Tuesday, August 31, 2010


I'm heading off today to Michigan to move in for grad school and don't know when I will next have reliable Internet.  Therefore, here's a quick post to fill whatever gap may follow.

Recently, I was reminded why wearing sunscreen is a good idea. Sure, it's easy to say it prevents skin cancer, but I'll be the first to tell you that when you're younger, worries like that are not at the forefront of your mind.

A much more immediate, and therefore possibly more effective, reason to wear sunscreen-- peeling sunburns itch like nothing else.  And they have the potential to take you by surprise-- three weeks after vacation, when you think you made it through safely, you'll suddenly start to peel.  How does that make sense?

Plus, peeling ruins what otherwise would have been a pretty fantastic tan.  Shoot.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Remembering how to drive

Dear New York drivers,

While returning from Brooklyn today, I realized that many of you seem to have forgotten necessary driving lessons that would make all our lives a lot easier.  To remedy this, here is my list of things you should dredge up out of your memory banks and dust off.

First, road signs are there for a reason.  I know that multi-tasking might be tough, but I promise you can take your eyes off the road long enough to read them.  If you're having difficulties with this, hanging up the cell phone might help.  You see, road signs are incredibly good at letting you know where it is you're supposed to go and what lane you need to be in, which leads us to tip number two.

Anticipate a change.  Those crazy engineers that design roadways are actually really smart, and they have made sure that almost every change in a major highway is announced at least one mile in advance.  When you see these announcements, the key thing to do is follow where they tell you to go.  For example, if a sign says the exit you need will be on the right in one mile, continuing to speed down the left lane past cars that are stopped in the right lane is maybe not the best idea.  The reason for this is because you will rapidly reach your exit and have to slam on your brakes, stopping traffic in your lane, to try to move into the lane that you should have joined a mile ago.  I know it seems like speeding past those twenty cars and then edging in will put you in first, but in reality, behavior like this really just slows everyone down.  Anticipating a change is also very helpful when two lanes are merging, as the signs that mark those off usually tell you which lane is closing.  Therefore, you can make your way into the correct one before your lane stops and again avoid slamming on your brakes and generally being a frustration and danger to those around you.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


So talking to my little brother the other day led me to relearning some math and even a bit of chaos theory. Thanks, Dave!

The two of us were admiring our favorite shirts at Shirt.Woot (a fantastic site- if you've never been there, go) and we happened upon the "Fractal Tree" design. Now I was confused, because I didn't think this was a fractal. David disagreed, although I have a sneaking suspicion this was just for the sake of disagreement, not because he actually knew. However, it turns out he was right either way-- the tree is a fractal, because each of the branches is a smaller iteration of the tree as a whole. A fractal, by definition, is an infinitely detailed geometric shape with small sections similar to large ones.

What I was thinking of was a specific type of fractal, known as a Koch curve or a Koch snowflake. I was going to just copy and paste the description of one from Wikipedia, but it seemed a little more complicated than I'm going for, so I'll give it a go on my own. A Koch snowflake starts as an equilateral triangle. Then, imagine adding another triangle, 1/3 the size of the original, to each of the triangle's sides. This would give you a six-pointed star. Now add smaller triangles to each of the sides of this new shape. Repeat infinitely. I'll illustrate this description with the gif image Wikipedia had, since that makes it a little more clear.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chem Is Try

Well I certainly found a gem among my files-- all of the papers, notes and lab reports from my honors chemistry class in high school.  Not only is this a find because it's over seven years old now and I can't believe I still have it, but also because my life has had a severe lack of science in it since I graduated high school.  This definitely falls into the category of "things I might no longer know", although not because I didn't learn it well.

My honors chemistry teacher was fantastic.  I doubt she'll ever read this, but Alice Frazer, you remain one of the best teachers I've ever had.  For those of you who didn't know her, I'll give this evidence-- among her AP Chemistry students, seventy-five percent received a five on the exam, the highest score possible.  The remaining twenty-five percent received threes or fours, which were also passing grades.  No one failed.  That takes some serious teaching skill.  On top of that, she had an impressive history working in the chem field before becoming a teacher, so she had practical knowledge and really interesting stories.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Prisoner's Dilemma

And now we get to the first real post!  I won't be putting one of these up every day, but I'm excited to get a real start, so here goes.

One concept that shows up in a lot of the notes I was filing yesterday is the idea of the "Prisoner's Dilemma".  My notes on the subject look like this:

Did you get that?  Probably not, so a better explanation goes like this.  The Prisoner's Dilemma is a metaphor for how two parties deal with one another.  It starts with two prisoners who are arrested and interrogated separately.  You can kind of see the results in the drawing above-- the best solution is for neither of them to give away any information.  If they both keep their mouth shut (cooperate), the prosecution has little to work with and they only get a year of jail time each.  If they both go to the opposite extreme and rat the other out (defect), they each get 5 years.  However, the worst option is if one cooperates and the other one defects.  The one who turns state's witness (defects) gets off completely scot free, while the one who holds his tongue (cooperates) gets a life sentence.  Because one prisoner doesn't know what the other will do, the rational choice for them is to turn on the other so the worst punishment they can get is 5 years and the best is freedom.  If they don't talk, there's a chance that they'll get a life sentence.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Beginning

So I suppose it's normal to start these things off with an introductory post of sorts. Well, I'm not going to introduce myself, since I did that well enough in my "About Me" section, but I will give a bit of background into this blog and the motivation behind it.

Following my recent graduation from college, I spent a night trying to organize and file the immense number of papers, notes and readings one accumulates during four years of school. Sounds mind-numbing, perhaps, but in reality it was kind of fun to see all the things that I know, or at least knew at one point. This got me thinking about how all of the random knowledge a person has could be fun to throw together, and thus, this blog was born. It's meant to be a place for me to post things I've rediscovered in my files and also to put up newer facts and information that I feel people might find useful or interesting. We'll see how it goes! And hey- maybe you'll learn something cool.