Business hours

We’re OPEN Most days about 9 or 10, occasionally as early as 7, But some days as late as 12 or 1. We’re CLOSED About 5:30 or 6, occasionally about 4 or 5, But sometimes as late as 11 or 12. Some days or afternoons we aren’t here at all But lately, we’ve been here just about all the time, Except when we’re someplace else. But we should be here then, too.  …  sign seen in Henniker, New Hampshire.


Malcolm Gladwell Can Write About Almost Anything.

The following is the article that was the foundation for Gladwell’s viral TED talk about spaghetti sauces.

Does an article about ketchup, mustard, and spaghetti sauce sound weird?

Weird is Gladwell’s oeuvre.

“Today there are thirty-six varieties of Ragú spaghetti sauce, under six rubrics—Old World Style, Chunky Garden Style, Robusto, Light, Cheese Creations, and Rich & Meaty—which means that there is very nearly an optimal spaghetti sauce for every man, woman, and child in America. Measured against the monotony that confronted Howard Moskowitz twenty years ago, this is progress. Happiness, in one sense, is a function of how closely our world conforms to the infinite variety of human preference. But that makes it easy to forget that sometimes happiness can be found in having what we’ve always had and everyone else is having. “

Read more at the New Yorker.

gladwell malcolm

Martin Gardner: Mathematical Games : A Cipher that Defeated Poe

Peter Bakke : I solved this cipher in 1987.

“Ge Jeasgdxv,
Zij gl mw, laam. xzy zmlwhfzek
ejlvdxw kwke tx lbr atgh lbmx aanu
bai Vsmukkss pwn vlwk agh gnumk
wdlnzweg jnbxw oaeg enwb zwmgy
mo mlw wnbx mw al pnfdcfpkh wzkex
hssf xkiyahul. Mk num yexdm wbxy
sbc hv wyx Phwkgnamcuk?”

In 1839, in a regular column Edgar Allan Poe contributed to a Philadelphia periodical, Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, Poe challenged readers to send him {cryptograms (monoalphabetic substitution ciphers), asserting that he would solve them all “forthwith.” One G. W. Kulp submitted a ciphertext in longhand. It was printed as shown above in the issue of February 26, 1840. Poe “proved ” in a subsequent column that the cipher as a hoax—”a jargon of random characters having no meaning whatsoever.” In 1975 Brian J.Winkel, a mathematician at Albion College, and Mark Lyster, a chemistry major in Winkel’s cryptology class, cracked Kulp’s cipher. It is not a simple substitution — Poe was right — but neither is it nonsense. Poe can hardly be blamed for his opinion. In addition to a major error by Kulp there are 15 minor errors, probably printer’s mistakes in reading the longhand. Winkel is an editor of a new quarterly, Cryptologia, available from Albion College, Albion, Mich. 49224, at $16 per year. The magazine stresses the mathematical and computational aspects of cryptology. The first issue (January, 1977) tells the story of Kulp’s cipher and gives it as a challenge to readers. So far only three readers have broken it.


How to use as a simulation tool

The If/Then/Else simulation structure in can be implemented this way
Create a single choice question on page 1, such as:

You are an Ambassador from which country?

Visualisation of ghost cells.
Visualisation of ghost cells. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A England
B Germany
C France
Once the question is created, edit it and click on LOGIC
For each question selected you can then specify to jump to a specific page.
For example,
IF England jump to page 2 (containing text simulating an accord specific to England)
Else If Germany jump to page 4 (containing text simulating an accord specific to Germany)
Else If France jump to page 6 (containing text simulating an accord specific to France)
Page 7 resumes for all
and you can ask a summative question like,”Based on the document you just read, do you believe war is likely?” Y / N
Set up pages 3 and 5 to jump automatically to page 7 in order to skip the Germany and France pages. Page 6 naturally drops to page 7 after the France page is displayed  
I hope that makes some sense – It’s not perfect, a bit awkward, and the results have to be interpreted carefully, but it can work!

The width of the Veil Nebula is 3 fingers

So how does one calculate the width (in degrees) of any distant object – from say the Veil Nebula 2100 light years away to the width (in degrees) of that mountain just 21 miles away? Simple. But you will need a scientific calculator. Here’s one:

English: A wide-field image of the Veil Nebula...
English: A wide-field image of the Veil Nebula, made as a colour composite from individual exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2. The field of view is 4.2 x 4.4 degrees. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Using the information given to you, say in an article about the Veil Nebula , calculate a ratio of distance over width.

In this case, we are told the Veil Nebula is 2100 light years away and it is 110 light years in width. It is very convenient that they gave us distance and width in the same units (light years), else we’d have to do that ourselves.

So, 2100 / 110 = 19.1

Using your scientific calculator (see above), enter 19.1 and hit the COT function (COTANGENT).

The answer of 5.9 (degrees), or about the width of your three fingers extended at arms length towards the fabulous night sky – in this case in the direction of the Swan Constellation.

Happiness is Astronomy !

(Conversely, of course, if you estimate the distance of an object and also estimate its width (in degrees), then you can determine the approximate width of the object {in feet, miles, light years, etc.}).