Wednesday, March 18, 2009

New post!!

So this has not been updated in a while, and yet I still spend a good amount of time doing "research" on Wikipedia. So I think its time for some new posts. Since I wasn't planning on posting, I didn't read very closely, so here are a few quick tidbits from recent searches. Night terrors was a subject brought up at work, but when I looked that up there was actually an even more interesting article on sleep paralysis. This is when you wake up, yet are unable to move. This happens because during REM sleep (which is the part of the sleep cycle where you dream) your body is paralyzed so that you do not act out your dreams. With sleep paralysis, your mind is no longer in REM and you are conscious, but your body remains paralyzed. This can often be accompanied by visual or auditory hallucinations. Apparently in african-american culture this phenomenon is often referred to as "the witch riding your back" as a common hallucination is of something on your chest. Another possible association with this phenomenon is the "alien abduction" sensation, I can't remember now if I learned that bit from a conversation or from wikipedia. I had a conversation with a friend recently about this, and he had experienced this phenomenon twice. I have never, and hope that it doesn't happen either!
My latest wikipedia foray has been into Northern Ireland political parties, particularly the DUP and Ian Paisley and the latest Party leader Peter Robinson. My survey of this information was fairly brief, and since I have no familiarity I don't know that I can pass along anything insightful. However, I think its interesting that Peter Robinson, the current leader, apparently was involved with an opposing unionist party earlier in his career that led an attack on Ian Paisley. And then he was his successor!! (Although I cannot tell from wikipedia whether he is his successor as a political ally or an opponent as possibly the party wanted a change in direction, it is unclear to me whether Ian Paisley voluntarily stepped down or whether he stepped down due to pressure). It is interesting stuff though! Because I am less familiar, it seems much more exciting than american politics!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Animals in space...?

Well, I decided it was time for a new entry, finally! And what could be better than learning about animals in space? So, the first animals in space were fruit flies in 1947 aboard a V2 rocket. The first monkey in space was Albert II in 1949, but he died on impact after a parachute failure :(
The first monkeys to survive a spaceflight were Able and Baker in 1959. (Baker is in the picture below)

Other animals that have gone up in space are: dogs, bullfrogs, mice, fish, spiders, and cockroaches. (Lots of others too, but I will not list them all).
Anyway, I guess there is not much else to say except that there have been a lot more animals in space than humans! Also, that monkey is cute.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Okay, so I'll make this one short and sweet too, or as short and sweet as I can manage! So I live south of Tacoma, WA. This area of country is often referred to as "The Puget Sound" because all along from Seattle to olympia we're right next to the Puget Sound. So I wanted to know what "Sound" meant. According to wikipedia, in reference to puget sound, sound is defined as a large ocean inlet (also referred to as deep arm of the ocean) larger than a bay, deeper than a bight, and wider than a fjord. Also sound's (in puget sounds case) can be defined as an inlet that contains large islands. Okay, hope that makes sense, it was actually difficult for me to understand from wikipedia's definition, but I get it now.


Okay, so maybe everyone already knows about dusk, but I need a definition as I frequent national and state parks which say that they will close at dusk and impound your car if you leave it there after dusk. I am always afraid about my car, so a definition is necessary. So the definition: Dusk is the twilight after sunset, when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon. At this time objects are still visible and some stars and planets are also visible. Dusk is not the same as sunset, which is right when the disc of the sun disappears below the horizon.
There you go, so if I can just figure out how many degrees below the horizon the sun is, I'll know when I will get kicked out of the park!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Henri Poincare

So, this might not be very interesting to everyone, but today I looked up Henri Poincare, a french mathematician/physicist/philosopher who lived in the second half of the 19th century. His birthday is april 29th which makes him super cool :)
His three major contributions to math/physics are the Poincare conjecture, the three body problem, and his work on relativity.

  • The Poincare conjecture is about something called a closed 3-d manifold, which is a space that locally looks like normal 3-d space, but it's all connected, finite, and has no boundary. The theorem says that if the space has the property that if you draw a loop at any point and you tighten the loop, it converges to a point (see image), then the space is just a sphere. A Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman recently proved this conjecture, and was offered the Fields medal (most prestigious prize in mathematics) but refused to accept it (he is very weird and I think he lives with his mother). Solving this problem was also one of the Millennium Prizes, and it is unclear whether Perelman will receive any of the one million dollar prize money for solving it.
  • The three body problem is just Newton's laws of gravity applied to three objects, which is an extremely difficult problem to solve mathematically without a computer. Poincare did not solve the entire problem, but his work on it had many ideas which lead to the development of chaos theory.
  • Poincare worked on relativistic transformations with a guy named Lorentz (who, for anyone who knows about transformations, is the one whose name is on the equations) on time dilation and reference frames, etc. All this helped Einstein develop his theory of special relativity not too long after (Einstein was working on his stuff right around the same time, but was much younger than Poincare).

Anyway, sorry to those of you who don't care about this stuff, but I think it's cool. This guy's name comes up a lot and I just wondered what he did. Hope it wasn't too boring! :)

Monday, May 19, 2008


Today I decided to look up muckraker on wikipedia, mainly because I remember the term from NSL in tenth grade, but wasn't sure I remembered what it meant correctly- makes me think Upton Sinclair and "The Jungle", turns out I was right!

Muckraker is a term used mainly to describe investigative journalists in the early 1900's who wrote pieces exposing societal problems in slums, factories, insane asylums, etc. The popularity of these pieces brought attention to abuses/frauds and led to societal reforms. Thus the popularity of muckraker reporting and resulting public interest coincided with the Progressive movement in American politics. I think I remember from high school that muckrackers were also referred to as yellow journalists, but when I look yellow journalism up on wikipedia it says that yellow journalism is associated with sensationalism and libel. Muckrakers were often accused of sensationalizing their expose's, so I guess that's the relation between the two.
"The Jungle" by Upton Sinclair, was a novel exposing corruption in the meatpacking industry and the poverty of those working in the industry. It's popularity lead to reforms.
Interestingly enough, Teddy Roosevelt, the great Progressive, coined the term "muckraker" to refer to these journalists. He related their interest in all the harsh realities of life to a character in John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress", the Man with the Muck-rake, who is only able to look down and contemplate the filth he is raking up on the ground and refuses the celestial crown he is offered in exchange for his muck-rake. Meaning, in case that sentence was too long, that muckrakers focus on the filth of life perhaps to the exclusion of all else. Though this term may seem critical of this type of journalism, Teddy also praised the journalists for their exposure and attack upon the evils in the world.
Even though I think I knew most of this already, it was interesting to learn the origin of the term, and Ralph Nader is also considered one of the most influential modern muckrakers!!

And ps, please do not report me because I think that I stole that image, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Also, this blog proves that Nuala and I are huge nerds.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

c s lewis

Today i read about C. S. Lewis, who is famous for writing the Chronicles of Narnia. I was thinking about him because, of course, the new Narnia movie came out this weekend, and I want to see it.
Some interesting things about him: Clive Staples went by the name Jacksie/Jack after his dog Jacksie was hit by a car when Clive was 4 years old. His family and friends called him Jack from then on. He grew up in Belfast, Northern Ireland, but he lived in England for most of his later life. He always identified as an Irishman, and made fun of English people (nice).
Like all Irish people who meet in England we ended by criticisms of the inevitable flippancy and dullness of the Anglo-Saxon race. After all, ami, there is no doubt that the Irish are the only people … I would not gladly live or die among another folk.

He was baptized in the Church of Ireland, but renounced his religion at age 15. He converted back to Christianity (but in the Church of England) at age 33. He wrote a lot about Christianity, and his fiction/fantasy books have Christian themes (they also have influences from Celtic mythology). Most people know he was very good friends with J. R. R. Tolkein.

Anyway, I hope that was interesting!