Friday, June 26, 2009

The Truth About Grad School

PhD Comics current series on the dramatization of science is damn near perfect. It starts here and is currently ongoing.

Whenever I see someone doing research on TV, either in a movie or often in a documentary, they're sitting in shiny modernist offices or laboratories full of gleaming chrome and fluorescent lighting. In my experience the fluorescent lighting is about all they get right. My lab in college was largely held together by epoxy and duct tape. Anything metal was probably the worse for wear and the windows hadn't been cleaned. Ever. The greatest part is the repurposed lab equipment and old experimental gear which almost never clutters the corners of movie shots. At one point my lab was using an optical table as a desk. This was a precisely drilled and mounted slab of steel that weighed and cost more than an SUV. It's so heavy and unwieldy that after the experiments using it were completed eons ago, nobody had the desire to move it. The lab just grew up around it. It's probably still an incredibly expensive workdesk in Spencer Lab to this day.

The comic about making the graduate student wear a labcoat and look important? False. The only time I ever saw a professor in the lab was when photos were being taken. At which point they were the ones dressed up and looking official while making intelligent looking adjustments to the coolest piece of equipment in the lab.

But the bit about not being able to explain your research is true and classic. I worked on composite manufacturing using RTM, VARTM, and SCRIMP. Just Google them. Most of my work was modeling fluid flow through porous media using Darcy's Law. I tried explaining this to Amy once. About all she got was "you suck glue through tiny tubes." Yes, yes, that's what I do alright.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sam Colt Made Them Equal

An international feminist group is advocating for disarmament in order to protect women.

Look, here's the deal. Men are bigger than women. Even when we're the same weight, men are stronger because women have more body fat and higher skeletal mass. Even when all things are equal, women are at a distinct disadvantage in a fight. And things are rarely equal if an attacker can help it.

How do you level the playing field? Give women a weapon that doesn't rely on physical size or strength. Something that cashes in on women's excellent fine motor skills. I don't know, maybe we could power it with small cartridges of powerful chemicals instead of a person's arm or leg strength. Make it ranged so the man's extra reach won't matter so much. Hey that sounds great! Where could we get such a device?

Guns have historically been great equalizers. The hand cannon leveled the social classes, it gave the peasant the ability to bring down the rich noble in his suit of armor. When you're talking about violence between men and women, they can do the same thing there as well. Which is why I take my female friends out to the range whenever they ask.

Oh and not everything those women want is stupid. I have no problem with making it hard for violent sex offenders to get guns. But a lot of their advocacy seems to be dedicated to the sort of gun buy back programs that the left loves, but which really don't work.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I just replaced my driver's side headlight again. I've changed it 3 times now. The passenger side is still factory original. Every time the bulb has blown, I've used a standard Sylvania replacement from Walmart or an auto-parts store. I think I've figured out what false economy feels like now.

Famous Last Words

While not quite General John Sedgwick's "They couldn't hit an elephant at this distance," SaysUncle points out that "What are you going to do?" certainly ought to make the list.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Fitness for on the Cheap

For those of you who have already tossed out your WiiFits, Instapundit linked to a site that all about working out on the cheap.

Life Sized Gundam

In construction. Now finished. How the first link classified the Gundam as "green," I'll never know. Maybe they made it out of recycled Sapporo cans.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

David Eddings Dies

He was 77. Eddings' wife and coauthor Leigh died in 2007. Chris Byrne was also a fan.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Lego Aircraft Carrier

Just Awesome. My inner ten-year old thinks that is the coolest thing evar.

Via Tam.

Playing Catchup

Well I'm still alive. The month of May was pretty crazy for me. I spent two of my four work-weeks in either training or a symposium (more on that later). My workload was much heavier than usual and I only had half as much time finish them. So I dug deep and finished everything by their suspense dates. And now June is here and it looks like I might be able to catch my breath at work and have energy left when I get home to write something for everyone here.

Hopefully you'll see more blogging here in the coming days. Some of it might actually be on current topics as a clean out my queue of old posts I never quite had time to finish.