Thursday, August 30, 2007

To All My Dedicated Fans

My radio show on UNC Chapel Hill's student radio, WXYC 89.3 FM is moving to Friday mornings, 12 - 3 AM, which is infinitely superior to my previous time slot of 3-6 AM.  Between this change and my culmination of the Harry Potter series, I now hope to have a sleep schedule that will allow me to rest before 7 AM.  (I don't remember the last time I didn't see the sun rise.)  So, if you're interested, my first show is tonight.  My advice is to stream it on the line here

Also, I'm making a list of Monkey and Robots songs.  If you know any good ones, I'd like to hear about them.


Supercooling is Super Cool

So, if you've never heard about supercooling liquids, you should listen up, because it is a fantastic physical phenomenon, first introduced to me by the inimitable Ray Hively. As we all know water usually freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, but this is clearly not an unbreakable law. You can have a rushing river that is colder that 32 degrees, and adding substances like salt can lower the freezing point. What we don't usually hear, though, is that if you keep fluids really, really still, you can achieve the same effect. Crystalline structures like ice need an imperfection or seed crystal to start forming, and without motion, the fluid can resist its temptation to freeze. Your refrigerator jostles too much when the compressor turns on, but if it didn't, you'd be able to see the effect in a tray of would be ice cubes. In laboratories, they've been able to cool water to below negative 40 degrees.

Well, that's all well and good, but the exciting part is when you decide to disturb the water after it's been supercooled. Then, depending on how cold it is, it can freeze in a matter of seconds. Freezing rain is a common example of this phenomenon. The rain is fluid until it strikes a surface, where it freezes. Check out this video of someone pouring out a bottle of supercooled water as it freezes:

It is also possible to superheat water, so that it boils immediately after it is disturbed. Check out this video:

Evidently, this can be a problem if you put a still cup of water in a microwave for too long. When you take the mug out, it gets disturbed and it can severely scald you. I would hazard a guess that it's only really a danger in old microwaves that don't rotate, so you probably are not in danger.

There are lots of other really neat phenomena out there surrounding the change of phases of materials (especially water). Apparently if you cool water really fast, as in, at least 1 million degrees, per second, you can turn water into a glass, which is such a common substance that we often forget how neat it is. More on that later.


Monday, August 27, 2007

Zip Codes

How are zip codes laid out across the country? Somewhere in my experience I seem to recall the lowest numbered zip codes start in Boston but that could be wrong. If I live in zip code 00001 is 00002 necessarily bordering me? Another way to ask that is do the zip codes indicate a continuos line that winds its way across the country never crossing itself? I'm sure that isn't the case but it would be cool if it were.


When I think of questions like that I like to post them before I try to figure out the answers. It feels more like how I would encounter these questions in a real conversation. But in looking for the answer to this question I found two cool things that require posting in their own right:
1. Cool animated zipcode map
2. Cooler (maybe) zipcode scribble map

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Best Apartment Ever

Ok, no joke, I just took these pictures from our front window. I look forward to many many more lightning storms watching this happen because apparently it happens all the time.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


I haven't played with it yet but I'm about to:

Google Sky

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm back

I was out of touch for a while and didn't really have things to post. In the past few weeks I have gone to North Carolina, driven to Chicago, found an apartment, driven to Wisconsin, gone back to DC, packed my shit, driven to Dayton, packed some more shit, driven to Urbana-Champange, unloaded some shit, driven to Chicago, unloaded all the shit, unpacked, settled into our new place, and watched the first 3.5 seasons of Buffy. So I live in Chicago now. Drop me a line if you are in the area. I'll probably be posting more often again.


Monday, August 13, 2007

I Knew It

Here's an article about why you shouldn't complain so much. You're only making it worse.


Who's Born On June 10, 1981?

Why so special? Well, people born on that date will be celebrating their 11,111th day alive on November 11th, 2011. Matt's been planning his 11/11/11 party for longer than I've known him. It will begin on 11/11/11 at 11:11:11 AM and go until 11/11/11 11:11:11 PM (although there will undoubtedly be an after party at the same location that will be faded into seamlessly). That location will probably be wherever Matt is, which could likely by Chicago.

So, the call is out to find (cool) people born on June 10, 1981, for they will be the stars of the party. Matt was also wise enough to note that we should look for people celebrating days 1,111, 111, 11, and 1 on this earth. Those birthdays are: October 26, 2008, July 23, 2011, October 31, 2011, November 10, 2011. Also, there's got to be something important that happened on August 15, 1707, 111,111 days before 11/11/11. So far my research hasn't showed anything too promising.

While we're on the subject, I'll be celebrating my 10,00th day alive on May 28, 2009. You're all invited. I believe Matt will have a similar party Friday August 7, 2009. More details as these dates approach.

If you want to know when you're 10,000 days (or 1,000,000,000 seconds) old, check out this calculator.

Lastly, I should mention that the idea to celebrate number of days living came from the affable Kris Lo Presto, sound engineer of the inimitable Rachel Maddow Show.