The Drake Equation

Information is Beautiful has an excellent interactive chart up at the BBC covering the Drake Equation. I remember studying the equation, which estimates the number of civilizations that might exist in our galaxy, in an astronomy class called “The Search for Extraterrestrial Life” at the University of Texas. Why wouldn’t I take that elective? It was actually less fun than I thought it would be, but it was still very interesting. Apparently they no longer offer the course, or at least not this semester.

Physics giant (and former UT Prof) passes away


John A. Wheeler, Physicist Who Coined the Term ‘Black Hole,’ Is Dead at 96 – New York Times

John A. Wheeler, a visionary physicist and teacher who helped invent the theory of nuclear fission, gave black holes their name and argued about the nature of reality with Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr, died Sunday morning at his home in Hightstown, N.J. He was 96.

He was one of the major contributors to physics of the last century:

Among Dr. Wheeler’s students was Richard Feynman of the California Institute of Technology, who parlayed a crazy-sounding suggestion by Dr. Wheeler into work that led to a Nobel Prize. Another was Hugh Everett, whose Ph.D. thesis under Dr. Wheeler on quantum mechanics envisioned parallel alternate universes endlessly branching and splitting apart — a notion that Dr. Wheeler called “Many Worlds” and which has become a favorite of many cosmologists as well as science fiction writers.

Recalling his student days, Dr. Feynman once said, “Some people think Wheeler’s gotten crazy in his later years, but he’s always been crazy.”

Scientific American posted a profile of him originally published in 1991 that contains some interesting glimpses into his personality and theories.

My day off

I’ve rearranged my work schedule to work M-Th 8-5 and get Fridays off. This is great, because now I get to sit at Spider House all day, which I had become accustomed to when ‘working from home’ for so long. So I get to catch up on my photo editing, other random computer tasks, maybe do a little contract work, or actually get back in the neuro lab once in a while.

Speaking of Spider House, I’m sitting here now. Johnny has Metallica’s “And Justice For All” playing at 9AM (which I think is great). I’m drinking a big ol’ mug of coffee, and I just discovered that Google Talk recognizes the “m/” (metal horns) emoticon, which is totally hilarious. It works even better if you have one of the colored emoticon sets enabled. It also doubles as a “hook em horns” sign, so that’s nice.

Here’s a list of gtalk emoticons I decided to dig up, just for you.