Getting a full slice of pie

Last year, I presented some information about the mathematical concept of "tau". Most importantly, I encouraged an educational focus toward the practical:
Keeping the students as the priority, certain "weird math" gets discarded. For example, did you know that a full pi radian angle is only 180°. If I were to use only pi to cut you a slice of pie that means you would only get half of what you asked for because a circle is really 2π. Using τ you would have access to the full 360°.
Today is again Tau Day and I would like to remind you to get that full slice of pie in your life. Use an open mind and the power of critical thinking to find the methods which expand your world-view.

As I've said in some fashion in other articles:
Never accept "because I said so"; find a better source, one which will help nurture your curiosity not belittle it. Explore the world around you, excite your mind with interest, accept the dynamic nature of "fact", and wonder at the beauty of information.
Vi has put together another fun video [YouTube] about Tau this year. As she says in the silly fun of her song:
"We get further from truth when we obscure what we say."
Tau is a simple and easy way to understand the math of circles. And, let's be honest, math is far to important to be overlooked because someone long ago decided to make it appear harder to conceptualize than it really is.


A midsummer's hike

Ten minutes after this article publishes, the June solstice of 2012 will occur (2012-06-20@23:10 UTC). As written in my "Survive in extreme temperatures" article published at the last solstice (December):
During a solstice, the "tilt" of the Earth is at its greatest angle in relation to its orbit around the Sun.
For astronomers, today's solstice marks the start of Summer in the Northern hemisphere. As much as I love astronomy, I prefer to view the seasons as we do our days: When the Sun is at its peak during the day, we say it is midday. In the same way, when the Sun appears at its Northern most in the sky, it is midsummer.

This midsummer marks the start of my primary hiking season. In fact, by the time this (automatically) publishes, my girlfriend and I should be well on our way to the location of our hike. We are both avid hikers year-round, but I've found that I most enjoy tackling larger summits during the warmer months.

During this hike, I am hoping to try something new. I have a tendency to push myself to find and maintain a constant pace while hiking; essentially, forcing myself to march up mountains. This time, I'm going to experiment with strategically changing the pace based on incline.

If we encounter a flat area, I hope to push myself slightly beyond a comfortable pace. When we encounter an incline I hope to slow myself to a pace below my comfort. I'm curious to observe the results on my overall performance. My goal is to keep the focus on comfort, not time or destination.

I love finding new and exciting experiences throughout the world, but I sometimes find myself pushing physically so hard toward some goal that I ignore what I'm feeling about the experience of getting there. I certainly enjoy the external aspects of the experience (e.g. beautiful views, incredible company, wondrous wildlife). I hope that this new approach to my pace will help me to be mindful of the internal experience as well.


Review: The Flinch

The Flinch
The Flinch by Julien Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Flinch was an entertaining and enriching book and I am glad to have read it. I really enjoyed the light, fast-paced, and fun style of Julien Smith.

I have touched on the subject of fear in my blog and I had planned to circle back again to it again. The Flinch gave me some new inspiration, physiological experiments, and a different perspective for a familiar topic.

I enjoyed the book enough to devour its entire contents in one sitting. I like to imagine that Smith had originally written more, taking us further beyond the comfort of everyday, but the editors simply flinched.

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Review: The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness
The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Dave Ramsey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I have had a few financial struggles in my life, but I've learned some fantastic lessons from those challenging experiences. Dave Ramsey's book is a decent compilation of advice for those people who haven't yet learned those lessons for themselves.

Perhaps my view of The Total Money Makeover is the same as my view of any other "makeover". I don't think any "makeover" is really necessary, it suggests that a person is incapable of changing themselves without some external enhancements. In this case, the financial advice is great, but it's the knowledge that gives you the power. It's not the "stylist" that makes your hair or makeup great, it's you. Learn (without buying anything) how to do something, then do it.

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How to estimate wind speed and direction

Today is Flag Day in the United States of America. Many countries have these "Flag Day" public holidays, during which the adoption of the national flag or a specific event is recognized. Flags can be found, in some form, throughout history, but their usefulness extends beyond identification, patriotism, and decoration. How? Well, the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

Source: "Palace of the Four Winds" - Wikipedia

It's easy to become so accustomed to our environment that we miss the nuanced information we can collect from it. I previously presented how to predict the weather using observations of your environment in my Survival Guide Series. Today, I would like to detail how you can use similar awareness to discern wind speed and direction, another useful survival skill.

There have been a small collection of measurement systems for estimating wind speed, effects, and direction developed throughout history; one of which is the Beaufort wind force scale [Wikipedia]. Initially used to qualitatively evaluate wind effects, the Beaufort scale was eventually made into a more useful measure of wind conditions.

The Wikipedia article on the Beaufort scale has a wonderfully comprehensive table of the measures and effects of wind at each stage of the scale. I’ve chosen to select specific qualities and quantities from that table to ease memorization. For example, you’ll find that I list specific easy-to-remember speeds approximately within each Beaufort scale, rather than just throw a bunch of data at you. After all, my goal with this article is to make this information easy for you to use without technology or calculation. I want to empower you to look at the world around you and instantly discern the information you desire.

I’ve divided my groupings into three types of observations: flags, land, and sea. The effects described for the flag, are based on a common midsize flag (2:3 ratio, about 1 m ≈ 3 ft on its shortest side). For land, I made sure to include observations of the trees; do keep in mind that other factors can also affect tree movement, such as weather and fauna (e.g. rain may make leaves move, snow may hinder branch motion, squirrels may shake small branches).
Beaufort 0 - Less than 2 km/h (≈ 1.25 mi/hr)
Flag: Flag is at rest.
Land: Smoke rises gradually straight up, with very little drifting.
Sea: The water’s surface will appear smooth and reflections will be clearly recognizable.
Beaufort 1 - 5 km/h (≈ 3 mi/hr)
Flag: Flag moves slightly in the wind, the bottom corner of the flag will hang.
Land: Smoke will drift with the wind.
Sea: The surface of the water will show some rippling.
Beaufort 2 - 10 km/h (≈ 6 mi/hr)
Flag: Flag extends in the wind, the top corner may flap and curl.
Land: Tree leaves begin to rustle.
Sea: Small waves begin forming. No curling or cresting.
Beaufort 3 - 20 km/h (≈ 12 mi/hr)
Flag: Waves move across the fabric when the flag is extended in the wind.
Land: Leaves and small twigs will be constantly moving.
Sea: “Wavelets” form, crests begin to form and break.
Beaufort 4 - 30 km/h (≈ 20 mi/hr)
Flag: Flag is in constant motion, flapping quickly in the wind.
Land: Small tree branches begin to move. Dust and debris will be carried by the wind.
Sea: Small waves (up to 1 m high) begin to make longer curls. Crests become more numerous and easily visible.
Beaufort 5 - 40 km/h (≈ 25 mi/hr)
Flag: Ripples move quickly across the fabric.
Land: Small trees with leaves will begin to sway.
Sea: Moderate waves (1-2 m high) form. Many crests are visible, some surface spray is carried by the wind.
Beaufort 6 - 50 km/h (≈ 30 mi/hr)
Flag: The flag will “snap” and “pop” as it waves, flaps, and ripples. Damage to the flag will begin to occur.
Land: Larger tree branches will begin moving.
Sea: Large waves (2-4 m high) form. More spray is carried in the wind.
Beaufort 7 - 60 km/h (≈ 35 mi/hr)
Flag: Flag will begin to tear, possibly detaching from its hoist.
Land: Large trees begin to move and sway. Most people will feel some resistance when walking against the wind.
Sea: The surface of the water begins to heave. Sea heaps up, waves about 5 meters in height will form. Crests will spread down the waves from where the wave breaks.
Beaufort 8 - 75 km/h (≈ 45 mi/hr)
Flag: What flag? If not already torn from its hoist, there will be little left of the flag to respond to the wind.
Land: Loose leaves and small twigs break free of tree branches. Most people will have difficulty standing and/or staying balanced in the wind.
Sea: Moderately high waves (5-7 m) form. Spray from crests drifts (aka “spindrift”) across the surface with the wind.
Beaufort 9 - 88 km/h (≈ 55 mi/hr)
Land: Large tree branches may break. Some damage to buildings.
Sea: High waves (7-10 m) form. The whole surface begins to roll. Foam streaks across the surface. Spray carried in the wind notably fills the air.
Beaufort 10 - 100 km/h (≈ 65 mi/hr)
Land: Tree trunks may break and/or whole trees will uproot. Significant damage to buildings. (Wind of this speed is a rare occurrence on land.)
Sea: Very high waves (10-12 m) with large crests. The surface is dense with foam and rolls deeply. Visibility is hindered more by spray in the air.
Beaufort 11 - 115 km/h (≈ 70 mi/hr)
Sea: Waves nearly 15 meters in height. The surface of the water is mostly foam.
Beaufort 12 - Greater than 115 km/h (≈ 70 mi/hr)
Sea: The air is now filled with foam and spray. Waves are over 15 meters high and the surface of the water is completely white with foam and spray.
I know this list of observations seems long, but it can be fun to focus most on those qualities most commonly relevant to your daily life (Beaufort 2 - 8). In the days writing this article, I have found myself frequently looking out a window to observe, estimate, and check the wind speed.

It’s easy to miss the wonders of the world around us, if we don’t first make an effort to look for them. I hope that the information within these guides inspires your enjoyment of our planet and makes the external environment feel more personally relevant.


Venus between us

The past month has been filled with wondrous astronomical viewing events: a lunar perigee, a solar eclipse (during the lunar apogee), a partial lunar eclipse, and yesterday's transit of Venus across the Sun. I've written about astronomy events in the past, such as the lunar perigee of March 2011 and the lunar eclipse of December 2011, so it should come as no surprise that I was thoroughly enjoying these recent events.

Sometimes the sky conditions at my location made viewing of an event less than ideal, but I have learned to make the viewing experience, not the sight itself, the focal point of my excitement. For example, during the recent solar eclipse, I put my focus on creating a fun and memorable experience for my daughter; hopefully, a life-lasting memory of the first time she watched a solar eclipse. We talked about what was happening, how it was happening, used different tools and techniques to safely observe the eclipse, and -- when the clouds rolled in -- we enjoyed the spectacle of a cloud's "golden" lining.

The planets of the solar system, including Earth, all orbit around the Sun. Sometimes the planets orbiting closer to the Sun than us pass directly in front of the Sun from our perspective here on Earth. Yesterday, a once-in-a-lifetime event took place when Venus passed through such a perspective. Many people again turned their eyes toward the skies -- hopefully, with proper eye-protection -- to watch our nearest neighbor move across our view of the Sun.

With a planet of 7 billion humans, I knew from the start that the event would be documented and shared [NASA + YouTube] by many. So, I enriched my experience of this event, making it unique and memorable in my own way. I borrowed a friend's welding mask -- making sure it was an appropriate shade rating -- to watch the transit of Venus. At times, clouds blocked my view of the Sun, but I had my computer close at hand with a Universe Today live webcast of views from areas where the sky was clear. As the Sun set, ending the viewing for my area, I took a special photo of the Sun (and Venus) as they set nearby Horsetooth Rock (a local landmark).

Photo taken by Indy in Fort Collins, Colorado.

There will be many more astronomical events throughout my lifetime, but it will not be until 2117 that Venus will again pass directly between Earth and the Sun. Personally, I am happy that I have been able to make these recent experiences fun and memorable for myself and those closest to me. Life is full of opportunity, some we take and some we miss. Like the "golden lining" of the cloud that my daughter and I marveled at during the solar eclipse, it's how you embrace an experience that defines your memory of it.


Reapplying the sunscreen

My recent article about sunscreen contained a lot information on the light spectrum of the Sun and what radiation reaches the surface of our planet. The last bits of my article were dedicated to the choice and application of sunscreen. Those last bits were inspired by a graphic ["The Sunscreen Smokescreen" - Information is Beautiful] I encountered last Summer on one of my favorite data visualization blogs.

Like my blog, the graphic contains a lot of data, but it's an abundance of sunscreen data whereas my blog spent more time on light spectrum. So, if you want to "reapply" more sunscreen knowledge to your brain, check out the graphic below:

Source: "The Sunscreen Smokescreen" - Information is Beautiful


Review: The Grand Design

The Grand Design
The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is another in a line of greats from Stephen Hawking. My first audio-book was Hawking's A Brief History of Time. So, in a way, it is fitting that my first eBook was a Hawking book as well.

The Grand Design was a wonderful journey through the world of astrophysics. I already had a reasonable understanding of the topics presenting in the book, but I quite enjoyed having everything so eloquently assembled.

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