Archive for January, 2007

Rest in Peace Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Monica’s landlord, who lives above her, euthanized his dog today after the onset of some very painful bone cancer. Grizzly was 10.  I only knew him in his last year, sitting on the doorstep barking at distant pedestrians and greeting arrivals, happy to be minding that spot in even the coldest weather.  He seemed to have few other cares in the world.  He will be greatly missed.

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The Earth Continues to Rotate!

EarthBoingBoing had a post referencing a Smithsonian Magazine article about a sundial maker. The article is somewhat interesting in total but what really caught my attention was the mention of the International Earth Rotation Service [Wikipedia] in Paris. Who knew the Parisians were providing such a valuable service!?  No wonder they can get a bit snobby. Not a day passes in which I don’t appreciate their services.

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Sunny Kauai and Icy Ann Arbor Pictures

Kaui ocean and ridgeThey went up at least a week ago, but just for the record, I have uploaded my pictures from Kauai. Captions are still not complete and I think I still need to upload three panoramas I stiched together. My parents, sister, and I spent five days on the island betwen Christmas and New Years. It was a very nice trip. Trips like that could always be longer, but I think we got to do all the major things we wanted to do,

  • One day on the north shore all the way to the edge of the Na Pali coast
  • One day visiting Waimea canyon (the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”) and short hike around the upper edge of Kalalau Valley
  • One day at the National Botanical Gardens and a trip to the beach
  • One day touring a monestary with incredibly beautiful grounds and a short trip to a beach
  • One day snorkeling at a beach on the southern shore
  • Lots of Mahi Mahi and Portugese baked goods

On the opposite end of the weather spectrum… we had some freezing rain that coated all of Ann Arbor in ice a few days ago, and I have uploaded some pictures. It was followed by a tiny dusting of snow. This doesn’t happen too often, and it’s exciting when it does. The weather got even colder the next day as the sky cleared so we were treated to a couple days of sparkling trees, they almost looked metallic. By now most of the ice is gone, but it’s snowing again. Snow is the one thing we haven’t seen much of this year.

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12-hour clocks

24-hour watchYesterday Jeremy and I were wondering why clocks go around twice per day. What’s wrong with once per day?  It turns out a partial answer is as easy as checking Wikipedia’s 12-hour clock article. Splitting the day into two periods is actually very natural, day and night. This dates back to ancient Egypt as does the division into twelve units. The major problem, though, is that the hours have to be of variable length. The Romans would have none of that and things got a little more regular from then on. Interestingly, “the first mechanical clocks in the 14th century, if they had dials at all, showed all 24 hours.” But, “during the 15th and 16th centuries, the 12 hour analog dial and time system, with its simpler and more economical construction, gradually became established as standard throughout Northern Europe for general public use.” This might be getting to the heart of our question, but I’m still confused, why does a 12-hour dial have “simpler and more economical construction?” Gearing down by a factor of two can’t be very hard, so I’m left unsatisfied. One advantage of the 12-hour clock is an increase in precision if you only have an hour hand. It is not unreasonable since, as many sources such as this state, the minute hand wasn’t invented until 1577 by Jost Burgi. Thus the transition to 12-hour dials happened before the minute hand.

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Visualization

This is mega cool: The Periodic Table of Visualization Methods (found via BoingBoing). It shows many different ways of visualizing data from Tukey box plots to Infomurals. The very nice examples pop up as you roll over the table. Oh, beautiful informational graphics, why do I love you so? If you love graphics in all their glorious permuations as much as I do, you need to run to your nearest book lending/selling establishment and check out Eduard Tufte’s work. I thought I owned two of his three most significant books, but I recently discovered that he has produced a fourth one, and now I’m really behind!

Log Animals page from Tufte book

By the way, on his web site Tufte lays some minor smack down on the iPhone for, of all things, the way it displays the time (scroll nearly to the bottom). The man doesn’t compromise when it comes to comas versus colons and I like that.

Speaking of Tufte, he was mentioned in passing in a course I’m taking this semester, Networks: Theory and Application. It’s not too surprising that his work came up considering how integral issues of visualization are to the study of networks. The course looks like it will be a lot of fun. It may not have much direct relevance to my research, but I’m excited about the material and the field seems to be a really popular one these days. The topic of networks is so hot it’s right up in everyone’s face(book) these days. The professor for my class even won a vote for Wired Sexy Geek of 2006, and I think the geek vote is just as much about the sexiness of the work as a pretty face. This brings me to the last juicy link of the day, for our first assignment in the Networks course we had to peruse VisualComplexity, which is a jolly good time. Check it out!

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ATLAS on BoingBoing

ATLAS cavern, C-side, 7 Jan 2007

My experiment, ATLAS, got a mention on BoingBoing recently. But, what they mention, the assembly and testing of the barrel torroid magnets is old news. The cavern is already a lot more crowded. You can keep up to date with the ATLAS web camera. On one end of the barrel you can see the scaffolding within the torroid which gives access to the muon chambers nestled throughout barrel toroid and the inner systems that are partially installed. The other end is covered by one layer of the muon endcaps, the thin gap chambers. One of the detector installation cameras is trained on the first few sectors of the endcap drift chambers, the ones I worked on, which are being assemled into a full, five-story high wheel. The sectors (pie slices) are assembled into “the big wheel” against the wall on the large blue hub which is the most prominent element of the view. Later, as a full unit, the wheel will move up against the end of the barrel. More details are on the ATLAS public page, including a very nice video.

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