30 March 2011

A couple ice-cold songs to warm you up

Both these songs have themes that aren't too cheery, but the music wouldn't give that away. One deals with the harsh dumping of a golddigger, and the other with a kid shooting up a school (or at least thinking about it). But the first will warm you up by virtue of getting you moving (I know I can't help but start to flail violently whenever I hear it), and that hot actin-on-myosin action will hopefully get your temperature and spirits up. And the second just has the sound of a summer night, the air thick but not oppressive. Both methods of warming are much appreciated here, since it's cruelly dipped back to freezing temperatures in New Hampshire after a brief taste of spring.


The other thing the songs happen to have in common is that while I enjoy each one greatly, I'm not really interested in the remainder of the artists' catalogs. For Fitz and the Tantrums (great name) the entire album seems to be about being spurned by women, and it only takes a couple of those before it just sounds whiny. For Foster the People, the rest of their stuff simply doesn't seem to be up to the quality of the song above. Of course, give both the artists a fair listen for yourself if you like their stuff above.

Hope you enjoy! :)

25 March 2011

Perspective, Part 2

Just came across this, and it seems like a perfect follow-up to the last post.

Having established how far away from the Earth our moon is, we now have a lovely point of reference for this video, which shows us how different planets in our system would look in our sky if they were the same distance away as our moon:


20 March 2011


To me, the most important thing that scientific inquiry gives us is a perspective of our place in the universe. I find myself drawn to fields within the sciences that give us a striking image of how we as individuals, a species, and a planet fit into the world at large; I enjoy biology, sociology, and astronomy, but can't get nearly as fired up about chemistry or mechanical physics, for example.

Of those, astronomy of course offers some of the most dramatic examples of scale and the biggest challenges to our human-centric impression of the universe. A lot of these are on such a huge scale that it's hard for us as mere apes to really understand the ramifications. However, I came across the video below the other day, and thought it was a nice example of a common misunderstanding of scale that's a little closer to home.

If you'll humor me, make a circle with one hand to represent the Earth and then use your thumbnail on your other hand as a stand-in for our moon. If your thumbnail is about 0.5 inches wide, then you should make your "Earth" about 2 inches from pole to pole. Now, hold your hands apart at a distance that you think accurately represents the distance from the Earth to the moon. If my math is correct* then you're on the money if you're holding your hands about four and a half feet apart. If you were way off, you're not alone, as the video below demonstrates:

You can just ignore the bits after about 1:20 in. The comparisons he starts to draw aren't really that clear or compelling, and as the folks in the comments have made aggressively clear, the bit in his slide where the light distance to the nearest star is multiplied by the number of stars in the galaxy is all sorts of wonky (first of all, it doesn't make any sense to multiply those two values, and secondly most current estimates of the number of stars in our galaxy lean toward 400 billion rather than 100 billion).

Misgivings about the end of the video aside, hopefully the distance he had to walk away (and the distance you had to hold your hands apart) helped your concept of distances in space, either by giving you a handy (lololololol) model for the distance if you were already aware of it, or by giving you one of those lovely little moments of sudden awareness if you weren't.

And if you're an easily entertained doofus like me who sent your thumbnail moon crashing into your Earth hand in a life-obliterating cataclysm, then you're welcome for the extra 30 seconds of apocalyptic fun.

*That can be quite an assumption given that my brain is allergic to numbers. But here's how I got it: moon's diameter ~2,160 miles, average distance from moon to Earth ~239,000 miles. If your thumbnail is 0.5 inches, then that's about 4,320 miles to the inch. So 239,000 miles divided by 4,320 miles/inch = 55.4 inches = 4.61 feet. Also, diameter of the Earth ~8,000 miles, so about 2 inches. That's a whole bunch of rounding, so the distance in inches is by no means exact, but a decent approximation, I think. If there's a problem with my values or arithmetic, please let me know.

16 March 2011

Minecraft is getting wolves/dogs; also, achievements

(Updates below the fold, including a video of the wolves in action.)

During GDC earlier this month, Notch, the lead developer of Minecraft, tweeted that he had promised a well-known developer that he would add dogs to the game. That tweet came a short time after another stating he had just met Peter Molyneaux (the guy behind the Fable games), and I'm inclined to think that it wasn't mere coincidence. My initial hope was that even if they were committed to adding dogs they would put it off in favor of other additions to the game, such as the "hardcore" option they've been talking about, wherein you'd need to eat to survive.

But a recent tweet from Jens Bergensten, another of the game's developers, strongly suggests that dogs and/or wolves will be added to the game fairly soon. The tweet included a link to a screenshot of the animals in-game (click for full size):

Read on for some more details on the dogs, what's been said about achievements, and my opinions on it all.

15 March 2011

The xx

I was in love with these guys as soon as I heard them. They're minimalism at its sultriest. Their songs are haunting and beautiful, and carry real emotional weight. And her voice melts me, basically. And of course this video in particular is pretty sweet. [And by "pretty sweet" I meant heartbreakingly beautiful.]

If you're wondering, the "The" is capitalized while neither of the "x"s are, and you pronounce both of them as the letter ("The ecks-ecks").

Link Post 2: The Rehashening, Part I - Webcomics

The content of my original list of links was written two years ago now, since it was borrowed from my Facebook proto-blagging. I've been introduced to StumbleUpon since then, so there are a lot more things I have to share. My original intent was to do a one-off like the first post, but trying to get everything in became unwieldy, so I decided to split it up into two parts, Webcomics and Everything Else. We'll start with the webcomics!

08 March 2011

I make faces

A promise is a promise (this one was made on Facebook), so here are a bunch of photos of me attempting to replicate meme faces: