Monthly Archives: July 2007

It Appears I Am an Evil Overlord

When I went to Governor’s School in Arkansas, one of the things they did is have us take a test to determine our Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This was the full MBTI test, mind you, with what seemed like thousands and thousands of questions. I came out as an E/INTJ. Later tests I took gave me the same results.

I was always skeptical about how well my MBTI designation really matched my personality. “Decisive”? Sometimes. “Needing to make plans”? A little yes; a little no.

That was before I discovered what the MBTI types really mean. It turns out I’m actually an Evil Overlord.

ENTJs usually die at the hand of secret government agents in a fiery cataclysm that destroys their entire underground fortress. Often, Evil Overlords will have a secret clone whose implanted memories contain all the knowledge and ambition of the original, stored in cryonic suspension in a safe location. The clone will appear in a sequel.

Yes indeed. Soon I shall be invincible.

Eli Conquers the Potty

It’s been two weeks exactly since we started Potty Boot Camp. Today marks five days in a row with no poop accidents and ten days with no pee accidents. Yesterday he got up from playing, went to the potty, came back and started playing again.

I think we are finally over the hurdle and I didn’t kill any of us.

Actual words. Huh. Who knew that I had any left in the presence of the camera? Aren’t you glad that I didn’t take photos of Potty Boot Camp?

Two Notes on Statistics and MBAs

In graduate school, many of us physicists would joke about how the business students couldn’t do math. Those working on their MBA took business-specific versions of math classes, like business statistics, and we suspected that those classes just weren’t rigorous enough. It was an unfair generalization, but it was not without reason.

Consider this letter to the editor that ran in the school newspaper. Jason Pratt was annoyed at how basketball tickets were to be distributed. Some background: at Duke, basketball tickets for graduate students are hard to come by. To buy season tickets, you had to camp out for a weekend. Random checks helped keep grad students from wandering too far away. Even that didn’t reduce the number of people wanting tickets enough, so if you did camp out for the entire weekend, your name was entered into a lottery. If your name was drawn, you got to buy a ticket.

At the time, given the number of people who camped out, you had roughly a one-in-three chance of getting tickets. The GPSC used to guarantee tickets to those who were in the last year of their graduate program. When they stopped doing that, Jason became outraged. He pointed out that it was unfair to those, like him, in a two-year MBA program. After all, if he camped out for tickets both years, he had a “1/3 + 1/3 = 2/3 chance of getting one season ticket.”

That’s not the best part, though. The best part is when he applied his logic to people in longer programs.

Now, let’s look at the four-year graduate student. This person has a 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 + 1/3 = 4/3 chance of getting at least one year’s ticket. Hmmm… statistically guaranteed.

Yes, indeed.

Shortly after that, the business school had a casino night party. At one point in the night, the organizers decided that the action wasn’t hot enough. They declared that, for a limited time, all bets would return double the normal amount.

The physics students promptly marched to the roulette table and, minus a reserve, put half of their money on black and the other half on red. Normally black or red pay out at a rate of 2 to 1, since there’s just under a 50% chance of hitting either. But in the brave new world of doubled payouts, my friends were all but guaranteed to double their money with every spin of the wheel.

Eventually the guy running the roulette table figured out what they were doing and muttered, “Stop that.” One of my friends cheerily replied, “Hey, you make the rules.”

I understand that statistics can be tricky. The results can even be counter-intuitive. But I’d feel better if the above business students had had a better grasp on the basics.

Measuring Where Hubble Is

I always preface these posts with, “I don’t talk about work, but…” In this case, what I wrote is for public consumption and is up on the web, so I figure it’s okay. My company works on ways to measure where one spacecraft is relative to another. We’re applying some of that technology to the Hubble Space Telescope. The Hubble’s dying, and needs repairs, but NASA’s leery about sending astronauts to it, since if something happens to the Shuttle, they’d be unable to reach the International Space Station. So the next mission to Hubble is likely to be the last one unless they can come up with a way for robots to do the repair job.

That’s where we come in. For a spacecraft to reach Hubble without a pilot at the stick, the onboard computer has to know where Hubble is. We’ve got a way to do that. Behold: using video to measure the Hubble’s position and orientation in orbit.

[tags]space, hubble space telescope, the things you can do with cameras these days[/tags]