Index & News — hermiene.net

"What the two drank together, between Hilary Term and Michaelmas, might have floated a king's ship."

News

September 27, 2020

Behold! The new Books page in its full glory! What's new:

  • When viewing multiple books, you get a sleek overview of the title, front cover (if any) and the series the book is in (if any). For a demonstration of this, see e.g. the Fantasy category or the Space Odyssey series.
  • When viewing a single book, you no longer get a big, ugly table; you get a slightly-less-ugly list (of sorts) with the information about a book sorted more neatly. I also decided to remove the links to various book stores from the ISBN field. For a demonstration of this, see 12 Rules for Life (my latest read).

Being a full-time father and a full-time student, I'm quickly learning to use my spare time efficiently.

September 15, 2020

There was a serious dearth of updates on my web site from 2014 to 2018, and during that time I did read a lot of books, but I mostly didn't bother to write up a synopsis or a review. I added those books to the database in addition to keeping track of them, so here, organized according to theme, are lists of books I've read from 2014 to 2018, with links:

Science fiction:

Other fiction:

Non-fiction:

With that backlog of stuff no longer hanging over me, onward!

September 11, 2020

I made a bunch of (mostly trivial) quality-of-life improvements to the design of my web site, mostly for visitors on mobile phones.

I also went through every single page, making them conform to the latest specifications of HTML and CSS (which mostly involved finding alternatives to obsolete elements, and fixing small syntax errors). Therefore, the Colophon page no longer lies when it claims that my web site conforms to these standards.

During this sort of janitorial work, I've discovered how much of the content on my site is old! I want to work on having more up-to-date content on my web site (i.e. content that more faithfully reflects my current interests and obsessions), and I don't want to cull too much old stuff, either, which means I have to expand.

September 8, 2020

I spent some time doing janitorial work on the Links page, mostly culling links, but also adding some. I culled...

  • from Games section: 3D Logic, Gridlock, Shyguy's Cave of Death, and TrackMania Nations
  • entire Gaming encyclopedias section
  • from People section: Jean-François Im, Jeff Dee
  • from Science section: Ebon Musings
  • entire Collection sites section (which only consisted of Galbadia Hotel)
  • from deviantART section: PolishPanties
  • entire Four-days-a-week schedule web comic section (which only consisted of Drawing Board)
  • from Haphazard web comic secion: Miscellanea and Nearing Zero
  • from Frozen web comic secion: Concerned and Decorum

In addition, I renamed the link to Massimo Pigliucci's web site Rationally Speaking Podcast, and moved it to the Podcasts section, and renamed the Books section the Literature section, into which I put The Internet Speculative Fiction Database (which I use when researching books for my Books page) and The Pulp Magazines Project (which I mainly use for reading old science fiction).

I have a huge backlog of books to review and add to the database, but I can at least mention the latest book I read, Ralph 124C 41+. (More coming very soon!)

September 7, 2020

My son was born exactly six weeks ago, on the 27th of July, six days after the last update, on the 21st of July, and I've been pretty busy since then. He's pure joy, he doesn't cry a lot, and he only wakes us up once or twice each night, which I'm told is pretty rare. I count myself lucky on that score!

Jovana is doing ok, but she's a bit tired, being the one who has to feed him. I try my best to help her, and it seems we have fallen into a routine now. (The first week was chaos, but not in a bad way!)

If you frequent my web site, you may notice that I've re-styled it a bit. It's not a lot, but it's a little bit more stream-lined now, I think. And a little more mobile- and tablet-friendly.

July 21, 2020

With an update schedule of twice per year (i.e. inbetween semesters), I can only improve!

This semester has been somewhat tumultuous for me — as it has been for all of us, with Covid-19 raging — but at least I've gotten the hang of various digital meeting solutions! And for the last few months Norway has been partly opening up again, so things are slowly going back to normal here.

A few things have been happening in my life. My fiancé Jovana is pregnant! This actually happened almost nine months ago; the due date is 31st of July! (In other words, very soon.) I'm very happy, and a little nervous about it, but for the most part I think we're ready for it. I want to mention this here on my personal web site, but I don't want to post a lot of pictures of The Little One here, and this is something Jovana and I have talked about and are in agreement on. This also means that we won't be posting pictures and videos on Instagram, Facebook, and the like. We want this to be something he (it's a boy, by the way) should be able to decide for himself once he's old enough.

I also got a summer job at my university, which has just ended and lasted four weeks, and was tons of fun! It's an intensive course in mathematics and physics which lasts six weeks (four weeks of mathematics and two weeks of physics) for people who want to enter an engineering course at the university, but don't have high school-equivalent passing grades. Two other students and I were hired to teach these courses. I taught most of the mathematics part, and nothing of the physics part (due to Jovana's due date). It has been a wonderful experience for me, and I've learned a lot from it (from using Beamer to produce LaTeX slides, to different methods of teaching different people, to how to actually use time effectively in front of a podium).

I've also started writing a book! I don't want to say too much about it, not even what it's about, not yet. ;-)

January 8, 2020

My life is massively busy these days, but that doesn't mean I can't update my site once in a while.

Firstly, last semester (fall 2019) I had only two courses, physics (in which I got a D, sadly) and mathematics (in which I got a B, happily).

Secondly, this semester I have three courses: Linear Algebra (mathematics), Relativity & Astrophysics, and Experiments in Physics Education. Everything is in English, which I'm perfectly happy with.

Thirdly, I didn't get cracking on working on the Books page, but oh well.

Really, this update is a way for me to kick-start myself into working more on the site, and not to let too much time pass between each update. Carry on.

July 19, 2019

The second semester (and first year) of my five-year university education is over: four more years to go. I'm very happy. I'm still motivated and I'm still liking it a lot, even though it's hard. The results for this semester are as follows (in ascending order): I got a D in physics (which I'm not at all happy with), a B in mathematics (which I'm thrilled by), and an A in programming (when I got that result, I didn't believe my own eyes and had to triple-check).

In other very happy news, Jovana and I got engaged!

The ring. The ring on the finger. The ring on the finger with two happy campers.

I proposed to her (on my knees, of course) at one of the view points of Lazar's Canyon (the deepest and longest canyon in Serbia, located not far from the city of Bor in Eastern Serbia). The view was breathtaking, the weather was good, and the butterflies were doing somersaults in my stomach. She said yes (not entirely unpredictably). This feels completely surreal to me, but also fantastically natural and wonderful. I love her fully and deeply, and I couldn't be more happy with it. Life is good. Love is good. I'm more content than I've been in years.

February 25, 2019

A follow-up to the previous post, in this post I want to write about the experiment we did at the hotel in Switzerland (at \(430m\) above sea level), and then at the top of Aiguille du Midi in France (at \(3777m\)). The experiment involved a pretty big piece of styrofoam. The reason for choosing this as our material, you might have guessed, is because styrofoam has a very low density. That is, its volume is very big while its mass is very low. Now, the question is this: Will it weigh more, less, or the same at both altitudes?

If you want to ponder this yourself, don't read on! Explanation and solution follow.

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You might be thinking that it will weigh less because it is farther from the Earth, and that would be true if gravity was the only force acting on the object, but there's also buoyancy to consider. The density of the air is significantly less at those altitudes than at around sea level (walking up a single flight of stairs can make you short-winded), while the difference in gravity you feel on your body is not at all noticeable. So imagine that the piece of styrofoam is floating on water. The reason it floats is because the water is pretty dense. Now, as the density of the water is reduced, the piece of styrofoam will sink more and more, and when the density is as low as the air at sea level, it will have "sunk" a bit more. Now, imagine reducing the density even more, to the density level at the top of, say, Aiguille du Midi. The styrofoam will "sink" more into the atmoshpere, thus registering a higher weight on a scale! Presumably. If the force of buoyancy more than cancels out the effect of the reduced gravity. And will this be measurable?

In fact, we measured the piece of styrofoam at the hotel to be \(0.381kg\), and at the top to be \(0.388kg\)!

A quick look at some numbers will give you an intuitive understanding of why this might be. Rounding off a bit, an object weighing 1kg at \(430m\) above sea level will accelerate towards the Earth at \(9.819m/s^2\) (ignoring every other force). At \(3777m\) above sea level, the acceleration will be \(9.809m/s^2\). Not a big difference! In contrast, air density at \(430m\) above sea level is around \(1.17kg/m^3\), while at \(3777m\) it's around \(0.84kg/m^3\)! A marked difference, and, as it turned out, enough to more than cancel out the effect of a lesser gravitational pull.

For these values of air density, I simply pulled them from The Engineering ToolBox's page about U.S. Standard Atmosphere, plonked them into GeoGebra, ran a 9th degree polynomial regression analysis on them, got a function expression (just a bunch of polynomials with really, really, really small coefficients), and did \(f(430)\) and \(f(3777)\).

Close-up of graph from x = 430 to x = 3777. Whole graph.

\(f(x) = 0x^9 + 0x^8 + 0x^7 \\ + 0x^6 + 0x^5 + 0x^4 \\- 0.000000000000307x^3 \\+ 0.000000005452006x^2 \\- 0.000118741904987x \\+ 1.223868489811585\)

I am nothing if not thorough! Look at that expression! I have GeoGebra set to display the maximum amount of decimal places, 15, which isn't enough! Ridiculous...

For the values of acceleration, I did a bit of calculating. (Note: For all these calculations I always round off to 3 decimal places.) I used Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation, \(F = G * \frac{m_1 * m_2}{r^2}\), where \(G\) is the gravitational constant (valued at \(6.67408 * 10^{−11}m^{3}kg^{-1}s^{-2}\); see Wikipedia), \(m_1\) is the mass of the smaller object (valued arbitrarily at \(1kg\) for ease of calculation), \(m_2\) is the mass of the larger object (the Earth, valued at \(5.97237 * 10^{24}kg\), see Wikipedia under Mass), and \(r\) is the radius between the centers of mass of the two objects. For the radius of the Earth, I used the mean radius as given on Wikipedia, \(6371km = 6.371 * 10^6m\) (everything in SI units, always, no exceptions). And at \(430m\) above sea level, the distance \(r\) between the two centers of mass is \((6.371 * 10^6 + 430)m = 6.37143 * 10^6m\). Of course, the center of mass of the styrofoam is a few centimeters inside it, but at these scales it hardly matters (and besides, we're only ball-parking it with these values, anyway). So then, calculating the \(F\) (force of gravity, in this case), yields about \(9.819N\) (you can plug the values in yourself), and since \(F = ma \Leftrightarrow a = \frac{F}{m}\), and here is why I chose \(1kg\) for the mass of the smaller object. \(a = \frac{9.819N}{1kg} = 9.819m/s^2\).

A similar calculation for the top of the mountain, except this time the distance \(r\) between the two objects will be slightly larger: \((6.371*10^6 + 3777)m = 6.374777*10{6}m\). Again for ease of calculation, we ignore all other forces and assume the weight is still \(1kg\). This time \(F = 9.809N\), and by the same logic, \(a = 9.809m/s^2\).

See, I know how to show my work!

In other good news, since the beginning of February I've been working part time for Ent3r Realfagstrening, going to three different schools on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, helping younger students with math and physics homework! It's very fun, and it's excellent training for me. Between my own school work and my part time job, I feel massively busy, but not so busy that I can't crank out an update now and again.

January 21, 2019

So I took a trip to the site of the world's largest particle accelerator at CERN. What about it?

Well, it was pretty amazing, is what's about it! My physics class went together with a bunch of students from the local upper secondary school. The purpose of the visit, apart from CERN, was to do some physics experiments first at the hotel we were staying (at 430m above sea level), and then almost at the peak of Aiguille du Midi, at 3777m. The point of the various experiments was to test the effects that lower air density has on weight and sound. But first, CERN!

(This post is heavy on pictures; click on an image to get a bigger version.)

CERN reception.

In front of the reception. Here is a souvenir shop and a museum called Microcosmos, and here we were welcomed and had about an hour of information and questions from the audience.

CERN reception floor.

The floor of the reception area is amazing.

Antimatter Factory.

In front of the Antimatter Factory. Yes, it's exactly as it says on the can: They manufacture antimatter in there.

ELENA

Inside the Antimatter Factory is ELENA (Extra Low Energy Antiproton), a decelerator for antiprotons, making them easier to trap.

Tim Berners-Lee's computer. Pondering Tim Berners-Lee's computer.

After that we were taken to the Data Centre, to a small museum there overlooking the server farm. I took a lot of pictures, but these two are my prize ones. This is me in front of one of the computers that none other than Tim Berners-Lee used to develop HTTP and HTML, so you can imagine my child-like joy in taking these two pictures! (The guide jokingly suggested I lick the mouse. I jokingly pretended to consider it!)

ALICE and I. ALICE.

Next we were taken inside ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), one out of four points on the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) ring where the particles actually collide. I was really hoping we would be able to visit the inside of the LHC tunnel itself, but alas, the guide told me security had been tightened in the last few years, and even if he could, he wouldn't be able to open up the door leading to it. So, the next best thing...

The door leading to the world's largest particle accelerator. In front of the door leading to the world's largest particle accelerator.

... was to take my picture next to it. Right behind those doors lies the tunnel which houses the world's largest particle accelerator, measuring 27 km in circumference! So close...

And for the last volley of pictures, here are a bunch of photos I took of a sculpture called Wandering the Immesurable:

Wandering the Immesurable 1. Wandering the Immesurable 2. Wandering the Immesurable 3. Wandering the Immesurable 4. Wandering the Immesurable 5. Wandering the Immesurable 6. Wandering the Immesurable 7.

Last, but not least, my good friend Even visited me this past weekend, and we had a blast! We also decided to do a synchronous update of our respective web sites, but I was a bit late. But out of pure whimsy we decided to take a picture of each other from our phones at the exact same time (see his post for my picture):

Visit from Even.

Old news items are found in the Archive. If you want all news posts in rapid succession, check the Full Archive.