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Lionel Mandrake

Profile Information

Gender: Male
Hometown: The Left Coast
Home country: USA
Current location: electrical wires
Member since: Sun Jul 1, 2007, 05:47 PM
Number of posts: 4,003

About Me

I study, play the piano, play chess and go, and enjoy the company of my wife, children, grandchildren, other relatives, and friends. I am a perennial student at a school where they let me attend classes and use the library for free (because I'm old). My serious reading includes math, science, history, and biography. I enjoy science fiction and mysteries, which my wife and I refer to as "mind rot". And now on to politics. I hated Nixon and Reagan. I think W is a war criminal and was easily the worst president in US history until Trump came along. Trump and Sessions should be tried for having separated small children from their parents, which was a crime against humanity. I will support any candidate who is a "dove". I support "plan B" without prescription for girls of all ages. I support free abortion on demand, without delay, and without the requirement to notify anyone, for all women and girls who want it. I think it's time to repeal the Bush/Trump tax cuts for corporations and the very rich.

Journal Archives

I watched a few minutes of Netflix's movie "Io".

I like science fiction when I can suspend disbelief, but "Io" makes that impossible. The film should have had a science advisor, who would have pointed out a couple of howlers:

1) Putting humans in orbit about Jupiter's moon Io makes no sense. Jupiter is ridiculously far from the sun. Furthermore, Io is right in the middle of a band of intense radiation, which would kill people very quickly.

2) Back on earth, scientists were trying to extract oxygen from ammonium, which contains no oxygen.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Tue Dec 28, 2021, 07:47 PM (3 replies)

German lumpers and splitters

Is German a language or a family of languages? Experts disagree about this. Depending on how you answer the question, you are either a lumper or splitter.

Similar questions can be asked about other languages and even about taxa in biology, where the struggle between lumpers and splitters can be intense. But I digress.

I'm no expert, but I side with the lumpers. I think of Standard German, Swiss German, Plattdeutsch, etc. as dialects of a single language, because having taken German classes in school I find that I can understand most of them to some extent. Plattdeutsch, aka Low German, is borderline. It's close to Dutch, which I can't begin to understand.

Once I tried having a conversation with someone who was fluent in Yiddish. The experiment was moderately successful. Therefore I would argue that even Yiddish is a German dialect, although it's usually classified as a separate language.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Sun Oct 31, 2021, 11:04 AM (5 replies)

parsing the title of Newton's opus magnum

Newton published the most important book in the history of science in 1687. The title of this great book is

Philosophiĉ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.

The usual English translation is "Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy". Obviously the book is in Latin. What is the syntax of the title? I'm no Latin scholar, but here's my take on it.

The title is a noun phrase in nominative case. The word "prīncipia" is the plural of the neuter noun "prīncipium", which means "principle".

"Prīncipia" is modified by the form of the adjective "mathēmaticus" that agrees with "prīncipia" in case, number, and gender. "Mathēmaticus" is a regular first and second declension adjective meaning "mathematical".

"Philosophiĉ" is the genitive singular of the feminine noun "philosophia", which means philosophy. The phrase "prīncipia philosophiĉ" (which is the title of a 1644 book by René Descartes) is usually translated "principles of philosophy", but a more literal translation would be "philosophy's principles".

"Nātūrālis" is a third-declension two-termination adjective. Here it agrees with "philosophia" in case, number, and gender. The meaning is "natural", i.e., pertaining to nature.

Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Tue Oct 5, 2021, 01:23 PM (7 replies)

Frontier, Spectrum, or DirecTV?

They're all bad, but which is worst?

Frontier took over Verizon's customers in California, including CaliforniaPeggy and me. We have Frontier fiber to the house, which brings us bundled TV, telephone, and internet service.

Frontier TV service sucks. This year Frontier dropped Turner Classic Movies (TCM) from our tier. To get TCM back we would have to switch to the "ultimate" tier, which includes many channels we're not interested in and costs an additional $100 or so per month. Frontier also dropped the music channels this year; nobody who subscribes to Frontier can get them any longer.

I'm thinking of switching TV service from Frontier to either Spectrum or DirecTV, if either of them offers everything we used to get from Frontier at a reasonable price. But which of them is worse?

DirecTV lost many customers after being acquired by AT&T in 2015, presumably because of lousy service. Now that DirecTV has been spun off, has the service improved?

Spectrum used to be Time Warner. We had lousy service fro Time Warner in the 1990s. Is it any better now?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Aug 4, 2021, 01:32 PM (7 replies)

How do I get rid of this annoying feature on YouTube?

Right now I'm listening Murray Perahia playing Bach's English Suites on a YouTube channel. I'd like to see all the accompanying text, but most of it is covered up by crap that says "Up next" and "Autoplay". Is there a way I can get rid ot this Autoplay crap?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Fri Dec 11, 2020, 02:06 PM (3 replies)

Mac Mail opens itself up,

even when there is no unread mail. This is annoying. Is there a way to fix this?
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Mon Nov 2, 2020, 05:04 AM (4 replies)

"Silent Witness" on Amazon Prime

This British procedural lasted for over twenty seasons. Actors and characters come and go, but the show is always about a team of forensic pathologists gleaning clues from dead bodies, many of which are murder victims. As in any soap opera, the principal characters are a family you grow familiar with. In one episode, I heard a song I liked:
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Fri Aug 28, 2020, 04:57 PM (10 replies)

"Freud" on Netflix

This German-language series (with English subtitles) has lots of goodies: sex, violence, nudity, more sex, more violence, ... . It's engrossing, but historically inaccurate in the extreme. Kids might want to program their entertainment centers so parents can't watch.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Wed Jul 15, 2020, 05:28 PM (7 replies)

history of science and astrology

I get pissed off every time I see the astrology column in my daily newspaper. However, my attitude toward astrology is tempered by an enthusiasm for its history.

Why would I care about the history of such nonsense? That's a fairly long story. Those with short attention spans may not wish to read further.

As a physicist, I am naturally interested in the history of my subject, which is all tangled up with the history of mathematics and astronomy. Of course I am interested in the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, including the work of Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. All but the first and last scientists on this list were court astrologers.

The king of Denmark supported Tycho Brahe's career as an astronomer only because Tycho's meticulous observations of stars and planets would supposedly lead to better horoscopes.

Galileo and Kepler were also expected to cast horoscopes in the regions (not yet nations) of Italy and Germany, respectively. Around the turn of the 17th century, Kepler landed a job as Tycho's assistant at Prague, in the court of Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II. Tycho gave Kepler his observations of the planet Mars to play with. When Tycho died (1601), Kepler became his successor as Imperial Court Mathematician. The Mars data were crucial for Kepler's subsequent discovery that planets move in elliptical orbits. And that discovery led to Newton's law of gravitation.

To summarize: if it weren't for astrology, Kepler and Newton would never have made their most important discoveries.
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Tue Jul 7, 2020, 07:56 PM (10 replies)

Sad news of the death of the distinguished scientist Robert M. May.

Robert M. May fought for better teaching of evolution and climate change in classrooms. His opponents, of course, were Christian fundamentalists who demonized Charles Darwin. May's obituary on the NCSE website is well worth reading:
Posted by Lionel Mandrake | Fri May 8, 2020, 01:42 PM (3 replies)
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