Monthly Archives: October 2006

We Tried to Prevent This, Honest

Eli has a toy microphone that also plays various tunes. Just now he pressed the button that makes it play a song. A tinny electronic version of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” came from the microphone’s attached speaker. “Daddy!” he said excitedly. “It’s Barney!”

Introducing Granade 2.0

Because our lives weren’t already complicated enough. Because we wanted to do something with those spare few dollars. Because we’re from Arkansas and don’t really understand how these things happen. We present you with Granade 2.0. Making an appearence in early May 2007.


Friday Night Videos: Breakin’

Dirty Vegas: Days Go By (2002)

I have no idea why I find this video so poignant, and yet I do. Besides, the two dancers are rad.

Malcom McLaren: Buffalo Gals (1982)

It’s amusing that Buffalo Gals, the first breakdancing video shown on MTV, was a product of a white guy — from the UK, no less! I guess if raiding black culture for the white mainstream was okay for Elvis, it was okay for Malcom McLaren. It’s also interesting that Buffalo Gals takes a song that came from the blackface minstrel tradition and that later became used in squaredancing and turns it into a hip-hop song. This video is just one giant layer cake of juxtaposition.

A Physicist Grumbles About Jericho: Static Electricity

I had a big long rant queued up about how Jericho used static electricity and gasoline to build tension, only they got everything all wrong when they had little MissGyver warn the main character and his friend not to unscrew the cap of the steel pesticide container full of gasoline because unscrewing that cap would cause a spark due to static electricity….

And then I realized I could sum up the problem in three very short paragraphs. Ready?

Scuff across a carpet in your socks and touch someone. The static electricity shocks them, right?

Now scuff across a carpet in your socks and touch your right hand to your left hand. No shock!

The tank is your right hand. Its cap is your left hand.

For bonus points, explain why knocking a steel cap off of the tank with a steel crowbar is bad when you’re worried about sparks. Show your work.

Big Cheeser

We went home to Arkansas this past weekend to spend some time with family. This trip requires a chunk of driving across Mississippi. Most of Highway 72 across North Alabama and Mississippi is a divided, limited access road with the occasional stoplight. (Strange I know, but hey, welcome to the South.) Most of the stoplights come equipped with a second flashing white strobe-like light that flashes when the stoplight is red. I guess this cuts down on people running the lights.

Monday as we were driving we came to one of these lights and I hear “Cheese!” from the back seat. I turned around to see Eli making what we call his big cheeser face toward the strobe light.

I guess it looked like the flash of a camera to him.

I’m wondering if this means we need to cut down on the number of photos we take of him.

Welcome TWoP Readers

Hello, those of you who are visiting from Television Without Pity. This is not really a science blog, nor is it a television blog, but I do sometimes go on about both. For atomic bomb discussion beyond the bit where I grumble about Jericho, you might be interested in Child of the Cold War, which discusses how growing up with the threat of nuclear annihilation made Jericho‘s pilot seem better to me than it really was. There’s also the original report from the Manhattan Project scientists determining that a nuclear bomb wouldn’t destroy the entire world.

For all-around science neepery:

There are also the music videos we post every Friday night, thoughts on The Venture Brothers and Narbonic, and many many posts about rearing a two-year-old kid. Enjoy.

And for those of you who are regular readers and are right now saying, “er?”, TWoP linked to me for my Jericho rants.

Heroism is Just Another Form of Insanity

We’ve been watching Heroes, the NBC show about superheroes. The premise is that otherwise-normal people develop superpowers. You’ve got your guy who can fly, your girl who can survive any injury, your guy who can read minds. And then you have your girl who has an alter-ego who takes over her body but does not otherwise give her superstrength or even change her skin color. She has super multiple personality disorder, I suppose. All I know is that I wouldn’t want to pick my superpower from the DSM-IV.

Also: Hiro is the bestest.

Ignite the Atmosphere

One thing I looked into during my research for the earlier Jericho post was the claim that Manhattan Project physicists were worried about atomic bombs igniting the atmosphere. It’s true, though they were worried about a run-away nitrogen fusion reaction, not actual ignition of the atmosphere. The scientists decided it wouldn’t happen. But don’t take my word for it. Take a look at the original summary report by Konopinski, Marvin, and Teller, which was declassified back in 1979. The report, number LA-602, concluded that you just couldn’t get a self-sustaining fusion or fission reaction out of the atmosphere no matter how hot you make things. You lose too much energy to various forms of radiation, including light via Compton scattering.

Eli Training

I worry sometimes about Eli’s behavior, but on the whole he is an extremely well-behaved kid. He says “please” and “thank you,” and follows most of our directions. A few weeks ago we were at the supermarket and the woman behind the meat counter said of Eli, “He minds so well!”

Since I am a generous and kind soul, I will show you how we manage Eli’s behavior.

Eli inside a large dog crate

The trick is to start cage training at an early age. Pretty soon your child will be comfortable with a pet-like existence.

Eli sleeping inside a large dog crate