Monthly Archives: October 2012

As Promised: Time Zones

Time zones are a social construct. They don’t exist in any real sense, but are convenient for coordinating activities in regions where noon occurs at about the same time (that is, the sun is highest in the sky at about the same time). Standardized time zones occur in multiples of hours (with the occasional 30 or 45 minute difference) from Greenwich Mean Time also known by its official name, Coordinated Universal Time (aka UTC). Time zones are usually notated as UTC+d where d is the time difference between the time zone and UTC. For instance, UTC+0:00 contains Liberia, Ghana, Greenland, Portugal, Iceland, Ireland and the UK, UTC+3:30 contains Iran, UTC+4:30 contains Afghanistan, UTC+8:45 contains part of Western Australia, and UTC+12:00 contains New Zealand. UTC+D means that a location is D hours ahead of UTC, while UTC-D means that the location is D hours behind UTC. For instance, Brazil, Argentina and Suriname are in UTC-3:00, United States Eastern Time is UTC-5:00, United States Pacific Time is UTC-8:00 and the outlying Baker Island is in UTC-12:00.

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Metapost: New fun facts every Sunday

After some consideration, taking into account the amount of material I’d have to discuss otherwise and the amount of work I have, I’ve decided to set up a regular posting schedule. Every Sunday by 7:00pm Pacific Time (PDT is UTC-8, PST is UTC-7, for you time geeks. For the rest of you, Time Zones will be the next fun fact). Thanks for your support!

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Why White Chocolate isn’t Chocolate

The term “white chocolate” refers to a specific type of chocolate candy that has a taste that resembles its brown chocolate counterparts, but lacks a tan of deep brown color. White chocolate, however, is only a derivative of chocolate, not a true chocolate because it lacks the cocoa solids found in the cocoa bean and other types of chocolate. Rather, white chocolate consists primarily of cocoa butter, a fatty substance extracted from the cocoa bean and cocoa bean pod, sugar, milk solids and salt. This lack of cocoa solids mean that white chocolate has only trace amounts of the caffeine and theobromine found in relative abundance in other chocolate products.

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Countable and Uncountable Infinity

Hold on to your pants, this might get interesting here. What if I told you that some types of infinity are bigger than other types of infinity? It’s true. Just think about it for a second. The number of positive whole numbers, or natural numbers, is really big, infinite actually, because for the largest number you can think of I can just add one and there’s a bigger number. The set of natural numbers is what’s called “countably infinite” and any set of numbers that can be paired with the set of natural numbers is also considered “countably infinite”. Theoretically, any countable set can have its entire contents listed if the counter were given enough time. However, the set of all real numbers is not countably infinite because for every two values in the set there are infinitely many values between them. In fact, the set of all numbers between 0 and 1 is greater than the set of all natural numbers, that’s what uncountability does.

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From the Archives: Historical Bad@$$es: The Moonwalkers (August 25)

In memoriam of the first moonwalker, Neil Armstrong, today’s fun fact is about the moonwalkers:

Nine manned missions to the moon have taken place since 1968 when the Apollo 8 mission was launched, and all have been undertaken by the United

States. Of those missions (Apollo 8, 10-17), six (Apollo 11, 12, 14-17) landed on the moon. The following is the list of people who have been to the moon (meaning they have at least been in orbit around the moon), in order of date orbited, then rank for mission. Those marked with an asterisk (*) walked on the moon during the indicated mission, those marked with a caret (^) are appearing on the list for a second time.
Apollo 8: Commander Frank Borman II
Command Module Pilot James Lovell Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot William Anders
Apollo 9: Commander James McDivitt
Command Module Pilot David Scott
Lunar Module Pilot Russell “Rusty” Schweickart
Apollo 10: Commander Thomas Stafford
Command Module Pilot John Young
Lunar Module Pilot Eugene Cernan
Apollo 11: Commander Neil Armstrong*
Command Module Pilot Michael Collins
Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin Jr.*
Apollo 12: Commander Charles “Pete” Conrad Jr.*
Command Module Pilot Richard Gordon Jr.
Lunar Module Pilot Alan Bean*
Apollo 13: Commander James Lovell Jr.^
Command Module Pilot Thomas Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot Fred Haise Jr.
Apollo 14: Commander Alan Shepard Jr.*
Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa
Lunar Module Pilot Edgar Mitchell*
Apollo 15: Commander David Scott*
Command Module Pilot Alfred Worden
Lunar Module Pilot James Irwin*
Apollo 16: Commander John Young^*
Command Module Pilot Thomas Mattingly II
Lunar Module Pilot Charles Duke Jr.*
Apollo 17: Commander Eugene Cernan^*
Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans
Lunar Module Pilot Harrison Schmitt*

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Filed under From the Archives, Historical Bad@$$, History, Science, Space

Metapost: Work…

Sorry for not posting lately, but there are probably not going to be any posts until Thursday. Classes have me a bit bogged down, but I’m sure I’ll have more cool things to share with all of you.

DFTBA

-kogan56

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Double Post Part 2: Places and Things With Long Names

So there are places with long names, there are people with long names and there are things with long names. Let’s start with some fun ones. The official name of the Thai city of Bangkok (Krung Thep Maha Nakhon) is actually a shortened version of its full ceremonial name: Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit. The full name of the UK is the United Kingdom of Great Britian and Northern Ireland. The Maori name of a New Zealand hill is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is a town in Wales, Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg is a lake in Massachusetts and the full name of the protein titin is just short of 190,000 letters long.

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Double Post Part 1: From the Archives: Nukes (July 22)

Okay, it’s past midnight where I am, so I’ll post this now and have something else for you all later today.
Since the first nuclear test in 1945 at the White Sands Missile Range, then White Sands Proving Ground, there have been around 2000-2100 nuclear detonations in either the form tests or use as a weapon. Of these about 1000 are American, 700 are Soviet/Russian, 200 are French, 45 are British, 45 are Chinese, 6 are Indian, 6 are Pakistani, and two are North Korean. Unconfirmed tests include Iranian, German and Japanese devices. The three most prolific testing years were, in order of most tests to least, 1961, 1958 and 1968. About 140 nuclear tests occurred in 1961, with about 100 of those being American. The longest period of time between two nuclear tests was a span of about 100 months from June 1998 to October 2006. Since 1998, the only nation to perform confirmed nuclear tests has been North Korea. The “Doomsday Clock” is a subjective measure of the danger of nuclear catastrophe based on current events. Initially set at 11:53, the closest the Doomsday Clock has gotten to midnight (global nuclear disaster) was 11:53 in 1953. The farthest the Doomsday Clock has been from midnight was in 1991 when the clock was set to 11:43. The Doomsday Clock is currently set to 11:55

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From the Archives: Lacuna (Matata) (August 24)

A lacuna is the untranslatability of a word from a given language to another, or the accidental absence of a word that is allowed by that languages grammatical rules. In the case of accidental absence, you can turn some verbs in English (recite, arrive, etc.) into nouns by dropping the “e” and adding “al” (recital, arrival). However, describe does not have it’s noun form (describal). Similarly, in English, there is no gender neutral form of “uncle” or “aunt”, and there are no male or female forms of “cousin”. In the case of untranslatability a concept that has a word in one language might not have a word in another. For example, English has no word for someone who is not a virgin (specifically no noun), Romanian has no word for shallow (as in shallow water) and Welsh has no word for 11 (really it’s something like tenty one, but that’s two words so it doesn’t count). Untranslatability is overcome by borrowing words from other languages, creating new words, or translating into a phrase in order to convey that missing concept.

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Prophets of Islam and the Muslim Jesus

Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended to frame any religion in a negative light, and the primary source for this post is this Wikipedia article. I understand if the views presented as common in this post do not square with your personal views, they are meant as generalizations and I in no way claim to be an expert in any religious study.

In this post, the word “prophet” is used to refer to any person who, in a given religious tradition, has held the audience of any of said religion’s gods. In this case, some of the prophets of Islam include (names in Anglicized form) Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Jesus, again, I’m generalizing here, is regarded as a prophet and leader of the Jewish people in Islamic tradition, born of the virgin Mary and who ascended into heaven rather than being crucified. Both Jesus and Muhammad are descendants of Abraham, with Muhammad being the descendant of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, while Jesus is the descendant of Isaac, son of Abraham and Sarah. Of course, one major difference between Islamic and Christian views of Jesus is that (many) Christians regard Jesus to be the literal son of God or God incarnate who died for the sins of humanity, while (many) Muslims reject such claims.

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