Four Random Things

Friday, March 01, 2024

A Friday Hodgepodge

Probably not as hot as it looks... (Image by Thembi Johnson, via Unsplash, license.)
1. Some time ago, I tried a new recipe that called for jalapeño peppers and was surprised that the ones I bought weren't that spicy.

Memory jogged, I also remembered having nachos with cheese and sliced jalapeños at a sporting event some months before and thinking that either the peppers weren't hot or I was just inured to spiciness.

I bumped into the answer recently within "Here's Why Jalapeño Peppers Are Less Spicy Than Ever" at D Magazine:
The salsa industry, Walker said, starts with a mild crop of peppers, then simply adds the heat extract necessary to reach medium and hot levels. She would know; she started her career working for a processed-food conglomerate.
The need for standardization in the salsa industry has led to the engineered, run-of-the-mill variety of the peppers being milder.

Chefs wanting spicy peppers take note: You'll need to use other kinds of pepper or hotter breeds of the jalapeño, such as the Mitla or the Early.

2. Voyager I, renowned for its great longevity as a useful space probe, may be done for. In "Death, Lonely Death," Doug Muir explains that a software problem has caused the spacecraft to "go mad," and that it may be impossible to fix:
In December 2023, Voyager started sending back gibberish instead of data. A software glitch, though perhaps caused by an underlying hardware problem; a cosmic ray strike, or a side effect of the low temperatures, or just aging equipment randomly causing some bits to flip.

The problem was, the gibberish was coming from the flight direction software -- something like an operating system. And no copy of that operating system remained in existence on Earth.


[T]hey're trying to fix the problem. But right now, it doesn't look good. You can't just download a new OS from 15 billion kilometers away. They would have to figure out the problem, figure out if a workaround is possible, and then apply it ... all with a round-trip time of 45 hours for every communication with a probe that is flying away from us at a million miles a day. They're trying, but nobody likes their odds.
This is sad news, but occurs within the context of a fascinating and awe-inspiring history of the probe.

3. Thinking about how I would approach answering a question like, How many states contain counties larger than Rhode Island?, I learned that, there are counties larger than other states -- including Montana, if you count an unorganized borough of Alaska.

I can't resist mentioning another item that popped up in that search: "Rhode Island as a Unit of Measure." It gets used a lot, and the next time I casually checked the news, I saw an article in the British press comparing the area of the wildfire in Texas to that of the state.

My favorite bit of trivia? Hawaii is the smallest state containing a county larger than Rhode Island.

4. If you've ever wondered what's wrong with the assertion that you could spell fish g-h-o-t-i, here's your answer.

-- CAV

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