## Sloooow Going

Posts have been slowing down a little as of late. This is due to a number of factors including my training for a 10 km run (6.21371192 miles for my American readers) which I completed in 1 hour and 2 minutes! I was hoping to get in under an hour, but considering a year ago I could barely run 2 km, this was a pretty big accomplishment for me!

Hurray for strengthening your cardiovascular system!

Posts have also slowed down because I’m actually get to do some physics-related stuff at work. We are developing a new toy for inspecting pipes and I get to look at data and read about Faraday’s law and play with magnets!

But I could never forget about you guys. I still love reading and writing about science and that will never change, so I’ll be back to full form in no time.

But in the meantime, here’s 31 bad (and therefore, awesome) jokes for nerds. Enjoy!

## The Beauty of Science

Scientists don’t like pseudoscience because it diverts attention away from the awesomeness of the natural world. The natural world instills a sense of wonder in scientists because of its diversity and complexity.

Pseudosciences hate real science because it points out the how ridiculous their claims are. But many people are more familiar with pseudoscience (bigfoot, UFOs, psychics etc) and it is these pseudosciences which instill their source of wonder in the world. As a result, many people feel scientists “ruin their fun” or “take the wonder out of everything” when we try to explain why these phenomena really aren’t that incredible.

I believe it was Ned Flanders who once said:

Science is like a blabbermouth who ruins the movie by telling you how it ends. Well, I say there are some things we don’t want to know. Important things.

But in fact the opposite is true. Scientists see the beauty in all things. Whether it be a mathematical proof, a chemistry demonstration, or a physics equation. (I have often hear physicists refer to Maxwell’s Equations as “beautiful”).

If you read the xkcd webcomic, you know that I was inspired to write this post because of the comic posted today

So just because scientists spend their day in a lab or in front of a computer screen, this doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate the world around us. We probably appreciate it more than the average person.

It is sometimes said that scientists are unromantic, that their passion to figure out robs the world of beauty and mystery. But is it not stirring to understand how the world actually works — that white light is made of colors, that color is the way we perceive the wavelengths of light, that transparent air reflects light, that in so doing it discriminates among the waves, and that the sky is blue for the same reason that the sunset is red? It does no harm to the romance of the sunset to know a little bit about it. –

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space (1994)

## Chess Boxing. Yeah, Chess Boxing

Apparently, Chess-Boxing is a real thing. And frankly, it sounds awesome. (Via Wired)

It works like this: Each player is allotted 12 minutes of chess-playing time each. So the two competitors play 4 minutes of speed chess. If nobody wins in that 4 minutes, they box for 3 minutes.

If nobody gets knocked out, they rest for a minute and then play another 4 minutes of speed chess. This continues until somebody gets checkmated or their clock cleaned.

Below is a preview of an upcoming chess-boxing match between Bjorn Jónsson (whose sense of modesty is one of his defining qualities), and Daniel Thordarson (who is employing the ‘Pavlov’ method of training).

Is it wrong that the first two people I thought about chess-boxing were Screech Powers and that Russian guy from Valley?

## Happy Pi Day Everyone!

Yes March 14 (3/14) is indeed pi day; a day to celebrate everyone’s favourite irrational number.

As a special treat for you, I’m going to show you a way to calculate pi to a high accuracy for yourself (knowledge of a computer programming language helps).

So the number pi is closely related to the geometry of the circle. The area of a circle is represented by the following formula:

Where *r* is the radius of the circle. So we can use this relationship to calculate pi, but we can do it without measuring anything! Instead, we are going to use something called a “Monte Carlo” simulation

Monte Carlo simulations are very useful in physics. They use random numbers to simulate a real-world system. Since they are based on random numbers, the technique is named after the famous Monte Carlo casino.

Ok, so imagine you have a square that is 1 meter by 1 meter. Now imagine you place one-quarter of a circle with a radius of 1 meter over top of this square, like so:

Since the radius of the circle is 1 meter, and we are looking at exactly one-fourth of the complete circle, the area of this “slice” of circle is:

The area of the square is

And since it is 1 meter in length and 1 meter in width, the area is simply 1 meter squared:

Since the area of the square is simply 1, the ratio of the area of the square to the area of the slice is:

So we can see that pi is directly related to the ratio of the area of the slice to the area of the square.

Don’t worry, I’m goin’ somewhere with this…

Now comes the Monte Carlo part of the problem. We are going to generate 2 random numbers between 0 and 1. The first random number will be an x-coordinate, and the second will be a y-coordinate. For illustrative purposes, lets say the numbers turned out to be 0.5 and 0.5. So lets put a red circle at (0.5, 0.5):

We can see that this point lies inside the circle. In fact, any x and y values which satisfy this equation:

will lie inside the circle.

So what if we generated a huge number of points and counted the number that landed inside the circle? If we did this, then the ratio of the number of points which landed inside to circle to the total number of points would be:

Which you see is exactly the same as the equation above which related the area of the slice to the area of the square, except for one little difference. The “squiggly line” equal sign in the above equation means “approximately equal to”. It indicates that this method is an approximation because we are only using a finite number of points. If we generated an infinite number of points, that “approximately equal” sign will change to a regular equal sign.

So now all we have to do is run this calculation for a large number of points (N) and we will find that:

So how accurate is this method? Well again it will depend on the number of points. For example, if I run this method using 10 points I get a value for π of about 3.6.

If I use N = 100 points I get π ~ 3.16

And if I use N = 1 000 000, I get π = 3.140916

which is getting pretty close to the actual value of about 3.1415926539…

There you go. I’m sure your life will be much richer and meaningful now that you have this information. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to eat some pie.

## A PLAYABLE ‘Angry Birds’ Birthday Cake!

For those who don’t know, ‘Angry Birds‘ is a very popular (and addictive!) game for smartphones.

The premise is simple: fling birds (who are angry) out of a slingshot to knock over structures and kill the green pigs.

This lucky young man got an Angry Birds cake for his birthday. Awesome!