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Why Math Counts August 29, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.

Over at Good Math Bad Math, they are discussing one of the beneficial side-effects of strong math skills. A Harvard research group is publishing a paper that presents strong experimental evidence that supports the premise that Cold Dark Matter (CDM) exists in our universe. The existence of CDM is an important part of the cosmological description of the behavior of the universe, without it all of the theoretical constructs come up short when compared to the observable universe.

For those of you who might not know what Dark Matter is, this excerpt from Wikipedia sums it up fairly well “…dark matter refers to matter that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation (such as light, x-rays and so on) to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter.”

Estimates are that CDM constitutes about 22% of the mass of the universe. A massive 4% is normal everyday matter, and the rest (72%) is really weird stuff, Dark Energy. Dark Matter and Dark Energy are both experimentally deduced from mathematical models that take into account estimates of the mass of the ‘known universe’ and the deviations between the predicted and observed models.

From A Stunning Demonstration of Why Good Science Needs Good Math



Fighting back? August 23, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.
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Prompted by a story coming out of Alabama, where some extremely large nests of Yellow Jackets have recently been found. From The MontgomeryAdvertiser,

Entomologist Dr. Charles Ray at the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Auburn said he’s aware of about 16 of what he described as “super-sized” nests in south Alabama.
Ray said he’s seen 10 of them and cautioned people about going near them because of the yellow jacket’s painful sting.
The largest nest Ray has inspected this year filled the interior of a weathered 1955 Chevrolet parked in a rural Elmore County barn. That nest was about the size of a tire in the rear floor seven weeks ago, but quickly spread to fill the entire vehicle, the property owner, Harry Coker, said. Four satellite nests around it have gotten into the eaves of the barn, about 300 yards from his home.

I wonder if this is but a foretaste of what is to come.

Darker Shades of Blue August 17, 2006

Posted by thebeam in The Byways.

On my mind tonight is an article written about the factors leading to the crash of a B-52 bomber, an article that I found several years ago. The reason it shoved its way back into my mind was because I was speaking with someone about human factors, a part of what lead to the crash of the bomber.

B-52 Crash Video (launches in external site)

The video is of a B-52 H Model that crashed on June 24, 1994 at Fairchild AFB, near Spokane Washington. Part of the reason this video sticks with me is that I flew aboard that particular aircraft, about 20 years before the accident.