Moanday Virus Blahs

Remember when Moanday was a groanday because we went back to work after a nice weekend away? I’ve been free of that since I retired (seven years ago) and now lots of people are free of that.

Unfortunately many of them are also free of a paycheck, which, as the saying goes, really gives one something to groan about. (My 401K lost an ass-puckering amount of value last quarter, so I’m groaning, too.)

I dunno about you, but I could use some comfort food…

I’ve complained before about my backlog of notes and ideas for posts. There’s a constant tension between those and the fresh new stuff that comes along.

It’s always that way. I used to save interesting links to check out later, but there is a never-ending stream of interesting new links, so the list just grows and grows. Eventually it gets too big to contemplate checking out any of those links, so gets deleted, and (if lesson not learned) at some point a new list gets created…

Finally one learns to check things out immediately or just skip it altogether. It’s like the one time-management rule I embraced: the one-touch principle. Once you start a task, do the whole task. I was very prone to opening bills and setting them aside to write checks later. Likewise I was very prone to late fees. Not since I started thinking one-touch, do the full task.

I digress.


I hadn’t meant to post today, but last night I bumped into something too cool not to share immediately (and it’s a little time-dependent). To go with it, I’ve got something else that’s kind of a hoot. I might toss in whatever else is laying around.

It’s weird, but sometimes I feel that if I post too much I’ll wear out my welcome, but then I think, “What welcome?” The truth is, if I have any hope of clearing my backlog I need to either delete the backlog or step it up.

I’m seriously tempted to just delete the backlog. I already have deleted some. This coronavirus thing puts a new perspective on things and, at least for the moment, seems to make some things too trivial to bother with anymore.

For instance, a lot of notes about society I might as well just toss. Things will be different going forward I suspect. New rules, new modes. Good time to clear the slate and see what happens next.

But I digress again. (I transgress to my distress?)


One more tangent, then on to the show (you didn’t scroll down already, did you?). The mac and cheese. A childhood favorite. I was a very picky eater as a kid (to my parents’ dismay), but like most picky kids, loved the mac and cheese.

Or as we called it at my house: cheese noodles. A name that still makes me grin. It sounds so lovely: cheese noodles. Next time someone takes a picture, say: cheese noodles.

Of course, back in the day it was Kraft with the dry macaroni in the box along with that foil packet of unearthly unorganic orange (presidential orange?) powder.

I loved it. Honestly, still do, but even Kraft has better offerings now (including cups ready-made to microwave). Even restaurants are getting in on it with craft (as opposed to Kraft) Mac-n-Cheese on the menu.

I’m here to tell you that when it’s made with shell macaroni using smoked Gouda molten cheese containing freshly cooked apple-smoked hickory bacon chunks… well that’s a whole new level of cheese noodles.


Anyway, enough digression. As you may know, mathematician John Conway died earlier this month. To mathematicians, and to those who love math, he was one of the biggest of the modern giants.

He is the one who gave us Conway’s Game of Life — one of the more brilliant examples of how complexity arises from simple rules plus energy.

I’ve never written here about Conway or his game. I’ve mentioned it in passing, but never gotten into it. Which, on the one hand, is understandable; it’s a well-explored topic, I don’t have much to add. On the other hand, it is a topic dear to my heart.

I’ve written code to execute Life many times, and I’ve assigned it to programming students (it’s another good beginner’s exercise like the Eight Queens problem). The one gotcha is it obviously needs a graphic display.

To commemorate Conway I’ve toyed with the idea of a program to generate lots of 1920×1080 game frames to make a movie with. At two-million pixels per frame, it would take a while. (Still…)

Anyway again (but this wasn’t digression; this was setup), without further ado, here’s a video and project by Elliot Waite that YouTube handed me last night. It blew me away!

One thing about a normal game of Life: It starts and typically evolves to a stable state with a brief repeating cycle. After that, it’s pretty boring.

What Mr Waite does here is feed the Life “board” from below with a Rule 30 2D cellular automaton, so there is a constant source of input to the Life game. The result is really striking, especially if you’re familiar with how it usually evolves.

I’ve toyed with the idea of writing a 2D automaton so I could explore its rule set for myself, and this really makes me want to play around it one.

What an awesome idea! Easy Wow! rating.


YouTube also handed me this video, which is a real hoot. How far we’ve come, and how right you were, Mr. Clarke.

I watched this on… wait for it… my iPad.


That first video was the main thing I wanted to share. The second one pushed it over the top. I’ll leave you with two last fun bits.

The other day I found myself wondering: If a proton were as big as the Sun, how big would a hydrogen atom be compared to the Solar system. So I did the math.

A while back I wondered how big a proton would be if a hydrogen atom were as big as a football field. Turns out, the proton would be about the size of an orange.

First, the three measurements we need to know:

  1. Proton radius: 8.414×10-16 meters.
  2. Solar radius: 6.95×108 meters
  3. Hydrogen atom radius: 1.2×10-10 meters

Sun to proton is 6.95 ÷ 8.414 = 0.826 (and small change). The exponents are +8 ÷ -16, which is the same as +8 × +16, giving us an exponent of +24.

Therefore the Sun is 0.826×10+24 times bigger than a proton.

If we multiply the hydrogen atom’s radius by that much, we can immediately see we’re dealing with a radius of 1014 meters. Doing the math:

1.2×10-10 × 0.826×10+24 = 0.9912×1014 meters

Let’s just call it 1.0×1014 meters.

As a reference point, Pluto’s eccentric orbit varies from 4.44 to 7.38 times 1012 meters. Our hydrogen atom is two orders of magnitude larger. In fact, it extends out to well over 600 AU.

That’s well beyond the Kuiper Belt and a good way towards the Oort cloud.

So imagine a hydrogen atom as that much space — much more than our Solar system — with one lonely electron, no bigger than a speck, flying around in all that space.


Lastly, I cracked up when I saw this video. Back in college, after this one night class, a bunch of us used to hang out at this one guy’s really nice “pad” and drink, smoke weed, and do this:

When it works right (as in the video), it’s really cool. Usually it just makes a somewhat scary FOOP flame (also as in the video). As he demonstrates, there are some tricks to it.

The stuttering at the end is especially cool.

Stay in the game, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

8 responses to “Moanday Virus Blahs

  • Wyrd Smythe

    If we’d only known about using high purity alcohol!

  • Wyrd Smythe

    In fact, the hydrogen atom extends to 668 AU, I just rounded down. (I supposed I could have rounded up and said “nearly 700 AU.”)

    The funny thing is, the rounding error, 68 AU,… is further than the Kuiper Belt, which runs from about 30 AU to 50 AU. This atom is big.

    Let that sink in… the rounding error is bigger than our Solar system.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    Matter and void. Lots of void, infinitesimal amounts of matter. Of course, at the level of elementary particles, things are far weirder since the electron is smeared out in orbitals. (Or if you prefer another interpretation, a minute particle buffeted by a probability wave.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      So much void. It’s a good illustration of how empty atoms are and weird something that empty has such a positive identity.

      And, yeah, the electron would be a probability cloud. Vast regions you’d be most likely to find the electron if you looked. The Solar proton would be a bag of three quarks and lots of virtual quarks and gluons.

      (Have you even done the math, checking out the quark masses versus the nucleon masses? I don’t know why more authors don’t write it out for readers, rather than just assert it. It’s kind of a little jaw-dropper. Proton: 938.3 Mev/c2, Up quark: 2.2 Mev/c2, Down quark: 4.7 Mev/c2. If a proton is two Ups and a Down, that’s a total of 9.1 Mev/c2 — shy by (almost exactly) two orders of magnitude. Fermion mass may come from the Higgs interaction, but most of the mass of matter doesn’t! Seems like that should mean something.)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        A physicist I used to have discussions with told me that a lot of the mass inside nucleons comes from the relativistic energy of the quarks bouncing around, but he was something of an acerbic know-it-all, and I’m not sure how solid that answer was.

        Some of the stuff I’ve read since then discussed it as a possible component, but there were others, such as the strong nuclear interaction itself. Those answers may not be mutually exclusive.

        I was trying to find a recent article I remember reading on this, and stumbled on this ever more recent one, which posits a quark being annihilated but replaced with a virtual quark as a possible source.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I think the relativistic explanation is what we used to think (I saw it a lot, but not in a while). I think thought now leans towards the mass coming from the strong interaction. That’s our current story, anyway.

        I can’t speak to how chirality flipping could result in mass. The article is pretty speculative.

  • Brian

    Ahh, the backlog of notes and ideas for posts, and the “constant tension between those and the fresh new stuff that comes along.” Often I file stuff away “for later”, and then much later arrives and the things seem irrelevant, so I just delete.

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