Why do we believe in electrons, but not in fairies?

Why do we believe in electrons, but not in fairies?

by Benjamin Kuipers

No one has directly observed either electrons or fairies. Both of them are theoretical constructs, useful to explain observations that might be difficult to explain otherwise. The “theory of fairies” can actually explain more things than the “theory of electrons”. So why do we believe in electrons, but not in fairies?

Is the issue a political one, where the “electron” fans got the upper hand in the nineteenth century, so by the twentieth century the “fairy” fans were a scorned and persecuted minority? Or, have we proved for sure that fairies don’t exist?

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The 500 mile email

I read the following story some years ago but lost track of the original, it just resurfaced in my inbox. I think this is one of the best tourbleshooting stories around.

The imposssible problem

Here’s a problem that *sounded* impossible… I almost regret posting
the story to a wide audience, because it makes a great tale over
drinks at a conference. :-) The story is slightly altered in order to
protect the guilty, elide over irrelevant and boring details, and
generally make the whole thing more entertaining.

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago
when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. “Come again?”

“We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated.
“A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.”

“Um… Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,” I said, trying
to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn’t display panic when
speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished
department like statistics. “What makes you think you can’t send mail
more than 500 miles?”

“It’s not what I *think*,” the chairman replied testily. “You see,
when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago–”

“You waited a few DAYS?” I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice.
“And you couldn’t send email this whole time?”

“We could send email. Just not more than–”

“–500 miles, yes,” I finished for him, “I got that. But why didn’t
you call earlier?”

“Well, we hadn’t collected enough data to be sure of what was going on
until just now.” Right. This is the chairman of
*statistics*. “Anyway, I asked one of the geostatisticians to look
into it–”


“–yes, and she’s produced a map showing the radius within which we
can send email to be slightly more than 500 miles. There are a number
of destinations within that radius that we can’t reach, either, or
reach sporadically, but we can never email farther than this radius.”

“I see,” I said, and put my head in my hands. “When did this start?
A few days ago, you said, but did anything change in your systems at
that time?”

“Well, the consultant came in and patched our server and rebooted it.
But I called him, and he said he didn’t touch the mail system.”

“Okay, let me take a look, and I’ll call you back,” I said, scarcely
believing that I was playing along. It wasn’t April Fool’s Day. I
tried to remember if someone owed me a practical joke.

I logged into their department’s server, and sent a few test mails.
This was in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and a test mail
to my own account was delivered without a hitch. Ditto for one sent
to Richmond, and Atlanta, and Washington. Another to Princeton (400
miles) worked.

But then I tried to send an email to Memphis (600 miles). It failed.
Boston, failed. Detroit, failed. I got out my address book and
started trying to narrow this down. New York (420 miles) worked, but
Providence (580 miles) failed.

I was beginning to wonder if I had lost my sanity. I tried emailing a
friend who lived in North Carolina, but whose ISP was in Seattle.
Thankfully, it failed. If the problem had had to do with the
geography of the human recipient and not his mail server, I think I
would have broken down in tears.

Having established that — unbelievably — the problem as reported was
true, and repeatable, I took a look at the sendmail.cf file. It
looked fairly normal. In fact, it looked familiar.

I diffed it against the sendmail.cf in my home directory. It hadn’t
been altered — it was a sendmail.cf I had written. And I was fairly
certain I hadn’t enabled the “FAIL_MAIL_OVER_500_MILES” option. At a
loss, I telnetted into the SMTP port. The server happily responded
with a SunOS sendmail banner.

Wait a minute… a SunOS sendmail banner? At the time, Sun was still
shipping Sendmail 5 with its operating system, even though Sendmail 8
was fairly mature. Being a good system administrator, I had
standardized on Sendmail 8. And also being a good system
administrator, I had written a sendmail.cf that used the nice long
self-documenting option and variable names available in Sendmail 8
rather than the cryptic punctuation-mark codes that had been used in
Sendmail 5.

The pieces fell into place, all at once, and I again choked on the
dregs of my now-cold latte. When the consultant had “patched the
server,” he had apparently upgraded the version of SunOS, and in so
doing *downgraded* Sendmail. The upgrade helpfully left the
sendmail.cf alone, even though it was now the wrong version.

It so happens that Sendmail 5 — at least, the version that Sun
shipped, which had some tweaks — could deal with the Sendmail 8
sendmail.cf, as most of the rules had at that point remained
unaltered. But the new long configuration options — those it saw as
junk, and skipped. And the sendmail binary had no defaults compiled
in for most of these, so, finding no suitable settings in the
sendmail.cf file, they were set to zero.

One of the settings that was set to zero was the timeout to connect to
the remote SMTP server. Some experimentation established that on this
particular machine with its typical load, a zero timeout would abort a
connect call in slightly over three milliseconds.

An odd feature of our campus network at the time was that it was 100%
switched. An outgoing packet wouldn’t incur a router delay until
hitting the POP and reaching a router on the far side. So time to
connect to a lightly-loaded remote host on a nearby network would
actually largely be governed by the speed of light distance to the
destination rather than by incidental router delays.

Feeling slightly giddy, I typed into my shell:

$ units
1311 units, 63 prefixes

You have: 3 millilightseconds
You want: miles
* 558.84719
/ 0.0017893979

“500 miles, or a little bit more.”

Original author unknown

Kirotushäriöisten mainontaa


– Gogacolaa, 1,5l pullo
– Mämmiä saatana! (saatavana) mainos kaupan ikkunassa
– Mansi- ja mustikoita (aivan huippu!)
– Äidinpakastus pusseja
– Roilerinleike
– Naistennahka hanskat
– Kodinkoneliike mainostaa: Pakastinarkku ja ruhonleikkaaja
– lasten päästä vedettävä sänky
– Abbelsiineja
– Joulukusimyynti
– Mahdolliset puutteet ja virheet hinnassa huomioitu
– Tamppoonitarjous, koot mini, maxi ja meedio
– Äitiys-hortsit
– Kissanliha pullia
– Torin kalamyyjä mainostaa: Tuoretta mulkkua (muikkua)
– Torin kahvilanpitäjä mainostaa: Luteeton piirakka (Gluteeniton)
– Mainos tienvarressa: “Poikkeaville kukkia”

– Kasvisgranaatti (gratiini)
– Reindeer Balls (Poron pallit!! Eli siis lihapullia haettu)
– Mummonliha pullia lapsille
– Välilihapihivi (välikyljyspihvi)
– Pitsalaissi ja cocis (pizza slice)
– pitsa-clisee (pizza slice)
– Jättipäivän pizza (Päivän jättipizza)
– Ilmoitus turkkilaisten ravintolan ikkunassa: “Sulettu, ei kanata!”


– Ruohoripuliperunoita
– Paistettua tuskaa (turskaa)
– Kalaa ja vakokastiketta


Kuolinilmoitus lehdessä: Syvästi kaivaen, lastenlastenlapaset
Lehti: “Lindhin murhasta pidätettyä vartioidaan itsemurhan ehkäisemisen välttämiseksi”
– Asuntoilmoitus: 3 huonetta, keittiö, kakkahuone ja kylpyhuone (olisiko kuitenkin takkahuone…)

TV: “Kursk edelleen merenpohjassa. Ankkureina Leena Kaskela ja Urpo Martikainen.”
– Lehden otsikko: “Siniristipillumme liehuivat itsenäisyyspäivänä”
– Mainos lehdessä: “Yllätä vaimosi, lähde matkalle!”
– Lehden kuvateksti: “Timo TA Mikkonen ja hänen perseensä” (Perheensä) Mainos TV:ssä (Mummot ja papat siemailevat kahvia puutarhassa):
“Päättäkää päivänne K-kaupan kahvilla!”

You should also have seen this

Greg Rutter‘s Second Definitive List of The 99 Things You Should Have Already Experienced On The Internet Unless You’re A Loser or Old or Something
(In No Particular Order)

01) Badgers Badgers Badgers

02) Lightning Bolt

03) Play Him Off Keyboard Cat

04) Drinking Out Of Cups

05) Star Wars Trumpet

06) Autotune The News

07) Don Hertzfeldt’s “Rejected”

08) Bear attack local news

09) Snow Driving

10) Blood

11) Texts From Last Night

12) Canceled World Of Warcraft Freakout

13) Jesus Held Hostage

14) Chubby dances to Beyonce Single Ladies

15) Simon’s Cat Continue reading

50 Things we know now that we didn’t know this time last year

50 Things we know now that we didn’t know this time last year

Originally published: 12/28/09, 12:10 PM EDT
By Jeff Houck

If there was an award for best quote of the year, our money would be on Richard Fisher, the director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division.

Fisher was interviewed in October by National Public Radio after NASA scientists discovered a mysterious ribbon of hydrogen around our solar system.

The layer, a sort of protective barrier called the heliosphere, shields us from harmful cosmic radiation. Its existence defies all expectations about what the edge of the solar system might look like.

Fisher’s response: “We thought we knew everything about everything, and it turned out that there were unknown unknowns.”

In other words: We don’t know what we don’t know until we know that we don’t know it.

Life is funny that way. You think you’ve got the world wrapped up in string, only to watch some bit of news come along to unravel your comprehension of how things work.

One thing we did expect: that 2009 would be full of strange and wonderful revelations.

A prediction for 2010? Same thing as this year, only different.

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How things used to be – Things are diffrent

I had this posted on my old blog, and I stumbled upon it once again, don’t know the origin.

Next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn’t just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children – last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.”

Houses had thatched roofs – thick straw, piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs, cats and other small animals (mice, rats, and bugs) lived in the roof.

When it rained it became slippery, and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof, hence the saying, “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could really mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That’s how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying “dirt poor.” The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (the straw left over after threshing grain) on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they kept adding more and more thresh until when you opened the door it would all start slipping outside. To prevent this, a piece of wood was placed in the entrance way – hence a “thresh hold.”

They cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for quite awhile, — hence the rhyme, “peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old.”

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man “could bring home the bacon.” They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and “chew the fat.”

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with a high acid content caused some of the lead to leach on to the food, causing lead poisoning and death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Most people did not have pewter plates, but had trenchers (a piece of wood with the middle scooped out like a bowl). Often trenchers were made from stale bread that was so old and hard that they could use them for quite some time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times worms and mold got into the wood and old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one would get “trench mouth.”

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, “the upper crust.”

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up hence, the custom of holding a “wake.”

England is old and small and they started out running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a “bone-house” and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the “graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell.

Thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered “a dead ringer.” And that’s the truth.

Who said that History is boring!?

Source Unknown


Firma ja haastajat päättivät järjestää vuosittain soutukilpailun 8-miehisin joukkuein. Molemmat joukkueet harjoittelivat pitkään ja kovaa.
Kun kilpailupäivä tuli, molemmat joukkueet olivat mielestään huippukunnossa, mutta haastajat voittivat ylivoimaisesti kilometrillä.

Tappion jälkeen Firmalaisten joukossa vallitsi tappiomieliala.
Yrityksen korkein johto päätti kuitenkin että imagosyistä heidän olisi pakko voittaa seuraavan vuoden kisa.
Näin ollen he asettivat projektiryhmän ratkaisemaan ongelmaa.
Pitkien analyysien jälkeen ryhmä havaitsi että haastajilla oli seitsemän soutajaa ja yksi mies peräsimessä,
kun taas Firmalaisilla oli yksi soutaja ja seitsemän perämiestä.

Tässä kriisitilanteessa johto osoitti huomattavaa toimintakykyä. Päätettiin palkata konsultit tutkimaan oman joukkueen koostumusta.
Muutaman kuukauden työn jälkeen asiantuntijat tulivat siihen johtopäätökseen että joukkueessa oli liian monta ohjaajaa ja liian vähän soutajia.

Asiantuntijoiden raportin perusteella yrityksen johto teki välittömästi muutoksia joukkueeseen.
Nyt joukkueessa oli neljä perämiestä, kaksi yliperämiestä, joukkueenjohtaja ja soutaja. Lisäksi soutajan motivoimiseksi kehitettiin bonuspistejärjestelmä.
“Meidän on laajennettava hänen työnkuvaansa ja annettava hänelle enemmän vastuuta.”

Seuraavana vuonna haastajat voittivat kahdella kilometrillä.
Firman joukkue erotti soutajan huonoon työsuoritukseen vedoten mutta maksoi kuitenkin bonuksen johdolle sen osoittamista ponnisteluista.
Konsulttifirma teki uuden analyysin tilanteesta ja veti johtopäätöksen että taktiikka oli ollut oikea ja motivaatio kohdallaan. Materiaalissa vain olisi parantamisen varaa.

Ensi vuotta varten Firmalaiset ovat nyt kehittämässä uutta venettä…

Greg Rutter’s Definitive List of The 99 Things You Should Have Already Experienced On The Internet Unless You’re a Loser or Old or Something

Re-hosting incase it get’s taken down.

Original: http://youshouldhaveseenthis.com/

(In No Particular Order)

01) Grape Stomp

02) Charlie Bit Me

03) Chocolate Rain

04) Dancing Baby

05) Post Secret

06) Charlie The Unicorn

07) Mentos and Diet Coke

08) Numa Numa

09) Peanut Butter Jelly Time

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