John Scholvin

John Scholvin

still can’t fit a half-stack in the trunk

01 Nov 2020

sunday miscellany

I’ve never lived through a hurricane. In the Midwest, the natural disasters come at you too fast to do anything but run down and hide in the basement. You don’t have a lot of time to prep, or to fret. So I can only imagine what it feels like to know something as massively terrible and deadly as a hurricane is a few days out. They can see the damn thing from space. It’s coming, and you pretty much know exactly when, but there are still a lot of unknowns about how bad it will be at landfall. There’s a lot of data from the scientists, but some of it is in disagreement.

Given all that, I imagine you use the time to prepare to the best of your abilities, if you’re not among the few who are fortunate enough to be able to flee. I imagine you worry about the aftermath, even if you escape a direct hit by the eyewall. If the winds diminish, I imagine, you worry about the storm surge. I imagine you try to focus on tasks at hand to keep your mind uncluttered.

I imagine it feels a lot like this.

Anyway, I stumbled across a few links this week which I found interesting:

  • Right up front: I’m not a physicist; I only know enough to get in trouble. It’s with this self-awareness that I state that dark matter theories of the cosmos have always felt like unfalsifiable bullshit to me. They’ve done the math, and based on the theories we already know and love, there’s a lot of mass missing in the universe. But we can’t find it, so we’ll just say there’s a bunch of dark matter out there that we’ll never be able to see or measure? Really? That’s the best you got? Fortunately, now, for (admittedly underinformed) skeptics like me, there is good news. Turns out there may be a whole bunch of small black holes left over from the Big Bang whose mass would explain the difference. Now we have to turn our efforts to a better answer than “dark energy” for why everything is flying apart at the seams.
  • Did you know you can listen to Wikipedia being edited in real-time? (Note: link starts playing sound). Fascinating and oddly soothing.
  • Here’s a cool visualization on how masks work to catch airborne particles. The NYT has done some really good digital stuff this year.
  • A footnote on the weird email signups I’ve been getting. Turns out most of those addresses are used by spammers. I still don’t know why someone would sign them up here. But I did find a service called CleanTalk which provides an API that one can use to check for various kinds of nefarious online activity. I tossed out 80+ bogus subscribers, and then modified the subscription processing code to kick them out before they get in. At which point they suddenly quit trying. It’s all very weird. Thanks to those of you who offered suggestions on what’s going on here.

OK, back to hurricane prep.