Monday, November 30, 2009

A great observation

So this post from Laura Wattenberg's "Baby Name Wizard" blog has a wonderful observation:
Here's a little pet peeve of mine: nothing rhymes with orange. You've heard that before, right? Orange is famous for its rhymelessness. There's even a comic strip called "Rhymes with Orange." Fine then, let me ask you something. What the heck rhymes with purple?

If you stop and think about it, you'll find that English is jam-packed with rhymeless common words. What rhymes with empty, or olive, or silver, or circle? You can even find plenty of one-syllable words like wolf, bulb, and beige. Yet orange somehow became notorious for its rhymelessness, with the curious result that people now assume its status is unique.

I was directed to the quote by Andrew Gelman's Statistical Modeling blog, and he has other posts about names and sounds.


It all started with "information is beautiful", with this post about the 2012 non-issue, and then it went to this interesting figure which I am pondering...not sure if the labels are correct. Finally I was pointed to infochimps, a collection of data which I need to look at more closely.

We are in the information age, and I'd love the way the information in the first two links is portrayed, and I plan on playing in the infochimps site more.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Autotune, Science, and Creativity

I was just introduced to a very creative project called the Symphony of Science. It uses a technology called Autotune, traditionally used to keep lousy pop singers in key. In real-time it adjusts the pitch of the singer, so what comes out of the speakers is the correct frequency. Technically, it's very challenging to modify the waveform consistently, and in real-time.

Anyway, this particular project takes famous scientists, and puts their speech to music. The music is catchy, and really captures well the philosophies of Carl Sagan and others. It just makes me realize how much I miss Carl Sagan, which then makes me miss Stephen Jay Gould and E.T. Jaynes.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Yet another reason to leave Iraq...dowsing for bombs

So it seems as if the Iraqi police are dowsing for bombs and firearms, as covered in the New York Times and James Randi. They are doing this using a device they've purchased to the tune of $80 million, and it works no better using a coat hanger!

I think the best quote which summarizes the danger and the bad thinking is:

Major General Jehad al-Jabiri is head of the Ministry of the Interior’s General Directorate for Combating Explosives. “I don’t care about Sandia or the Department of Justice or any of them,” he says. “Whether it’s magic or scientific, what I care about is it detects bombs.”

Of course, if it hasn't been shown to detect bombs by science, the other option is irrelevant.