Sunday, April 30, 2006

It's deja vu all over again

The physics of baseball must be a hot topic right now -- it's not just me blogging about it.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

So you still don't believe the whole airfoil thing

Here's a collection of interesting information -- including a reference to the Raskin article -- about how wings work or don't work. I never bought the whole "air flowing over the top has to go faster to meet up at the back of the wing" explanation, so it's nice to see alternative explanations.

For extra credit, find a little league baseball player, and without using math, describe why curve balls drop and fast balls rise.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Flying is probably stranger than you think

Everyone's heard about why airplane wings are flat-on-the-bottom-and-curved-on-top, but actually things are much weirder when it comes to generating lift.

Check out these ground effect airplanes that don't fly very high but can lift tons (literally).

And besides, the reason that you were probably told about why airfoils work was probably wrong. At least according to Jef Raskin.

In his article, Raskin mentions a famous book called The Physics of Baseball. You can see more information here.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A whale story where no one blows up or sprains an ankle

I am revisting one of my frequent topics: whales and more whales and, yes, more whales.

This time, an urban legend that is apparently true! And everyone survived!

The May/June 2006 issue of Sierra has an "interview with a whale" conducted in the channel between Lanai and Maui, but the online version doesn't have the pictures included in the hardcopy version.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Last day of CSEE&T

The last day of CSEE&T started with a keynote by Lynda Northrop from the SEI. One of her points was that we aren't educated and trained in software architecture as we should be. Too much code, too little architecture. Also, that maybe functionality shouldn't be the driving force when it comes to devising a software architecture (at least that is my interpretation of what she said). She noted that every system has an architecture, intentionally or not, and that in general you can't just refactor code (i.e. XP-style) into an architecture. Here's the SEI software architecture group.

I'm also in a workshop on "Intellectual property law for software engineers". The workshop leader recommnded some basic documents on software intellectual property that look pretty good. Also, here is a short article about the state of software patents at the USPO.

One more thing I learned from CSEE&T: a couple of people said that they are seeing companies move away from agile methods and back to traditional waterfall models of development (and associated documentation) because of the Sarbanes-Oxley act I wrote about in the last paragraph of this blog entry.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NASA JPL vs. Microsoft

I'm currently at the 2006 Conference on Software Engineering Education & Training (CSEE&T), spending all of today in the Barry Boehm track. It must be strange to be sitting in the back of the room and listening to people talk about stuff you thought up, like COCOMO, the sprial model, risk management, wideband delphi, and Win-Win software engineering.

Anyway, as long as we're talking about software engineering, here's an interesting web page comparing the NASA JPL culture with Microsoft's culture.

And, I'm not much interested in family trees, but I'm in this one about software engineers.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Money magazine's 50 best jobs

First on the list is software engineer, second is college professor, whoo hoo!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Unsafe at any airspeed?

That's the title of an article in the March 2006 IEEE Spectrum. I'm pretty sure you can read the article without logging in.

The article is about whether cell phones and electronic devices are a threat to avionics. It describes a study where an antenna and spectrum analyzer was flown as overhead baggage on 37 domestic flights. Here's a brief summary from a Honolulu Advertiser article:

The researchers concluded something else surprising by extrapolating data from tests they conducted in late 2003 on 37 flights in the eastern United States: One to four cell-phone calls are typically being made aboard every airline flight in the country, despite the fact that the calls are illegal and that flight crews tell passengers not to do it.

I also found it particularly interesting that NASA issued a technical memorandum about how a certain model of Samsung phones "caused their GPS receivers to lose satellite lock" when used by general aviation pilots. The actual technical memorandum is very readable.

Monday, April 10, 2006

John Lions and his UNIX commentary

Many computer science graduates students had Nth-generation photocopies of an underground UNIX classic: John Lions' commentary on the UNIX source code. At UCSB we used the photocopies as the text for our graduate operating systems class.

The Usenix association is matching donations to fund the John Lions Chair in Operating Systems. Read more about it.

While you're thinking about it, you can replace your tattered, almost-unreadible photocopy with a reprint of the Lions' commentary -- and it's legal!

Or, just download a copy that originally appeared in the alt.folklore.computers discussion group.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Gladwell versus Bonds

Gladwell's been writing about major league baseball for quite a while -- here's a quote from before the latest steroids scandal:

... my guess is that most players aren't using steroids at all. Like most world-class athletes, they've probably graduated to human growth hormone or straight testosterone, both of which are much harder to detect. (Ever wonder why a certain aging but remarkably successful power hitter can say with such conviction that he's not using steroids? He's not using steroids. He's using something better.)

You can read the rest here.

Malcolm (we're on a first name basis now) argues that we should use statistics to show that something was funny with Barry Bonds' (and other athelete's) performances.

His first blog post created generated a lot of comments, so he posted a second.

It turns out that Malc is quite the sports fan.