September 20th, 2006


Two Things

Ar-rrrh! There Be Physics Lectures Ahead!

With yesterday being National Talk Like A Pirate Day, I had mentioned on another person's LiveJournal that this was the first year where I got reminded about it while I could still do something about it and deliver part of a lecture on Gauss' Law of Electricity... in pirate talk! (After the first sentence or two, the scurvy rabble be not amused...)

This was too much of a tease for one reader who wanted a transcript, so I obliged as well as I could. And then I figured I should post it to my limited (and quirky) audience here:

I don't have a complete transcript -- just winged it -- but it was something like this, spoken in the pirate stylings of Geoffrey Rush:

Ar-rrh, me mateys! You'll be recallin' that we be talkin' 'bout Gauss' Law fer 'Lectricity. Yestedy, we be lookin' at symmetric spherical charge distributions an' the line-o-charge. If'n we be havin' an infinite sheet o' charge, me hearties, then we be expectin' the 'Lectric field, ye know, to be pointin' in a direction perpendicular-like to the cursed sheet o' charge. So we be needin' a Gaussian surface, special-like, called a Gaussian pillbox -- shaped like a Victorian round pasteboard pillbox -- or a fancy rich wench's hatbox if ye prefer. Said pillbox be havin' three sides to it: topside, bottomside an' the wrap-a-round side. But the scurvy E-fields are parallel to wrapper side see, so there be NO 'Lectric flux be passin' through the sides, me mateys. Only constant 'Lectric flux through topside and bottomside. An' the twice cursed charge enclosed be equal to the surface charge dens-o-tee times the area. Now before I flog the lot o' ye with the cat-o-nine-tails, who amongst ye scurvy knaves can tell yer gracious captain what the equation fer Gauss' Law be?

Gosh, I love teaching Physics... (grin)

The New Standards?

The domination of campus computers by Dell has meant that as more and more students haul a laptop to campus, I've been seeing way too many of the same basic boring Dell laptop models. For a couple of years, seeing laptops around campus meant one saw lots and lots of variety, as computers came down in price and became commodity items. But when you see five students in a row all with the same model/style/brand of laptop...

Today I noticed two things: (1) a Dell laptop with a bright red insert on the cover. Ten years ago I used to see laptops with stickers and decorations on them -- today, not so often. Just row upon row of boring black cases. At least I can give Dell style points for providing some models with either different colored lids or optional user changeable ones. (2) Where once the standard calculator amongst engineers was the Hewlett-Packard, I have now seen two engineering students working with a very widescreen HP laptop which includes a proper numeric data entry keypad next to the keyboard. There've been other laptops with real, and not embedded, keypads before -- just not so many lately. Chalk that up to the demand for smaller, lighter, more mobile notebooks. But if you have data and lab numbers to enter, a real numeric keypad is a must. I've bought a couple of USB units which double as USB hubs, so you aren't "wasting" a USB port, and they work pretty good. However, I think these engineering students have figured out a good deal, IMHO.

Speaking of HP Calculators

I was amused to see in Sunday's newspaper ads that there is a 25th Anniversary model of the venerable HP-12c Financial Calculator. I own an HP-15c, the more powerful of the two scientific models (the other was the HP-11c) which were introduced at the same time. For whatever reason, the horizontal shape and powerful built-in financial functions has hit a resonant note with people needing a business calculator and there have been several models and upgrades since, but still keeping the classic HP-12c shape. and Circuit City seem to be selling them for about $80 -- this is a decent price for a sturdy, decent machine. This 25th Anniversary model is said to be a limited time offer and has some improvements over previous models, especially processor speed.

I always liked my HP-15c for data entry back in graduate school, particularly finding grade averages as a TA. Of course it still works -- it's an HP -- but I mainly use one of a trio of HP-48G/GX and HP-32S calculators.

Dr. Phil

[NOTE: LJ's spellcheck had a minor hissy fit with the pirate talk above. (snort)]
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