American Science Dynasty in Peril

The 20th century is often dubbed the “American Century”, and rightly so. America’s dominant position on the world stage during this period was due in large part to the nation’s scientific vitality (and superiority). Companies like AT&T (Bell Labs), IBM, Intel, Boeing, and yes, even Microsoft have fueled more than the American economy. They churn out innovative technologies that are a strategic national asset. In recent years, however, it seems as though America is falling behind – particularly in biotech. But the real problem is that the average American citizen lacks basic 21st century literacy, by which I mean fundamental understanding of the underpinnings of modern science.

A professor at Northwestern is studying this problem.

Dr. Miller’s data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.

NY Times full text

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“Tell us about Lenn,” Egwene called. “How he flew to the moon in the belly of an eagle made of fire. Tell about his daughter Salya walking among the stars.”

Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

“One of the schools of Tlon has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, that the past is no more than present memory. […] Another school has it that the history of the universe, which contains the history of our lives and the most tenuous details of them, is the handwriting produced by a minor god in order to communicate with a demon.”

“He would leave the society his mountain ranges with their golden fields, his prairies where bull and bison roamed, his Negros, his brothels, and his dollars, on one condition: ‘The work will have no truck with the imposter Jesus Christ.’ Buckley did not believe in God, but nevertheless wished to demonstrate to the nonexistent God that mortal men were capable of conceiving a world.”

Umlaut 0x6F -> 0xF6.

A Second is a Long Time


I’ve been playing a lot of TetrisAttack lately. For those not in the know, TetrisAttack is the greatest game ever devised. You might think it would be Halo, or Counterstrike, or Warcraft – but you would be wrong. If you don’t believe, get yourself a SNES emulator and try it out. I like to put on some good music and zone out playing Endless Mode.

I’ven’t played TetrisAttack, really, since my roomie Jason graduated last year. We played at Wampler’s house once since then but I was out of practice and not able to really get into it. But the Appartment O’ Fun (No Austrians Allowed) next year is going to be all about the SNES and the TetrisACrack.

As Jason is the only person to ever be able to beat me, and he’s gone now, I’m going to go ahead and claim that I’m the best TetrisAttack player on campus.

Adamas Tamed

[FutureTech – Materials Science]

Physicists in Germany have created a material that is harder than diamond. Natalia Dubrovinskaia and colleagues at the University of Bayreuth made the new material by subjecting carbon-60 molecules to immense pressures. The new form of carbon, known as “aggregated diamond nanorods”, is expected to have many industrial applications.

The hardness of a material is measured by its isothermal bulk modulus. Aggregated diamond nanorods have a modulus of 491 gigapascals (GPa), compared with 442 GPa for conventional diamond. Dubrovinskaia and two of her co-workers – Leonid Dubrovinky and Falko Langenhorst – have patented the process used to make the new material.

Looks like Vishal may be in trouble.


And the beast shall come forth surrounded by a roiling cloud of vengeance. The house of the unbelievers shall be razed and they shall be scorched to the earth. Their tags shall blink until the end of days.

from The Book of Mozilla, 12:10

Will you be saved? Or condemned to BSoD for enternity? Surf to “about:mozilla”.

In the Reins

I highly recommend the CD In the Reins. Buying it is kind of a rip-off since it only has seven songs on it, but maybe you can borrow it from a friend. In the Reins is the result of a collaboration between Iron & Wine and Calexico. I’ve never listened to Calexico, but I like Iron & Wine quite a bit.

Anyways, this 7 song CD has at least 4 great songs. has the CD filed under “Alternative Rock”. The way I might describe it is that it is like a Kings of Convenience CD, except that the songs on the CD sound different from each other. Also they are more rockin’.

My favorite tracks from this album are: “He Lays in Reins”, “Prison on Route 41″, “Dead Man’s Will”, and “16, Maybe Less”. The latter is one of the most sadnostalgic songs I’ve ever heard. I’ll reproduce the lyrics below, but they really lose a lot in the absence of the music…

16, Maybe Less

beyond the ridge to the left, you asked me what I want
between the trees and cicadas singing around the pond
I spent an hour with you, should I want anything else?

One grinning wink like the neon on a liquor store
we were sixteen maybe less, maybe a little more
I walked home smiling, I finally had a story to tell

and though an autumn-time lullaby sang our new-born love to sleep
my brother told me, he saw you there
in the woods one Christmas eve, waiting

I met my wife at a party when I drank too much
my son is married and tells me we don’t talk enough
call it predictable, yesterday my dream was of you:

beyond the ridge to the west, the sun has left the sky
between the trees and the pond you put your hand in mine,
said “time has bridled us both but I remember you, too”

and though an autumn-time lullaby sang our new-born love to sleep
I dreamt I traveled and found you there
in the woods one Christmas eve

Wandering in the Rain

In the summer, my mom and I get up early on Sundays to go to a nearby flea market. Sometimes my dad comes with us. I was up at 6:30(!) today and ready to go. When we got there it was raining, but surprisingly there were a lot of vendors standing around in the rain waiting for it to clear up, so we got out and walked around. I didn’t find anything but it was interesting to be out wandering in the rain so early in the morning.

This evening the Wilners came over for dinner. I made a delicious bowl of homemade salsa, with lots of limes in it. Jasmine gives me crap about the number of limes I put in my salsa, but I tried it once without so many and it just wasn’t as good. So pfft to her. My mom cooked hamburgers for the first time in forever. I like it when the Wilners come over because Barry is always full of interesting conversation.

Takin' it Down for the Summer

Flop: A, K, J – all clubs. Johnson will bet into anything!

With Mike’s return to school this Friday, our Saturday/Wednesday summer poker games have come to an end. We played our last game Wednesday. It’s very sad. I feel like a heroine addict living in a nation that just won the war on drugs.

The poker games started the beginning of last summer. Our game is Texas Hold’em, and $5 buys you $500 in chips (we are big stake gamblers, you see). We have anywhere between 5 to 10 people show up for a game. The usual suspects are myself, Johnson, Mike D., Tommy, Nicole, Chris, and Adam – though we occasionally have special guest stars like Guy Who Calls Anything and Perez. As you can tell by the cowboy hat that Johnson is wearing in the photo above, we are very serious about our gambling. Poker is great. For a $5 buy-in one gets four or five hours of non-stop hilarious fun. Even if you go home broke, you just had 4-5 of hilarious fun. Compare that to the cost of going to a two hour movie for $10 and which may or may not turn out to be hilariously fun.

I think I’m going to start having some games when I get back to Stanford – so if you are at all interested in some crazy low-stakes Texas Hold’em action, drop me a line.

Nicole after hitting quads on the river (not pictured: opponents)