General Archive

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Highest Form of Flattery

Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but plagiarism irks me a little bit. Look at these pages:

aerodynamics of the autogyro
how autogyros work

Now, look at my autogyro page:
Autogyro History and Theory

Notice anything familiar? (Hint, hint: look at the diagrams that somebody must have spent hours creating, and the text that somebody wrote to explain them.)

Why do people do that? I mean, all they have to do is ask. I've never told anybody that they couldn't use any of the information from this site, just that they give me credit for it and a link. It especially irks me that that the second of those pages is copyrighted. Don't go around copyrighting plagiarism!

Oh well, I sent them an e-mail. Hopefully my name and a link to my site will show up there pretty soon.

Update 2007-08-30
Well, the problem's been taken care of. There's now a note at the top of each of those pages, giving me credit and linking to my site. In response to my original e-mail, I received a reply from someone named John, telling me that a lot of the work on those sites was done as student projects. The students were warned not to plagiarize, but, alas, this seems to have snuck through. I can't say it's the first time. I've run across websites plagiarizing me before, and it usually turns out to be student projects. I wonder, just what type of software is out there for professors to detect plagiarism. Actually, a quick Google search found I guess the challenge now is getting more professors to use it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Being Happy with When I Am

I've often longed to be able to travel through time. There are so many things I want to know, so many things I want to see. I mean, can you imagine seeing a real live Tyrannosaurus? How about a pterodactyl? But sometimes, I just look around me at the world, and we've got plenty to marvel at now.

I mean, sure, I may never see an allosaurus attacking a brontosaurus (yes, I know, apatosaurs is the proper scientific name, but it'll always be a brontosaurus to me), but I can still watch a group of 7 ton predators attacking 100 ton prey (actually, blue whales can get up to 180 tons, but I'm not sure if orcas will still go after one that big). And I can see various flying animals that spend months, or even years, in the air without ever coming down to land. And how about an animal with a proboscis so well developed that it has around 40,000 individual muscles, sensitive enough to pluck a single blade of grass, but strong enough to rip apart trees.

My longing to visit the past isn't just about natural wonders - there are plenty of human accomplishments I'd like to see, too, like the Hanging Gardens, or to be alive during the golden age of aviation, and to think how exciting it must have been to see that revolutionary technology developing in front of my eyes. But you know what, we have some pretty damned good engineering marvels in the modern world, like the Sydney Opera House, or the Chunnel, or even just about any major sports stadium. I mean, not that I'm a big Dallas fan, but take a look at the new Cowboys Stadium. And you want to talk about living through the emergence of a radical technology - just look at computers and the Internet. When I was a kid, I was shocked to learn that my grandmother grew up without electricity. My grand kids will be just as shocked to learn that I can remember my family's first computer, and that it was years after that before we got Internet (and by modem!). When you look at it that way, these are exciting times we're living in.

And as much as I'd like to travel into the past to learn things, I'd just as much like to go to the future, to learn the answers to the questions I know won't be answered in my lifetime, like if there's any other life out there, and what it might be like. But we know a lot right now. I've read Darwin's Origin of Species, and I'm currently reading The Voyage of the Beagle. And one of the things I think is so fascinating, is to see the questions people had then, the things they would have wanted to travel to the future to learn, and to know that I'm living in the age when they've been answered. Like genetics - Darwin and Mendel knew that there had to be something that passed on traits from organisms to their offspring, but they had no idea what it was. You can tell by reading Origin that Darwin was really groping around in the dark on this. But we've discovered DNA. We know what it is, and the basics of how it works. And every day, we're learning more and more about it. And plate tectonics! That's another one that jumped out at me reading the Voyage of the Beagle. Darwin discussed how he found fossilized sea creatures on land, and how it indicated how the land must have been moving, but he had couldn't have known how it all happened. Now we do.

One of the biggest reasons I'd like to be in the future is space travel. I would absolutely love to be in zero gravity, to see the Earth from that far away, to travel to other planets, but I know it's something that realistically won't happen in my lifetime. But, just 150 years ago, people thought the same thing about flying. I know flying has become so commonplace today, that most people aren't too excited by it, and some people fly so often they even get downright annoyed. But just think about how amazing it is. For thousands of years, probably at least tens of thousands of years, and maybe even hundreds of thousands of thousands of years if earlier hominids were creative enough, we have looked to the skies and dreamt of flying like the birds, to have the freedom to go wherever we wanted. It's been in legends, myths, da Vinci's notebooks, but we'd never been able to accomplish it until just about 100 years ago. And now, I can go to the airport, rent a plane, and for a few hours live out the dreams of all of those ancestors, soar like a bird, and look down at the Earth from above the clouds.

So while I'll keep on wondering about all those things from the past that have been forever lost to time, and dreaming about the future and all the possibilities, I can't help but be awestruck by the world around me in the present, and be happy to be when I am.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Racism All Around Me

Just a short entry for today, but it's something I wanted to get off my chest.

I mentioned that we recently moved. Well, we just got an offer on our old house. Being kind of curious, as I'd imagine most sellers are, we asked our real estate agent about the potential buyers. Turns out it's an Iranian couple.

Well, we've told a few people about getting the offer, and they're curious, too, so they've asked us about the potential buyers, so of course we end up telling them that it's an Iranian couple. But I've been shocked by the number of people who have responded negatively, like, "Oh, you're not going to sell to those people, are you," or assuming that they're terrorists. Come on, people, I find your casual racism pretty disturbing. Sure, there are terrorists in the Middle East, but to assume that all MIddle Eastern people are terrorists because of the acts of a handful of people just doesn't make sense. Are all Italians mobsters? Are all Irish and English soccer hooligans? Are all Americans religious cult members? And you know what, there are terrorists right here at home, too. In fact, prior to the September 11th attacks, the "deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil" (Wikipedia) was the Oklahoma City bombing, carried out by a couple of white Americans. They'd even served in the Army. Does that mean I should be distrustful of all veterans?

So people, please stop telling me that the couple that may be buying my house are going to use it as a front to bring in a bomb. If you can't help being a racist, at least keep it to yourselves.

note: a few minor edits were made to this entry on 2007-07-17, but nothing that substantially changed the meaning.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007


Well, I mentioned in a post a little while ago that I was moving. Now, thanks to all the rain we've been getting, this is what my back yard looks like just two weeks after we moved in. The water's about 4 or 5 feet up the trunk of that tree.

Flooded Backyard

Don't worry too much about me and my family, though. Our backyard has a pretty good slope to it, and that tree's right at the back edge. The water still had a good 5 feet to go before it got to our house. But other people weren't so lucky. Here's the street a few blocks from our house.

Flooded Street

And that picture was taken before the water had crested. It got another foot or so higher. Other neighborhoods got hit even worse. Houses in the Wranglers Retreat neighborhood were underwater up to their roofs, and several houses in the downtown area had several inches to several feet of water. There are a few pictures on the City of Wichita Falls website, some more good pictures in some articles written by the local paper, the Times Record News: Rising water forces residents to retreat and Flooding overtakes East Side, forcing evacuations, and many more on a slideshow put together by the paper, but the slideshow isn't as good as the other photos.

So, it looks like this was the highest flood ever recorded for Wichita Falls, the river reaching at least 24.31 ft (the highest reported depth I could find, and probably pretty close to as deep as it got.) That's about 3 3/4" deeper than the previous record of 24 ft set way back in 1941. At least the river's been going down since Saturday. As long as we don't get too much more heavy rain, it looks like this is going to clear up. Hopefully the other parts of the country that got hit harder will start to recover, too.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Wow, write an essay criticizing a well-known creationist organization, get it included in a blog carnival on a popular science blog, and watch the comments keep flooding in over a month after it was originally posted. Specifically, it was my entry, Creation Museum/Creationist Rule of Thumb with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, written to coincide with the opening of Answers in Genesis's new Creation Science Museum, criticizing AiG's use of the Second Law of Thermodynamics to try to refute evolution. The blog carnival was The Creation Museum and was hosted on Pharyngula. And to be honest, it wasn't exactly a flood of comments, but it is more comments than any other post I've written has generated.

Anyway, I ended up putting a good deal of effort into the response I wrote to the latest comment on there. It's not quite as big as the original entry, but it's certainly more substantial than some of the other stand-alone blog entries I've written. Which means, once again, that I haven't had time to write a good, stand-alone entry for this week. I may post something short later this afternoon, but if you really want to read something I wrote this week, go check out the comments to Creation Museum/Creationist Rule of Thumb with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics.


Selling Out