Today’s Thoughts: Daddy’s Lab is at DEFCON 2

My beloved and sainted father (who is, as everyone knows, infinitely patient) is mere hours away from doing actual science. Don’t tell anyone – I’m sure they’ll think of (yet) something else to stop him.

After months of not having a lab at all, to cleaning out the nightmare (and doing laboratory archeology – Yea! Computer memory from the 1960’s!), to the never-ending construction (which makes a never-ending mess), to non-functional locks and uncooperative safety people, my beloved father and his students are now two-digit hours away from doing science.

That aside for a moment, I really had to think about the title of today’s post. Lots of bitches I know would have totally gone for “Hey, baby. Want to get some red hot furnace love?”

wpid-furnace-600c-2014-01-29-20-36.jpg

Yes, Daddy loves his furnace. He loves his new quartz sample holder even more. This picture was taken this very evening during characterization testing when the furnace reached a mere 600 degrees Centigrade (that’s almost 1300 degrees Fahrenheit). You can see the rails on which the sample travels and the half-round cross section of the sample holder itself. The bright lights going around the tube at the back are the heating elements.

During initial testing, this furnace went up to 1,200 degrees Centigrade (almost 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit). This ain’t no Easy Bake Oven, yo (in Yankee-speak)! It’s hot enough to scorch a snake’s ass in a wagon rut (as they apparently say “out West”). Since fused quartz doesn’t melt until it reaches ~2,000 degrees Centigrade, I think we’re safe (although when we hit 1,200 degrees, the temperature was still rising at a degree or two per second… we never did find the maximum).

Now that my beloved and sainted father has rebuilt it with new thermocouple wire, new housing, and modified insulation, we’re about ready to be cooking with GAS (in this case, nitrogen, and that’s not flammable; no oxygen in this furnace!). That means that he’s just one tiny (but critical) piece of equipment away from really doing something in there (something other than cleaning, setting up, fixing things that shouldn’t be broken, fighting with the safety people, ordering new equipment, organizing, cleaning again, fixing something ELSE THAT YOU WOULD NOT FREAKING BELIEVE IS BROKEN – AGAIN, the safety people said what?!?!, etc.). Perhaps something… scientific!

Hope springs eternal. Perhaps by early next week, some preliminary results will even find their way here… Until then, think upon this picture (same furnace, now at 720 degrees Centigrade):

wpid-furnace-720c-2014-01-29-20-36.jpg

Posted in Thoughts | 1 Comment

Today’s Thoughts: Books (and lots of them!)

Less than a year after moving to the South Plains, and desiring only to please his children and our mother, my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name!) bought us a new house. Yea! A YARD (and no rocks to hurt my pads)!! Yea!!! Good floors (we have LOTS of room to run and play!)!!!

Daddy did well (I suppose Mommy should get some credit – I think she picked it out). It’s here (on top of the palisaded plain – taken from the southeast):

wpid-caprock-web-2013-11-24-16-49.jpg

And after the recent weather (Thunder ice!), when you walked outside and looked left, it looked like this:

wpid-img_0473-2013-11-24-16-492.jpg

To the right:

wpid-img_0474-2013-11-24-16-492.jpg

And here is Mommy (with her poor foot and the ice scraper) coming out so that she and my beloved (and sainted!) father could go to Mass:

wpid-img_0477-2013-11-24-16-492.jpg

There was just a “bit” of ice (about 1/4-inch) on the windshield:

wpid-img_0478-2013-11-24-16-492.jpg

In any case, after we move, the books have to go back up. All of them. Since we knew we’d be moving from our rental to a house, we didn’t unpack all of the books there; so packing up wasn’t too bad (only about half…)…

Over the past two weeks, Daddy has been setting up his new library. Daddy’s library at home has room for 69 linear feet of books plus another 9 feet of antique books in glass. The pictures below show that we’re basically at capacity. Here are mostly non-technical books, along with Daddy’s library throne:

wpid-nontech-2013-11-24-16-49.jpg

Here be physics – and lots of it:

wpid-physics-web-2013-11-24-16-49.jpg

Astrophysics and math go here:

wpid-astro-math-web-2013-11-24-16-49.jpg

Yes, some shelves do not look 100% full – that’s intentional. There are books all over the place, and since my beloved and sainted father is being freed from his current assignment and moving to a different topic in the spring, books will shuffle some more. It’s pretty dang full as is…

In any case, since these shelves are so full, some sections had to spill over into Mommy’s office (another 34 feet) and into the bedroom (another 16 feet), and into the space that’s TBD (for “picture books” – about four feet) –– and all of this doesn’t include the four or five feet of books that will be donated to others (i.e., the yearly “Great Purge of the Library”).

That means that ignoring the books that are out (i.e., not put away), there are roughly 132 linear feet of books at home!!

Think about how much that weighs. There are roughly half paperback and half hardcover books (see the pictures); as an estimate, that’s close to 25 pounds per foot – for a whopping total of something close to 3,500 pounds of books! And this STILL ignores all of the books at my beloved father’s office…

Whew!

That means that all of the boxes had to come in, get opened, all of the books had to be put onto the floor in piles (so they could be organized), and then put up on shelves. The shelving process wasn’t trivial, either. As a shelf of books was ready, the height of the shelf had to be adjusted to accommodate that particular collection. Effectively, once sorted, the books had to be put on, taken off, and put back on again. Of course, there is ALWAYS shuffling later to accommodate other books and ensure that things remain organized…

During this process, my silly sister decided that she would try to learn something. Here she is in stage 1 of the process:

wpid-img_0996-2013-11-24-19-23.jpg

And here’s a closer look:

wpid-img_0993-2013-11-24-19-23.jpg

Midnight is in the middle of Computational Electrodynamics: The Finite-Difference Time-Domain Method (third edition) by Allen Taflove. It’s an excellent book – everyone should ready it!

You might notice some other books in these pictures:

  • The red books all stacked together are the (autographed) collection of the Michigan Spectral Catalog by Nancy Houk.
  • The blue books under the Michigan Spectral Catalog is the General Catalog of Variable Stars (GCVS) – the only reference source on all known variable stars. Now available electronically from their original source, these books were produced by the Institute of Astronomy of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Sternberg State Astronomical Institute of the Moscow State University.
  • Just in front of my sister and to your right (her left) are some thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, two of which (in that pile) were lovingly donated by our beloved Papi.

We’ll see how well the current arrangement lasts once the semester is over and books get switched out for the spring… Want to keep up with my beloved father’s teaching? Periodically check here.

These books aren’t the only things that are still finding their new homes. I think it will take a while for all of the boxes to vanish. The important stuff, however, is already out and progress is being made…

Posted in Thoughts | 1 Comment

Today’s Thoughts: What’s dangerous?

Yes, I know that I’m supposed to be talking about the end of my beloved and sainted father’s trip to Oz. Yes, I know that I’m late.

Those of you who regularly read this, please forgive me, but this must be said:

\begin{rant}

However, my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) is going to be giving a lecture in a Physics 5300 class (this one has to do with renewable energy). The lecture will be on nuclear power.

This is relevant, since my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) will be teaching an entire semester on radiological and nuclear physics (power, detection, weapon effects, and forensics) in the spring.

So… he was putting some graphics together today. Here is a plot of the number of world-wide radiological deaths (blue line) and radiological deaths and injuries (red line) plotted year by year along with the number of automobile accidents in each year (black line).

Pretty clear, right?

wpid-autovrn-2013-07-21-21-421.jpg

Go ahead. I’m sure you can see the red and blue lines… WAY at the bottom. To try to see it, we plotted this with a logarithmic y scale. Here it is:

wpid-autovrnlog-2013-07-21-21-421.jpg

Although there were radiological incidents as early as 1896, they don’t show up on this scale (the base 10 logarithm of zero isn’t defined). Look at this graph. Seriously LOOK AT IT. THINK ABOUT IT.

At some point, society started to associate nuclear power with nuclear weapons; we didn’t do the same thing for nuclear medicine – yet the vast majority of incidents are related to radiology overexposures and overdoses from cancer radiotherapy.

Before you ask, yes, this graph includes the effects of Chernobyl.

Nobody chants “NO ROADS, NO ROADS” to end the huge number of traffic fatalities we suffer in the U.S. (never mind what the entire world suffers) every year. There are no U.S. cities that proudly declare themselves to be “AUTOMOBILE FREE.”

People need to find their ears, hold one in each hand, and pull firmly. Nuclear power isn’t scary. It’s necessary. If we spent a fraction of the money that we currently spend on wind, solar, and hydro power (all of which are more expensive and worse for the environment – don’t believe me? Show up to my father’s class and learn something, dammit) on new, safe nuclear power, we’d all be better off.

\end{rant}

Stay tuned. More (even more delayed) news from Oz still to come…

Posted in Thoughts | 2 Comments

Thoughts: On Pain and Pain Scales

My beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) went to the doctor yesterday. We like this doctor; he’s kind, and he’s more than competent (a rare combination for a surgeon).

In any case, said doctor’s nurse asked how badly my poor father was hurting. I’m sure you have all been there. In some cases, there’s a little sign (without all the steps – usually just the even numbers) that looks like this:

wpid-previewscreensnapz001-2013-07-16-09-101.jpg

This doesn’t really cut it. If you’re in the doctor’s office because something hurts, why would you be smiling (Step #2)? A normal person’s interpretation of this scale might be as follows:

0: Haha! I’m not wearing any pants!

2: Awesome! Someone just offered me a free hot dog!

4: Huh. I never knew that about giraffes.

6: I’m sorry about your cat, but can we talk about something else now? I’m bored.

8: The ice cream I bought barely has any cookie dough chunks in it. This is not what I expected and I am disappointed.

10: You hurt my feelings and now I’m crying!

Clearly, this doesn’t make any sense.

Once again, however, the internet comes to save the day. I admit that I stole this completely (nobody would begrudge a Pekingese something like this when they’re looking after their beloved and sainted father, right?). Here is a revised pain scale with all the numbers filled in:

wpid-previewscreensnapz002-2013-07-16-09-101.jpg

Of course, this also needs interpretation:

0: Hi. I am not experiencing any pain at all. I don’t know why I’m even here.

1: I am completely unsure whether I am experiencing pain or itching or maybe I just have a bad taste in my mouth.

2: I probably just need a Band Aid.

3: This is distressing. I don’t want this to be happening to me at all.

4: My pain is not screwing around.

5: Why is this happening to me??

6: Ow. Okay, my pain is super legit now.

7: I see Death coming for me and I’m scared.

8: I am experiencing a disturbing amount of pain. I might actually be dying. Please help.

9: I am almost definitely dying.

10: I am actively being mauled by a bear.

11: Blood is going to explode out of my face at any moment.

Too Serious For Numbers: You probably have Ebola. It also appears that you may be suffering from Stigmata and/or pinkeye.

I think this is much more realistic.

Now I should point out that never, ever (EVER) in his life has my beloved and sainted father REQUESTED a shot. Seriously. Who LIKES to get stabbed with giant needles? That’s crazy.

At this point, however, when the pain was Too Serious For Numbers, it doesn’t matter what the solution is – just take it – needle or not.

Our hope is that this shot lasts longer than the last one. At some point, my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) will require surgery – probably in the middle of September.

In any case, next time you go to the doctor, use this new Pekingese-approved pain scale. They might even adopt it in their office.

Stay tuned for more (delayed) Thoughts from Oz soon!

Posted in Thoughts | 1 Comment

Thoughts: Day 5 of KASC-6 – The Excursion

Get your spoon and get ready for some more serial news (albeit slightly delayed) from Oz!

Yes, this post is delayed even more than usual. My poor beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) has been in so much pain lately that he can barely think, much less help me with the computer (come on – it’s hard to open the damn laptop lid open with manly Thundermop paws). His shoulder is ready to come off. Seriously, if you’re in town and you have some sort of cutting instrument, we’re open to anyone just cutting that whole thing off.

Back to news from Oz.

First, I had no idea that there was a town (and a beach) named after me. So, in the spirit of adventure, my beloved and sainted father went on yet another death march with Moose — in the rain — all the way to the town, down to the beach, and back.

And so, they say, the journey begins. In this case, it began with two things. First, this:

wpid-img_0896-2013-06-28-23-42.jpg

Yes, my beloved and sainted father wished that he brought the good camera at this point. This is the best he could do with the point-and-shoot — in the rain. Dammit.

Secondly, some of our friends from Oz convinced Moose that we had to be extra careful of drop bears. Of course, as we all know (and as my beloved father casually confirmed based on a recent show on the NatGeo channel on the same topic), drop bears are wily carnivorous creatures that hide in trees and drop down on their prey. They attack with their giant fangs and razor-sharp claws. And they prefer the meat of tourists.

Seriously.

Watch out for them. They look like this:

wpid-dropbears-2013-06-28-23-42.jpg

Aside from that, here’s another view from a bit further down the way (looking towards Sydney, obviously) — still in the rain:

wpid-syndeypano-2013-06-28-23-42.jpg

Want a better look at the skyline? Try this:

wpid-sydneypano2-edit-2-2013-06-28-23-42.jpg

Yep. STILL RAINING.

Several days (more like a few hours, but it felt like days), and after a brief tour of the local water waste treatment facility, the rain slowed down, and my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) took this picture:

wpid-img_0945-edit-2013-06-28-23-42.jpg

This is the coast named after me. Not too shabby, n’est-ce pas?

There was also a beach named after a mathematical operator. It was even further away, and I’m sure my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) was cold, wet, and very tired of walking. It was pretty, though.

So, continuing along the death march, my beloved and sainted father came upon a whole load of surfers (crazy, really – it was WAY too cold to be in that water). Just before he caught the ferry (and then a cab) back to the hotel, my father took this parting shot. Just a lonely sailor taking a quick dip in the waves…

wpid-img_0957-edit-2013-06-28-23-42.jpg

So, thus endeth the conference. It was great seeing old friends, renewing relationships, catching up on some real science (SIERRA HOTEL!!), and starting new collaborations. Although he didn’t take it (mostly because he’s in it), here’s the shot of all of us:

wpid-kasc6photo-small-2013-07-12-22-46.jpg

Fear not, beloved reader. This is not the end of the blog entries about this trip. Stay tuned for what happens next in my beloved and sainted father’s walkabout in the land of Oz….

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Thoughts: Day 2 of KASC-6

Get your spoon and get ready for some more serial news (albeit slightly delayed) from Oz!

Ah, the magical, mystical Day 2. For anyone who has done some sort of shift work (or, who has been observing like my beloved and sainted father), the second day of that work is always the hardest.

The first night, you’ve already psyched yourself up – it’s exciting and it’s fun. When you finally go to bed, you are really ready, but the night was well worth it. For this, your body pays you back double on the second night. Such is the case with conferences.

Day 2 was long. Kind of like the download speeds here — that kind of long. It was a solid day, and had some really good discussion. Everyone should congratulate Moose for getting through her very first public talk in one piece without either saying something really dumb or peeing on herself (both were likely realistic options).

I will never understand people who blindly go through data ignoring facts (or physics) or people who blindly apply their model to data and don’t understand that the data is trying to tell you something that’s not IN your model. Sigh. My poor beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name); he must be SO frustrated.

Tomorrow (Wednesday; Day 3) will be interesting. We were originally supposed to have the “outing” tomorrow, but since there is supposed to be even more rain (the rain has not stopped since my poor father arrived in Oz; why this doesn’t happen in the Promised Land is a mystery) and high winds, that activity has been moved to Friday (when it’s supposed to be “light” rain and not damaging winds). That means that tomorrow, we’ll have all afternoon to do something other than conference “stuff.” I’m sure my father will vote for NOT wandering in the cold and wet heart of the city, but it would certainly be worthwhile visiting a few more places before the week is out and it’s time to go…

(Note: With the exception of the day he left, it rained virtually continuously from the time my beloved and sainted father got to Sydney until the end. They received more than two inches of rain — a nice, steady downfall that would be useful back in the Promised Land.)

Only time will tell what my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) will do.

In the meantime, I will be getting a much needed nap. And chow. Because, as you’re well aware, it’s always 5:00 somewhere. Right, Mother?

Stay tuned for more exciting (yet delayed) news from my beloved father and his adventures in Oz!

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment

Thoughts from Oz — THE SLOWEST INTERNET IN THE WORLD

(NOTE: Due to the specific content within this post, this and the remainder of these blog posts will be submitted serially once my beloved and sainted father returns to a more electronically connected location.)

There’s only one thing worse than no connection when you need it, and that’s a S…………….L…………….O…………….W connection. 3 hours to download 12.8 MB? Someone tell me why that’s reasonable, please.

Holy Christ, why is it so freaking SLOW? And expensive! My beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) is going to have to dig up a part of the yellow brick road in order to pay for stuff in Oz. $70 for internet access (Did I mention it was slow? It’s slow. Seriously.) at the hotel — Poor Daddy had to check to see if his wallet was still around after that fiasco.

So, my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) was not the only person from the South Plains of the Promised Land to wander off to see the Wizard. He took one of his students. Her name is Moose.

Moose decided that since it only took her “15 minutes” go get to and from the aquarium, and since my mother LOVES aquaria (N.B.: plural), what a great adventure that would be. Yes, we went. For Oz, it was a bit… underwhelming.

The Great Oz is the land of the Great Barrier Reef, the Crocodile Hunter, Nicole Kidman, and all other cool stuff in the sea. Why is their aquarium so … underwhelming (I suspect it’s the un-godly SLOW internet.)? In any case, three things happened:

  1. 15 minutes to Moose is not really 15 minutes. It’s more like 2 hours. Poor Moose.
  2. We did go to the aquarium. Pictures were taken.
  3. Getting back to the hotel took longer. Clearly, it’s Moose’s fault.

So on this trek (perhaps Moose decided to go walkabout and didn’t bother to tell my poor beloved and sainted father), in the pouring rain, despite all of the shops that we passed, there was not a single, solitary, itty, bitty, little shop that had shoelaces. Not one. Nope. Where do the people of Oz get shoes? Apparently, this may be something that’s completely opaque to non-Aussies.

As far as the pictures go, and with apologies to the people who wrote for the sitcom “Seinfeld,” none of them were calendar-worthy. As my beloved and sainted father (glory be unto his name) has shown countless times before, low light + moving objects + small children’s damn boogers and fingerprints all over the glass = no good pictures with point-and-shoot cameras (the term “good” here is defined as “calendar worthy”).

To allay my mother’s reaction (heard ‘round the world as soon as this posted, most likely), there were virtually no jellyfish (certainly less than 10 total by count). You didn’t miss what you were going to want to see.

The best picture may be something like this:

wpid-img_0875-edit-2013-07-3-09-48.jpg

While it might be OK on the screen, and to quote my beloved and sainted father (glory by unto his name), “It ain’t goin’ in no damn calendar of mine.”

That’s that. I’m sure my poor father will suffer from something like 7 hours of continuous walking. Thanks for that, Moose. My poor father will assuredly pay for that walk later…

Posted in Thoughts | Leave a comment