Always look on the bright side
Huo Jiyu, China, whose apartment was demolished by a space capsule on re-entry, is quoted in New Scientist,
“The satellite landed in our home. Maybe this means we’ll have good luck this year”
Apparently they put the sensors that detected re-entry in the wrong way up. A serious case of “elbow-posterior uncertainty at work” as the caption in this week’s New Scientist would have it.
Seen on TV this weekend – an advert for the National Lottery which claims your chances of winning increase 100% if you buy a ticket.
Made wealthy by science (almost)
Normally i read my New Scientist as soon as it arrives. Last week I didn’t, as I was reading a rather good book at the time, in fact it was several days before I got round to reading my magazine.
The cover story was about some of the big experiments happening in the world of physics, but what really caught my eye was that New Scientist had teamed up with Ladbrokes to offer odds on these experiments achieving their aims by 2010. Most of the odds seemed pretty reasonable, eg understanding cosmic rays at 4/1 and finding intelligent life on Titan at 10,000/1. What caught my eye was LIGO detecting gravity waves at 500/1. I’m not a gambling man but with odds like that…
Of course everyone else who reads New Scientst thought the same thing, and they all read their copies sooner than me. By the time i got to the ladbrokes site the odds were down to 3/1. Someone out there has made a lot of money…
To celebrate the 50th birthday of CERN a firework display was held telling the story of the universe. It included a big bang (obviously), inflation, fundamental forces, matter, stars and planets. According to Rolf Landau, who helped design it, the public may have got lost when the four forces of nature diverged but the battle between matter and anti matter was a treat.
In related news Disney have developed a new type of fireworks which is much more accurate, conventional fireworks have an error of +/- 10% in altitude. Apparently the Disney ones explode with an accuracy of +/- 25ms, although i have no idea what that works out at in terms of altitude.
Looks like we might be seeing much more ambitious and impressive displays in future – perhaps the story of life, or the Lord of the Rings in fireworks. Any other suggestions?
(From New Scientist)
On Scientists and Statistics
“The Law of Large Numbers guarantees that one-in-a-million miracles happen 295 times a day in America”
Of course this is only true if you make some truly bizarre assumptions, like only one potential event with one in a million odds per person per day (given the US population of 295 million). How on earth do they figure that out?
In fact later in the same article they attempt to quantify the volume of events, observing that “In the course of any normal person’s life, miracles happen at a rate of roughly one per month.” Surely that would mean 10,000,000 one in a million miracles a day in America.
You’d think they’d be a little more careful when the New Scientist ran a major story on how poor most scientists are at statistics a couple of weks ago !!
“… according to a 1997 U.S. News and World Report study on who Americans believe are most likely to go to heaven, 52 percent said Bill Clinton, 60 percent thought Princess Diana, 65 percent chose Michael Jordan and 79 percent selected Mother Teresa. Fully 87 percent decided that the person most likely to see paradise was the survey taker! “
Guys – the next time your partner complains that you’re not listening, just explain that it’s a natural reaction…