the open string, with a third node at the midpoint). Half the length, twice the frequency, and we hear the octave. All well and good. (Why the octave harmonic sounds "more pure" and more bell-like than the same note fretted, I'm not certain. And I don't recall whether that looked the same on the sillyscope as I'd expect from its sound.)

Here's what I'm having trouble picturing, and what I think I need want a strobelight (and maybe a fast motion picture camera (and maybe a sillyscope too, as long as I'm wishing)) for:

Pick up a bass guitar (my regular guitar is downstairs right now and I'm in bed, or I'd verify that this works on that as well; for now I'll limit myself to the electric bass because it's the current bed-instrument[2]) and play the octave harmonic on the G string. Then hammer on at the second fret. What do you hear?

What the simplistic model of plucked strings suggests I should hear is either the natural A (because hammering on disrupted the two-division standing wave, and the energy of the hammer-on got added to the kinetic energy already in the string but as though you'd just plucked it stopped at the second fret -- as is what happens if you hammer on at, say, the fourth fret) ... or I should hear the octave A (because hammering on didn't disrupt the node structure, just moved the nut-end node to the second fret, raising the pitch -- like what happens if you play an artificial harmonic and then slide). But neither of those is what I hear.

I hear both notes: the A that I would hear playing normally at the second fret, and the A that I woud hear at the fourteenth fret. It sounds very much like two strings an octave apart playing together, but (hold on while I repeat the experiment with my thumb muting the A string to be sure I'm not just hearing a sympathetic vibration) but it's all coming from the one string.

Okay, thinking numerically I can understand this as a fundamental and an overtone of approximately equal strength, and expect that on the sillyscope I would see a shape very close to f(x)=sin(x)+sin(2x) if I ignore the wee ripples of higher order overtones. Which is also what I'd expect to see (but messier) if it were two strings played together. And thinking logically, it makes sense that if overtones can exist at all -- and I've seen 'em on the sillyscope so I know that's the math I'm hearing when I hear them -- then having a really loud overtone is merely a difference in magnitude, not a fundamentally[3] different phenomenon.

But what's got my three-in-the-morning brain (it took me a while to type this) confusled[4] is that I want to think visually here, so I keep trying to picture this as a standing wave, and I can't figure out what f'ed up shape that wave would have to be to work.

Am I just not seeing the right shape, or am I approaching the problem completely wrong in the first place? Is it a standing wave, or just a travelling wave (a*sin(b*x)+a'*sin(2*b*x)) bouncing back and forth like the jumprope tied to a fencepost in the elementary-school demonstration?

And that's why I want a strobelight. And maybe a high speed motion picture camera. At a quarter to four in the morning. I, ah, don't suppose anyone reading this knows the answer off the top of your head or knows what search terms to fling at Google or Wikipedia to zoom in on this narrow subtopic without wading through three or four reams of stuff I already know plus ten times as much background I don't know with lots of math to chew on to get to it? What the hell is happening in my G string?[5]

I'm not sure what happens if there are no frets. I'll check that tomorrow.[6]


[1] Oscilloscope. Not to be confused with an osculascope, which I've never heard of but am having a great deal of fun trying to imagine.[7]

[2] Well, at the moment I've only got two[8] bed instruments (sometimes I have just one), but when I've been doing a lot of composing and haven't gotten around to putting any of my toys away, I occasionally wind up with two instruments beside the bed and three or four more in bed with me. Anyhow, I gotta have at least one instrument -- usually a solid-body electric guitar or bass -- close at hand in case a) a nifty tune idea pops into my head, b) I just get a "must play guitar now" craving, c) I can't sleep and want to play myself a lullaby (or distract myself from the frustration of not being able to fall asleep), or d) wake up not feeling well enough to wander downstairs for an instrument, but feeling that I should practice. Oh, or e) I bump into sheet music while surfing the web and want to hear how it sounds. And yes, yes, I've occasionally woken up curled around my guitar as though it were a teddy bear, and yes, I've already been teased about it.

[3] Sorry[9]. Couldn't resist.

[4] Not entirely certain how that wants to be spelled, but that's the spelling that makes the most sense to me. Pronounced "con-f(y)ooz-'ld" or "con-fooz-əld". Hey, anyone know the etymology of that? Is it something conscious like a portmaneau of "confused" and "puzzled", or nothing more than a deliberately too-cutesy-by-half version of "confused" that just happens to be really fun to say?

[5] Y'all were really hoping I'd get around to leaving you an opening like that, weren't you? C'mon, admit it. And yeah, I was tempted to make that the subject header for this entry, but that would've made it too easy.

[6] The double bass is too big for the bed. It doesn't get a turn as a bed instrument. (The mandolin, on the other hand, gets extra time on the bed because it takes up so little room even though I almost never play it on stage.)

[7] Not the first time I've entertained myself with such musing/imagining over the years. It's just a fun word to contemplate possible meanings/implementations of. Though I expect that inventing such a device would be even more up [livejournal.com profile] madbodger's alley.

[8] The other is this double-whistle thang, with three holes for the left hand and four for the right, that I should probably put in the woodwinds rifle-case and take to 3LF sometime )though I can't do much with it yet).

[9] But not quite sorry enough to go back and edit it, obviously. Deal.

dglenn: Me in poufy shirt, kilt, and Darth Vader mask, playing a bouzouki (vader)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 06:20pm on 2007-03-14 under ,

Huh. According to Wikipedia, a human skydiver can actually go as fast as a Peregrine falcon. I'd thought our terminal velocity in our most streamlined position was slower than that. Interesting. Not likely to ever be useful information for me, but still interesting.

Has something I'm allergic to already started blooming really aggressively, or am I coming down with a nasty bug? (And the fibro pain is being especially bad. Breakfast today was determined not by what I felt like eating nor what I thought I ought to eat for good nutritional balance, but entirely based on what was high enough in the fridge for me to reach without bending over.)

This morning's poll generated some results I found surprising, but the whole point was to find out whether there would be such surprises, so that makes it a successful experiment. It would be interesting to try again with a more random sample set. It would also be interesting to see how much slight changes in phrasing change the results (my guess is that in at least some sample populations the effect would be large).

Some of the comments got me thinking about the problem of certifying/licensing scales for commercial use in locations well away from the Earth's surface. And whether there are any scales certified for commercial use in mobile applications. (Measuring accurately with a moving vehicle would be problematic, of course, but I'm thinking of "set up shop here on Tuesdays, there on Thursdays, and at a different event each weekend" situations.) Do they require use of a balance scale, or just certify a spring scale as "close enough as long as you don't go more than ______ miles from where we certified it"? The answer to the mobile applications question is probably on the web, once the curiosity itch gets strong enough to motivate me to search for it. The off-planet problem probably won't be addressed, except by science fiction authors, until/unless space travel becomes commonplace enough that retail commerce starts being conducted up/out there. (Again, a balance scale seems to make the most sense to me, but I can see some bureaucrat mandating different package labelling for products intedended to be sold on the moon, and American space travellers having to memorize a list of different lb<->kg conversion factors (or recipe adjustments) for the various places they go, instead of just making it simple and using mass, just so stuff can still be sold 'by weight'.)

Physics for pessimists:

"There is no gravity, the Earth just sucks."

"Man, everything sucks, not just Earth. F=(Gm1m2)/r2, y'know."

"Feh. It might as well be gravity."

[ETA: It occurs to me that that might be a good starting place for explaining the difference between weight and mass (to pessimists): mass is how much something sucks; weight is how much the thing is being sucked on ...]

dglenn: Me in poufy shirt, kilt, and Darth Vader mask, playing a bouzouki (vader)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 06:50am on 2007-03-14 under

No, this isn't a sneaky relativity thing in honour of Einstein's birthday; just something that a random conversation got me wondering how other people think about. Assume v is a negligible faction of c if you're worried about that.

[Poll #946358] And a couple more questions that might give the first one away... )

I'm mostly just curious about the ways various people think about Units Of Stuff-ness ... though obviously I couldn't resist throwing in a wee dollop of goofiness.

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:26am on 2007-02-27 under , ,

"I don't see real science as a threat to faith, in fact quite the opposite. I see ID as a threat to faith. When you point to the gaps in our knowledge and say 'God is there.' you run the very real risk of constantly shrinking the space where God is, and that's a very dangerous prospect." -- [livejournal.com profile] jason0x21, 2007-02-13 (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] selki for pointing it out)

dglenn: Cartoon of me playing electric guitar (debtoon)

They say that it is good to learn at least one new thing each day. Yesterday I learned that rush hour traffic exists (on I95 and the Capitol Beltway) on Saturdays. (Non, je ne comprends pas ... [how do you say 'either'?])

Today I learned that if you screw up badly enough, you can get Cheddar cheese to burn with a visible flame (yellow, by the way), instead of just quietly turning black and smoking. Surprisingly, breakfast was still rather tasty ... but unsurprisingly, the house now smells funny. (Sorry, B.)


The thing about falling snow is that even at its absofuckinglutely most annoying, it's still pretty. (The same cannot be said for already-fallen snow, as one of its more annoying modes occurs when it's all dingy and ooky-looking. *shrug*)


Cursed be those who use rare or nonstandard screw threads on things for which users will need to obtain large numbers of screws later. Fie on them! *ptui*


Apparently my bass is only too quiet when [livejournal.com profile] maugorn is present. Other times I'm told it's too loud. (The word I got last night was that the bass parts sounded really cool, but I drowned out the bouzouki and the drum. Whoops. In other news, the fingertips of my left hand are really sore now, after spending a big chunk of Friday night on bass guitar and the second half of last night's gig on double bass. (The marathon strip-the-willow set felt like it was going to kill my arm and/or a few of the dancers, who were having too much fun to stop dancing even as one of them later said he was trying to remember the location of the nearest hospital in case he danced himself into a heart attack.)


Related to the preceeding item, I've realized that completely filled mixers make me nervous, even when the mixer is filled simply because it's exactly the size we need. (And brand new, so having a channel suddenly die on us was unlikely.) I just get unreasonably twitchy knowing that there's no room left to plug in anything else. It worked out just fine (except for not turning up the drum and bouzouki when I started tugging at the bass); the 'problem' is a personal mental one.


I need more comfortable dressy flat shoes. The ones I wear to visit Mom and for coat-and-tie gigs (last night was coat-and-tie-and-kilt) are nowhere near as comfortable as my pumps, my medieval/Celtic shoes, or even my winter boots. I probably shouldn't wear shoes that make my feet hurt; I've got a surplus of physical pain in my life already.

Not that I'm likely to get around to doing anything about that until/unless I start needing to wear those shoes significantly more often than I do now.


And more 'news' than 'observation': I think Perrine has forgiven me for Friday. She was mad at me all of Saturday. But since what she was annoyed about was my having left her alone for so long and feeding her really, really, really late, she couldn't express her anger by snubbing me -- she needed her togetherness fix. So she sat on my hip in bed, and later curled up by my ankles, but glowered at me whenever we were both awake, and refused to take treats from me. Today she seems her normal self, even wanting to play a while before breakfast (despite having given me the "I'm hungry" signal as I woke up). Playing "pounce on the disappearing string" with her as I was falling asleep last night may have helped. (I poked a scrap piece of rawhide lace out from under the blanket and slowly reeled it back in, giving her a chance to pounce and grab it as it disappeared, thrusting her paws under the blanket to catch it. Perrine likes that game.)

So my cat was mad at me, but she couldn't punish me by ignoring me without making herself more unhappy. (Fortunately she did not reach the peeing-on-things level of feline annoyance.)

Let's see -- I left the house last Sunday and returned home on Wednesday. Then I dared to leave the house again on Thursday -- only for a couple of hours to get my guitar picks (er ... fingernails) repaired and shop (unsuccessfully) for screws (fie, I say!), but she didn't know that as I was leaving. Friday evening I went to [livejournal.com profile] silmaril's birthday party and stayed late, including the aforementioned missed feeding, and yesterday I bustled about clearly preparing to leave the house yet again. And Perrine hates it when I leave. (Yes, my cat is a bit clingy. When I first got her, she followed me around from room to room for several days straight, waking up to follow me if I stood up while she was sleeping. Abandonment issues? She was wearing a collar but starving to death when I found her on my back porch.)

What she'd do if I had a regular job, I do not know. Every time I take a shower, she tries to pin me to the bed with her cat-gravity before I can put clothes on, and gets all "I need to be Petted and Scritched a WHOLE LOT, Right NOW", because she knows that showering and getting dressed usually means Leaving The House, which she doesn't want me to do. This doesn't usually stop me, of course. It just makes me wish she coped better with my going away every so often, as most humans have to do.


And since I've mentioned cat gravity, I've been pondering a slightly different explanation than the one put forth by Robin Wood. I'm thinking that super-heroes are, in gravitic terms, anti-cats. That is, we often see super-heroes (and super-villains) performing feats that require not only the great strength so many super-heroes are known for, but also incredible inertial mass. No matter how strong you are, if you mass ten slugs (~300# on Earth) and get smacked by an automobile massing a dozen times as much (a couple of tons) going thirty or forty miles per hour, well regardless of how strong (and indestructible) you are, you're going to be accelerated ("flung" might be a better word) far more than the car will be slowed by hitting you. To stop the car, you'll need womdigious amounts of friction between you're colourful boots and the pavement (and crouch to line up the force vectors just right so that you don't just get knocked over or lifted into the air), or an inertial mass close to or exceeding that of the vehicle.

(Superman, and other super-heroes who can fly via unexplained propulsion or by gadgetry (so this would include Iron Man, but not Storm[*] or Angel) could be argued not to be constrained by this analysis, as they could counter the force of impact with whatever propulsive force enables them to fly. So we'll have to look for other evidence to determine whether Mr. Kent (and possibly Mr. Stark's powered armour) are similarly anti-feline[**].)

But these same super-heroes are often seen walking or standing on surfaces that would not be able to withstand the pressure of that much weight over the area of the soles of their shoes, and when they climb into an automobile we do not see the suspension bottom out (with the exception of a few individuals already known to be unusually heavy, such as The Blob). Therefore their gravitational mass must be much less than their inertial mass, precisely the opposite of the effect observed in cats!

(Again, those with the power of mysteriously-propelled flight are not covered in this argument, as they could counter their weight by "flying" at zero altitude. But here, Mr. Stark's boot-jets would not exempt him.)

Therefore, assuming that the different kinds of mass must add up to the same quantity over a large area, we should be able to predict approximately how many super-heroes -- at least of the non-flying variety -- there are, by counting up the feline population and measuring the average difference between feline inertial mass and feline gravitational mass and estimating the difference between inertial and gravitational masses of typical super-heroes. Once we determine how many cats are needed to cancel out one super-hero, we can estimate how many still un-heard-of super-powered individuals are waiting to come out of the closet er ... phone booth.

Hmm. This suggests that spay-and-neuter campaigns have the side effect of reducing the number of super-heroes and super-villains being born[***]. But that may not be a bad thing -- have you noticed how much of a mess super-battles tend to make? Cats can do a hell of a lot of damage to furniture and carpets and anything that can be knocked off a table, but how many cats would it take to smash as many cars as a typical encounter between Mr. Parker and Dr. Octavius?


In the future, we should also calculate the energy expenditures of super-heroes and figure out how much time they would need to spend eating in order to have that many calories of metabolic energy available to them. Anybody feel like tackling that one?


[*] Of course, Storm could summon a perfectly-timed tornado-force gust of wind -- more of a microburst -- to stop the speeding car, but that's a different sort of maneuver.

[**] What's the best word to use for this concept, "anti-feline", "contra-feline", "counter-feline", or something else? "Felinverse"?

[***] Or created through exposure to meteorites, freak chemical accidents, irradiation, or arachnid bites.

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:26am on 2007-02-08 under ,

«La science, mon garçon, est faite d'erreurs, mais d'erreurs qu'il est bon de commettre, car elles mènent peu à peu à la vérité.» -- le professeur Otto Lidenbrock, dans le roman Voyage au Centre de la Terre, par Jules Verne

"Science, my lad, is made up of mistakes, but they are mistakes which it is useful to make, because they lead little by little to the truth." -- Professor Otto Liedenbrock, in the novel Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, translated by Frederick Amadeus Malleson

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:26am on 2006-12-14 under , ,

"But the universe doesn't care what we can or cannot believe. It doesn't speak our language, so there's no reason it should 'make sense.'

"That's why science depends on evidence."

-- K.C. Cole, "Weird Science: Why editors must dare to be dumb", Columbia Journalism Review, July/August 2006 (thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tdj for pointing it out)

dglenn: Me in kilt and poofy shirt, facing away, playing acoustic guitar behind head (Default)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 05:26am on 2006-11-22 under ,

"The difference between a black hole and a supernova is simple. A supernova goes BOOM! A black hole goes !MOOB" -- [livejournal.com profile] filkerdave's elder son, 2006-11-19

dglenn: Me in poufy shirt, kilt, and Darth Vader mask, playing a bouzouki (vader)
posted by [personal profile] dglenn at 04:32pm on 2006-07-29 under ,

"Researchers from Columbia University Medical Center have discovered a protein in nerve cells that acts as a switch for chronic pain, and have applied for a patent to develop a new class of drugs that will block chronic pain by turning this switch off." (Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] tdj for pointing out the story/link.)

Dayum. If that works, and is safe, and works on me, and is available to me, it'll be radically life-changing. I wonder how many years I'll have to wait to find out whether they're able to make this discovery useful, and (if so) how much longer after that before the treatment actually starts being applied in the field instead of in the lab. Could it possibly get here in time for me to start earning a living again before I get "too old for anyone to want to hire"?

Hurry up, science! Gimme!

"We're very optimistic that this discovery and our continued research will ultimately lead to a novel approach to pain relief for the millions suffering from chronic pain."

Also, in the section on the problems with existing drugs, they mention that Tylenol is "ineffective for chronic pain". And here I thought it was just my funky body chemistry. (So why is Vicoprofen -- hydrocodone plus ibuprofen -- so much harder to find than Vicodin -- hydrocodone plus Tylenol -- if Tylenol is known to be ineffective for a whole category of patients bad enough off to need opiates? For me, Vicodin, Percoset, and codeine work a whole lot better if I take 0.8g or 1g of ibuprofen with 'em.)

In the much shorter term, I'm still hoping for time-release tramadol (Ultram) to make it more likely that I'll stay asleep more than four hours at a time. (That's about how long tramadol works for me.)

But for the long view ... a way to just switch off chronic pain would be such a win.

It's not clear from the press release whether a single treatment using this approach turns the switch off so that it stays off, or they're just talking about a much more effective drug for temporary relief.

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