17 January 2008

Evolution personified

It strikes me as ironic when people personify evolution as some sort of designer. I was reading an article in SIAM News describing the complexity and mathematical modeling of finger movements, when I stumbled across this:
But nature, for no obvious reason, took a different route. Opting to locate the muscles in the palm and forearm, at a distance from the fingers themselves, evolution tinkered its way to a quasi-two-dimensional system of interconnected tendons, more like fishing net than fishing line. This decidedly nonlinear and complex solution, anathema to "reasonable" engineering design, has paid off handsomely.

In the 19th century or even early 20th century, I could easily imagine a scientific article marveling about the incredible design of the human body in the context of a divine Creator. But to use that kind of language when talking about random processes and natural selection seems kind of silly.

14 January 2008

LaTeX ANS template

Well, for those of you who want to publish a summary for the American Nuclear Society transactions (or to write an abstract for the ANS student conference) but prefer LaTeX to Microsoft Word, today I completed a class and bibliography style that are (EDIT 6/2011) now completely compliant with the published ANS guidelines. Hopefully someone will find this useful. Example files and more details are here.

09 January 2008

Grammar joke!

"Knock knock."
"Who's there?"
"To who?"
"To whom!"
(source: the internet)

Transition to new blogger

After some tedious and some not-quite-as-tedious work, I've transitioned my blog back to Blogspot hosting with the new dynamic page serving. In order to make links to my old pages (and google links) work correctly, I added this to my .htaccess file to change any links on my old blog to pages on my new blog, except to the googlebot (so that hopefully it won't lose records of where my pages are):
RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^/blog/labels/
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !^.*Googlebot.* [NC]
RewriteRule ^blog/labels/(.*).html$ http://reference-man.blogspot.com/search/label/$1 [R,L]

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_URI} ^/blog
RewriteCond %{HTTP_USER_AGENT} !^.*Googlebot.* [NC]
RewriteRule ^blog/(.*)$ http://reference-man.blogspot.com/$1 [R,L]

02 January 2008

Setting up boot camp

Today I installed Windows on my Mac. (I'll need it to run MCNP this semester.) For my reference and for your enrichment, here's a few things I did to make my new system more homey.

For Mac-Windows interoperability:To make Windows less annoying and more secure:I have to say that being able to run Windows on here is nice. Apple's job with making it compatible with the Mac hardware is fantastic: all the necessary drivers are installed by simply inserting the 10.5 install DVD into the drive. It includes drivers for WiFi, Bluetooth, the iSight video camera, and even maps all the hardware buttons (sound volume, eject, etc.) to their proper functions.

With Cygwin, I don't have to mess around with the DOS shell, and I can also use its X11 server with MCNP's (admittedly primitive) visualization.

A year with my car

It's been a year since I bought my 2001 Honda Civic.  Aside from some problems with the tires and a little routine maintenance, it's done very well.  Today I crunched some numbers regarding the cost to own the car and the fuel mileage it's been getting. Yeah, I keep all sorts of data when I fill up the car, get repairs, etc. I know, I'm a super-nerd.

Gas mileage

So it's gotten an average of 35 mpg over the last year, which rocks. Also, including the purchase price of the car, inspections, insurance, gas, repairs, etc., it's cost me $0.80 per mile. That's not bad at all.