Saturday, August 29, 2015

A ton of new useless (Irish) facts on cars

Living in a small country sure has its advantages. It of course has its quirks too. For instance ridiculously interesting facts abound. Ireland has its own Central Statistics Office (the CSO), who routinely release bits of interesting stuff. However I'm writing on facts reported by the Irish Times on June 17, 2015. The article titled "Junk the new registration system and go back to the old format, says leading distributor" (Motors Section, p. 2), reported the following:

From January to May 2015, the following have been sold in Ireland: 

  • One pink car (and 71 purple)
  • One Bentley
  • 78 convertibles
  • 15 'G' carbon dioxide emissions category vehicles (By the way, G = worst)
Also, 1.53% of new car sales have been "Electric", which upon further inspection means any of the following:
  • Electric
  • Petrol/electric
  • Diesel/electric
  • Petrol/plug-in electric hybrid
  • Petrol & gas (whatever that means, I'm assuming some sort of natural gas)
Assuming a linear relationship exists between population and number of pink cars sold, a quick calculation reveals an estimate of 69 pink cars sold in the US in the same time - and 69 Bentleys too - probably none of them pink.  

This entry is repeated on Same Frequency Different Wavelength.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Mandy, You're a Fine Girl - What a Good Wife You Would Be

Barry Manilow's famous song Mandy was penned and recorded by Scott English as "Brandy", which was a hit in the UK in 1971. Brandy was changed to Mandy when Manilow released it in the US to avoid confusion with the hit Brandy (You're a Fine Girl) by Looking Glass, a Rutgers University fraternity band.

Which brings me on to an article in the magazine for Rutgers University Alumni - Spring 2009, which carried an article about this song and the band itself, which listed amongst many things, where the former band members are today:
  • Larry Gonsky RC'70 (keyboards) teaches music in the Morristown school district; 
  • Jeff Grob CC'85 (drums) after playing with the hard-rock band Starz, returned to school and earned his landscape architecture degree. He works for Stantec, which contributed to the redesign of Route 18. He still plays locally with Richie Ranno's All Stars; 
  • Elliot Lurie RC'70 (lead guitar) manages actors and recording artists, including Corbin Bleu of High School Musical fame, in Los Angeles. He worked as an independent music film supervisor and executive vice president of music at 20th Century Fox; 
  • Pieter Sweval RC'70 (bass) played with Starz and the disco band Skatt Bros before dying of AIDS in 192. 
The band still receives royalty checks for use of the song Brandy. Sweval's family donates his share to AIDS research.

Incidentally, Barry Manilow had five albums on the best-seller charts simultaneously (in 1978), a feat a feat equalled only by Herb Alpert, The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, and Johnny Mathis.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Confounded by UK placenames? It's simple.

There are the 'Fords'
  • Oxford
  • Bradford
  • Stratford
  • etc.
The 'Shires'
  • The infamous Worcestershire
  • Hertfrordshire
  • etc
The 'Wicks'
  • Chiswick
  • Keswick
  • ...
The 'Mouths'
  • Bournemouth
  • Plymouth
The 'Hams'
  • Birmingham
  • Tottenham
The 'Sters'
  • Gloucester
  • Leicester
And the '-on-', '-under-', '-whatever-' places
  • Stoke-on-Trent
  • Bidford-on-Avon
  • Newcastle-under-Lyme
Forget what these names mean, the biggest question is often How do you pronounce these places? It's apparently all down to the schwa, or 'neutral vowel'. Now you know.
What is a ‘schwa’ or neutral vowel?
What is a ‘schwa’ or neutral vowel?
What is a ‘schwa’ or neutral vowel?

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Useless Definition of the quarter: heteroscedasticity, a form of heteroscedastic:

heteroscedastic [ˌhɛtərəʊskɪˈdæstɪk]
adj Statistics
1. (Mathematics & Measurements / Statistics) (of several distributions) having different variances
2. (Mathematics & Measurements / Statistics) (of a bivariate or multivariate distribution) not having any variable whose variance is the same for all values of the other or others
3. (Mathematics & Measurements / Statistics) (of a random variable) having different variances for different values of the others in a multivariate distribution Compare homoscedastic
[from hetero- + scedastic, from Greek skedasis a scattering, dispersal]
heteroscedasticity  [ˌhɛtərəʊskɪdæsˈtɪsɪtɪ] n
Examples, from
Heteroscedasticity often occurs when there is a large difference among the sizes of the observations.
  • A classic example of heteroscedasticity is that of income versus expenditure on meals. As one's income increases, the variability of food consumption will increase. A poorer person will spend a rather constant amount by always eating inexpensive food; a wealthier person may occasionally buy inexpensive food and at other times eat expensive meals. Those with higher incomes display a greater variability of food consumption.

  • Imagine you are watching a rocket take off nearby and measuring the distance it has traveled once each second. In the first couple of seconds your measurements may be accurate to the nearest centimeter, say. However, 5 minutes later as the rocket recedes into space, the accuracy of your measurements may only be good to 100 m, because of the increased distance, atmospheric distortion and a variety of other factors. The data you collect would exhibit heteroscedasticity.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Port Red Left

The word starboard comes from Old English steorbord, literally meaning the side on which the ship is steered, descendant from the Old Norse words stýri meaning "rudder" (from the verb stýra, literally "being at the helm", "having a hand in") and bor. The starboard side of a ship is indicated by a green light.

An early version of "port" is larboard, which itself derives from Middle-English ladebord via corruption in the 16th century by association with starboard. The term larboard, when shouted in the wind, was presumably too easy to confuse with starboard and so the word port came to replace it. Port is derived from the practice of sailors mooring ships on the left side at ports in order to prevent the steering oar from being crushed. The port side of a ship is indicated by a red light.

In case you ever forget that port is left and starboard is right (when facing the bow of course), there is no shortage of mnemonics to help you remember:

  • A ship that is out on the ocean has "left port".
    • The sailor left port with a red nose.
  • Port and left both contain four letters.
  • "Port wine is red; so is the port light."
  • "Port is not right for children" (Port wine is red and not being "right for children" is therefore "left".)
  • The phrase "Any red port left in the can?" can be a useful reminder. It breaks down as follows:
    • The drink port is a fortified red wine—which links the word "port" with the color red, used for navigational lights (see below).
    • "Left" comes from the phrase and so port must be on the left.
    • The reference to "can" relates to the fact that port-hand buoys are "can"-shaped.
  • A variation on the above is "Two drops of red port left in the bottle."
  • Another variation: "Port is the red wine that is left in the glass."
  • The common abbreviation P.S. (for English postscript, derived from Latin post scriptum) can be viewed as port ("left") and starboard ("right").
  • "Star light, star bright, starboard is to the right."
  • "There is no red port wine left".
  • Terms referring to the right side are longer words ("starboard", "right", and "green"), while terms referring to the other side are shorter words ("port", "left", and "red").
  • Starboard contains two letter "R"s, compared to only one in port; therefore, starboard refers to the right side.
  • Red is the representative color for some major ideologies of the political Left, e.g. socialism or communism; whereas green is the color of US cash and is often synonymous with wealth.
  • In countries that drive on the left side of the road: If someone is drinking Port, they should be on the passenger side; the "star" of the boat, or person who is in control of the boat, is on the driver's side.
  • Port and starboard are in alphabetical order, which can be associated in European languages with reading from left to right. So they are in the same order as reading text. Left and right are in the same order.
  • Green and two E's, Starboard has two R's, so starboard, green right
adapted from wikipedia

Monday, June 25, 2012

Would You Rather Stand or Sit? (Or, What Do Sport Commentators and Till/Checkout Clerks Have in Common?)

The answer is that it depends what side of the Atlantic you are on. In the British Isles, sport commentators, sportscasters, presenters and pundits almost exclusively sit (when on screen), and till/checkout clerks in food shops almost always sit while on the job. In the U.S., both stand on the job fairly exclusively.

Another UFOD: The most popular form of sport commentary is a duo, almost always consisting of a professional journalist/broadcaster and a former professional in the particular sport in question. Two exceptions to this occur in the U.K., where all current snooker and cricket commentators are former professionals of their respective sport.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Elegant Multiplicative Palindromes

Technically there are an infinite number of these, but they aren't that easy to find. An interesting one is multiplying a series of 1's with itself, for example: 1*1=1, and 11*11 = 121. This scales up to nine 1's: 

= 12345678987654321

I call this 'elegant' as not only is it a palindrome, but it is 'in-order', first counting up, then counting down. Trying ten 1's also results in a palindrome, however two zeros get introduced between two 9's which make it a little less appealing to the eye, and arguably inelegant (12345678900987654321). Trying eleven 1's doesn't result in a palindrome because humans use the base ten numeral system (a positional numeral system with a radix of ten), most likely because we have ten fingers and ten toes. (Also the reason that in the English language 'digit' and its translation in many languages refers to both a mathematically expressed numeral and the anatomical name for fingers and toes). Eleven 1's multiplied by eleven 1's results in the inelegant, non-palindrome 123456790120987654321.

On a related note, many cultures did not use the base ten system such as the Maya who used base twenty, using the sum of all fingers and toes. Others have used octal systems, counting the spaces between fingers and toes. Computers prefer the binary system because they have only two fingers, one on each hand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Less than 4% of land is antipodal to land, shown in red above.
Now you know.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The World's First Legonaut 26/1/2012

From GMA News  A Lego man holding a Canadian flag has  been sent into space by two high school students from Toronto, Canada. Mathew Ho and Asad Muhammad, both 17, attached the legonaut and four cameras to a helium balloon that went up 80,000 feet into the air, the Toronto Star reported.
When the Lego man and the cameras returned to Earth 97 minutes later, they brought footage from some 24 km above sea level, three times the typical cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft, as reported by  the Toronto Star. “It shows a tremendous degree of resourcefulness ... For two 17-year-olds to accomplish this on their own is pretty impressive,” said University of Toronto astrophysics professor Dr. Michael Reid.
The mission was accomplished with a $400 budget and four months of weekend work. Since September the two spent Saturdays at Ho’s kitchen table building the balloon. 
“People would walk into the house and see us building this fantastical thing with a parachute from scratch, and they would be like, ‘What are you doing?' We’d be like, ‘We’re sending cameras to space.’ They’d be like, ‘Oh, okayyyyy…,’” Ho said.
The pair assembled a styrofoam box to carry the cameras, and produced a rip-stop nylon parachute that they tested by throwing off the roof of Ho’s father's 40-story condominium unit. Other parts included an $85 weather balloon ordered online, and $160 worth of helium from a party supply store.
After assembling the balloon, the boys loaded the Lego man and the cameras, along with a cell phone with a downloaded GPS app.
When the balloon passed seven km above sea level - out of cellphone-tower range - the GPS signal cut out, prompting the boys to go home and make dumplings. WHAT? - BB  At 4:12 p.m., Ho’s iPad started to beep, indicating their "Lego-naut" had re-entered the atmosphere. The balloon touched down in a field near Rice Lake, 122 km from its launch point. The brave legonaut had climbed to about 80,000 feet in one hour and five minutes before the balloon exploded, beginning the 32-minute descent.
The recorded footage shows the legonaut spinning at an altitude three times higher than the peak of Mount Everest, before the balloon bursts and he starts to plummet. 
UK's The Guardian said Lego sent a note of congratulations to the boys."We are always amazed by the creative ways in which Lego fans use our products, and humbled by how many unsuspecting places we appear, like attached to a helium balloon in … space," The Guardian quoted the company's brand relations director, Michael McNally, as saying.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

145 = 1! + 4! + 5!

145 = 1! + 4! + 5!

1! = 1
4! = 4*3*2*1 = 24
5! = 5*4*3*2*1 = 120

120 + 24 + 1 = 145

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Magnum P.I. - Where nobody knows your name

None of the main characters of Magnum, P.I. were referred to by their first names*, and many other characters were referred to by nicknames as well.

"Magnum" - really Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV. *T.C. would refer to Magnum as Thomas, and was the only regular cast member to do so.

"Higgins" (sometimes "El Higgo" or "Pinkie") - really Johnathan Quayle Higgins III, Baron of Perth. T.C. normally referred to Higgins as "Higgy Baby". Sometimes called "Johnny" (particularly by family or elder female friends) which annoyed the hell out of Higgins. *Agatha, Higgin's closest female friend did call Higgins by his first name, Johnathan. When Magnum referred to him as Pinky - a nickname given to him by the West Yorkshire Regiment - Higgins really got pissed off.

"Rick" - really Orville Wilbur Richard Wright - Absolutely hated when T.C. and Magnum referred to him (occasionally) as Orville, as he made it known that he didn't like that name.

"T.C." - really Thodore Calvin.

"The Lads" - Duke and Apollo, Higgins's Dobermans. Collectively called "The Lads", but individually called by their correct names by both Higgins and Magnum.

Extra fact - Ted Danson, Star of Cheers (Where everybody does know your name) guest starred in Magnum P.I. - Season 2 - "Don't Say Goodbye"

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ireland and top 500's

According to this link Ireland has 0.747 of the top 500 universities per million people, placing it at #8 globally.

Ireland also has 0.225 of the top 500 supercomputers per million people, placing it at #14 globally.Graph below compiled with supercomputer figures from and populations from wikipedia.

Click above for large size

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spaghettification (Not a Red Hot Chili Peppers Album)

Suppose you find yourself in a very very strong gravitational field (think white dwarf, neutron star, black hole, etc.) and you aren't already dead from ebullism, hypoxia, hypocapnia, temperature extremes, exposure to many fun wavelengths of radiation, or the huge numbers of energized subatomic particles bombarding your body... what would you die of? The answer is spaghettification --- the stretching of an object into a longer, thinner shape caused by tidal forces within the object itself, which are a result of the gravitational attraction between the exterior attracting body and particles within the object itself. In short the gravitational field is so strong that (assuming you are moving towards the attracting body feet-first), your feet are closer and therefore being attracted more strongly than your head, thus spaghettifying you. In reality these tidal forces would create so much friction that you would die from being slightly too warm before you got very spaghetti-like. If the heat didn't bother you though, eventually you would get so long and thin that you would snap in half. then those halfs would take turns getting spaghettified further, possibly snapping themselves. This process would continue until what is left of you crashes into or is swallowed by the thing that started all of this trouble in the first place. Although very different than Californication, something tells me that Anthony and Flea would think this is still cool.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Supercede has occurred as a spelling variant of supersede since the 17th century, and it is common in current published writing. It continues, however, to be widely regarded as an error.