Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Hidden faults in houses

The author of Sippican Cottage wrote a summary post explaining how so many things had needed repair in his super-fixup home. "I promise I won't exaggerate, and as I've said a million times before, I never resort to hyperbole. Anyway, here goes: I believe that the recalcitrant sewer line is the entire reason I was able to buy my home for less than 25 grand a few years ago, even though it seemed to be the only thing in the house that functioned, at least a little."

Start with the last post in this series.

Another base curiosity

You learned long ago that representations of fractions can involve repeating decimals, such as 1/7 = 0.142857 142857 142857 ... to infinity.

Not so with non-integer bases. In base 3/2, the representation of 1/2 is an infinite but non-repeating decimal. This is already known, but I thought such a simple example was worth noting.


"But she got her way, and she could bear anything as long as she got her way."

I have merely skimmed Memories of the Future--I was indulging a morbid curiosity about what "futurist" fiction from 1923 would predict for 1938-1940--even if only purely satirical fiction.

It misses fire here and there. "I missed, by doing so, the sight of the Statue of Liberty, which had then only just been fitted with the apparatus which makes its right eye wink on the approach of the traveller."

hyperbaric therapy

I hadn't heard this before. hyperbaric treatment for autism. Seems odd--
One of the well-defined deficits in brain physiology related to ASD is hypoperfusion [15,22] and the consequence of cerebral hypoxia. Based on this physiological deficit, hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) has the potential to be a beneficial and appropriate treatment to alleviate hypoperfusion [23] and thus improve brain functionality and behavioral outcomes.

After an anecdotal treatment of a girl whose parents claimed improvement ("these aspects were not measured quantitatively and are not presented"), the team picked mice with a genetic defect like that related to autism in humans and

"1-month-old mice for 40 sessions for 2 months, 5 days a week, 1 h a day. A total of 30 mice were divided into 4 groups: ... The HBOT group received 100% oxygen gas in 2 ATA pressure levels, while the placebo group received air (containing 21% oxygen) with 1 ATA pressure levels. ... All mice survived the procedures with no indications of irregular behavior or discomfort."

They see some improvement in their tests for mouse "social and novelty" behavior. I'm a little less sanguine, but it looks like it might be promising. And, of course, there look (to my eye) to be various causes of ASD, so there might not be a single treatment. A larger study is probably in order, and some attempt to see how long effects last.

UPDATE: Before you try "do it yourself", recall that every treatment has risks.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022


From Anecdotal Evidence, a quote about clarity:
Primo Levi: “On Obscure Writing” (Other People’s Trades (trans. Raymond Rosenthal, 1989): “He who does not know how to communicate, or communicates badly, in a code that belongs only to him and a few others, is unhappy, and spreads unhappiness around him. If he communicates badly deliberately, he is wicked or at least a discourteous person.”

Monday, November 28, 2022

Impulsiveness and loyalty

From a Christmas Cracker, about Vincenzo Valdrati Valdre "while at Stowe he attended a wedding and when the bridegroom failed to appear, he was so moved at the bride’s distress that he chivalrously offered himself as a substitute – and was accepted."

You have to look something like that up. The life of James Gandon, Esq

A strong, though rather comical, illustration of his character was given in the mode of his marriage with an English lady some short time before his visit to Ireland. When in a convivial mood, with a few select friends, he was sometimes induced to give the following account of his courtship and marriage:

"With some others, I was invited to a wedding, which was to take place in the neighborhood of Stowe, in Buckinghamshire. When the parties invited on this occasion assembled at the church, one only was absent, namely, the bridegroom! whose presence was, of course, most anxiously required. The clergyman to officiate, and the vigilant clerk, were duly in attendance; minutes passed rapidly away, and the church clock struck an hour after the appointed time. All eyes were directed to the porch of the church, until it became evident that some fatal cause would interfere with the performance of the ceremony--that all was not right with some of the parties concerned."

"The worthy clergyman at length closed his book, in which was fruitlessly deposited a small slip of paper containing the names of the intended bride and bridegroom, then left the church; the bride adjusted her veil with a dissatisfied countenance, and all parties were preparing to depart for their respective homes. Feeling the distressing situation of the neglected lady, I boldly offered my services and offered my arm to lead the intended bride out of church."

"With feelings I felt a difficulty in checking or explaining, I boldly offered myself as a substitute for the absent suitor. Nor was my spirited conduct slightly appreciated--a blushing approval sanctioned my honorable and gallant conduct. The clergyman was overtaken and requested to return, as matters had assumed a new feature. Return he did, but on the explanation of the affair, it became his unpleasant duty to state to the elated and happy pair, `that three successive Sundays must pass over before it would be in his power to contribute to the happiness we so eagerly anticipated.'"

In short, the newly betrothed parties did wait the protracted period. The original truant, the cause of so many variations of the compass, continued absent, we may presume with leave; and his successor, Waldre being a man of honour, a "chevalier sans peur et sans reproche," patiently abided the appointed time, at the end of which the volunteering parties were happily united as man and wife.

I gather that they were married for of the order of 30-40 years until his death (hers followed shortly).

Sunday, November 27, 2022

An aid to retrospection

A man is reviewing what he noted in Bible his mother gave him:
I find that I’ve underlined many verses but otherwise left no marginalia, which suggests an unconscious reverence for the text. Psalms 19:12, for instance, is underlined: “But who can discern his errors? / Clear thou me from hidden faults.” That seems apropos though I’m surprised my younger self was able to recognize such a defect of character within himself.


I recognize some continuity with the younger man who marked these passages of scripture. Nothing underlined come as a surprise: “I agreed / with the young annotator’s every thought: / A clever girl.”(*) None of the marked verses suggest a stupid, disrespectful, argumentative person, which is a relief. In her final stanza, Warren wonders what she and her former self would make of each other. The young man I see reflected in the Bible comes off much better than he and I know he truly was.

Part of wisdom is being on the right path to wisdom, even if you don't have it all yet. My earlier self had a lot of shortcomings, and I knew better than I lived. Thanks to God, I think both knowing and doing are a little bit better than they used to be--which is the right trajectory, anyhow, albeit still off the mark by miles.

Found through a link to a blogroll

(*)Reference to a poem by Deborah Warren

Friday, November 25, 2022

Another sequence

This representation looks utterly useless, but amusing anyway. You can easily see some patterns; there's a reason for them. (I have to do something when walking laps--mulling over crazy stuff works.) (And yes, you can represent all the integers this way.)

hint below

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Street lights

The bright white ones make my eyes ache at night, and the reddish ones leave the streets looking cold even in summer.

The new ones have two bulbs. Each bulb makes its own shadow. Two shadows close by each other make it feel like I'm cross-eyed.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Be a Berean

It's an open secret, which I've seen reported on several times, that getting a fake news story to be trusted is straightforward--just a few mutual citations, and the original source's problems are laundered away. It's especially easy in an environment of like-minded reporters with the same kind of beat--whether it is the latest pop bands or politics. One reporter called it "the rule of 3"--if three different reporters mention it, it's a trend. Even if they all cite the same original story.

You can even hoax the world for years about who invented electric toasters.

As for wikipedia: "The problem with quotes on the internet is you can never trust their validity.--Abraham Lincoln"

It's an awful lot slower to check stories, but at least you (usually) understand it afterwards, and know who not to trust.

Friday, November 18, 2022

The almost right word?

"A televangelist who served as a spiritual adviser to Donald Trump says the former president ..." OK, this is the Washington Post, which I don't expect to have a good understanding of religious matters, but "spiritual advisor" is a term of art that doesn't sound like Robison's description of his role here. And a real spiritual advisor would keep confidences.


It's no skin off my nose--I'm not a huge soccer, Qatar, or beer fan. But I'm curious if Budweiser's sponsorship contract for the World Cup contemplated the possibility that a Moslem country might ban beer.

If not, some lawyers are having a very unpleasant conversation right now.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022


At the Orthosphere: The worst thing that’s happened to science in a century

"The worse thing that happened is that science became high-status."

Yes, one has to have a certain level of intelligence to do it, but the distinguishing feature of scientists was not this but our unusual enthusiasms. Just as some boys became obsessed with video games, military history, automobile engineering and aesthetics, or the minutia of their favorite band, other boys became obsessed with Riemannian manifolds, gauge theories, black holes, turbulence, and dark matter. Such boys were not admired, but we were tolerated.

... "Scientists were often thought to possess a certain moral imbecility that led them to ignore the possible consequences of their research, reflecting the public’s correct impression of science as powerful but dangerous and disruptive." ...

"All of this was very good for science. It kept science filled with the right people with the right motivations in the right subculture,"

The post links to the Head Girl definition and contrast with creative genius--among other descriptions there is this: "The Head Girl is great to have around, everybody thinks she is wonderful. Meanwhile the creative genius is at best a person who divides opinion, strongly, in both directions - at worst often a signed-up member of the awkward squad." Hmm. Rubens, anyone? He was popular and respected enough to be sent out as a diplomat and spy.

Iron ring

I ran across a reference to the "iron ring" today. I expected pop culture, and am happily disappointed to find it is not.

In Canada there's a ceremony called the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. After the oath a faceted iron ring is awarded. Wikipedia says they used to recite 2-Esdras 4:5-10 but now do Kipling's Hymn of Breaking Strain.

After a while some American engineers decided to do something similar, with a different Obligation of the Engineer. Both oaths have merit, but Kipling's (the Canadian one) has more breadth.

Not as many Americans join the order of the engineers. I gather that it is a big deal in Canada, but some of the reddit commenters call it "cringy." I wonder if there are any oaths those folks don't think "cringy."

Rings are often made of stainless steel instead of iron, and are worn on the little finger of the dominant hand--meaning it hits the paper every time you write. Not quite a phylactery, or a wedding ring either, but partaking a little of the meaning of both.

Some things stay the same

“Whatever is not nailed down is mine. Whatever can be pried loose is not nailed down.”. What does the slogan bring to mind? The early 20'th century robber barons to whom it was initially applied? Apple trying to "trademark" the letter "i"?

Or pop singers trying to trademark "Queen of Christmas"? (I'd have thought the Virgin Mary would get dibs on that name.)

Monday, November 14, 2022

Mummy faces

Egyptian reinterpretation? An Egyptologist with a revisionist book to hawk asserts that since the Egyptians had few mirrors, "they didn't know what they looked like" and therefore " “When people look at a face inside a mummy and say, ‘oh, they looked just like us’, it is just an illusion,”" Why? Because the mummies were being adjusted to be more acceptable to the divine.

Of course that was part of the reason for mummification, but the sine qua non was that the body actually survive, and I've seen nothing in mummies to suggest that the mummy faces were specially redone to look better. They put masks over the body, generally stylized. The dead wanted to "identify" as a god: I gather Price wants to indulge them in their long-dead illusions and have the rest of us join in that attempted deification, looking at the god-face rather than the human one. "no CT scans nor facial recognition imagery will appear in the exhibition" Or perhaps, as is customary, the reporter screwed the story up beyond recognition.


I didn't start a quest to find the most useless functions possible, just got to noodling starting with the prime question a bit earlier. Probably everybody knows the old faithful Taylor series for $e^x$: $\sum_{n=1}^\infty x^n/n!$. That's for all non-negative integers $n$. You know what $e^x$ looks like.

What do we wind up with if we try something similar but with the primes instead? Naturally there are plenty of possibilities. In what follows let $p_i$ be the i'th prime number.

How about just having products of primes in the denominator? $$\sum_i { {x^i} \over {\prod_{n=1}^i p_n}}$$

It falls to a minimum and then starts to rise again as you go negative. It doesn't rise as fast as $e^x$ for increasing $x$, unsuprisingly.

OK, suppose we use factorials instead of just the products of primes. $$\sum_i {{x^i} \over {p_i !}}$$

For $x$ increasing it also doesn't rise as fast as $e^x$, but for negative $x$ it climbs faster than before. Both this and the previous have a minimum: the one about about -2.7 and the previous at about -3.27.

One more, just for laughs. Pick out just the $e^x$ Taylor series expansion terms with prime powers of x.

$$ \sum_i {{x^{p_i} \over { {p_i} !}} $$

It has 2 inflection points, and rises with $x$ increasing and falls with $x$ decreasing--sort of like a cubic would. Curious.(*)

And not obviously useful.

To wrap up, what started the exercise for me was, for $x \in [-1,1)$, $$ \sum_i { {x^i} \over {p_i} } $$.

Naturally this diverges almost everywhere, but it's cute.

If you've wondered why high school graphing calculators haven't changed in 20 years, this is why: it would do most of your algebra homework for you.

(*) It looks like Mathjax fails with this command--it boxed the raw LaTeX instead of processing it. I wonder why. And to make the text fall below the images, I had to add "style=clear:both;" inside the paragraph command.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Census starts

Press Release: "the International Community wishes to encourage all not to politicize or disrupt the ongoing 2022 National Population and Housing Census. We have observed with dismay calls by some elements within the country to boycott the Census."

But who would boycott the census? unpaid census workers.

They planned big: biometric tools and on-the-spot ID card printing. It turns out the firm couldn't provide that, and all I've seen about that since is handwaving. I suspect they agreed to ignore the requirements. And they bumbled the training (more likely someone ate the money), and the census started two days ago (several years late) and is supposed to end next Tuesday. I wonder how long it will really take, and how many of the numbers will just be made up. The bigger the rush, the more imagination...

UPDATE: President Weah just fired a couple of administrators of LISGIS "based on administrative reasons". I wonder if he's a fall guy or got caught.

They declared a National Census Day but didn't quite get the word out.

Saturday, November 12, 2022

Testing Mathjax

It's well known that the sum of the reciprocals of the positive integers is infinite. It's less well known (ran across it a couple years ago) that the sum of the reciprocals of the primes is also infinite (Euler, 1737).

The linked article has proofs about the series $1/p_i$, but seems to only say that the divergence of the sum $\sum_{i=1}^{n} 1/p_i$ is greater than $\log\log(n+1)$.

I'd bet that $$\lim_{n\to \infty} {{\sum_{i=1}^{n} 1/p_i} \over {\sum_{i=1}^{n} 1/i} } \to 0$$ it seems obvious -- but I'm not sure how to prove that yet. Euler could probably have done it in his sleep. I'd need to mull over their approaches for a while.

It looks like this works

UPDATE: Yep, it's pretty obvious. The difference between the prime sum and $\log(\log(n))$ is finite, and so the numerator is close to $\log(\log$ and the denominator to $\log$ so the ratio tends to 0. Anyhow, this Mathjax tool seems to pass the initial tests.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

When a child is king

I've a picture of small armies fighting on behalf of rival candidates for the throne--both of whom are little boys.

When incapacitated or even dead candidates win elections, it gets clearer that the candidate is only the emblem of the team.

Even for a candidate with all of his faculties, the job of senator or president is too huge for one man to wrap his mind around. He needs a group to help him, instruct him, direct him.

Unless my eyes decieve me there are three kinds of arrangements: where the candidate manages his own staff and organization, where the candidate inherits the system (Yes Minister?), and where the organization anoints the candidate.

Who is part of the package you vote for/fight for? Who is Fetterman's regent? Who is the power behind the WhiteHouse teleprompter? this month.

Monday, November 07, 2022

Didn't quite graduate to gearhead

AVI has a post about gearheads, and what it brought to my mind was pens. My father liked fountain pens, and when I was in college I tried out a Parker 45, and liked it a lot. It was cheap, easy to write with, and had a nice balance--but the cartridge refills got to be a nuisance, and over the years something happened to the nib. Oh well; in the drawer with it. Replacements cost quite a bit more money than I cared to think about.

I inherited a few pens, and in the process began to learn about what the "hobby" is like now. Paper is a huge deal. Apparently. I found that some of the cheap paper was horrible (bleed-through or feathering all over the place), but almost everything else was fine. I tried one of the wonderful paper brands (Rhodia) and wasn't excited about the difference.

The inherited pens had problems, so I read around a bit and learned that cultures that did a lot of caligraphy had plentiful fountain pens--China and Japan in particular. After arguing with different medium nibs for a while I bought a 5-pack of cheap Jinhao 911 finepoints (and gave most of them away) and have been putting Quink on printer paper and ordinary spiral notebooks and other deprecated media without a regret. Not on checks, of course.

Probably I'm a philistine.

Sunday, November 06, 2022

More trivia

Another rabbit trail question: Why 8 1/2 by 11 for paper size?

It seems that nobody really knows. The 11 inch part seems to have an almost-official explanation: the wingspan of paper-makers constrained the width of the paper frames, which converged on 44 inches wide. Cut that sheet in half twice, and there's your 11 inches. But nobody seems to know about the 8 1/2. That got officially standardized for US government use not too long ago, but that's not an explanation--the size had already existed for a long time.

Legal paper is 8 1/2 by 14 (or used to be), which is pretty close to the golden ratio (a sheet is about 1/4 inch too long), and gold is probably a pleasant thing for lawyers to contemplate while using the sheets.

"Dog my cats"

An afternoon conversation's question: Who said that?

I remembered it from some cartoon, but couldn't remember which one either. (Pogo) And what did it mean? Obviously a dramatic interjection, maybe a "minced oath". If it's the latter it doesn't mean anything exactly, but maybe the first does?

Searching the infalible internet turns up the claims that the earliest known reference is in Huck Finn (or by O Henry decades later, through some amazing time warp).

Suppose the phrase is literal and the key word is the verb "dog". "Follow my cats around" isn't a compelling image. "Latch down my cats" has an arrestingly chaotic feel to it; I could almost believe that one. A random internet-er held that "my great-grandfather said" it was a sarcastic "Sic your dogs on my cats" to someone being too aggressive--um, maybe, but again it doesn't seem compelling.

I suspect the majority is right, and it was a euphemism for "damn my something-or-other". But I like my little folk-etymology.

Friday, November 04, 2022

The infamous "slavery" lesson's upshot

"Dane County Circuit Court Commissioner Scott McAndrew ruled in favor of former Sun Prairie Area School District teacher Mary Headington in a small claims lawsuit against the school district."

It was small claims because she and two others had agreed to quit after a flap when some parents got angry about a lesson plan based on Hammurabi’s Code. The students were given the situation of a Mesopotamian slave owner with a slave who refused to recognize his master--what do you do? (under the Hammurabi Code he was executed) The school district got bent out of shape, possibly from the publicity, and encouraged the teachers to quit--with a separation agreement which the school district then violated. SPASD Employee Relations Manager(*) Isabel Simonetti alleged that the assignment was "racist and offensive to African American students", but admitted "that she never viewed the whole PowerPoint. She received access to the scenarios only from parents’ emails and social media." She had circled on the separation form "that what the employee did was unsatisfactory and had an arrow pointing to giving a “racist/offensive assignment.”".

The Commissioner bothered to read the whole lesson plan, and found for the teacher. A federal court found for the school district when some parents sued about the matter. Words like "offensive" and "insensitive" were used in the opinions, but nothing racist or culpable.

We could do without the "services" of Simonetti. In her official capacity she alleged an offense she never bothered to check for.

(*) The district's web page lists her title as "Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning & Equity" Did I mention that I think they could save a lot of money and improve the social climate if they let go everyone with "equity" or "diversity" in their job description?

Thursday, November 03, 2022

Messier 77

It's about 47M light years away, has an active black hole at the center, and gamma rays from the activity seem to be absorbed on the way out. But the absorbtion may enhance the emission of neutrinos. IceCube spotted them. This isn't the first time IceCube spotted a source--that would be TXS 0506+056--but it is the nearest.

Information on more sources is supposed to be released shortly--I'll update with the link when I get it.

UPDATE: Personal. I'm retired and not in the loop anymore, and I got the information pretty much when everyone else did. I have several questions--what sort of activity do other candidate galaxies show, are the other candidates different in gamma emission, are the rates consistent with the diffuse background (Olber's paradox--there should be lots more galaxies out there, and even ones we can't see should contribute some chance of neutrinos) (I didn't remember Edgar Allen Poe's contribution to astronomy.) And how much gas and dust does one need to block or transmute the gamma rays while not also blocking the high energy neutrinos--which interact much more strongly than low energy ones from the Sun or reactors?

Tuesday, November 01, 2022

Halloween Hitler

A man went to the State Street Halloween gathering dressed as Hitler. It made news around the world.

You might ask, what kind of idiot would do that?

Statements from the Children's Museum and Madison police said the man has cognitive disabilities.

"His work with the museum over the past 10 years has been closely supervised, coached, and supported. It is our understanding that he believed his costume to be mocking Hitler," the museum said in the statement.

So, of course, he was fired, but the museum says "its staff still hopes to engage him in a restorative justice process "that would redress the harm done to the community while allowing him to understand the effects of his actions and accept accountability.""

If the description of the man is accurate and he really didn't understand what reactions would be, I think restorative justice requires that the museum quickly re-hire him. It is too much to expect media and foundations to issue clarifications.