Friday Four

Friday, May 08, 2015

1. Perhaps a year or so ago, in light of my then-one-year-old son's amusing proclivity for gnawing on wood, as well as paper products, I began jokingly calling him "Nut Boy". Sensing the endearment and not wanting to be left out, my daughter, Pumpkin, asked that I sometimes call her, "Nut Girl". Ever since, I have happily obliged whenever something she does amuses me enough. Fast forward to a week or so ago. Pumpkin said something I thought was funny, so I called her "Nut Girl".

She's been proud of herself a lot lately, and has been insisting on being called a "big girl", so she retorted, "Nut Woman."

"You're still a girl, but you will be a woman one day, Nut Girl", I replied.

2. The headline? "Microwave Ovens Posing as Astronomical Objects" Amusingly, the imposters even managed, for a time, to impugn a newly-discovered object when they were found out:

Not long after focusing their attention on the perythons, the Parkes astronomers noticed that these FRBs [Fast Radio Bursts --ed] seemed to take off during weekends. In 2014, they installed a radio frequency interference monitor at the observatory and decided that the culprits were probably some microwave ovens inside the observatory building. Tests with these microwave ovens yielded nothing -- they emitted no radio pulses while they were running. The astronomers were flummoxed -- that is, until one of the testers, during a third attempt, opened the door of a microwave oven before the magnetron was shut off by the timer. They found that although the door shuts the magnetron off, a whiff of gigahertz radiation could escape. Some of the microwaves were nearly three decades old, and the aged magnetrons were prone to sparking during start up and shut down. The researchers wrote in an arXiv paper that this discovery clears up the confusion. Because the perythons are not actually FRBs, but impostors, the previously-identified signatures, the astronomers concluded, are indeed the result of extragalactic events. How the real FRBs are produced still remains a mystery.
Meh. I'm still more impressed by that spamming refrigerator I heard about not so long ago.

3. I can't say my real first name has ever gotten me a job, but I'll welcome Jamaal Allan to the club, anyway:
"People usually don't bring it up on a first day, but after I've developed a rapport with the students and they feel comfortable having open conversations, they'll say, 'You know, when class started I thought you were going to be black,' " Allan says.
For entirely different reasons, I was once asked, back in my academic days, to put in for a minority fellowship. I demurred.

4. Academics have, thanks in part to the digitization of newspaper archives, discovered previously unknown work by the then-newspaperman Mark Twain from about a century and a half ago:
[T]opics range from San Francisco police -- who at one point attempted, unsuccessfully, to sue Twain for comparing their chief to a dog chasing its tail to impress its mistress -- to mining accidents.
Twain, nearing thirty at the time, was in crisis and still trying to nail down his career. We are fortunate that Twain changed his mind: He had not been keen on becoming a humorist.

-- CAV


Today: Fixed two typos. 

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