Saturday, June 24, 2006

Not Even Wrong (String Theory)

A posting on Slashdot highlights an article on a book by Peter Woit who claims string theory is a “disaster for physics.”

But one thing they haven't done is coax a single prediction from their theory. In fact, “theory” is a misnomer, since unlike general relativity theory or quantum theory, string theory is not a concise set of solvable equations describing the behavior of the physical world. It's more of an idea or a framework.

Partly as a result, string theory “makes no new predictions that are testable by current—or even currently conceivable&mdashexperiments,” writes Prof. Smolin. “The few clean predictions it does make have already been made by other” theories.

Worse, the equations of string theory have myriad solutions, an extreme version of how the algebraic equation x2 = 4 has two solutions (2 and -2). The solutions arise from the fact that there are so many ways to “compactify” its extra dimensions—to roll them up so you get the three spatial dimensions of the real world. With more than 10 raised to 500th power (1 followed by 500 zeros) ways to compactify, there are that many possible universes.

“There is no good insight into which is more likely,” concedes physicist Michael Peskin of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

Friday, June 23, 2006

ATC Monitor

This is a cool air traffic control monitor site with radar and audio for Atlanta.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Summer Solstice

Happy summer solstice at Wednesday morning 21 June 8:26 EDT.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Linux Kernel 2.6.17

Slashdot announces that the Linux Kernel 2.6.17 has been released.

The interesting parts are the splice() system call and changes to the broadcom 43xx wifi driver. I believe (without checking) that this is the driver my Dell laptop uses. Maybe this will solve the problems I was having getting wifi to work on Ubuntu Dapper Drake!

More on Disconnect

I suppose the usage of the disconnect phrase (see below) can make sense if one is referring to a connection that existed previously that has broken. Then “there is a disconnect between…” works like “there is a broken wire between….

Windows VM

I found a pretty good link that describes the Task Manager display and virtual memory (VM) for Windows at DSL Reports.

The most important snippet is that Commit Charge is basically how much of the VM is not backed by a named file, e.g., an exe file. It's not exactly total VM but not exactly what is paged either. It's all of the committed memory that could be paged to the page file, i.e., charged to the page file.

So, if I understand this now, if the commit charge is larger than the available physical memory, then some of it is definitely paged!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Counterpoints on Global Warming

The argument continues

There is a Disconnect

When you think about it, the phrase “there is a disconnect between” is a strange way of putting forth the idea that a connection is missing. Essentially we are saying its negative is present, i.e., we 've joined these two by a disconnection. Weird.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Social Movie Tickets

From an article on Slashdot linking to CNN, here's one idea about the the near future.

This is a mock-up suggesting what could be.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


There's an article linked at Slashdot about FiOS FTTP (Fibre to the premises). It's similar (but with less detail) to a previous article by Dan Bricklin.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Wow! Cross-sections of the weather!

Article at

New images from a recently launched radar satellite show the promise of providing unprecedented views inside storms all around the globe.

NASA's new CloudSat satellite reveals never-before-seen details of both the clouds and precipitation within a storm, from the Earth's surface to 19 miles high.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

New Ubuntu Release

The new release Ubuntu 6.06 (Dapper Drake), has been released. It's interesting that they've split it into Destop and Server versions with an Alternate CD. Does this finally break the one-CD install? Well, sort of, but it's not a bad compromise. There's still just one CD needed for any particular install, but you have to choose from the set of three.

The built-in support (including being ready-to-go) for LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) is also excellent! LAMP is the common platform for web-based applications.

I'm also intrigued by Xubuntu. It's a simple X-Windows install based on Xfce so it doesn't have the overhead of Gnome (or KDE).

Frankly, I'll just take twm, please.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Old MAS Observatory

I came across this picture today of the old Museum of Arts and Sciences Observatory. The picture doesn't do the sizes of the telescopes justice. The blue and white telescope on the left is a very old Celestron 10-in. In the center is a Celestron 14-in on a permanent pier. In the back is a Celestron C8 8-in on a locked-triangle tripod. The C14 is taller than a normal person's head. The full-height door in the back gives some sense of scale.

My first summer in 1975 of working in the planetarium ``on my own'' I spent some time working on that C10. I'm not exactly sure what I did. I think I moved that pier back into the current location and mounted the telescope on it.

When the observatory was originally built, I think, the C10 and it's pier were mounted in the center where the C14 is now. So the C10 pier is not just sitting on the carpeted floor and isn't bolted down. The thing is so HEAVY that it is still quite stable.

If I'm right about all of that, and if it's still where it is in this picture, then the C10 has been in that spot since I moved it there in 1975, 31 years ago!

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Quote of the Day

“I had a friend who was a clown. When he died, all his friends went to the funeral in one car.”

—Steven Wright