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Thursday, January 28, 2016
Autocompleted Dating Profile ;-)ust last week, Twitter blogger Technically Ron published a great idea : he started writing a dating profile and let Google autocomplete his entries. It was hilarious! The Daily Mail (UK) wrote an article about it. Exigez l'originale, as the French would say :-)
How does Google do autocompletion? Using Markov Chains. Google refers to its inverted database and finds that immediately after words B and C, word D occurs with probability Pd, word F occurs with probability Pf, and word G occurs with probability Pg. It then suggests a list of alternatives whose transitional probabilities exceed a certain threshold; usually 3, 4, or 5 alternatives. If one matches what you wanted to write, then you can just select it, saving the effort of typing in the whole word (and avoiding typos :-).
Neat, I thought, and decided to try it myself, choosing the most scurrilous autocompletion suggestion and even different search engines. I also extended his idea by providing a link to whatever the search engine suggested, especially if it suggested a cliche´. The words preceding the inserted colon are what I typed in, the word(s) after the inserted colon are the chosen autocompletion suggestion. Here's a typical result :-
My name is : Legion.
My height is : 6' 2 lyrics.
My weight is : killing me.
My occupation : to stop the inauguration of Satan.
I excel at : many things.
I enjoy : long romantic walks to the fridge.
I'm looking for : ways over water.
How weird is that then? And often hilarious. Give it a try yourselves & post your results. We'll be laughing
Sunday, January 24, 2016
Five planets in a row :-)t is only every 15 years or so that we get 5 planets visible at once to the naked eye, all lined up in a row across the night sky. Last friday we had clear skies here (see previous blog article) and good seeing in the subzero air and so I got to see them all just before dawn. The image below shows a computer simulation of where they are, my photo was not good :-(
About ¾ hour before dawn is the best time to look. Then you can just see Mercury in the south-east before it becomes hidden in the rising sun's glare. Moving over ca. 10° further south, you cannot miss Venus, shining brightly. In fact, even with field binoculars, you can see that Venus displays a disc.
In the SSE, just above and to the left of the star Antares, you can see Saturn - also with the naked eye. Using my tabletop reflecting telescope I could even see the rings of Saturn (looking like jug-ears actually, the scope's only got a 3 inch mirror). Almost exactly south, you can see the reddish glow of Mars. You'll need a scope to see it as a disc, maybe even barsoom in on it ;-)
Over past the southwest, at a slightly higher elevation, one can see Jupiter clearly. I used my scope to see the four Galilean moons of Jupiter.
You can see this display until about mid-February, although Mercury gets harder to see later.
All very spectacular, but then I went back to bed to get warm again :-)
Friday, January 22, 2016
Faerie Ice :-)e don't see this very often. Ground level radiation fog overnight deposits as "Faerie Ice" in glittering crystals in the bare branches and twigs of winter's deciduous trees.
The photo does not do justice to the splendour of -8°C reality :-(
Tuesday, January 19, 2016
Ireland Tour tips please :-)e are planning to tour Ireland by motorcycle this summer and so would appreciate any tips from blogreaders on things and places we MUST see.
So far, we plan on arriving in Belfast on the ferry from Stranraer, then via Giants Causeway, Londonderry across to the Wild Atlantic Way in an anticlockwise direction via Galway, Sky Road, Cliffs of Moher, Dingle, Ring of Kerry, Limerick. Then back via Blarney, Cork and departing from Rosslare 9 days later, avoiding Dublin and the central areas.
Yes, we are consulting YouTube for other bikers' videos etc. So I'm really looking for insider tips from any readers in Ireland or those of you who have done a vacation tour there. Tips please by email to this Email address :-)
Thanks in advance, and say if you do NOT want your tips published in the comments section here. The more the merrier, begorrah :-)
Friday, January 15, 2016
Teasing the Teacher ;-)his little anecdote goes back to my primary school days, I was nine at the time. There were four of us who had banded together to discourage the class bully from beating us up just because we were bright kids (aka know-it-alls) : Terrible Tony, Horrible Harry, Winnie the Ninny and Stupid Stu (yours truly). We called ourselves The Gang of Four, a name which became so infamous that over a decade later the Chinese copied it - as they did everything else it has turned out ;-)
One of our favourite games was Teasing the Teacher by pretending to have misunderstood what he was teaching : yes, folks, this was so long ago that there were male teachers in primary schools!
In the preceding weeks he had taught us about fractions and the
When the teacher got us kids to demonstrate we had understood reduction of fractions on the blackboard for numbers the other kids called out, The Gang of Four went into action. When Terrible Tony was up front, one of us called out "19" and another "95" . So Terrible Tony carefully wrote on the blackboard 19/95. Then he said "There's a nine on the top and on the bottom, so they cancel out, and so 19/95 = 1/5" ;-) While the teacher - who thought we had genuinely misunderstood - gently said "That's not how it works! next...", Horrible Harry got up front and The Gang of Four called out "49" and "98" : so Harry wrote 49/98 on the board, crossed out the nines and got 49/98 = 4/8 :-) The teacher remonstrated "Well yes, but you should have written 4/8 = 1/2" before seeing we'd used the same trick :-) When it was Winnie's turn, we called out "16" and "64", so he wrote 16/64, crossed out the sixes, getting 16/64 = 1/4, again correct but using the wrong method ;-)
When it was my turn, The Gang of Four called out "26" and "65", so I wrote 26/65, erased the sixes, and got 26/65 = 2/5, again correct but using the wrong method ;-) Teacher got all hot under the collar that this "method" had worked four times in succession and insisted in showing us the GCD method again, as slowly as possible.
I often wondered if he realised he had been set up because these are the ONLY two digit number pairs for which the cancellation "rule" works :-) Later, when I was in secondary school and out of his reach, I sent him a Xmas card just saying 143,185/17,018,560 . On the second line I cancelled out the 18s on both top and bottom, getting 143,185/17,018,560 = 1,435/170,560 which is also correct, but not in smallest factors: Maybe then the penny dropped ;-)
RIP Mr. Beresford, a good - and patient - village primary school teacher :-)
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
The Sixth Continenthile the conference on Global Warming was going on in Paris last year, the question cropped up at our local pub "What would Antarctica look like if all the ice melted?". Some searching of the Internet has returned the following map, a polar projection looking down from above the south pole, because the usual cylindrical Mercator projection cannot show polar regions. I wonder what fossils will show up there.
Of course, if all the ice melted, global sea level would rise, so the coastlines shown are only an approximation. Antarctica average elevation is about 7,500 feet so it wouldn't be affected much by the sea-level rise.
The Maldives average 6 feet amsl, Kiribati too, so they will disappear off the map. Closer to home, the Netherlands average 98 feet and Denmark 112 feet. With the 40 foot sea-level rise expected by 2100, half of Holland's population could be flooded out, quite a bit of Denmark and the northern German plains will be submerged, in the USA much of Florida, Louisiana and the eastern seaboard will be flooded. Goodbye Galveston, New Orleans, Miami, New York etc. :-(
As if we didn't have enough problems here with the million refugees who arrived last year - not to mention the TEN million en-route - we'd have to make room for the Dutch and the Danes too. Maybe we should start now teaching the refugees not just German, but also how to swim :-(
FWIW, I live above 800 ft amsl. How about you all?
Saturday, January 9, 2016
Border Control, local style ;-)he German civil service is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. This includes the digitalisation of much of their data including a combined cadastral map and real estate book which is the responsibility of the individual states. Surprisingly, the states agreed on a common database format, making the data interchangeable between states for the first time ;-)
A comparison of the data from the state of Lower Saxony and what used to be Westphalia (now a subset of the state NorthRhine-Westphalia (NRW)) which share a 154km common border showed discrepancies. Some pieces of land "overlapped", implying they belonged to BOTH states and other areas belonged to neither (=No Man's Land). The last border surveys - done seperately by each state - were 200 years ago and nobody had ever noticed the discrepancies! Which just goes to show how irrelevant they are!
So now this common border is being surveyed again, this time with modern differential GPS equipment (DGPS), no expense spared, to resolve differences which noone has cared about for the last 200 years :-(
But my interest was piqued by the issue of how this arose. Official sources merely murmering something about "different coordinate systems". So let's look at some of the possible sources of error.
Historical issues : The name "Westphalia" was applied to several different entities in history, but after 1648 (The Treaty of the Peace of Westphalia which ended the 30 Years War) it had its own capital city as did Lower Saxony. Both thought they knew where they were. Hah! It was not even clear where the Null meridian was! In 1718 the French declared it went through Paris; in 1738 the Brits declared it went through Greenwich. Germany did not adopt the Greenwich meridian until 1885, well after the border survey under discussion. So the two capital cities indeed used different reference systems at the time.
Survey tolerances : Surveying at the time was done by triangulation. The surveyor measured a baseline AB (see diagram below) using a standard measure of length. The metre was originally defined in 1793, so may(?) have been used for the survey. Lower Saxony (Kingdom of Hannover) might have used their Ruthe (=4.671 meters) , the Cassel Ruthe - probably used in Westphalia(?) was 4.026 meters, so even the units of length were different.
Be that as it may, the surveyor observes a point C visible from both ends of the baseline AB and measures the angles BAC and ABC using a theodolite. The theodolite became a modern, accurate instrument in 1787 with the introduction of Jesse Ramsden's famous great theodolite in the UK. There were no (accurate) German theodolites at the time, so we don't know what instruments were used for the surveys 200 years ago. Let's assume a simple theodolite ; in another blogpost I'll tell you about a theodolite I built as a geeky school project, aged 13 (me, not the theodolite ;-)
Arriving at point C, the surveyor chose the next point D, also visible from A and repeated the process. Ditto for E,F,G and H. And so the position of H could be calculated even though it was invisible from A and B. Inaccuracies in the angle measurements lead to inaccuracies in the distance calculations, increasing with the square root of the number of steps taken in the triangulation.
Map issues : Lambert introduced his conformal conic projection in 1772; orthodromes (great circle routes) are straight lines, area is (almost) conserved. This would have been used 200 years ago. The sketch below shows how this projection is made. Two latitudes B and D are chosen where a line ABCDE parallel to the tangent at latitude C is drawn. The map is projected onto this plane. So points around the map centre (below C) are shown as closer together than around the Earth's curvature. Correspondingly, points around the map edge (below A and E) are shown as further apart than around the Earth's curvature. This is the projection distortion. And of course each state centered the map differently, i.e. different latitudes for B and D, so different distortions ;-)
The result of all this was that differences of scores of metres crept in 200 years ago, necessitating the new survey being done this year with DGPS.
There is a historical cornerstone where the states Lower Saxony, NRW and Hessen meet - not far from the Skywalk above the river Weser - based on the 200 year old surveys; I wonder if they'll (have to) move it? ;-)
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
3D Blogging attempty better half, SWMBO, wanted a SmartPhone for Xmas, specifically a Galaxy S3neo, because that is the model her friend Ulrike has, to whom she could turn for help if necessary. So I bought her one and a provider contract, pre-loaded it with a suitable set of Apps, and now she has started down the sloping path towards becoming a Smombie ;-)
Smombie is the 2015 word-of-the-year here in Germany; it is a portmanteau word, a contraction of Smartphone Zombie. This is a state of being(?) wherein the users walk around staring only at their Smartphones and ignoring/missing what is happening in the real world around them :-(
Be that as it may, we can rely on Amazon to push associated stuff one might "need" for the phone. But I did buy one suggestion : a cardboard VR (Virtual Reality) viewer. Folded together, there are two lenses for close-up focus, a nose cutout, a slot across the back to hold the Smartphone (secured by a rubber band) and two thumbholes in the bottom to let you access the touchscreen. Here's a view partially from below showing all these.
The pretty pictures printed on it include a QR-code which takes you here. Presumably there are equivalent pages in other languages too. Scrolling down the German page, there are 12 videos, viewable around 360° (overhead as well), giving Virtual Reality views of 12 places in Germany. The attitude sensor in the Smartphone "knows where you are looking" and changes the viewpoints appropriately. Quite well done, methinks. Like.
I couldn't see how to make such 360° photos myself (tutorial links welcome, any suggestions?), but the basic dual-lens setup should enable me to view stereoscopic photo pairs. That is true, they were quite good too, so I've decided to try to take some stereoscopic photo pairs myself, to see if I could "blog in 3D". Here are my first faltering steps.
You too will need such a VR stereoscopic viewer to see these pairs in 3D.
The format of this blog imples that each foreground image is only 300*225 pixels in size so the 3D results are a bit grainy, chunky and pixelly :-( Lesson one, for HiRes images, the stereoscopic photo pair should be behind a link, where they could have a much better resolution. Lesson two, this image pair does not fill the 3D view (depending on your SmartPhone screen resolution). So zoom the view until it does, making it more chunky :-( Lesson three, moving the camera 70mm (distance apart of your pupils) is not enough to give a 3D effect on mid-ground (small) objects.
So my next attempt photographed the VR-cardboard viewer placed well in the foreground. The 3D effect became more apparent. Lesson four : do not turn the camera, keep it parallel to the first photo you take.
Lesson five : be aware of where the shadows fall, in particular your own :-(
Lesson six : animals are much more difficult for you to take a stable photo pair. They may react to the flash of the first photo, moving their heads or blinking. At least with humans, you can tell them to keep still and stare at the same spot off camera until you have taken BOTH photos :-)
All in all, this attempt to blog 3D stereoscopic pairs proved much more difficult than had imagined it would be. I'll need to practice quite a bit first if this (links to 3D photopairs in the background) is to become a regular feature.
Would those of you readers with 3D VR viewers please mail me some feedback, both on how you see my photos and giving tips of your own on how to improve them ?
Friday, January 1, 2016
Happy New Yearome thoughts on New Year's Day. Like, WHY is it new year today? It wasn't always that way. After all, the word 'December' comes from the Latin word for 10, 'November' from 9, 'October' from 8 etc. Extrapolating backwards, the Romans' first month must have been March :-) Indeed it was, they celebrated New Year on March 1st.
At least up until 154 BC (= 600 AUC ab urbe condita after the founding of the city). The Iberian Celts (what we call Spain today) rebelled in december of that year. At that time, the Romans changed their rulers (=consuls) at the beginning of each year. But this time they didn't want to change rulers in the middle of a rebellion, declared 600 AUC as finished after only 10 months and started 601 AUC (with new rulers) in January so that they could suppress the rebellion without changing horses midstream :-)
In a primary school spelling-bee, I remember being mocked for confusing calendars with calenders; one kid even brought a colander to school next day to see if I could spell that. Children are cruel :-(
When the Roman empire collapsed (476 AD) everybody established their own calendars (which are an arbitrary convention after all). The Iranians chose March 21st (the beginning of astronomical spring). At least they had some astronomy! The Scots, English and Germans arbitrarily chose the alleged date of Mary's annunciation (March 25th, conveniently 9 months before Xmas). Byzantine chose September 1st, because that was the day they believed the world had been created (Stupid! Everybody knows it was Usshered in on October 23, 4004 BC, sometime in the afternoon). The French chose Easter, which meant that their New Year became a Movable Feast; rather unpractical!
Solar calendars were introduced to be able to predict the seasons; important for agricultural societies in areas of higher latitudes. In equatorial regions less so; there are some such regions whose calendars are based on the orbits of other planets!
The arbitrary calendar chaos went on until 1691 (sic!) when Pope Innocent XII put his foot down and decreed that the 601 AUC start on January 1st would be the global norm. (NB. the One-True-Church year still starts on the 1st Advent ;-) Between 1582 and as late as 1926 other countries dropped the (drifting) Julian calendar and changed over to Pope Gregory's version which is now the global norm (?) - losing 11 days in the process.
Global norm? Hah!!! Jews have different rules; nothing new there! They started year 5776 on September 14th 2015. Muslims? different again. Their year 1437 started at sunset on October 14th 2015. China won't start their Year of the Ape until 8th February 2016.
But to all of you who still follow the global-norm/Innocent papal decree/Roman rebellion-suppression fixup : Happy New Year :-)
Five planets in a row
Faerie Ice :-)
Ireland Tour tips please
Teasing the Teacher ;-)
The Sixth Continent
3D Blogging attempt
Happy New Year
Best of 2015
Behold, a child is born
The Furor :-(
Counting my sins ;-)
Happy Han Hooker
New 20 Euro note
In Memoriam : A. Einstein
Driving School Roof
E = m * c-squared
Ain Bulldog Blog
Finding life hard?
Not Always Right
Rants from t'Rookery
Spork in the drawer
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
Jan Feb Mar Apr
May Jun Jul Aug
Sep Oct Nov Dec
This blog is getting really unmanagable, so I've taken the first 12 years' archives offline. My blog, my random decision. Tough shit; YOLO.
ENGLISH : I am not responsible for the contents or form of any external page to which this website links. I specifically do not adopt their content, nor do I make it mine.
DEUTSCH : Für alle Seiten, die auf dieser Website verlinkt sind, möchte ich betonen, dass ich keinerlei Einfluss auf deren Gestaltung und Inhalte habe. Deshalb distanziere ich mich ausdrücklich von allen Inhalten aller gelinkten Seiten und mache mir ihren Inhalt nicht zu eigen.
This Blog's Status is
Blog Dewey Decimal Classification : 153
FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it’s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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