Two Almost Physicists With Almost Something To Say

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The Original Photobomb?

Sneaky little bastard...

Hey! Hey you there! What do you think you’re doing?

I was scanning some of my mother’s old photos for her recently and came across this one. My great-grandmother and her brother, both immigrants from one of those countries Americans used to think was all foreign and different but that we’ve all gotten used to now, are standing in the middle looking all old-fashioned, while that unidentified guy seems to have snuck into the corner, all sneaky-like. Judging from the clothing and her apparent age this is probably from the 1920s or early 30s. I’m sure someone has some kind of Civil War photobomb or something, but this isn’t so bad either.

What are you up to sneaky guy?


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Where’s my Planck Beach Ball?

ComparisonSome years ago, on my old blog, I wrote about a promotional beach ball with the WMAP Cosmic Microwave Background measurements printed on it that was distributed mysteriously to cosmologists. It was a kind of puzzling move since it was given, seemingly at random, to astrophysicists who were certain to know about WMAP anyway, and was not actually purchasable by members of the public. My undergraduate advisor, for instance, received one in a plain manilla envelope shortly after the results were published, and like everyone else who got one, blew it up and put it in his office. It didn’t make him rely on WMAP more or less, he already knew all about the experiment (just like everyone else who cares about the contents of the universe), and it’s primary function seemed to be sitting in the background of pictures taken for faculty webpages. It became so ubiquitous among cosmologists that it’s been featured in shows like, appropriately, The Big Bang Theory. There’s even an interview with the ball’s creator on the Goddard site.

Despite being the kind of thing that would help promote the mission, NASA didn’t sell them, but did devote a website to it for some effing reason. I was jealous, and liberated one from captivity, as I wrote about here:

I am now free to disclose that I have triumphed over the forces allied against me– the beach ball website that mysteriously refuses to sell it, the people who said I would never amount to anything, the journals that keep rejecting my groundbreaking work on the anisotropy of CMB beach ball distribution, everyone. I have, indeed, obtained the ball:

I can’t go into the specifics of where it came from, but let’s just say that a certain physics department who could never appreciate it as much as I do had a habit of carelessly leaving it in a usually unlocked room full of other neglected items, which I thoughtfully did them the favor of not stealing

Despite bragging about my larceny online, I had effed the eff off down to Providence by then, and the beach ball authorities never caught up to me.

Now, years later, the long awaited Planck results have been released; a refinement of the anisotropy measurements done by WMAP with higher resolution, a slightly lower Hubble Constant, and an older universe with more matter. But there’s something missing: a beach ball with the radiation from the early universe printed on it. Well, that and the polarization results that aren’t coming out until next year. Sure, Planck is an improvement on the accomplishments of the WMAP probe, but it’s a little hard to take them seriously when they aren’t willing to put their data on the surface of an inflatable ball.

It was NASA that came up with the WMAP ball, while this time it’s the European Space Agency running Planck— though NASA does have some involvement. If NASA’s outreach division hadn’t just been decimated by the sequester, this could be their contribution. Instead it’s up to the Europeans. Get it done ESA/Planck!

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Doctor Who Theme for Ukulele

This is the tablature for the Doctor Who Theme as played by YouTuber WS64 in his brilliant video:

He prefers to spend his time coming up with excellent arrangements like this one, rather than tabbing them up (but doesn’t mind if others do). It’s a great adaptation so I figured out how to play it and thought I’d share it for the other Whovians, Ukulelers, TARDashians, Time Signature Lords, Whokulelians? (I also put it on a uke forum a while ago, but it looks like it doesn’t come up very high in Google searches, so perhaps this will make it easier for the Sonic Screwdriver & 4-string crowd to find).

First order of business? Let's get inside that sonic screwdriver.

As of April 1st, Fermilab’s new director.

All credit obviously has to go to WS64 for his awesome videos, and for giving permission to share his work.

I haven’t tabbed out ever instance of every note— rather you have to watch the video to understand exactly how the repeated parts and strumming works. Chords marked as {} are strummed several times, usually with the rhythm of: ↓ – ↓↑↓↑ – ↓↑↓↑ – ↓↑↓ [then up to the high chord!] ↓↑↓↑↓↑. So I think you could say this tab is bigger on the inside.

As ukulele tabs go, I’d rate it slightly more difficult than average, since it has a lot of jumping up and down the neck, and frequent changes between picking and strumming. However my experience has been that learning things around this level is definitely possible (and great practice) once you’ve gotten the basics down, and there are ways to simplify it a bit if you find it too tricky. Enjoy!


```{Gm}`REPEAT```````````````````````````````````{ Gm}```{Dm} REPEAT

 ````Bb```````````````````````Gm`````{Gm}```{Dm}``` {}```{Dm}



 ````{F}````````````````````{Gm}```{Dm}```{Gm}```{D m}

 ````Bb```````````````````````Gm`````{Gm}```{Dm}``` {}```{Dm}

 ````````````````````````````````````{Gm}```{Dm}``` `