Friday, January 30, 2015

5 Things on a Friday: Dokken & #Deflategate

We made it through the snowstorm, and now the weekend is almost here.  There’s even some news that’s worth talking about.
Noted physician Jenny McCarthy
leads the anti-vaxxer movement.
The parents who are against vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella and other childhood diseases no longer are just putting their own kids at risk. By taking their unvaccinated children to the happiest place on Earth and touching off a measles outbreak at Disneyland, the anti-vaxxers put hundreds of other children in jeopardy, too.
Measles on this level hasn’t been seen in the United States since the 1970s. So far, the disease has spread to 11 states and Mexico, infecting about 70 people in less than a month. Also making a comeback: whooping cough and diphtheria…
The anti-vaxxer movement is being fueled by parents who refuse to trust government, big pharma, family physicians and decades of sound science.
I don’t agree with the anti-vaxxer movement, but it would be a Hell of a lot less credible if the government and big pharma didn’t have such a strong track record of lying to protect their own self interests.  As it is, it feels more like the fabric of society is breaking down due to the undermining of our society’s basic social contract, and unfortunately, I don’t think there’s any coming back from that.
2.  Fantastic Four Trailer: Ultimate Fantastic Four

I really liked Ultimate Fantastic Four, and I think it’s worth noting that Fox’s doing the Fantastic Four this way is taking a page out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe playbook.  Spider-Man 2 tried that same approach with Electro, and it would’ve worked if they hadn’t tried to cram too much into it.
I find myself wondering if the Mole Man is going to be in this movie.  He’s a big part of that Ultimate FF story-arc, but so far we’ve seen very little of the movie’s actual story.
3.  Lady Susan
I suspect that this picture does
not do the lady justice.
My book recommendation this week is Jane Austen’s Lady Susan, the scandalous story of a cougar in 19th Century England.  I read it because I saw an article about Austen on Slate and because Lady Susan is supposed to be the easiest place to start if you want to see what all the fuss is about with Austen.
It is an easy read.  It’s an epistolary that weighed in at all of 89 pages on my Kindle, most of which I read while sitting at the bar the other night in the middle of the snowstorm.  Turns out, Victorian scandal goes fine with beer.  I’ll quote Wikipedia by way of description:
[Lady Susan] subverts all the standards of the romantic novel: she has an active role, she is not only beautiful but intelligent and witty, and her suitors are significantly younger than she is…
The sex is all strictly implied, of course, but the book is still thoroughly entertaining, not least because it accomplishes its purpose cleverly and with laudable economy.  It’s also in the public domain, so you can get a copy for free if you’re willing to spend thirty seconds searching for one.
I suppose that I now have to read Pride and Prejudice, but I can’t help thinking that it’s going to be a hard slog.  We read it in high school, and I remember wondering what the point was.  Perhaps now that I’m older, I’ll feel differently.  Still, the wonderful thing about Lady Susan is that it plays so consistently against type, railing at both scheming women and the world that forces them to scheme.  If you like rooting for the bad guy, this is a book you’ll love.
4.  Friday Hair Metal: Dokken

YouTube says that this is off "Back for the Attack", but my memory of it is from one of the later "Nightmare on Elmstreet" movies.

HeadSmart’s researchers inflated footballs to 12.5 PSI in a 75° F setting, and then to simulate the conditions at the cool, rainy AFC Championship Game, they brought the balls to a 50° F setting and got them wet. HeadSmart found that the pressure in the balls declined an average of 1.8 PSI, which is remarkably close to the numbers bandied about in media reports of the Patriots’ footballs (which, to be clear, doesn’t necessarily exonerate New England). But this only matters if you believe that experimentation, rather than half-assed tweeting, is the foundation of scientific inquiry.
I only got interested in this because people started doing serious science to figure out what the Hell happened.  As I’ve written a few times, my default assumption has always been that the Pats deflated their balls on purpose and that the Refs failed to notice because they are lazy and stupid.  This unscientific theory is supported by obvious video evidence, i.e. Refs handle the ball between every play, but they somehow didn’t notice by feel that these were going soft during the entirety of the first half.  They could have called for reflation at any time, but didn’t.  
For this reason, I have always assumed it was the Refs who were trying to cover their asses.
However, actual science indicates that the answer is probably even simpler.  The Pats buff the crap out of their balls pre-game, which heats them via friction.  If we assume that they inflate the balls in a warm room to exactly 12.5 psi after they’re buffed and then hand them off to the Refs, the balls will then pass muster under absolutely legal circumstances.  They will pass because they were warmed deliberately by buffing during the preparation process.  They will then go outside and lose pressure—mostly because it’s wet out there, and this dramatically increases heat transfer—and voila!  Soft balls are legally in play.  
I would still be surprised to learn that this was done with any deliberate malice.  More likely, they just said, “Hey!  These balls tend to get a little flatter if we heat them first and then inflate them, so that’s what we ought to do.”  But who knows?  It’s a big money sport, so maybe there’s some real physics going on at Pats HQ.  I don’t actually care.  But the process has been unbelievable, and what’s even stranger is that folks like Neil DeGrasse Tyson have no only weighed in, they’ve weighed in incorrectly!  This proves that not only must everyone in American talk about the Super Bowl, but they must do so without actually giving the matter any thought beforehand.  That by itself is kind of amazing.
I am grudgingly rooting for the Patriots, but I think we all know that defense wins championships.

Have a good weekend, folks, and enjoy the game.

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