Archive for January, 2006

Self Portrait (evil)

devil me

Hmmm… which film to see?

Sometimes all you need is a glance at the poster to tell you everything you need to know about a film’s quality…

Eyyuuchh… Why does Jennifer Aniston’s tensely relaxed posture and vaguely sardonic expression make me want to barf? … and what’s with Mark Ruffalo being airbrushed to make him look like someone you could take home to meet your mother?

As Darren Barefoot noted a while back, the poster for Walk the Line is beautifully illustrated– a rare and welcome exception to the promotional mud which graces billboards these days.

Welcome to yet another frikkin error

Although it is my default browser, I have some real issues with Firefox. It crashes lots [on both machines I have tried it on], and what really pisses me off is that when it does so, the first thing I see is the dialog below, which has the gall to use the word Welcome in the title bar, and avoids words like error and problem .

It’s bullshit marketting-speak when I least want to hear it!

A few seconds later the standard Windows error dialog pops up over the top, but at least it doesn’t say Congratulations! Windows has detected an actionable issue! It even uses the word sorry, which is exactly how it should be!

BTW The reason I added perspective to this dialog is to avoid spooking Windows users when they view this entry.

Crap Design

Can somebody please abolish:

  • Toilet cubicles where the door opens inwards in such a way as to force you to step behind the toilet (or at least lean across it in a very awkward manner), usually exacerbated by the inappropriate placement of toilet paper dispenser exactly where you need to stand.
  • Separate hot/cold taps [instead of mixer taps] for bathroom sinks, so that you have to choose to either burn or chill your hands, neither of which is particularly gratifying.
  • Doors to public restrooms that also open inwards only, meaning that you have to touch the same handle which every other bathroom visitor touches on their way out– of whom more than 75% haven’t washed their freakin hands, because apparently they were raised in barns.

In 33 Dimensional Space Everyone Can Hear You Scream

The term“my little corner of the world”, is often used in a folksy, ironic way to describe one’s modest domain, either professional or domestic. It’s a comforting idea, having a corner the world to one’s self. But realistically, there just aren’t enough corners of the world to go around.

Since we appear to live in three dimensional space, the logical maximum is eight, corresponding to the eight corners of a cube. If we were to locate them on a globe, there would be four in each hemisphere. We might make it easier to address the corners by introducing the directions front/back to go with north/south and east/west.

So we might consider Grand Duke Henri of Luxemburg to be the occupant of the NorthWestFront corner of the world… which leaves just seven more corners to be shared amongst the remaining six billion of us.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone really could have a corner of their own, with proper right angles and everything…?

They could, if we lived in 33-dimensional space!

Hyper Earth

On a 33-dimensional world, every one of more than 8 billion people could have their own corner, complete with right angles [more than 500 of them!].

Just to be cute, let’s assume that the diameter of 33D hyper-Earth is exactly 33 metres [a metre is roughly the distance from your armpit to the back of your knee], and that the planet has an evenly distributed population of exactly 8,589,934,592 people [that's one person occupying every available corner].

Every hyper-citizen would have exactly 33 immediate neighbours, each living about 5 metres away [and yet no two of these would be less than 7 metres apart], and a visit to the farthest person (your antipodean cousin, living on the opposite side of the world) would require a stroll of less than 50 metres.

Does this world sound a little crowded to you? What if I mentioned that if you closed your eyes and took a stroll, the chances of physically bumping into another person are virtually zero? And yet you’ll never be more than 5 metres from another hyper-human. Isn’t that weird?

Hit & Miss

The chance of a falling meteorite actually hitting a person on hyper-earth is so neglible [at less than 1 in 20 billion trillion] that even if there were a million impacts every day, only 1 person would be killed every ten thousand years or so. Calculating such probabilities is purely academic of course, since the chances of hyper-earth being hit by a meteor in the first place are also vanishingly small.

Similarly, firearms would be next to useless on hyper-earth, even given the relatively close quarters, because in 33D there are just so many ways to miss something. The extra 30 dimensions make aiming vastly more difficult, so that beyond the the familiar “left-a-bit” and “up-a-bit” we must imagine a litany of other directions to adjust in, eg: “snerf-a-bit, frite-a-bit, smort-a-bit, blern-a-bit…” etc

Gravity & Mass

It might seem that such a little hyper-planet [just 33 metres in diameter] is unlikely to provide enough gravity keep all those hyper-feet on the ground. But run some numbers and you’ll discover that the volume of hyper-Earth is about 3 hundred billion trillion trillion hyper-cubic metres, probably more than enough hyper-matter to facillitate gravitational attraction.

So anyway, since this is one big messy thought experiment, let’s just assume that gravity on the surface of hyper-Earth is equivalent to regular gravity, causing a downward acceleration of around 10 metres-per-second-squared.

The real difference comes from the 33D equivalent of our inverse-square-law. In 33D this might be called something like inverse-32nd-power-law. In regular space, the strength of a field–be it gravitational, magnetic or electrostatic– is proportional to the inverse square of distance. Which means that if you double the distance from the source, the field strength will be reduced by a factor of 4. In 33D the effect is substantially greater, with a doubling of distance producing a reduction factor of about 4 billion.

What this means for residents of hyper-Earth is that gravity at one metre above sea-level is only 15% of normal. At an altitude of two metres it diminishes to only 2.5%. At 10 metres, the force of gravity will be negligible, less than a millionth of its strength at sea-level.

Sight & Sound

Unfortunately, the inverse-32nd-power-law will also affect energy transmission, severely impacting quality of life on hyper-earth. Small localized light sources, such as hyper-candles, would be either utterly useless or potentially blinding. Night time reading is probably not a great idea, since a light which offers good reading at one metre would leave you in pitch blackness at two, and moving just 50 centimeters closer would probably incinerate you, as the intensity of the light increases 4 billion-fold.

At least in the daytime, light energy from the unbelievably powerful and reasonably distant hyper-sun would allow citizens to see in 32 dimensions.

Carrying on a conversation might be difficult too, since sound energy will obey the same [inverse-32nd-power-]law. In order to attract a neighbour’s attention [5 metres away] even detonating a large thermonuclear device may not be enough, such will be the dramatic attentuation of the shockwave as it expands outwards in all 66 possible directions [each dimension comprises two directions: up/down, left/right, forward/back, smerf/blerf, frite/spleft.... etc ] An explosion which would ionize you at one metre might not even ruffle your hair at five (having less than a billion-trillionth of the destructive power at the latter distance).

Which means the title of this post is actually totally misleading– In fact no one will hear you scream in a 33 dimensional world (although they might just hear you explode should you happen to detonate a nuclear weapon). Communication would still be possible however, with the aid of wires, or even pieces of string, both of which are capable of transmitting energy along a single dimension instead of dissipating it into space.


This post is derived from an old and unfinished article that I found kicking around on my hard-drive, and so I thought I’d post it here to see if anyone reads it closely enough to spot any major holes in my calculations :)

Untitled #547

Untitled #546

It’s been a while since I did a title-free post, so I’m not sure if this is going to break anything. When you just want to go blah blah blah sometimes having to come up with a title is just a pain, and the titles themselves often misrepresent the post (or make it sound more focused than it is).

One very nice thing about blogging is when someone you know does it, and they tell a story better than you can remember it (and with more style), so you can just point to it and say it’s funny because it’s true!

So to all those people I know who don’t yet keep blogs, please start now, if only so I can link to you to save writing my own material. This goes especially for Mr S, who has the gall to write comments more entertaining than my posts.

Movie overload this week! I have seen:

Howl’s Moving Castle – better than I expected, even though the dubbed English voices were a little distracting. Actually I think I may now have a crush on Emily Mortimer, who provides the voice for Sophie in the English dub– She sounds like the ever-plucky Bob from Blackadder series 2 and 4.

Joyeux NoëlOf course this was sweet and sad and full of pathos. Weirdly I think I cried more in the preview for it than the actual film.

The Family Stone – Surprisingly good, although hurt by Sarah Jessica Parker overplaying her uptight character. Claire Danes is annoyingly desirable and Craig T Nelson is aging extremely well. Luke Wilson is possibly beginning to transform into his brother.

Happy Endings – Not as cool as it aspires to be. I actually thought it was inferior to The Family Stone in its treatment of human relationships. Interestingly it’s the first time I’ve noticed that I was watching a film projected digitally, and this was mainly because there were technical troubles and the word PREVIOUS appeared on the screen when the film was [instantly] restarted… I want one of those projectors!

Nerldly Things

Now that my notebook computer has wireless broadband (via 3G/CDMA based card) I now have secure internet anywhere I go, and I like it! The only down side of this arrangement has been with my email situation, since I like to use a local mail client (good old Outlook Express) but don’t want to pull all my messages from my server (because then the only copy would be stored on my very portable, and hence very stealable/losable computer). This has meant that every sign-in has been taking longer (since the number of message headers continually increases).

Enter Google Mail, apparently now available to anyone with a mobile phone, and finally I have a good solution: From now on all of my mail will be forwarded to a non-public GMail address, which allows POP access but also keeps messages archived (even though your POP client will think they have been deleted from the server). What this means is that I need only one sign in to collect all my mail, it is secure and fast, and should my tiny computer suddenly asplode I can rest assured that all my mail is still accessible at Up to 2.6GB of it apparently, which should be plenty, considering that all my email including images and attachments going back to the end of 1997* (!) is still under 500MB compressed.

It takes a little setting up, but based on my initial experience I recommend this approach, regardless of whether you prefer using webmail or POP clients. Google Mail’s webmail interface looks quite interesting, especially the conversation threading (you have to try it out to see what I mean).

* When I left my first programming job. I wonder now what happened to all the email from before I left… at least 4 years worth I think. Why don’t I have it backed up somewhere…?

Junk Food

I’ve always been a fan of the orange+chocolate flavour combination, but not yet sure if this extends to Fanta’s new chocolate ice-cream "spider" flavour– It’s simultaneously the most delicious and the most disgusting soft drink ever! Dunno if I’ll try it again (ok I probably will). I got it from Burger King, which is exactly like McDonalds, in that you can’t just ask for a small cheeseburger meal because that’s, like, impossible to comprehend! So generally they will give me either a kid’s meal, complete with promotional toy (Mr Tumnus– oh joy!), or a regular cheeseburger meal with more fries and a larger drink than I actually want. Why can’t they recognize that some people maybe don’t want to consume an entire day’s caloric intake in one sitting? Where’s the "light snack" meal deal?

In a similar vein, I am routinely peeved at Starbucks for pretending to have no idea what constitutes a regular sized cup of coffee. I like a nice, simple flat white, in a cup that’s shorter than it is wide, but it’s always such a chore to get them to serve me this. Their smallest listed size (for this particular beverage) is "Tall" which really means "Bloody Great Mug" – such a shitty way to drink coffee, gulping it down and still ending up with a quarter cup of tepid brown milk at the end of it. If there’s one thing I don’t want from a coffee, it’s a feeling of fullness.

NB: There are notable exceptions– Starbucks Newmarket are actually very nice, and always serve me coffee in cups normally reserved for the long black. Also, McDonalds in Queen Street has this one guy who has twice given me a cheeseburger + small fries & coke for $3! I can’t quite work out what the deal is with that, maybe he assumes I’m a homeless person…?

Chapter One

The Intriguing Setup

Unremarkable computer programmer Michael Parsnip staggered backwards in pain, having clumsily bashed his head into the door he had just tried to open. He had swung the door inwards against his own left foot, then failed to check his body’s advance as he moved forward, causing him to walk into it in such a way as might have been funny had he not been fleeing for dear life at this moment.

“Ha ha ha,” taunted his one-armed albino midget assailant, “That’s gotta hurt!”

Michael, still staggering like a buffalo would if it were for some reason hit very hard between the eyes with a flat-iron, didn’t know which was worse, the pain in the bridge of his nose, or the obnoxious remark. Both, he supposed, paled in comparison with what was about to happen anyway. Why did he have to be so brilliant as to accidentally uncover the secret code that was buried in the pages of the New Testament? Only too late did he perceive the crouching dangers lying in wait for those who delve too deep into the secret pond of forbidden knowledge.

As the midget raised his tedious but historically significant weapon for the fatal blow, all the while muttering incoherently in Latin, Michael pondered a while longer on what a terrible waste it would be for him to leave this world and take the terrible secret with him; for ironically, or perhaps fittingly– no, ironically, I’m almost positive– only Michael could know just how utterly and forever lost the knowledge would be should he be killed, since the knowledge and/or secret he had discovered pertained to nothing less than the very nature of Death itself!

Resolutions for 2006

This year, as Zeus is my witness, I hereby resolve to:

  1. Get a decent flat (and car)
  2. Get out of debt
  3. Not be tragically single for the entire year
  4. Grow a pair
  5. Not take up smoking again
  6. Submerge myself in a naturally occurring body of water at least once
  7. Not be grumpy on my birthday
  8. Learn something new (unrelated to work/programming)
  9. Chide someone who deserves it
  10. Write a bestselling novel about a computer programmer who solves a two thousand year old mystery encoded in the pages of the New Testament.