Reactive Centrifugal Force (Actually, Language [Actually, Me Being a Pain in the Ass]) #physics #science #language #pita

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Here’s a random memory triggered by an unrelated Facebook post I read.

When I was a physics major, one of my professors, referencing a carnival ride, actually said, “Centrifugal force doesn’t exist. What you’re experiencing is centripetal force pushing you in.”

I responded, “But if centripetal force exists, doesn’t Newton’s Third Law of Motion demand that centrifugal force also exist? Wouldn’t that be the force your body exerts back on the wall?”

Boy, was he pissed. Of course he knew that the “reactive centrifugal force” existed. This is the force that you exert on the wall in reaction to the wall pushing you towards the center. It’s a very real force. However, even back then, I was killing people for linguistic imprecision. I couldn’t help it. It was a legitimate question brought on by a quirk in how physicists label these topics.

“Centrifugal force” is used differently from “reactive centrifugal force,” which is stupid. All forces have a reactive counterforce, so why qualify it as “reactive”? Unfortunately, that’s the linguistic convention, but when you say “centrifugal force doesn’t exist,” it misleads people who otherwise have a grasp on what you’re teaching. Physics professors should make it clear that there is an outward force, but we experience a misperception that this outward force is acting on us. In fact, the outward force is acting on the wall (or whatever is forcing you to take a curved path). Without “reactive” modifying it, “centrifugal force” refers to the misperception rather than the very real force.

If you want more details on the physics, here’s a relatively short lecture on this topic (about 12-1/2 minutes), though it doesn’t discuss the issue I’m raising here. In fact, it makes the same mistake. I originally provided a paragraph explaining some concepts the lecture takes for granted, but that paragraph would probably have made things worse. 🙂

You may have expected this to be about science, or language, but it was really about me being a pain in the ass.

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Good Watch: Halt and Catch Fire @leepace @tmackenziedavis @scootmcnairy @tobyhuss @smugorange @Netflix #HaltAndCatchFire #GoodWatch

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“I can’t take so much sunshine up my ass. It makes me itch.”
— John Bosworth

During the 80s, I was a physics student fascinated with the progress of the home computer. In the 90s, I was a software engineer working with computers professionally. Halt and Catch Fire is a dramatization of that culture and era starting in 1983. Perhaps this makes me prone towards liking this show more than others, but my guess is that most people likely to read my blog fall in that same category.

In season one, the story introduces Joe MacMillan (Lee Pace), a salesman who left IBM on less-than-ideal terms. He latches onto the fictional company, Cardiff Electric, based in Silicon Prairie, which in this case refers to Texas. He convinces (forces?) Cardiff Electric to include within their business plan the development of portable computers. Familiar (to me) terms such as “XT,” “286,” “386,” and “GUI” are thrown around as several companies vie to get their idea to the market first. By the end of the series, they progressed to the early 90s and the birth of the internet, and during more than a decade, the characters develop, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Their mistakes have them pushing each other apart, yet they always find themselves coming back together, which in turn leaves you hopeful at the end of the series even though there’s distance between some of them.

While I was never involved on the sales end of the industry, I was certainly the salesmen’s target, and I feel like the writing and acting capture the feel for that era quite well. Is it an exaggeration of the truth? At times, of course, but in this case that’s not done merely for the sake of drama. Many of us that are or were in the industry hold a romanticized memory of those times, and we’re just as guilty of exaggerating the events of them as the show’s writers did.

If, like me, you need an excuse to choose one show over another, here it is: If anything I said above sounds appealing to you, consider watching this one. It’s only four seasons, with only ten 50-minute episodes each. At the very least, if you’re as old as I, you’ll love the 80s and 90s music. It’s not as important to the show as it is to, for example, Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’ll remind you to give some songs another listen.

P.S. I hate Cameron and Gordon. I knew too many of them.

Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

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Follow Cooper Andrews @smugorange

The Squeaky Wheels: A Lesson in #Anecdotal Experience @Erik_Nowak #movie #statistics

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On April 3, 2020, I posted my observations made during the quarantine watch party of Shazam. During a resultant discussion on Facebook, I referenced haters of the film, to which my friend, Erik, responded, “I’m sure they’re out there, but I can’t think of anyone in my real life who saw it and didn’t like Shazam.” My impression is that people hated the film, but Rotten Tomatoes says otherwise: critics at 90%, and audience at 82%. This reminded me of a nearly identical conversation with Erik about District 9, and Rotten Tomatoes tells the exact same story: critics at 90%, and audience at 82%. (I’m going to try not to get distracted by how weird of a coincidence all of this is.)

Sometimes when I post about a movie, all I get are negative reactions. Sometimes all I get are positive reactions. In either case, I don’t really know whether I should view the movie in question as a guilty pleasure or myself as one of the sheeple. (Reign of Fire remains a guilty pleasure at 42%/49%.) Our Facebook and Twitter streams provide relatively small amounts of data and aren’t random sources. There’s too much commonality in our respective audiences, especially considering that, even if you feel you’re open-minded, you probably live in a bubble. I’m not just talking about political bubbles, but also social bubbles defined by hobbies and such.

Don’t let the squeaky wheel dictate your worldview. Take it for what it is: sometimes thought-provoking but rarely dispositive of anything important. You may make a mistake far greater than this one.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Erik Nowak @Erik_Nowak

Turning 50: Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes #happybirthday

One Year Later!

This past year has been a great ride. A collection of small and not-so-small things inspired me to make some changes in my life. I don’t like discussing it, but many people have credited me with inspiring them to make changes, so here I go again.

On May 21, 2017, I weighed 303 pounds. I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, a B12 deficiency, and developed osteoarthritis in my hip. All of that sucked, but it didn’t inspire me to make any changes. What ultimately put me over the top was the burden I had become on society, and more severely on my friends. My gluttony and sloth were affecting others, and that wasn’t fair.

So, on May 22, I stopped drinking anything but water (occasionally with a bit of lemon or lime juice for flavor, but usually by itself). On June 5, I dropped my daily carb count to 70-75 grams per day and eliminated all but trace amounts of sugar from my diet. Everything that I eat has one of three things on the label: “0 g sugar,” “<1 g sugar,” or “not a significant source of sugars.” If it says 1 g of sugar, I won’t eat it. I don’t eat even onions and peppers because they have a higher natural sugar content then other vegetable options (spinach is your friend). To get me started, my first meal was at Wildfire in Tysons Corner. I had filet mignon and broccoli with lemon juice. Nothing wrong with that. When I had carb cravings, which happened a lot, I’d cook up an entire pack of bacon and eat that as an in-between-meals snack, and I’d still lose weight!

Note: If you have certain medical conditions, my diet won’t work for you. Also, if you’re only 20 pounds overweight, things won’t move as quickly as someone needing to lose 100 pounds. Consult a doctor if you have a genuine medical condition, but if you don’t have any genuine medical conditions, don’t pretend you do. Creating excuses will doom you from the start. This took dedication and persistence.

On July 6, I went back to my martial arts dojo and started working towards my 2nd degree black belt. In late September, I added weightlifting to my regimen, which is the first time in my life that I’ve regularly lifted weights. As my endurance improved, I started running. I do interval training, alternating between a jog speed (4.5 mph) and run speed (6.5 mph), but my goal is to regularly run at 7.5 (i.e., the fabled “8-minute mile”). Because of the workouts, I’ve actually had to force myself to eat 135 g of carbs per day and drink sugar-free Power Zero to replace potassium and sodium, but I never once faltered and resumed sugar intake.

My Results So Far

Today, I turn 50, and here are the results. I’ve lost 75 pounds. All of my numbers are great, and I have no persistent joint pain. I feel better physically, emotionally, and even mentally (i.e., no more B-12 deficiency causing vertigo, etc.). Don’t get me wrong. I’m 50. That means that lifting weights for the first time in my life can cause intense soreness. Even the very familiar martial arts has resulted in a badly-pulled hamstring and other assorted aches and pains. But that’s all temporary. If I give myself a little rest, it goes away, and then it’s back to the grind.

My Goals Going Forward

All I have is MS Paint. No Photoshop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, not quite. Here are the real goals: The aforementioned 8-minute mile and 2nd-degree black belt, another 8 pounds lost, but more importantly, everyone realizing that they can do the same thing. If you want to lose weight, start dieting right now, and then when you’re ready, start working out (preferably weights first, then cardio, but do whatever you enjoy more so that you’ll stick with it). If 50 isn’t too late, 40 sure isn’t, and neither is 30. The longer you wait, the more permanent damage you’ll do to yourself that will never be undone (I’ll spare you the gory details).

Get on it! If you have any questions or need a sounding board, let me know.

A special thanks to Ben Barr, champion of the First Amendment, whose post about a year ago gave me some good ideas.

The #Matrix: A Fan Theory That Changes Everything #science #computer #intelligence #emotion #startrek

I’ve have the Matrix movies playing in the background while I work on some trademark matters. I know that many people hated the second and third movies, Reloaded and Revolutions, and I wasn’t a big fan of them either. I find it annoying that no one in the movie can speak in a normal tone of voice, using either yelling or a whisper. No, that doesn’t make you sound cool. It makes you sound like a pretentious idiot who thinks he’s cool. However, I had to watch them again because I wanted to do so within the context of an interesting fan theory I learned by spending too much time reading Cracked.com.

The theory goes like this: What you know as the Matrix is a computer simulation. That’s simple enough; no surprises there. What you know as the movie’s real world is also a computer simulation. The Matrix is a simulation within that outer simulation. What this means is that Zion is a computer simulation, and Neo, Morpheus, Trinity, and all the other pretentious serial whisperers are computer programs. The reason for the existence of the layers is that the computer programs (i.e., Neo, Morpheus, etc.) are being trained to think like humans. They’re being taught to express love, to place the needs of others over themselves, and generally to govern their behavior by more than mere statistics. (Think of Will Smith’s monologue in the also-maligned I, Robot. He points out that a human being would have known to save the girl rather than him despite Will Smith being the statistically-correct choice.) The fan theory also explains Neo’s superman powers outside the Matrix. If the “real world” is just another computer simulation, then it’s explainable that a blinded Neo can see the machines, that Neo can affect them with his powers, and that Agent Smith was capable of “possessing” a “real world” character, Bane. Finally, this also explains that the trilogy didn’t really have an ending. Neo just won, not for some logical reason, but because … he just did. All the Agent Smiths just exploded because Neo … I don’t know … infected them? Well, who cares? No explanation for how that happened is necessary. It’s just important that he did. I guess the programs learned their lesson, so it was no longer necessary for there to be a war.

The theory has one downside I see: An anticlimactic ending. If what I’ve described is what was going on the whole time, then as the credits roll, you’ve got to be thinking, “So no one was ever in any danger? This whole thing was essentially an elaborate movie … to the characters _in_ the movie? Awwwwwww, shucks! I was apparently watching some nerd writing lines of programming code for six or seven hours.” On the other hand, that’s what you’re doing in real life anyway when you go to a movie, especially one like Megamind that’s nothing but computer animation.

While I didn’t need to watch several hours of the movie to appreciate the fan theory — I probably could have not watched it as all — it made the movies completely different films at least worthy of the rewatch. Neo, et al. the programs are learning hope, love, forgiveness, and many other things that machines currently can’t learn, but above all else going beyond one’s programming and exercising free will. Perhaps it’s only through “living” these experiences that the lessons can ever sink into artificial intelligence.

Or not. I’m no expert in artificial intelligence. It’s a neat theory, though, and one that makes for decent drama. Just ask Commander Data.

Follow me on Twitter @GSLLC

Some Perspective on Just How Small We Are

I’ve forwarded this picture every time I’ve received it in a social media stream, and I’ll continue to do so in the future even if you tell me that you’re sick of seeing it. I find this fascinating and decided to post it here to give it some sense of permanency for myself, as well as to further the current discussion surrounding the Curiosity’s landing on Mars.

You aren’t that important. Get over it.

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