Consider the Moon

The following from Bill O’Reilly distressed me.

“I’ll tell you why [religion’s] not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication…It always comes in, and always goes out. You can’t explain that.”
Bill O’Reilly

Of course the tides can be explained. Google offers three million results for “what causes the tides.”  The Earth and the moon revolve around a common center of gravity.  Centrifugal force creates a bugle in the ocean that accounts for a high tide.  On the opposite side of the Earth, the  gravitational pull of the moon creates a second bulge , accounting for another high tide.  As the Earth rotates on its axis each day these two bulges circle the earth creating two high tides a day.

O’Rreilly’s misplaced confidence & shoddy workmanship

My distress come not from O’Reilly’ not understanding the moon’s effect on the ocean. I am sure he does stand alone in that failing. What distresses me is that he took on it on faith that he had his understanding of the tides was complete–that he knew that the the tides were unexplained. Furthermore he was so sure, so willing to express this view on TV without first taking two minutes to research it or ask some productions assistant to check it out. That is a frightening amount of confidence about a subject he is clearly not familiar with.

When I first read about his comment I thought maybe it was an off-the-cuff remark that just came to him while taping. But the clip indicates he had plenty of opportunity to prepare. The topic of the segment was atheism and this point–the inexplicable tides–was his main argument for the existence of god. God should get a better pitchman.

To be fair, a few minutes before making his comment about the tides, O’Reilly warned the viewers by admitting he is not “the smartest guy in town.”

Five times as much positive interaction as negative

Many Little Things That Make You Happy are Better Than A Few Big Ones

Because of the disproportionate weight of the negative, balance does not mean a 50-50 equilibrium. Researchers…have found that a very specific ratio exists between the amount of positivity and negativity required to make married life satisfying to both partners. That magic ratio is five to one. As long as there was five times as much positive feeling and interaction between husband and wife as there was negative, researchers found, the marriage was likely to be stable over time. In contrast, those couples who were heading for divorce were doing far too little on the positive side to compensate for the growing negativity between them.

Truth at the expense of others

LifeHacker has a good article on truth telling. As the following excerpt shows, selfish people often excuse their rude behavior by claiming, “it’s the truth.

There is a notable difference between telling the truth and giving an honest opinion. “Yes, I broke the vase” is much different from “your web site is rubbish.” In the latter example, the web site’s quality is subjective and so providing an honest opinion isn’t necessarily indicative of the truth.

How to Lie and Tell the Truth Without Being an Asshole

Taxes—Three Litmus Tests

From Time’s “The Republican Revolution,” by Michael Reynolds

On the Oct. 31 edition of 60 Minutes, Stockman [Reagan’s budget director, David Stockman] weighed in on this madness. “We’ve demonized taxes,” he said. “We’ve created almost the idea that they’re a metaphysical evil … It’s rank demagoguery. We should call it for what it is. If these [Republicans] were all put into a room on penalty of death to come up with how much they could cut, they couldn’t come up with $50 billion, when the problem is $1.3 trillion. So to stand before the public and rub raw this antitax sentiment, the Republican Party, as much as it pains me to say this, should be ashamed of themselves.”

Reynolds concludes…

I would suggest three litmus tests to gauge whether the Republicans are serious about deficits: 1) Are they prepared to stop with the tax cuts? Because the deficit will keep widening with more of them. 2) Are they prepared to cut middle-class entitlements? Because the only places to find real reductions in federal-government spending are in the large, popular programs like Medicare and Social Security. 3) Are they ready to take on the Pentagon? Because at $717 billion, defense spending — more than half of all discretionary spending — has to be trimmed.

These are not political statements. They are mathematical ones, and it is on understanding math, not politics, that the third Republican revolution now rests.

P&G Dividend Day at Kings Island

P&G Dividend Day
P&G Dividend Day Photo by hubertk

Last weekend was the annual P&G Dividend Day at Kings Island in Mason, Ohio. On Dividend Day P&G rents the whole park and employees and their families are treated to free admission. We had an jaw-dropping good time. Especially on the new Diamondback roller coaster, which we road at least half a dozen times. We tried to count how many attractions we rode but lost count around 17 or 18, including the Diamondback, Firehawk, Backlot Stunt Coaster (formerly known as the Italian Job), The Crypt, Flight Deck, Vortex, Adventure Express, Congo Falls, Xtreme Skyflyer, and the Sling Shot. All these rides lead me to the conclusion that I prefer the fast, smooth rides that create excitement with fluid, even acceleration over the rides that rely on jerky rapid changes in direction. I read that as we get older our brains shrink and rattle in our heads a little more. (( The more fluid, less jerky rides are probably gentler on our brains but still create pleasurable anxiety with the acceleration, speed, height, and inversion. Below are some some videos documenting the fun.

Flight Deck

Flight Deck, a suspended roller coaster, is one of our perennial favorites. Most of our friends are willing to take this ride so no one feels guilty about leaving someone out. This year was the first year I sat in the front seat. As we approached the top of the first incline the structure below us ended and for a second I thought there was a serious problem, then I remember the track is above the car—some pleasurable anxiety for sure. I was also thoroughly entertained by how wide the cars swing out on the twists and turns. You can see the wide swinging turns in the video. After the final turn the cars swings to almost horizontal.

The Sling Shot

On our way to lunch we noticed the Sling Shot, which normally costs $20 per ride, was going for only $10 per ride. What a bargain. I have always wanted to ride the Sling Shot but could never justify spending $20 on a 90 second ride while in a park offering dozens of other rides for free. But this time we decided to spend the extra cash. It was worth it. The Sling Shot was a lot of fun. The launch is fluid and quiet, you see mostly sky so the only way you can judge your acceleration is by the sinking feeling in your stomach, a great feeling in this case. Friends have commented that they have avoided this ride because it spins. But this is a misconception. There were no full spins, just some rocking. Sometimes we rocked forward and faced the ground, but mostly we were facing up and out. At $5 or $10 a ride the Sling Shot offers great acceleration and affords a nice view of the park.

The Skyflyer

The Skyflyer, like the Sling Shot is one I have avoided because of the cost. But on Dividend Day the price was only $5. The leisurely ride up to the zenith affords great views of the park and ample time to second guess the decision to embark on the ride. At first we were laughing, joking, and enjoying the view, but as we went higher my wife’s tone changed, she tersely told us to “quit screwing around this is serious.” I laughed but silently agreed the ultimate height was more than I had anticipated. Once the zenith was reached the crew gave the instruction to pull the rip cord and begin the drop. The first few seconds are just free fall, the cables are not taught and gravity is the only force you experience, a special, natural, fun force. The video gives the impression that when the cables do engage there is a great jerking feeling but the video lies. The transition feels pretty smooth, just like the rest of the experience, which is just swing freely through the air while the wind rustles your hair.


The Diamondback was undoubtedly our favorite. It is fast, tall and smooth, there is no herky-jerky rattle or breakneck turns. And the wait-times were reasonable. For our first ride we didn’t have to wait at all when we used the single-rider line. Not surprisingly they closed the single-rider line immediately after us. But even the regular line never lasted more than 30 minutes and was usually less than 15-20 minutes. The front car is by far the best experience, with its unobstructed view of the park and the track, you get the full effect of the 215ft drop an the 80 mph wind in your face (and a few bugs too). The Diamondback is so smooth it kind of ruined the Vortex for us. After the Diamondback the Vortex felt remarkably jerky. The way the head’s in front of me were wiping back-and-forth, I thought the people in front were going injure their necks. My neck didn’t feel to good either.

Impressive Bike Tricks

I enjoy watching all the amazing tricks people can perform on their bikes. From the basic track stand while waiting for a light, to 360s and back flips, the tricks transfix me.  Recently two videos have amazed me.  I came across the first one back in April.  It celebrates Danny MacAskill’s amazing leaps, spins and balance.  Some of his tricks require not just ambition, skill and strength but remarkable creativity (see 3:06).  The footage was recorded in high-def:

The second video is decidedly low-def.  It was filmed more than 100 years ago.  Yes, 110 years ago.  The video is a compilation of Thomas Edison’s footage of bike tricks and comedy.  In 100 years the tricks have improved but the fundamentals are the same.  This surprises me.  I never imaged people doing tricks on bikes at the turn of the century.  My uninformed impression was that tricks and freestyle sports like biking, surfing and skateboarding didn’t emerge until the 1960s or ’70s.  Enjoy.

The credit crisis explained in ~10 minutes

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.