They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

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Scatter Gather V

The Bugs Are Back!

I happened to be outside a little after ten o'clock Sunday night, the sky still blue in the west and the moon is a few days old, so it's a decent crescent -- though not the spectacular thin orange fingernail we saw on Friday night -- and Earthshine is allowing the eye to see the edge of the whole round moon.

Looking east I saw a light in the sky blink off. Then on again, but not quite in the same place. Before I had even started to see if it was a plane, I realized that we had lightning bugs again. A few were wandering in the high grasses/weeds in our front "lawn", but mostly they were flitting amongst the branches of the pine trees.

Very cool.

I think I might be remembering that I saw some lightning bugs in East Lansing at Clarion last summer, but since at home we're usually little mole people who don't go out much, I don't recall seeing any lightning bugs around our house for a couple of years.

It's Hot And Humid Again

I was thinking that the high on Sunday would be around 86degF, but I have to always remember that The Weather Channel on our cable in Allendale typically gives us the forecasts for Muskegon or Grand Haven, both of which are on the shores of Lake Michigan -- and in the summer, "cooler by the lake" is the operative phrase. So I was surprised to see some of the digital temperature signs in front of businesses running in the 95-96degF range as we drove around.

We mostly don't get too many days of actual 100-degree heat here. I seem to recall that growing up in New York State, we'd usually hit 100degF at least once a summer. And despite the chance for cooler weather, when we lived in the U.P. near Lake Superior, we might get an annual 100-degree heat wave about every 2 out of 3 summers.

But right in Allendale? I know it hit the century mark on 30 July 1999, because that's the day I made a bright red and yellow bit of wallpaper for my PC, with a wavy, melting 100degF symbol. And I think I've trotted that out one other time. But we haven't hit triple-digits much in the past six years.

An Aside

Of course there is nothing particularly special about 100degF. We make it special, just like we make years ending in one or more zeroes out to be special. An accident of the decimal numbering system. Non-scientific numerology.

Like being "below zero" or "single digits" in the wintertime. No one is suggesting that 1degF is twice as cold as 2degF, we just make a big deal about it. Originally the zero degree mark in the Fahrenheit scale has to do with where some water-alcohol mixture froze, but the Fahrenheit scale went through several revisions, and I'm not sure the current zero is particularly meaningful any more.

Not like the Centigrade/Celsius temperature scale, where 0degC is the freezing point of pure water and 100degC is the boiling point. Even then, the "size" of the degree is arbitrary -- Celsius is "metric" only by virtue of the range of the liquid state of water having 100 degrees, a power of ten, instead of the Fahrenheit 180 degrees (212degF-32degF), which is "half a circle" in the water phase diagram.

Arbitrary.

Yet we do get sucked into worrying about hundred degree days... even if it's just 37.8degC (grin).

/An Aside

What's particularly bad is when the nighttime temperature doesn't drop down far enough. We like to be able to fling windows open to sleep, but not if it's too hot and/or if the humidity makes it feel like water is pouring in through the window and falling onto our futon on the floor.

This week the forecast lows look to be in the 68-71degF range, which probably means AC for most of the night. Yuck.

The Bat Returns

Our company this weekend hadn't seen Batman Begins, so we hiked out to Studio 28 and caught an afternoon show. Have to say that it holds up pretty well on a second viewing. At this point, however, there are nagging questions:

(1) The policeman says nobody crosses the bridge. Katie Holmes says she's a district attorney. Now in Law and Order, the A.D.A.'s always seem to have an official ID on them -- wouldn't you think that she'd have to show something? And most cops in this situation would probably be heard to utter a "lady, it's too dangerous," but this guy lets her across way too easily. (2) If the microwave device vaporizes water, how come people can stand next to it? As I recall we're basically water with a few percent impurities. It's why birds can get fried in front of high powered radar antennas. (3) Much like the energy weapons of the tripodal walking machines in WOW, I have a problem with the power supply for this microwave device. We never see it plugged into anything, so it has to be carrying its own power -- does it come with a bloody nuclear reactor or a Star Trek matter-anti-matter powerplant? I mean you need a half-kilowatt (500 watt) running for some time to boil a cup of water for tea -- but we're vaporizing water nearly instantly, which tells me we need an enormous amount of power (energy per second) and it is sustained for a long period of time.

I still think the best sound in the movie is the chittering sound of the Tumbler's (read Batmobile) mongo big treaded tires grabbing the pavement as it makes any kind of a turn.

The second best "sound" is when Batman puts this new Batmobile in a sort of "stealth" mode, and it goes dark and quiet, slipping around the police cars. The effect is limited in duration -- hear-hear! -- but gives Batman a few seconds of misdirection, and in its way is probably more impressive than the stealth/quiet mode of Roy Scheider's superchopper in Blue Thunder years ago.

Sorting The Chaos

Just in time for needing the table space, I managed to clear the mess I'd piled up on the dining room table. Though my wife accuses me of never being able to throw anything away, in fact I've realized years ago that there is no room -- or purpose -- for complete runs of many of the magazines and journals I get. However, I have become a "ripper". Among other things, I always save the back page of Chemical & Engineering News, PC Magazine and Wired, because they are interesting and amusing. And I rip some of the tips in the computer magazines and some of the features in Wired and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Alas, part of the problem of life is that I don't always make time to keep up with the weekly and monthly onslaught of new issues. So often, when I clear the table, I have a stack of Chronicles and Wireds and other magazines unread -- and sometimes still unsealed in their plastic wrapping -- which just gets moved from the dining room for the duration, then come right back.

Well, I am here to say that I am caught up, at least with the big pile which was on the table, for the first time in a long time. Unfortunately, there is still the downstairs "office", which has previously years of moved piles, and I really have to get in there and do some damage. Real Soon Now...

Dr. Phil
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