Mon, 5 Dec 2022

Cloudy Thoughts

— SjG @ 4:23 pm

In another life, I would have been a nephologist (or more general meteorologist). I have always found clouds, fogs, and mists fascinating.

Cirrus clouds

When I go walking, I tend to look at the sky and wonder exactly what’s going on up there. Are the boundaries of the clouds I’m seeing some threshold of a gradient of temperature, pressure, or moisture content? Why are the patterns the way they are?

One can often see distinct wave action in the atmosphere, but sometimes there will be high-frequency patterns that collide in unexpected ways. There may be different conditions at different altitudes, but in some cases the patterns seem to be at the same altitude.

At least three patterns; two at the same apparent height

There are also interesting effects when one layer of clouds (or a contrail) casts distinct shadows on another layer of clouds.

Contrail shadow

Some cloud patterns look a lot like convection in reverse.

Upside-down sunset convection

And then there are mysterious places where the conditions just change. For example, the contrail in the picture below. Does it end at some kind of invisible thermocline?

Encyclopedia Brown and the case of the Vanishing Contrail

There are a lot of resources for cloud classification and identification online, but I haven’t found as much about the whys of the structure. Some types of cloud structures make intuitive sense. Cumulus clouds sort of look like what you’d imagine a rising bubble of wetter air would. The ripple patterns you sometimes see in altocumulus clouds look like wave action. The elongated wispy patterns of cirrus clouds make some sense if you imagine the wind stretching out a mass of cloud. But why would there be the filaments? The guides I’ve found online just take it for granted. Similarly, the globular altocumulus structure is regarded as a matter of definition.

What’s going on in there?

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Wed, 30 Nov 2022


— SjG @ 3:00 pm

My go-to vector illustration product, Affinity Designer, recently released version 2 to much hype. I’ve been having fun creating geometric knot-work doodles with it in the evenings when I’m too tired to read or do productive work.

I’m contemplating creating some video tutorials on some of the techniques. I don’t know how much interest there is in the world for that, but there’s only one way to find out!

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Sun, 6 Nov 2022

Daylight Savings / Standard Time

— SjG @ 8:13 pm

We’re all sick of switching the clocks. We’re all tired of the argument over whether it’s better to wake up or go home in the dark during the winter months. I propose we chuck it all. Instead, we can each declare our own time zone.

For me, 6:45AM will be defined as the moment the sun rises. All my clocks will be calibrated on that basis.

You can declare your own time zone. You could choose to be UTC minus 7 hours, say. So how would we ever agree on a time to do anything?

Naturally, technology comes to the rescue as it does in all possible things. Each personal time zone will have associated with it a 64-bit number; the first 32 bits will map to the algorithm in use (sunrise/set, offset of UTC, etc.), and the second 32 bits will be data (e.g., coordinates and minutes after sunrise or hours offset). When scheduling with another person, one will merely say something like “let’s meet at 9AM 62c8179014da91e0042e74adc5e21485808faa6c” to which they’ll reply “oh, ok, that’s around 7:45AM 06d7c6a02a43c7d42dc67ac53874228209a349dc for me.”

Naturally, all of our phones, virtual assistants, and other devices will implement one version or another of this system. I can already foresee that the NIST standard will be implemented with proprietary extensions by Apple, and Android devices will support NIST standard 1.5 in a non-backwards-compatible way. Microsoft, of course, will license the Apple extensions, but only support about 30% of them.

Because of the beautiful and elegant simplicity of this system, programmers will no longer be driven to drink by the idea of time zones or daylight savings time. Instead, they will rejoice, download the libraries from GitHub, and everything will fall apart splendidly.

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Mon, 24 Oct 2022

Spider mating rituals

— SjG @ 12:48 pm

Here’s video of Phidippus adumbrata jumping spiders mating.

The male has two primary concerns: he wants to mate, but he doesn’t want to get eaten. His elaborate dance is not only gauging interest, but possibly also determining his risk level in approaching the female.

Jumping spiders, in general, are very visually-oriented creatures. They have excellent vision in color. According to some studies, the arm-waving behavior is not purely visual, however, but also vibrational, and the dance differs if the male is approaching the female in her nest or out in the open.

Anyway, spoiler alert, this male succeeded in mating and avoided being eaten (at least for the time being).

And they say romance is dead

Fri, 21 Oct 2022

The Future

— SjG @ 5:11 pm

Hey, with Twitter about to crash out hard, maybe this blog will get a little more attention. Or maybe not.

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