Why It Doesn’t Matter Which Way You Orient Your D&D Dice

posted by Stal on 2010.02.16, under Stal

There was some discussion on the physical properties of glass and whether it flows over time, similar to a liquid. From the Wikipedia article on the behavior of glass:

The observation that old windows are often thicker at the bottom than at the top is often offered as supporting evidence for the view that glass flows over a matter of centuries. It is then assumed that the glass was once uniform, but has flowed to its new shape, which is a property of liquid. In actuality, the reason for this is that when panes of glass were commonly made by glassblowers, the technique used was to spin molten glass so as to create a round, mostly flat and even plate (the crown glass process, described above). This plate was then cut to fit a window. The pieces were not, however, absolutely flat; the edges of the disk became thicker as the glass spun. When actually installed in a window frame, the glass would be placed thicker side down both for the sake of stability and to prevent water accumulating in the lead cames at the bottom of the window.


Several other points exemplify the misconception of the “cathedral glass” theory:

  • Writing in the American Journal of Physics, physicist Edgar D. Zanotto states “…the predicted relaxation time for GeO2 at room temperature is 1032 years. Hence, the relaxation period (characteristic flow time) of cathedral glasses would be even longer.” (1032 years is many times longer than the estimated age of the Universe.)
  • If medieval glass has flowed perceptibly, then ancient Roman and Egyptian objects should have flowed proportionately more — but this is not observed. Similarly, prehistoric obsidian blades should have lost their edge; this is not observed either (although obsidian may have a different viscosity from window glass).
  • If glass flows at a rate that allows changes to be seen with the naked eye after centuries, then the effect should be noticeable in antique telescopes. Any slight deformation in the antique telescopic lenses would lead to a dramatic decrease in optical performance, a phenomenon that is not observed.
  • There are many examples of centuries-old glass shelving which has not bent, even though it is under much higher stress from gravitational loads than vertical window glass.

Conclusion: to observe glass flowing at room temperature, you would have to wait for periods far beyond that of human existence.

Palestinians Prepare for Comicon

posted by Stal on 2010.02.12, under Stal

(as cited at lunch) Palestinians dressed as Na’vi characters from the movie Avatar march in the West Bank village of Bilin near Ramallah to draw attention to the controversial Israeli border.

[ Telegraph ]

Physical Limits in 3 and 4-ball Juggling Patterns

posted by Stal on 2010.02.10, under Stal

I swear this guy is in some kind of anti-gravity room.

Job interview prank

posted by Diomedes on 2010.02.08, under Diomedes

As Vitamin-T stepped up to the plate, I’ll have to share the video I was not talking about at lunch, enjoy.

Spiders and the Quest for Truth

posted by Vitamin-T on 2010.02.08, under Vitamin-T

Where do the spiders that are often found on the windows of Chicago skyscrapers come from?  Perhaps the simplest explanation is that they climbed there from the ground below.  Well my friends, the simple explanation is not always the truth!  The June 2002 issue of Dwell, a modern architecture and design magazine, gives the following explanation:

“Immigrants from rural Michigan, the high-rise spiders make their way up the skyscrapers of downtown Chicago by surfing the southwesterly winds blowing across lake Michigan.  Genetically programmed to hitch a ride on the breeze while just days old, the spiders’ progress is halted by the skyscrapers fronting the lake. ‘Spiders balloon from place to place, that’s how they get around,’ says Louis Sorkin, an arachnologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.”

The full article is here.

I Smell a Firing in the Air

posted by Stal on 2010.02.04, under Stal

Now that, kids, is why you should not surf the internet for porn while at work if there’s a live television camera a few feet away.

Surviving a Free Fall Out of a Plane

posted by Stal on 2010.02.02, under Stal

The subject of sky diving, its attendant accident rate and the potential for pranks has been a topic of conversation around these parts, but there hasn’t been much discussion on how to survive a free fall. This Popular Mechanics article guides you to your best chances of survival after a 35,000 foot free fall. At the average adult reading rate of 250 words/minute, you will have just enough time to read the article before impact. Well, so long as you remember to start reading when you wake up at 22,000 feet. Because for the first minute or so, your oxygen-starved brain will cause you to pass out, which may not entirely be a bad thing.

On choosing a target to land on:

Glass hurts, but it gives. So does grass. Haystacks and bushes have cushioned surprised-to-be-alive free-fallers. Trees aren’t bad, though they tend to skewer. Snow? Absolutely. Swamps? With their mucky, plant-covered surface, even more awesome. Hamilton documents one case of a sky diver who, upon total parachute failure, was saved by bouncing off high-tension wires. Contrary to popular belief, water is an awful choice. Like concrete, liquid doesn’t compress. Hitting the ocean is essentially the same as colliding with a sidewalk, Hamilton explains, except that pavement (perhaps unfortunately) won’t “open up and swallow your shattered body.”

[ How to Fall 35,000 Feet - And Survive / Popular Mechanics ]