Monthly Archives: September 2004

I’m not the only one who does this.

Tracy points me to the musings of Sour Bob. As I perused the archive, I discovered that, much like this blog, Bob sometimes finds it helpful to consider life from a mathematical perspective; here he calculates the odds of getting a date by asking for phone numbers in bars.
Of course, the values of some of the variables will depend on location, but his choice of K=.85 strikes me as ridiculously optimistic. On the other hand, my research in this field is predominantly theoretical.
UPDATE: I’ve considered this a little further. First of all, Bob’s formula isn’t a probability but an expectation of the mean number of successes. Just divide by x and you have a Bernoulli-trial probability p for individual attempts.
Also, since in the academic sphere I am an experimentalist (in the dating sphere I am apparently a theorist) I found it interesting to consider which of the variables are experimentally observable on their own. K, y, and z clearly are, although it may be difficult to get high accuracy (if I want to know K to 1%, I need to talk to 10,000 women). As for b, this seems to be a more complicated issue— it is something of a simplification, as it averages two quantities: the decay of my interest in a woman whose number I requested (this is what in physics is called a “relaxation time”, huh huh) and the decay of the woman’s interest in me, and these two quantities are asymmetric. I’d be inclined to split them up if I were to empirically investigate this formula.
Maybe I’ll write a grant proposal.

Yo ho ho and a bottle of quotes [Open Thread]

I’ll spare you all the pirate talk in this quote update. Last week’s quote (You just love the demon with the poison dart.) was from the first verse of “Funeral Song” by Sleater-Kinney (on the One Beat album, which I’m putting on the sidebar this week):

Stay away from the haunted heart
Stay away from the haunted heart
You swore to yourself that you’d make a new start
But you just love the demon with the poison dart

The new quote is what happened to be in my head… I think pretty much everybody will know it. Difficulty: Trivial; 0.5 points.
A note on open threads: this blog doesn’t have enough comment traffic to need them to contain off-topic discussions, but it was suggested last week that I create open threads to encourage random discussion, which sounds like a good idea. So I’m marking the quote/sidebar updates as open threads; comments on any topic* are welcome!
*Unless you are a spammer, in which case I will still delete your comment and ban your IP.

That’s a new one.

I think I missed a memo from the liberal conspiracy.

GOP mailing warns liberals will ban bibles
WASHINGTON (AP) — Campaign mail with a return address of the Republican National Committee warns West Virginia voters that the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November.
The literature shows a Bible with the word “BANNED” across it and a photo of a man, on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word “ALLOWED.” The mailing tells West Virginians to “vote Republican to protect our families” and defeat the “liberal agenda.”

Yeah, I checked and it’s on the agenda right after universal health care. The plan is, we’re going to get the Bible classified as an assault weapon, and then reinstate the assault weapons ban. Those big, thick books can be very dangerous! Do you know how many police officers were killed in the line of duty by criminals wielding Bibles? It’s not a pretty sight—rectangular dents in the skull, and the papercuts…
(Via Oliver Willis.)

Lessons of Experimental Physics

This morning I came in to lab and looked at the previous night’s data. And the data were pretty bad—certainly not usable for their intended purpose, and also bad in a way that pointed to a larger problem that had mysteriously developed over the past few weeks.
So I started changing things in the measurement, making it progressively simpler to reduce the space of potential sources for this problem. No matter what I took out, the oscillations in the data persisted, even after I was down just to the connections between the instruments, even after I was down to an electrical system isolated from the sample, even after I was down to a particular group of cables that were completely disconnected from the experiment.
In other words, I kept isolating the problem until I had it in the most improbable source I could think of. But all the other sources were now impossible. I simplified the wiring, and it worked. (Actually, it first caused a different problem, which I understood and fixed, and then it worked.)
So I don’t understand what the problem was, and I don’t know why my solution worked. But I fixed it!

The New Romance

I have only one question: Why?

Romancing the phone
HONG KONG, China (CNN) — For men seeking true romance there is now a new mating game with an unusual twist — it is virtual and mobile.
A fantasy world in which lovesick men can wine and dine a virtual girlfriend on their 3G phones is about to be rolled out in Asia and Europe.
You will soon be able to download an artificial girlfriend, then track her movements via images on a 3G mobile handset. All the likely suitor needs to do is push the right buttons — literally.
Aimed at males between the ages of 15 and 35, the virtual girlfriend uses up a lot of bandwidth — shopping, dining, going to bars and the gym.

I’m a chronically single male technophile, smack in the middle of the target age range, and even I think this is pathetic. What’s the appeal here? At least Warren’s robot girlfriend was “fully functional”.
(I just referenced Buffy and Star Trek in a single sentence—they’ll probably offer to let me beta test this service.)