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Showing content with the highest reputation since 02/24/2023 in Blog Entries

  1. 6 points
    To those whom it may concern: I wasn't planning on making a sequel to this post. Frankly, I didn't think there was much else to say. But then I was reading What If? 2 by Randall Munroe. This is not a paid promotion or an advertisement, but GO FRIGGIN READ IT. And the first one, for that matter. In one of the sections, he brings up in a footnote that the distance light travels in one nanosecond is roughly 11.8 inches: a distance, he notes, that is "frustratingly close to a foot," and then jokingly proposes we redefine the foot to exactly one light nanosecond. So of course I'm going to do that right here and now. First up, we need the speed of light. 299,792,458 m / s: a frighteningly strange number. In most science classes you'll round it to 300,000,000; or 2.99e8 if you aren't a casual. Next, we need to convert that to feet. I totally did this completely be hand and didn't use google converters to get 983,571,056.43045, which I'm going to round to 983,571,056 to give the future generations something to complain about. There we have the speed of light per second in feet; but we need to crunch it down to one nanosecond. To do that all you need to do is shift the decimal up nine slots, giving us about 0.9835... feet. I used another handy-dandy calculator series of hand calculations to get roughly 11.802 inches. Wonderful! We've successfully proven that Mr. Munroe was correct. Now we can move along to the cooler bits. So what happens if we redefine the foot to exactly one light-nanosecond? Well, my friends. The foot would go from how we know it today to just about almost as big as we know it today. In other words, I need a visual. Unfortunately, most paper isn't quite a foot on the long edge, so I found a 6-inch notecard instead (and completely on accident, too. I was planning on scaling one foot down to an inch but got lucky). So here's six inches: Compared to how long six inches should be: So what happens to our other units when we make this conversion? Well, everything (in the imperial system) becomes approximately 0.0165% smaller. If we kept the mile as 5280 feet (which is the worst number), then the length of it would change to about 5192 Old Feet (si). I looked up the new feet-to-meter conversion, hoping it would be a bit closer to a 3:1. Now instead of 3 feet making up 0.9144 meters, 3 feet makes up 0.899 meters; which is so close to just flat-out 0.9. This actually comes out surprisingly close to simply 35.5 New Inches (si) (it's roughly 35.406). For all intents and purposes, we could simply say a meter is "three feet minus half an inch," which is way better than "so, like... three feet? But... wait. Is it more or less? *Looks up conversion* okay, so... one meter is 39.37 inches. So like... three feet plus three point three inches, I guess? Or maybe three point four... I dunno." So we did it, right? hahahahahahahahahahaha hahaha no No, there are more units in the Imperial System that we use all the time. Okay, but, for the record, I won't be going into all of them. If you want to, go ahead and multiply them by 0.9835. By all means, go redefine the "chain" and the "furlong" or whatever the heck a "twip" is. It's a bit more complicated to convert units of area and volume, so I'm going to go into those next. First up: the acre. This is defined as 4840 square yards, which is just about as unhelpful a number as it gets. It isn't even a perfect square: it's roughly 69 (nice) point 5701 yards across, assuming we have a perfectly square acre. That makes 208.71 Old Feet (si), or 2504.52 Old Inches (si) on edge, which are both numbers we can plug our handy-dandy converter onto. We get a brand-new acre side of 205.2666 Old Feet (si), or 68.4222 Old Yards (si). Squaring that, we get 4681.597 square yards for one acre. I was wrong. That number is just about unhelpful as it gets. But we'll get to fixing that later. Next up we have our primary unit of volume in imperial: Fluid Ounces. These are how we define pints, quarts, and gallons... and also "gills," apparently. A fl oz is roughly 1.7339 cubic inches, which is awful. Fortunately, it's still just math, and - WAIT! FADRAN! We can't just change the definition of a fluid ounce that easily! Why's that? Because it's defined by one 160th of a gallon, or how much space ten gallons of water takes up! If you changed the fluid ounce, you'd have to change literal friggin water: another near constant of the universe! Hrm. You're right of course, me. Of course I am. And beautiful. Oh, shut up. *Blushes* So now we've stumbled upon a new dynamic: fixing other imperial units of measurement. We've completely redone single-dimension units, but from what we've seen so far it's probably for the best that we do two and three-dimensional measurements individually as well. Let's go back to the acre real quick. It's a unit of area, which means it can be defined in terms of squares. That means that we should probably find a perfect square that's pretty close to current definition and go from there. Currently it's 4640 square yards, so we want to be in the high-ish 4000s ballpark. I looked up a list of perfect squares and apparently there's a perfectly good 4624 that we can use, or 68 * 68. I was curious as to how this stacked up in terms of Old Feet - y'know, to know how much the farmers have to re-measure their fields or whatever. 4640 Old Yards squared is... well, 4640 Old Yards squared. I don't really know how to visualize that. The same goes for 4624 New Yards squared, which comes out to roughly 4472.66688 Old Yards squared. That's quite a way's off, isn't it? Nearly two hundred (old) yards squared. So I went to the next perfect square. 4761. If we make the New Acre 4761 New square Yards, then it comes out to about 4605.183 Old Yards squared. Now we're only off by about 35 Old Yards squared, which I personally think is a great improvement But that's not all. Because you see 4761 is So now we have to worry about gallons and pints and quarts and scud. Now, many of you should argue that we should just stick to metric units of volume instead of imperial. After all, one cubic millimeter of water (or "millileter") equates to EXACTLY one gram. Here's why you're wrong. One gram is not some magic number. It, as much as anything else, is a contrived unit. Now you might argue that one mole of a given element gives you its atomic weight in grams, and therefore the unit is still superior: but you're wrong AGAIN. You FOOL. I mean, look at Avagadro's Constant! 6.02214076×10^23? Do you call that clean? No! It, as much as anything else, is completely contrived. The gram is not magically equal to "exactly" something of something. Basically what I'm saying is that you can't hate on gallons for being "ten pounds of water," because a pound is just as arbitrary a number as a kilogram is. Are the numbers associated with it worse? Yes. Is the metric system still way more useful in every situation ever? Of course! But that's as far as the superiority goes: both systems are still completely arbitrary. 'Course, the gallon was defined back in the 1800s. It needs some fixing, most likely. For y'alls information, the gallon was defined first in 1824 as the volume ten pounds of room temperature water takes up (room temperature so that it hasn't expanded or contracted; ten because that's a good number). It was then quartered into - you guessed it - a quart, which was in turn halved into a pint. A fluid ounce is 1/20th of a pint (and a gill is 1/4 of a pint). A gallon is 160 pints. What this means is that we probably shouldn't change it, on second thought. It's based almost entirely on constants outside of the rest of the imperial system: and good constants at that. But I was curious, so I started by figuring out how many New cubic Inches an Old Gallon would be. Wikipedia tells me a gallon is 277.42 cubic inches (correct to five significant figures). That means 6.519768931 inches on edge. Plug in our converter and BAM: 6.41436427437 inches on edge, or 263.913 cubic inches. Personally I think that "almost 264" is better than "277 and a half-ish." Still... it isn't that great a number. It was then that I realized there was something else we could change in order to make ourselves a cleaner gallon: The definition of a pound because hoo boy is this one stupid. Take a good look at this: Currently, a pound is officially known as an "avoirdupois pound." It is equal to 0.45359237 kg. It's also equal to 16 avoirdupois ounces. What is an avoirdupouis ounce? Arbitrary, is what it is. We can do better. But where to start? I decided to reverse-engineer this one. There isn't jack scud we can do about water's density (and believe me; people have tried), so let's use that. A gallon is roughly equivalent to 4.54609 Liters. That's pretty close to a better number: let's go from there. Let's redefine a gallon to 4.5 Liters. That's a good number. Next up we take how much water can fit in that (4.5 kilograms) and divide that by ten. A pound is now 0.45 kilograms. Math is fun! The New Gallon (si) is 274.607 Old Inches, or ~270.1 (270.0759845) New Inches. Much cleaner! Let's review: The Foot has been redefined to "1 Light Nanosecond." All one-dimensional units of measurement are reduced by 0.0165%, or to 0.9835 times their original size. We overhauled the Acre, making it 4761 New Yards squared. The gallon has been redefined to 4.5 liters. The pound has been redefined alongside it to 0.45 kilograms. Everything is better. VOTE FADRAN FOR 2022 PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL BEREAU OF WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
  2. 3 points
    So I didn't actually explain how we'd get to Lightspeed in the last article. And I certainly didn't go beyond it. Should I make this a part two, maybe? Or is it a little late for that? Screw it. If Incredibles can have a fourteen-year gap between the original and the sequel, then I can make a sequel after a long month or so. Lightspeed and Beyond 2, Electric Boogaloo: Time Hijinks We have a couple options here. Option one is simple and effective, but makes for a terrible trip. Let's say, once again, that we want to get to our neighbor Alpha Centauri for a bit of terraforming and colonization. Apparently regular fusion could theoretically get a real spacecraft going at 10% the speed of light, which means that it'd be a forty-year trip to get there. That is, as they say, an investment. Fortunately, it's still well within the human lifespan. So as long as the ship is really big, contains lots of medical equipment (as well as, potentially, an onboard funeral home in case of something nasty happening), a person could totally make the trip. In order to maintain morale and general quality of life, it'd have to be a big ship. And a fancy ship. With, like... all the stuff. It'd literally be a big moving town, careening through space at a gazillion miles an hour. We'd have to establish a spaceship government, a spaceship bill of rights, a spaceship constitution; spaceship citizenship, spaceship taxes, spaceship productivity. Some people would work in the algae racks to maintain CO2 levels; others would harvest the space plants and work the 3D food printers. You'd have engineers to check and double-check every single tiny thing, because there are no lifeboats on this puppy: if it's gone, it's gone. And everyone probably dies. A spaceship president, a spaceship head of engineering, a spaceship zip code manager, a spaceship communications guy. You'd have a whole bunch of folks working the food to keep things spiced up, a slew of guys maintenancing the maintainance robots, several forms of entertainment (theatre troupe, local band, video game devs), and probably a million other things that I haven't even thought of. Eventually, a spaceship guy and a spaceship gal will be bonded for life by the power vested in the spaceship pastor, then go on to have spaceship babies to grow up in the spaceship. You'd have spaceship parks and spaceship dogs and spaceship youtube and spaceship everything. (I've always wanted to manage a big cruise spaceship, by the way. I dunno if you've noticed). That's option one. Just wait it out. However, it's far from guaranteed by any means: there's no telling if the spaceship crew will get angry at the spaceship captain and host a spaceship mutiny. There's no telling if the spaceship engineers get lazy and don't check up on the spaceship airlock and accidentally murders everyone. So here's option two. Dunno if any of you have seen Lightyear yet. If not... this probably isn't much of a spoiler. It's literally in the first fifteen seconds of the film or something. TL;DR - Cryosleep. It's entirely possible that the scientists and engineers and lucky youtuber guests wouldn't be all too stoked about sitting in the same spaceship for forty years straight, so an alternative option would be to put them under for the entire time in order to pass things by. The spaceship would be relatively small and unfurnished compared to what option one's might be, containing little more than enough chambers for everyone's cryosleep pods and probably some backup supplies just in case. Everything would be automated, which at this point means perfect. I feel the need to remind you that AI and automation is only ever getting better, so in the next couple centuries, I imagine that automated spaceships would be way better than manned. Heck, it's like that already with airplanes and cars. Almost all accidents with such vehicles are due to human error, and several notable ones could've been easily avoided had the driver/pilot simply left the program in control. Currently, there's an uber-esque service that lets you get a ride in a driverless car, and that line has only seen nine total accidents: six of which were due to other cars doing something really stupid, three of which were when the car itself was freaking stationary and some idiots just walked into it Here's the Veritasium video, in case you haven't seen it yet. Of course, this opens up a whole 'nother social can of worms. You'd effectively be shutting yourself out of everything back from your home for about half your friggin life. I imagine that scientists would choose to either stay home or take their entire family, but that still leaves hundreds of friends and acquaintances to never see you again. In forty-four years they - old, tired, and cranky - will finally hear back from you, a servant of humanity sitll in the prime of their life. Each text message is going to take four years to send from Alpha Centauri, which makes things even worse. But that's... ... ... ...fine... ...? The Thing About Cryosleep Let's open up our new science options to putting yourself under for a predetermined period of time, holding your body in a complete and total stasis until then. Suddenly, time becomes no object. An entire dimension of reality just won't apply to you for as long as you're under. Which means, of course, that space exploration will change up a lot. Let's say we want to colonize a distant star system, maybe several dozen light-years away. Perhaps even several hundred. You wouldn't just put a team of scientists and such on the ship: you'd have a massive population of regular working folk as well. They, as much as anyone else on any other kind of voyage, would be subjecting themselves to decades of cryosleep in order to continuate the human race. You, as the guy overseeing the voyage, would essentially be shipping an entire population of people to another planet. It would be a one-time investment, for the good of the species rather than your own wallet, as all outward shipments of resources and such would take just as long to get back. But I really like this idea for an early interstellar story, actually. I think it could be really dang cool. Let's say that we figure out teleportation, first of all, but don't apply it to living beings because that's generally too dangerous. If you can dissolve materials into pure energy and beam it across the cosmos, then you'd essentially be opening up interstellar trade. This, of course, is what we call a "stimulated economy," and would become a massive venture opportunity for space company presidents. Imagine you're the CEO of SpaceZ: a brand-new company that specializes in trade mediums (you're the middle man for interstellar trade, paying the worker costs and teleportation fees in order to reap the profits of people buying interstellar materials). Let's say it takes several years to build, prepare, populate, and launch an interstellar spaceship. You probably wouldn't oversee the whole thing, spending precious years of your life just waiting. Instead you'd put yourself under cryosleep, and even do so regularly. You would have literal time managers working for you that live out their lives normally, providing by taking care of your business during the down periods and reaping in profits for you. They would also be in charge of ensuring your cryosleep went on and off as intended, keeping your schedule so that you can oversee the big projects for a month or so before going back to sleep for another half a decade. Cryosleep would be the new transportation of choice, eliminating all waiting time from whatever you might be doing. Imagine you're a regular businessman working for SpaceZ. Maybe you're completely used to getting put into cryosleep every few years or so to oversee colony construction. It's completely normal that your manager is never the same guy, that you never have any consistent friends and acquaintances. Or maybe you make a regular commute between Rigil Kentaurus and our own solar system (which needs a name, by the way), spending a month or so in either one before going back under for the ride back. As it's likely a very precise science, it probably wouldn't be cheap. At best it would be affordable, meaning families could worry about their new life on Tau Ceti rather than the cost of getting there. As a businessman for SpaceZ, the regular commute would be covered by your boss, the same way plane tickets for working abroad are covered by companies now. But perhaps it gets more expensive the longer you hold it out for, making long-term or consistent cryosleep reserved for the wealthy. This is why SpaceZ's CEO can afford to pop in and out their own company every decade, keeping it in their grasp for hundreds and hundreds of years, all while the middle-managers just live out their lives as normal. But overall, it's probably the best option for even if we could go at the speed of light, because no way under heaven are you gonna be making a regular four-year commute with nothing but a newspaper to look at. Time is the next dimension we have to conquer, and this is just how we'll do that. Kay, now get us to this "beyond" stuff. No. Tune in next time for Part Three!
  3. 3 points
    It is absolutely no secret that the imperial system is kinda dumb. Like, did you know that the foot was divided into ten "thumb-lengths" back in ye olden dayse? Heck, there are records showing that inches were defined by the width of a man's thumb rather than the length of it (that are presumably incredibly precise for the time!). And all in all, it turns out that feet are defined by twelve times an inch, not the other way around. And the mile? Five thousand two hundred and eighty feet??? What kinda number is that? Y'know, the word "mile" comes from latin "mille," meaning thousand. The mile was "a thousand paces" as the Romans defined it. Apparently it was five thousand feet back in the British 1500s, based on the furlong measurement, which itself was defined by the German foot! We can all blame Queen Elizabeth for taking our clean and easy 5K and ruining it, as she decided (for no apparent reason) that a furlong just had to be 660 feet instead of 625, so they had to make the foot an even shorter measurement, tacking 280 onto the mile. Shoutouts to nautical miles, though. In feet they make no sense (6,076.11549), but it's supposed to be based on one arcminute of the Earth's circumference, meaning 1/60th of a degree: much cleaner! But anyways, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get back to the kings of the world of measurements: the Metric System. Currently, the Meter is an SI unit, meaning Standard International or International System. There are seven of these units (Meter, Kilogram, Ampere, Kelvin, Mole, and Candela), all of which are based on a bunch of really confusing numbers (Speed of Light, Planck Constant, Elementary Charge, Boltzmann Constant, Avagadro Constant, Luminous Efficacy [of 540 THz radiation], and the... uh.... "hyperfine transition frequency of Cs"). I'm not gonna go into all of them, because frankly I couldn't care less about the definition of luminocity of exactly 540 THz in comparison to that one dysfunctional fluorescent bulb that likes to flicker on and off in my dining room. The Meter was originally (in practical settings) defined by a standardized pendulum's swing (with a period of two seconds), but then gravity and atmospheric pressure and other nasty stuff got in the way of that working, so the definition was swapped. I was actually pleasantly surprised to learn that the new original definition of a meter was - no joke - one ten-millionth of the distance between the Equator and the North Pole assuming a flat surface of a sphere. It's like - what??? That number is SO CLEAN. To scud if it doesn't work 'cause Earth isn't a perfect sphere in any direction or because there's a slight stretch and compression force based on the tiniest fractions of gravitation between the planet and the sun over the course of our orbit due to the tilt on the axis - I LOVE that. It's such a CLEAN. SCUDDING. NUMBER. Practical representations, of course, were created. Turns out everything mathematically important is kept in Paris, so the original physical standard of a meter was a platinum bar held there. It was eventually replaced by a series of bars (each made of platinum-iridium: the same stuff still used for physical models today). Of course, however, no unit gets itself a perfectly clean slate. For a brief period of just over a couple decades, some loser decided to define a meter as wavelength of a specific transition in Krypton-86. What on earth does that mean? That sounds like there're at least, like, twenty prerequisites for measuring that sort of thing! We can thank Einstein for saving our sorry hides (again), though, as it was redefined to be 1/c (speed of light) in 1983. It's stayed that way since, and remains to this day one of the essential units of measurement across the entire world. But... That begs the question... how is the speed of light defined? First of all, let's ignore the whole "we have no clue what the one-way speed of light is" thing. So long as we can arbitrarily decide that 2c/2 = c, then reality as we know it actually works. Y'alls do not want me to get into skepticistic nihilism and start digging through the rabbit hole of universal methodic doubt and cogito ergo sum. The speed of light was originally measured by a pair of scientists' efforts - Ole Roemer and Christiaan Huygens. Roemer was observing the orbital period of the moon Io around Jupiter, attempting to better discern its period. He was studying it over the course of several years and came across an anomaly: there was a solid delay in the time between eclipse emergence (When Io came out from behind Jupiter, making itself observable) depending on the time of year. The delay could be equated to about eleven minutes overall depending on where Earth was during its orbit. In a stroke of genius, Roemer realized that the only explanation was that there must be a finite speed of light, and the distance between Earth and Jupiter changing throughout the year was delaying the light coming from the moon. Huygens took Roemer's measurements and did the math, finding the speed of light to be approximately 2.10E8 meters per second. The correct measurement is 2.99E8 m/s (the difference came from an inaccuracy in the measurements themselves). Even with all the limitations of the era (it was the late 1600s), they were quite close to the actual standard. It was quite impressive, actually. The first most precise calculations were by Simon Newcomb and his prodege Albert Michelson. They took measurements by lattices of mirrors and such, constantly zoning in closer and closer to the actual speed. Michelson first found the speed to be 299,910 ± 50 km/s before joining Newcomb, who narrowed it down to 299,860 ± 30 km/s. The most accurate of Michelson's experiements came out to be about 299,774 ± 11 km/s: a measurement found after his death. While all those numbers are great and all, they're all based on the day's definition of a meter: one ten-millionth of the Earth's distance between the equator and the North Pole, or one of those platinum-iridium bars that they've probably still got locked up in Paris somewhere. Of course, the speed of light was narrowed on down and down, and eventually fixed to be 299,792,458 m/s at one of those big conferences where people that people decided get to decide stuff decide what stuff is. But here's the problem: 299,792,458 m/s is defined by the meter, yes? Do you want to know how it was fixed to that number? By arbitrarily fixing it to that number... ...and then defining a meter by one over it. Do you SEE THE PROBLEM??? The speed of light was defined by a meter, but then it suddenly swapped so that the meter became defined by the speed of light! I guess that equals signs go both ways, but that is THE MOST RECURSIVE mathematical phenonema to ever exist! You can't just decide that because one thing is one thing, that the other thing is that one thing too! If socrates is man and man is mortal, then Socrates is mortal... but that doesn't mean that because I'm man and I'm mortal that I'm Socrates! Socrates was a butt-ugly genius who talked too much and-- --kay, actually. Maybe I am Socrates. BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT. The point, I think, is that these things really don't matter all that much. At the end of the day, it couldn't matter less to you or me how incredibly precise a meter is in relation to how wide your flatscreen television is. What matters is that your tape measure spans the distance and that the TV fits on your wall. I think it's important to remember that, regardless of how science has been honed to a razor-sharp edge of precision, all these measurements and definitions and units are all arbitrary anyways. People will never be perfect, and while the nanoscopic scale of what the heck a meter is or isn't works great on the papers signed by those folks voting about these thigns, but really couldn't matter less to you or me. So with all that said, if you're going to come away with one thing, it must be this:
  4. 1 point
    Welcome to my liveblog of The Lost Metal! Intro post here, beware of spoilers. Chapter 5 I only just now paid attention to the allomantic symbols heading the chapters, and it took me far too long to confirm that they are indeed just numeric. I recognize those symbols far less than I do the various glyphs and scripts of stormlight, and they are just too similar to one another for me to commit many to memory without more meaning ascribed to them than numerals. The “seal of the city” style border around them is a nice look, though. Or maybe it’s supposed to be a coin/medal of some sort? If I were to guess, I’d peg Kath the governess as a cameo of some sort, but I’ve been distanced from the fandom enough to not recognize the name as someone in particular, if she even is a name drawn from fans rather than personal friends (not to disparage those fans who have become personal friends). Max is playing with a Soonie Pup, which makes me wonder how MeLaan and others react to that cultural phenomenon not only among the general populace but also the friends and family they are close to. A personal delivery from Harmony, containing a god-communing earring? You’ve got someone’s eye on you, Wax. The ominous part for me is the need for a second earring in addition to this one. How many piercings does Harmony intend for him to have? Does this newly delivered earring replace his usual one or supplement it? And that’s not getting into the question of what metal is on its way. Presumably ettmetal since that was mentioned previously in this book and is the only one (aside from the unavailable Atium and Lerasium) that the people of Elendel wouldn’t have ready access to. However, that’s not getting into the necessity for spikes to be hemalurgically charged, so the metal’s composition and history must both be taken into account. These things are not easily fungible, especially not special ones intended for a protagonist/champion. Huh. I just realized how weird it must be for people in the know to look at the Survivorist faith, in light of what Kel is up to. Although, I don’t think we have a good sense for how long the society he leads has been active in the cosmere, so it’s distantly possible that things are still ramping up at this stage. I admit I’m not super clear on the precise timeline between this book and Stormlight. I have in mind that it’s only a handful of years between whatever happens in Lost Metal and the beginning of Way of Kings, but I don’t actually know that for sure. Yes, the amount of baggage that accumulates when you travel with young children is a whole thing. That at least is common between Earth and Scadrial. “They’re not all slag for voting against you.” I like the use of slag as a derogatory term. Nice cultural color for a place with highly prominent metalworking and mining. Nice to know that Wayne has been helping to raise Max with the appropriate accents and outlook on life. At least they don’t let him babysit unsupervised. Huh. Has Hoid been hanging around Wax for two years now? That seems like a higher level of commitment than we generally see from him. Although, that’s not necessarily true, given his various appearances in different character’s backstories on Roshar. He presumably interacted with them for months to years at a time in a consistent role. Frequtent. carriage driver for Harmony’s chosen isn’t that big a stretch. Flying piggy back rides trump the regular kind any day of the week! Does Wax carry spent bullet casings just to stay on brand when he leaps away dramatically? Most people don’t just carry those around, and he has other bits of metal he could doubtless use instead. It’s got to be part of his “Senator of the Roughs” bit. What a ham.
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