Thursday, June 19, 2008

News Bits

First, the Tale of the Acommodating Alligator:

(from, June 19, 2008, emphasis added)

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. -- Three Central Florida deputies are being reprimanded after an officer was bitten and hospitalized by an 8-foot alligator.

I wonder if the alligator drove the ambulance as well . . .

Second, Fingers in the pi:

Most complex crop circle ever discovered in British fields

(Various internet sources)

The most complex, "mind-boggling" crop circle ever to be seen in Britain has been discovered in a barley field in Wiltshire.

The circle is a coded representation of pi to the 10th significant figure.

The formation, measuring 150ft in diameter, is apparently a coded image representing the first 10 digits, 3.141592654, of pi.

It is has appeared in a field near Barbury Castle, an iron-age hill fort above Wroughton, Wilts, and has been described by astrophysicists as "mind-boggling".

Michael Reed, an astrophysicist, said: "The tenth digit has even been correctly rounded up. The little dot near the centre is the decimal point.

"The code is based on 10 angular segments with the radial jumps being the indicator of each segment.

"Starting at the centre and counting the number of one-tenth segments in each section contained by the change in radius clearly shows the values of the first 10 digits in the value of pi."

Lucy Pringle, a researcher of crop formations, said: "This is an astounding development - it is a seminal event."

Mathematics codes and geometric patterns have long been an important factor in crop circle formations. One of the best known formations showed the image of a highly complex set of shapes known as The Julia Set, 12 years ago.

I just don't get it. How does anyone get pi out of this picture? I admit to not liking the subject of mathematics much. But I am familiar with pi, what it is, what it means. But I'm not sure whether this transcandental number has any cosmic properties beyond being common to any circle in the universe. But still, you get pi out of a bunch of jaggies and squiggles? I'd like an explanation that doesn't involve Jupiter aligning with Pluto, please.

And couldn't the aliens just land somewhere and say, "Hey, here we are! We know what pi is too, you know!" I'd be more impressed, frankly. [Insert rebuttals by tinfoil-hat wearers citing mankind's penchant for violence and xenophobia as a reason why aliens haven't taken the simple Horton Hears A Who! approach to contacting life on this planet.] So their way of proving moral and technological superiority is to make an artsy-fartsy representation of pi in some barley field in Britain? Cows make circular deposits in fields all the time, and it's quite likely if the sun were setting, you had your sun glasses on, squinted your eyes and tilted your head just so, you might (gasp!) see pi in a pie.

Third: LEGO heimlich?

THe Intertubes have been abuzz with an odd furor over Kellogg's LEGO fruit snacks. Folks seem indignant that this faceless American corporation (three words you always see together these days) would dare make a snack in the shape of LEGO bricks. They're worried, of course, their kids are going to mistake a real LEGO for a fruit snack LEGO and end up choking.

I have to wonder -- just how dumb to they think their precious snowflakes really are? I have three children. We have tons of LEGOs. We have purchased them LEGO fruit snacks. None of them, even the youngest (three) have done this feared switch-o change-o these pople are whimpering about. These kids know the difference between a real LEGO and a snack LEGO. Really. They're not stupid. Maybe these other people think they have stupid children.

No argument that kids younger than ours could get into trouble. But when it comes to putting inappropriate objects in their mouths, kids younger than ours are champion at that. My brother-in-law, as a baby, once devoured a dead moth he found on the floor. I, personally, nom-nomed an ancient, crusty, dust-coated marshmallow (marmello! I said with joy before I popped it in my mouth) when I was but a wee lad. So yeah, put a LEGO fruit snack and a LEGO on the floor in front of a real young kid, they'll probably put BOTH in their mouth.

But that's bad parenting (which we just don't have in America any more, unless the kid is famous or something, then we all tut-tut about it). It's much more exciting to whine about the FRUIT SNACK OF DEATH! We've bought into the media mentality that everything on this planet can KILL US, so we'd better BAN it, rather than just get a little smarter. (Read Michael Crichton's wonderful novel Airframe to get a better grasp on that.

Now I descend from my soapbox. Without OSHA-approved ladders or safety-net.

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