When was the Earth formed? Modern estimates are that it formed by accretion, 4.54ish billion years ago. But I'm not going to worry about its absolute age; what I'm wondering is where we choose to draw the line between Earth-not-quite-formed and Earth-now-formed. We don't really know how long it took for the Earth to form. … Continue reading When was the Earth formed?
Certain types of people like to ask the question "Why is a progressive tax fair?" The inevitable answer given is "marginal utility!" The theory is that if a rich person and a poor person both have to pay an extra 50 spacebucks (or whatever currency is used in your realm) in taxes, it doesn't reduce … Continue reading Why is a ______ tax fair?
One of the old compression methods for ZIP format is named "Shrink". In the process of writing my own Shrink decompressor, I came across a problem with the Info-ZIP UnZip software. It's triggered by a small percentage of Shrink-compressed files. As an example, I'll use the file that you can download here: BLING.WAV. Now, in … Continue reading Investigating an UnZip decompression bug
Many scientifically-minded people believe in the evolutionary concept of group selection, without knowing that the thing they believe in has a name, or that it is, at best, disputed. Standard disclaimer: Just because I may suggest that something is scientifically true or natural, does not mean that I consider it to be morally good. So, … Continue reading Are you a group selectionist?
There's a phenomenon in quantum mechanics popularly known as "spooky action at a distance". One manifestation of it is known as the EPR paradox. It's usually explained using a thought experiment similar to the following. Spooky action at a distance "explained" Start with a particle that has a total "spin" of zero. Allow it to … Continue reading Spooky action and quantum marbles
When I was researching old versions of PKZIP, I found that modern unzip programs aren't able to unzip the PKZIP v1.01 distribution file. Three of the member files inside the self-extracting ZIP file fail to decompress correctly. /cygdrive/c/dosprogs/ZIPTEST/101 $ unzip ../DIST/PKZ101.EXE exploding: README.DOC warning: 475 bytes required to uncompress to 873 bytes; supposed to require … Continue reading PKZIP “Implode” compression oddity
How fast does the Sun move? I don't mean though the galaxy, or the universe, but simply how fast does it move across the sky? I've seen it stated categorically that the Sun moves at 15 degrees per hour. But, for one thing, 15.000000° can't be perfectly correct at all times, because the Earth's orbit … Continue reading How fast does the Sun move?