Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Misleading ads

What's the deal with ads for Altovis? They look like ads for a prescription drug. But the product is not approved by the FDA for anything, and a quick look at the FAQ on the website has the bogus alarm going off louder than ever. I've seen misleading pseudo-pharmaceutical ads for two other products as well.

I've been opposed to ads for pharmaceuticals for some time on the grounds that people self-diagnose for products they don't actually need. But I never anticipated that it might lead to fake legitimacy for snake oil. Let's hope that this isn't the beginning of an ugly trend.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Barbecue Champ Mad After Grill Stolen

I've never met Paul Kirk, but I have one of Paul Kirk's books on BBQing, and like the way it approaches the subject. You got to wonder, how could anyone use his grill without it being noticed?

Yahoo! News - Barbecue Champ Mad After Grill Stolen

Monday, June 28, 2004

Liberal minority

Congratulations to the Liberal party, who won a minority government in the Canadian federal election! Final numbers are not in yet, but it appears that the Liberal party has a strong minority, able to align with any of the Conservatives, Bloc Québécois, and NDP, possibly on an issue-by-issue basis. This could result in a government in which every opposition MP has real power, since Paul Martin will require support from some of the opposition to pass any legislation.

Other interesting notes: The Bloc won a record high number of seats. A computer glitch briefly caused the media to report that a Marxist-Leninist candidate was ahead in Mississauga. And after being defeated for the Conservative nomination in his riding, Chuck Cadman won a seat in the Commons as an independent.

Being in SC at the moment, I don't have my usual access to Canadian television, but I was able to watch the CTV news telecast over the internet. Isn't technology great? :-)

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Images and news from the Spirit and Opportunity Rovers

After 170 martian days (none of this "sol" stuff for me...), the Spirit rover has joined Opportunity in detecting rocks with significant hematite content. Further analysis of the mineralogy is still needed to make the case that the hematite was deposited in an aqueous environment as appears to be the case for Opportunity's detection, but the rocks are _truly_ unusual in any case:

Some Crazy-Ass Rocks.

The rock getting some media attention yesterday and today is "Pot of Gold" and is located just above and to the left of the center of that image. It appears to be morphologically similar to the group of rocks exposed at the far right of the image. You can clearly see resistant, thin shells around knobby, decayed looking rock.

One Crazy-Ass Rock.

Displays the profile of "pot of gold" in shadow, and

Close view of a Crazy-Ass Rock.

shows the texture of the rock on the ~1 inch scale.


Speaking of the Opportunity detections, keep your ears peeled for hints of astrobiological investigations at that site. The mineralogy of the Opportunity landing site is strongly suggestive of a hydrothermal depositional environment with temperatures and redox conditions known to be highly conducive to bacterial activity on earth. Further, the precise mineral phases precipitated in such environments on earth are very strongly mediated by microbiological activity, and the Mossbauer spectrometers that the rovers carry are, by their very nature, sensitive to subtle variations in Fe-bearing minerals like those found in such environments.

Mossbauer spectroscopy:

The Mossbauer effect refers to the utilization of a cold crystal matrix to stiffen the recoil of a nucleus as it emits or absorbs a gamma radiation photon. Absent that effect from the matrix, an emitted (or absorbed) photon loses sufficient energy to the recoil of the nucleus to take it out of resonance with the opposite energy level change in a potential absorbing (emitting) nucleus of the same isotope.

for more information on why the Mossbauer effect is particularly useful for studying Fe minerals. In a Mossbauer spectrometer, Co-57 is used as a gamma source. The actual gamma emission is not from the decay of Co-57 to Fe-57, but from the relaxation of the resultant Fe-57 nuclei to lower energy states. The gamma source is vibrated to sweep the emitted gamma energy over the range expected to be resonant with the Fe nuclei in the sample given the sample's anticipated temperature, chemistry, and crystalline structure. The specific gamma emitting transition utilized, the mass of the Fe nucleus, and the characteristics of typical Fe-bearing crystals make the source velocities required and the resolution obtainable particularly attractive for Fe relative to other elements.

-Ethan, very sorry for the too-long post.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Presidential candidate addresses Canadian voters

CBC News reports that Ralph Nader has released an open letter (pdf) to Canadian voters advising them not to vote for the Conservative party. Nader points to US failures in the "pay-or-die model" of health care and the concentration of power in the hands of corportations, advising Canadians not to elect the party that would favour implementing similar policies in their country. On a side note, does anyone know whether Canada Firsts is any good?

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Bertuzzi charged with assault

Vancouver Canuck strongman Todd Bertuzzi has been charged with assault for his on-ice attack on Colorado Avalanche forward Steve Moore in March. As you may recall, Bertuzzi sucker punched Moore in the back of the head, and Moore landed on the ice face-first with the weight of Bertuzzi and other players atop him. Moore is still in recovery. Bertuzzi was suspended for the remainder of the season, and the NHL will decide later whether he will be allowed to play again.

I can sympathize with the NHL's position that no charges were necessary, but this was a pretty vicious (and gratuitous) attack, so it's hard to fault criminal charges. What do you think: Should what happens on the ice stay on the ice, or did the Bertuzzi attack cross the line of what constitutes a criminal act?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

More False Information From TSA

It appears several airlines and reservation systems have quietly done the bidding of the TSA, giving contractors info such as phone numbers, credit card numbers, and health information without asking permission from travelers or even informing them.

Wired News: More False Information From TSA

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Turning the corner

Finally some good news in the Canadian federal election. After weeks of decline in the polls, the Liberals are on the uptick again, and support for the Conservatives has declined. (Globe & Mail article) As I mentioned in a previous post, there are good reasons to fear what a Conservative government would do, so any news that their fortunes are in decline is welcome. If only we had analogous good news here in the States: the latest Zogby poll shows Bush taking over the lead in electoral votes.

Higher Education

Since I've been encouraged not to limit my posts... I'll offer a pair of stories on higher education trends for people's reactions.

Schools struggle with affirmative action - Jun 21, 2004

College in 4 years? Try 5 or 6. - Jun. 22, 2004

starting new wedding traditions

Lookey lookey! I am making a post! and it's completely random. Don't you all miss me? :)-
So at Brian's sister's wedding, the bride threw her bouquet for all the unmarried women and the groom, who just graduated from Harvard Math, threw the first chapter of his thesis for all the ungraduated grad students.
I caught the thesis! woohoo! I guess this means I'm the next to graduate... or is it that I graduate in a year? well I don't know but I still think it's a good omen, don't you?
This is the second wedding I've been to where they did a thesis toss. People getting married this summer (i.e Eric): are you doing a thesis toss? (if so, can you aim it at Brian and me? we are trying to graduate in the fall... ;) I wonder if it's going to be a new tradition? maybe Emily Post will write about it in the next edition of her wedding guide...

Monday, June 21, 2004

SpaceShipOne Rocket

SpaceShipOne Posted by Hello

I'm surprised nobody else has posted something about this yet.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happy Summer Solstice

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Comet Wild 2 from Stardust (mission to return first sample of comet material to Earth) Posted by Hello

Friday, June 18, 2004

Movin' out

Well, I'm almost all packed. It looks like I'll have 42 boxes, and they all need to be ready to go by tomorrow afternoon. I don't leave until Sunday, but I have to pack my computer shortly, so I'll be blog silent until then.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Do you Math Hut?

I found this URL and I had to share it:

Plus, check out the Mathsticks and Deep Dish Pi at Math Hut.

And now for something completely different: World Meat Congress 2004 in Canada

Fox News censured for rant at BBC

My first entry! Only I don't have much to say. So I'll just point you to this article. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

US Postal -> Discovery Channel for Lance

The USPS got some flack for sponsoring the US Postal Cycling team. Then they got a new postmaster general, and decided to let their sponsorship expire. Now the Discovery channel is taking over the sponsorship. But the Discovery channel says they won't be covering cycling races. :( link

Monday, June 14, 2004

Phoebe from Cassini (Astronomy Picture of the Day)

I'll try not to flood mathhut with every other APOD, but with the Cassini-Saturn encounter just starting, it may be hard to resist. I think the Voyager encounters were a contributor to my interest in astronomy, and I remember writing a report entitled "Saturn's Satelite System" in 3rd or 4th grade, so I expect to really enjoy the last of NASA's old style (not 'faster, cheaper, better") missions to the outer solar system. I beleive this is Cassini's only planned flyby of Phoebe (although I'm not certain if another encounter might be possible on an extended mission), so this may be the best data for Phoebe for decades to come. Perhaps studying the light and dark regions of Phoebe will help guide theories for explaining the even more remarkable brightness contrast on Iapetus (which I beleive Cassini will not have any close encounters with). I remember thinking about that for hours in grade school.

Link to Astronomy Picture of the Day & And check the link to the Cassini Imaging Team for more great pictures

Allah Made Me Funny

CBC News ran an interesting story about Allah Made Me Funny, the official Muslim stand-up comedy tour. Among the objectives of the tour are to address social issues and biases in the context of humour. As pointed out by the CBC report, Muslims in the post-9/11 (North-)American world are often connected to terrorism, suicide bombings, and war. It is encouraging to see that something positive is growing out of this environment of prejudice.

The tour will come to Boston eventually, but no specific dates have been announced.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Schmo returns

The Joe Schmo Show returns with Joe Schmo 2 on Spike on the 15th. I understand that the premise is different, but can you really pull off such a hoax a second time, especially when you have the same host?

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Canadian Election -- 28 June

Okay, I'm bored and I don't want to disappoint Eric, so here's the obligatory Canadian political entry.

There's an election going on in Canada right now. People all across Canada will be voting on the 28th to send an MP to the House of Commons. This should have been an easy ride for the governing Liberals, who over their past decade in power have balanced the budget, presided over a booming Canadian economy, and especially in the last few years managed to stay progressive on social issues. All in all, the Liberal party represents Canadian values quite well.

But years in power bring corruption. The Liberals have managed to misspend billions of dollars (Canadian) in the HRD scandal, the gun registry debacle, and the sponsorship scandal. This latter broke earlier this year, after Paul Martin became PM effectively through a coup within the Liberal party. Martin has claimed that he knew nothing about the fiscal malfeasance, since he has been a rival of former PM Jean Chrétien for nearly 15 years. But as finance minister during most of the Chrétien era, Martin doesn't have plausible deniability.

Martin is also being accused of hypocrisy in dealing with what he called the "democratic deficit" in Canada. He backbenched nearly every Chrétien supporter in the House of Commons and manipulated Liberal riding associations to deny former Chrétien supporters the chance to run for (re-)election.

Given all this, it's no wonder that many Canadians want to punish the Liberals. And that's being reflected in the polls, which showed the Liberals in firm majority territory when the writ was dropped, sliding through minority territory, and now possibly into a Conservative minority government. The latest poll has the Conservatives in the lead. Despite Conservative leader Stephen Harper's protests to the contrary, it is clear from comments by Conservative MPs that a substantial fraction of their caucus are against abortion, equality rights, bilingualism, and the lenient Canadian policy on marijuana use, as well as in favour of restoring capital punishment. While many of the Conservative party's (unofficial) stances would poll well here in the States, the Canadian electorate is much more progressive on social issues. Can their desire to punish Martin and the Liberals be clouding their judgment so much that they're willing to compromise the tenets they hold dear? Or are they expressing their outrage in polls now only to recant at the last moment and vote for a "safe" party like the Liberals?

This is already a long post, so I won't go into the NDP, the Bloc Québécois, or the Green Party. A great deal of interesting things could be said regarding them, but the election campaign has 16 more days to go, so I'll pace myself. :-)

Where is everybody?

I'm assuming Vincent will soon be advertising the new MathHut blog to a bunch of people. Of course, it would be more interesting if there was some new information and temptation to post. While I trust that Vincent will soon have a post on Canadian politics, I'll start with an easy one...

Where are you? What are you doing?

I'll post what I think I know. Please feel encouraged to add, elaborate, or speculate on yourself or others.

Eric: I'm towards the end of my first year as a postdoc in the astronomy department at UC Berkeley. I'm still researching extrasolar planets. But my big excitement is that I'll be getting married on July 3.

Christina: Christina is now working on her Ph.D. dissertation in Psychology at UCLA. Amazingly, she's also getting married on July 3, so she agreed to share a wedding web page with Eric.

Vincent: Vincent will soon be finishing his Ph.D. in Astronomy at Harvard. I hear Vincent won a prize fellowship at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico (near the VLA) and will be heading out that way soon.

The return of Math Hut

After a brief hiatus, Math Hut the blog is back! Yippee!