"tau" or "pi"

I looked at this page, advocating τ, the ratio between circumference of a circle and its radius as the more important constant than π, the ratio between circumference and diameter.

Given how often 2π shows up in formulae: capacitive and inductive reactance, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle (and any other equation that uses the Reduced Planck Constant) for starters, but anyone who knows their math and physics will be able to rattle off a few more.

But I wondered if the circle would kill the idea. Surprisingly it didn't! Area of a circle as 1/2τr^2 makes a lot of sense, especially in light of the Quantity - Symbol - Expression table. In fact, that table was missing an important entry! "Kinetic Energy", there should have read "Kinetic Energy - Linear Motion", to be followed by a line for "Kinetic Energy - Angular Motion". The formula? 1/2Iω^2 -- where "I" is the "moment of inertia" (angular mass) of a spinning object and "ω" is "angular velocity".

This idea, this fight looks a bit like tilting at windmills but interesting. I wonder if it's something that will ever get any traction?

I'd like the world to be a place where enough of the life-and-death issues are settled that most people who might possibly be interested in the question would have the leisure to consider it...

Cold Fusion test today in Bologna

Is it a scam? (as many responders to this slashdot post say it is) I fear so, I hope not.

Other articles (like this one, this one, this one -- from serious sources; this one, this one from a less credible one) at least explore the possibility of success.

If successful, the next question is, what happens when oil's most important economic use is as raw material for plastic?

And how poignant the engineer's dilemma: "we see it working again and again, but if only we could come up with some really good science to explain it!"

And then the most important use for polywell generators may be as a way of producing enough neutrons (running D-T) to render fission-waste products safe in decades instead of tens of millenia.

When I see more results, I'll add something here.


Supporting Ron Paul feels cool, is stupid

(cross-post from this slashdot article)

Disclaimer: I am a Canadian, so I do not have a dog in this race; except we are your nearest neighbours (nearer than México in two minor ways only: longer border, no local outcries for a fence) so if you systematically self-destruct, it'll be bad for us, too.

Support for Ron Paul by the young and sometimes geeky has intrigued me for some time. Is it a result of reading Ayn Rand? Is it because his ideas seem so much more sensible than so many others? Is it because he does not appear beholden to any lobbyists? Is it primarily because he wants to end drug Prohibition? Possibly all of the above.

But it's also confused me because a number of the things Ron Paul wants to do away with are things that help the young find their first footholds -- things like student loans (or even grants). When I read this headline, I thought for just a second that perhaps Dr. Paul wants to throw open the universities for all, call a full education a civil right that you get to take advantage of based on merit. But I dismissed that thought before I saw the rest of the post, and I was right to do so. My response: his analysis may have some truth in it but it's so simple as to be suspect, in my view. On balance, like much of what Ron Paul says, it's too simple to be right.

Whoever thinks Ron Paul is cool, whatever lobby groups he is not beholden to, make no mistake: the über-rich and powerful wish his ideas well because their adoption would entrench and deepen the growing class divisions in America and put an end to the American dream as anything but that: a wistful dream of what expectations used to be.

Something is rotten in the way the US is going these days. For instance, in my lifetime, before 2008, I had never heard a leading politician in the US say of their president from the opposing party that they wanted him to fail. Whether you agree with Mr. Obama or not, that attitude on the part of any member of your government is pernicious. I'll stop there because the list of things going wrong is so long (most of them decades in the making) as to make this too-long post ridiculously so.

But Ron Paul is not the answer to those problems: his ideas (and incidentally those of the Tea Party) are only going to help the rich get richer and inherit the meek (and the not so meek). Do yourselves a favour, folks, and elect leaders that remember what they learned in Kindergarten (without forgetting all the things they learned since) and value their neighbours over hard lines -- internal neighbours, of course! I wouldn't advocate that you would elect the people I, your Canadian neighbour, want you to elect. I'm just confident that if, overall, you voted in line with your interests (and that may take a lot of thinking to figure out who's going to serve those best) and do well, then you won't become neighbours that we have to fear from across that longest unarmed border in the world.

be good to each other, folks...ank


iPhone pros and cons

In some ways, I am one of the geekiest people a lot of my friends know. In other ways, not so much. Let me explain.

One of the geekiest: I have been a professional software developer for 25 years now (with no plans to join management any time soon) and I generally understand technology trends and can navigate my way around new stuff that arrives as and when etc. etc. On the other hand, I have been a devoted practitioner of contentment, shunning the bleeding edge to make my family's budget work reasonably well.

Not so much: I actively practice contentment. I know about the bleeding edge but I don't live there. I only got a cellphone six years ago, and it was only in the last year or so that I upgraded (I call it a downgrade in some ways) to a smart-phone. It's a phone for crying out loud, my third one, and there are features from my first phone that I still miss. I don't need the extra charges of a data plan. I don't need the extra distraction of all those apps and games. Weather happens, my wife and kids are great company and there are so many books to read (and yes, I still love the feel of paper in my hand) so although I enjoy my smart-phone (it's an android), I'm not really a zealot for one, or for the platform that I chose.

Every now and then, though, someone will ask me "android or iPhone?" and I don't quite know what to say. A lot of them aren't techies and don't know how much they ought to care (for my sake and those like me) about freedom. All they want is a smart-phone that will do what they want, beautifully, seamlessly and not exorbitantly (although they're probably all willing to pay more day-to-day than I am).

This week, though, I saw a pair of answers to this problem which I present to you. I wish everyone would choose anything but the iPhone because of this article from CodingHorror. I totally get why many to most people, especially the non-technical ones will choose the iPhone over other options because of this ZDNet article. I, too, have had to do parental tech support. And often enough, it's been cleanup tech support when some misfortune, small, large or unintentional (on the part of the perpetrator) has befallen their tech.

So I don't want to serve only at the pleasure of the King but my parents will probably never want to use an Android either.