Friday Four

Friday, April 22, 2016

1. One evening, around bedtime, I hit my shin on something I hadn't noticed on the floor. I said, "Ouch!" loudly enough that Little Man, who was upstairs, came down and asked me if I was okay.

Satisfied that I was, he then noticed I wasn't in my pajamas yet and told me to change. The boy turns three in less than a couple of months.

Pumpkin turns five around the same time, and this week marks the sixteenth year since my wife went from movie buddy to romantic partner.

2. A Gizmodo article on sleeper buses between West Coast metropolises reminds me of the way I toured Europe back in college, by using my Eurail pass and sleeping on trains between cities (although not in my own bunk). The author seems puzzled about the business model, though:

Why would you sleep on a bus for six-and-a-half hours when you could sleep on a plane for one hour? Hmmmmm. I'm not actually sure. I found flights from SFO to LAX for about $114 round trip, which is only $18 more than Sleepbus. If you want to factor in security lines, travel time to the airport, and maybe ground transportation costs, that might make Sleepbus the clear winner, cost-wise. But even the worst airport and vehicle traffic experiences in the world wouldn't take 6.5 hours door-to-door.

So maybe Sleepbus is an alternative to driving. It takes about the same amount of time, but it would be nice not to actually drive, right? And indeed, this where Sleepbus shines is in comparison to other wheeled vehicles. Greyhound's overnight ride starts at $20 each way and takes anywhere between eight to 11 hours, but you don't get a bed. Megabus gets you there a little faster for $41, but again, you're stuck in a seat. Amtrak has beds but they're pricey as heck, going for $208 each way, and still that only gets you as close to SF as Oakland.
Yes, this beats other wheeled transport hands-down, but I'd say the amount of time flying is comparable to begin with, and wastes valuable waking hours. The bus would also save a night or two of hotel costs, too, although one would need a place to freshen up and change clothes upon arriving at the destination. I think this is a great idea.

3. What is the largest number that can be represented by three digits? The answer to that question may surprise you.

But don't let that distract you from the dogged defense a man gave his bright daughter against a mediocre education establishment.

4. How big is the solar system? You can always look up a number, but an old walking exercise attempts to make the vastness more comprehensible. Representing the earth with a peppercorn and the sun with a ball eight inches in diameter, the whole thing (including Pluto, then classified as a planet) requires a 1,000 yard walk.
The correctness of the scale can be proved to skeptics (of a certain maturity) on the spot. The apparent size of the Sun ball, 26 paces away, is now the same as that of the real Sun-half a degree or [sic] arc, or half the width of your little finger held at arm's length. (If both the size of an object and its distance have been scaled down by the same factor, then the angle it subtends must remain the same.)
Even without Pluto, the distance required is impressive.

-- CAV


Steve D said...

'The answer to that question may surprise you.'
I got the correct answer in a few seconds this time Gus and then clicked on your link to validate. However, your statement which I quoted above might have clued me in. That said, I am sure my high school physics teacher gave us this exact question and the right answer in class at one point (albeit not in an exam). Also, the question didn't technically say we had to use the base 10 numbering system which would make the true answer infinity...
The rest of the guy's story sounds fishy. Law suits would abound. Also I don't agree with him about the triangle. A triangle is by definition a flat (2D) figure therefore you can't draw one on a globe and therefore its angles must add up to 180 degrees and therefore his daughter was wrong.

Gus Van Horn said...


Not to scoff at the girl's out-of-the-box thinking, but thanks for the correction regarding triangles.