The Sense of Time

There are a lot of scary things about getting older, but the scariest and the weirdest is the change in perception of time. I’ve encountered this idea twice, once in Stephen King’s short story “My Pretty Pony”, and another in the movie “Blue Thunder”. At the time, in late 80s I thought that time “flies” only when you are enjoying something, and “creeps” when you don’t. Saturdays go by faster than Mondays. Turns out, as you get older time picks up pace, everything becomes a blur, good or bad.

Cult 80s movie “Blue Thunder” has this little bit about a helicopter pilot playing with his fancy digital Casio watch that had an interesting analog countdown feature. He was using the watch to test his time perception, claiming that “it was the first thing to go when you go over the edge.”

Watch buffs know this watch as Casio AA-85 and the analog feature as Module 101. I always wanted one of these, and now I finally picked one up on eBay for a song. I know I need it – it seems to me that I am really losing the proper perception of time, it really sped up for me.

In Stephen King’s short story “My Pretty Pony”, an old man is instructing his grandson on the nature of time after watching him lose in a hide and seek game to a kid who counted too fast. He says, that there are three times, only one of which is real. When you are little, it seems that the time goes by very, very slowly. I remember that very distinctly – days were very long, even the summer vacation took forever. Then, when you are about 14, time starts to be “real” – neither slow nor fast. As you get older time picks up pace, only slowing down when you are badly hurt. He called time “a pretty pony with a wicked heart.”

I don’t know about you, but time is definitely speeding much more now than when I was younger. It’s pretty scary.

[Update] Bought on eBay, fixed and even found a similar watch band:

I Wonder What Are They Shaped Like

A man is walking down the street in New York City when he comes across a shop with clocks and watches hanging in the front window.
”Good!” he thinks to himself. ”I can get my watch fixed.”
He walks into into the shop and says to the man behind the counter, ”My watch stopped a couple days ago. I’d like you to fix it.”
The shopkeeper replies incredulously, ”I don’t repair watches, I’m a mohel!”
”Then why do you have all those watches and clocks hanging in your window?”
The mohel replies, ”What would you suggest I hang there?”

Band On The Web

Everybody knows that Dr Fun was the first cartoon on the World Wide Web. What do you mean you didn’t know? Ignorant mumble mumble. But a lesser known fact is that Les Horribles Cernettes was the first band on the Web.

According to this site:
“The Cernettes began when a patient CERN secretary was made to wait and wait and wait for the return of her permanently-on-shift physicist boyfriend. In an attempt to garner his attention, she asked physicist Silvano de Gennaro to write a song about her life, and got a few girlfriends to back her up. Then she stepped onstage in 1992 during CERN’s annual Hardronic music festival, and sang “You only love your collider” to the whole CERN population.”

“But the Cernettes’ real claim to fame is being the first band on the Web. In 1992, Tim Berners-Lee asked Silvano for photos of “the CERN girls” to publish on a new information network he’d invented. The image you see below is the first photo ever featured in a Web browser.”

“Collider” is pretty good, but “Liquid Nitrogen” is even better!

“You poured liquid nitrogen down my spine
as you told me you didn’t love me any more
and run off with the girl next door

Pure genius. They are all so damn talented. Too bad they didn’t record any more songs. Their stuff is some of the best coding music that I have. I wonder if I’d like some more conventional Doo Wop music…

Yaw Mamma

Turns out there is a whole bunch of words describing movement.
I always wondered why in aviation lingo rotation in X, Y and Z axes (yah, that’s right, I looked up the plural of axis in a dictionary) is called roll, pitch and yaw. Roll and pitch I can understand. But what is the deal with yaw? Is it related to “yawn”?

This Usenet post provided the following tidbits:
Merriam-Webster’s “Word of the Day”:
In the heyday of large sailing ships, numerous nautical words appeared on the horizon, many of which have origins that have never been traced. “Yaw” is one such word. It began showing up in print in the 16th century, first as a noun (meaning “movement off course” or “side to side movement”) and then as a verb. For more than 350 years it remained a sailing word, with occasional side trips to the figurative sense “to alternate.” Then dawned the era of airplane flight in the early 20th century, and “yawing” was no longer confined to the sea. Nowadays, people who love boats still use “yaw” much as did the sailing-men of old, but pilots and rocket scientists also refer to the “yawing” of their crafts.

Some dictionaries say that it may be from the Old Norse, jaga, meaning to bend.

American Heritage says “Perhaps of Scandinavian origin”.

Websters Revised Unabridged gives the German gagen (to rock), the Norwegian gaga (to bend backward), the Icelandic gagr and gaga (bent back, throw the neck back).

Gaga? Gugu? Give me a break. A fricking mystery.

What’s more, is that searching for this information I learned that movement along X, Y and Z in ships is called surge, slip (or sway) , and heave.

Also, in the book about surgical knots that I am reading (I have a huge interest in knots), they describe a whole damn system of names for directions and movements.
For instance, proximal means toward, distal means away. Palmar means the palm side of the hand and dorsal means the back of the hand. Then there is flexion, extension, pronation and supination which mean bending, straightening, rotating left and rotating right. Whew.

Interestingly enough, I don’t find surgical knots to be any harder then fishing knots. Actually the knot I use the most in fishing is of a surgical origin (it’s even called the surgeon’s knot). And it’s the easiest strong knot that I know.

Brooklyn College Library

Visited Brooklyn College yesterday to take a look at the newly reopened library.

Well, they’ve spent countless millions, and now the insides look like a typical yuppie apartment. Various designer chairs (mostly Aerons and some other expensive looking wooden ones) , desks. The circulation desk looks like a reception desk in a Fortune 100 company. Tons of tables with ethernet hookups. Some crappy Dells with 15 inch flat panel monitors running Win XP are available in “labs”. Lots of air conditioning ducts and eyes-in-the-sky.

Could not find any of the books that I wanted in the horrible mainframe search app (you telnet into it from the workstations). I was looking for some Lee Friedlander photography books , “The Legend of Amdahl”, some real estate books, some books about NYPD. Nada. Oh well, there is and And I have Aerons and fast network connection at home.

I thing that royally pisses me of is that they are using crappy bright fluorescent lamps. I hate those. At work I unhooked one that is right above my cube because it was driving me nuts. Yeah, spend millions on chairs and desks and install lamps that give everyone headaches.

The La Guardia reading room is gorgeous. There were some very nice black and white photos on the walls, a mildly interesting exposition of historical documents and photographs.

If I actually found any good books and did not get a headache from the lamps it would have been a great experience.

Shake and Bake

Q: What is measured in shakes?
A: Time. 1 shake = 10 nanoseconds.

This unit of time was definitely created by Manhattan Project scientists, but why it was chosen is not 100% clear.

Theory # 1 – Too morbid
A shake is only 10 nanoseconds in time and arises from the theory of the chain reaction where one free neutron causes a fission that creates 2.5 to 3 new neutrons like a huge pyramid scheme and by the time the last layers of fissions occur they produce enough energy to “shake” the earth severely.

Theory # 2 – Too dry

I like the term “shake” – 10 nanoseconds. I think it’s roughly the time it
takes the average 1 Mev neutron to cover a distace of one mean free path (13 cm?) in fissile materials at maximum normal densities

Theory # 3 – Oralloy? Pu plasma? Shoo – way over my head.

a shake being roughly 10 ns – the time it takes neutrons in oralloy or Pu plasma to cover their Mean Free Path

Theory # 4 – Sounds just about right.

The ‘shake’ is a defined unit of time. Scientists working on the Manhattan project
(to build the first atomic bomb) found that the detonation cycle for the ‘device’
lasted 30 billionths of a second, or 30 nanoseconds. A shake was defined as
10 nanoseconds so the detonation cycle of the atomic bomb could be said to take
‘three shakes of a lamb’s tail.’

Mmmm, nucular ..

The spirit of adventure is alive and well in me. Today instead of just eating my Atkins bar, I decided to nuke it in a microwave for 15 seconds. Well, it became much more edible!
Guess I was not the first one to figure this out.

Speaking about nucular. One of my favorite magazines, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, had a very funny article about mispronunciation of “nuclear”. Homer Simpson is not the only offender in this matter. Eisenhower , Reagan, Bush-I usually said something like “NOO-kyoo-lur”, “NU-kyuh-ler” or “NU-cu-lar”. Carter, in a class of his own, liked to reminisce about being a “nu-KEE-ar engineer” (I wonder, was he the only engineer among American presidents?)

One of my favorite FIDO origin lines from was “I put instant coffee in the microwave oven and almost went back in time.” I don’t advise it, even for time traveling :)