Christopher Merle

Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be, but first I need more coffee.

Month: March 2008

Orbital Anomalies

First there was the Pioneer anomaly and then came the Flyby anomaly. Are they related? And now I’m reading the history of Planet X. Mike Brown, the astronomer whose discovery of Eris led to the demotion of Pluto, has a blog post entitled: Planet X uncovered (again?). As I was reading it, I had a thought is it possible the observed anomalies of Kuiper belt objects related?

My ignorance of orbital mechanics, Newtonian and Einsteinian physics is pretty profound, so my speculation here is very crude and there may be no connection with any of these. Astronomers can measure changes in velocity pretty accurately and compare them against what theory predicts. The problem is there are very very tiny differences between what is predicted and what was measured. The scientists don’t know if there are errors in their calculations or measurements or more importantly maybe there is some new physics at work.

They’ve repeated these calculations and measurements enough to go “hmm… there may be something else here.” If none of these anomalies are related and they are real, that would imply three new area of physics. If they are related then that would certainly simplify things and add more evidence to that ‘hmmm…’ thing.

I have one more question. Dark matter is still a major mystery but astronomers can detect it’s effects on a macro scale (galactic). Could it be there is a property of dark matter on a micro scale (solar system) that is the root cause of these anomalies? Again these may be totally unrelated and my understanding of astrophysics is pretty abysmal but it might be worth looking into.

—I ought to expand on this post—

Pycon 2008 Part I

While it’s still fresh in my mind I should go ahead and write up my Pycon 2008 report. I’ll flesh it out as time permits or add new parts. Overall I had a good time and it was worth it for me, but the event was not without it’s problems. I’ll have more positive things to say in Part II.

This is my third Pycon. I attended 2006 and 2007 in Dallas. I’m glad I listened to the latest TWID podcast while waiting for my plane to board from St. Louis. I couldn’t get a direct flight from Tulsa there, but did back. The one thing that stuck in my mind was 1000 people were signed up. There were 600 in 2007 and 400 in 2006. They said there were that many signed up for just the tutorials alone.

Thursday I got to the hotel checked in, called my cousin and then went downstairs to help stuff bags while waiting for him to get off work. I met a guy from LexisNexis and we worked out a great system for stacking the paper that was going to be stuffed in the bags which got changed to what was a less efficient system. Anyway there was a lot of people helping to stuff the goodies bags. My cousin Gary showed up and we went out to dinner with his family.

We went to a great Chinese restaurant called Yue’s in Elk Grove Village. I hadn’t seen them in person in almost 11 years though I keep in touch with him via email. Anyway, I got back to the hotel and had a beer in the bar and got my first shock. It was $6. I soon discovered at the hotel you were a captive audience. I’m glad most of the food was covered by registration because everything was overpriced. The room rate was reasonable though. The nearest place you could walk to was the convention center and other hotels. Even the ‘L’ was 3/4 of a mile away. I thought Dallas was pedestrian unfriendly, but Rosemont, IL has it beat. At least you could’ve walked a 1/4 mile from the hotel in Dallas and found a half dozen nice restaurants.

My first clue that things did not go well was I overheard some people talking on the shuttle bus back to the airport. They were talking about how lightning talks were sold to the sponsors as were keynote slots. I had noticed that there was a lower percentage of good lightning talks and panels than from last year. I realize that Pycon is run by all volunteers and what right do I have to complain when they are doing the best they can. Then I checked Planet Python and there was mention of Bruce Eckel’s rant.

I didn’t even know he was there. Bruce wasn’t even listed in the speakers list. I saw his name on the open space boards downstairs. I’m familiar with Eckel’s Thinking In Java. I thought that was cool. I thought I saw him chatting with someone. I was curious why he was there. Go see his blog to find out. He had some valid points in his post, but I thought he was being overly harsh. His major complaint was that it had become too commercial. Maybe it had. It really didn’t seem more commercial than it was last year. It was and it didn’t really bother me that much. But after reading the rant that it was the reason why the panels and the lightning talks weren’t as good.

One of reasons I go to Pycon is to meet other programmers. I also go to learn about cool things you can do with python. The keynotes this year weren’t as good as they were last year.

I’ll say this for all those who complained and this goes for me to. Help to make Pycon better next year. It doesn’t have to be much. There are a lot of people in the community. I had a good time helping to stuff the bags for the attendees and I wouldn’t mind doing that next year. More later.

Mountain Top Removal and The Disney Imagineers

I think I’ve found a solution to mountain top removal that is as green as clean coal and American as apple pie. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. After the coal mining company blows off the top of a mountain and scrapes all the coal out, Disney could set to designing and building new mountain tops. Anyone can build a mountain out of papier-mâché and chicken wire, but only Disney Imagineers can build a scale model of a mountain. The government would of course have to give a no bid contract to Disney who then in turn can hire all the displaced coalminers to build new mountains to replace the old ones.

They wouldn’t need to import rock from China because it’s in situ. They wouldn’t need to hire illegal immigrants because they have the equivalent of third world workers in situ. They could revive the steel industry so they can build the mountain frames. It’s a win win situation for everyone.

—I ought to expand on this—

Re: Food Miles

So what should our priority be on the food we eat? It should be tasty and nutritious. But as Michael Pollan says in his latest book, In Defense of Food, we should:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

That, more or less, is the short answer to the supposedly incredibly complicated and confusing question of what we humans should eat in order to be maximally healthy.

I started to think we hear all these terms: organic, fair trade, food miles, and sustainable. What do we make of it? It’s unfortunate that most Americans obsess on food as medicine. I know I do. We know obesity is a growing problem and has created many many health problems. The lead culprit is high fructose corn syrup along with the over-processed foods that we eat everyday.

What should our food source priority be? I’ll rank them. sustainable, local, fair trade, and organic. Our food source should be sustainable. It shouldn’t deplete the land for this generation or the next. Our food should be local. This reduces the food miles and thus reducing the amount of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming. It should be fair trade. The food we buy should be mutually beneficial for both the farmer and consumer. The farmer and those in their employ should be able to make an living wage. Finally, the food should be organic. Produced with the least amount of artificial pesticides and fertilizers.

Some food cannot be produced locally: chocolate and coffee for two examples. By reducing the miles that our other foods have to travel we can make sure that what fossil fuels are used are to a minimum. Because I really really don’t want to do without my coffee and chocolate.

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