Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image

April 13th, 2011:

Odd Lots

  • Here’s a nice graph of the smoothed sunspot number for the last four solar cycles (21-24.) Our current Cycle 24 is still young, but it stands fair to be the weakest solar cycle in 200 years. It may mean nothing, but 200 years ago we saw cycles like that frequently and were in the worst part of the Little Ice Age.
  • Darrin Chandler pointed out Maqetta to me: an HTML5 WYSIWYG Web editor, free and open-source. And from IBM, yet. Haven’t tried it but hope to in coming days. Has anybody else played with it at any length? I use Kompozer for Web work right now, and it’s not evolving very quickly, let’s say.
  • And what we may need more than Maqetta for Web pages is Maqetta for epub ebooks. I remain appalled at how much kafeutherin’ it still takes to do an epub with a cover image and even the simplest forms of paragraph differentiation. (Like no first indent to indicate a new scene in a story.) People continue to hand-code ebooks. This is idiocy to the seventeenth power.
  • Sometimes you read a short, casual mention of something in a book or article, and the weirdness of it doesn’t really hit you. So stand ready for some pretty boggling astronomical weirdness: A 400-meter asteroid that moves in a horseshoe-shaped orbit. And guess who’s in the gap of the horseshoe?
  • At our most recent nerd party, my new friend Aaron Spriggs mentioned Chisanbop, a method of finger arithmetic created by the Koreans and little known here in the US. This is very cool, and would be extremely handy on fictional planets (like my own Hell and the Drumlins world) where electronic computation either doesn’t work and hasn’t been invented.
  • A brilliant new method of imaging underground structures like magma plumes shows that the Yellowstone supervolcano is bigger than we thought. The imaging is done by measuring electrical conductivity in the rock rather than the transmission of physical (seismic) vibration. The images give us no additional information on how close (or far) we may be to another eruption, but it may help us to interpret what little data we already have.
  • Hoo-boy, here’s a problem I don’t think anyone anticipated in the wake of Japan’s recent catastrophic tsunami: Safes full of (soggy) money washed out of individual homes are now washing up on the seashore.