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Wordless Wednesday: equations in the window July 10, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in family, math, photography.
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Rihanna has it wrong! June 27, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in physics, science.
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I heard Rihanna’s song “Diamonds” for the first time yesterday.  (I know…I live under a rock…though, unfortunately, not that kind of rock or I’d be rich.)  I rather liked the song except for the line that keeps popping up: “Shine bright like a diamond.”  Something about the way it sounds doesn’t quite fit the rest of the song for me, or maybe it was to repetitive.  But what really bugged me is that, every time I heard it, all I could think was, “Diamonds don’t shine!  They refract!”  I suppose refraction doesn’t sell as much pop music, though.  I will suggest, however, if any of you are aces at making music remixes, that the song would benefit from more accurate physics.  (Maybe she should take some notes from Britney Spears?)

Anyway, I hate it when science gets in the way of enjoying music.  When it’s not wrong, though, it can sometimes make the music more enjoyable.

The dog days of winter February 20, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in photography, physics.
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A lot of people ask me how I can stand the winters here.  Specifically, they just can’t imagine the cold during the winter.  I mean, there can be no up side to -10°F and 30 mph winds.  Also, those crazy Dakotans don’t seem to use MKS units.  (Psychologically, it’s far worse to think about -23°C with 50 kph winds.  Yeah, I know they’re the same, but this is why we keep using English units…)

Anyway, you’re wrong: there is an up side.  Specifically, during the months of December to February, we get to see a lot of sun dogs around here.  Sun dogs are refraction of sunlight by preferentially oriented ice crystals in the atmosphere.  (For more info, you can always check the wiki article.)  Sometimes, the refraction is really nice and they look like rainbows.  Most of the time, however, it looks like there are two ‘mini suns’ on either side of the sun.  They can be very bright.

I remember one particular instance where I had an office mate from India.  I just left the office and saw some particularly good sun dogs, so I called her up and told her to go out to the west side of the building and check it out.

“I know what those are!” she said.  “Those are rainbows! I’ve seen those before.”

“Yes, but have you ever seen them made with ice crystals?”  She was a bit more intrigued then.

Even better, but more rare, are halos.  These happen when the ice crystals are randomly oriented…such as when you have 30 mph winds.  Yesterday morning, I got to see one such halo as I got to work.  And because it was so cool, I had to share it with all of you.

Sundog over Fargo

Admittedly, it’s not the best landscape shot I’ve ever taken.  However, I was in a hurry to get inside.  It was freakin’ cold out there.

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