Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bringing Home the Bacon

Sunday after Sunrise Service Jonathan and I were asked if we could hide the eggs for the children's Easter Egg hunt. Not having anything better to do we agreed, and went about hiding the literally hundreds of eggs available. We were supposed to leave some on the lawn for the younger children to find, so, completely lacking in creativity, I made a scale model of the Milky Way Galaxy, complete with representation of Sagittarius A* made out of lollipops and various globular clusters outside the arms. Finally, after breakfast, we were rewarded with some of the leftover bacon and sausage from the breakfast, so we were really...well, no need to say it again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


by Daniel Berke 

Lightly wafting breeze the zephyrs,
Winding on their merry way,
Hot the Sun and cool the breeze is,
On this balmy Hilo day.

In other news, yesterday I stumbled across the Mutopia project. Their motto is "Free sheet music for everyone". Not only do they provide sheet music, but each piece comes accompanied by a midi file of the piece. Being synthesized music, midi can never replace instrumental music (and it can't imitate the human voice at all), but it does come pretty close, and makes for a wonderful repository of free listenings of many great classic pieces. I've been using it for something new to listen to while working on writing a paper. I've been having great fun picking new, complex Handel and Bach compositions and improvising along with them, which makes for a fun and enjoyable form of mental exercise. I'm currently working my way through Bach's Goldberg Variations. Anyway, I should probably get back to writing that paper...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Resurrection Day!

“No ke aha lā ʻoukou e ʻimi ai i ka mea ola i waena o ka poʻe make? ʻAʻole ʻo ia ma ʻaneʻi; akā, ua ala aʻe nei ia.”  -Luke 24:5b-6a
“Why will you search for the Living One among dead people? He is not here, but He just rose.”

Heh, translating that reminds me how much more difficult it is to make direct literal translations from Hawaiian than it is from Greek. Lots of fun though. Thought I'd do something different from last year, and go with Hawaiian and Luke, first-rate historian that he is, instead of Greek and Matthew. Maybe next year I can do Latin. And after that...I'll have to re-pick up one of the languages I started learning once upon a time...Arabic, or Hebrew, or...Nahauatl, or something. Or pick up something entirely new. Choices! Choices!

Happy Easter, everyone! A hui hou!

Ke Kanaka ʻAikalima

Friday I went up to the Vis for the first time in over a month. It was great weather for seeing things, no moon, only a few thin wisps of cloud, dark skies...I could very clearly see the zodiacal light on the horizon after sunset. While I was eating dinner I had a sudden urge to have a little fun with my desert:
Yes, it's an ice cream man! (Which is all the title says. In Hawaiian.)
There was also something I've personally never seen up there before, a large group of school kids all the way from Oʻahu who came up to the Vis in two buses. Now, being in or around large groups of unknown people has always left me feeling ill-at-ease, but for some reason the effect is multiplied several times when it's public-school children. I was, I'm afraid, thankful that they didn't stay all night, but infinitely more thankful that I was never public schooled. I'd probably have gone bonkers dealing with that day in and day out, and be on drugs for ADD or ADHD or something.

But, thankfully, I was home schooled. Thanks Mom! And happy birthday!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Today I learned the origin of the word “serendipity” in geography class. Yes, geography class, because it turn out to have a geographical origin: prior to being known as Sri Lanka, said country was known as Ceylon. And prior to that, it was known as (I kid you not) Serendip. In the 1700's a guy named Horace Walpole created the word from the Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Seredip. Apparently the heroes of said fairy tale possessed a remarkable aptitude for good fortune, thus, “serendipitous”!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

On a Massless Electromagnetic Wave-Packet

by Daniel Berke
(with apologies to William Blake)

Laser, laser, burning bright,
Form’d of red coherent light,
Weaving patterns lost to sight.

Quantum photons wave-like flow,
Interference patterns glow,
As through double slits they go.

Photons multitudinous,
Patterns, pulchritudinous,
Here unfold, illumin'd thus.

Photons all have natures two,
Waves they are, yet quantiz'd too,
Each singly wrong, together true.

Light! So much yet still unknown,
Though greatly has our knowledge grown,
As rapidly the years have flown.

What the mind imagin'd thee?
Hidden plain for all to see,
Elaborate simplicity.

Laser, laser, burning bright,
Form’d of red coherent light,
Weaving patterns lost to sight.

This has been a poetic retelling of the author's experience while watching the famous Thomas Young double-slit experiment. In trochaic tetrameter catalectic. The picture is my attempt to reproduce from memory the interference pattern seen (and doing a poor job of it).

Monday, April 11, 2011

How much rain would a raindrop drop...

Today in church Jonathan commented on how the arrival of a wave of rain was followed by the air becoming noticeably cooler. I idly replied that it shouldn't, because the gravitational energy released by the raindrops' falling should be manifested as an increase in heat, then immediately became intrigued as to whether or not that would be the case (these things always seem to come at the most inconvenient times!).

Just for fun, I did some simple calculations, which I thought I'd share with you all. I assumed a very simple model, with a raindrop with mass = 1 gram, falling a total height of 1 kilometer (which is not a bad assumption for the height of the clouds about Hilo, I think). Anyway, given those assumptions, a raindrop falling to Earth releases \begin{align}\Delta E&=mg\Delta h\\
&\approx10\,\text{J}\end{align}about 10 joules of energy (a joule is about as much energy as it would take to lift a small apple one meter straight up, or the amount of energy released if that same apple fell a meter downwards). If you think that seems like a lot of energy for a raindrop, so did I. If the raindrop were to retain all this energy as kinetic energy, it would impact the ground with a speed of about 100 meters per second, or almost 225 miles per hour. In practice, most of this energy is lost to friction with the air as the raindrop falls, which would indeed heat up the atmosphere as I thought.

However, there's another factor to take into consideration: absorption of heat from the atmosphere by the raindrop. It's relatively simple to calculate the amount of energy it would take to heat up a raindrop with a 1-gram mass by a degree Celsius: \begin{align} Q&=mc\Delta T\\
&\approx1\,\text{g}\cdot4.181\frac{\text{J}}{\text{g}\cdot\text{K}}\Delta T\\
&\approx4\frac{\text{J}}{\text{K}}\Delta T \end{align} Thus for every degree Celsius (or kelvin, both of which equal about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) the raindrop heats up it absorbs about 4 joules of energy. So if the raindrop starts off about 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the ambient air temperature at ground level, it will absorb as much energy as it emitted and leave the atmosphere no different temperature-wise than at the beginning. Of course, if the raindrop is more than 5 degrees Fahrenheit cooler (as is quite possible), it will absorb more energy than it releases and cause a net cooling effect. And it wouldn't have to absorb much excess heat, either, considering the sheer number of raindrops in a typical shower.

Well, there's your geeky musing for today. It makes a nice opportunity to show off the beautiful output of \(\LaTeX\), too. A hui hou!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dueling Browsers

Today I came across a website where you can test the performance of various Web browsers against each other. Just for fun, I tested all five of the browsers I mentioned in my review a while back. The results were interesting:

First off, explanation: the numbers don't represent any single value, instead they represent some kind of weighted sum of the individual components of the test and serve as a relative performance measurement between browsers. What are these components, you ask? I've copied all the “Details” for each test into the picture below:

Note that these charts are relative, not absolute. If you just look at the length of the bar, it looks like Chrome is really slow in Rendering, but if you look at the numbers you'll see it's actually the second fastest. The bars show the relative strengths between components within browsers.

It's interesting to see how various browsers come out in terms of the various components of the test, how some are well-rounded and others are much better at certain things. It's also interesting how Chrome and Opera are so far ahead of the other three. Chrome clearly shines in the handling of data, being over 3 times faster than its closest competitor Firefox and nearly 5 times faster than Opera. On the other hand, Opera was faster than Chrome in the Rendering, Social networking (however that works), and DOM operations categories, and only slightly slower in the Complex graphics and Text parsing sections. So while all of these browsers will work just fine for rendering modern Web pages, if you want the very best for displaying complicated or involved pages Chrome or Opera are definitely ahead of the pack.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Poles of Tad

This week I noticed the coqui frog unknown frog eggs have hatched. There's a particular puddle I walk by every day on my way to school, and Monday I noticed it had tadpoles in it which weren't there Friday. This puddle is particularly large, and almost never dries up except in the driest of weather, so it's an excellent choice for frog eggs. But how do the frogs know? I've never seen tadpoles in any of the other, more transient puddles I walk by. Do they sit around watching puddles to see which ones dry up when there's a week without rain, and then pick the one that doesn't? Do they simply lay their eggs where they themselves came from (which doesn't remove the problem, just shifts it into the past)? Is there some other way they can just tell that this puddle and not that puddle is an optimum place to lay eggs? I can't imagine there's anything intrinsic to the puddle that would suggest that. How do they know?

Edit (4/17/11): I have had it pointed out to me that coqui frogs do not go through a tadpole stage, instead hatching directly as "froglets". In that case, I don't know what kind of frog those eggs belong to.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Language Teachers - Some Thoughts

I was thinking today that of the several language teachers I have had, they've all had one thing in common. And while it makes sense in my mind, I find it somewhat hard to define or articulate. It's...a sort of theatrical quality? The ability to take a sentence someone randomly created a few seconds ago, and give it life. Paint a picture of words describing the conjured scene in such a way you feel yourself there. Come up with a few more sentences to flesh it out and give it life, with such amazing intonation and verve you could be right in the midst of whatever is being depicted.

Are all language teachers like this? Or am I just fortunate?