Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Use existing laws, Obama!

L ock 'em all up until the oil leak is fixed and the environment all cleaned up again!

CEO, CFO, Directors, QM, USA Management of BP etc. Send a strong signal!

But first make 'em walk the plank into the Gulf of Mexico! Tossing in a lighted match after them is considered optional (I'm not a vindictive man. Not me. Much ;-))

Stu Savory on June 30, 2010 permalink Comments Email

Monday, June 28, 2010

Having to explain the joke ruins it :-(

Over at Abstruse Goose there are always some great science cartoons, none more hilariously geeky than the 2-frame one shown below. Click here for the larger original.

That said, some of my friends are not scientists, being Butchers, Bakers, Candlestick Makers etc, which is probably true of my blogreaders too. Said friends just grinned nervously as I passed this cartoon around and I ended up having to explain it. So here's a summary for my blogreaders too (reading anticlockwise from top left).

  • In the sun : These show the fusion reaction as Hydrogen(H) fuses into Helium(He) releasing the Nuclear Binding Energy which causes the sun to 'burn'.
  • Around the sun : The wavy, scalloped line represents the sun's Corona.
  • Outside the sun (East to SSE): Four partial differential vector equations, being Maxwell's equations for the electromagnetic radiation being emitted by the sun.
  • Below the sun : Newton's equations for gravitational attraction. If I had drawn the cartoon,I would have placed these just below the apple tree (two steps further down) and included an apple falling on someone's head ;-) The lower equation there is Kepler's third law of planetary motion (which implies their elliptical orbits).
  • Wavy line of hills : The line is shown resolved into a Fourier Series.
  • The river : appropriately contains equations for Fluid Dynamics. I would also refer you to the Navier-Stokes equations :-)
  • The rabbit : is accompanied by a chemical formula showing how the rabbit gets its energy by oxidising sugars into carbon dioxide and water. Science inside joke : in any decent physics textbook the rabbit would be spherical and perfectly smooth (have no hares [sic!] ;-)
  • Left of the Fern : are fractal equations for drawing self-similar fern-like fractals.
  • The tree : is shown doing photosynthesis ; carbon dioxide plus sunlight energy being turned into sugars and oxygen.
  • The Birds : are shown conserving their energy as they fly.
  • Finally, top right, : we see a Cosmic Ray particle splitting up into its component subatomic particles and energy quanta.

Yes, we scientists DO think like that and have all this knowledge available associatively whenever we see something ;-) Is it any wonder the Muggles perceive us as geeks ;-)

Comments (2) :
Ivan (RUS) grins : "The Wikipedia LURVV is mutual ;-) I see they quote YOU as one of their authorative(sp?) sources (on cryptography). Congratulations!" Blush :-)
Mary (USA) corrects the cartoon : "You scientists have an idealized vision of the world.... the cartoon has no H2S by the rabbit's tail!!" But a Carotin his mouth ;-)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday afternoon football : ABE Droop ;-)

Don't mention the score? Germany 4 : England 1 (and a bit?) ;-)

Comments (3) :
Liza (D) : "Brilliant! But I expect we'll lose to Argentina in the ¼ finals though :-("
Jenny (Ibiza) "Having 'known' a number of Englishmen, I can assure you the droopy line is waaaay too long. You need to draw it much shorter ;-)" OK, Jenny lass. Corrected, my pen is longer than you remembered I thought ;-)
Klaus Peter (D) asks "What's the difference between the English team and a tea bag? The tea bag stays longer in the cup ;-)"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Arrogance ;-)

Question : Just how arrogant do I have to be to blog this 'motivational' poster ?
Answer : probably only slightly less than the creators of this informative webpage ;-)
Or, in the interests of this blog (as always) being Fair and Balanced, go follow this link.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I travel through time!

W rap your head around THIS!

I've travelled through time!

Yes, you may sigh, so do we all, from yesterday through today to tomorrow. And all of us at the same rate, we are all in the 'NOW'. Nothing new about that! Boring!

And that's where you're wrong! You still have the Newtonian concept of an absolute time, the same for everyone. But Einstein taught us differently, the relativity of space-time. Time moves more slowly the faster you go. Many years ago I had the honour to have a face-to-face chat with some Russian MIR cosmonauts. Valeri Vladimirovich Polyakov has 22 months in space, 14 months in MIR on one trip alone! And so if we plug his orbital speeds into Einstein's special relativity equations, he has aged about 1/5 second less than we Earthbound folk. Thus when he returned to Earth - to our here and NOW - he travelled forward though time. Now, given that I have spent about 4½ thousand hours flying aeroplanes and a considerable time riding fast motorcycles (which keeps me young ;-), I guesstimate I may have travelled several microseconds forwards in time to be writing this in your NOW. Lookout, Dr. Who, here I come! ;-)

Comments (5) :
Sandra (UK) challenges "First, define Time!" ;-) No, first YOU define 'First'!
No, seriously, your comment is exactly my point. "Time is what our clocks measure" (A.Einstein), and the best clocks we can build (cold caesium fountains) have an accuracy of 10-14. Since 1967, the International System of Units (SI) has defined the second as the duration of 9,192,631,770 cycles of radiation corresponding to the transition between two energy levels of the caesium-133 atom; all a matter of convention and agreement as my good friend Angelis Teloudis would say. Now general relativity tells us that this definition also has to specify the depth of the clock in the planet's gravity well. Valeri Polyakov was higher up the wall of our gravity well and so - if he had had a 'perfectly accurate' clock with him - it would have run slower (as seen by us). When it returned to Earth and compared with our definitive by agreement clock it would be seen to have 'lost' time. Our problem is with the words 'Now' and 'the present' which are based on the Newtonian concept of absolute time. In Polyakov's case we could have two perfectly accurate clocks drifting apart merely due to relativity; i.e. we don't have a good understanding of 'Now' nor a vocabulary to cope with the relativistic imprecision thereof:-(
Jenny (Ibiza) points to Carl Sagan on time dilation ;-)
Will (USA) notes: "BTW, bills travel through the mail at twice the speed of checks".
Olli (D) asks "Does Schroedinger's clock only tick when someone is listening?"
IMHO, the cuckoo is always listening. Unless Schroedinger's cat ate it of course ;-)
Charles (Wales) [yes, really!] reminds us of the night we all hopped forward in time :
"The last day of the Julian calendar was Thursday, 4 October 1582 and this was followed by the first day of the Gregorian calendar, Friday, 15 October 1582 (the cycle of weekdays was not affected)."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Quoting the famous ;-)

P art of your social-skills repertoire should be the ability to quote the famous in the appropriate context. Here are some links to some of my own favourites :- Be sure you can attribute the quote to its original author. That said, I got put down by an obnoxious accountant once at a cocktail party with "Quoting others just means you've run out of original ideas of your own!", to which I replied "I can tell you've never quoted or indeed ever been quoted, because quoting others means you can acknowledge that the ideas of others are much better than your own!"

You may quote me on that ;-)

Comments (3) :
Kees Kennis likes to be able to quote portmanteau words I think, writing "Have you read this dictionary ? The Meaning of Liff By Douglas Adams and John Lloyd. I loved it and still browse it sometimes."
Kernel Freak points us to 101 Great Computer Programming Quotes.
Anne (UK) hath a way with the Bard :- "I know you all, and will awhile uphold the unyoked humour of your idleness... (Henry IV, Part I)" Thou art perfect! (Act II, Sc 4)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Bikes for Africa --- ReCycle

One of the side-effects of the soccer World Cup on TV is that we richer nations become more aware of the poverty in Africa. We get to see large numbers of people walking along (dirt) roads, and thoroughly overloaded lorries and buses. There is a dearth of public transportation there. And not enough bicycles.

So a major south German bike manufacturer ( has started a 'Bikes for Africa' campaign. You can contribute your old bicycle (only those in working order please). It will be collected for free by their logistics partner Hermes, checked out, then shipped by the container-load to the SOS-children's villages near Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg. That of course is not enough, so they are also training locals there in bicycle maintenance for the outlying towns and villages, so that these bikes are kept in working condition. If you live in Germany and you want to help the mobility of the poor people in Africa, here is the on-line form to get your bike collected.

Comments (3) :
Schorsch (D) reminds me "Thoroughly OT, but the Nürburgring opened with a M/C race exactly today in 1927 :-)" I can no longer do it in under 9 minutes, Schorsch :-(
Anonymous (D) asks "And where do they expect you to buy your new bike from?"
Kees Kennis, blogger from Africa, expands :- "Hi Stu. Here in Africa we have the last of the trucks that carried shells to the frontline, from both sides, in the Second World War, and sometimes I think, The First, still running. Smoking as all hell but still logging logs. Send bicycles, don't bother about bicycle mechanics." Kees, I have flown a couple of beautifully restored pre-WW2 biplanes; now they had character!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Many More Millionaires

A recent study by Boston Consulting shows that the number of millionaires in Germany increased by 23% to 430,000 over the last year! Worldwide, the increase was 14% to 11.2 million millionaires. After USA, Japan, China and the UK, Germany now ranks number 5. The volume invested by private investors reached 111.5 billion, back up to 2007 levels, so the rich have recovered from the financial crisis very nicely, thankyou ! According to Boston Consulting, Singapore has the highest density of (dollar) millionaire households with 11.4%, Asia growing at the fastest rate (Hong Kong 8.8%). In Europe, Switzerland has the highest millionaire rate, with 8.4%.

Meanwhile, the number of people on the dole here has increased again, as has the number of people in minimum wage jobs and the number of private bankruptcies.
As the rich get richer, the poor get poorer :-(

Our much despised political class - alleging austerity - are punishing the poor and dismiss the idea of a 'luxury'-tax whereby those with more would bear more of the load. At the same time they are declaring 'savings' of 80 Billion, which are nothing of the sort, instead being merely planned additional debts being put off to a future date.

FWIW, 'tis but another month until Bastille Day (July 14th) ;-)

Comments (3) :
Heike (CH) asks plaintively "One in 12 Swiss households are millionaires? As one of the other 11, may I ask where I went wrong?" I don't know about you lass, but in my case I attribute it to a) having been a wage slave rather than self-employed for most of my working life, b) the inland revenue, and c) spendthrift hedonism, splashing out my money heedlessly - with enthusiastic support from SWMBO - as soon as it came in ;-)
Charles Pergiel (USA) cautions "If you took inflation into account, the number of millionaires would not be increasing so much and may actually be falling. Inflation is rampant. We need some kind of permanent indicator of steady value. It would probably have to be artificial..." You mean like a Big Mac? ;-)
Mehmet (D/TR) quotes from today's Bild newspaper "The proportion of low-earners (in Germany) has increased from 18% to 22% over the last decade. Average single's-household incomes dropped from 680 to 645 € at the same time as the higher income monthly average rose from 2400 to 2700 € ."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Hollywood discovers me ! ;-)

W ell, just one of my webpages, that will have to suffice ;-)

Stephanie Argy co-director (with Alec Boehm) of the spy movie "THE RED MACHINE" wrote "Hi Stu, I'm a filmmaker, based in Los Angeles, and I'm wondering if you'd mind if we link to your how-to-solve-a-cryptogram page from one of our movie websites. My writing/directing partner Alec Boehm and I just finished our first feature, The Red Machine. It's a caper adventure, set in Washington DC in 1935, about a thief and a U.S. Navy spy who have to work together to compromise Japan's first code machine. We're about to have our international premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. We've offered to have the movie's head cryptographer (yes, we have one!) create a special series of cryptograms for the festival, and I think it would help if we could point festival-goers to such a well-written description of how to crack them..." Of course, I granted permission, for flyer text usage too, for such a compliment ;-)

Let me tell you a little about the actual late 1930's RED machine. RED was the US codename for a pre-WW2 japanese rotor cipher machine, the fore-runner of PURPLE.

RED was a japanese (reverse-engineered Damm/Hagelin) rotor cipher machine designed in the mid 1930s, a little more complex than the german Enigma. To complicate the straightforward stepping-rotor design it also had a 47 tooth interrupter gear which could cause the stepping rotors to skip ahead by 1,2,3,or 4 positions depending on how the pegs were placed on the interrupter (but the periodicity remains the same during each peg-setting session). There was also the usual substitutional plug-board whose settings were changed daily, but it is pretty straightforward for a cryptographer to strip out the (static) super-encoding of the daily plugboard setting.

The most difficult thing for the would-be cryptanalyst to work out is the wiring of the rotors. I have explained how to do this for a single rotor Pocket Enigma elsewhere already. This was done initially for the RED machine by the British in 1934 (who didn't tell their allies), followed by the Americans in 1937 (SIS produced its first translation from a RED machine decrypt in February 1937). The Germans also broke RED pre-WW2 (again, never trust your allies ;-). All this was done purely by mathematical analysis; there is a good description available in Alan G.Konheim's 1981 declassified book "Cryptography : a Primer" pages 190 through 223 [too heavy for most of you :-(] .

However, even Hollywood couldn't make a movie of the maths become exciting ;-)

So I suspect Stephanie and Alec's movie takes the other approach - steal a RED code machine. Except that you can't; the enemy would notice it had gone missing and change their codes ASAP :-( So what the thief must do is to gain access to a machine and read out the rotor wirings, leaving the machine in place. Secret-services world-wide built rotor-readers for this very purpose; here's a picture of a KGB rotor-reader.

But what about the 47 tooth irregular interrupter gear? The teeth of the rotors and the interrupter are co-prime making for a cycle up to 47*60 long, for each rotor. This makes a traditional Kasiski attack on the cyphertext much too difficult (I'm sure I have explained elsewhere, albeit in German, how to make Kasiski attacks on polyalphabetic codes, pencil and paper suffice for cracking short keywords; no PCs in the 1930s).

Fortunately, the Japanese made the same mistake as the Germans did, using stock phrases such as "Re. your telegram of ..." and "I have the honour to inform Your Excellency (the ambassador)...". One German observer always sent the cliche "Nothing to report" on his Enigma, so the Brits left him well alone ;-) Such cribs enable you to crack the code much more easily and show you where the interrupter pegs are placed. Also, the japanese were stupid enough to encode vowels and consonants separately, just to make sure they got the cheap rate for legible telegrams. The 6/20 separation made code-cracking much easier. Never let accountants interfere with security issues!

All of which is by way of recommending The Red Machine movie, which I haven't even seen, I just deduced this plot ;-) However, when it does come out, I'll be sure to go see it. I've asked Stephanie when a DVD will appear, I'll keep my blogreaders posted :-) Of course, my problem with being overly knowledgable about cryptography is that I'm likely to inspect the movie realtime for anachronisms :-( C'est la vie!

PS: recommended reading : "The Man Who Broke 'Purple': Life of the World's Greatest Cryptologist, William F.Friedman", Corgi, 1979, ISBN 0552109584. There are still used copies available via e.g. Amazon for only 6 Euros. A good code-breaking read!!!

Comments (8) :
Gudrun (D) points us to an online Enigma emulator :-)
David (IL) point us to Gary Kessler's crypto overview page.
Maria (D) thanks me belatedly with "I attended your crypto courses years ago; always clear and amusing. BTW here's a simple page on Digital signatures." Thanks lass, but your email was unsigned, so I can't tell if it's really you ;-)
Steph (USA) wrote ".....The RED Machine isn't available yet on DVD, because we're still in our film festival run, trying to build up some cachet for the movie, but we'll let you know as soon as it is..." Thanks lass, looking forward to seeing it :-)
Liz Hinds (Wales) says "...And congratulations on your Hollywood success"
Liz (England) ripostes "Can we expect you in a starring role 'The zombie has a code'?" Ed (USA) asks "WTF was that about? Maybe U unnerstood it, be we din't when readin it!" OK, I had to explain a highbrow Abtruse Goose cartoon the other day, so maybe I'll blog that too. Personally, I thought my article was intelligible even to the layman.... Ivan (RUS) remind us that "768 bit RSA has been cracked recently ".

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Penalty time :-(

Well, the FIFA soccer world cup got off to a miserable start and we are going to be bored by the TV showing almost no other sports over the coming weeks. Except perhaps the equally boring F1 races. A penalty indeed :-(
So while we are talking about penalties, let me show you the optimal goalie strategy, as seen from the penalty taker's perspective; see my exaggerated sketches below.

The sketch on the left shows the arc which the goalie can reach when he reacts after seeing you kick the ball. The hatched area shows the places he cannot cover, so it is where you should aim the ball, i.e. the top left or right corners of the goal. If you kick the ball hard, it takes about 0.4 seconds to reach the goal. The goalie takes about 0.2 seconds to respond after seeing where the ball is aimed (= his reaction time).

The optimal strategy for the goalie is to take a step forward while you are running up to the ball, thus increasing the angle he can cover by his saving arc. Sure, this one step will lessen the time for him to jump in the direction of the ball, but this is a smaller disadvantage than covering a greater angle. Bending the rules? Sure, but is the referee going to notice in which 1/10th of a second the goalie took that saving step?

Comments (1) :
Doug Alder (Canada) points us to some current research on penalty-direction prediction.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Bumper Sticker suggestion;-)

Dyslexic Bloggers do it write ;-)

Comments (1) :
Kate (UK) anagrams to : "Shouldn't that be - 'Boggled Sex Lyrics' do it write ? ;-)"
Yeah, but they 'Crib sexy gold legs' too ;-)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sardonically yours :-(

U sing advanced simulation techniques, NASA has produced a 'photo' [of the earth as seen from the moon] predicting the result of the Gulf of Mexico oil leak for April 1st next year :-

Thank YOU, BP :-(

Comments (5) :
Chuck (TX,USA) sent a link to this ironic photo of a BP pump.
Kees Kennis (RSA) takes me to task for hypocrisy : "Park your bikes and your cars until We can drill on the land in the USA. Can you spell hipocrite? I cannot ;-)" Let us see where my oil/petrol goes : the small motorcycle uses 250 Ltr/yr, the big one uses 240 L/yr, the car 1700 L/yr, and the central heating 4100 L/yr. So the latter has the greatest savings' potential, 6% per 1°C cooler in the house. Cool it, man!
Kate (UK) quips : "Shouldn't that be - Sardine-ically yours ? ;-)" Oi'll go for that ;-)
Joshua (IL) gives me the numbers : "The current consumption rate of 63 ¼ million barrels of oil per day implies only 42 ½ years until the oil runs out. Similarly, 167 years until the natural gas runs out. And 416 years until the coal runs out. Currently 91% of the world's energy consumption is from non-renewable resources :-( "
And just FYI, Israel wants all that natural gas under/offshore-from Gaza. And the US's war in Afghanistan is to stop the Chinese exploiting the natural gas thereunder. Not to mention the US wanting all the oil under Irak too. These are the Energy Wars :-(
Brian (US) points me to Cosmic Navel Lint writing about corporate irresponsibility etc.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Probably problematic ;-)

Take the bull by the horns today and think about how apparently irrelevant additional information affects probablities. Here are some worrying examples :-

Assume a stranger says to you I have a child ; what is the probability it is a girl? Ignoringing the niceties of your local actuarial tables, you would answer 50 %.

Assuming said stranger had said I have two children, (at least) one is a girl. What is the probability that the other is a girl? You might think 50% too, since you have no prior information about the other child. You might be wrong! Ordering the children by sequence of birth (older first), the probabilities are GG, GB, BG or BB. Now BB can be excluded because you already know that one is a girl, leaving GG, GB and BG. So the chance of the other child being a girl is 1/3 ;-)

However, if said stranger had said I have two children, the elder one is a girl, then BG would be excluded too and the probability (GG, GB) would be 50%. The probabilities depend on any additional information (such as 'elder') !

Now if you think THAT was counter-intuitive, please go read this !!!

PS: here's why you should be interested in probability theory ;-)

Comments (1) :
Liz Hinds (Wales) objects "I disagree with your conclusion about the stranger with two children one of whom is a girl. It may be mathematically correct but no-one would say 'I have two children; one is a girl,' when, in fact, they have two girls."
Liz, a mathematician teasing you would, QED ;-)

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Eunoia, who is a grumpy, overeducated, facetious, multilingual ex-pat Scot, blatently opinionated, old (1944-vintage), amateur cryptologist, computer consultant, atheist, flying instructor, bulldog-lover, Beetle-driver, textbook-writer, long-distance biker, blogger and webmaster living in the foothills south of the northern German plains. Not too shy to reveal his true name or even whereabouts, he blogs his opinions, and humour and rants irregularly. Stubbornly he clings to his beliefs, e.g. that Faith does not give answers, it only prevents you doing any questioning. You are as atheist as he is. When you understand why you don't believe in all the other gods, you will know why he does not believe in yours :-) Oh, and he also has a neat English Bulldog bitch 'Frieda'.

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Hollywood discovers me
Penalty time :-(
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