kaitou: (monkeys)

Maker Faire Detroit 2010
Originally uploaded by DarjeelingTea

So over the weekend I went to Maker Faire in Detroit, hosted at the Henry Ford Museum by Make & Craft Magazine. It was a great time, lots of neat stuff to do and see. There were neat Robotics from the Army, and robots that were JUST as cool made out of Lego. The Mentos and Coke guys were there and we got to watch a live reenactment of their video.

I tried my hand at soldering for the first time, and made a LED pin. I also knit a few rows of a giant scarf to put on the statue of Edison at the Museum.


May. 12th, 2010 04:41 pm
kaitou: (Squee!)
So the other day I mentioned that I had written to Joe Hallinan, the author of 'Why We Make Mistakes.' Well he called me today! I'm so excited!

He was really super nice, and not angling for a consulting or speaking gig the way I wondered if he might be. (Which honestly my boss is not against) He was genuinely happy that I liked his book, and that I was excited about something he was excited about. He gave me the names of two PhD's to get in touch with, one at Harvard/MIT and one at the U of Illinois, who are specifically researching the kind of problem I was asking about.

Talk about going above and beyond!!
kaitou: (monkeys)
So on my way to Japan and back I listened to the audiobook version of Joe Hallinan's book 'Why We Make Mistakes.' It's really interesting, all about the psychology and neruo-science of making mistakes, and obviously applies to my line of work. When I got back I picked up a paperback copy of the book and gave it to my boss to read. I think he's enjoying it, he quoted it at a few of my coworkers today, so that's a good sign.

I wrote the author an e-mail to tell him how much I enjoyed it, and to ask him if he had any advice on mitigating the kind of errors we see at work. (There's a chapter on the kind of mistakes that Airport Security makes, which is pretty much the same position an inspector is in) And he wrote back that he would call me some time this week! How exciting is that!?

Anyway, here's an interesting quiz I found on his site:

Read more... )
kaitou: (monkeys)
...you now have competition for my favorite British Isle Irish guy that lives in London comedian.

kaitou: (monkeys)
So I not only watch a lot of odd nonfiction TV, I also read a lot of odd nonfiction books. I was reading Stephen Ray Gould's "Full House," which is an interesting book about evolution and baseball. I skipped the baseball chapters altogether but the evolution bits were interesting. And he talks a lot about the Drunkard's Walk. Which is like a mathematical way of saying 'you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.' And that if you start at a fixed point, and move randomly...you'll end up somewhere.

This resulted in the best diagram in the history of nonfiction ever.
I give you... )
kaitou: (monkeys)
I don't watch much Fiction television. There are shows that I like that I catch on DVD or online, like Chuck, but when it comes to actually watching a show on the TV, I'm pretty much down to 'Leverage' and 'Eureka.' But I do watch a metric ton of documentary shows. Roman plumbing? Hawking's thoughts on Black Holes? Guys filming random things in slow motion? I am ALL OVER that.

So recently I've been watching lots of science shows. And therefore I'm seeing a LOT of Neil Degrasse Tyson. He works at the Hayden Planetarium in NY, and he's a frequent guest on the Daily Show and Colbert Report. And he's a talking head for just about any astronomy-astrophysics show or special there is. And he hosts Nova Science NOW on PBS (which is a pretty good science magazine show).

So I was watching one of these shows, thinking how much I have seen of him lately, so I went to his site and wrote him a little fan letter. Nothing much, just like, two twitter-fulls of 'I've enjoyed your appearances and think you have clear explanations of complicated concepts for someone who isn't very knowledgeable, like me.' And today he wrote back!

Dear Ann
Thank you for your kind words below. I try hard to bring the universe down to Earth. I am glad to learn that I occasionally succeed - even on Colbert.
All the best, on Earth and in the Universe.

This makes me happy.
kaitou: (monkeys)
Today I give you MANY VIDEOS. So I put them behind the cut. )
kaitou: (monkeys)
Last Friday my coworkers and I were talking about stupid trivia and that sort of thing. I mentioned how much I love random facts, and one of my coworkers said. "Ok, well let's see if you know this. I've been wondering for awhile. Why do we use IV and IX instead of IIII and VIIII? Is there, like, a rule that says that you can only have three Is in a row or something?"

Well, I didn't know the answer to that. But I thought, surely google knows. I may not be as good at google fu as my mom, but I'm no slouch. But instead of answers I only came up with more questions. I even went to metafilter to ask, but that didn't go very well. In fact, I think if it hadn't fallen off the front page (and therefore everyone's radar) I could have ended up on OTF wank as people argued about whether Hindu-Arabic numbers are superior to Roman numerals, or whether they're all just symbolic representations of concepts and none are easier to use than another.

Anyway, I thought I'd post my meandering results and questions here. You guys are all smart people, and maybe you know, or have a good theory. )

It's all very much like this, played out in real life.
kaitou: (Work)
Awhile back I got a link on Facebook about Ada Lovelace Day and I promised that I would write about a favorite woman in Science or Mathematics. Despite the fact that I'm an utter failure at it, I find science fascinating. (Math is utterly incomprehensible to me) Some of my favorite high school memories are of going to The Cranbrook Institute for their Women in Math and Science Days. They'd bus any interested girl out there to go meet and hear lectures from all these women scientists and mathematicians. Ichthyologists, Engineers, Art Restorers... very cool stuff. And now, here I am, a pseudo-engineer. How my old Science teachers would laugh.

Anyway! I want to tell you about Gabrielle Émilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Châtelet. Her life was so awesome you won't believe she's not a Mary Sue.

10 Awesome things about Émilie du Châtelet )


Mar. 16th, 2009 12:46 pm
kaitou: (monkeys)
I bought a copy of BBC's 'Knowledge' magazine the last time I made it to a big bookstore, and I've been carrying it around in my purse and reading it at lunch breaks and the doctor's office and that sort of thing. This magazine is seriously awesome. Like a less tongue in cheek Mental Floss.

The April issue highlights Darwin and Evolution and has a seriously excellent article called "Evolution in Action" about Richard Lenski's experiments with E. Coli bacteria, which he's been working on since 1988. He teaches at Michigan State! How did I not know about him then so I could fangirl him!?

There's a lot of information at the wikipedia article. But in short, Lenski started with 12 identical lines of E.Coli bacteria in their own petri dishes. He set about starving the bacteria by giving them very minimal amounts of glucose. To quote the article, "Lenski wanted to see if the bacteria would be altered by natural selection. In each generation, some of the bacteria would mutate. A few of those mutations might make them grow and reproduce faster in their flask and they'd out-compete the other bacteria. Over time, natural selection might transform the bacteria in measurable ways...If evolution was at all repeatable, he hoped to get similar results in many of them."

Every day he takes some of the bacteria and freezes it, creating a fossil record. Any changes can be checked by thawing a previous generation of bacteria out and examining them.

After 5000 generations of bacteria all 12 lines grew faster and were about twice the size of their 'ancestors.' And more and more changes occurred. The same genes mutated in most lines, but not the same way. So while more than one line evolved to use the glucose more efficiently, when they had to feed on maltose instead some lines adapted well, and others starved. By 2001 one of the lines had developed the ability to eat citrate, and the population in the dish exploded.

The whole experiment is just incredibly exciting...and so well planned, researched and maintained.


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