Thursday, August 30, 2012

The wig is on fire

I got a bizarre voicemail from a number which appeared on called ID as 000-000-0000:

This is my interpretation of the lyrics:
It's a fiery afternoon
So hot, so hot
Run run run run
Yeah, the wig is on fire, the date's getting hot; this is my desire, no want to hit this spot, yeaahhh.
A quick Google search later found the actual song Kolohe Kai - "Cool Down":

I wasn't too far off on the lyrics, but apparently it's the waves that "is on fire" and the day that's getting hot.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Stanford Scientists Confirm my ant behavior hypothesis

Two years ago there were ants invading my office, and I took some time out to study their patterns.

I learned a few things about their behavior including one thing I stated in this post here:
Food chewed off quickly allows each ant return faster to the nest, bringing out more ants at a much faster rate than food chewed slowly.
Apparently this discovery has been proven by Stanford Scientists Debora Gordon et. al. and restated in a lot more words in this press release:
Gordon has found that the rate at which harvester ants ... leave the nest to search for food corresponds to food availability. A forager won't return to the nest until it finds food. If seeds are plentiful, foragers return faster, and more ants leave the nest to forage. If, however, ants begin returning empty handed, the search is slowed, and perhaps called off.
Harvester ants. Creative commons photo: Steve Jurvetson 

Here is the link to an actual paper, and the words from the paper restating the above:
Regulation depends on feedback from returning foragers, who stimulate the outgoing foragers to leave on the next trip. Forager return rate corresponds to food availability, because foragers almost always continue to search until they find a seed, then immediately bring it back to the nest. The more food is available, the less time foragers spend searching and the more rapidly they return to the nest.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Yesterday, I deposited my completed doctoral dissertation:
and completed the last bit of paperwork.

I am now officially done with my Ph.D.

Once the text is cleared through DARPA's public release office, I'll be sure to share it. The final count is:
232 pages
25243 words in the text
1594 words in figure/table captions
76 figures/tables
96 numbered equations

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Meeting Gary Hug and Viewing Near Earth Objects

Completing part 3/3 of my photos with celebrities month. Gary hug is an amateur astronomer in Kansas who tracks and sometimes finds asteroids, especially ones that are on a course bringing them near Earth.
He has so far discovered 40 asteroids (according to wikipedia) and has tracked countless others. He uses a database from the Minor Planet Center and looks up the most threatening objects to get a better read and its motion. Once a good measure of location is taken on 3-4 nights, you can pretty much predict where it will be for hundreds of years.

This is what it looks like when the telescope is being calibrated (note that the time is not Kansas time)

This is what the asteroid looks like through the telescope. The software digitally moves the image along the path that the asteroid is expected to be moving in. This results in streaked stars (over the ~7 min exposure), but the actual asteroid shows up as a nice Gaussian peak.

This is the "Sand Lot" a telescope (and building) that Gary built himself ... he actually built the entire thing himself, up from the ground (except for the mirror and the camera).

Here is an NPR article about him. I really hope he discovers an asteroid that will be a very close near miss to earth, encouraging humanity to make a real investment in actively protecting our planet from NEO.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Kitchen sink sous vide tilapia

Ever since I saw this video, I've been wanting to cook fish sous vide in my kitchen sink, but until recently I've been too busy for cooking experiments. This past Sunday, though, we decided to finally make tilapia in the sink. I'll also note this is a really kid-friendly method of cooking, since (until the last step) the temperatures involved are pretty low, and kids can help by holding the thermometer, or by dropping the bagged fish into the sink.

First, we filled the sink with hot tap water, at a temperature which is good for this sort of fish:

Then, we bagged the filets with a little bit of olive oil, and immersed in cold to squeeze out the air (in retrospect, I probably could have done this step right in the sink). Then, they went for a swim in the water for around 15 minutes (look up tables of cooking times in a book, or just calculate it yourself). Since we were eating these right away, we didn't need to worry about pasteurization issues.

To finish, I seared them in a pan with butter and capers (which became all crispy), topped with fresh ground green pepper and a squeeze of lemon, and served them with quinoa. They didn't need added salt; the capers were sufficient:

This actually turned out to be a really quick and easy way of cooking the fish to a perfect doneness in a nearly-foolproof way. It has the added benefit of not heating up my kitchen on a hot summer day. I am definitely going to be doing this more!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mitch Altman, Inventor of TV-B-Gone

After about two years of obsessively using TV B Gone I had the pleasure of meeting the brilliant inventor Mitch Altman. He is actually a real celebrity as you can see from his Wikipedia page. He came to the Awesome Summit since he is a member of the San Francisco chapter of the awesome foundation.

Thanks Brandon for the photo.

If you hate TVs like I do, then you should definitely get one of these, it comes with the highest of high recommendations from me!

Next week will be the last of this series of Photos with Celebrities

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Wikipedia Celebrity Dthomsen8

I was lucky to meet three celebrities in the past few months so this is going to be part 1/3 "photos with celebrities" posts, the rest will come in the following weeks.

The man you are looking at above (on the left) has over 80,000 edits on wikipedia. You can see that from his user page here. This makes him ranked number 281 in the world for that metric which you can see on this list of wikipedians by number of edits. Of course edit count is not necessarily a good way to measure a person's contribution... especially if you have the "Obsessive edit-counting disorder".

At Wikimania Dthomsen8 he led a great session on the "article rescue squadron," a group he is very active in. They are volunteers dedicated to saving articles that were nominated for deletion by adding references or arguing for their notability. Their greatest frienemy are the grumpy admins of the New Page Patrol.


Another interesting user has been hard at work since 2007 with 33948 edits (as of 8-5-2012) that almost all are fixing incorrect uses of "comprised of" which you can see from his list of edits here. He also has a nice description of the problem that I didn't even know existed.

Thursday, August 02, 2012


Yesterday I successfully defended my PhD thesis. For those of you who missed the webcast, and/or are gluttons for punishment, here's a recording of the webcast:
Click here to see it on YouTube (in HD the slides are clearer).