brainwagon "There is much pleasure in useless knowledge." — Bertrand Russell


Gutenberg Gems: State of the Union Addresses

Project Gutenberg has released transcripts of every President's State of the Union addresses, starting with a more important George W.


Astronaut: ‘Single-Planet Species Don’t Last’

I call bullsh*.

Shuttle astronaut John Young made the following claim:

The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455. How does that relate? You're 10 times more likely to get wiped out by a civilization-ending event in the next 100 years than you are getting killed in a commercial airline crash.'

You would think that a shuttle astronaut would know better. Let's examine this claim in some detail, shall we? First of all, let's assume that the particular causes mentioned (asteroid collision, super volcanoes etc) have nothing to do with human activity. It's hard to imagine how they could be. Now, the chances of humanity surviving 100 years is 444/455 454/455. You can multiply these probabilities out, and you find that humanity had only an 8 percent chance of surviving 10000 years, and the chances of surviving one hundred thousand years is about one in 2.35E11. This works out to a 97% chance of surviving ten thousand years, an 11% chance of surviving one hundred thousand years, and only a one in thirty five million chance of surviving one million years.


GCHQ Challenge

The GCHQ has a bit of a Christmas challenge: break the code they have on their website, and be entered in a drawing for winning a copy of Simon Singh's latest book. Cool. Check it out! Jeff and I might have something to do over the new year.

Filed under: Cryptography Comments Off

Stuck inside for the holidays?

Bristol Centre for Applied Nonlinear Mathematics | Publications | 2004 | Abstract of preprint 2004.3
This paper explains how one can crochet the Lorenz manifold, the two-dimensional stable manifold of the origin of the Lorenz system.

My grandmother taught me to crochet when I was only five or six. I wonder how long it would take me to bat one of these out. I further wonder what could posess me to try...


Early Random Number Generator Paper

Here is an interesting early paper on the justification, implementation, analysis and use of random number generators, written in 1959. The resulting machine generated about 5000 bits per second, not bad!

Via Boing Boing. By the way, random numbers are still cool.


Brainwagon Radio: Dead KVM Switch, Rants, Dickens and Mediocre Audio

In trying to fix his previous noise problems, your host appears to have squelched that a bit, but ends up with clippy audio. Sigh.

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