Screaming Into The Abyss

Ragweed Sucks
By Ben Zvan
On August 26, 2008 at 09:10

The ragweed has bloomed and my allergies have created an unfriendly sleeping environment. Talk about an argument against intelligent design... If we were still a hunter/gatherer society, I'd be headed for the genetic trash heap. Here's a fun video from Neil deGrasse Tyson.

And Greg Laden has a post on what you should do if you're a life sciences teacher and have kids wanting to violate the first ammendment.

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Danica McKellar Writes Again
By Ben Zvan
On August 14, 2008 at 08:44

Winnie gone wild!Do you remember Winnie Cooper from The Wonder Years? If you're male and about my age, there's a 50% chance you had a crush on her in the 80s. There's also a chance you have kids by now. If you do have a daughter (or a really young girlfriend) and she's old enough to be learning fractions or starting pre-algebra and (this is the tough one for my crowd) likes teen magazines, then Winnie Cooper has a book for you. Make that two.

After The Wonder Years, Danica McKellar took some time off to get a BS in mathematics (suma cum laude even) from UCLA. She's continued with acting in shows like The West Wing and How I Met Your Mother, but she's also done something to help the girls of the world get comfortable with math.

Kiss My Math!Last year, she released Math Doesn't Suck. This is the first book, to my knowledge, that is targeted directly toward middle-school girls who are having a hard time coming to grips with not only who they are, but what math has to do with them. This year, she released Kiss My Math, aimed at slightly older girls going into pre-algebra. Now I have to admit that I haven't read this book, or Teen Magazine, or Elle Girl, and there's a fair chance I won't but, from what I've heard, she has done an excellent job engaging young girls and even young boys in everyday math.

Her message is pretty simple and is a little beyond the title. Sure, her message starts with "math doesn't suck", but she also covers "you use math every day" and "you don't have to dumb yourself down to make boys feel good about themselves." And honestly, if a young girls role in life is anything, isn't it making boys feel good about themselves?

Yeah, That Winnie CooperBut seriously, the books are aimed at an age group where kids are just starting to look at the opposite sex as fun rather than icky. Since boys are clueless, girls will often use a tactic of making boys feel good around them to subliminally gain favor with the boys. One common way is to ask question, about math or whatever else, that they already know the answer to in order to make a boy get that "alpha" feeling. Danica's point on this is that, if you're going to ask a boy a question, make it one you don't know the answer to and make that boy work for the answer, that way, he'll feel even better about coming up with an answer and he'll feel even better about you because you didn't ask a stupid question.

More along the lines of math, she asks practical questions like "if that prada purse is $64.00 but it's on sale for 30% off, how much does it cost?" This gets to the root of societal feers about math. We use it every day to make change, make sure we have enough cash in our savings accounts, and make sure the government is getting their fair share. You're already used to using math, how can you be afraid of it?

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Footsoldiers for Skynet?
By Ben Zvan
On August 08, 2008 at 14:15

Ever since the first Terminator movie predicted the rise of the machines, some of us have been awaiting our robot overlords. Now that the UK has finished launching Skynet (what were they thinking?) our robotic conquest may not be too far off.

Of course, Skynet is going to need a lot of infrastructure to collect data. It's got sattleites in place and it's got millions of webcams to tap into, but what about areas that aren't always online? Many companies don't have a CCTV network like the UK has. There's also the question of learning about and interpereting the actions of all those pesky humans that escaped the first wave of nukes. Enter more Britts with the Hexapod Emotional Spider Robot.

The programmers have created a system for tracking faces, interpereting emotional content, and reacting to that content. This thing is already advanced enough to be on exhibit at a science museum and it's just a little really quite freaky. Check out this video of it on display at the London Science Museum.

And to think people are giving them weapons too!

-- via io9

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Ask a Synesthete
By Ben Zvan
On August 05, 2008 at 16:54

Annalee over at io9 linked to an article in New Scientist about an accidental discovery of a screen saver as a test for synesthesia. Since one of the commenters is a color/shape synesthete, we had a unique opportunity to ask some interesting questions.


Do you see a random string of numbers? A synesthete may not.


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Fox Testicles for Desert?
By Ben Zvan
On August 05, 2008 at 11:05

There's a Turkish desert known as "stretchy ice cream" that behaves much like a tank of cornstarch-laden water, only it's frozen and sweet. One of the ingredients is colloquially known as "fox testicles". has video from a meeting of the Experimental Cuisine Collective where they discussed this phenomenon.

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Science You Should Know About
By Ben Zvan
On July 21, 2008 at 10:14

The world's first tidal-electric turbine has been connected to the Irish power grid. Powering 150 homes during the break-in period and 1500 once it's up to full capacity, this is a small step toward true renewable energy production. As an added bonus, the turbines rotate at 10-15 rpm so they're unlikely to cause "problems" with sea life.

The idea of a space elevator has fascinated scientists and the space-aware for many years, even though the possibility of a cable strong enough is incredibly unlikely. Turns out there's an annual space elevator conference and they have a blog so you can keep up on the progress.

I've always been annoyed at the artificial shutter sound made by my digital camera. The first thing I did with my new SLR when I took it out of the box was disable the focus beep. This article told me why those are there and why they can't be disabled in Japan.

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A Piece of Pi
By Ben Zvan
On June 24, 2008 at 10:57

I was listening to someone talking about why mathematicians are so obsessed with pi the other day. They broke it down to what I thought was a fairly simple explanation. Pi is an infinitely complex, seemingly random, never-ending number, and it describes the ratio between the circumference of a circle and its diameter. Since a circle is one of the simplest shapes and pi is one of the most complex numbers, they feel that the complexity of pi must contain the hidden secrets to the simplicity of the universe.

I say that the square root of two is getting a bum rap here. If you measure diagonally, point-to-point across a square, and divide that "diameter" by the length of one side of the square, you get the square root of two. This is an infinitely complex, seemingly random, never-ending number that describes one of the simplest shapes known, and I've never heard of someone calculating the sqare root of two to billions of decimal places.

Don't even get me started on e...

Update:  The square root of 2 was recently calculated to 1,000,082 digits. Still not billions, but quite impressive.

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New Pictures 8: Sarah Jones
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
04/18/2013—02/02/2014 - Free

31 Years: Gifts from Martin Weinstein
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
11/02/2013—08/31/2014 - Free

New Pictures 9: Rinko Kawauchi
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
02/20/2014—08/10/2014 - Free

Finland: Designed Environments
Minneapolis Institue of Arts
05/10/2014—08/17/2014 - Free


Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
at State Theatre
06/21/2014 \ Doors 8:00pm


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