Tuesday, September 21, 2010


This year the graduate director of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Rutgers decided that every grad student get a desk. This is mine...

This is the cubical that I share with my friend Sergey

This is my actual desk, I have not yet had an opportunity to personalize it yet. Mostly because of this...
The yellow square is where all my classes are, the red square is where the computer lab is (where I would see friends), and the blue square is where I can sit at my desk staring at the cubical wall. I never have a very good reason to use my desk, someone recommended I could use it to sleep at, but as I pointed out it would only be marginally longer for me to go to my car and drive home to my own bed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jewish Mothers

This is the kind of thing you wouldn't believe unless you see it, so please stop by this exact location and see for yourself!

If found this stone in a Jewish cemetery.
The epitaph says "I told you I was sick"

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marketing 101

Last week's Teaneck Suburbanite had an "Adopt a pet" ad, starring this friendly, entirely sane, well tempered,  and photogenic kitty:
Believe it or not, she's still up for adoption.

Granted, our kitties have mastered deranged psycho kitty looks, too,
but it seems to me that a picture of a sleeping cat is always a better bet than one displaying a demonic fuzzbutt.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How Many Gigabytes are in a Human Finger?

I often like to marvel at how efficient DNA is at storing and copying information.

There are about 236 million base pairs in the honeybee genome, and at 2 bits for each base pair* it could contain 56 megabytes of information**. There are about 950,000 neurons in its brain, each one has a copy of the entire genome. When we do the multiplication we see that the honeybee brain can hold about 52,000 Gigabytes of information!

But how fast is this information being copied? It takes a male worker bee about 20 days to reach adulthood so not counting the first cell thats a rate of about 30 Megabytes/s. Thats not so fast considering a high speed hard drive can go over 1 Gigabyte/s, and technically CD/DVD technology can copy great quantities of information even faster.

All that information is packed into a volume I estimate to be less than 8 millimeters cubed. The following is not possible, but if we could extend that density of information to the volume of a typical flash drive, 9 cm^3, the brain matter could hold 60 million gigabytes.

It turns out that all this information is more than Nature really needs. In the human genome its estimated that %98 of the DNA doesn't even code for proteins. This means that the biological cost of extra DNA is almost zero. Its so cheap, so fast and so small that more compact genomes are hardly selected for!

The human genome is even bigger than a honeybee's, I wonder how much data is in a human finger . . . if anyone can hazard a guess for the number of cells in a finger, post a comment!

* 2 bits/base pair because there are 4 possible bases, 2^2 is two bits
** note it could contain less actual if the entropy is low, but that is irrelevant to my point

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Blogger Fiesta Meetup Fail Followup

Last week, I commented on the epic fail of Blogger's 11th birthday fiesta.  Shortly after that post went up, Blogger, clearly seeing the nature of their fail, posted a reminder.  Well, the number of meetups and people attending increased after that post, but the overall distribution didn't change much:
Again, this is with logarithmic bin widths.  Compared to last week, the larger parties got a bit larger, but many more single person parties appeared.  Logarithms sometimes confuse people, so here's what the histogram looks like with regular bin widths:
That first bin are the 21 parties with no one attending.  And, I know I said logarithms confuse people, but it's really hard to get a sense of the relative size of these counts. So, here's regular bins, but log bin counts:
I said it before, and I'll say it again: Epic Fail.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Graduate Student

Well I just got home from my first day of graduate school (Yes that right, I got into graduate school). I have had one class so far and although the professor insisted that graduate courses are far harder than undergraduate courses he spent most of the class going over coordinate system changes via matrix rotations which are simple. However, there are some positives. I have a mailbox in the department and I am going to get desk space somewhere. But not everything has been fun and games, the university decided that my undergraduate student ID would not longer be sufficient, so they revoked all my swipe access and insisted I come in and get a new one. I went in to get a new one and they didn't even ask if I wanted a new photo they just printed a new one before I knew what happened. So my ID picture still looks like this and to top all that it still says student not graduate student. I did get into graduate school though so not to many complaints. And sorry Eli you don't get to post two in a row.