Happy or Unhappy?

The City of Longmont sent a survey to 3,000 random residents (including us) with five pages of questions on a wide range of city services. How satisfied are you with weekly trash pick up? Is graffiti a major problem? Weeds? Homelessness? How often do you attend City Council meetings?

And then, out of nowhere, question 20:

Overall, how happy or unhappy are you with your life?

Very happy! Thank you for asking! But some number of people will answer “Very Unhappy” and what I want to know is: will that lessen the value of the rest of their answers? “Well, sure, this guy hates the quality of our tap water, but he also hates his life overall, so let’s just shred his whole survey.”

Boyfriends and Girlfriends

The students who helped raise the most money for Sophie’s school got a limo ride to a pizza lunch party with the principal today. My favorite part of the conversation in the limo went like this:

3rd Grader: I have a girlfriend, and I’m marrying her on Halloween.
1st Grader: I can’t think about that right now.
Kindergtartner: I have a boyfriend and a girlfriend.


Hour Physics

Surely the exact opposite of Minute Physics is the Richard Feynman’s hours-long (and entirely engaging) talks given for the Messenger Lectures at Cornell. Here’s the first hour:

The whole series isn’t available from a single source, but it all seems to be available (following YouTube’s “related videos”, or just searching for “The Character of Physical Law”).

Possibly my favorite thing anybody’s ever said comes in the seventh part, Seeking New Laws:

Now I’m going to discuss how we would look for a new law. In general, we look for a new law by the following process:

First, we guess it. Then we compute the consequences of the guess to see what (if this law that we guessed is right) it would imply. Then we compare the computation results to nature — or we say compare to experiment or experience.

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.

In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make a difference how beautiful your guess is, how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.

He goes on to talk about how once we had confidence in the law of gravitation we were able to derive new laws (and calculate for the first time the speed of light), and in that way describes how each new discovery in science leads to exponentially more new discoveries in turn. Another gem: “We’re trying to prove ourselves wrong as quickly as possible because only in that way do we find progress.”

The Treble Makers

I’ve always been particularly drawn to excellent student performances, like this one from The Treble Makers (later called Kaleidoscope):

When expectations for a student concert necessarily start lower than for a professional performer, it’s all the more impressive to see a group so entirely excel. I also like Mr. Sandman by the same quartet. I sang in my high school’s choir, and I’m absolutely certain I never attained anywhere near this level of musicality.

Minute Physics

YouTube not only brings us pirated music and the stream of consciousness narratives of teenagers around the world; it also brings us MinutePhysics!

Each video tackles a big Physics topic in just a few minutes using drawings, basic animations, and occasionally more elaborate multimedia. Here’s one of my favorites: “Why the solar system can exist” (i.e., why the planets don’t simply crash into the sun:

I also particularly like Why is it dark at night? — the answer to that simple question gets intensely elaborate over the course of three minutes.

The only trouble is that the videos are so short you really can’t watch just one. As with a good bag of potato chips, you’ll find yourself saying “just one more…” for a good hour.

Accessible Lights

This sign appears at a lot of intersections in the Denver area, and I have absolutely no idea what it’s meant to signify:

Accessible Traffic Light

Accessible Traffic Light

Is the crosswalk wheelchair accessible? If so, why would drivers specifically need to know that? Is the rightmost lane of traffic designated for handicapped drivers? Perhaps the cross street features a wheelchair store? Wheelchairs can only cross the intersection when the rightmost traffic light is green?

Street signs are meant to communicate important information to motorists and pedestrians, and in this case I honestly have no clue what’s being communicated.

Spend Forever With Me… Starting Later

And now may I present: one of the worst ideas ever!

Will You Marry Me... Online?

Will You Marry Me… Online?

This (future) web service promises, “You can propose online with your very own proposal page that is made up of all the great information that you think is necessary.”

Flowers and champagne aren’t right for everyone. I don’t mean belittle someone whose perfect proposal might come riding a horse or sitting in a Chili’s. Proposals mirror the nature of the relationship, and there are a lot of different sorts of relationships. But surely we can all agree that a proposal — the suggestion that two people spend the rest of their lives together — should happen while actually together.

If it’s any consolation, the copyright notice reads 1997 to 2009, I came across this in 2010, and now in 2012 it’s all still “coming soon.” Perhaps traffic to the would-be online proposal service just isn’t what it might have been.