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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Found Poem

Bouncing around today, I found How To Catch a Lion in the Sahara Desert.

I'd call its original form an unintentional prose poem, but I've taken the liberty of inserting line breaks and doing some editing to turn it into the following (which I may attempt to record sometime in the next few days):

Found Poem (How To Catch a Lion in the Sahara Desert)

1. Theoretical Physics Methods

The Dirac method

Assert that wild lions can
ipso facto not be observed
in the Sahara desert.

if there are any lions at all
in the desert, they are tame.

The capture of a tame lion is left
as an exercise for the reader.

The Schrödinger method

At every instant there is
a non-zero probability
of the lion being in the cage.

Sit and wait.

The Quantum Measurement method

Assume that the sex of the lion
is ab initio indeterminate.

The wave function for the lion
is hence a superposition

of the gender eigenstate
for a lion and that for a lioness.

Lay these eigenstates out flat
on the ground and orthogonal

to each other. Since the (male)
lion has a distinctive mane,

the measurement of sex can
safely be made from a distance,

using binoculars. Because the observer
affects the observed the lion then collapses

into one of the eigenstates, which
is rolled up and placed inside the cage.

The Nuclear Physics method

Insert a tame lion into the cage
and apply a Majorana exchange
operator on it and a wild lion.

As a variant assume
you would like to catch
(for argument's sake) a male lion:

Insert a tame female lion
into the cage and apply the
Heisenberg exchange operator,
exchanging spins.

The Newton method

Cage and lion attract each other
with gravitational force.

Forget the friction. The lion will
arrive in the cage sooner or later.

The Special Relativistic method

Move over the desert
at light velocity.

The relativistic length contraction
makes the lion flat as paper.

Take the lion, roll it up,
and put a rubber band around it.

The General Relativistic method

All over the desert distribute
lion bait containing large amounts
of the companion star of Sirius.

After enough of the bait has been eaten,
send a beam of light through the desert.

This will curl around the lion,
confusing it completely.
The lion may then be approached
without danger.

The Heisenberg method

Position and velocity
of a moving lion can not be measured
at the same time.

As moving lions
have no physically meaningful position
in the desert, they cannot be caught.

The lion hunt can therefore
be limited to lions at rest.

The capture of a lion at rest
is left as an exercise for the reader.

2. Experimental Physics Methods

The Thermodynamics method

Construct a semi-permeable
membrane which lets everything
but lions pass through.
Drag this across the desert.

The Atomic Fission method

Irradiate the desert with slow neutrons.
The lion becomes radioactive
and begins to disintegrate.

Once the disintegration process
is far enough along
the lion will be unable to resist.

The Magneto-Optical method

Plant a large, lens shaped field
with cat mint (nepeta cataria)
so that its axis is parallel
to the direction of the horizontal
component of the earth's magnetic field.

Put the cage in one of the field's foci.
Throughout the desert, distribute
large amounts of magnetized spinach
(spinacia oleracea) which has,
as everyone knows, a high iron content.

The spinach is eaten by vegetarian
desert inhabitants which in turn are
eaten by the lions.

Afterwards the lions are oriented parallel
to the earth's magnetic field
and the resulting lion beam may then be
focused on the cage by the cat mint lens.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Them Irish Are Some Keeners, Wha?

Always in the vanguard where death is concerned. An Irish funeral parlour now offers, um, live streaming of funerals for people unable to attend in, er, body. They do seem to be using a tasteful and considerate approach (which is more than can be said for me)

Just last week, he said, the funeral home negotiated with an internet service provider in New Zealand to upgrade one woman's connection temporarily to high-speed broadband so that she could see her sister's funeral without freezing screens or dropped audio.

Not just anybody can log on to eavesdrop on the grief. The service requires special software downloads and password access controlled by Clarke & Son [sic].

S. Clarke & Sons, funeral directors. Est. 1918.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How To Make A SteamPunk Keyboard

Call me a geek if you like, but I think this is a seriously cool DIY project. Though if I were to attempt it, I'd probably not even bother looking for an old typewriter to salvage keys from. I'd simply go with the brass-edged buttons for all the keys. Also, while it would be much more work (all those holes!), I think I might at least attempt to make a thin brass or wooden face to lay over or in place of the felt.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Chicago Homer

Even before I found the Chicago Homer tonight (more on it below, with a link) there were many things to like about Chicago — even for me, who has never been there. And probably never will be.

For instance, in the middle of the 19th-century she became the livestock centre of America, butchering and shipping delicious beef and pork all over the USA.

There is Wrigley Field, which opened in 1914.

And there was Chicago Stadium, with its awesome Barton organ, demolished in 1995 to my utter horror and dismay and eternal resentment (I have not watched hockey since).

There is the old "Abby" — the icebreaker MV Abegweit, which carried passengers and freight between Borden, Prince Edward Island and Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick until she was retired in 1982 — now serving as the headquarters of the Columbia Yacht Club (picture of the Abby) in Chicago.

There is humble servant, a somewhat frequent and very thoughtful commenter on this blog.

And now there is The Chicago Homer, a great resource for anyone interested in ancient Greek Literature

"The Chicago Homer is a bilingual database that uses the search and display capabilities of electronic texts to make the distinctive features of Early Greek epic accessible to readers with and without Greek. Its component parts are

1. Standard electronic editions of the texts, revised for maximum utility in a searchable database, and translations by Richmond Lattimore and Daryl Hine that closely observe the line structure of the originals and lend themselves to interlinear display.

2. A set of database tables that support lexical, phrasal, morphological, and narratological searches.

3. A Web-based user interface that gives access to the texts and supports queries to the database.

The most salient feature of the Chicago Homer is its ability to make visible the network of phrasal repetition that is so distinctive a feature of Homeric poetry. We reserve the rest of this introduction to a brief discussion of repetitions before turning to a detailed account of the texts and translation, the database and its parts, and the user interface."
I believe I will be making some use of The Chicago Homer in both the near and the distant future.