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Pizza math Thu, Feb 27, 2014
Planet Money wrote about the economics of pizza size, but I feel like they left out the actual math.  It's not complicated, but basically since area = π*radius2 = (π/4)*diameter2, the area changes with the square of the diameter.  So for an 8-inch pizza, the area is 50 square inches, while the area of a 12-inch pizza is 113 square inches.  A 50% increase in diameter equates to a 125% increase in area.  That's the power of exponents. 

Simplifying the formula, you can write that the change in area is related to the change in diameter as follows: 
Δa = ((π/4)*d22 - (π/4)*d12)/((π/4)*d12) = (d22/d12) - 1
Helpful for the next time you want to get a wedgie in a pizza place. #math

WD-40 failed (1) Wed, Feb 26, 2014
Life is unpredictable.  Things change.  Stuff breaks.  You can't count on much, but one fact that seems like an indelible universal truth can be illustrated with this flowchart: 


Duct tape fixes things that shouldn't be moving.  WD-40 fixes things that should be.  These truths we hold dear. 

But I recently discovered an exception.  A glitch in the matrix.  WD-40 doesn't work on the cast iron hinges of a wood stove door.  It works for a day or two, but the high heat always wins out in the end, and the creaking sound reappears. 

Initially I planned on writing a post about how WD-40 is never not enough.  No one has ever said, "I tried WD-40 and it didn't work."  It always works.  But now I know that's not true.  I myself can now say on this day, "I tried WD-40 and it didn't work."  A day which will live in infamy. #products

On pseudoscience Tue, Feb 25, 2014
I'm torn on the topic of pseudoscience.  On the one hand, I clearly have no interest in things that "have the appearance of being scientific, [but lack] any of the substance of science."  But on the other hand I get annoyed when the things I believed were scientific turn out to be pseudoscientific.  Going through a list of pseudoscientific topics, I'm disappointed that things like chiropractic count as pseudoscience (although I think the classification is more on the "cracking your back can cure your allergies" side of things than on the "cracking your back can make your neck feel better" side).  To me it sounds not so much like pseudoscience but simply science which hasn't been firmly agreed upon.  This Daily Beast article mentions the Paleo Diet, which has been criticized for probably being based on incorrect assumptions.  But the book I read about it pointed to journal article after journal article about why its assumptions were true.  It bothers me that in the information age, it's nearly impossible to find accurate, true, unbiased, consensus-driven scientific facts on any subject.  There's science on both sides of many issues, and it almost always conflicts.  Why can't knowledge just be easy?  I don't know. #science

Snowboarding on snow vs. air Thu, Feb 20, 2014
I was listening to an interview of a Snowboard Cross competitor in the Olympics, and he said something along the lines of how the riders try to get as little air as possible because riding on the snow is faster than flying through the air.  My nerd sensors went off as I thought about how wrong that statement is.  In simplistic terms, a snowboarder's movement is governed by the sum of the forces of gravity, friction, and drag (I talked about this a little in a previous post).  Basic physics tells me that if a snowboarder is in the air, he's no longer dealing with the friction between his board and the snow, so he should go faster.  In my own experience, I've always felt like flying through the air makes me go momentarily faster, but that could also be a function of the uneasiness of landing a jump and whatnot.  After thinking about it for a little while, I realized the caveat he failed to mention is this:  When you're traveling through the air on a snowboard, you typically leave the ground at an angle greater than the slope of the hill.  In other words, you're traveling in the relative direction of "up" while your competitors are traveling in the relative direction of "down".  So even though you're technically going a little faster, you're traveling a longer distance, which probably equates to "snow is faster than air". #sports

Standard Christian responses (3) Tue, Feb 18, 2014
I've noticed Christians tend to respond to skeptics and debates with any or all of the following arguments: 
  1. Different brand.  This was the response that surprised me the most about the Ham-Nye debate, e.g. this headline:  I'm a Christian, and Ken Ham Doesn't Speak for Me.  It's the idea that since there are so many different ways to act out a religion, one person's interpretation doesn't always apply to other people of the same religion.  This is true in many circumstances, like the Westboro Baptist Church and other extremists, but where's the line and who draws it?  I'm reminded of a Scott Adams quote:  "You can't both be right. But you could both be wrong."
  2. Mistranslation.  This seems to be the go-to.  It's the idea that the Bible was written in different languages and translated to modern languages in a variety of methods, leading to words and phrases that could easily mean something else.  This is at least reasonable, since language does indeed evolve over time.  But honestly, can't an all-powerful God just state things clearly?
  3. Contradiction-ism.  This is the tactic of admitting that certain things in the Bible or the church are wrong, but that other things are right, i.e. don't throw out the baby with the bathwater.  It comes across in statements like, "Yes, the Bible is anti-gay, but it's also pro-love."  It's irrelevant.  How many positive things would you need to outweigh the negative ones?
  4. Philosophize.  Fall back on the classics:  "What happens after you die?" or "What's the purpose of life?" or "How do you determine right from wrong?"  It's the argument that since you don't know the answer to some important questions, you don't know the answers to any questions.
The reason I point these out is because (1) I used them myself when I was a Christian, and (2) I feel like they're overplayed songs.  If you can get through a discussion without falling back on these tired old rags, I'm much more compelled to have a conversation. #religion

Catholic language Mon, Feb 10, 2014
It's always amused me how Catholics have their own unique words for everything.  They don't belong to a church, they belong to a parish.  They don't go to a church service, they go to mass.  They don't hear a sermon, they hear a homily.  Growing up Christian, all these words sounded so unfamiliar and unnecessary to me.  But I would probably feel the opposite if I was raised Catholic, and I would probably have no idea what anyone was talking about if I was raised without religion. #religion

Ham-Nye debate (1) Wed, Feb 05, 2014
I watched the creation-evolution debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  I think Ham presented some decent arguments about the difference between historical and observational science, and Nye presented some good arguments for why the earth can't be young.  I thought Ham's presentation was more polished and organized, while Nye seemed to kind of be all over the place.  Nye was the first to make it a little argumentative, with his claim that Ham wasn't proving some of his points.  But other than that, things seemed to be pretty civil, which was sort of a win. 

I think the turning point in the whole debate was when a question was asked concerning what it would take to change either debater's mind.  Ham started off with "as a Christian" and ended with some variation of "nothing".  Nye simply though eloquently stated "evidence".  For me, that's what the whole thing is about, and it's what makes me happy I'm on the evolution side.  What would it take to completely destroy theories and science?  Evidence. 

To be fair, I would be completely surprised if even a single person who watched the debate had even the slightest doubt as to which side they supported and which side they thought would win.  So contrary to my normal opinion on such matters, there was no real winner or loser.  Each side presented their arguments, and the audience was left to go back to believing what they already believed. #religion