Sunday, September 23, 2007

The MightyTerabyte

Fry's Electronics is selling a 1 Terabyte hard drive. Let's put this in perspective. We'll compare it to the humble, all but forgotten, floppy. A floppy can hold 1.44 Megabytes. That sounds like a lot, a Mega being a million and all, but compared to a Terabyte? OK, by illbegotten calculations, to equal the storage capacity of the mighty Terabyte, you would need 700,000 floppies! Stacked on top of each other, this stack would be 1.4 miles high. Laid out like tiles, it would cover an acre. It would fill, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, a good size cubicle. You can buy 1000 floppies for 21 cents a piece. 700,000 floppies would cost you $147,000,which makes Fry's price for a terabyte drive of about $250 a steal.

A page of text is 2Kbytes or 0.02 Meg, so on a Terabyte hard drive, you could store,
1,000,000,000,000/2000= 500,000,000 pages of text, FIVE HUNDRED MILLION PAGES of text regardless of the text itself- five hundred million pages of Shakespeare or five hundred million pages of self absorbed nonsensical ramblings of a lonely engineer.

This is what happens if calculators fall into the hands of the wrong people.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Astronomical Week

First, the wonderful lunar eclipse, then the elusive Aurigids. We witnessed both of the early morning events and thoroughly enjoyed them. The lunar eclipse occurred with the Moon quite high in the sky. Most of the eclipses I've seen have occurred with the Moon closer to the horizon, and in clear view of earthly structures, like buildings, utility poles. As everyone has noticed, the Moon appears much larger when it is lower and it is the ability to readily compare the size of the Moon with the size of a house that makes the Moon seem "larger than a house", and that's pretty big. Our mind tricks us into this irrelevant comparison and we fall for it and may even fall in love under it. When the Moon is high, we have nothing to compare it to and it seems much smaller. In truth, the the image of the Moon on our retinas is precisely the same in both cases.

The Aurigids, a rare collision of the Earth's orbit with a particular comet tail, promised a spectacular shower of meteors, or maybe nothing. That's what made it fun. We saw, between the two of us, 10 in about 1/2 hour. Many were persistent, colorful and awesome. Others could have been illusory- maybe a phosphene generated by pressure on the retina. It takes two sensate beings to disentangle illusion from truth. It makes you realize that all we see could be just neurons firing and have no other universal basis. What a silly idea.

So, this week, two wonderful events Both have elements which call into question the absoluteness of what we observe. But I think what I see is 'real' and I love what I see. Don't spoil it for me.


A new opera will be premiered next month in SF. Appomattox, music by minimalist Phillip Glass. Phillip Glass? The singers don’t need a range. They just need a note! I hope they stage it like his Koyaanisqatsi -time lapse. I have to be in bed early. (Just kidding- sounds fascinating)
Would you believe that the spellchecker had no IDEA what to do with Koyaanisqatsi.

Music at Fry's

At my favorite geek mecca, Fry’s Electronics, they have, believe it or not, a concert grand piano playing. Really! Chopin- but there was something wrong. All the notes were there, but it was missing the Chopin. Whoever was playing it was playing Chopin the way Steven Hawking would recite Whitman. The right words, but… Turns out the piano was being played by this electronic device that dutifully presses the key when commanded to do so. The other day, they had a live person playing- he wasn’t much better. Fry’s should stick to electronics. They DO have personal grooming apparati in the impulse purchase section of the store, but no one has ever bought any of it (duh).

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Second Law

Cleaning up the garage: The curse of the dilettante. Good news? When interests are pursued superficially, you can pack a lot of them into a lifetime. Bad news? Organizing my man-space seems to defy the law of thermodynamics which states that entropy (disorder) always increases. One may argue that local entropy can indeed be decreased, but in the case of my man-space, even a modicum of artificial organization evidently has a profound impact on the Universe which, in it's blind wisdom, insists on forcing the garage back into a more submissive state of chaos. I mean, what does one do with a tub which contains waxed twine, a USB cable, tripod adaptor for binoculars, intervalometer for firing cable shutter releases, 1000 foot spool of wire for a 1948 recorder, a model T ignition spark coil, antique razor strop, boomerang, giant 12 inch fresnel lens, a hearing device for confessional booths, an empty bottle of Stolichnaya saved for the label which proclaims that it was imported from the USSR (remember the USSR?), an Eveready D battery with an expiration date of March 1942, 2 bottles of Purell, a K and E slide rule, and oh! look at that- the thumbwheel from my digital voice recorder I've been looking all over for. I'm really afraid of touching this stew for fear of upsetting at least the balance of our own Milky Way. There will definitely be some cosmic push-back and I would fully expect to wake up in the morning to find my organizational efforts reversed by the great 19th century physicist, Clausius. So, to heck with it. I'm going to bed.